The genus Cyperus (papyrus sedges) comprises about 900 species, among them the African papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) and the well-known houseplant C. alternifolius. However, there are only a few Cyperus species that can truly grow submersed, among them Cyperus helferi. This aquatic plant is found submersed as well as emersed in Thailand, in stagnant and slow-flowing waters.
This Cyperus species is not very difficult in cultivation, given that it survives it rather long adaptation period. It grows best under lots of light (0.5 - 1 watt per litre). There is no need to fertilise with CO2, however, if CO2 is added it enhances growth significantly. This plant likes its water on the cooler side, thus a temperature of 26 °C should not be exceeded for optimal growth. A good supply of nitrate, phosphate, potassium and micronutrients enhance growth and further a healthy look.
C. helferi forms long leaves that float gracefully in the current. Even though it is a rosulate plant it only forms a tiny root system. A healthy plant keeps forming offshoots on its rosulate basis, which can be cut off with a sharp pair of scissors for propagation and then re-planted.
The emersed form of C. helferi is easier to propagate, as it forms long thin stems with inflorescense where young plants develop. From time to time, these flower stems also form on submersed plants.
This elegant solitary plant, whose tufts often comprise up to 50 leaves, is a great focal point in the middle- or background of a tank. Takashi Amano has made it popular as he uses them in his nature aquaria, where it underlines the beauty of minimalistic, tranquil layouts.
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