Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes)

Type:Floating Plant
Origin:Nile River, Lake Victoria in Africa
Growth Rate:Medium to Fast
Light Demand:Medium
CO2 Demand:Low

Water Lettuce is also known as Pistia Stratiotes, water cabbage, Jalkumbhi, or the Nile cabbage is an aquatic plant species belonging to the Araceae family. It can be said that the region where Pistia Stratiotes was first discovered and where its natural habitat is Lake Victoria part of the Nile River in Africa.


As a result of the recent studies, it has been discovered that this plant is one of the important parts of Ayurvedic medicine which has a history of thousands of years in India. Water Lettuce contains substances such as antidiabetic, antifungal and antimicrobics. Besides, they take an active role in cleaning toxic heavy metals, like zinc, in the water supplies.

The leaves can reach a length of about 13 cm and a width of 17 cm on average, contain different shades of green color and have a bitter taste. At maximum, this plant size reaches 25 cm in length. This plant blooms in the late summer or at the beginning of the autumn. The flowers grow right in the center of the plant and are hidden on the lower side. This plant produces lots of seeds, and these seeds sink to the bottom of the water and withstand the cold during the winter season.


Pistia Stratiotes can grow in both soft and medium-hard water. The ideal water pH balance is between 6,5-7,5. Pistia Stratiotes generally prefer warm water due to its nature, and temperatures between 20-27°C are proper for this plant to grow. T5 or T8 bulbs are suitable to provide light from medium to bright for growing this plant. LED lights are also available in the market for this plant. High-intensity lighting and high temperatures diffused from the light source may burn the plant. Thus, it is substantial to keep a safe distance between the Pistia Stratoides and the light as well as providing proper ventilation to remove the heat produced by the light source.

This plant prefers humid environments and if there is not enough humidity, the leaves of the plant may start to dry out and have growth difficulty. For these reasons, it is always useful to keep the environment moist. Covering the aquarium is one of the simplest ways to solve this problem.

Pistia Stratiotes usually live in a good relationship with fish but, some larger herbivorous fish such as cichlids may harm the plant. The large and web structured dangling roots of the plant provide shelter and hiding places to fish and fry. Also, the floating leaves are helping buble nesting fish to build a nest.


A volume of around 40 liters of aquariums is sufficient for growing Pistia Stratiotes. If the necessary conditions are proper for the plant, it grows very fast, and this may negatively affect light penetration for other plants growing submerged. In this situation, removing some parts of the plant could solve the problem. Additional carbon dioxide is not necessary for the growth of this plant since it can receive enough CO2 from the air over it. Under optimum conditions, this plant grows very fast and consumes most of the nitrogen inside the water. This plant is very potent to remove the nitrogen from the aquarium water but also can be a problem in case other plants are existing in the same tank. Slow growing and submerged plants can’t compete with Pistia Stratiotes. Therefore, the best method is to keep the population under control and in limited numbers to prevent other plants from rotting. Nitrogen fertilization can be necessary according to the conditions observed in the aquarium on other plants.

Propagation of this plant divides into two groups; sexually and asexually. Sexual propagation is generally not a suitable method for home-type aquariums and occurs by pollination and seeds. In asexual propagation usually seen in home-type aquariums, the small daughter plants begin floating next to the mother plant and join together with the stolon.

Pistia Stratiotes is interesting for reasons such as cleaning toxic substances or its use in alternative medicine as well as providing a beautiful view to the aquarium. Under proper conditions, it will add a beautiful image to your aquarium as well as removing hazardous matters from the aquarium water.

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