Amazon swords are one of the most popular plants in the freshwater aquarium community. They’re gorgeous, easy to care for, and beneficial to the rest of your tank.
This guide covers everything you need to know about Amazon sword care. You’ll also learn how to plant it, and how to propagate it!
Table of Contents
The Amazon sword is a freshwater aquarium staple! Beautiful, easy to grow, and very affordable, it’s one of the most common aquatic plants in the trade.
Technically speaking, the moniker of “Amazon sword” refers to the entire Echinodorus genus. However, you might see several types of plants being sold under this name. The Echinodorus amazonicus, Echinodorus grisebachii, and Echinodorus bleheri go by the same common name in the trade.
Author Note: Regardless of the kind of Amazon sword you get, the care guidelines are all very similar.
This plant hails from the biodiverse waters of the Amazon River Basin. It’s a hardy plant that can adapt to many environments, making it a fantastic choice for most freshwater tanks. With its vibrant coloration and dense foliage, it has a lot to offer tank inhabitants as well.
The Benefits Of Having It In Your Tank
Whether you have a freshwater tank full of shrimp or skittish fish, Amazon sword plants are a must! These plants offer tons of enrichment for tank inhabitants. They’re a place for exploration, hiding, and even breeding.
Many aquarists like to utilize them as background plants. A group of Amazon swords can create a dense jungle of vegetation. However, single plants can also act as the focal point.
Either way, the plant is so much more than decorative.
Like many other aquatic plants, the presence of Amazon swords can actually have a positive impact on water conditions. It absorbs carbon dioxide in the water and produces oxygen for your fish. Not only that, but it uses waste and organic debris to grow. These plants may help keep ammonia and nitrate levels at bay as well.
While there are a few different varieties of Amazon sword, they all have the same basic appearance. The only difference is the size and texture of the leaves.
Amazon swords are rosette-style plants. They have a bushy appearance with thin stems that grow from one central root crown.
The plant gets its name from the lance-shaped leaves! Each leaf widens near the base before tapering down to a point.
You might see cultivars with wide or thin leaves. Some even have crinkled edges with defined waves! This gives them a stunning look that many love for aquascaping.
Author Note: A healthy plant will feature dark green leaves. Any brown or red patches are a sign that the plant is not getting enough nutrients.
Size & Growth Rate
One big perk of caring for Amazon swords is that they have a slow growth rate. These plants can flourish and thrive in a well-established freshwater aquarium. But new growth occurs over time, making the plant far easier to manage than some other popular aquarium species.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Amazon sword won’t get big! The leaves usually reach lengths of about 12 inches.
Author Note: However, they are capable of growing to 20 inches or more in a large freshwater tank. If you do not trim it, an Amazon sword can easily overcrowd a smaller tank.
Amazon Sword Care
There are many reasons why these plants are popular in the pet trade. The biggest is that Amazon sword care is quite an easy process! Whether you’re a novice aquarist or a seasoned aquascape artist, this is a plant that you should have no trouble managing.
Amazon swords can provide a dramatic look in your underwater environment without tons of work. As long as you meet the following baseline essentials, it should have no problem thriving!
Amazon swords can grow in small 10-gallon gallon tanks. An aquarium of that size provides more than enough space to let the plant spread while still maintaining stable water parameters.
However, an aquarium of that size isn’t enough to let the plant reach its full potential. It’s not a great size if you plan on having many fish either!
We recommend keeping Amazon swords in an aquarium that holds 20 to 30 gallons instead. Larger freshwater tanks offer more vertical space for leaf growth. Plus, the plant won’t overcrowd any tank inhabitants.
Anything smaller, and your plant may require constant trimming to maintain. Amazon swords can grow partially submerged, so you can push the limits by having it exceed the typical confines of your tank. But once again, a smaller tank will only hinder its development.
In the wild, Amazon swords come from a pretty diverse environment. The Amazon River Basin is warm and teeming with life. It also happens to be the same place where many popular tropical freshwater fish come from!
As a result, finding suitable water parameters to match your plant and your fish isn’t difficult.
Amazon swords are also quite adaptable. They have no issue flourishing in a broad range of conditions, allowing you to focus on inhabitants without fussing over your plant.
- Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F
- pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5 (aim for neutral if possible)
- Water hardness: 3 to 8 KH
Author Note: Even though this is a hardy plant, it’s still a good idea to keep a close eye on the water parameters. Make it a habit to use a high-quality water test kit to ensure that the tank is healthy and stable.
These plants only need a moderate amount of light to survive. Choose full-spectrum lighting that offers about two or three watts per gallon of water volume.
It’s a balancing act providing just the right amount of light for Amazon swords. Too much will result in algae growth on the leaves. Light algae growth isn’t a major concern, but too much of it could cause health problems for the plant.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, not enough light might cause discoloration. The leaves usually turn brown or red due to the lack of light for photosynthesis.
You may need to do some experimentation to get things right. Follow a standard day/night cycle and fine-tune the lighting schedule to find the sweet spot. Pay attention to the health (and color) of the plant and make adjustments accordingly.
These plants have robust root systems. The rootstock is big and powerful. Even in young plants, the roots have no problem spreading wide and deep.
As a result, the Amazon sword can accommodate rougher substrate materials than most plants.
It has no issue growing in standard gravel substrates. The roots will make their way through the gravel pieces. As long as the gravel is loose and relatively small, it should be able to root out and grow quite easily.
That said, you’ll probably see better results with a loose plant substrate. Specialty plant substrates are usually nutrient-rich, which might make it easier for the plant to establish itself.
Author Note: Always make sure that the substrate doesn’t contain any chemicals or materials that could harm your other tank inhabitants.
How To Plant It
Planting Amazon sword plants is a straightforward process.
The first thing you should do is examine the plant and quarantine it. Quarantining will ensure that the Amazon sword doesn’t bring pests or diseases into your primary tank. After at least two weeks in a quarantine tank, you can start preparing its final home.
Author Note: It’s worth pointing out that many aquarists skip this step. While it works out most of the time, the results can be catastrophic if luck isn’t on your side.
Remove any discolored or dying leaves. Amazon swords do not heal on their own, so it’s best to remove any leaves with cuts or scratches.
Dig a small hole in an area that provides plenty of growing room. A place near the center of the tank is best. However, you can also grow it in front of filters and tank equipment if you have a larger aquarium.
Place the rootstock firmly in the hole and leave the crown visible. Do not bury the root crown. It should be visible after planting.
Trimming & Pruning
Thanks to its slow-paced growth, trimming and pruning is not something you have to worry about with Amazon swords. Other than aesthetic trims to keep the plant looking clean, this isn’t an area where you’ll be spending a lot of time.
You can trim off old growth as the plant ages. Older leaves are closer to the outside of the bush. Just pluck the entire leaf off to make way for new development.
It’s also a good idea to remove any diseased leaves since Amazon swords can succumb to infection. When this happens, the leaves usually turn black and frayed. Remove the affected leaves to prevent the disease from spreading to the base of the plant.
Beyond that, just let the plant grow! The main priority for Amazon swords is space. Use trimming to avoid overcrowding. If the plant has ample room to thrive, you won’t have to perform pruning at all.
At first glance, Amazon swords look pretty tough. But don’t let those large leaves fool you. These plants are more delicate than people realize. They can withstand most environments, but rambunctious fish are another story!
Amazon swords are a no-go if you have fish that are notorious for uprooting plants or eating leaves. Some of the worst offenders are cichlids, plecos, and goldfish!
Larger cichlids like to move these plants around as they see fit. Meanwhile, goldfish will chow down on the leaves whenever they get hungry. Despite their otherwise gentle nature, plecos will slowly scrape the top layer of the plant’s foliage off until the Amazon sword dies.
Stick to peaceful fish that won’t cause the plant any harm. Smaller fish are usually better, as they’ll use the plant for shelter rather than food. Small invertebrates like shrimp and snails are good choices as well. They can keep the leaves clean without causing harm like a Pleco would.
Some good Amazon sword tank mates include:
- Guppy Fish
- Molly Fish
- Platy Fish
- Gouramis (we love the Dwarf Gourami)
- Zebra Danio
- Neon Tetra
- Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp
- Freshwater Aquarium Snails
Most Amazon swords in the trade today started off as propagations. This plant can reproduce naturally by developing tiny blossoms that emerge from long stems. However, this rarely occurs in an aquarium setting.
Instead, most plants will grow runners. These runners appear as long maternal stems. The stem usually sprouts from the center of the plant whenever growing conditions are optimal.
Author Note: Runner stems are easy to identify. At first, they look like another leaf that’s starting to grow. However, the branch stays thin and spindly even as it surpasses the length of the other leaves!
Tiny plantlets will grow from the stem at various nodes. To maximize the chances of survival, allow the plantlets to develop some roots. Once that occurs, you can remove them for replanting.
Trim the runner to remove the plantlets. Start at the end of the runner so that younger daughter plants can continue to grow.
After they’re separated from the primary plant, place them in the substrate. You can secure them with small rocks as the roots grow. For the best results, increase the CO2 levels in the tank a bit to kickstart the plantlets’ growth.
Amazon sword care is an extremely simple task. As long as you follow the guidelines and recommendations above, you should really have no issues at all.
The impact that this plant can have on the health and aesthetic appeal of your tank is amazing. There’s a reason why it’s so popular!
If there are any questions you’d like to ask us about this plant that weren’t answered in the guide, we’re more than happy to help. Simply type up what you’d like to know and send it over. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!