Echinodorus Cordifolius (Radican Sword)

Echinodorus cordifolius

Last updated on September 15th, 2022 at 07:26 pm

Echinodorus cordifolius, also known as the radican sword or creeping burhead, is one of the most popular aquarium plants. These highly adaptable and hardy plants can survive in water temperatures ranging from 32-86 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as they are given proper light and nutrients.

The radican sword, as it’s more commonly known, produces large, paddle-shaped leaves that can grow up to 12 inches long. The leaves are dark green with purplish-red veins, and the stems and the leaf bases are red-tinged browns. This plant is one of the easiest varieties of Echinodorus to grow, but it still needs consistent care if you want to keep it looking healthy and attractive all year long.

The creeping burhead, also known as the radican sword plant Echinodorus cordifolius, can be an attractive and hardy addition to your aquarium, provided you pay close attention to its specific care requirements and needs.

Here are some tips on how to take good care of this South American freshwater plant.

Origin and descriptions

Echinodorus cordifolius

Echinodorus cordifolius is a perennial plant of aquatic nature. It can grow in damp soil and water along lakes, ponds and riversides. The name Echinodorus is derived from two Greek words: ichthys meaning fish and doros meaning serpent indicating that it has thrived on waters inhabited by fishes. The plant was discovered in its natural habitat during the 1650s by Abraham Muntingen who introduced it to Europe.

Today, it is widely grown among aquarists for ornamental purposes. In many parts of India, Echinodorus cordifolius species are used for medicinal purposes due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals which may be toxic in large quantities but there are no reports about toxicity if consumed in small amounts.

Species profile

Echinodorus cordifolius

Echinodorus cordifolius is a popular tropical plant from the Alismataceae plant family. Also called the Water-plantain, the radican sword is so-named because of its blades’ resemblance to swords; it also has an upright growth habit similar to an arrow or spear. Its long, thin leaves emerge vertically and then gradually bend over until they lie flat on top of the soil.

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Echinodorus cordifolius generally reaches a maximum height of around 14 inches when grown as an aquarium plant. It can have up to nine leaves per stem and will produce multiple stems as time goes by. It spreads readily via rhizome and often becomes invasive in an aquarium environment if left unchecked; though given enough light, nutrients, and space, it will be content to stay put for quite some time.

Echinodorus cordifolius length

The Echinodorus cordifolius can grow to be around 14 inches (35 cm) in length, with a width of around 12 inches (30 cm).

Echinodorus cordifolius propagation

Echinodorus cordifolius

Radican sword plants can be propagated using their leaves, which develop roots very easily. Just place one of these leaves into a small cup of water and keep it in indirect sunlight. You should see new roots in about a week or two, after which you can pot up your new plant and move it to your aquarium. Do note that these types of aquarium plants require highly oxygenated water; they won’t grow well if placed in still water.

Many aquarists use an air stone in conjunction with an airline bubbler to ensure that these echinodorus are getting sufficient oxygen as they grow and develop root systems. Once planted into your aquarium, echinodorus cordifolius will spread quickly via its rhizome system, forming clumps over time. This is an attractive feature for many hobbyists who want to introduce aquatic plants into their fish tanks but aren’t interested in having to constantly prune away dead fronds and stems.

In fact, proper care of echinodorus cordifolius means spending as little time as possible tending to it: these aquarium plants do just fine with relatively low lighting conditions and CO2 injection is unnecessary because they get most of what they need from photosynthesis alone.

Echinodorus cordifolius care

Echinodorus cordifolius

Echinodorus cordifolius is a beautiful, emerald-green aquatic plant that grows like a vine. When positioned in front of a light source, it has one of the most stunning color changes from dark green to silver-white on its leaves.

However, Echinodorus cordifolius can grow quite large and needs plenty of attention if you want it to remain vibrant and healthy for years to come. Follow these tips for how to care for Echinodorus cordifolius. This plant does best with low to medium lighting. The lighting of your tank should be at least 2 watts per gallon; however, more light will result in faster growth and a larger leaf size.

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Additionally, keep in mind that adding too much light could contribute to algae growth which could shade Echinodorus cordifolius and harm its coloration over time. The level of nutrients also affects leaf size; while regular fertilization during springtime results in smaller leaves, less fertilizer will make them thicker and darker but smaller overall.

Light requirements

Echinodorus cordifolius is a creeping burhead that likes moderate to high lighting. Its long, narrow leaves and unique red stripe will stand out in an aquarium when growing under strong lighting. Burhead sword plants are one of a few types of plants that can survive in low-nutrient waters. In tanks with strong water flow and low levels of nutrients, these plants are able to thrive.

Substrate/soil requirements

Because it grows horizontally along the bottom of your tank, echinodorus cordifolius requires a shallow substrate.

They prefer a substrate that is about 50% sand and 50% organic material. If you add too much organic material to your substrate, it can become spongy and more difficult for roots to be established. Echinodorus cordifolius also prefers a soil pH of 5-7. Adding African violet soil or peat will help keep your pH on target.

These plants also do well in a rich substrate made up of gravel or sand mixed with some potting soil or peat. This rich substrate serves as fertilizer for your plant as well as most other aquatic plants.

Be sure to choose a pot with adequate drainage; echinodorus cordifolius does not like standing water.


Despite its name, sword plants are not especially demanding when it comes to nutrients. As with all aquarium plants, feed them with an aquatic plant fertilizer at half strength once a week or every other week during the regular growing season. The more often you fertilize sword plants, the faster they grow. When you fertilize them less frequently, growth will slow down and leaves will become smaller and fewer in number.

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You can also supplement their diet by adding blanched vegetables or spirulina powder to their tank every couple of weeks. If your swords aren’t growing as quickly as you’d like, try feeding them some liquid fertilizer for aquarium plants instead. You can add about 2 teaspoons of liquid fertilizer for every gallon of water twice a week—or 1 teaspoon per gallon four times per week—to provide your swords with what they need without overdoing it.


Echinodorus cordifolius does best when temperatures remain between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s susceptible to cold-related problems at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Gardeners in cooler climates should protect echinodorus cordifolius from freezing temperatures by placing it near a wall, where it can receive reflected heat from an exterior wall or other building materials. Floating plants are also good for warmer pools, as they raise water temperature by providing shade.

If you must use a heater to keep your pool above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for plant health during extremely cold weather, only use heating elements that have been approved for aquarium use, like those made by Hydor or Aquatop. Keep an eye on your floating plants while using these heating elements; they may need their leaves trimmed back if they become browned as a result of too much heat exposure.


Echinodorus cordifolius

The Echinodorus cordifolius, also known as a Radican sword or creeping burhead, is an incredibly popular aquarium plant among freshwater aquarists. It has green leaves and white roots that resemble a tropical water plant. Because of its popularity, it is often cultivated in both fish tanks and ponds. It’s fairly easy to maintain, but it does have specific growing requirements for optimal health and vitality.

The ideal humidity range is between 40% and 60%. It should not be exposed to a relative humidity below 35%, nor above 70%. There are several things you can do to achieve and maintain an appropriate level of humidity.

The first thing you should do, if your aquarium has room for it, is getting a small watertight container and fill it with gravel from your tank. This will create evaporative cooling that will naturally drop your tank’s temperature.

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This plant is a creeping burhead and will send out side shoots if left unattended. These side shoots can be used for cuttings for more plants or divided to grow separately. If left alone, these side shoots will crowd up against each other and compete for nutrients making them spindly and weak.

It’s best to remove these side shoots regularly but leave 1-2 behind when possible so it has room to spread itself out. The stems that rise from each of these pieces should then be able to grow strong without stunting each other.

Growth rate

Echinodorus cordifolius grows at a fast rate and is commonly used as a midground plant in aquariums. In some situations, it can grow tall and have strong growth that towers over other plants in your tank. Keeping Echinodorus cordifolius short and healthy usually requires pruning it frequently to keep it from growing out of control.

USDA hardiness zones

The plant is hardy to USDA zones 10b-11 (25 to 30°F), 12-14 (-10 to -10°F), and 15-17 (-5 to -5°F). USDA plant hardiness zones are for general guidance only. Always choose plants that will grow well in your area.


Echinodorus cordifolius is considered a moderate toxin. Though it is possible to handle echinodorus safely, its saponins can cause skin irritation if you touch them and are mildly toxic when ingested by mouth. Always wear gloves when handling your echinodorus plant and wash your hands thoroughly after touching it to avoid contact with your eyes or skin.

Parasites and diseases

Planted aquariums are sometimes subject to diseases and parasite infestation. Echinodorus cordifolius, or sword plants, are generally considered pretty hardy and disease-resistant due to their thick leaves and natural resistance against herbivorous fish. However, there are some pests that can infect your plant if you’re not careful. Some of these include snails, flatworms, and even external diseases like spotted algae.