Plants from the genus Cryptocoryne, usually referred to as ‘crypts’ by aquarists, are among the easiest aquarium plants to keep. This, combined with the fact that they are available in many different (color) varieties that all look beautiful without needing special care, makes them one of the most popular plant species in the hobby today!
Keep reading for more information about Cryptocoryne care and growing it in your own aquarium.
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The most important thing to know about Cryptocoryne is that it does not appreciate unstable conditions. Planting and re-planting will lead to dying leaves and very slow growth, so think about a strategic position for your crypts beforehand! Like many low maintenance plants, strong lighting doesn’t do them much good and can actually cause damage, so a location with some shade from other (floating) plants is a good idea. Placement in the foreground or background depends on which kind of crypt you’re dealing with: some will stay relatively small and will look better in the foreground or middle, while some will become very tall (up to 20 inch/50 cm) and are a great background option.
Once you’ve figured out the perfect position for your crypts you can just plant them in sand or gravel substrate and you’re done! Like many other aquarium plants they will do best with an enriched substrate and many sources consider this a necessity. I’ve personally found that they don’t need the extra iron to survive, but skipping it can definitely lead to (very) slow growth.
- Once you’ve planted your Cryptocoryne, there isn’t much else you need to do. It doesn’t need added Co2 or lots of fertilizer to thrive, just a little patience – its growth rate is usually quite slow, especially right after planting. Just be sure to keep your water values stable to keep the plant from getting “stressed” and shedding leaves!
- Whether they prefer soft or slightly harder water and lower or higher pH depends on where the specific species is naturally found, but stability is more important than the actual water values and Cryptocoryne can get used to many types of water conditions. If you’re not sure, neutral pH and slightly soft water is a good place to start.
- If this stability is provided you should see your crypts starting to grow slowly but steadily, until they eventually form a lush forest of leaves that you may actually have to trim now and then by removing some stems. If any runners are produced you can re-plant these or remove them to sell or give away!
- When it comes to keeping Cryptocoryne with fish and invertebrates, keep in mind that some plant eating species like goldfish may try to nibble at it; a plant with harder leaves like Anubias may be a better choice for them. Other than that, no real problems are to be expected. The advanced root systems of this plant make it difficult for fish to uproot and shy fish, fry and (dwarf) shrimp will love hiding and foraging in the leaves.
Even though crypts are relatively easy aquarium plants that do well in a wide range of conditions, there is always a possibility of running into problems. As mentioned before, stability is the key to keeping this plant healthy. If your crypts are shedding leaves and appearing to be ‘melting’, especially right after buying, there is usually no need to worry. They may die off almost completely but should return looking extra lush and green eventually.
If the leaves of your Cryptocoryne appear pale or yellowish, you may be dealing with an iron deficiency. Working with an enriched substrate as mentioned under ‘Planting’ or adding some extra nutrients should help resolve this!
When buying Cryptocoryne, it’s important to keep in mind that there are endless varieties; way too many to discuss here!
Some species, including the most popular Cryptocoryne wendtii, can grow very tall especially under low lighting. Others, like the ‘dwarf’ variety Cryptocoryne parva, stay much smaller and work better as foreground plants. Leaf shapes and colors also vary across and even inside species: leaves can be sharp and pointed or more rounded and range in color from bright green to brown or even bright red. This means there’s a crypt for every aquarium, but also that you should definitely be sure to check the label that comes with the plant to see if it needs any specific care.
Most pet- and aquarium stores that sell aquarium plants should carry Cryptocoryne and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it. The most popular crypts as well as some of the lesser known species are all also available online!
If you have any more questions about growing Cryptocoryne or if you want to share your experiences with this wonderful plant, be sure to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!
Cover photo: Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘mi oya’ by Tkafetzis