Amazon Sword Plant Guide, Care, Lighting, Planting, Propagation

In this guide, we will show you exactly how to care for your Amazon Sword Plant as well as answer some of the most popular questions about this awesome plant.

Amazon swords are an amazing aquarium plant that are very low maintenance and will grow quickly in most water conditions making it ideal for beginners looking to get their feet wet with aquatic plants.

Read this post to see how you can set up a really cool Amazonian Biotope Aquarium

Table of Contents

Get Your First Amazon Sword Plant And Create An Amazonian Tank With These Supplies

Amazon Sword Plant Care & Facts: Use This Guide To See It Grow

  • Plant Type: Rosulate
  • Origin: South America
  • Growth rate: High
  • Max Size and Height: 20 – 50cm (8”-20”)
  • Light demand: Low
  • CO2: Low
  • Temperature Range: 60 – 83°F
  • Water PH: 6.5-7.5 pH

The Amazon Sword plant, or Echinodorus, is one of the plants favored by fish keepers because it’s a beautiful plant with a fresh look, thanks to its light green leaves that make up most of its body.

The leaves start to narrow from the base, reaching their full width at the middle, and then narrowing at the top again. This gives them the look of a sword blade, hence the name.

The other part of the name, Amazon, comes from their natural habitat. These plants are native to the Amazon River basin.

What Is The Lifespan Of An Amazon Sword?

The average lifespan of an Amazon Sword plant is 1.5 – 3 years. Your sword plant lifespan can be increased by regular doses of fertilizers high in iron, root tabs, and regular water changes.

Are Amazon Swords Hardy?

The Amazon Sword is a very hardy and easy plant to grow for both beginners and the more experienced and does well in most water conditions.

I have seen sword plants neglected for years then come back strong from nothing more than the roots.

How Big Do Amazon Swords get?

Amazon swords can grow very quickly in the right water conditions and will grow to max size and height of almost 20-50cm (8” – 20”) high.

Amazon Sword Water Parameters

Can Amazon Sword Plants Live In Brackish Water?

In general Amazon, swords don’t have a great tolerance to salt since they are typically found in soft water conditions. Brackish waters are not likely to be the ideal place to keep them healthy.

Can Amazon Swords Be Kept In Hard Water?

As we just mentioned above sword plants are typically found in soft water but they can tolerate a water hardness between 3 and 8 dKH.

Can Amazon Swords Live In Cold Water?

Sword plants can live in cold water as low as 60°F and lower but the water does have an effect on the plant and it will slow the growth down considerably.

Amazon Sword Plant Types, Varieties and Species

According to Wikipedia as of May 2014, there are about 30 species that are accepted as Echinodorus species.

The most popular Amazon Sword you might typically see in an aquarium would be the Echinodorus ‘Bleherae’ which has tall broad leaves reaching for the surface of your aquarium while the Echinodorus amazonicus which is almost identical to the ‘Bleherae’ but has narrower leaves.

Below are some of the most popular Amazon Sword plant types used in aquariums;

  • Echinodorus ‘Bleherae’

  • Echinodorus ‘Aquartica’

  • Echinodorus ‘Barthii’

  • Echinodorus cordifolius ‘Fluitans’

  • Echinodorus ‘Ozelot’

  • Echinodorus palaefolius

  • Echinodorus ‘Red Diamond’

  • Echinodorus ‘Reni’

  • Echinodorus ‘Rosé’

Amazon Sword Lighting Requirements

As with most things it really depends on which Amazon Sword plants your growing. If we are talking about the classic Echinodorus ‘Bleherae’ here’s what you need to know.

Do Amazon Swords Need A Lot Of Light?

The natural habitat of the Amazon Basin is dark murky water where very little light makes it down to where the plants will grow.

Because of this Amazon Swords are typically classified as a low light plant species and can grow very well in low light conditions and don’t need a lot of light. Overall it does well even in poorly lit aquariums, as its broad leaves grow up towards the light.

Read our post about finding a good LED Lights For Planted Freshwater Aquariums.

How To Plant Amazon Swords

Planting Amazon Swords is similar to all root plants. Using a pair of aquascaping tweezers you hold the plant by its roots and place it firmly and into the substrate be sure to keep the crown (where the roots meet the stem) just at the soil line.

Because Amazon Swords can get very large, it’s very important to ensure the substrate is packed firmly around the roots to prevent floating.

Here is a quick video on how to plant an Amazon Sword runners but the same effort would be required to plant a full-grown sword.

Do Amazon Swords Need To Be Planted?

Ideally yes, Swords should be planted as they are strong root feeders and pull their nutrients out of the substrate.

Can You Float Amazon Swords?

Floating an amazon sword wouldn’t be ideal but they likely could live without substrate (but not for long) and float but you would need to heavily fertilize the water column to ensure they get enough nutrients.

If you don’t want to plant them in the substrate a better option would be to use a pot and fertilize with root tabs.

Substrate Options

When planting your sword plant you have a few options for the type of substrate to use, some are better than others but here are your main options.

  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Aqua Soil

Can You Plant Amazon Swords In Gravel?

Of course, you can gravel is a great substrate to use with your sword plants. Most gravel is heavy enough to keep this large plant down an not floating in your tank.

The only thing with gravel is that it doesn’t have any nutrients and since Amazon swords are very heavy root feeders you’ll want to add some root tabs to ensure it gets the nutrients it needs to grow.

Can You Plant Amazon Swords In Sand?

Most plants will be alright in the sand, however, unlike gravel, you’ll need to be sure to anchor down your plant as the sand may not keep it anchored down firmly.

Also when it comes to nutrients sand is the worst so you’ll need to be careful and use root tabs consistently to ensure your plant gets what it needs to survive.

Growing Amazon Swords In Pots

Some people like to keep their Aquarium Plants in pots inside the tank. This allows you to use a dirted substrate as well as fertilizers like Ozmocote plus. In my opinion, this is like a clean version of the Walstad planting method for growing plants.

With Amazon swords, you can grow them in pots as long as you have a pot that will allow for the growth of the plant. The root systems of a sword plant are very large and can quickly outgrow a pot if it’s not large enough. root systems are large and will spread well outside of the pots, as wide and the rosette of leaves will grow.

Can Amazon Swords Grow On Driftwood Or Rock?

No, this is one plant that needs to be planted in a substrate. Amazon Swords are root feeders and will pull very little nutrients from the water column so they will not grow well or at all when attached to things like driftwood or rock.

Can You Grow Amazon Swords In Ponds?

Yes, Amazon swords can be grown submerged in your aquarium or emersed where only a part of the plant is below the water.

However, be sure to monitor the temperature of your pond as the plant won’t do too well in a pond that is too cold.

Submerged vs Emersed Growth

This is something everyone looking to grow aquatic plants needs to understand.

Emersed growth is when plants are grown out of the water with only a portion of the plant in the water. In most cases, the roots and substrate are in the water but the leaves are left to grow above the waterline.

Submerged is the opposite where the entire plant is grown below the surface of the water.

Most large suppliers of aquatic plants like Tropic, for example, will grow most of their plants Emersed. Which can cause a problem for beginners who are unaware of the change that will occur to plant once you take it home and submerge it underwater?

Here’s why;

When a plant that is grown emersed is then submerged into an aquarium the plant will need to transition it’s leaves so that it can accept nutrients underwater (I’m simplifying things a lot here) and when this happens the plant will look like it’s melting or dying and if you don’t know what’s happening most beginners think the plant has died.

This video does a great job explaining this process.

When speaking about the Amazon Sword it can be grown out of the water (Emersed) as well as in the water (Submerged) so when you purchase your new sword plant ask how it was grown so you’ll know what to expect when you get home.

Amazon sword growth

In the right conditions, Amazon Swords will grow quickly letting up new leaves every few days and can very quickly grow to a height between 20-50cm or 8”-20” high.

Can You Trim Amazon Swords?

Yes, it’s very important to trim your sword plant regularly as it will help create new leaves. Also, taller leaves can block out the light of the lower leaves which can cause problems so be sure to occasionally trim down the taller leaves to allow new growth to occur.

How To Trim Amazon Swords

Trimming is easy, just take a pair of aquascaping shears and cut the stem of a taller leave right at the crown of the plant.

Trimming is also important to remove old, diseased and dying leaves which ensures all the plants nutrients and energy goes into creating new healthy leaves instead of trying to repair old dying leaves.

What Is The Amazon Sword Crown?

The Amazon Swords Crown it the place where the roots meet the stem. It’s very important not to bury the crown too deeply when planting as the crown is vulnerable to rot.

What Are Amazon Sword Runners?

The runner is the long stem that will emerge from your sword plant. You can tell the difference as a runner will look a little different and is more firm than the other stems. This runner will allow a new Amazon Sword to grow.

The baby sword plants can be removed from these runners and planted to create new plants. However, don’t remove the baby plants until it shoots off some new roots. We’ll get into propagation a little later.

Do Amazon Swords Flower?

Yes, when in the right conditions swords will sometimes put off runners with flowers that will grow toward the water surface. Eventually, the flowers may start to grow new plants.

What Is The Mother Plant?

An Amazon Sword Mother Plant is simply a full-grown plant that is shooting off runners with new baby plants (daughter plants) that can then be replanted.

Amazon Sword Propagation

Amazon sword plants reproduce by sending off runners with new baby plants on them that will eventually start to grow roots of their own. These baby plants can then be replanted in your substrate to start and entirely brand new plant.

Here’s what you need to do;

  1. Wait for a runner that has a baby plant.
  2. Wait for the baby plant to grow roots
  3. Remove the baby plant from the runner. But leave the runner to make new baby plants.
  4. Trim the roots on the baby plant, this will spur new growth
  5. Plant your new baby amazon plant

Amazon Plants And Fertilizer

Amazon Swords are very heavy root feeders and take up most of their nutrients from their root systems so you need to provide nutrients at the root level.

Now you can do this many ways using things like root tabs, or substrate additives to ensure your plant gets what it needs.

You can also use a nutrient-rich substrate that is made for aquatic plants like Fluval stratum or ADA Amazonia.

Lastly, you can also dose a liquid fertilizer to ensure that your water column is nutrient-rich with all the macro and micronutrients your plants need.

Some think this is useless with root feeders, however, when using substrates like aqua soil they will pull the nutrients from the water down into the soil where it can be readily used by the plants.

The ability of the substrate to pull the nutrients down into the substrate is called its CEC rating and if your comparing substrates for your plants the higher the CEC rating the better.

Do Amazon Swords Need Co2?

No, I have grown many Amazon Swords in low tech tanks without the use of Co2. Of course, if you can provide Co2 it will greatly benefit all plants that you are growing including your sword plants.

In addition to Co2, there are about 13 nutrients that are needed for plants to grow healthy they are called the Macro and Micro Nutrients.

What Are Macro Nutrients?

Macro Nutrients consist of three main nutrients which are NPK or nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K). However, Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S) would also be considered a macronutrient.

What Are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are also needed for plants to grow but in much smaller amounts they are

boron (B), copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), chloride (Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn).

While Amazon swords are a very hardy plant they are very heavy root feeders and will require a good aquarium plant fertilizer root tab to be available at the root level to ensure that all required nutrients are available as required.

Amazon Sword Nutrient Deficiencies & Disease

The natural habitat for the Amazon Sword is very diverse, exposing it to varying weather and temperature conditions. This makes the Amazon Sword an enduring and hardy plant.

That said, without proper care, you may find your Amazon Sword developing certain problems. If not provided with the right nutrients and conditions, even such an adapting plant can suffer.

Below are some of the problems people have found with their Amazon Sword plant, and their solutions.

Why Do My Amazon Sword Plants Have Clear and Transparent Leaves?

Leaves of the Amazon Sword plant going transparent (also known as ‘melting’ of the plant) can occur due to several factors.

First, Amazon Sword (and similar) plants can be grown in two ways:

Submersed – Completely inside the water.

Emersed – Only part of the plant base is submerged in the water. They are grown in a highly humid and closed environment.

People choose to grow their plants emerged, even if the plant is later placed in the fish tank, completely submersed. The reason is that the plants grow very fast when most of the plant is out in the air.

The problem occurs when you put an emersed Amazon Sword; in submersed condition i.e. when you plant it in your aquarium. The leaves that were used to the air are now in the water, and cannot flourish in these new conditions. The leaves will start to go transparent and very thin.

But with proper care, the plant will survive. It will take more time for it to grow new leaves that are healthy and adapted to the submerged condition. Make sure to keep cutting the thin transparent leaves so the energy can go to the newly growing leaves. Newly planted Amazon Swords usually go through this adjustment period.

If you find that your previously healthy and well-grown Amazon Sword’s leaves are starting to thin and turning clear, the problem can be lighting and the carbon dioxide in your fish tank. Amazon Swords don’t need a lot of light; they can grow fine with 2 Watts per gallon, full-spectrum light for about 8 hours a day.

Dosing your fish tank with carbon dioxide (CO2) is an additional benefit. Plants like the Amazon Sword can easily produce all the CO2 they need, under the right conditions. But if everything else is fine and Amazon Swords still have clear and transparent leaves, you might want to dose your fish tank with additional CO2. Keep in mind the fish and other plants though, and make sure the conditions are still inhabitable for them.

Why Are My Amazon Sword Leaves Turning Yellow?

In Amazon Swords, yellowing leaves can be a symptom of either the deficiency of Iron, nitrogen or potassium. This is consistent in other aquatic plants as well. If the newly grown leaves are yellow, it shows iron deficiency. If older leaves are turning yellow, it might mean a nitrogen or potassium deficiency.

Aquatic plants are either root feeders or water column feeders. Amazon Swords are heavy root feeders. It means that they absorb their minerals and necessary nutrients the way normal plants do, using their roots, which are buried in the substrate of your fish tank.

This means that you cannot provide the necessary nutrients to your Amazon Sword by simply dosing, which means injecting the water in your fish tank with the necessary nutrients in liquid form. What works for Amazon Swords are root tabs.

Root tabs are solid tablets, made from important nutrients that can be buried in the substrate near the roots of your Amazon tabs. Just like a normal plant absorbs necessary nutrients from the fertilizer, Amazon Swords will get them from these root tabs.

If your Amazon Sword’s leaves are turning yellow, use root tablets that provide it with Potassium. You should also check the nitrogen in the fish tank, it should never fall below 10 parts per million (ppm). For a healthy fish tank, sufficient nitrogen levels are anywhere from 15 to 50 ppm.

Check the nitrogen levels, and if they are low, add the calculated amount of Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) into the fish tank. The amount needs to be calculated based on the amount of water and biomass. This will increase the nitrogen level without adding to the ammonia.

Why Does My Amazon Sword Have Brown Leaf Tips and Veins?

The veins of the Amazon Sword turning brown can be the result of Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is a micronutrient and can be found in root tabs that combine most micronutrients. Or you may go for the variants that tie some macronutrients with micronutrients.

It can also be the growth process if the veins are only brown in the new leaves, they will eventually turn green when the leaf has grown.

The tips turning brown can be the sign of early necrosis. It can be caused by soft water. Even if the Amazon Swords are very adaptable plants, they would do badly if the degrees of General Hardness (dGH) of the water in your fish tank is lower than 2.

It is also prudent to keep trimming your leaves and cut off the browning tips. If the whole leaf eventually turns brown and dies, excess phosphate and nitrate levels might be the issue. A large water change will be the solution for that.

Curled and Wrinkled Leaves on My Amazon Sword

If curling and wrinkling are occurring in the older leaves of the plant, the cause might be potassium deficiency. It can easily be treated by feeding some root tabs near the roots of the Amazon Sword in the substrate. Look for root tabs that have potassium as a macro.

If it is happening in the new leaves, it is most likely a calcium deficiency. This can either be because of the hardness of water (KH and GH). It can be safely treated by increasing the general hardness of your water through additives.

A boron deficiency can exhibit similar symptoms to calcium deficiency, producing leaves that are wrinkled and bent towards the stem. Since Boron is considered a micronutrient, products that focus on micronutrients, like the ones from Seachem, can help you out with that.

My Amazon Sword Has Holes in leaves

Holes in Amazon Swords have two usual causes.

One is that there are fish in the tank that likes to munch on the leaves. Though the holes produced by fish are not as perfectly circular as the ones caused by a deficiency.

Deficiency of potassium is the most probable cause of the holes in leaves. These holes become larger over time and are sometimes accompanied by the curling of leaves.

Potassium is a macronutrient that aquatic plants need in a relatively larger amount. Make sure to either pick root tabs enriched in potassium or add it in powder form in the water.

Amazon Swords and Rotting Roots

The problem of rotting roots can stem from the fact that the plant is buried too deep. The hole you should make in your substrate for your Amazon Sword should be enough to bury the roots, but only the roots.

The crown, where roots turn to stem, should be at the surface of the substrate. Burying the crown can make the plant rot.

Phosphorus deficiency can also contribute to the rotting roots. Phosphorus is a macronutrient needed by Amazon Sword and other aquatic plants.

Another sign of phosphorus deficiency would be the growth of the spot algae in the fish tank. When this happens, a phosphorous rich root tab or additive should be introduced in the water to revitalize the plants.

Why Is My Amazon Sword Plant Not Growing?

It is seen a lot of times that an Amazon Sword plant, which was thriving in another place, does not grow when placed in a new fish tank. Rather than growing, the plant starts to show the signs of decay. Or sometimes even a healthy Amazon Sword just stops growing.

It could be the adjustment period for a newly planted Amazon Sword. In this case, a few well-rounded root tabs can be placed in the substrate to aid with this adjustment period. Just make sure that the root tab you choose is packed with a good assortment of macro and micronutrients.

The absence of an important nutrient, low carbon dioxide or insufficient light can also result in stunted growth. Flourish root tabs are seen to induce the best growth spurt. Proper plantation of the Amazon Swords is also important.

They are heavy root feeders, so treating them like other aquatic plants that get all their nutrients from the water columns is a mistake. Most necessary nutrients for Amazon Swords are provided through the substrate.

The substrate should also be thick enough to accommodate the roots and proper grip of the plant. In most cases, the substrate layer should at least be 2.5 inches thick.

Why Is My Amazon Sword Dying?

If it’s a newly planted Amazon Sword, the apparent “dying” is mostly due to its adjustment to the new surroundings. It is recommended that you cut out the dying leaves, and provide some root tabs to provide the plant with a nutritional boost.

If a healthy Amazon Sword starts to die, it might be because of a drastic change in the fish tank conditions. Nutrient deficiencies mostly manifest in the shape of problems like the ones we discussed above. You may have pinholes, leaves turning brown or thinning, and roots rotting before the plant starts to die.

Another reason is that people tend to miss some of the basic requirements and instructions for the proper planting or care of Amazon Swords. Not enough substrate, too little or too much light, very soft water, less carbon dioxide, irregular pH and not enough space to grow.

These are some of the factors that can cause the plant to wilt and eventually die.

Severe iron deficiency can also contribute to the decaying and eventual death of the plant. Iron deficiency initially manifests as blackening and eventual rotting of the leaves. Iron is a micronutrient so it’s needed in a very small quantity. Use of an overall substrate fertilizer, that contains iron as well, can help to fix the iron deficiency.

Final Thoughts

Amazon Swords are classified as easy plants. It means they require minimal care that even novice fish keepers can provide. They are adaptable and can survive in a lot of varying conditions. In a lot of cases, it is seen thriving with just the correct plantation, right light, and CO2 concentrations.

Substrate fertilizers and root tabs are additives and supplements that can aid and affect the growth of the Amazon Sword. They can also help with any particular nutrient deficiency the plant might be facing.

Growing and keeping an Amazon Sword is relatively very easy. All the problems stated above are relatively rare and their solutions are simple. That being said, you still have to understand the plant you are growing in your fish tank. With proper care and conditioning, you will see Amazon Swords grow and flourish, rather than decay and die.

Jack Dempsey
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