Crinum Calamistratum (African Onion Plant): Complete Care Guide

Common Name(s)African Onion Plant
Scientific NameCrinum Calamistratum
Ease of GrowingEasy to Moderate
Height36-48 inches (91-122 cm)
Temperature68-82°F (20-28°C)
Growth RateSlow
PropagationBulb shoots
Light RequirementMedium
CO2 RequirementLow
crinum calamistratum
Crinum Calamistratum. Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Crinum Calamistratum Care

Crinum calamistratum, also known as the African Onion Plant, is native to Africa. It is specifically found in Africa’s west and central areas, especially Cameroon. It is a geophyte with underground perennial organs that allow it to survive rough seasons. Crinum calamistratum is usually found in freshwater and brackish waters, where it is fully submerged underwater.

Crinum calamistratum is one of the most unique-looking aquatic plants. It gets its nickname due to its close resemblance to the onions we eat. It will most likely take the spotlight and add a unique look to your tank. Crinum calamistratum has long, slender leaves that can grow up to 4 feet long. It mostly grows underwater but definitely has the potential to grow past the waterline. The leaves of the elegant Crinum calamistratum are long, spiral, spindle-like, and have a dark green color. The leaves are a bit wrinkled and curly, making them look like tentacles that grow upwards and eventually hang over. The Crinum calamistratum grows from a white bulb and flows so beautifully in the water current. In the right circumstances, it has the potential to grow beautiful white flowers as well.

Crinum Calamistratum Aquarium Plant
Crinum Calamistratum Leaves. Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aquascaping a tank with live plants is one of the most enjoyable aspects of setting up an aquarium. Many aquarists enjoy the process of choosing the plants to add to their tanks. Each plant adds a certain aesthetic to the tank and various benefits to the fish in the tank. There is a great variety of aquatic plants that you can add to your tank. The Crinum calamistratum is no exception, as it is a gorgeous aquarium plant. It is definitely one of those special plants that can become a focal point of your tank.

Tank Requirements

Caring for Crinum calamistratum is fairly simple and is considered an excellent plant for beginners because it can survive various conditions. With that said, the tank should be set up with care to ensure success with this plant. Though the leaves are thin, this plant does take up quite a lot of space since the leaves reach out in all directions. Because of this, Crinum calamistratum would do best in a large tank. In order to prepare for planting, removing any leaves on the outer layer of the stalk is recommended. If there are leaves that are cut short, it is best to tear them off because these leaves are dead and will not benefit the plant in any way. Simply tear the leaves downward until you have a brand-new white stalk. These extra layers would have eventually rotted and fallen off of the plant, so this is not hurting the plant.

As mentioned, this plant thrives in fresh and slightly salty water. The perfect water temperature for Crinum calamistratum is between 68-82°F. If the water temperature is too high, it will cause the plant to melt away. The pH level should stay between 6.1 and 7.8. This plant survives in soft to slightly hard water but thrives in soft water. It is best to keep the hardness level of the water under 18 dGH. Though this plant is usually fully submerged, it can survive out of the water and even survive brief periods of drought.

It is important to plant Crinum calamistratum in a fine gravel substrate. It needs to be planted in a substrate that isn’t too thick or heavy such as sand. Since they are heavy root feeders, adding plenty of nutrients into the substrate will help keep the plant healthy. This plant requires medium to high levels of aquarium lighting. Lighting is especially important if you want to see your Crinum calamistratum grow tall and bloom with flowers. Another way to help your plant flower is to plant in soil substrate. At slightly higher light levels, the plant will grow and thrive. Light water flow will also keep your plant looking amazing.

The leaves of Crinum calamistratum are quite thick. Thanks to the thickness, most fish cannot bite through the leaves and destroy the plant. A great tank mate for this plant is giant mystery snails. They enjoy eating the red spots or decay that your plant may have. The snails will help keep your plants looking nice and healthy and prevent decay from lingering on the plant.

How to Plant Crinum Calamistratum

Though Crinum calamistratum is quite hardy and tough, it can be sensitive during transplanting. Oftentimes, it does not do well when it is being transplanted. When choosing a spot within the tank to plant the Crinum calamistratum, choose carefully to avoid moving the plant multiple times. Transplanting the plant multiple times can prevent the plant from thriving.

Crinum calamistratum is a beautiful eye-catching plant that will do great in all parts of the tank, front, middle, and background. However, since the plant grows very tall, they are most often planted toward the back of the tank. Therefore, most aquascapers would consider this plant a background plant. Regardless of where you place this plant, be sure that it is able to get enough light and nutrients.

Crinum calamistratum aquarium plant
Crinum calamistratum aquarium plant. Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In general, Crinum calamistratum is a slow-growing plant. If you want to speed up growth, supplementing with CO2 is important. Adding extra CO2 into the tank isn’t required for the plant to survive. However, it does help the plant stay healthy and grow faster.

Once you have your Crinum calamistratum ready for planting, place it into the substrate carefully. Only 2/3 of the bulb should be beneath the substrate, and you should be able to see the other 1/3. Planting the entire bulb underneath the substrate will cause the plant to wither up and cause the roots to rot. This plant can do well if placed directly on top of the substrate as long as the roots are beneath the substrate. You may notice the build of the plant come out from the substrate, which will do fine. Keep in mind that this plant does not do well during transplantation, and it is important to have the perfect tank and water conditions for this plant to get accustomed. Once it is comfortable within the tank, the Crinum calamistratum does exceptionally well on its own and will grow without issues.

Propagating & Pruning Crinum Calamistratum

Now let’s talk about propagation and pruning the Crinum calamistratum. Crinum calamistratum grows by buds and will appear at the sides of the mother bulb. These bulbs will grow into new shoots. Simply pluck off these bulbs as carefully as possible. Place the buds into the substrate. With time, each bud will grow into its own independent plant. Apart from the basic needs of this plant, it would be helpful to add nutrients to the substrate to promote growth. It is also possible to propagate Crinum calamistratum with seeds. However, this plant’s seed propagation is considered more difficult than bulb propagation.

If your Crinum calamistratum is getting out of hand and has a bit too many leaves, maybe it is a perfect time to prune it. Now, you can’t cut the leaves the same way you cut hair. Doing so will cause the leaves to rot. Instead, cut the leaves at the source near the bulb to prevent rotting.

Most people who focus on Crinum calamistratum become instantly interested in them. Many aquarists on the hunt for a new plant to add to their tank end up settling with the African Onion Plant because of its unique look. Their long green leaves spiral and twirl while they flow with the water current. They do well with many other plants and fish, which makes them perfect to add to community tanks. Remember that they are not very common, so you might need to do some searching before getting your hands on Crinum calamistratum.

Species Special: Crinum Calimistratum

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