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Cyperus Helferi Aquarium Plant: Care, Benefits & Planting Tips

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By Lindsey Stanton

Cyperus Helferi in the aquarium

Cyperus helferi is a type of aquarium plant that is native to Thailand in Southeast Asia. It is one of the very few plants belonging to the cypercaceae family that can survive in a fully aquatic environment, although it can be found partially emerging from the waterline in its native habitat.

The Cyperus helferi plant grows in freshwater aquariums in tropical conditions, but its care can be quite challenging for beginners, making this plant ideal for those who have experience in maintaining aquarium plants.

It tends to grow poorly in incorrect conditions, which means that understanding the plant’s proper care requirements is essential if you want to grow a healthy Cyperus helferi in your aquarium.

Useful Information About Cyperus Helferi Plants

Family Name:  Cyperaceae
Common Name:  Cyperus helferi
Origin:  Thailand, Southeast Asia
Color:  Green
Size:  15 – 20 inches (40 – 50 centimeters)
Growth Rate:  Fast
Care Level:  Medium
Lighting:  Moderately bright
Water Conditions: A tropical freshwater aquarium with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5
Minimum Tank Size:  20 gallons (90 liters)
Supplements:  Fertilizers, but no Co2 required
Placement:  Background
Propagation:  Runners, stem cuttings, and rhizome division
Compatibility:  Other low-growing aquarium plants

Cyperus Helferi Plant Appearance

cyperus helferi
Image Credit: Alex Unders, Shutterstock

The Cyperus helferi is a medium-sized aquarium plant that looks like a type of grass. The plant produces long, slender leaves that grow around the thick stem of the plant, with dark green coloration throughout.

The leaves are bushy and branch out from a single stem at the base which can have a dark greenish-brown color. This plant closely resembles tall blades of grass, which look amazing underwater.

The typical height of the Cyperus helferi plant is around 15 to 20 inches (40 to 50 centimeters), with a width of around 6 to 9.8 inches (15 to 25 centimeters). It takes up more vertical than horizontal space, making it ideal for tall aquariums.

Where to Find It

Cyperus helferi is most abundant in its native habitat in Thailand, and it is a relatively new species of plant that has been introduced into the aquarium industry. You can find Cyperus helferi plants in pet stores or online retailers, however, they are mostly found on the Asian continent. Its native habitat consists of slow-moving waters usually along riverbanks and basins that are shallow.

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General Care

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank Size

As a large-sized aquarium plant, a 20-gallon (90-liter) aquarium is a good minimum tank size. The larger space offers more room for the plant to grow and more room for error when it comes to maintaining the tank’s water quality. Since the Cyperus helferi takes up more vertical space, it can do best in tall aquariums.

Water Temperature and pH

The Cyperus helferi should be grown in tropical waters, and they are strictly freshwater plants. As a tropical plant, the Cyperus helferi should be kept in an aquarium with a stable temperature between 68⁰F to 80⁰F (20⁰C to 27⁰C). This makes the Cyperus helferi a good choice for tropical aquariums with a stable tropical temperature that can be maintained by using an aquarium heater.

Cyperus helferi prefers an acidic to slightly neutral pH at around 6.5 to 7.5, but they can tolerate a pH as low as 6.0.

Cyperus Helferi
Image Credit: Alex Unders, Shutterstock


Cyperus helferi plants need to be planted in a substrate, as the roots will use the substrate for stabilization and provide nutrients to the plant. The Cyperus helferi should not be left to float in an aquarium, as this can start to kill the plant.

An organic growing soil or sandy substrate that contains nutrients for plant growth is recommended for growing the Cyperus helferi plant. The substrate should either not affect the pH of the water, or slightly lower the pH. Avoid substrates that cause the pH to rise.


The Cyperus helferi can be demanding when it comes to its high lighting requirements. This plant grows best in moderately bright lighting which can be achieved through a good-quality aquarium growth light. This plant needs around 2 to 4 watts of light per gallon of water to ensure that it can grow properly.

The light should overlook the aquarium and ideally be placed in the aquarium’s canopy or attached at the top of the aquarium. Light from the window will not be sufficient for the Cyperus helferi, and the lighting should be kept on for 8 to 10 hours with a period of darkness at night.

 Fertilizers and C02

Fertilizers can be used to supply the Cyperus helferi with essential growth nutrients and minerals to prevent a deficiency. This plant will benefit from both micronutrients and macronutrients, so look for an aquarium plant fertilizer that contains traces of both nutrients.

The Cyperus helferi does not need CO2 to grow but added CO2 can help improve plants’ growth and overall health while preventing a CO2 deficiency.


Planting Tips

Cyperus helferi should be planted in a nutrient-rich substrate that is around 1 to 2 inches deep to allow for proper root development. The soil or sandy substrate should be covered over the plant’s roots to weigh down the Cyperus helferi plant and prevent it from being uprooted and left to float around the aquarium.

Unlike plants like the parrot feather that can be left to float or planted in a substrate, the Cyperus helferi plant needs to be planted in a substrate. If it is left to float around the water column for too long, it will eventually die and fail to thrive.

When planting the Cyperus helferi plant, it is recommended to ensure that the plant is receiving enough light from aquarium growth light and that the leaves of other plants are not growing in a certain way that blocks most of the Cyperus helfer’s light.

The 3 Benefits of Having Cyperus Helferi Plants in Your Aquarium

When growing Cyperus helferi in your aquarium, here are some noticeable benefits:

1. Better Water Quality

Plants do a great job at absorbing nutrients in the water from your fish’s waste. The nitrates and ammonia are absorbed by the plants and used as nutrients for the plant’s growth like a natural fertilizer. Too much ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates are harmful to fish and other live inhabitants, so keeping live plants like the Cyperus helferi can help keep the water clean.

2. Naturalistic Appearance

The Cyperus helferi’s grass-like appearance adds a touch of nature to any aquarium, which can improve the aquarium’s overall aesthetic. This is a bonus for fish who thrive in aquariums with live plants, and it can make it a better experience for those looking for an alternative to fake plastic plants.

Live plants can be beneficial for fish or invertebrates like snails that eat plants as part of their diet, and they will nibble on live or decaying aquarium plants.

3. Provides Shelter for Fish and Inhabitants

Plants can help create a safe shelter for fish and invertebrates to hide in. The long and narrow leaves of the Cyperus helferi can provide shelter for your fish and be a place for your fish to spawn. The long leafy tendrils can also be used to add height to parts of the aquarium where fish can hide behind.

cyperus helferi
Image Credit: BLUR LIFE 1975, Shutterstock

Concerns About Cyperus Helferi Plants

Before growing a Cyperus helferi plant in your aquarium, there are some concerns that you should consider first. Cyperus helferi doesn’t make the best beginner plant, as their care can be slightly more challenging in comparison to other types of plants.

Cyperus helferi needs access to moderately bright lighting for maximum growth and health, which means that most standard LED aquarium lights do not provide the Cyperus helferi with enough light to grow properly. The pH also needs to be maintained, and cannot become too alkaline or too acidic, which can result in issues with the Cyperus helferi’s growth.

Some common problems you may notice when growing Cyperus helferi are browning leaves, melting, slow growth, or even poor root development in the incorrect substrate.

Final Thoughts

The Cyperus helferi can look stunning in aquariums and be a great aquarium plant in freshwater aquariums. Although the care is not the easiest, by ensuring the lighting, pH, and temperature of the aquarium are ideal for the Cyperus helferi, you will get to maintain and watch this plant grow to a large size.

The long leafy tendrils offer shelter to the aquarium’s inhabitants while giving the aquarium a natural look, which makes it perfect for planted aquariums.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Unders, Shutterstock

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