Author: Adam Shappard
Common Names: N/A
Native Distribution: Central and South America
Aquarium Placement: Midground to background
Requirements: Mid to high light, ample nutrients, CO2 injection for submerged growth
Ludwigia inclinata is an aquatic herb found in wet areas, sometimes on the beds of dried ponds or lakes, either submerged or with emergent stems. Submerged leaves have an ovate to ellipsoid shape on erect or trailing stems and are orange to red in color. Branching can be profuse or sparse, but typically it will branch profusely as a stem trails the surface.
This is a highly variable species, with the L. inclinata “verticillata” variants being the most popular in the aquarium hobby. L. inclinata “verticillata” var. “Cuba” is a large, showy stem that grows more erect than L. inclinata, and with very different submerged growth characteristics. Its leaves are long, narrow, and very colorful—transitioning from green at the base to orange/yellow with deep red on the crown. “Cuba” is very vigorous and, if its needs are met, will grow large quite fast. It is useful as a background stem plant in aquarium layouts; routine trimming and planting of the cut tops will yield a dense and colorful contrast to smaller green plants in the midground and foreground areas. L. inclinata “verticillata” var. “Pantanal” is another variety that is similar in growth appearance to “Cuba” but with narrower and thinner leaves.
The coloration on “Pantanal” is its biggest appeal, with deep-pink leaves that become a reddish color on the crowns. “Pantanal” is a smaller and less vigorous variety than “Cuba” and is more sensitive to changes in water parameters, but rewards the aquarist with a very attractive display in a grouping of healthy stems. It is useful as a midground to background stem plant in an aquarium layout. L. inclinata “verticillata” var. “Araguaia” is similar in size and requirements to “Pantanal” but has coloration more similar to “Cuba,” with yellowish lower leaves to orange and red crowns. It is less often found in the aquarium hobby, but its smaller size and attractive growth make it a good choice as a background plant for a medium-sized aquarium.
The emergent growth of L. inclinata and its variants are all very similar: Stems that break the surface will form thicker, green, and more ovate leaves, sometimes with red veins or reddish margins. Solitary flowers form on pedicels (a stem that holds the flower) up to 3 inches long, originating from the nodes, and having four yellow petals.
Requirements are also similar for all varieties—bright lighting and soft water is preferred, and ample macro- and micro-nutrients are needed for the best health and coloration. In a dense grouping of stems, it is important to maintain good water flow through the plant beds to prevent loss of leaves or melting of the bases. As with many aquarium plants, L. inclinata will benefit greatly from the addition of CO2 to the aquarium, which is highly recommended to bring out the plant’s best appearance. Emergent growth is less demanding, and the stems will usually begin to branch profusely at the water surface, making propagation more rapid. The emergent growth is also convenient for shipping, especially for the more delicate varieties, since it is more likely to survive even a long trip as long as it is kept moist.
Propagation for all varieties is essentially the same; just cut off the top of the stem and plant it. Side shoots will appear on the base that remains and will create a dense grouping of attractive stems. Emergent stems convert easily to submerged growth—allow them to float or place them in the substrate of a well-lit aquarium and wait for side shoots of submerged growth to appear. Once they are 3 to 4 inches long, snip them off and plant them in the substrate. You can then toss the original emergent stem if it starts to deteriorate, but many times L. inclinata will survive the conversion to submerged growth and only lose the emergent leaves.