Growing Vallisneria




Growing Vallisneria

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Vallisneria varieties, also known simply as ‘Vals’, are an aquarium plant species popular for their resemblance of sea grass, quick growth and easy care. They can reach a height of anywhere between a few inches to right across the top of your tank and the tall leaves make a great hiding place for shy fish.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Vallisneria care and how to grow it in your own planted tank!

Minimum tank size10 gal/38 L
Difficulty levelEasy
Temperature63-82 °F/17-28 °C

Planting Vallisneria

Due to the heights it can reach, Vallisneria is mostly a background plant and can be placed at the back of to the sides of your aquarium. Planting is pretty straightforward.

Just stick your Vallisneria into the substrate and, if it already has extensive root systems, be sure to cover those as well without burying them completely. Extra iron is really appreciated by this plant and you may want to stick a few root tabs in the substrate nearby while planting.

If you’re having trouble keeping the plant from becoming uprooted and floating back to the surface the first few days, placing a few rocks around it to keep the roots down may be a good idea.

Always be sure not to plant your Vals too deep! If you bury the light part at the bottom of the leaves, known as the crown, you may find them dying off after a while.

Vallisneria care & tankmates

As mentioned earlier, Vallisneria care is not difficult at all. In fact, this species is actually on the list of the 8 easiest aquarium plants and can even survive in low-end brackish water and subtropical aquariums. Lots of extra lighting and Co2 aren’t necessary, although as with all plants they are appreciated.

  • One important point to keep in mind is that Vallisneria doesn’t seem to appreciate soft, acidic waters and will grow slowly or even die off completely when pH gets close to 6. Harder, alkaline waters, like in a guppy tank, are ideal.
  • Once your Vallisneria has had some time to settle, you should start seeing growth. The mother plant should increase in height and, after a while, will also start propagating by sending out runners in all directions. Once these have developed a few leaves and a root system of their own, you can cut them off and re-plant or remove them.
  • If you find your Vals are becoming a bit too tall and dense, you can thin them out by removing a a few leaves or runners. You can also prune individual leaves by cutting them with a pair of sharp aquarium scissors; just be sure not to damage the leaf or it will die off instead of growing back. If a leaf has become algae-covered or seems to be dying, you can simply remove it.
  • When it comes to tankmates, Vallisneria will withstand almost anything. Although it can fall prey to destructive fancy goldfish and large crayfish varieties, due to the large root systems it develops it’s actually one of the only plant species that can be kept in a tank with African cichlids at reasonable succes rates.

Problems with Vallisneria

Although Vallisneria is not a difficult plant to grow, many fishkeepers do experience some trouble with theirs. If you find your Vallisneria isn’t doing too well, it may be due to one of the following problems:

  • Planted too deep. The crown and the top and the root system should be left exposed.
  • Iron deficiency. If new leaves are pale and white, the root tabs mentioned earlier might help.
  • Unstable liquid Co2 use. It’s sometimes reported that dosing liquid Co2 can cause Vallisneria to melt. This should be prevented by a stable dosage and not using these products off and on!
  • Lack of nitrates. Poor Vallisneria growth can be caused by a lack of nitrates in the water. A fertilizer should help fix this.

Buying Vallisneria

Finding Vallisneria shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Most aquarium stores carry at least the most popular types, such as Vallisneria spiralis and gigantea. You can also find it online!

When choosing your Vallisneria, be sure to keep in mind the size of your tank and the look you’re going for. Vallisneria spiralis, Vallisneria nana and the twisted-leaved Vallisneria tortifolia (also known as corkscrew Val) will stay relatively small and should work well in tanks of at least 10 gallons (38L). Vallisneria gigantea (jungle Val), however, is a whole different story and can grow to up to 30 inch (75 cm) or more. This makes it suitable only for larger aquariums!

As with many plant species, there is quite a bit of confusion regarding Vallisneria names. They grow differently in different conditions, making it very hard to distinguish between varieties sometimes. Before buying, take a good look at the plant or the reviews.

If you have any more questions about growing Vallisneria or want to share your own experiences with this wonderful plant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping! 

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25 thoughts on “Growing Vallisneria”

  1. Hi! I plan to do a biology experiment with these plants, and I would have to grow them from seeds, Is this difficult? I would also need to keep them in small containers lasting around 2 months. Do you think this is possible or should I find another aquatic plant? Thank you!

    • Hey Oda!
      I don’t have personal experience doing this and I’ve never heard of anyone doing it, but a quick search shows that it has been done. It seems that those who have tried it have initially grown the plants in a small emersed container set-up just to get them started germinating. Some appear to have placed the seeds in a closed container with small slits for gas exchange and either used a substrate, paper towels, or nothing at all. I don’t see why you would have any problem getting Vallisneria to grow, though Anubias might be slightly more forgiving; I think the harder part will be getting them to transition well from being emersed to submersed in your tank (if that’s your end goal). I would think this is the same case for other plant species as well.
      I am also seeing that a lot of people have gotten fake seeds that were supposed to be aquatic but that were actually not. Make sure you’re getting them from a reputable source and try to identify the seeds and the seedlings, though this could be near impossible.
      I would transfer them when they look ready with a good amount of root growth and a strong enough blade.
      Let us know how your experiment goes! Good luck!

  2. Hi! My Vallisneria (corkscrew) grow very well but no runners! (Good Lighting, gravel, 38G fish tank, variety of fish).
    Your advice will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance,

    • Hi! I’ve rescaped a 120cm tank 5 days ago. Heavily planted+Co2inj+high light. Add some Valls nana and now the leaves are all flopped over in a pale emerald look, looking like they wanna melt. Crown visible, addition of ADA green bacter, power sand etc. No ferts yet.
      Any thoughts? Thks.

      • Hi Tomas,
        I’m sorry to hear your Vall isn’t doing too well! Did you cut any of the roots? Does this area have a higher or lower flow? Did the lighting change at all? How long had it been planted before you moved it?

        • Hi Jennifer! No, they arrived directly from Tropica. They were suffering a bit but once I planted them they were fine. They are on both rear corners so one has a higher flow (opposite side of the filter outlet) and the other a low flow (very low/to be corrected with a pump or skimmer)
          As I said the tank is now 7 days old, but the filter was already matured. No amonia spikes, 0 nitrites, few nitrates. Can it be because of the ph? I’ve planted HC Cuba that it’s doing wonderful but off course I’m injecting a lot of CO2.
          Just don’t have any clue besides the ph drop during photosynthesis.

          • Yes! pH is a huge factor for plants and fish alike. Actually, CO2 levels and pH levels are indirectly related. So if CO2 is increased, pH decreases. If you’ve injected too much CO2, you may have lowered your pH too quickly and/or too low for favorable conditions. I would immediately check your pH and make sure it’s between ~6.5-7.5. Though it’s a little weird that your other plants are doing okay. It’s possible that they’re just a little hardier?
            If it’s not your pH and everything else seems to be doing fine, then it could’ve honestly just been the stress from the acclimation and overall changes (trust me, I’m dealing with an upset coral right now and it’s horrible!). Perhaps see how it does for the next week, and then maybe try propagating it if you can and starting fresh.

  3. Hi! Two days ago I planted 20+ twisted vallis. They all stayed put, after some replanting (LOL!) They were all upright and looked wonderful. Yesterday and today, however, they have all flopped over. Would you be able to tell me why this is and if there is anything I can do get get them back to normal? Many thanks.

    • Hi Lynne,

      Did any of the conditions in your tank suddenly change over the past few days: flow, light, parameters? Even aggressive fish could cause them to start to ‘weep.’ Also, did you make sure to not bury the roots entirely?
      I would first test all the parameters and make sure they align with what is recommended and take it from there.

      Let us know!

  4. I was just sold cuttings of a giant val. Told to clump together and place in aquarium in substrate and itll grow roots. I should’ve turned away but I was curious. But at the same I’m guessing I was duped.

    • Hi Adel,

      As long as there are some roots, it is worthwhile to try planting it. However, if it’s just the strands of the leaf, then yes, you may have been given a bad bunch. It may not hurt to just try for a few days to see if there’s any root growth but remove them as soon as you see any rotting.

      Good luck!

  5. So I recently got Val but it was called American val but the bottom of it started to turn brown any ideas what I did wrong and how I should plant it

    • Hi Jonathan,

      There are many reasons why your plant could be turning brown. If you’ve followed the guidelines we’ve provided, it could be anything from your water parameters, to lighting, to insufficient nutrients. Could you give us a little bit more information about your setup?

      Thank you.

  6. I have just bought 24 vallis and when I was ready yo plant them I found that there was only about 5 mil of root on them. I don’t want any lead in my tank so any ideas on how to keep them in the gravel

    • Ugh, Vals can be so hard to keep down in the first few weeks! I usually strategically place a few small rocks around the plants until they’ve taken hold. Not always too aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done.

      Good luck!

  7. Hi! I was wondering if the plant would need a specific type of substrate? right now my betta fish is in a ten gallon with a pebble bottom. would that be okay for the plant? i’d like to give my betta more places to hide but i don’t want the plant to die as soon as i get it. any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi! In most cases pebbles aren’t the ideal substrate for plants, but there’s a good solution luckily. There’s little plant cups out there that you can plant your Vals (and other species) in and stick to the glass of the tank. I’ve got a review here 🙂 Additionally, you could also always try planting the Vals in a submerged glass vase filled with coarse sand or gravel. So no worries! Good luck.

  8. That’s such an informative post! Thanks a lot. Mine is a 23 gallon tank with Ada Amazonia substrate and the pH remains around’s a freshwater tank .Although my Vallisnaria plants have started to send out runners in all directions still I notice the growth to be very slow…the young leaves are pale like you mentioned .. but some are bright green…the leaves are also thinner …and they are taking forever to grow taller. It’s the Nana species that I have. The parent plant has been giving out new leaves but again their growth is very slow and by the time they reach to the top of my tank they start to get yellow/brown. Overall my Val is looking very unhealthy.? I guess I really cannot do much about my low pH..but What else can I do apart from iron supplementation?
    Thanks a lot in advance 🙂

    • Sorry to hear you feel like you’re not having much success so far! Your pH should be okay for Vals so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Definitely use root tabs to supply iron and other micronutrients and also test all your other “plant-related” water values if you can. Sounds like there might be a bit of a deficiency – how are the nitrates, phosphates, etc.? Also, what is your lighting like? I do notice the Vals in my high light setup stay VERY low and seem to focus more on runners than on leaf growth.

  9. So I have a bit off a little problem. I bought a corkscrew val and all the leaves were eaten off by a couple of snails, the crown seems fine but I was wondering if it would grow back after that?

  10. Hi, 2 questions:

    Is regular Seachem Flourish (NOT Excel) good for Corkscrew Val? What product is a good iron supplement for Vals?

    Thank you for your help,

    • Hi! I’ve never used Seachem Flourish or similar products but from what I can read it should work just fine. As for iron supplements, I think Flourish contains it. I personally usually use root tabs, though, there’s iron and a bunch more minerals in there that plants love.

      Good luck!

  11. OHH this is super helpful
    I had a bunch of vallensaria at the back of my tank, but it always died & i never knew why. i never considered I was planting them too deep


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