Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata): Ultimate Care Guide

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Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata)
Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata)

Dwarf Sagittaria Facts

Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata) is a hardy, grass-like aquarium carpeting plant. It is one of the most popular aquarium plant and is great for beginners since it is easy to grow. It can also be called the awl-leaf arrowhead or narrow-leaved arrowhead.

Dwarf Sagittaria is native to the Atlantic coast of the United States from Massachusetts to Florida. It is also native to Colombia and Venezuela in South America. This plant has made its way to Great Britain, Azores, and Java in Indonesia where it is considered an invasive species.

This plant is not picky about where it lives. It can be found in marshes, estuaries, shallow freshwaters, and shallow brackish waters in emersed, and submersed form. Dwarf Sagittaria is a perennial plant species that grows to be 4 to 6 inches tall when fully grown. They have bright green leaves that are short and stiff. The leaves are small, only making it between 1 and 7 mm wide.

Dwarf Sagittaria will develop flowers on the stalks when it is in its emersed state. It is a monoecious plant, meaning that both male and female flowers can be found on a single plant. In nature, when the water dries out, this plant will adapt and grow ovate leaves. These leaves are 1-2 inches long, with petioles that are just as long, if not longer than the blade.

The Dwarf Sagittaria was bred by Dutch breeders and introduced into the aquarium world about 40 years ago. It is one of the varieties of Sagittaria Subulata. All varieties of Sagittaria species will have leaves that collect in thick basal rosettes and white roots that will grow 2 to 3 inches into the substrate.

Dwarf Sagittaria Care

All varieties of Sagittaria Subulata are hardy plants that can withstand a variety of tank environments. They are not sensitive to temperature variations, they can live in hard water, and water with a lot of organic substances. They are perfect for beginners.

Sagittaria Subulata can be housed in tanks ranging from nano to large. The smallest size tank they should be in is 5-gallons. Good water quality is key to having a healthy tank. One downside to carpeting plants like Dwarf Sagittaria is the potential mess. Fish food and other organic matter can fall to the bottom and settle between the plant’s leaves. If left to decompose, this can cause a spike in ammonia and nitrites. Regular partial water changes, a lightly stocked aquarium, and not overfeeding the fish are all ways to prevent this from happening.

Is Dwarf Sagittaria easy to grow?

Dwarf Sagittaria plants are relatively easy to grow. They can survive in tanks with extreme pH, temperature, and water hardness conditions. They are fast-growing, so they will need to be trimmed regularly. This will help maintain a carpeted look in the aquarium too. Trimming will also increase the propagation rate. That being said, it is a rosette plant, and the leaves will get smaller the more it is trimmed.

Fertilizers may be necessary to add enough nutrients to the substrate. Adding them to the tank once a week is recommended. Iron supplements can also be added if the tank appears to be iron deficient.

Lighting Requirement

Dwarf Sagittaria will thrive in moderate lighting. The plant may turn yellowish or melt if it is getting too much light. These plants will survive in low lighting, but they will grow slower and will stretch toward the light more.


This species can handle a variety of temperatures. They will do best in between a range of 68 – 82 °F, but it can be colder and survive.

Water pH

This is a hardy plant that can live in a variety of pH levels. It will do best in a range of 6.0 to 8.0. This very adaptable plant can thrive in both soft and hard water, too. Values of 2 to 15 GH are fine for this plant.

Dwarf Sagittaria Growth Rate

The Dwarf Sagittaria grows quickly with little encouragement needed from the aquarist. They propagate and grow quickly all on their own. This is why it is considered an invasive species in some places in the world.

Dwarf Sagittaria Growth Height

This species is a perennial plant that can vary in size. They can grow to be a foot tall, but many of them stay shorter than that.

Is Aquarium Co2 Injection Necessary for Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria can live just fine in a tank without Co2 injections, but the growth will probably be slower and the plants will be smaller.

Before using Co2 injections, give the tank some more light and make sure the tank is properly fertilized. This will help maintain the tank’s pH balance and avoid algae problems. Co2 and copper are both extremely dangerous to shrimp, so they should not be in a highly fertilized and Co2 infused tank. 

Propagating Dwarf Sagittaria

Four or five specimens of Dwarf Sagittaria will be enough to give the midsections of the tank a dense carpet. The plants should be placed into the substrate about an inch deep. The root crown should not be buried too deep or it will rot. Each plant should be spaced out 2 to 3 inches. They will spread out and grow into each other over time.

Dwarf Sagittaria is a root feeder. They will not do well as a floating plant or glued onto decorations in the tank.

They propagate by growing runners that spread like a carpet across the tank floor. They can be pinched off and relocated. To increase the propagation rate, trim off a few leaves from each plant.

Creating a Dwarf Sagittaria Carpet

Dwarf Sagittaria is a carpeting plant that spreads through runners. It should be planted in the foreground of the tank. If it is kept in excellent conditions, sometimes it will send white flowers up to the surface. When the runners spread out, they can be pinched off and relocated to a new spot in the tank.

These plants will start to grow runners a few weeks after they are planted. They are fast growers and are not shy about taking over a tank. Regular pruning and trimming will encourage new growth and will give that coveted carpet look many aquarists are hoping to get.

This species is a rosette plant. When the leaves are trimmed, they will grow back smaller. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of before getting started.

Does Dwarf Sagittaria grow emersed?

Dwarf Sagittaria can be found growing in all kinds of environments. They thrive in marshes, shallow freshwater, and shallow brackish water in emersed and submersed form.

Do Dwarf Sagittaria flower?

This species does flower. They develop on long, thin, green stalks that have both male and female flowers on them. The flowers are white and about 1 cm in diameter.

Substrate for Dwarf Sagittaria

A good substrate for Dwarf Sagittaria is a mix of aquarium soil, sand, and fine gravel. Since this species is a root feeder, it is not great at absorbing nutrients from the water column. They will also need root tabs for fertilizer. This species will probably not do well in gravel or sand-only tanks.

If a Dwarf Sagittaria needs to be moved, sometimes it is better to cut it off instead of pulling it up. The plant may be small, but the root system is mighty. A large part of the substrate could come up with the plant’s roots.

Why is my Dwarf Sagittaria melting?

Meling Dwarf Sagittaria plants could be a response to being transported or transitioning from emersed form to submersed form. Some aquarium plants are started in landform and then transferred to a water environment. This can cause plants to wither and shed leaves. Once the plant adapts to the new environment, new leaves should grow.

How to trim Dwarf Sagittaria

Aquarium plant forums suggest trimming Dwarf Sagittaria like you would cut the lawn. The leaves will grow back smaller after trimming.

Where can I find Dwarf Sagittaria for sale?

Dwarf Sagittaria is a popular plant species in the aquarium world. It is available at most online aquarium stores, local fish store, and/or Amazon. It is not expensive. A bundle of 5 stems can be found for approxmately $15 USD.

A healthy plant will have healthy roots and crowns. It should have bright green leaves and not have any visible pests.

Dwarf Sagittaria should be quarantined before being introduced into the tank unless the plant was grown in sterile lab conditions. This plant can be a host to parasites, pests, and predators. It could also have chemical residue on it to remove pests. This is poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.

Dwarf Sagittaria vs Pygmy Chain Sword

Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata) and Pygmy Chain Sword (Helanthium tenellum) are both hardy plants that are easy to grow. They are great for beginners since they can handle a variety of living conditions. They are both small, fast-growing, flowering plants.

When they are fully grown, the two plants have different sizes and colors.

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