Amazon Sword plant

Amazon Sword Care Guide (Species, Planting, and Propagation)

The Amazon Sword is a classic and popular freshwater aquarium plant.  It is an appealing choice for a number of reasons, including a beautiful presentation with show-stopping blade leaves, flexibility with different tank types, and ease of care. It is a great choice for both beginning and experienced hobbyists. It is often included in planted tanks for these reasons.

Below, we’re going to discuss everything you need to be successful with Amazon swords. We’ll review their plant varieties, ideal tank, habitat, and fertilizers so that you can safely include these beautiful plants in your aquarium. Both your eyes and your fish will thank you!

Recommended Amazon Sword Care Items:


Amazon Sword Overview

The Amazon Sword Plant (Echinodorus grisebachii/amazonicus) is an extremely popular freshwater aquatic plant. It is easy to care for, can thrive in many aquarium types, and has simple propagation requirements. It is capable of reaching approximately 20 inches in height with proper tank conditions.

You will find many sub-species of plants lumped together under the title Amazon Sword at aquarium stores. However, many aquarists consider Echinodorus grisebachii or Echinodorus amazonicus as the “real” Amazon Sword. Even though it goes by two names, it is the same plant. Its natural habitat is the Amazon River basin in South America.

This plant is affordable, typically in the range of $5–7 per plant. The price will always depend on the size of the plant and the geography of the store.


Amazon Sword Appearance

The Amazon Sword is a bushy plant with a short stem. The leaves extend straight from the roots on thin scapes. The leaves compose the majority of the plant’s height, potentially reaching up to 20 inches, with 15-16 inches more common.

The plant has a large rhizome (rootstock) which is easily capable of penetrating the substrate. These rhizomes will spread out wide and deep into your tank. This makes Amazon Swords more difficult to uproot for nosy fish, making it a good community tank plant.

Amazon Swords are named after their leaves, which resemble sword blades. The leaves are shaped like elongated ovals, starting out narrow near the roots, widening in the middle, and narrowing again at the top.

Amazon Swords are a green to dark green color when healthy. Brown or brownish red indicates nutrient problems.

Amazon sword in community tank

Amazon Sword Care

One general tip for taking care of aquarium plants and animals is to try to match  the aquarium habitat as closely as possible to their natural habitat. Amazon Swords originate from the Amazon River basin – a humid and warm place. Its tropical habitat provides a nutrient-rich substrate for growth. The weather fluctuates often – being hot and humid some days, and stormy and overcast the next. This makes the plant more tolerant to a wide variety of circumstances.


Amazon Sword Habitat

Tank

An important note about Amazon Swords – they can get tall. Your tank should be tall enough not to limit growth. At a minimum, your tank should be at least 16 inches high, with a preference for at least 20 inches if possible. Given that they can grow to be fairly large plants, they will quickly overwhelm a small tank so we recommend a minimum of 20 gallons.

Our recommendation: Tetra 20 gallon tank

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Lighting

Amazon Swords require at least 2 watts per gallon of full spectrum lighting (5000-7000K). Lighting should be on for around 11-12 hours a day.

Ideal CO2

Amazon swords are one of the more forgiving plants you can grow. They don’t need extra CO2 added into the tank and can get their required levels from the atmosphere through surface agitation and decomposing organic matter. Most aquarium plants will grow in a tank without added CO2 but they will just be smaller and grow slower. 

Fertilizer

Fertilizing your Amazon sword plants with iron-rich fertilizer regularly is a good idea. Fertilizer should be added weekly after water changes. Additionally, root tab fertilizers are suggested for Amazon Swords for strong root development.

Seachem Flourish Excel Bioavailable Carbon
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API ROOT TABS Freshwater Aquarium Plant Fertilizer
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Water Conditions

Amazon Sword plants are relatively flexible with their required water conditions. It  prefers warmer waters which mimic its natural  habitat in the Amazon basin.

Water acidity should be roughly neutral (pH of 7). Small deviations can occur but try to maintain them to a minimum for long-term plant health. Ideal water conditions are below:

  • Temperature: 70°-82°F
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Alkalinity: 3 to 8 dKH

We recommend doing water checks regularly on your tank, to support both your aquatic critters and plants.

API Aquarium Test Kit
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Substrate

Substrate is important for Amazon Sword Plants. It needs to be at least 2.5 inches thick so its roots have plenty  of space to anchor far and wide. Amazon Swords can adapt and do well planted in aquarium gravel, but loosely packed plant substrate or large-grained sand are better choices.

When planting, make sure the rootstock is well-anchored. However, be careful to not bury the crown. The crown is the whitish part of the plant right above the roots where all the stems of the leaves join together. If you bury the crown, your Amazon Sword will rot so don’t do it. As long as the crown is visible, this will support blade growth.


How to Plant Amazon Swords

Once you have purchased a healthy Amazon Sword, it is time to plant it.

Your Amazon Sword will become a hefty plant so it needs a strong anchor to keep it upright. Your substrate is key in making this happen. The substrate should be around 2.5 inches thick.

From a design standpoint, it is a good idea to place the Amazon Sword Plant in the center of the tank. Amazon Swords can be both tall and bushy so this will provide space for it to grow from all angles. By encouraging the plant to grow both up and out, you will create hiding spots for many aquarium inhabitants.

Planting is a simple operation. Dig a small hole in the substrate and firmly place it into the hole. Leave the crown (whitish park) of the roots visible.

Most substrates will work, but we recommend using large-grained sand or loosely packed plant substrate.


Amazon Sword Maintenance

Amazon Swords are not high maintenance plants. 

From a tank planning perspective, It is important to ensure the plant has enough space for growth. In planted aquariums, they can get big. For this reason, they make an ideal background plant or centerpiece plant.

Amazon Swords can struggle with algae or diatoms. They’re prone to algae growth  and will suffer if you leave your lights on too long. If your plants are experiencing an algae overload, brush their leaves gently with a used soft toothbrush, add in substrate fertilizers as needed, and protect again uprooting.

If you’re planting them in a smaller tank, trimming will be important. Trim down the longest leaves, all the way to the crown. You can also cut leaves in half to remove height, but this looks strange visually and often results in the leaf  dying. Therefore, it is often easier to trim  them down to the crown from the beginning. Alternatively, you can plant in a small pot and restrict their growth. This reduces the need for trimming. 

Lighting is another important thing for plant health. Amazon Swords require at least 2 watts per gallon of full spectrum lighting (5000-7000K). Lighting should be on for around 11-12 hours a day.

Lastly, it is important to change the tank water frequently. Dirty water hinders the plant’s growth. Weekly water changes of about 20% of the tank volume is a good idea for keeping healthy and happy tank inhabitants.


Amazon Sword – Potential Issues

Although they’re generally a healthy and hardy aquarium plant, Amazon Sword plants can experience illness and diseases. 

Melting

A major issue that comes up with Amazon swords is melting and dying soon thereafter. There are multiple potential causes of melting. If your Aquarium Sword is melting, the first step is to check your lights, fertilizer, and planting technique. If everything checks out, check your water chemistry, especially if it is a new tank. If everything is stable, chances are that your plant was grown emersed (above water) instead of submerged (below water.) Growing emersed Amazon Swords allows producers to grow them more quickly, but results in a difficult transition for the plant.

In this situation, it is not possible to avoid temporary melting. The best strategy is loading it up on fertilizers. This process takes about 4 – 6 weeks to start regrowing so don’t throw it out during this period. It is advised to prune dead or rotting leaves though.

Algae

They’re prone to algae build-up so best to keep an eye on your light and nutrient and employ some algae eaters like Ramshorn Snails in your tank. Algae can outcompete aquarium plants so while a little algae might not seem serious, we recommend taking action if you see this issue creep up.

Slow Growth

Although slow growth isn’t a lethal problem, it is important to understand why it is occuring. Check your light and nutrients and regularly test your water. If your plant is floating, anchor it down to improve growth.

If you’ve had a plant for a long time – say a year – and it has failed to grow while other plants around it have flourished, try replanting it. 


How To Choose A Healthy Amazon Sword

Amazon sword in a fish tank

Consider the following factors when evaluating for a healthy Amazon Sword: 

  • What color is the plant?
  • Do the leaves look strong? Are they misshapen or brown? Does it have damaged leaves?
  • How clean is the tank?
  • Are there any fish in the tank with the plants?

These questions will help you get a good-looking and healthy plant and save time and money wasted if you purchased a less than ideal specimen.

You’re looking for a vibrant shade of green. Leaves should have precise, accurate edges without severe fraying or cuts along the edges. 


Amazon Sword Propagation

Under good aquarium conditions, propagation will occur naturally in your tank once your plant reaches about 16-18” in height. Amazon Sword Plants reproduce by shooting a single long maternal stem with runners, on which plantlets (baby plants) start to appear. Over time, these plantlets will develop their own root systems and leaves.

After the roots and leaves have developed, the plantlets can be safely cut off and placed elsewhere. Removing them and putting them in other tanks is also an option. However, it is best if the new tank has a similar substrate to the original tank. Small plantlets struggle to adapt to a completely new environment.

You can place your new plantlets into the substrate and secure them with small rocks. During the early stages, increasing the amount of CO2 and a few supplementary fertilizer additions are helpful. It is important for the baby plant to get enough nutrients. Don’t worry if your plantlets appear slightly yellow; this is common for young plants.


Amazon Sword Tank Mates

In its natural environment in the Amazon Basin, the Amazon Sword exists alongside a huge variety of animals. This makes it an excellent communal tropical freshwater tank plant.  Popular choices include:

The best tankmates are the ones that will avoid eating your fish. Certain plecos like Clown Plecos like to nibble on plants and are best avoided unless you don’t mind holes in your leaves! Also, avoid keeping fish that are overly rough and likely to uproot your plant. Goldfish can be notorious aquarium plant-eaters so avoid this species in your goldfish tank.

Your Amazon Sword can also peacefully coexist with a number of other plants including Java Fern, Java Moss, and Anubias, to name a few.


Amazon Sword FAQs

Can you plant Amazon sword in gravel?

Amazon Swords can adapt and do well planted in aquarium gravel, but loosely packed plant substrate or large-grained sand substrate are better choices. Whatever the final substrate choice, it is very important to have at least 2.5 to 3 inches of depth for strong root attachment

Can Amazon swords grow out of water?

Amazon Swords can grow submerged in water or partially above the water, as a plant grows on the edge of a pond or body of water. Hobbyists often find that it is good when the plant grows partially out of the water, as it will have more access to light and CO2. New leaves will continue to grow from the base underwater. These leaves will likely grow quicker than before due to the increased light and CO2. 

Do Amazon swords need fertilizer?

Yes, it is recommended to use an iron-rich fertilizer and a root tab fertilizer regularly.

How long do Amazon swords live?

The average lifespan of the plant is 1.5 to 3 years.

Can Amazon swords grow in low light?

Yes, Amazon Swords can grow in low light conditions. However, they will flourish and grow at a much faster rate with proper light conditions. Amazon Swords require at least 2 watts per gallon of full spectrum lighting (5000-7000K). Lighting should be on for around 11-12 hours a day.

How many hours of light do Amazon swords need?

Lighting should be on for around 11-12 hours a day. Avoid too much lighting or you will risk increasing the algae in the tank, which can choke out the Amazon Sword.

Can Amazon Sword float?

Amazon Swords are heavy root feeders so floating them would not be an ideal situation. If you want to float your plant, you will need to heavily fertilize the water to ensure nutrients can reach the plant. However, this is not a guarantee they will survive as this is far from their preferred set-up.

Does Amazon Sword need CO2?

No, strictly speaking, Amazon swords don’t need CO2. However, if you give them CO2, they will be a happy plant. The most important set-up element for Amazon Swords is nutrient-rich substrate as they’re heavy root feeders. If you lack a nutrient-dense substrate, plan to use root tabs regularly. The best-case scenario is to give them CO2 and nutrient-safe substrate and be prepared for excellent growth!


Is Amazon Sword right for your aquarium? 

Now that you’ve learned just about all there is to know when it comes to Amazon Sword plant care, you should be able to decide for yourself if they’re a good fit for your aquarium.

They’re a popular entry-level aquarium plant as they’re hardy, beautiful, and easy to propagate. You should be prepared for their substrate, fertilizer, and root tab needs and potential to grow very large. As such, they make excellent focal points when designing your aquarium, as long as you have enough space to contain their growth.  Fish also love their bushy structure as it creates plenty of places to explore and hide

Amazon Swords are one of the most popular freshwater plant options for good reason. Have you added an Amazon Sword to your tank? What has your experience been like? 

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