Utricularia Graminifolia (Grassleaf Bladderwort): Ultimate Care Guide

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Utricularia Graminifolia, also known as Grassleaf Bladderwort is a carnivorous plant prized for its thick, grass-like foliage and intense green coloration. Often used as a foreground plant, it can grow to cover large areas of substrate. Difficult to care for, it needs soft water that is slightly acidic for best results.

Although carnivorous, Utricularia Graminifolia is safe in most aquariums as it can only consume very small organisms such as baby shrimp. Fish and most fry are too large to be harmed by this plant. In most aquarium environments it doesn’t need feeding with live food is it can extract all the nutrients it needs from even nutrient poor substrates and liquid fertilizers.

Utricularia Graminifolia benefits from Co2 injection, especially during the early stages of growth. Co2 injection is usually necessary for hobbyists who want this plant to carpet large areas of substrate and are not dry starting.

Utricularia Graminifolia Care

Utricularia Graminifolia can be either rooted in substrate or anchored to hardscape where it will grow like an epiphyte. This species has runners instead of roots and will tolerate nutrient poor environments. As it doesn’t rely on a root system for the majority of its nutrition, it can take a while before it is well anchored. Be prepared to help this species stay put with ties, superglue and sometimes steel mesh until it becomes established in your tank.

When planting in substrate, break into small chunks and cover in substrate with only the tips of the plants poking above. When covering large areas you may need to anchor it by covering with stainless steel mesh. As the plant grows it will cover the mesh and form a thick carpet in your tank. Unlike many aquarium plants, Utricularia Graminifolia does not need an intact root system to be planted and can grow from a single blade of foliage.

You also have the choice of growing this plant on hardscape. Attach clumps with ties to the intended locations and prepare to wait. This plant will take a while to fully anchor itself to hardscape features.

Utricularia Graminifolia is sensitive to water parameters and can actually grow slower in nutrient rich substrates such as fresh ADA Aqua Soil. Ensure that you are using soft water. Ideally reverse osmosis (RO) filtered with a low KH value.

This species will need some nutrients but not much. Apply liquid fertilizer sparingly. Be aware of the nutrient density of your substrate material. This species is tolerant of low nutrient substrates and can even grow in sand.

To ensure Utricularia Graminifolia establishes itself well in your tank consider Co2 injection and bright lighting. Co2 isn’t required with this species but can really help in the initial growth phase in a new tank. Bright lighting is needed when you want large mats of dense growth and light green coloration. In low light conditions this species will grow sparsely and a darker shade of green.

Utricularia Graminifolia (Grassleaf Bladderwort)
Utricularia Graminifolia (Grassleaf Bladderwort). Edited. KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0

How to Grow a Utricularia Graminifolia Carpet

When growing a carpet of Utricularia Graminifolia, separate clumps into individual leaves and bury in substrate with  only the top parts of the leaves poking above. Also consider anchoring with stainless steel mesh. As the plant grows it will grow through and cover the mesh.

To grow in a thick carpet this plant will likely need Co2 injection and bright lighting. As this plant is sensitive to water hardness, ensure you are using soft water. RO filtered water is best.

Lighting Requirement

Utricularia Graminifolia will grow in low or high light but high light is preferred for thick growth and bright green color. Lower light will cause this plant to grow a darker shade of green and with sparse foliage. If you are wanting the thick, bright green carpet of “grass” this plant is known for, ensure bright lighting.


Utricularia Graminifolia doesn’t need a specific temperature to grow. The best range is between 65° – 77° F.

Water pH

Utricularia Graminifolia prefers more acidic water around 6.5 pH. Verify your substrate choice will not make your water too alkaline. A substrate like crushed coral will be unsuitable for this species as it can make water more alkaline and harder.

Growth Rate

Utricularia Graminifolia grows at a moderate rate given ideal conditions. For best results insure bright lighting, soft water, some fertilizer–but not too much–and consider Co2 injection. This species can be hardy if lighting and water parameters are correct. In fact, it can grow floating on top of tank water in clumps.

You will likely want to trim this plant and you’ll need curved scissors to do this easily. Make sure not to trim too close to the base of the plant as this can trigger a melt.

Growth Height

Utricularia Graminifolia can grow up to 8 inches. In practice, this plant is often trimmed shorter. Most hobbyists are looking to achieve a thick carpeted look with this plant so it rarely is seen growing to its full height in aquariums. If trimmed correctly it serves well was a foreground plant that will cover substrate with dense, bright green growth.

Can you grow Utricularia Graminifolia with no Aquarium CO2 injection?

Utricularia Graminifolia can  grow with no CO2 injection but will progress slowly. Bright lighting and Co2 injection are often employed after planting to allow this species to quickly establish itself in a tank. Seeing pictures on the internet of crystal clear water and thick, bright green mats of Utricularia Graminifolia? You will likely need both bright lighting and Co2 injection to achieve this yourself.

Utricularia Graminifolia Propagation

Utricularia Graminifolia can be very easy to propagate. Simply plant cuttings–no “roots” required–deeply into substrate with only the tips poking above. Although not a true epiphyte, this species can tolerate very low nutrient soils. It can even grow on hardscape materials or floating in clumps ar the top of tank water.

One reason Utricularia Graminifolia is easy to propagate is that is doesn’t really have roots. Under substrate it sends out runners but these are not true roots.

Can you grow Utricularia Graminifolia emersed?

Utricularia Graminifolia can grow emersed. When growing above water it will bloom with light purple or violet flowers. This species’ ability to grow emersed opens up the possibility of “dry” start. This is where it’s planted in a new aquarium with moist–but not water logged–soil, and frequent misting with lightly fertilized water. Allowing it to grow like this for a few weeks will let it become better attached to substrate or hardscape before flooding the tank with water.

Dry starts should not be taken too far with this plant. After too much time in open air it may be a shock to suddenly submerse them. Shocking this plant with sudden changes can cause melts.

Do Utricularia Graminifolia flower?

When growing emersed, Utricularia Graminifolia will bloom with light purple or violet flowers. In an aquarium this is extremely rare and white flowers are produced, if it happens at all.

Is Utricularia Graminifolia Carnivorous?

Utricularia Graminifolia is a carnivorous plant, consuming very small organisms in its bladders. It is safe for most aquarium inhabitants and their fry as these are too large to be at risk. An exception is baby shrimp which are small enough to become trapped in this plant’s bladders.

What do Utricularia Graminifolia eat?

A carniverous plant, Utricularia Graminifolia can eat very small organisms like baby shrimp, copepods, nematodes, etc. Larger aquarium fish and their fry are too big for this plant to capture and are safe as tank mates.

It is not necessary to feed this species as it can extract the nutrients it needs from lightly fertilized tank water. Some hobbyists claim they are more likely to flower when fed live foods but this is anecdotal.

Is Utricularia Graminifolia safe for shrimp?

Utricularia Graminifolia is safe for larger shrimp but will consume baby shrimp if they are small enough. This species is not recommended for aquariums containing shrimp populations.

Can you grow Utricularia Graminifolia in sand?

Utricularia Graminifolia tolerates nutrient poor substrates and will grow well in sand. If using sand as a substrate it may be necessary to anchor your new plantings with a layer of stainless steel mesh. This can be obtained from aquarium suppliers that cater to aqusacape enthusiasts. A mesh layer on top of you plants will help keep the plants from being dislodged while they become fully anchored via runners.

Where can I find Utricularia Graminifolia for sale?

Utricularia Graminifolia can be bought from some aquarium stores and online. They will usually be available as tissue cultures. Potted versions of this plant can be purchased but they are seldom intended for aquarium use. If you are planning on growing this plant emersed the potted versions should be acceptable.

Tissue cultures are grown from cuttings in a sterile media. Their advantage is sterility. Most are guaranteed to be 100% free of parasites or other pests. If planning a heavily planted aquarium with many plant varieties, using tissue cultures can help protect your tank from unwanted “guests.”

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