Aquarium plants Plant caresheets

Growing Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea zenkeri)

Last Updated April 4, 2020

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If you’re looking for an unusual aquarium plant to use as a centerpiece in your aquarium, you’re in luck. Nymphaea zenkeri, also known as red tiger lotus, features a striking red color and its interesting leaf shape makes for a great change in texture. And best of all: it’s suitable for beginners!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about growing red tiger lotus in your aquarium.

Minimum tank size10 gal/38 L
Care levelEasy
Temperature71.5-82.5 °F/22-28 °C

Planting Nymphaea zenkeri

Planting red tiger lotus is a bit different from planting most other aquarium plants. This lotus grows from a small bulb, which is often sold and/or shipped without any leaves. When planting this bulb don’t place it all the way into the substrate, as this can result in rot. Instead, push it down about 2/3 of the way and leave the rest sticking out.

Because red tiger lotus grows very large, some aquarists prefer to plant it in a small container; a glass pot should work well.

Nymphaea zenkeri care requirements

  • Red tiger lotus is not a difficult plant and not too demanding when it comes to light. However, like most plants it will lose its compact shape and slow down its growth in low-light conditions, so if that’s a problem be sure to go for medium to high light.
  • The same goes for Co2 and added nutrients: although red tiger lotus can go without it, it won’t be at its best. For a large, fast-growing and lush plant you might want to consider Co2 injection or at least using some root tabs.
  • Propagating red tiger lotus isn’t the easiest thing but not impossible. If you allow the plant to form enough surface leaves it might eventually produce a gorgeous lily flower, from which seeds can be harvested after it wilts. Another option is dividing the bulb, which can be done when little ‘bulb-lets’ have formed and had some time to grow a few leaves of their own.
  • Pruning is the key to a beautiful red tiger lotus. As with all lotus plants, red tiger lotus leaves are constantly trying to locate the top of the tank and create surface leaves. These can be very decorative and can even result in a beautiful flower but do change the look of the plant. If you want to prevent the formation of surface leaves, be sure to prune any leaf that comes too close to the top of the tank.

Problems with Nymphaea zenkeri

  • One problem many aquarists run into with their red tiger lotus is that it simply grows too large. When supplied with plenty of light, Co2 and fertilizer this plant can grow pretty massive and take over the entire tank. Pruning can help, but as mentioned earlier you can also prevent this problem altogether by planting the bulb in a pot.
  • This plant might go into dormancy and drop all of its leaves if temperatures are too low. If this happens, check your temperature and leave the bulb inside the tank; it should eventually start producing new leaves.
  • There seems to be a bit of confusion out there when it comes to Nymphaea taxonomy. Many aquarium stores sell this plant under the wrong name or sell other lily types as Nymphaea zenkeri. This might cause a bit of confusion, but luckily care for most of these lilies is pretty much identical.

If you have any more questions about growing red tiger lotus or want to share your experiences with this stunning red aquarium plant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Cover photo: Nymphaea lotus Rouge tigré by Tony Kafetzis (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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  • Reply Paul April 7, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    Bulbs planted as recommend 3weeks ago and they haven’t started showing any signs of growing any leaves

    • Reply Jennifer Doll April 8, 2021 at 10:16 pm

      Hi Paul!
      Try turning the bulb over for another week or two in the substrate and see if that does anything. If nothing still happens, take the bulb out and smell it to see if it smells rotten.
      You could just have a bad bulb.

  • Reply Avi Peer May 10, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Hi my Tiger Nymphaea is loosing its leaves. It was so big and beautiful and now it’s sad.
    The temperature is 28C, I’m injecting near the roots (bulb) both fertilizer (NPG) and Micro elements, CO2 is injected during light on time, but no results.

    • Reply Jennifer Doll May 11, 2020 at 11:39 pm

      Hi Avi,
      Would you be able to tell a little more about the system? What are your water parameters? Have you changed anything recently? Are other plants losing their leaves? Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of this :-).

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