Limnophila Sessiliflora (Ambulia): Ultimate Care Guide

Limnophila Sessiliflora, also known as Ambulia, is a bushy and bright green plant. Native to clear water environments in South East Asia, Ambulia looks similar to Cabomba but is easier to maintain. This plant requires frequent trimming to be capable of fast growth in the right conditions. Often seen in tank backgrounds, Ambulia has a bushy appearance and rapid growth rate. This species grows quickly, some hobbyists would say too quickly. In good growing environments, regular trimming is necessary.

Although easy to care for, this plant may need Co2 injection for the best growth.

Limnophila Sessiliflora
Limnophila Sessiliflora

Limnophila Sessiliflora Care

Limnophila Sessiliflora is easy to care for but can appear “leggy” without proper water nutrients or enough light. Ensure you use liquid fertilizer as needed and have the right lighting. Ambulia can grow in low to medium lighting. It does not have the high light requirements of Cabomba, which it resembles. However, low lighting can lead to thin growth. Prepare for some experimentation to find the best lighting levels for your particular aquarium installation.

Is Limnophila Sessiliflora easy to grow?

An easy-to-grow plant, Limnophila Sessiliflora will often grow more than you’d expect! Prepare for frequent trimming to keep this plant looking its best. Ambulia may require supplemental Co2 injection. It will grow without this, but Co2 injection is a good way to encourage thick and healthy growth.

How to plant Limnophila Sessiliflora in an aquarium

Limnophila Sessiliflora should be placed on a substrate deep enough to anchor the plants. In some instances, small plant weights may be required. Consider applying liquid fertilizer, as this plant draws in most of its nutrients from the surrounding water. Be sure to use a fertilizer with both macronutrients and micronutrients. Ambulia can be particular about its nutrition. Applying fertilizer after a new planting can help it thrive. Also, browning can often result from nutrient deficiencies as opposed to insufficient lighting or Co2.

Due to its bushy appearance, Ambulia can sometimes be suited for midground placement in a tank. However, because of its high growth rate, it can be harder to maintain there than if it were placed as background. Some of this comes down to tank size and configuration.

Another argument for background placement is this species tends to brown on its lower leaves. Particularly if the stems have grown more than 9 inches. This doesn’t seem to be related to water quality or nutrition, just a natural feature of the plant. It can be desirable to have midground plants and hardscape features placed in front to hide the lower portions. At some point in Ambulia’s growth, you will likely experience browning lower leaves. Take this into account when planning your Aquascaping.

Dry starts are not good for Ambulia, as it needs to draw nutrients from the surrounding water. If you are dry starting a planted tank, this species will need to be placed after the tank is flooded. Because Ambulia is able to grow emersed, some hobbyists might think it would be a good candidate for a dry start. However, the root system, particularly the foliage, is quite different in its emersed form. If you plan to grow this species submersed, performing a normal wet start is ideal.

Lighting Requirement

Limnophila Sessiliflora can tolerate mid to low-level lighting. However, growth and appearance can suffer under insufficient illumination. If your Ambulia’s growth appears thin, consider increasing your tank’s lighting. Lighting requirements will also vary depending on how heavily planted your tank is. Very dense patches of this species will need more light than sparse plantings.


Limnophila Sessiliflora tolerates a wide range of temperatures, from 59 – 82°F (15 – 28°C).

Water pH

Limnophila Sessiliflora grows best in water with a pH of 5.5 – 8. This forgiving range allows for a selection of substrates and compatible fish species.

Limnophila Sessiliflora Growth Rate

Limnophila Sessiliflora grows extremely rapidly. With sufficient lighting and Co2, this species has been known to grow up to ½ inch per day! This plant may need frequent trimming. Take that into account when deciding if you want it added to your tank.

Limnophila Sessiliflora Growth Height

Limnophila Sessiliflora can grow up to 16 inches tall in an aquarium. Due to its fast growth plan for frequent trimming to keep it from taking over your tank. Also, note that as the plant increases in height, it will begin to send out lateral shoots. You will want to trim these as well to preserve a clean appearance.

Aquarium Co2

Limnophila Sessiliflora does not require Co2 injection, which can help it grow thicker and healthier. If your plants seem thin or “leggy,” check your nutrient and lighting levels first before assuming you have a Co2 deficiency problem. Ambulia can suffer from a lack of sufficient Co2 in heavily planted tanks.

How to Trim Limnophila Sessiliflora

Trim your Limnophila Sessiliflora by cutting off the top parts of the stem. These cuttings can then be planted in other tank areas if desired. Be prepared for lots of trimming as this plant grows fast!

Limnophila Sessiliflora Propagation

Limnophila Sessiliflora is easy to propagate. Simply cut off a top shoot and replant in the substrate. Ambulia is less reliant on a root system to bring in nutrients than some other species, so this method of propagation works. You may need to hold your cuttings in the substrate with a plant weight or other anchoring method.

Why is my Limnophila Sessiliflora turning brown?

Limnophila Sessiliflora can turn brown for a variety of reasons. Often this can be corrected by utilizing a fertilizer containing both micronutrients and macronutrients.

The location of the browning leaves matters as well. If the upper parts of the plant are turning brown, this may be natural. Ambulia stem tops can change color as they reach the surface of the water. If the lower leaves are turning brown, this may also be natural. Dense plantings of this species will sometimes shed their lower leaves. Often this plant is used as the background so that midground plants and hardscape features can hide the lower leaves.

Do Limnophila Sessiliflora flower?

In nature and when growing emersed, Limnophila Sessiliflora can produce flowers. In an aquarium, this doesn’t occur. When growing fully submersed, you can sometimes see the green ellipsoid fruits that would produce flowers if they were above water.

Where can I find Limnophila Sessiliflora for sale?

Limnophila Sessiliflora are readily available, both from aquarium supply stores and online. Consider tissue cultures if you are concerned about introducing parasites and diseases from purchased plants. Tissue cultures are plants grown from small tissue samples in a sterile media. They are guaranteed to be 100% sterile. If you have a heavily planted tank with many varieties, you increase your chances of unwanted additions. Though slightly higher in cost, the added peace of mind can be worth it.

Ambulia (Limnophila sessiliflora) Hardy Plant for Your Planted Aquarium

Limnophila Sessiliflora vs. Hornwort

Hornwort and Limnophila Sessiliflora both have similar growth rates and aesthetics. Hornwort is the messier of the two plants as it can shed leaves. Hornwort is more suited as a floating plant. It can be anchored in a substrate, but the buried parts can rot. Some hobbyists say Hornwort doesn’t look as visually pleasing as Ambulia.

This is a result of its leaf pattern and, more critically, its tendency to brown and shed leaves. Even in a very well-maintained tank, Hornwort will brown and drop leaves, creating piles of detritus in tanks. Hornwort might not be the right plant for you if you want a tank with clean aesthetics. This will be less of an issue in a natural tank and might be desirable.

As with Ambulia, Hornwort grows extremely fast. It can be somewhat easier to trim if kept as a floating plant.

Limnophila Sessiliflora vs. Cabomba

Limnophila Sessiliflora resembles and is often used as a substitute for the more finicky Cabomba. Although they look similar superficially, there are a number of key differences. Probably the most important to aquarium hobbyists is Cabomba’s high light requirement. Unlike Ambulia, Cabomba does not tolerate low lighting and will often not tolerate mid-lighting. With Cabomba, you’ll want to ensure your tank has high LPG (lumens per gallon).

One caution about lighting is some hobbyists report Cabomba growing “leggy” under high light conditions. Those with this experience will reduce lighting and Co2 to get a bushier appearance. This sounds contradictory, and it is. Some of these differences can be related to various strains: Cabomba may perform differently from one source to another.

One advantage to Cabomba is color availability. While the green variety is the most common, Purple Cabomba is an option. If you want color variation in your tank and like the overall look of Cabomba, explore these choices.

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