Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plants: The Complete Guide

Cryptocoryne, commonly known as crypts, are among the most popular aquarium plants in freshwater setups. With over 80 species, this plant genus offers tremendous diversity and endless possibilities for creative aquascapes.

Cryptocorynes are native to Southeast Asia, specifically the tropical rivers and streams of Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia. They are characterized by having submerged foliage and getting their nutrients directly from the water column and substrate.

These plants have long been a staple in the aquarium trade because of their undemanding nature, compact size, vibrant colors, and variety of texture and shape. They add a natural, wild look to aquariums and are used in foreground and background positioning.

Some species of Cryptocoryne are endemic to specific regions and have become endangered in the wild due to habitat loss. Their increasing use in home aquariums has helped conserve many rare indigenous varieties.

Types of Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plants

With over 80 documented species, Cryptocoryne offers the aquatic gardener an enormous range of varieties. They include both rosette and rhizome types that vary greatly in size, texture, and coloration.

Here is an overview of some of the most popular types used in home aquascapes:

Cryptocoryne Wendtii

One of the most widely available and hardy Cryptocoryne species, C. wendtii is characterized by striking green, brown, or red leaves. It is an excellent beginner plant and comes in many color varieties:

  • C. wendtii Green: Features olive-green leaves with ruffled edges. Grows up to 6 inches tall.
  • C. wendtii Brown: Has elegant brown leaves with darker brown patterns. Remains under 6 inches in height.
  • C. wendtii Red: Flaunts reddish-bronze leaves. Requires good lighting to achieve the vibrant red coloration.
  • C. wendtii Mi Oya: Displays attractive dark green leaves with white variegation. It is one of the more demanding varieties.

Cryptocoryne Beckettii

A popular foreground plant, C. beckettii has petite green leaves and remains under 3 inches in height. The ‘Petchii’ variety has wavy crinkled leaves and is ideal for the plant’s front.

Cryptocoryne Parva

C. parva is a great carpeting plant, forming a lush green leaf mat that grows no more than 2 inches high. It propagates rapidly by runners and requires trimming to remain compact.

Cryptocoryne Undulata

C. undulata is a mid-ground species that reaches 6-10 inches in height. Its slender leaves have ruffled edges and exhibit a brilliant pink or red hue. Excellent for adding a pop of color.

Cryptocoryne Retrospiralis

A distinctive Crypt featuring spiraling striped leaves. Under high light, the green and brown banding becomes more pronounced. Grows up to 8 inches tall.

Cryptocoryne Lucens

A rare and unique Cryptocoryne with translucent leaves with a gorgeous metallic sheen. It provides an architectural look and grows up to 6 inches high.

Cryptocoryne Crispatula var. Balansae

C. crispatula is prized for its long, narrow leaves reaching over 18 inches. The green leaves have ruffled, wavy edges. Needs a large tank and sparse planting.

Cryptocoryne Affinis

A giant Crypt species, C. affinis has broad spear-shaped leaves that can reach over 20 inches long. Provides spectacular dimension in bigger aquariums. Grows quickly and needs frequent trimming.

Cryptocoryne Cordata

A small crypt with heart-shaped green leaves that grow to about 4 inches high: suitable for mid-ground placement, it works well in groups to create a lush bush.

Cryptocoryne Pontederiifolia

Distinctive arrowhead-shaped leaves make C. pontederiifolia stand out. Under high light, the leaves develop purple-red undersides. Grows up to 12 inches tall. Better suited to larger tanks.

Cryptocoryne Nevillii

A rare and prized Crypt featuring deep green, slightly ruffled leaves marked with bright red spots particularly on the underside. Slow growing and max height around 8 inches.

Cryptocoryne Willisii

This spectacular Crypt has some of the most intricately patterned leaves in blue, pink, and silver hues. Max height around 4 inches. Demanding to grow and requiring perfect conditions.

Cryptocoryne Species Only Found in the Wild

A few extraordinary Cryptocoryne species are critically endangered and restricted only to remote streams in Sri Lanka. These include:

  • C. walkeri – Considered one of the most beautiful Crypts with heavily textured metallic blue leaves. Extinct in the wild.
  • C. parva – The smallest known Crypt species with tiny 1-inch long green leaves. Critically endangered in its lone remaining stream habitat.
  • C. usteriana – The “King Crypt” is renowned for its massive 4-foot long leaves. Only a handful of plants exist in the wild.

Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plant Care

Cryptocorynes are relatively easy aquarium plants to grow. Here are some guidelines for successfully cultivating them in home aquariums:

Planting Cryptocoryne

Crypts can be planted in small groups or as single specimens. Give each plant enough room to spread out – at least 6 inches between each crown.

You can plant the full plant directly into the substrate or divide established plants. To divide, carefully wash off the soil and separate the rhizome and roots into smaller plantlets, ensuring some roots and a growth node are present on each portion.

Plant them an inch deep or slightly deeper in the substrate. You can trim any dead or damaged leaves. Over time, they will develop an extensive root system that anchors them.

Recommended Aquarium Setup

  • Tank Size – For most Crypt species, a 10-gallon aquarium is sufficient. Larger varieties may need a 20-30 gallon tank.
  • Substrate – Crypts feed heavily from the substrate, so using a nutrient-rich planted aquarium soil is ideal. Sand and gravel work if you use root tabs or liquid fertilizers.
  • Temperature – They prefer tropical temperatures between 75-82°F. Cooler temps below 70°F will cause growth to slow.
  • pH – Most Crypts do best in neutral to slightly acidic conditions, between 6.0-7.0 pH. C. wendtii and C. retrospiralis are more adaptable to higher pH up to 7.5.
  • Water Hardness – Soft to moderately hard water is suitable, between 3-8 KH. Avoid extremely hard water above 10 KH.
  • Lighting – Normal to high light levels. C. wendtii and C. parva can thrive in low light. Intense light brings out more color in red and pink varieties.
  • CO2 – Not essential but will boost growth significantly, especially for Crypts like C. retrospiralis and C. lucens. Start with 2-3 bubbles per second.


As heavy root feeders, Cryptocorynes get most nutrients from the soil. Add root tabs or liquid fertilizer to supplement, along with occasional water column dosing. Look for signs of nutrient deficiencies like stunted growth and pale leaves.

Maintenance and Growth Rate

Crypts are relatively slow growers, with most species growing 1-2 inches per month under good conditions. Trim outer leaves as they get old, damaged or oversized. Replant the trimmed portions to propagate new plants.

Over time, Crypts will often melt and regrow after being newly planted or if conditions change drastically. Be patient; they will recover and regrow within a few weeks. Established plants are quite hardy and undemanding once adapted.

Common Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plant Questions

Can Cryptocoryne grow without CO2 injection?

Yes, Cryptocorynes can grow perfectly fine without CO2 supplementation, although they greatly benefit from it. Focus on providing ample nutrients via the substrate.

Do Cryptocoryne plants require high light?

Most Crypts can adapt to moderate light levels. Red varieties need high-intensity lighting to achieve their vibrant colors. C. parva and C. wendtii grow well even in low light tanks.

Why are my Cryptocoryne leaves melting?

It’s typical for Crypts to melt and lose leaves after being newly planted or moved. Drastic parameter changes like pH swings can also trigger melt. Be patient, the plant will recover and regrow new leaves within a few weeks once it adjusts.

How do I propagate Cryptocoryne plants?

Simply uproot an established plant, gently separate the connected rhizomes and plant each portion individually. You can also trim and replant the crown and any side shoots. Removing side shoots encourages bushier growth.

Do Cryptocoryne plants need to be planted in the substrate?

Cryptocorynes are heavy root feeders that must be planted in the substrate. Their roots will burrow deep into the soil, so nutrient-rich aquarium soil is recommended.

Can I attach Cryptocoryne to rocks or driftwood?

While Crypts mainly feed from their roots, you can attach them to hardscape using cotton thread or superglue gel. Eventually, they may root onto the surface. This works best for Anubias or Java Fern though.

What fish can I keep with Cryptocoryne plants?

Most community fish are compatible tankmates. Avoid cichlids and goldfish that are likely to uproot or eat the plants. Good tankmates include small tetras, rasboras, danios, dwarf gouramis, and shrimp.

Are there any rare Cryptocoryne species for aquariums?

A few extraordinarily rare Crypts like C. usteriana, C. walkeri and C. cordata ‘Rosanervig’ occasionally become available. However, most are wild-sourced and difficult to acclimate to aquariums. Stick to more common species.

Aquascaping With Cryptocoryne Plants

Thanks to their diverse sizes, leaf textures, and coloration, Cryptocorynes are tremendously versatile aquarium plants suited to all positions and styles of aquascapes.

Foreground Cryptocoryne Plants

Small, compact species like C. parva and C. undulata make exceptional foreground plants. Group them densely to create a vivid green lawn that contrasts nicely with red plants behind them.

Midground Cryptocoryne Plants

Most Crypts thrive in the midground, including C. wendtii, C. retrospiralis, C. crispatula and others. Use them to create depth and layers in this area.

Background Cryptocoryne Plants

Larger Crypt varieties such as C. pontederiifolia, C. cordata and C. affinis work well in the background, especially when planted in clusters. Their huge leaves create dramatic impact.

Focal Point Cryptocoryne Plants

Unique patterned Crypts like C. wendtii ‘Mi Oya’, C. parva, and C. willisii make ideal focal points. Position them prominently so their detailed coloring and textures stand out.

Cryptocoryne Accent Plants

Vibrant red Crypts like C. wendtii ‘Red’ look amazing when juxtaposed with green plants. Use them sparingly as accents to punctuate the scape with splashes of color.

Propagating Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plants

Cryptocorynes can be easily propagated by separating and replanting their rhizome into smaller plantlets. Follow these simple steps for propagation:

1. Carefully uproot the plant

Try to keep the roots intact. Gently wash or rinse off any debris or substrate clinging to the roots.

2. Divide along the rhizome

Look for natural divisions between side shoots or leaves. Separate the rhizome and attached roots into smaller plantlets using your hands or scissors. Discard any rotted portions.

3. Replant the divided plantlets

Replant each propagule in the substrate, with at least a few leaves and some visible roots. Plant them a short distance apart to give them room to spread out as they mature.

4. Allow time to establish

Keep the water parameters stable. It may take a few weeks for newly propagated Crypts to develop stronger roots and new leaves as they adjust to their spot. Be patient!

5. Repeat as needed

Once established, the new Cryptocoryne plants can be divided and propagated again. Regular division every few months results in bushier, dense growth.

Troubleshooting Common Cryptocoryne Problems

Cryptocoryne plants are quite hardy when provided with their basic needs, but they can encounter problems like any aquarium plant. Here are some common issues and solutions:

Melting leaves

This is typical after first planting or moving Crypts. Leave the plants alone and they’ll recover within a few weeks. Drastic water changes can also trigger melt.

Translucent new leaves

Indicates insufficient nutrients and lighting. Increase fertilization, use root tabs, provide more light if possible. The issue should resolve as leaves mature.

Holes in leaves

Usually a sign of potassium deficiency. Dose potassium-rich fertilizer and the newer leaves should grow in nicely. Old damaged leaves can be trimmed.

Stunted yellow growth

Typically due to insufficient nutrients or light. Assess your fertilization routine and lighting levels. Add root tabs, dose more fertilizer, and reduce plant density to improve conditions.

Leaves deteriorating over time

If older leaves keep yellowing, melting, or developing holes, it’s likely a nutrient deficiency. Analyze your dosing regimen and substrate condition. Add more root fertilization.

Leggy growth

When Crypts get stringy and stretched out with large gaps between leaves, it’s a sign of insufficient light. Increase intensity if possible and prune old leaves to encourage fuller growth.

Plants uprooting easily

Indicates a need for deeper planting and a more extensive root system. Replant the Crypts further into the substrate so they can develop stronger roots.

Snails eating leaves

Snails are attracted to decaying plant matter. Remove damaged leaves promptly and reduce snail population. Adding fish that eat snails can help control them.

Wrapping Up

With their tremendous diversity, lush textures, and adaptability to home aquariums, it’s easy to see why Cryptocoryne plants have attained their status as aquascaping essentials.

From dainty foreground carpets of C. parva to imposing stands of C. pontederiifolia, Cryptocorynes enable aquarists to create stunning underwater compositions.

While their growth may be slow, Crypts are resilient plants that can return from almost any mishap with stable water conditions and nutrients. Once settled in, they require minimal care and will thrive for years.

If you want to add an exotic flair and natural beauty to your freshwater tank, Cryptocoryne plants are at the top of your must-have list!