Plants from the genus Cryptocoryne, usually referred to as ‘crypts’ by aquarists, are one of the easiest aquatic plants to keep. This, combined with the fact that they are available in many different color varieties that all look beautiful without needing special care, makes them one of the most popular plant species in the hobby today!
Keep reading for more information about Cryptocoryne care and growing it in your own aquarium.
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Cryptocoryne is a genus of the freshwater plants containing nearly a hundred species. They are an Angiosperm, meaning they produce flowers and fruits that give way to seeds. The first species of this plant was described in 1779 by Anders Jahan Retzius.
Cryptocoryne naturally grows in the tropical regions of India, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia; many of these plants specifically grow in Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and Malaysia. These plants prefer streams and rivers with low flow and can be found under varying light conditions. They are also found in seasonal areas that are affected by tides and rainfall, like forest pools and river banks.
With so many species, it can be difficult to exactly identify your new aquarium plant. However, you are likely to come across C. wendtii, C. spiralis, and C. crispatula, which are relatively easy to identify from each other:
- C. wendtii: can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) and has green or reddish-brown leaves; the leaf is long and in a tear-drop shape and connects to a long stem.
- C. spiralis: can grow well over a foot (30) in height, with tall and slender leaves.
- C. crispatula: can grow even taller than C. spiralis, and has very long and thin leaves with ruffled edges, which connect to a short stem.
The most important thing to know about Cryptocoryne is that it does not appreciate unstable conditions. Planting and re-planting will lead to dying leaves and very slow growth, so think about a strategic position for your crypts beforehand!
Like many low maintenance plants, high lighting doesn’t do them much good and can actually cause damage, so a location with low light and some shade provided by other floating plants is a good idea. The best placement depends on which kind of crypt you’re dealing with: some will stay relatively small and will look better in the foreground or middle of the aquarium, while some will become very tall, surpassing 20 inches (50 cm), and are great to use in the background.
Once you’ve figured out the perfect position for your crypts you can just plant them in sand or gravel substrate and you’re done! Like many other aquarium plants, they will do best with an enriched substrate and many sources consider this a necessity. I’ve personally found that these plants don’t need the extra iron to survive, but skipping it can definitely slow down growth.
Care & tankmates
- Once you’ve planted your new Cryptocoryne, there isn’t much else you need to do; they’re very easy plants! They don’t need added CO2 or lots of fertilizer to thrive, just a little patience–they usually grow quite slow, especially right after planting. Just be sure to keep your water values stable to keep the plant from getting “stressed” and shedding its leaves!
- Whether they prefer soft or slightly hard water or a low or high pH depends on where the specific species is naturally found; still, stability is more important than the actual water values and these species can get used to many types of water and light conditions. If you’re not sure, neutral pH and slightly soft water is a good place to start.
- If this stability is provided, you should see your crypts starting to grow slowly but steadily, until they eventually form a lush forest of leaves that you may actually have to trim now and then by removing their stems. If any new runners are produced, you can re-plant these or remove them to sell or give away!
- When it comes to keeping these plants with fish and invertebrates, keep in mind that some plant-eating species like goldfish may try to nibble at it; a plant with harder leaves like Anubias may be a better choice for them. Other than that, no real problems are to be expected. The advanced root systems of this plant make it difficult for fish to uproot and shy fish, fry, and dwarf shrimp will love hiding and foraging in the leaves.
Problems with Cryptocoryne
Even though crypts are relatively easy plants that do well in a wide range of conditions, there is always a possibility of running into problems. As mentioned before, stability is the key to keeping this plant healthy. If your crypts are shedding its leaves, especially right after buying, there is usually no need to worry. They may die off almost completely but should return looking extra lush and green eventually.
A common problem to face with these plants is called ‘crypt melt.’ While the exact reason for the crypt melt is unknown, there is a chance that your new plant will wither away to nothing in the first month of owning it. Some people believe that it’s due to undesirable parameters while others blame the light it is put under. If this happens to yours, there is a slight chance that it will regrow itself.
If the leaves of your plant appear pale or yellowish, you may be dealing with an iron deficiency. Working with an enriched substrate as mentioned under ‘Planting’ or adding some extra nutrients should help resolve this!
When buying one of these plants, it’s important to keep in mind that there are endless varieties of this species; way too many to discuss here!
Some species, including the most popular, Cryptocoryne. wendtii, can grow very tall especially under a light with low intensities. Others, like the ‘dwarf’ variety, C. parva, stay much smaller and work better as foreground plants. Leaf shapes and colors also vary across and even inside species: leaves can be sharp and pointed or more rounded and range in color from bright green to brown or even bright red. This means there’s a crypt for every aquarium, but make sure to definitely check the label that comes with the plant to see if it needs any specific care.
Most pet- and aquarium stores that sell aquarium plants should carry at least one or two of the species, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one you like. The most popular easy crypts, as well as some of the lesser-known species, are all also available online!
If you have any more questions about growing Cryptocoryne or if you want to share your experiences with this wonderful plant, be sure to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!