Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala): Ultimate Care Guide


Brazilian Pennywort, Hydrocotyle leucocephala, is a popular aquarium plant that is versatile, easy to care for, and easy to grow. It goes by the names Brazilian Water Ivy and Pennywort too. This plant is great for beginners to the freshwater fish world and can be purchased at pet stores.

Brazilian Pennywort stems look and act like vines. They are flexible and sturdy. The leaves are kidney-shaped and are a light green color. They have roots that are fine white strings that can look like bean sprouts. When they grow above the water’s surface, they will sprout small white flowers.

When choosing a Pennywort from the store, look for healthy leaves. They should not have any cracks, tears, holes, or discoloration. Check for breaks in the stems. They should not be limp or brown.

Brazilian Pennywort is native to Argentina and Mexico. They are found in wetlands and slow-moving rivers. They can be found in flooded areas during the wet season too. Pennywort is an edible plant that is used as a spice. It is said to taste like pepper. The plant is used as a medicinal herb in its native lands.

Brazilian Pennyworts are great for freshwater aquariums, terrariums, and paludariums as a bog plant. They are compatible with most fish. However, Goldfish, Silver dollars, Oscars, Jack Dempsey, Koi fish, and Buenos Aires Tetras will eat the plant. Large, aggressive fish may also be a bad idea since they can cause some serious damage to the plant.

Brazilian Pennywort Care

Brazilian Pennyworts are great for beginners because they are easy to grow. They can be kept as a rooted plant or floating plant. As a rooted plant, the stem will grow up toward the water’s surface. As a floating plant, the leaves will grow at the surface toward the light and create shade for the fish underneath.

They grow quickly in the right conditions and can quickly take over a tank. It will need to be trimmed back to keep excessive growth at bay. Pennywort helps keep Nitrate levels down making it a great addition to a freshwater tank. The plant is not a miracle worker though. The tank must be maintained regularly too. The best way to keep Nitrate levels down is to conduct regular partial water changes, not overfeeding, and not overstocking.

Brazilian Pennywort
Brazilian Pennywort

Brazilian Pennywort Lighting Requirements

Any community tank lighting should be enough, but they prefer medium to high levels of light.

Brazilian Pennywort Water Parameters

 Brazilian Pennyworts are adaptable to a wide range of water conditions. Water temperature should be between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 6.0 to 7.8.

Brazilian Pennywort Growth Rate

Pennyworts are a fast-growing plant. The more light, the more the plant will grow. Supplementing the plant with fertilizers may help too. Always check to make sure fertilizers are compatible with the plant and all of the other inhabitants of the tank.

They can grow up to 6 inches wide and 24 inches tall when kept in a tank. Trimming may be necessary when the stems start to outgrow their space. Select the portion of the stem that needs to be trimmed and snip it with trimming shears. Pulling or tugging could tear the plant, so a little patience and care are needed for this task.

How to Grow Brazilian Pennywort in an Aquarium

These plants are great for a community tank environment because they do not need a lot of time to adapt to their new environment. They are used mostly as a background plant for the tank. They can be planted in the substrate or left free-floating.

If they are left floating, they will grow toward the light and offer shady spots for the fish and other animals in the tank. This also provides great hiding places for fry. They will need to be trimmed back if left floating. They can grow too much and get their leaves tangled. They could also cover the whole light and that is not good for anyone. If they are left floating, gentle surface agitation is required to keep the Pennywort from balling and becoming a big mess.

Adding carbon dioxide is not necessary, but it can be done.

Pennyworts do not have a deep root system. They prefer to float with their leaves immersed in water. This means they can grow almost anywhere, including sand and gravel. Brazilian Pennyworts have small roots that are difficult to keep planted and will start rotting if placed too deep in the sand.

Brazilian Pennyworts can be used as a background plant to add a lot of depth to the aquascape. It is great to use with plants of different colors and sizes. Healthy stems can be placed directly into the substrate about an inch deep.

Pennywort can be used as a carpet plant in paludariums. It can also be used to enhance other aquarium decorations such as driftwood, bogwood, and caves. The plant needs to be weighted down properly.

Brazilian Pennywort Propagation

Propagating the Brazilian Pennywort is a fairly simple process. Take cuttings from healthy, mature stems and plant them in the substrate or let them float on the surface of the tank. In a couple of weeks, the cuttings will sprout roots and they will start growing. They are an easy plant to keep alive. They can be reproduced from a single healthy leaf and a small piece of stem. Just let the leaf and stem float in the water. Most of the time, Pennyworts will sprout roots on its own.

Brazilian Pennywort Common Issues

Pennyworts may be an easy plant to grow, but that does not mean they will not have problems. If the plants are not growing or if they are exhibiting signs of stress or disease, check the nutrients, carbon dioxide levels, and the lighting in the tank. Pruning pennywort is a good way to get it to perk up quickly. Think of it kind of like getting a new hairdo.

Here are a few common problems seen with this plant along with some solutions.

Melting – This is usually seen in stem plants when they are taken from an immersed environment to a submerged environment. It is common for leaves to fall off after a move. Pennyworts should adapt to their environment fairly quickly and start growing new leaves. If it is melting months after a transplant, try not to have it fully submerged. Pennyworts thrive in paludarium setups.

Leaves turning yellow or falling out – This may be from lack of iron. Adding chelated iron to the tank might help.

Sparse Growth – A common reason for this is low lighting. Pennyworts thrive in medium to high levels of light. Adding a fertilizer or pruning the plants might help too.

Balling – Brazilian Pennyworts will get tangled up and pushed into messy balls of tangled leaves and roots by the current. This will start to look like one giant plant mass taking over the tank. This can be prevented or fixed with regular pruning.

Overgrowth – Pennyworts are rapidly growing plants. It is known for being able to overrun the tank and block out the light for other plants and animals. While they are effective at creating shade in the tank, they do not need to go overboard. Prune the plants regularly and this should not be an issue.

Slow Growth – This can be caused by a few issues. Low lighting, soft water, or insufficient nutrients in the tank are all a part of the list of potential causes. Make sure the water is not too soft and increase the light. Plant fertilizers and carbon dioxide can also be added to the tank. Checking the nitrates won’t hurt either. Brazilian Pennyworts need more than 10.

Crooked Roots – This is a sign of phosphorus deficiency. Pennyworts will show signs of this before other plants will, so the problem can be handled quickly. The solution is to add some phosphates to the tank.

Where can I find Brazilian Pennywort for sale?

Brazilian Pennyworts are a common plant that can usually be found in any aquarium or fish store. They can also be purchased online. They are not expensive plants. They can usually be found in a pot or a bunch of 2 to 4 stems for $5 to $10. Another option is to purchase these plants from a hobbyist who has grown their own.

Always go for healthy plants when shopping for Pennyworts. They should have bright green stems and leaves. They should not have holes, rips, tears, or discoloration. The roots should be white. Do not buy plants with brown roots, broken stems, or discolored leaves.

Quarantine Brazilian Pennywort

Brazilian Pennyworts should be quarantined and disinfected to avoid tank contamination. They can carry parasites, pest snails, or predators like dragonflies. Pennywort could also be treated with chemical pesticides that are poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates. Unless the plant was grown in a sterile lab and sold in a sealed container, quarantine is a good idea. 

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

Recent Posts