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Amazon Sword/Echinodorus Aquarium Plant: Care, Planting & Benefits

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By Lindsey Stanton

amazon sword plant

Echinodorus, or Amazon Sword, is an elegant, tall aquarium plant that can bring a lot of benefits and life to your tank. Your fish will love swimming through the tall leaves while the plant works to improve the water quality for your fish.

These plants require a little bit of maintenance and care, especially if your water lacks minerals. Some would consider these plants to be easy-care, but their nutrient and lighting needs can make them more of a medium-care level plant.

If you’re ready to take on the maintenance required by the Echinodorus, you will be pleased with the tall, green leaves it produces and the beauty it brings to your aquarium. Here are the things you need to know before bringing home an Echinodorus for your tank.

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Useful Information About Echinodorus

Family Name: Alismataceae
Common Name: Amazon sword
Origin: Cuba, Central America, South America
Color: Light green to dark green
Size: 20 inches
Growth Rate: Moderate
Care Level: Easy to moderate
Lighting: Moderate to high
Water Conditions: Temperature 60-82˚F

pH 6.0-7.5

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Supplements: Water fertilizers, root tabs
Placement: Background
Propagation: Runners
Compatibility: Temperate to tropical freshwater tanks

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Amazon Sword Appearance

large planted tank with sand amazon sword plant angelfish cichlids
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

Echinodorus got its common name, Amazon sword, because of its long, pointed leaves that are shaped like swords. The leaves are light green to dark green, depending on the amount of light and nutrients the plant receives. They are attached to dark green stems that are usually considerably shorter than the length of the leaf itself. The stems come together at the base of the plant, which is called the crown, and below that are the thick, white roots of the plant.

These plants can grow submerged for an extended period. They may grow up above the waterline in tanks that are shorter than 20 inches or so but prefer to stay below the waterline.

Echinodorus will grow small plantlets off of the mother plant. These plantlets will eventually develop small roots of their own and can be removed from the mother plant and planted elsewhere once these roots have developed.

Where to Find It?

In nature, Echinodorus can be found in tropical and sub-tropical North, Central, and South America. It is not native to the United States but has become naturalized in a large portion of the southern United States.

As one of the most enduringly popular aquarium plants, Echinodorus is usually easy to acquire. It is sold at most online retailers of aquarium plants, as well as in corporate pet and aquarium stores. Many local shops will also carry these plants since they are so popular.

Echinodorus_quadricostatus_var._magdalenensis-commons wikimedia
Echinodorus quadricostatus (Image Credit: Tommy Kronkvist, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

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General Care

Echinodorus are nice, tall additions for medium to large tanks. They prefer moderate to high lighting and can die without enough light. The amount of light these plants receive determines how dark they will be. Plants that receive low to moderate lighting will be darker than plants that receive high lighting.

Technically, these plants do not require nutrient supplementation, but they will absolutely grow better with it. They are root feeders, making root tabs and nutrient-rich substrates good choices. They also absorb nutrients from the water, meaning adding fertilizer to the water will improve growth as well.

They are sensitive to acidic water below a pH of 6.0, partly because this water is usually soft, meaning it lacks minerals. These plants can experience mineral deficiencies that can kill them, so if your water is soft, then Echinodorus will almost certainly require supplementation.

If your Echinodorus plant begins to turn brown or reddish or develops spots on the leaves, it is likely experiencing a lack of light or nutrients. Sick appearing or damaged leaves should be trimmed from the plant as close to the crown as possible.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank/Aquarium Size

Echinodorus can reach a large size, rapidly taking up smaller tanks. Ideally, it should be kept in tanks 20 gallons or larger, although some people purchase them for smaller tanks.

Water Temperature and pH

These plants prefer tropical water temperatures but can survive in water as cool as 60˚F. They grow best in a pH of 6.5-7.0 but can tolerate a pH of 6.0-7.5 and possibly higher.

holding PH tests in front of freshwater aquarium
Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock


These plants have true roots, so a nutrient-rich substrate is ideal. They need a substrate that is deep enough to allow for its thick roots to grow and anchor the plant. Sand, gravel, and aquatic plant substrate are all good options.


Echinodorus can be kept with a lot of different plants due to its wide temperature range. It is a good plant option for the background, so it is best planted at the back of the tank with smaller plants in the midground and foreground. Other varieties of swords make great options, as well as plants like Java ferns and Anubias.


These plants will grow best with moderate to high lighting. They can survive low-light environments but will grow very slowly and may die if the light availability is too low.


Echinodorus does not seem to have a preference for current strength and can adapt to currents from weak to strong. It can be sensitive to ammonia in the water, which can be reduced with proper filtration.

Echinodorus / Amazon sword
Echinodorus quadricostatus (Image Credit: Haplochromis, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Planting Tips

Echinodorus should be planted in a nutrient-rich substrate like sand or aquatic plant substrate. Gravel is also appropriate. It should be deep enough for the hardy roots of the plant to travel to acquire nutrients. These plants will grow best with a root tab planted below them.

They can be used in bare bottom tanks if they are planted in glass pots or bowls. Ensure that whatever you may plant it in will not leach minerals or chemicals into the water and that it will be heavy enough that fish will not be able to lift or spill it.

Small plantlets that have been removed from the mother plant may need to be weighed down with rocks or plant weights until they have developed an extensive enough root system to hold them in place.

Always ensure you plant the white crown of the plant above the substrate. Otherwise, the roots and crown will rot, killing the plant.

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The 6 Benefits of Having Echinodorus in Your Aquarium

1. Absorbs toxins from the water

Echinodorus is an excellent aquatic plant for absorbing nitrate from the water, improving the water quality for your aquarium pets in doing so.

2. Increases oxygen in the water

These plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen into the water. The more dissolved oxygen present in the water, the more oxygen there is for your friends with gills to use to breathe.

3. Provides shelter

Echinodorus doesn’t just grow tall, and most of its height is enormous leaves. This makes it a great safe spot for shy fish, fry, and even eggs. It also makes a nice “forest” for fish to swim through.

4. Unpalatable to many fish

Do you have fish that will not stop eating your plants? Echinodorus might be a good choice for your tank! Many fish do not like the taste of this plant, especially when there are other options available to them.

5. Difficult to uproot

Once established, the strong root system of this plant will anchor the plant into place, helping it withstand even the roughest fish that uproot half of your tank for fun.

6. Aerates the substrate

These plants have an extensive root system that will power through your tank’s substrate. This means that it will aerate the substrate, helping reduce the buildup of toxic gases under the surface.

Amazon Sword: Great for Goldfish!

red cap oranda goldfish with amazon sword plant and rocks
Image credit: Lasindu Nethmina, Shutterstock

Looking for an impressive planted tank that won’t get shredded by your finned lawnmowers? Amazon Sword plants might be just the variety for you. Good news: this is a plant that goldfish typically don’t go for.

It can withstand the attacks of even the more athletic breeds such as Commons and Comets. Actually, it is one of the MOST goldfish-proof live plants money can buy. So people rarely have problems with it becoming goldfish salad.

The larger the plant, the more resilient it is to attacks. I have never had anyone report to me that their goldfish ate these, unlike with many others.

Concerns About Echinodorus

Echinodorus plants have tender leaves that are easily damaged, which makes them a poor choice in tanks with fish like Plecostomus that may munch on the leaves, damaging them. It also means that while the plant is becoming established and growing out from a plantlet, it may be easily damaged or killed by goldfish, rainbowfish, or cichlids.

The moderate growth rate of these plants makes them subject to algae growth on the leaves. When algae builds up on plant leaves, they are not able to perform vital functions like photosynthesis. This issue can easily be resolved with aquatic pets that will eat algae but are unlikely to damage the plant, like varieties of shrimps and snails.

This plant can survive in ponds but ideally should not be put into ponds due to its ability to become invasive. Invasive plants are often detrimental to the native ecosystem. In most of the locations in the United States where these plants are present, it is because aquarists released the plants intentionally or accidentally.

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Final Thoughts

Echinodorus plants are gorgeous plants if your aquarium has the space for such a large plant. Your fish will love the plant, the water quality will improve, and your substrate will be healthier as well. Just keep in mind that these plants will fill up a 20-gallon or smaller tank in no time, and tanks that are long and short are not a good home for them.

Be wary of Echinodorus plants if you have aquarium pets like plecos and crabs, and use caution with small or unestablished plants if you have fish that like to uproot plants, like goldfish.

The lovely green shades of these plants, as well as the elongated, unique shape of their leaves, will bring life and beauty to your tank if you provide the plant with the right care.

Featured Image Credit: Cheng Wei, Shutterstock

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