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Aquatic Plant of the Month
photograph by Drinda Jacobson
Cryptocoryne crispatula var. “balansae”
Aquarium Placement: Background, edges, or focal point
Requirements: Hard water or calcium supplementation
Description: Originating in southern Thailand, Cryptocoryne crispatula var. “balansae” is found in fast-flowing streams that are high in calcium content due to limestone in the surrounding soils. It has long, strap-like leaves that can reach up to 36 inches in length and an inch in width under optimum conditions. The leaves have an attractive rippled or hammered pattern and are a lush green. Some specimens will take on a bronze coloration.
C. crispatula var. “balansae” is an undemanding plant as long as its basic needs are met. It prefers moderate to high lighting and does very well in hard water with high calcium content. For optimal growth, it requires a good fertilization regimen, which may be supplemented with a rich substrate fertilizer. Once established, it grows easily and requires little maintenance as long as aquarium conditions are maintained relatively constant.
This graceful plant has become one of the most popular Cryptocoryne species in planted aquaria. It can easily be obtained through online stores, local aquarium shops, and fellow hobbyists.
Use in Aquascaping: Due to its potential size, C. crispatula var. “balansae” is best used as a background plant or along the edges of an aquascape in tanks with a water depth of 18 inches or more. In shallower tanks, the leaves will bend across the water surface, which, while attractive and appealing, may shade out any plants below. This can be controlled by cutting the tops of the leaves to a desired height without harming the plant. It is also useful as a focal point or specimen plant when well maintained. A tight grouping can be kept in place by cutting the runners with a sharp knife or razor. The long, strap-like leaves make for a nice contrast to broad-leaved plants and hardscape items.
Propagation: C. crispatula var. “balansae” can be easily propagated by tracing the runners of daughter plants back to the parent and cutting with a sharp knife or razor. Simply replant the young specimens and provide the basic needs for good growth. It is also possible to grow C. crispatula var. “balansae” emersed in shallow water where it will produce upright inflorescences, though this is not as easy as growing it submerged.