Cryptocoryne – Plant Profile, How to Grow, Care for and Propagate

Are you looking at your aquarium and wondering if your fish could use some vegetation to live and play with? Perhaps you’ve already purchased a Crypt and are looking for some tips on Cryptocoryne care?

Cryptocoryne is a well-known plant among fish tank and aquarium owners. Not only will this plant add a fantastic look to your tank, but they’re also relatively easy to keep. That said, there are some basic caretaker facts to be aware of.

Cryptocoryne in a gravel bottom tank

Today our talk is all about Cryptocoryne care. We’ll explain what you need to look for when buying, and how to set up your planted tank to keep it happy and healthy.

We’ll also discuss compatible tankmates – both plant and fish – and finish by sharing a few interesting facts about this plant at the end.

Quick Overview and Statistics

Before we get into all the details, below is a table packed with good-to-know statistics to give you a quick Cryptocoryne overview.

CharacteristicDetails
Common name(s):Cryptocoryne, Crypts.
Scientific Name(s):Cryptocoryne
Family:Araceae
Origin:Asia and New Guinea. Found mostly in slow-flowing streams and rivers within lowland forests. May also grow on river banks and in forest pools.
Color Form:Green, olive green, brown, or red leaves.
Maximum Size:Depends on the specific type. Generally between 4 inches and 6 inches.
Growth Rate:Moderate.
Care Level:Very easy to care for.
Water Conditions:Freshwater, 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, KH 3-8, pH 6.0-8.0
Lighting:Low to moderate lighting.
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Supplements:It requires iron-rich fertilizer.
Placement:Mid to foreground.
Propagation:Runners.
Tank mates / Compatibility:It goes well with most plants and fish. Avoid pairing with plant-eating fish since the leaves aren’t as hardy as other plants.

It is a popular aquarium plant. It’s fantastic to fill in the background of larger tanks as well as being the main attraction in smaller aquariums. Being native to the tropical forests of Asia, it adds a bit of a jungle look to any aquarium.

Its journey as an aquarium plant began around 60 years ago. In the wild, it grows inside forest streams, rivers, and pools, where it still thrives today.

Cryptocoryne species are extremely adaptable. While they do prefer slow-moving waters, they can also adapt to stronger streams. It’s also not uncommon to find Crypts on river banks or mudflats, where only half or less of the plant is underwater—talk about versatile.

Cryptocoryne thrives in waters where little light comes through. But it can also adapt to brighter conditions.

Because of this hardiness and adaptability, it’s a favorite among many home aquarium owners.

The Appearance of Different Cryptocoryne Species

Due to the many variations of Cryptocoryne, it can be difficult to identify them, even for experts. The appearance of Crypts often differs according to the conditions they grow in. Even with cloned plants, they won’t look identical if they’re grown in different tanks.

You may have heard that Cryptocoryne flowers? This is a vital part of the plant since it’s what it uses to reproduce. Most Crypt species would be difficult to identify if not for their flower formation. That said, these plants don’t flower underwater. So, to identify a Crypt, look at their leaves.

These range in shape, from ovate and oval, to long and strap-like, almost like grass. Some appear smaller and sort of like a spoon.

They can differ in color too. Most will vary between green, olive green, brown, and red. However, some types, such as the Cryptocoryne affinis, will have two-toned leaves—one side green and the other a rosy red.

Another type, called crispatula, has long strap-like leaves. These are generally bright green. For most Crypts, their leaves will also have rippled edges and vein patterns throughout.

Cryptocorynes come in all shapes and sizes. The smallest, such as the wendtii and willisii, rarely grow more than 7 inches tall and are most suitable for your tank. The crispatula, on the other hand, will readily grow up to 36 inches.

The Ideal Placement of Cryptocoryne in Your Tank

This depends on the species you decide to buy. Still, most experts will recommend that you place them either in the foreground or mid tank. Since most are quite short, this is where you’ll get the best view of them.

If you’re opting for a taller Crypt, for example, the crispatula, then it might be better in the background. Here it can grow tall without overshadowing the rest of your plants. Crypts such as the crispatula also require a stronger current, which they are likelier to get at the back of the tank.

When placing your Crypts, you should also consider the light. As mentioned before, most of the species in this family won’t do well in too much light. This is when the mid to foreground placement becomes ideal since the light is usually strongest at the rear of the tank.

A good tip is to place Crypts near other floating plants that would provide some shade.

How Cryptocoryne Benefits Your Tank

They are a very basic plant to keep in your tank. It doesn’t require much care, and it goes well with pretty much any other plant and fish species.

Much like other plant species, Crypts will help improve the quality of the water. They will soak up the carbon dioxide and ammonia created by the fish.

Additionally, they use up the nutrients otherwise used for algae growth. All in all, they will contribute a great deal to the overall ecosystem of your aquarium.

If you’re keeping plant-eating fish such as goldfish, they can eat your Crypts. This will, of course, damage the plant. But if you’re looking for a food source rather than an aesthetic benefit, it is possible to use Crypts in this way.

Another reason why Cryptocoryne would benefit your tank is for shelter. The large leaves provide some shade and protection for your fish. This helps to reduce stress among the residents of your tank.

If you’ve mixed a few species, then the Crypts also act as natural territorial barriers. Here your fish can reproduce, and the small fry can find hide.

Preferred Habitat and Tank Requirements

All of the Cryptocoryne family are native to Asia and New Guinea. Here, they’re used to tropical climates within rainforests and jungles. That said, this species is very versatile and can adjust to pretty much any environment.

Minimum Size Tank Required

Most experts tend to recommend nothing less than a 10-gallon tank.

Cryptocoryne is an adaptable plant, and in nature it’s not always fully submerged. If you need it to bloom, then it should be at least halfway out of the water. For the taller Crypts, such as the crispatula, many people let them grow tall so that the top floats on the surface.

Also, Crypt tends to grow and reproduce quite rapidly. In these cases, having a small tank may result in overcrowding if you’re not keeping it tidy.

Water Type and Parameters

They thrive best in fresh water without too strong a current. Yet, some types can do well in brackish water.

Some other variations of Cryptocoryne prefer cooler waters with stronger currents. If we look at the crispatula, for example, this will thrive in a stronger flow.

However, the general recommendation of temperature and pH is 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 6.0 to 8.0. The degree of carbon hardness, or dKH, should be between 3 and 8.

Nevertheless, they can survive in harder waters. They may not grow and reproduce as fast, but if you treat them right, they can thrive.

Ultimately, it’s not so much the type of water that will determine whether or not your Crypts will survive. It depends more on the cleanliness and stability of your tank’s overall environment.

Lighting Requirements

Cryptocoryne thrive best in low to moderate light. It’s under these lighting conditions that they tend to grow and reproduce the fastest. This is mostly because they’re root-feeding plants, so they don’t require UV to grow.

In saying this, some species can also do well with more light. It comes down to where they originated from. Usually, if they’re used to more light, then it won’t be a problem.

To give you a general idea, the usual recommendation is a fluorescent light of two or three watts per gallon of tank water.

Substrate Requirements

As we just established, Cryptocoryne is a root-feeding plant and the substrate in which you plant it is vital.

In the wild, Crypts get all of their nutrients from the ground, so it’s essential to include a nutrient-rich foundation. This is also why it’s not ideal to plant your Crypts in a new tank. The conventional gravel or sand won’t provide any nutrition for it, and they could die pretty quickly.

So, if you have a new tank, opt for soil or clay substrate. Both of these will provide your plants with iron and other minerals.

Growth Rate

While it’s not considered the slowest grower, it’s certainly not the fastest. The growth rate will depend on the species you buy and the specific environment in your tank.

In ideal conditions, however, they may grow at a reasonable rate. This is a hardy plant, and if you treat it right, it could continue to grow throughout your tank, creating a little jungle.

How to Care for Cryptocoryne

If you haven’t already guessed it, Cryptocoryne care is pretty easy. As long as you provide them with a good base and a safe environment, they will thrive.

There are still some things to keep in mind. First of all, you need to keep the water clean. Cleanliness is key with these plants and anything below their standards will make them unhappy.

Poor conditions or overcrowding can cause the water’s quality to decrease fast. To avoid this, It’s essential that you establish a routine where you frequently change the water. It’s also important that you remember to remove dead leaves before they rot.

Another essential is to fertilize them regularly, at least after every water change. If the leaves begin to lose color and become yellow, then you’ll need to add fertilizer, and perhaps some iron supplements.

Also, Cryptocoryne grows and spreads easily when in ideal surroundings. So, unless you want a forest, trim the plants once in a while. However, only prune the plants that are growing new leaves, otherwise, your plant could die.

Once you’ve found your leaf, grab some scissors or use your hand. Then get as close to the substrate as possible and simply cut it off. Avoid taking off healthy leaves, look for signs of aging such as discoloration and rips.

One thing to be aware of is “Crypt melt.” This is something that happens to nearly all Cryptocoryne when you move them to a new location. What happens is that the leaves sort of melt and the plant looks dead. Fortunately, it’s still alive, and the leaves will grow back soon.

Purchasing Advice

For a while, it was almost impossible to find Cryptocoryne in any shop. Now, they’re sold nearly everywhere. That said, there are certain species which most sellers avoid because they’re difficult to keep.

Before buying, do your research and find the exact Crypt that you want. Next, it’s important to find a good seller, so you know the plant is healthy. If it appears to be deteriorating, it’s probably not a healthy root, and you should avoid buying it.

It usually come potted. You can buy them online or through local aquarium shops. There are also many hobbyists who grow and sell them, so you may even be able to get one from a friend.

Cryptocoryne is on the costlier end when compared to other plants. The price of a single plant typically starts at around $10. But if you’re looking for a package with more than one, be ready to pay $45 or more.

How to Plant it

It’s not overly complicated, but a little light instruction will ensure they’re planted correctly and are given the best start in your tank. Let’s look at how to prepare and then plant crypt in your tank.

How to Prepare the Plant for the Tank

For this, you’ll need tweezers and scissors.

  1. Start out by removing the plant from the pot. You will likely see that the roots were covered in mineral wool. Use the tweezers to remove it and get as much off the roots as you can.
  2. The next step is to separate each individual plant. You will see that they each have a root with one or two leaves.
  3. Once you’ve separated them, take your scissors and trim the roots. You don’t have to take much off, just the ends.

Now they’re ready to grow in your tank. If you’d like some visual instructions on prepping your plant, this video is helpful:

 

How to Prepare the Tank for Planting

For Cryptocoryne, the substrate is vital since they get all of their nutrients through their roots. You can add gravel and then spread some clay powder over it. But the easy option is just to use a specialist substrate for planted tanks. This foundation has all the nutrients your Crypts need.

Once you’ve chosen your substrate, make sure you wash it thoroughly and place it in your tank, about 4 inches deep. Then fill the tank with as much water as required.

How to Plant

When your plants and tank are ready, it’s time to start planting. Here’s how:

  1. Grab your plant. Use your tweezers and hold the Crypt as close to the root as possible. It should be in a vertical position (root facing downwards).
  2. Choose the location. Find the perfect place before planting the Cryptocoryne. For smaller Crypts, choose fore to mid-ground. Use the background for larger plants.
  3. Submerge into the substrate. While you’re still holding onto the plant with the tweezers, insert it into the substrate until the soil covers the roots.
  4. Let it go. Release the hold and let your plant grow.

Tank Mates and Compatibility

Cryptocoryne care is simple, and they are super easy plants to keep. They go well with almost every species of plant and fish that can survive in the same water conditions.

Fellow Plants

Although it can grow next to nearly all plants, keep in mind that they need some time to adjust. During this time, they won’t grow as fast, and other rapidly growing plants may outpace them.

Fellow Fish

Similarly to the plants, Cryptocorynes do well with a range of species. That said, for plant-eating species or nibblers, such as goldfish and silver dollar fish, they can be an intriguing snack.

Additionally, avoid fish that are notorious for uprooting plants, such as cichlids and gouramis.

Cryptocoryne Propagation and Reproduction

They will need some time to adjust and feel at home in your tank before they begin to thrive. Once they feel comfortable, you’ll see that they begin to reproduce vegetatively.

In crowded tanks, it will produce a dense stand, where the plantlets will sit near the base. In less crowded tanks, the parent plant will scatter its runners throughout the area.

Runner plants are relatively easy to remove and plant elsewhere. Trace the root, cut it off and place wherever you would like it to grow.

For the offspring close to the parent plant, however, this can become an issue. The roots may be intertwined, and it will take some patience and a steady hand to get them loose.

Interesting Facts

  • Experts keep discovering new species every year or so.
  • Thanks to hobbyists, species such as the becketti have become an invasive plant in areas such as Florida.
  • Most Cryptocorynes can flower, but the inflorescence can rot when submerged.
  • In tidal areas, some Crypts actually time their flowering, only producing flowers during the dry season.
  • Their flowers, although beautiful, emit a very unpleasant odor.
  • Cryptocoryne got its name from two Greek words—’crypto’ and ‘koryne’. It translates to “hidden club.”

Summary

Cryptocoryne is a wonderful addition to most freshwater tanks, whether you’re new to fish keeping or a pro. They’re easy to keep and pair well with almost any other species, be it fish or plants. However, unless you’re looking for a food source, avoid pairing them with plant-eating fish.

Place them in a nutrient-rich substrate and once in a while add some fertilizer. Keep your tank clean, and your Crypts should stay happy and healthy. Don’t get discouraged if they begin to “melt” when newly planted, this is a normal process, and they will grow back.

Do you have additional questions or further advice for fellow readers? Then please leave a comment below. We hope that you enjoyed our guide to Cryptocoryne care.

Happy fish keeping!

Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.

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