Cryptocoryne Usteriana: The Aquatic Marvel

Cryptocoryne Usteriana, commonly known as Usteri’s Water Trumpet, is an aquatic herb from the Araceae family. This fascinating plant is endemic to the Philippines and was named after German botanist Alfred Usteri.

Cryptocoryne Usteriana has long, green, narrow leaves up to 30 cm long. The leaves emerge directly from the rhizome and have a beautiful crinkled texture.

This plant is popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to its unique appearance and hardy nature. It can thrive in a wide range of water conditions, making it a great option for beginner aquarists.

However, Cryptocoryne Usteriana is considered a near-threatened species due to overcollection from the wild. Conservation efforts are crucial to protect the future of this marvelous aquatic plant.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the care, cultivation, and conservation of Cryptocoryne Usteriana. You’ll learn about its natural habitat, growth habits, recommended care conditions, and more.

Whether you’re an experienced aquarist or just starting, Cryptocoryne Usteriana can be a rewarding aquatic plant to keep. With the right information and care, you can help preserve this unique species while enjoying its beauty in your aquarium.

Common Name and Scientific Classification

Cryptocoryne Usteriana goes by several common names, including:

  • Usteri’s Water Trumpet
  • Philippine Cryptocoryne
  • Emerald Cryptocoryne

Its scientific classification is:

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Family: Araceae
  • Genus: Cryptocoryne
  • Species: Cryptocoryne usteriana

The genus Cryptocoryne contains over 80 identified species of aquatic plants. Cryptocoryne usteriana was first described in 1886 by German botanist Adolf Engler.

The species name “usteriana” honors Alfred Usteri, a Swiss botanist who studied Cryptocoryne plants extensively. Usteri contributed greatly to the taxonomy of aquatic plants in the 19th century.

Cryptocoryne Usteriana Care Guide

Caring for Cryptocoryne usteriana requires mimicking the conditions of its natural habitat. Here are some key care guidelines:

Water Conditions

  • Temperature: 20-28°C. Cryptocoryne usteriana thrives in tropical temperatures.
  • pH: 6.0-7.5. Slightly acidic to neutral pH is ideal.
  • Hardness: 2-15 dGH. Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Flow: Low flow rate. The plant prefers slow-moving waters.


  • Intensity: Low to moderate. 30-80 micromols of PAR (photosynthetically active radiation).
  • Duration: 10-12 hours daily.


  • Fine gravel or aquarium soil. Sand and clay mixtures also work well.
  • Root tabs can provide added nutrition.


  • Liquid fertilizers with macro- and micronutrients promote growth. Avoid high nitrogen levels.
  • CO2 injection boosts growth but is not essential.


  • Division of rhizomes and plantlets.
  • Emersed growth in high humidity.

With the proper habitat, Cryptocoryne usteriana is relatively easy to grow. Consistent conditions and minimal disturbances will keep it looking its best!

Substrate or No Substrate?

Cryptocoryne usteriana can be grown with or without a substrate:

With Substrate

  • Enhances nutrient intake through roots.
  • Anchors the plant and prevents uprooting.
  • Provides support as leaves reach the water surface.
  • Best options are fine gravel, aquarium soil, sand.

Without Substrate

  • Can be grown attached to hardscape like driftwood or stones.
  • Allows display of intricate root structures.
  • Requires root tab fertilizers and liquid dosing.
  • Prone to becoming uprooted or detached.

For most aquarium settings, a nutrient-rich substrate is recommended. It provides stability and nutrients for better growth. However, experienced aquarists sometimes grow crypts without substrate attached to hardscape as an aesthetic choice.

Light Requirements

Cryptocoryne usteriana thrives in low to moderate light conditions. Recommended light levels are:

  • 30-50 micromols of PAR – For low-tech setups without CO2 injection. Provides slow but steady growth.
  • 50-80 micromols of PAR – For high-tech setups with CO2 injection. Promotes faster growth.

Leaf coloration tends to be darker green in lower light, while moderate to high light produces olive-green to yellowish leaves.

A lighting period of 10-12 hours per day is adequate. Light should be kept on a consistent schedule each day.

Low light makes Cryptocoryne usteriana well-suited for beginner aquarists. No special high-power lighting is required, though highlights can bring out the best coloration.

Cryptocoryne Usteriana Variants

Several color forms and cultivars of Cryptocoryne usteriana have been developed for the aquarium trade. Some popular variants include:

  • Cryptocoryne usteriana – The classic green form. Leaves are olive-green with crisped margins.
  • Cryptocoryne usteriana ‘Red’ – Leaves have a bronze to dark reddish color. Requires sufficient light intensity.
  • Cryptocoryne usteriana ‘Brown’ – New leaves emerge dark brown before turning green. Maintains some brown hues.
  • Cryptocoryne usteriana ‘Undulata’ – Wavy leaf margins create an undulating appearance.
  • Cryptocoryne usteriana ‘Tropica’ – A patented Tropica cultivar with ruffled green leaves.

The most commonly available variant is the classic green Cryptocoryne usteriana. But hobbyists looking to add some color can find several stunning cultivars from specialty aquarium plant retailers.

Pricing and Availability

Due to habitat loss and overcollection, Cryptocoryne usteriana has become harder to find in the wild. Prices have increased recently as sustainable cultivated stocks struggle to meet demand.

Typical pricing for Cryptocoryne usteriana:

  • Pet store tissue culture plants: $8 – $12
  • Online retailers, emersed: $12 – $18
  • Rare variants or cultivars: $20 – $30+

Availability fluctuates seasonally and by retailer. Consider ordering well ahead of time if acquiring multiple plants. Buying tissue cultured plants can help reduce collection pressure on wild populations.

Joining enthusiast forums and groups can provide notifications of restocks and group buy opportunities to get the best prices.

Size and Growth Patterns

Given ideal conditions, Cryptocoryne usteriana can reach impressive sizes in the aquarium:

  • Height: 20-24 inches emersed, 10-14 inches submerged.
  • Spread: 8-12 inches or more.

This crypt exhibits moderate growth speed under optimal care:

  • Reaches full size within 8-12 months from juvenile plants.
  • Propagates at a rate of 2-4 new leaves per month once established.
  • Readily produces plantlets from the rhizome, allowing propagation.

When actively growing, Cryptocoryne usteriana forms a bushy habit. Leaves extend outward and upward from the base. Trimming outer leaves can encourage a more compact shape.

Cryptocoryne Balansae: A Comparison

Cryptocoryne balansae is another popular aquatic crypt sharing some similarities with C. usteriana:

Cryptocoryne balansae

  • Origins: Southeast Asia
  • Leaf shape: Long, narrow, highly ruffled
  • Color: Green with brown mottling
  • Height: To 16 inches
  • Light demands: Low
  • Challenges: Susceptible to melting

Cryptocoryne usteriana

  • Origins: Philippines
  • Leaf shape: Oblong, moderately ruffled
  • Color: Olive-green
  • Height: To 24 inches
  • Light demands: Very low
  • Challenges: Rarely available

While both have dramatic long leaves, C. usteriana differs with its endemic range and solid leaf colors. It also exceeds C. balansae in maximum height. Both plants add texture but have distinct appearances.

Cryptocoryne Usteriana in Different Colors

Selective breeding has produced Cryptocoryne usteriana variants in colors beyond the natural green:

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Red’

  • Deep reddish-bronze leaves
  • Requires high light intensity
  • Contrasts

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Brown’

  • Emerging leaves are dark brown
  • It matures to olive-green with brown hues
  • Provides subtle contrast

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Green Gecko’

  • Bright yellowish-green color
  • Densely crinkled leaf texture
  • Unique look among green crypts

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Flamingo’

  • Hot pink leaves with dark veins
  • Requires high light to develop color
  • It makes a vibrant focal point

While naturally green, selective breeding has created exotic leaf shades of red, brown, yellow, and pink. These colorful crypts demand higher light levels but add striking aesthetics.

Special Species and Tropica

Tropica is a renowned aquarium plant producer that has developed several unique C. usteriana cultivars:

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Tropica’

  • Heavily ruffled green leaves
  • Vigorous growth habit
  • Often available as tissue culture

Cryptocoryne Usteriana ‘Red Special’

  • Intense dark red coloration
  • Contrasting green leaf undersides
  • High lighting required

Tropica variants stay true to species traits but intensify color and texture for dramatic effects. They are pricier but deliver outstanding results under optimal growing conditions.

In-Vitro Cultivation

In-vitro cultivation is emerging as a solution for sustainably producing C. usteriana without wild collection:

  • Plant tissue is cultured in a sterile laboratory environment.
  • Growth hormones and nutrients are provided.
  • Plantlets develop and are separated into new cultures.
  • Once mature, plants are sold commercially.

Benefits of in-vitro crypts:

  • Prevents depletion of wild stocks.
  • Lower risk of pests, algae, and disease.
  • Faster growth than emersed or submerged.

Look for reputable retailers offering in-vitro cultured C. usteriana to help conserve this threatened species sustainably.


Cryptocoryne usteriana is an aquatic plant full of appeal and intrigue from its endemic origins in the Philippines to aquariums worldwide. With its unique crinkled leaves and varied color forms, this crypt can be an excellent addition to paludariums and aquascapes. Yet overcollection threatens its future existence.

By selecting responsibly cultivated plants, providing suitable water conditions, and limiting disturbances, aquarists can enjoy the beauty of C. usteriana while supporting its preservation. This guide covers the key aspects of keeping these marvelous crypts successfully and sustainably.

Though demanding moderate care, Cryptocoryne usteriana rewards dedicated aquarists with lush growth, fluid movement, and endless leaves to admire. When this threatened aquatic species receives the habitat and protection it deserves, its future looks brighter than ever flowing freely in Philippine streams.