Syngonanthus sp. "Belem"
Author: Bryce Millar, MD
Common Names: N/A
Native Distribution: Upper regions of the Amazon, found in blackwater
Aquarium Placement: Midground
Requirements: Demanding of soft water and acidic substrate
Syngonanthus sp.“BelÉm” is one of the newer plants to arrive in the hobby, becoming widespread only over the past few years. Like many recent additions, it was first popularized in Japan, subsequently gaining notice in North America and Europe. It is now widely traded between hobbyists and is occasionally seen in shops specializing in softwater species.
Like the majority of the 1200 members of the pipewort family, this species is native to regions of moist, acidic soils in the Amazon Basin. Specific taxonomy has not yet been established, but the first collected specimens were taken near the Brazilian city of BelÉm.
This plant is somewhat unique in appearance, possessing a delicate umbrella-like top. No doubt this trait is responsible for its growing popularity. Several related species are also becoming popular and vary only in their particular leaf structure.
This plant has a reputation as a demanding species, but in reality it can be quite hardy provided it is kept in soft water. A KH of 2 or lower is desirable. An acidic substrate will also be beneficial, and many of the newer commercial substrates will suit this plant perfectly.
Like many species with delicate leaves, it does best under intense lighting with CO2supplementation. It will readily assimilate nutrients from its root system, but water-column fertilization can also be used. Micronutrients and sufficient iron supplementation will ensure healthy growth tips and a brilliant green coloration.
Because of its unique appearance, this species is sometimes difficult to incorporate into an aquascape. A small grouping of these stems can provide contrast to grassy species or can offset a collection of plants with more traditional leaf shapes. Aquascapes dedicated to this and other softwater plants, such as Eriocaulon spp. and the one species in the genus Tonina, have become increasingly popular and create a look entirely unlike that of more traditional setups.
It is best not to trim this plant too often, and because it is the dense top that holds the most visual appeal, trimming should only be done from the bottom. If a dense grouping is desired, it is better to plant several short stems that are then allowed to fill in as they grow upward. In systems with high light and rapid growth, it is often helpful to uproot, trim, and replant only the tops every few weeks.
Syngonanthus sp. “BelÉm” is easily cultivated when growing well. Side shoots are numerous and can be trimmed away for individual planting.