Pogostemon Stellatus: Aquarium Plant Species Profile

Pogostemon Stellatus
Pogostemon Stellatus. Show_ryu, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pogostemon Stellatus, commonly referred to as the star plant, is a visually striking aquatic plant notable for its unique star-shaped leaf arrangement and vibrant color variations, ranging from deep green to pink and red hues under optimal lighting conditions. Originating from Southeast Asia, this fast-growing species requires a nutrient-rich substrate and benefits significantly from CO2 supplementation, making it a popular choice among aquascaping enthusiasts. 

Its ability to adapt to a wide range of water parameters coupled with its fast growth rate makes it an excellent candidate for both novice and experienced aquarium hobbyists. Pogostemon Stellatus not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of aquariums but also plays a crucial role in maintaining water quality by providing oxygenation and acting as a natural habitat for aquatic life.

Common Name(s)Star Plant, Aquatic Star
Scientific NamePogostemon Stellatus
OriginAsia and Australia
Ease of GrowingModerate (Rated 5/10 for difficulty)
AquascapeSuitable for midground to background
Height1.6-3 feet (50-90 cm)
Water pH6.0-7.5
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Growth RateMedium
PropagationNot specified in the sources
Light RequirementModerate to high
CO2 RequirementBenefits from CO2 supplementation, but not mandatory

Pogostemon Stellatus Care

Pogostemon Stellatus thrives in a well-lit aquarium, requiring moderate to high lighting to fully express its coloration and growth potential. It is adaptable to a wide range of water conditions but grows best in soft to moderately hard water, with a temperature range of 22-28°C (72-82°F). Supplemental CO2 and a nutrient-rich substrate can significantly enhance its growth and vibrancy. While it can grow in less than ideal conditions, achieving the striking appearance 

Regular pruning is recommended to maintain its bushy form and promote denser growth. Its moderate care requirements make it a feasible choice for aquarists with some experience, suggesting that while it may not be the easiest plant to grow, it’s certainly within reach for those willing to invest in its care.

Lighting Requirement

The lighting requirement for Pogostemon stellatus is considered moderate to high to maintain its health, coloration, and growth pattern. Here’s a breakdown of its lighting needs:

  • Intensity: Pogostemon stellatus thrives under moderate to high light intensity. This typically means providing between 50 to 70 micromoles of PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) at the substrate level. High light intensity will encourage more compact growth and enhance the coloration of the leaves, which can range from green to pinkish or even reddish hues under optimal conditions.
  • Duration: A daily light period of about 10 to 12 hours is recommended. Consistent lighting schedules help mimic natural conditions, promoting better growth and health of the plant. Using a timer can help maintain a consistent light cycle.
  • Spectrum: The light spectrum is also important for the growth of Pogostemon stellatus. Full-spectrum LED lights or those with a Kelvin rating of 6500K to 7000K are ideal, as they closely mimic natural sunlight and provide a broad range of wavelengths necessary for photosynthesis and healthy growth.
  • Adjustments and Acclimation: When introducing Pogostemon stellatus to a new aquarium or changing the lighting setup, it’s important to monitor the plant and adjust the lighting if necessary. Some signs that the lighting may need adjustment include pale or leggy growth (indicating insufficient light) or leaf burn and excessive algae growth (indicating too much light).
  • Supplemental CO2 and Nutrients: While not directly related to lighting, it’s worth noting that Pogostemon stellatus benefits from the addition of CO2 and a balanced supply of macro and micronutrients. High lighting levels can increase the plant’s demand for CO2 and nutrients to support photosynthesis and growth.

The optimal lighting conditions can vary based on other factors in your aquarium, such as water depth, clarity, and the presence of other plants. Observing your plant’s response to the lighting conditions and making adjustments as needed is key to successful cultivation.

Temperature & Water Parameters

For caring for Pogostemon Stellatus in an aquarium, you should aim for the following water parameters:

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • General Hardness (GH): 2-12 dGH
  • Carbonate Hardness (KH): 1-6 dKH

These parameters are considered standard for most aquarium plants, ensuring a healthy environment for your Pogostemon Stellatus​​.

Growth Height & Growth Rate

Understanding its growth height and growth rate of Pogostemon stellatus is essential for aquarists looking to incorporate it into their tanks.

Growth Height

Pogostemon stellatus is a relatively tall aquarium plant that can reach significant heights if provided with optimal conditions. In an aquarium setting, it can grow:

Pogostemon stellatus grow up to 20 to 40 centimeters (8 to 16 inches), and even taller under ideal conditions. Some specimens have been known to grow up to 60 centimeters (about 24 inches) in height, especially in larger tanks with plenty of space and light.

Growth Rate

The growth rate of Pogostemon stellatus can vary based on several factors, including lighting, CO2 supplementation, and nutrient availability. With optimal conditions, it is characterized as:

Growth rate of Pogostemon stellatus is medium to fast. It requires moderate to high lighting to thrive and show its best colors. CO2 addition and a good supply of nutrients (both macro and micro) can significantly enhance its growth and vitality.

Key Factors for Optimal Growth

  • Lighting: High lighting conditions are preferred for Pogostemon stellatus to promote vibrant coloration and dense growth. Lighting should be in the range of 0.5-1 watt per liter (or 2-4 watts per gallon) for optimal growth.
  • CO2 Supplementation: CO2 is beneficial for the growth of Pogostemon stellatus, helping it to grow faster and healthier. A CO2 concentration of 20-30 ppm is often recommended.
  • Nutrients: Regular dosing of macro (NPK) and micronutrients is crucial for maintaining the health and coloration of Pogostemon stellatus. Iron supplementation can be particularly beneficial for enhancing its vibrant colors.
  • Water Parameters: While Pogostemon stellatus is adaptable to a range of water parameters, it prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH (pH 6-7) and moderate hardness. Temperature should be kept between 22 to 28°C (72 to 82°F).
  • Pruning: Regular pruning is recommended to manage its height and promote bushier growth. This also helps in propagating the plant, as cuttings can be replanted in the substrate to grow new plants.

By meeting these requirements, aquarists can enjoy the full potential of Pogostemon stellatus in their aquariums, benefiting from its aesthetic appeal and contribution to the tank’s ecosystem.

Aquarium CO2 Requirement

Aquarium CO2 injection is not strictly necessary for the growth of Pogostemon stellatus, but it can significantly enhance its growth, coloration, and overall health. Pogostemon stellatus is a popular aquatic plant in the aquarium hobby, known for its striking appearance and ability to thrive in a range of water conditions. However, like many aquatic plants, it benefits greatly from CO2 supplementation for several reasons:

  • Enhanced Growth: CO2 is a critical component of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light into energy. Adding CO2 can accelerate this process, leading to faster growth rates.
  • Improved Coloration: Adequate CO2 levels can help Pogostemon stellatus achieve more vibrant colors, making it a more striking addition to the aquarium.
  • Healthier Plants: With sufficient CO2, plants can more efficiently use light and nutrients, leading to healthier overall growth and reduced susceptibility to algae and other issues.
  • Optimal Conditions: Pogostemon stellatus, while adaptable, prefers environments where it can maximize photosynthesis. In densely planted tanks or setups with high lighting, CO2 becomes even more crucial to meet the increased demands of the plants.

It’s important to monitor CO2 levels carefully, as too much CO2 can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The ideal CO2 concentration is typically between 20-30 ppm (parts per million), but this can vary depending on the specific needs of your aquarium inhabitants.

For aquarists who choose not to use CO2 injection, ensuring that Pogostemon stellatus receives adequate light and nutrients is even more critical. The plant can still grow without CO2 supplementation, but its growth rate, size, and coloration may not be as impressive as those in CO2-enriched environments.

While CO2 injection is not absolutely necessary for Pogostemon stellatus, it is highly beneficial for optimal growth and health of the plant. Aquarists should weigh the benefits against the costs and maintenance requirements to decide if CO2 injection is right for their aquarium setup.

How to Use the Plant in an Aquascape

Pogostemon stellatus is a beautiful and versatile aquatic plant that can add color, texture, and depth to an aquascape. It’s known for its striking appearance, with narrow leaves that can range in color from green to pink or red, depending on the lighting and nutrient conditions. Here’s how to incorporate Pogostemon stellatus into an aquascape effectively:

Choosing the Right Location

  • Midground to Background: Due to its potential height and bushy growth, it’s best suited for the midground or background of the tank. This placement allows it to create a vibrant backdrop or a focal point without obscuring shorter plants in the foreground.
  • Space for Growth: Ensure there’s enough space for it to grow vertically and spread out. This plant can become quite tall (up to 30 cm or more), so consider its full potential size.


  • Substrate: Plant in a nutrient-rich substrate to support its growth. The roots will appreciate a substrate that allows for easy expansion and nutrient absorption.
  • Group Planting: For a lush look, plant stems in small groups. Leave some space between each stem to allow light to reach the lower leaves, promoting healthy growth throughout the plant.


  • High Lighting: Pogostemon stellatus thrives under high lighting conditions, which enhance its coloration and growth rate. Adequate lighting will bring out vibrant colors and prevent the plant from becoming leggy.
  • Duration: Aim for 8-10 hours of light per day to simulate natural conditions and promote healthy growth.

Water Conditions

  • Temperature: It prefers water temperatures between 22-28°C (72-82°F), which is suitable for most tropical aquariums.
  • pH and Hardness: A slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.5) and moderate water hardness are ideal for this plant.

Nutrients and CO2

  • Fertilization: Regular dosing with a comprehensive liquid fertilizer that includes micronutrients will support its vibrant growth and coloration.
  • CO2 Supplementation: Adding CO2 to the aquarium will significantly benefit Pogostemon stellatus, promoting denser growth and more intense colors. Aim for a CO2 concentration of 20-30 ppm.

Pruning and Maintenance

  • Pruning: Regular pruning is necessary to maintain the desired shape and size, especially in smaller tanks. Cut the top of the plant and replant the trimmings if you wish to propagate or thicken the bush.
  • Thinning: Occasionally thin out the plant to ensure that light and nutrients reach the lower leaves, preventing them from dying off and decaying.

Incorporating Pogostemon stellatus into an aquascape requires attention to its needs for light, nutrients, and space. When well cared for, it can become a stunning feature in your aquarium, offering a dynamic and colorful element to the aquascape. Remember to adjust its care as your aquascape matures and evolves, ensuring this beautiful plant thrives in your aquatic environment.

How to Propagate

Propagating Pogostemon Stellatus, a popular and visually striking aquarium plant known for its star-like leaves and bushy appearance, involves a few straightforward steps. This plant is well-loved for its ability to add depth and texture to an aquarium landscape. Here’s how to propagate it effectively:

  1. Select a Healthy Parent Plant: Look for a Pogostemon Stellatus plant in your aquarium that is healthy, vibrant, and shows no signs of disease or pests. A healthy parent plant is more likely to produce successful cuttings.
  2. Trim Cuttings: Using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or aquascaping tools, carefully cut a stem from the parent plant. Make sure the cutting is at least a few inches long to ensure it has enough leaf nodes (points on the stem where leaves grow) to establish roots and new growth. It’s often recommended to make the cut just above a leaf node on the parent plant to encourage new growth there as well.
  3. Prepare the Cuttings: Remove the leaves from the bottom inch (or few centimeters) of each cutting. This area will be buried in the substrate or floated in water to encourage root growth, and removing the leaves helps prevent rot.
  4. Planting the Cuttings: There are two main methods for rooting the cuttings:
    • Substrate Method: Plant the cuttings directly into the substrate of your aquarium. Push them down to a depth where they can stand upright, but be gentle to avoid damaging the stem. Ensure the bare section of the stem (where the leaves were removed) is buried in the substrate. This method encourages the cuttings to root directly where they will grow.
    • Floating Method: Some aquarists prefer to let the cuttings float freely in the aquarium water. This can sometimes encourage stronger root growth before the plants are anchored into the substrate. Once a healthy root system has developed, you can plant the cuttings into the substrate.
  5. Provide Proper Care: Pogostemon Stellatus requires moderate to high lighting and benefits from the addition of CO2 and fertilizers to promote lush, vibrant growth. After planting your cuttings, ensure they receive proper care, including regular fertilization and adequate lighting, to encourage strong root development and growth.
  6. Monitor Growth: Keep an eye on your cuttings for signs of new growth. It may take several weeks for roots to establish and new leaves to begin forming. Be patient and maintain good water quality and proper tank conditions to support their growth.
  7. Maintenance: As your new Pogostemon Stellatus plants grow, you may need to trim them to maintain the desired shape and size within your aquarium. Regular trimming can also encourage the plant to become bushier, creating a more lush appearance.

By following these steps, you can successfully propagate Pogostemon Stellatus and expand the greenery in your aquarium. Remember, the key to successful propagation and plant health is consistent care and monitoring.

Pogostemon Stellatus vs Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus

The difference between Pogostemon stellatus and Pogostemon stellatus ‘Octopus’ mainly lies in their appearance and growth habits, which make them distinct in the aquarium hobby.

  • Pogostemon stellatus:
    • This plant is known for its unique, star-shaped leaves and vibrant colors, ranging from green to pinkish or even reddish hues under optimal lighting conditions.
    • It requires moderate to high lighting and CO2 supplementation to thrive and show its best colors.
    • Pogostemon stellatus can be more demanding in terms of care and maintenance, needing specific water parameters and nutrient levels to prevent leaf shedding and promote healthy growth.
    • Its growth pattern is upright, and it can become quite tall, making it suitable for background placement in aquariums.
  • Pogostemon stellatus ‘Octopus’:
    • This variant is characterized by its long, slender, and more numerous leaves that resemble octopus tentacles, hence the name ‘Octopus’.
    • It is considered less demanding than the standard Pogostemon stellatus, making it a popular choice for a wider range of aquarium enthusiasts.
    • Pogostemon stellatus ‘Octopus’ is adaptable to a variety of water conditions and can grow well even under medium lighting without CO2 supplementation, although it benefits from these for optimal growth.
    • Its growth habit is more sprawling, and it can easily be trimmed and propagated. It’s often used as a background or midground plant, depending on the tank size and design.

Both plants are used in aquascaping for their aesthetic appeal and ability to add depth and texture to an aquarium layout. The choice between them typically depends on the aquarist’s experience level, tank conditions, and the specific look they are trying to achieve in their aquatic garden.

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