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Staurogyne Repens: Care Guide For Vibrant Colored Aquarium Plant

Last Updated June 15, 2020
Staurogyne repens

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If you want to introduce a splash of vibrant, natural color into your aquarium, you’ll need to add some live plants to the mix. Aquatic plants come in almost as many shapes, colors, and sizes as tropical fish, so there’s no shortage of material for you to play with when aquascaping your tank.

Staurogyne repens is a good choice of a plant if you’re looking for something to grow in the foreground, and it can also be trained to grow as a vivid green carpet across the floor of your tank. Bottom-dwelling species of fish and invertebrates will appreciate the shelter that the plant provides, and it also does a great job of nitrates and oxygenating the water, creating a healthier environment for your livestock.

Staurogyne repens care is pretty straightforward. The plant is slow-growing and undemanding when it comes to maintenance, which makes this a great choice of plant for a beginner.

In this guide, we explain how to grow and propagate Staurogyne repens, including how to train the plant to grow as a carpet, eventually covering the entire floor of your tank, and much more.

Background

Staurogyne repens is a freshwater aquatic plant that’s a member of the Acanthaceae family. There are over 2,500 plants in the Acanthaceae family that are found around the world, this particular species is only found in the Rio Cristalino river in South America.

This is a hardy plant that’s very easy to keep, making it able to forgive many of the mistakes that are often made by newcomers to the hobby. Like all plants, Staurogyne repens releases oxygen during photosynthesis, as well as absorbing some of the harmful substances in the tank water, such as nitrates, and utilizing them as fertilizer. So, this bright green, bushy plant not only looks great, but it’s also hugely beneficial for your fish.

Appearance

Staurogyne repens has large, fresh green leaves that are set on stiff stems, enabling the plant to remain stable and in position in the aquarium once the roots have become established in the substrate.

The leaves are densely packed, giving the plant a compact, bushy appearance that looks great when grown as a carpet plant or as a foreground species at the front of your tank. The plant will only grow to around 2 to 4 inches tall when cultivated as a carpet, allowing plenty of swimming space above for your fish.

The plant’s leaves are a classical leaf shape, being oval with a broad base, tapering to a point at the end of the leaf. The plant’s roots are delicate, fine, and white and are generally buried in the substrate, although they can grow upward to gather nutrients from the water column.

Care and maintenance

In this section of our guide, we explain how to care for and propagate Staurogyne repens.

Choosing a specimen

As this is such a popular plant, you’ll find Staurogyne repens for sale in most good fish and aquarium supplies stores. The plants are not especially expensive because the species is extremely easy to grow and propagate, so you’ll only have to pay between $5 and $10 for a bunch of stems.

If you live in an area that doesn’t boast a large number of fish stores, you can order the repens plant online, but do check customer reviews first, and look for those suppliers whose stock always arrives fresh and in good condition. As with buying anything online, the main drawback of buying aquatic plants is that you can’t examine them “in the flesh.” So, you’re totally reliant on the dealer sending you decent specimens.

Before buying the plant, take a close look at the stems. Make sure there are no signs of damage. You don’t want sickly plants, as they won’t grow well when planted in your tank. So, you’re looking for firm stems that are green or brownish in color and are almost fully grown, measuring 2 to 4 inches in length. Don’t choose plants whose stems have been crushed or that appear bruised or split.

Unless you have a very large tank, you’ll only need to buy a few stems, to begin with, as you don’t want to overcrowd your setup. You can always propagate the plant later if you find that you have more space to fill.

Staurogyne repens

Tank conditions

The only real downside to Staurogyne repens is that it requires very specific water conditions to thrive, which is why it isn’t found outside of certain areas in South America. So, you’ll need to create the Rio Cristalino in your aquarium as best you can to give the plant the best chance of growing well.

The Staurogyne plant needs a tank of at least 10 gallons to allow it plenty of space in which to grow. When used in small setups, the plant works best as a foreground specimen, whereas you can use it to great effect in larger tanks to create a carpet that extends across the bottom of the whole aquarium.

Substrate

Staurogyne repens is primarily a rooted feeder. That means that it derives the majority of its nutrition directly from the substrate. Therefore, your choice of substrate is important if the plant is to flourish. Ideally, you need fine gravel or sand that allows the plant to push its roots through easily and without obstruction.

The overall health, growth rate, and color of your plants are dictated by the number of nutrients that are available in your tank. If you’re growing rooted feeders, it’s beneficial to include a nutrient layer underneath the gravel substrate. Make the nutrient layer about an inch deep, and add a further 2 inches of gravel on top, increasing that to 3 inches if your tank is over 55 gallons.

Lighting

All aquatic plants need light to photosynthesize. Plants that are growing in the wild environment draw their light requirements directly from the sun, but in the aquarium setting, you’ll need to provide the plants with a decent lighting system.

Staurogyne repens needs medium lighting levels for around 10 hours every day, and your standard aquarium lighting system will provide that. If possible, try to avoid too much natural light, as that encourages the growth of algae.

Water parameters

Staurogyne repens is a topical species of aquatic plant that needs a water temperature of between 68° to 86° Fahrenheit to grow, although the higher the water temperature, the better the growth rate.

The plant’s preferred water hardness is between 3 and 10 dGH, and the pH range should be between 6 and 8. So, as you can see, these aquarium plants are tolerant of slightly acidic or alkaline waters, as long as you keep the environment between those general parameters, rather than at the extremes.

Maintenance and pruning

If you keep your plants in their optimum preferred conditions, they should grow well. That’s great, but good growth also means that you will need to prune the aquarium plants occasionally.

The stems don’t all grow at the same rate, so we recommend that you snip off those that are fastest growing to maintain the low carpet effect of the plant. Use a pair of aquascaping scissors to snip off excess growth at the base of the stem just above the substrate. If you want to, you can create new plants by replanting some of the cuttings directly into the substrate. Remove any dead leaves using tweezers or your special scissors.

Supplements

If you want to boost your plants’ growth and color or perk up an unhealthy-looking specimen, you can add nutrient tabs to the substrate around the plant roots or use a liquid fertilizer that you put directly into the water.

You can also add CO2 to the tank to really supercharge your plants’ growth, but don’t overdo it, or you may harm your fish. Plants need carbon for good growth. In the aquarium, the plants derive CO2 directly from the water, producing oxygen throughout the day. At night the process happens in reverse. So, adding CO2 to your tank during the daytime can give your plants a boost and optimize their growth. Carbon is available in the form of a liquid supplement and tablets, or via a pressurized injection mechanism that works in sync with your tank’s lighting system.

However, you should note that if you decide to use CO2 supplements, you will also need to add a liquid nutrient, too, just to keep up with the hugely increased growth rate of your plants!

Planting Staurogyne repens

When you first introduce these plants to your aquarium, don’t go overboard and add too many stems. Begin by planting a few and add more later when you can see how much space you need to fill.

So, how many stems do you need?

Well, the general rule of thumb is to allow one stem per 2 to 3 gallons of water in your tank. Plant each stem roughly half an inch or so into the substrate, That depth allows the roots to grow and is deep enough to anchor the plant in place. Once the plants become established, their roots will attach to any rocks or partially buried decorations. That’s great for keeping the plants securely in situ and is really only an issue if you want to move the ornaments in the future.

Within a few weeks, your plants should reach their full height, forming a fresh green, compact carpet across the tank floor. When deciding where to plant Staurogyne repens, avoid putting them underneath tall ornaments or thick, broad-leaved plants that could block out the essential light that the plants need. Similarly, if you also have floating plants, these will need to be kept in a separate part of the tank.

Staurogyne repens

Tankmates

Bottom-dwelling fish, such as catfish and loaches, just love the lush, green compact growth habit of these plants, and will spend much of their time foraging amid the stems for scraps of food.

However, most varieties of goldfish can be very destructive when it comes to aquarium planting, digging around in the substrate, and uprooting the plants, as well as eating them too. Rainbowfish can also nibble on some species of plants, including Staurogyne repens. So, before buying fish, always check to see if they are plant eaters before adding them to a setup that includes living plant species.

Shrimp will enjoy scurrying over the cushioned carpet that this beautiful aquarium plant forms, picking up scraps of uneaten food that has drifted down from above, and these lively invertebrates won’t damage the leaves. However, most species of freshwater aquatic snails will eat plants, with the exception of the Assassin Snail, which can be safely kept in a planted tank.

Propagation

In the wild environment, S. repens reproduces by putting out numerous side shoots that detach themselves from the mother plant and falling down onto the substrate, where they take root and develop into a new plant.

In the home aquarium, all you need to do to propagate the plant is to take a few cuttings. Allow the plant to reach a height of 3 to 4 inches, and then snip off 1 to 2 inches of stem, and replant them in the substrate at a depth of half an inch or so. Although the cuttings don’t need roots, they must have a few leaves so that the plant can photosynthesize. Within a few days, new roots will begin to develop.

Final thoughts

Staurogyne repens is a popular aquarium plant that can be grown in most tropical tanks except nano setups, which are too small.

S. repens tolerates a wide spectrum of water conditions and only requires medium to low light levels to thrive. This hardy plant grows slowly, so it doesn’t need much pruning, and the cuttings that you take can be used to create new plants if you need more.

Most fish don’t eat the plant so that it won’t be targeted as a food source. An S. repens carpet can really brighten up a community display tank when used to cover the tank floor or as planted as individual specimens in the foreground.

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