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FAQs on Sagittaria, Arrowhead Plant Use in Planted Aquariums

Related Articles: Arrowheads, genus Sagittaria.

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Sagittaria subulata Care Help     1/21/14
I have just gotten some dwarf Sagittaria for my goldfish pond.
There appear to be several variants of this species.
<Certainly several species in the genus Sagittaria; not sure there are many/any artificial varieties within particular species.>
Mine is Sagittaria subulata.
<A South American species.>
Apparently this variety can get up to a foot long.
<Can do. Or at least, the leaves will grow quite long given the right conditions. Much like Vallisneria.>
I tried looking up on how to correctly care for this plant in a pond. I found very little information on it.
<I bet. It's not one of the common species kept in ponds. Sagittaria sagittifolia and Sagittaria latifolia are probably the two species usually traded/kept as pond plants, typically as marginals.>
Do I need root tabs for it in the pond?
<Not always necessary unless plants show signs of "failure to thrive". But yes, it's quite common practice to use fertilisers, of which many sorts are sold in pond shops. Tablets can be convenient and good value. Shop around, see what's available to you locally or online, garner opinions from others in your area.>
I have heard conflicting stories about trimming different varieties of dwarf Sagittaria.  But no specific information on if I should trim this species.
<Sagittaria generally don't like being trimmed. Choose/use a species appropriate to the depth/position you want, and let it grow. Remove excessively large plants, but leave smaller daughter plants in situ. Repeat as necessary every few months.>
Do I need to trim this species in an aquarium? Would I need to do so in a pond? How much should I trim off in an aquarium. How much do I trim it down, in a pond, when preparing it for winter? How much should I trim in a pond the rest of the year?
<Do see Bob's articles on seasonal pond maintenance. Generally speaking, you don't fuss with pond plants during the growing season, but you may well remove excess plants in autumn, plus any obviously dead foliage.>
Thank you.
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Sagittaria subulata Care Help     1/21/14

Thank you so much!
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Pea Gravel and Sagittaria Subulata   1/23/14

I have heard Sagittaria subulata can be planted in pea gravel. Is 1" of medium sized pea gravel substrate enough to root Sagittaria subulata in?
<No. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least 3 inches, and preferably 4 inches, of fine gravel for any rooted plant. Fresh gravel doesn't contain any nutrients of course, but it helps support the plant, and as debris collects within the grains, gradually it becomes biologically active and will provide some useful nutrients. In ponds it is often more convenient to use a planter for each plant or clump of plants (basically a large flower pot of some sort) rather than trying to provide an even substrate all along the bottom of the pond. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pea Gravel and Sagittaria Subulata      1/23/14

Thank you!
<Most welcome! Neale.>

New Sagittaria Subulata  1/26/14
Just got in some new dwarf Sagittaria.
<I see! Do try not to bury them in the gravel too much. Just the roots.
None of the green should be below the gravel, and it's fine for some of the white roots to be above the gravel if that's unavoidable. If gravel gets between the leaves, it'll damage them, and once that happens the leaves invariably start dying.>
I put 4 in my goldfish tank indoors with a little liquid iron supplement.
They are submerged here. There is a power filter here. Gph is around 100.
The tank is about 30 gallons.
I put one in my beta's tank indoors with a little iron supplement. The plant is submerged here. There is no filter here presently. The tank is 3 gallons.
<Bettas do need filters!>
Indoor water conditions are:
Ph 8-9
Temperature 69-78
<That's a fair range! Any way to moderate this a bit? Perhaps adding a heater set at, say, 25 C/77 F, at least for the sake of the Betta.>
Light low to moderate
<Which may well cause problems. Sagittaria are bright light plants. In weaker light they might not die at once, but they do get smothered with diatoms and other types of algae. In the right conditions you'll quickly see lots of runners bearing daughter plants; if the plant just sits there doing nothing, it's probably not happy.>
And I put 5 in my pond outdoors with no supplements so far. They are in 3 inches of water now in the pond. The leaves are above the water here. The pond is 500 gallons. It is a sunken EPD liner pond. Deepest area is 3 ft.
Shallowest area is 6". Gph is around 625. The pond contains 4 goldfish. The filter is submersible with a fountain attachment.
Water conditions for the pond are:
Ph 8-8
Temperature: 40-90 F
Lighting bright
<I would devise some way to protect the young plants from grazing and disturbance until they're well established.>
For all the plastic pots the plants are in, the substrate consists of natural burlap cloth liner, thin layer of fine sand mixed with a little medium pea gravel, small polished stone substrate, then a layer of medium pea gravel on top to try and keep goldfish out of the substrate.
<Let's see!>
Let me know if I did anything wrong, or if there is anything else I should
be doing.
<See above.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: New Sagittaria Subulata      1/26/14

Thank you so much Neal! A pleasure talking with you.
<Glad to help! Neale.>

Is My Sagittaria subulata Getting Enough Light?    1/27/14
I just got the light on my Sagittaria that I got this past Saturday. It is now Monday. I know Sagittaria requires moderate to bright light. But I am wondering if the lighting I have now is enough for them. This is the Sagittaria in my goldfish tank.
<Sagittaria will require fairly bright light to do well, certainly upwards of 1.5, 2 watts per gallon.>
I have these set up with a mini light with a single T-5 daylight bulb. They are set up with the mini light on one side of my 30 gallon tank. The light appears to be fairly bright on them. Is this enough light for them?
<See above; while the "watts per gallon" rating is quite crude, it's close enough for a ball park estimate. Failing that, it'll be pretty obvious in, say, a month whether the plants have settled in and started to grow and/or send out daughter plants.>
This is the plant I have in a 3 gallon beta tank.
<Do see my previous comments about keeping gravel away from the green leaves. Plant the plants with their roots -- ONLY -- under the substrate.
That may mean lifting the plant out of the substrate it's in now, just a little, to shake off any gravel from the base of the ribbon-like leaves.>
The lighting for this plant is an LED mini system with white light that came with the tank. It was meant to be one of those desktop aquariums. The light appears bright on the plant. Is this plant getting enough light?
<If it's a cheap and cheerful LED system, likely not. With LEDs, you generally get what you pay for, with plant-friendly LED systems costing around $100 dollars upwards, at minimum. An exception might be found with small LED units on "angle poise" connectors as used on those 1-2 gallon tabletop systems for shrimps, but these these will, at best, grow Anubias and Java Moss.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.> 
re: Is My Sagittaria Subulata Getting Enough Light?    1/27/14

Thank you Neale.
<Most welcome!>


Poor Sagittaria Subulata... the usual Cam fest      1/29/14
I have a question regarding lighting and my Sagittaria Subulata. I have a system with t-5 ho bulbs rated for plants coming  Thursday. But right now I have a t-5 system at natural daylight strength. And in is a mini system.
Will this keep the Sagittaria I got this past Saturday alive until Thursday?
I Also gave them 8 millimeters worth of Seachem liquid iron supplement. How often should I use this Seachem iron supplement?
<Refer to the instructions on the packaging. Most are calibrated for use on a weekly or monthly basis, but this will depend a great deal on the number of plants, how much water you change, how fast the plants grow, etc.>
Also I added 3 more plants. Picture included below. They don't look too good to me. Is this normal for this plant to do this?
<Pretty much normal for the first week to ten days, but thereafter you should see clear signs of growth.>
Thank you.
<Welcome, Neale.>
Poor Sagittaria 2     1/29/14

Sorry. I got the lighting system wrong when I wrote you last. The lighting system will be a single bulb unit that takes t-8 bulbs.
The t-8 bulb I got is 17 watts with a rating of 5,500 k.
<Sounds a bit pinkish to me. Nice for the fish colours, perhaps less good for the plants. Around 6500 K is more typical for planted aquaria, often alongside the more bluish 10,000 K tubes, a 50/50 mix of these tubes working particularly well.>
It is supposed to simulate natural sunlight. Is that going to be bright enough for my Sagittaria Subulata in my 29 gallon tank?
<So long as the T8 is rated for growing aquarium plants, it should be usable, but you do need at least 1.5-2 watts per gallon for water, so for a 30 gallon tank, something like 45-60 watts. Note that bulbs simply described as "daylight" bulbs may not be relevant to growing plants unless they are expressly designed as such, all the "daylight" statement means is that they produce light similar to what our eyes detect as normal daylight.>
I hate to seem a pest, but I really want to get this right.
<Many good books on the topic, plus thousands of products. Plants are easy to get wrong, but easy to get right too, so some research before spending money pays dividends.>
I had a woman at the store try and help me get a suitable bulb as well.
Will the bulb I got work?
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Grazing Problems     1/29/14

Hello. I caught my Oranda goldfish eating my Sagittaria Subulata this morning.
<I did warn you of this...>
I tried to put up some bird netting to keep her out of it until it is established. The netting has 1" gaps and the netting is quite thin, but it can keep out small birds. I have a picture of it below. Will this work to keep my goldfish out?
<The risk is Goldfish getting trapped, like a gill-net. If the fish can fit in the net, it will, so choose appropriate netting. Better still, don't use netting, but go for something like egg crate instead.>
How long will it take for my Sagittaria to get established?
<Under good lighting, after a month it should be solidly entrenched.
Cheers, Neale.>
Grazing Problems 2     1/29/14

Got in touch with a fella who told me the netting would gill the fish. So I scraped the netting and dug out an old tank divider I had.
Pictures below.
The divider is leaning, but it is held in place by two pots with rocks in them. I did that because The fasteners to the divider were lost and bent out of shape long ago. There are no visible gaps for the fish to get through.
Will this work to protect my Sagittaria Subulata from my Oranda red cap goldfish?
Thank you.
<Sounds a better plan. Cheers, Neale.>
Fish Bites     1/29/14

Just wanted to share this.
This is what a bite out of a plant from a redcap Oranda goldfish looks like.
That is one way you know a fish has been eating your plant.
Thank goodness for tank dividers.
<Would observe, warn that Goldfish (and many other opportunistic herbivores) consume ailing, dying plant leaves... so damage to plants can suggest something isn't right with the plant. If the leaves already look a bit sickly or algae-ridden, review conditions and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>

Aquatic Plant Update    2/4/14
Just giving you an update. My Sagittaria subulata is looking better than it
At least in the aquarium. Is not doing as well in the pond yet.
Maybe I just did not get them deep enough in the pond or something. Am I
suposed to trim them down short this time of year, before placing them in
the pond?
And it has algae growing on it in the aquarium.
<Is normal... but only a worry if the amount of algae is unsightly or
enough to cause the plant to fail to thrive.>
The leaves in the aquarium are long, thin, and green now though. I gave
them some root tabs last week and got them a 15 watt light buld for plants.
Not the best, I know, but it was the best I could do. They will grow slower
because of my 30 gallon tank's low light levles, but at least they stand a
chance. How exactly do I peel off dead, dying, rotting, yellowing, or
damaged leaves?
<Try not no... once the leaves are truly dead they will detach.>
Do I hold the plant down with one hand and remove the leaves with the
Do I use a pair of long tweezers? Just need a little clarification on how
to do it without uprooting the plants.
<Removing leaves from "grassy" plants like Sagittaria and Vallisneria is
generally best avoided. The problem is that the white crown of the plant
above the substrate is easily damaged. If you absolutely must, snip away
dead sections with sharp scissors, but there's a serious risk of cut leaves
rotting anyway.>
And I also ordered 2 tiny pices of Amazon frogbit. Going to try them out in
my aquarium, to see how they do. I lowered the water level in my tank to
about 3" from the top of the aquarium lid and light. Got a fan blowing in
the tank to help cut back on condensation. Checked to see if there were
drips comming off the lid last night. Did not see any driping in the area I
plan to place the frogbit. I got some floating feeders to place the frogbit
<Frogbit is pretty happy under most aquarium hoods... would not worry
unduly about this species.>
Doing this is suposed to help the frogbit in strong currents. Going to
transplant the survivors of the frogbit and Sagittaria, if there are any,
in the pond come spring.
Thank you.
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Aquatic Plant Update
Thank you Neale!
<Most welcome.>

re: Fish Bites     1/30/14
My substrate is plain gravel and sand for my Sagittaria subulata.  Should I add anything such as root tabs?
Thank you.
<Yes, root tabs are useful. But won't make a huge (any) difference is lighting is inadequate, so focus on that first. Water changes and fish wastes tend to be enough for small numbers of plants, with fertilisers only needed if you start seeing leaf yellowing. Cheers, Neale.>
 What Is Best for My Aquarium Sagittaria Subulata?     1/30/14

Will Seachem Flourish Iron work as a supplement for my Sagittaria subulata?
The Seachem is a liquid supplement. Would this work to make my gravel substrate fertile for the roots of my Sagittaria,  or should I use root tabs instead of the Seachem? Thank you.
<All the commercially available plant fertilisers are good, so choose according to your budget and convenience. Cheers, Neale.>
Are the growing conditions right for my plants now?     1/30/14

Ok, here is what is going on now with my Sagittaria subulata.  I got in the new lighting system today. It is an 24" t-8 system that takes 18" bulbs. I found an 18" Florala t-8 bulb for plant growth at PetSmart. It is a 15 watt bulb. My tank is 30 gallons.
<So two lots of 15 watts, for a 30 gallon tank? That's 1 watt per gallon, right? So definitely at the low end of the lighting range. Would be surprised if Sagittaria does well, to be honest. But experiment. Do have a read:
And follow the links at top.>
But the Sagittaria only takes up 1/2 the tank. I got the light angled so the Sagittaria gets most of the light. There are now 5 plants in all. I gave each one a root tablet. Do you think the Sagittaria will receive the light they need now? Are they going to get the nutrients they need now?
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
re: Are the growing conditions right for my plants now?   1/31/14

My 2 tanks are cloudy after putting in root tabs for my new plants. The
root tabs contain iron. I added the root tabs because the Sagittaria
I have was looking sickly. With yellowing leaves, leaves rotting,
my goldfish suddenly trying to eat the ones in her tank.
<Almost certainly the problems are NOTHING to do with mineral fertilisers,
or lack of them. Plants will get "shocked" when uprooted, and it can take a
couple weeks or so for them to recover. What stops plants settling in is
LIGHT. Get that right, and pretty much everything else fixes itself. You
will see when fertilisers are needed because the leaves turn yellow.>
The first tank is a 29 gallon tank with a 100 gph filter. It contains 5
potted plants in it. 1 root tab in each pot. It contains 1 Oranda goldfish.
This tank has a 15 watt bulb for plants lighting it.
<See previous e-mails.>
The second tank is a 3 gallon tank with no filter. This tank has 2 potted
plants and a beta fish. 1 root tab per pot here too. It has LED lighting.
<Again, see previous e-mails.>
Will the water in the tanks clear up on their own?
<Probably, but adding fertilisers that the plants aren't using/needing will
trigger an algal bloom.>
I also changed out some of the water, added new water, and tried to add a
dechlorinator that removes heavy metals from the water. I do not have access
to a water clarifier at this time. What should I do?
<Couple of 25% water changes over the next few days, then lay off the
fertilisers until you need them. Oh, and to save Bob F the effort...
"Read". Much here at WWM to help. Do choose suitable plants for your system, lighting
Thank you.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Are the growing conditions right for my plants now?   1/31/14

If the Sagittaria does not work, could I try water lettuce in the pond and low light plant java moss in my tanks?
<Floating India Fern, Amazon Frogbit, Anubias and Java Fern would all be my
recommendations for adaptable, easy to grow plants. Hunt online if not sold
locally. Anubias in particular is virtually indestructible provided you
grow it attached to bogwood and not try to bury it in the substrate (which
will kill it). Floating Indian Fern, Ceratopteris, is another superb
beginner's plant; see here:
Cheers, Neale.>

Cam plts chatting      2/7/14
I have natural burlap liner, in some pots of rocks. The pots are in my goldfish tank. I caught my goldfish eating algae off of an exposed part of the burlap liner several days ago. Today I noticed she seems to have pooped some of the burlap out. She is still eating her regular meal per day in the morning. She is still excited about her food and active. As long as she is still active, feeding, and pooping, will she be ok?
<Likely so.>
Thank you.
<Welcome, Neale.>
Sagittaria subulata growth question

As the new leaves grow and older leaves on Sagittaria subulata age and die, do they go through periods where they look good, then periods where they look pale?
<Nope; the leaves last about a year, so after 8-9 months of steady, vibrant green growth you do tend to see Sagittaria and Vallisneria leaves start to look a little sad. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sagittaria subulata growth question     2/7/14

Thank you Neale.
<You're welcome.>

First established Shoot!     2/13/14
My Sagittaria Subulata finally has a new shoot poking up through the pot of gravel I have it in. Here is a photo of it.
<Well done!>
I am very pleased and proud of it. This is the first time I ever got an aquatic plant to grow anything. Not bad for a low light tank, I think . . .
Do you think the added iron supplements I added helped?
<Unlikely an issue just yet... tap water contains some minerals, and fish waste/food provides others, so it tends to take a while for iron (and other) mineral deficiencies to become obvious, troubling.>
Thank you.
<Welcome, Neale.>

Re: First established Shoot!   2/14/14
Thank you Neale.
<Most welcome.>

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