Vallisneria Spiralis Care (Eelweed)

Vallisneria spiralis
beautiful fishes swimming in a planted tropical freshwater aquarium

Last updated on August 5th, 2022 at 04:25 pm

Vallisneria spiralis is an aquatic plant, commonly known as eelgrass or tape grass, and it’s found in freshwater lakes and rivers around the world. It has dark green leaves that grow to about 1-2 inches wide and 6-12 inches long, with little white flowers that grow in clusters off the stems from June through September.

In the world of aquarium plants, no plant family attracts attention like Vallisneria spiralis. Native to temperate and tropical regions around the globe, it has long been a favorite plant of both freshwater and saltwater aquarists because of its hardiness, lush green color, and ability to thrive in suboptimal conditions. In fact, it’s one of the most widespread aquatic plants on earth and can be found in virtually every part of the planet’s oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.

What is vallisneria spiralis?

It is a flowering aquatic plant native to the southern United States and the northern Mediterranean region. It’s best known for its appearance in coastal areas and wetlands, where it serves as an essential habitat and food source for many species of fish, insects, and marine mammals. Unlike most other aquatic plants, which absorb their nutrients from the water, vallisneria spiralis pulls them directly from the air via specialized structures on its leaves called blade roots.

Let’s take a look at the plant itself, what it needs to survive, and the best ways to take care of it in your aquarium.

Origin and descriptions

Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis is an aquatic plant commonly known as eelgrass or tape grass. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. It is also found in temperate areas of North America. Vallisneria spiralis forms dense beds that stabilize sediments in quiet water areas such as ponds. The plant grows best in shallow, slow-moving water with a low current velocity; it does not grow well in fast-moving waters.

Eelgrass has a thick rhizome (underground stem) that produces thin green leaves from one end. The leaf blades are long and flat, consisting of a midrib with parallel sides along which many transverse veins branch out. The plants spread slowly by branching off at each node, producing new plants as much as bamboo shoots do.

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The emerging shoots begin life perpendicular to their parent’s stem but soon bend toward their light source to maximize photosynthesis potential. Vallisneria spiralis is monoecious – it produces flowers of both sexes on the same individual. Male and female flowers are separate but they mature at different times so they can be pollinated by insects flying between them during pollination season.

Species profile

Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis, from the plant family of Hydrocharitaceae and order Alismatales, is a hardy aquatic plant that grows in underwater meadows. Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, eelgrass thrives in temperate waters where it provides a vital home for marine creatures such as fish, crabs, and shellfish.

Despite its widespread distribution, however, many are unaware of eelgrass’s ecological benefits or how to care for it properly. With proper care, your eelgrass will flourish! In fact, you may need to thin out some plants every year when they grow too thick. We explain everything you need to know about caring for vallisneria spiralis below so you can have your own thriving eelgrass bed in no time!

Vallisneria spiralis height

Vallisneria spiralis has a rather lax height, it has the potential of growing up to 12-14 inches (30-36 cm) in height when fully grown in ideal water conditions, so it is easy to see why aquarium owners like its character.

Tank size

The minimum recommended fish tank size for Vallisneria spiralis is 10 gallons (38 liters)

How to plant vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis is an excellent plant for beginners because of its ease of propagation. The eelgrass can be propagated from three different kinds of division: rhizome division (also called dividing or splitting), leaf division (also called cutting), or spore division.  Each method has specific requirements that must be met in order to encourage successful growth.

Like many aquatic plants, it is best propagated in a greenhouse or other heated environment to provide optimum temperature for germination. If direct seeding into an aquarium is necessary, seeds should be coated with either flour or soaking in water overnight before planting. Like most aquatics, eelweed does not transplant well so proper placement of rhizomes is essential for success.

The easiest way to divide eelweeds is done underwater by severing them at their base where new rhizomes will quickly develop from nodes along its length, allowing you to start several plants from each original one.

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Some vallisnerias require highly specific conditions in order to grow successfully, such as Vallisneria americana (giant cane), which requires cooler temperatures than most Vallisnerias typically prefer. Be sure that any conditions you are providing are suitable for your chosen species type.

Vallisneria spiralis care

Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis is a popular ornamental water plant. It’s found in slow-moving freshwater environments in bogs, lakes, ponds, creeks, and backwaters.  In nature, it grows as rooted underwater plants on riverbanks. In aquariums, eelgrass grows best with only gentle currents to keep it submerged most of the time.

A huge advantage of growing eelgrass over stem plants like Amazon swords is that it stays submerged all of its life; stem plants require regular pruning or they will grow above water level and eventually rot away.

Light requirements

It’s important to pay attention to Vallisneria spiralis lighting, because lighting is essential for photosynthesis. When it comes to lighting, Eelgrass requires a lot of light; with too little light, growth slows down. If your eelgrass does not receive enough light, it will suffer from chlorosis (the yellowing of leaves) due to insufficient carotenoids being produced.

Although it likes bright light, it cannot take direct sunlight. To keep it healthy, put it in a south-facing window (with some sun protection, of course) or a very brightly lit room. If necessary, you can also supplement its natural light with artificial fluorescent lights. It will do best in shallow water (1 inch or less) that receives plenty of light every day of the year—but not too much!

Eelgrass can survive in low-light conditions, but typically grows slowly and looks sickly when subjected to dim light for extended periods of time. To promote strong growth in your plant, it is highly recommended that you give them as much light as possible! To encourage luxuriant growth, try boosting them with CO2 supplementation or additional nutrients such as iron or nitrogen.

Substrate/soil requirements

Vallisneria spiralis is an aquatic, free-floating plant. It can survive for short periods of time out of water by producing a turgid stem (turgor pressure) that holds its leaves above water level. When submerged, it spreads outward and downward with vigorous growth resulting in large mats of vegetation.

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Vallisneria spiralis needs to be planted in soft but firm substrates such as sand, fine gravel, or small pieces of gravel. The substrate should be mixed with a strong fertilizer for aquatic plants. It does best when planted in substrates that don’t sit directly on the water, as it has air-breathing roots like most other aquatic plants do.

If you notice your plant is sitting low on water level, add more substrate around its base until it is raised above water level again.

Please note that large vallisneria plants will reach near-surface water eventually. In fact, they can even grow right under ice cubes if allowed to reach just below ice’s surface!


Use a fertilizer formulated for underwater plants, but follow package directions carefully. More is not better—too much fertilizer will kill your plant, so be sure to stay on a regular feeding schedule. You can also feed it leftovers from your fish tank by placing some food in a mesh bag or net and suspending it in an inconspicuous area of your aquarium so that fish won’t get to it first.

Eelgrass doesn’t grow very quickly; you shouldn’t need to replace it too often as long as you maintain good water quality. It should last anywhere from six months to two years before dying off naturally.


Vallisneria spiralis prefers a temperature range of 68–76°F. Outside of its ideal range, it will still survive but does not thrive. In short, if you want your eelgrass to look great (with lots of healthy leaves), then keep your water at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If your tank temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time, you may have problems with browning leaves which are unable to recover unless temperatures quickly rise again.


Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis require a lot of water, but Vallisneria spiralis is much less demanding. Most hobbyists set their tank to 40–70% humidity. If your eelgrass experiences significant browning, it’s probably too dry.


If you want to grow eelgrass as a decorative water plant in your freshwater aquarium, pruning is an important step in maintaining its health. You’ll need to prune it every two weeks during its active growing season, which runs from April to November for U.S. gardeners. Using gardening shears or snips, cut away dead or dying stems near their base so that only healthy stems remain; do not prune it more than one-third of its overall length at any given time.

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Growth rate

Vallisneria spiralis is a slow-growing plant. It may take over a year for it to reach a length of 18 inches. Under ideal conditions, you can expect it to grow about 10 inches per year. Once planted, you will not need to do much maintenance to keep your eelgrass healthy and growing. You should be able to maintain its growth without extra fertilizers or supplements other than what is added naturally by fish waste and decaying plants in your aquarium or pond.

USDA Hardiness zones

They are hardy to zones 8b through 11. They do not grow at all in areas that have extended frost periods.


There are no reports of toxicity attributed to Vallisneria spiralis, but these plants are reportedly a food source for some invertebrates, so it’s important to take precautions against releasing them into areas where they could do damage. Because eelweed is a large plant with leaves more than 4 inches in length, it’s possible that fish might find refuge from predators by hiding among its leaves, posing another risk of introducing them into areas where they don’t belong.

Pests and diseases

The vallisneria spiralis plant may be affected by several pests or diseases. Most notable are aphids, mealybugs, scales, rot, leaf spots, red thread (which can cause red stains on leaves), and bacterial soft rot. As is true with many other plants in aquatic environments, red slime algae is also a common problem for vallisneria spiralis plants in aquariums.

Treatment options vary depending on what type of pest or disease your plant has been infected with; if you have not yet identified your problem then seek professional help.