The Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis, commonly known as Brazilian micro sword, is a short-stemmed carpet-like plant commonly used in the foreground of many tanks.
It can be found growing partially or fully submersed alongside riverbanks and streams all around Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
It is a petite growing plant, reaching a maximum of 3 inches in height, which makes it suitable for many tanks including Nanos.
Nevertheless, its growth can be difficult or at least tricky, so beginner aquarists shouldn’t attempt to grow this plant until basic knowledge about growing aquatic plants is obtained.
This plant can be kept in all tanks due to its small size. It will grow well in soft to moderately hard water with a slightly alkaline pH between 6.8 and 7.5. Water temperature should be between 70 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be planted in a wide range of habitats.
Light is very important for the Lilaeopsis to thrive in your tank. Lighting with a minimum of 3 watts per gallon is necessary for its survival and it should be direct light.
You can use T5 or T8 fluorescent tubes, although many aquarists have managed to grow it well under LED lighting as well. It will still grow in lower lighting, but the desired lawn effect can only be achieved under strong light.
Planting your Lilaeopsis
Trim the roots with a pair of very sharp scissors or a razor blade before planting to promote faster rooting and growth. The roots should be completely buried in the substrate, but do this very gently, as they are very sensitive.
The main purpose of the Lilaeopsis is to cover the entire tank floor with a dense green carpet. To achieve this, you can plant it in a single area and allow it to spread or plant several smaller stems in diagonal rows, forming a chess board-like pattern.
The separate stems should be about 1/8 inch apart. This way, the stems will spread all around and will cover the substrate faster, though it will still take a few months for complete coverage, as this plant is a slow grower.
Plant stems in direct light and avoid any shade from neighboring plants to ensure proper growth.
Be careful with spreading runners and remove any that will grow over other plants, as this may effect their development. You can use the clippings for further propagation in the same tank or other tanks you may have.
You can also plant the Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis in outdoor ponds and in low brackish tanks.
Care for your Lilaeopsis
The Brazilian micro sword is a foreground plant that should only be planted in a nutrient rich substrate. If you know your substrate doesn’t contain enough nutrients, you should add liquid fertilizers or fertilizer tabs.
Tabs may be a better option, as they stay near the plant roots, thus keeping all the nutrients at hand (or root). Constantly add phosphate, potassium, nitrate and micronutrients to the water column, as well as CO2 supplements to allow proper growth.
Be careful, though, as this plant requires strong lighting and grows at such a slow rate, algae may develop on the leaves and needs to be cleaned off.
You can prevent algae accumulation by placing some shrimp or algae eating fish in the tank.
The Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis propagates through runners, which can be left to spread by themselves and cover the whole tank substrate. You can also pinch off and replant the runners for faster coverage and a compact carpet effect.
Goldfish may like to graze on this plant so they should also be avoided. Unlike most herbivore fish, plecos may still be able to coexist with the Brazilian micro sword.
The dense lawn can be a great hiding place for fish eggs and newly hatched fry, as they constantly run the danger of being eaten by adults.
Smaller fish and shrimp can also benefit from this compact hideout to avoid consumption or harassment by larger tank mates.
It is a pretty easy plant to find in aquarium supply stores or pet shops worldwide, thus, when buying a Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis, look for plants with bright green, healthy-looking leaves, as the roots may be difficult to see in a pot.
They may also be sold as a mat like a piece of thick cloth, where roots can be seen more easily.