Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass): Aquarium Background Plants

Vallisneria spiralis

The Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass) is also known as:

  • Straight vallisneria
  • Tape grass

The ribbon-shaped leaves are light to medium green, slightly transparent and about 5 to 15 millimeters wide. They vary a lot in length; you can count on at least 60 cm.

In addition to smooth-leaved plants, Vallisneria spiralis also has shapes with twisted leaves. The species is not named after such leaves, but after the female flower stalks that, after blooming, contract to form a spiral – as is the case with all other Vallisneria species.

Long, creeping or underground runners with innumerable young plants grow out of the leaf rosettes.

Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass): Quick facts

Scientific name: Vallisneria spiralis

Other names: Vallisneria spiralis, Straight vallisneria, Tape grass, Eel grass

Natural occurrence: North America, southern Europe

Height of growth: Forms leaves with a length of about 40cm in exceptional cases up to 60cm

Optimal temperature range: 18-28 ° C

Leaf color: light green

Propagation: by underground runners

Usage: The marsh screw is a plant for the background. In aquariums, which are equipped with fine gravel or sand as the substrate, the Vallisneria spiralis can also be allowed to grow unrestrained. The populations then become very dense and are very suitable for the extensive breeding of many viviparous aquarium fish.

Light requirement: sunny

Special features: easy-care, fast-growing aquarium plant, which can also be recommended for initial installation. The Eel grass also grows at temperatures around 20 ° C and is therefore often used in cold water aquariums.

Difficulty: easy to care for

Light requirement: normal light

Location in the aquarium: background plants

Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass): Habitat

The Vallisneria spiralis, is one of the longest known and most popular aquarium plants. This underwater plant is widespread in Africa and the warmer areas of Europe and Asia. With its foothills it forms extensive, dense stands in lakes and rivers.

Vallisneria spiralis
Vallisneria spiralis

Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass): In the Aquarium

Vallisneria spiralis is known as a simple, fast-growing aquarium plant and is also recommended for beginners.

It does not require the addition of CO2 and preferably has a medium to high carbonate hardness.

The light requirement is moderate, but V. spiralis is not recommended for low-light pools. A good supply of nutrients via the water or the substrate is very beneficial for their growth.

The best temperatures are between 20 and 28 ° C. Like other Vallisneria, it reproduces by itself through the numerous runners, which have to be reduced occasionally so that the plant does not conquer the entire aquarium.

Very long leaves can be shortened, but it is better to plan the Eel grass for higher tanks from the outset.

This aquarium plant classic works best as a dense stand in the background and on the side walls of larger aquariums. The swamp screw competes with algae with its rapid growth and offers the aquarium inhabitants natural cover.

With its narrow, grass-like foliage, it emphasizes the vertical and contrasts with broad-leaved, feathery or red-colored plants. The Eel grass is also ideal for biotope aquariums and tanks where the temperature can drop below 20 ° C.

Vallisneria spiralis Guide

Vallisneria spiralis (Eel grass): Propagation

There are various other species such as Vallisneria contortionist or Vallisneria tortifolia that have corkscrew leaves that are similarly twisted like the Eel grass.

The latter are a small Vallisneria species with a height of only 15-20cm. A variant of Vallisneria spiralis, Vallisneria spiralis ‘Red’, even forms red foliage in good lighting.

While the original species had reddish flowers, the Vallisneria spiralis found in aquariums today has white flowers, or Vallisneria spiralis ‘Red’ violet ones.

The flowers are sexually separated for each plant. While the female flowers sit on long stems on the surface of the water, the up to 1,000 male flowers are on short stems on the ground.

The stems with the female inflorescence are so long that the flowers float on the surface of the water. The male flowers eventually loosen and drift upwards, where they pollinate the female.

After pollination, the flower stalks turn in like a corkscrew. The fruit then ripens protected under the surface of the water. The term ‘spiralis’ or ‘twisted sump screw’ has nothing to do with the twisted leaves of some species, but comes from the twisted female inflorescences during fruit ripening.

Vallisneria spiralis rarely blooms in the aquarium.

Propagation takes place here via runners, many of which develop from the roots under good conditions. They can be left in place or separated and replanted to achieve denser growth.

Care should always be taken to ensure that the lower leaves also receive enough light, as otherwise they will fade and disintegrate, as in the case of a lack of nutrients.

The Eel grass is quite undemanding to maintain in the aquarium. In addition to adequate lighting, soil should be fertilized regularly. The water temperatures can be between 18-28 ° C.

 The pH value should be in the range 6.5-8 and the water hardness between 5-18 ° KH.

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