How To Care For The Easy-To-Handle Sagittaria Aquatic Plant

Alison Page

Alison Page


How To Care For The Easy-To-Handle Sagittaria Aquatic Plant

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If you have a tropical freshwater aquarium and you’re looking for some species of live plants to grow, you might want to consider the Sagittaria. This is a popular plant that’s easy to look after and propagate, making it perfect for beginners and experienced hobbyists alike.

In this guide, we provide an overview of the Sagittaria plant, including information on how to care for it and how to grow your own specimens.

What is Sagittaria?

Sagittaria is an aquatic plant that’s also known by many common names, including:

  • duck potato
  • arrowhead
  • swamp potato
  • wapato
  • katniss
  • tule potato

Most of the 30 or so species of the plant are native to North, Central, and South America, although some are found in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

The Sagittaria subulata or dwarf Sagittaria is the variety that is used in the aquarium. These small plants are native to the United States and Colombia, although the species has recently been recognized as an invasive species in Indonesia, the Azores, and in Great Britain too.

In the wild, Saggitaria is found growing mostly in coastal regions, including in the brackish waters of estuaries and marshland. However, the plant is highly adaptable and is also seen flourishing in freshwater ponds and streams where it may grow both fully or partially submerged.

The tubers of the katniss plant were once harvested and eaten by Native Americans, much like the potatoes that we use today.

Arrow Head


Most species of katniss have arrow-shaped leaves, although the variety that is most commonly seen as aquarium plants resembles aquatic grass, having long, strap-shaped submerged leaves that are up to half an inch wide. If conditions in the tank are right, the plants can put out a long flower stalk carrying small white flowers that will open above the water surface.

Under bright lighting, the plant’s leaves can sometimes take on an attractive reddish tinge.

Care and maintenance

As previously mentioned, Sagittaria latifolia is relatively easy to grow and care for in the aquarium.

Water conditions

Dwarf Sagittaria is one of few plants that can survive in high pH and hard water conditions, although, ideally, a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is preferred.

The water temperature should be between 720 to 820 Fahrenheit. So, the plant will grow well in most freshwater tropical and brackish tanks, as well as in a coldwater setup, as long as room temperature is somewhere within the aforementioned parameters.


Dwarf Sagittaria requires only moderate levels of lighting, although high lighting levels will bring out the best in the plant, including a pretty red tinge to the leaves.

Fluorescent lighting is preferred, ideally with either T8 or T5 bulbs. As a minimum, you should provide three watts of light per gallon, although Sagittaria will grow much better under brighter lighting. Alternatively, you can use LED lights, which work just as well.


Sagittaria grows best when provided with a nutrient-rich substrate. If that’s not possible, you should ensure that the water column is regularly fertilized. This plant is very sensitive to low iron levels in the water, and yellowing of the leaves usually indicates that there is an iron deficiency in the tank.

Although these plants do appreciate the addition of CO2 to the water, they will do well in an aquarium that doesn’t have that, provided that the lighting is sufficient to encourage the plants to grow.

Tank situation

Dwarf Sagittaria spreads naturally by putting out runners. Ideally, you should put the plants in the foreground of the tank, where they will gradually create a carpet effect across the substrate.

However, if the plants are healthy and are provided with optimum growing conditions, they can reach up to 12 inches in height, so you may prefer to plant them toward the back of the tank. Excellent growing conditions often stimulate the plants to put out pretty white flowers that grow on long stems, reaching the surface of the water.


Sagittaria propagates by producing runners that push through the substrate, sending out new plants as they go, eventually forming a carpet across the floor of the aquarium. If you want some plants for another tank, all you need to do is pinch off the runners and plant them in the substrate.

It should be noted that Sagittaria can overrun small, slow-growing plant species in the tank. If that happens, simply pinch out the excess runners to thin out the plant.

Arrow Head


This species of aquatic plant is readily available in most fish and aquarium stores. You can also search online and order a few specimens from a good website, although you will need to check what shipping costs are added to your cart total, as it may be more economical to ask your local fish store to order the plant for you.

Being easy to propagate and readily available, Sagittaria is inexpensive to buy at just a few dollars per plant.


In this section of our guide, we answer a few of the questions that are asked most frequently by hobbyists who are considering adding Sagittaria subulata to their aquarium.

Q: How tall does dwarf Sagittaria get?

A: Sagittaria subulata can grow to 12 inches high when kept in extremely suitable conditions. However, these aquatic plants generally form a low carpet across the substrate, making the plants a great choice for planting at the front of the aquarium.

Q: Is Katniss a real plant?

A: Katniss was mentioned in the recent hit book, The Hunger Games. And yes, it is a real plant! Katniss is also known by many other names, including arrowhead, wapato, tule potato, duck potato, and swan potato.

The plant’s botanical name is Sagittaria, it’s native to South America, and there are 30 species of the plant in total.

Some species are aquatic, growing wild in ponds, streams, marshy areas, and bogs. Other varieties of the plant are cultivated by gardeners and grown in bog gardens or areas with very poor drainage. A few species of Sagittaria grow beneath the water surface and are popular for use by aquarium hobbyists.

Q: How do you plant a Sagittaria subulata?

A: Sagittaria subulata grows in the substrate, putting out runners and eventually spreading to form a carpet across the bottom of the aquarium. To plant subulata, simply sink the roots of the plant into the substrate and let nature do its thing!

Q: Can you trim dwarf Sagittaria?

A: These plants can overtake smaller, slower-growing species in the aquarium, and you may want to thin them out or trim them from-time-to-time. To thin out the plants, simply pinch the main stem through and remove excess growth. To remove dead leaves, pinch the leaf as close to the stem as possible; it should just pop off.

Final thoughts

Sagittaria is an easy-to-grow aquatic plant that’s a favorite with hobbyists who are looking for something that’s straightforward to care for and propagate. These plants grow in a wide range of standard aquarium water conditions, including coldwater and brackish setups, as well as tropical tanks.

You can buy Sagittaria relatively cheaply from most good fish stores or search online for a mail-order supplier.

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