How to Care for Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri)?

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The Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri) is one of the most popular aquarium plants. It’s easy to keep and look after, and it grows very quickly. It can grow up to 31 inches high, which makes it a good choice even for very tall aquariums. Besides its trademark vivid red leaves, this plant can also grow beautiful white, blue, or red flowers.

It’s not surprising that most aquarium hobbyists are drawn to this beautiful plant. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably also part of the fan club! If you’re looking for more information on how to plant, grow, and maintain a Tiger Lotus, look no further! I’ll cover everything you need to know in this post.

How To Plant Tiger Lotus?

So, you’re thinking about planting some Tiger Lotus in your aquarium. But how should you go about it? The easiest way would be planting an already rooted plant. It’s a straightforward process, similar to moving a plant to another pot. But it’s very uncommon to get an already grown Tiger Lotus plant.

When buying from specialized stores, you’re almost definitely going to receive some plant bulbs, not the grown plant. This is the most common method, although it can be challenging to get it right. So, we’re going to focus on how to plant lotus bulbs. There are a few steps you should take to ensure that everything goes well.

– Select the bulbs carefully

Know that not all the bulbs you bought are guaranteed to be viable. To increase your odds of success, you have to only select the healthiest-looking bulbs. Discard any bulbs that are too small, dried out, withered, mushy, moldy, or smell bad.

– Avoid floating bulbs

Once you’ve selected some healthy bulbs, you have to do a little test. Place the bulbs in a small water container. If your bulbs don’t sink into the water, they’re not ready to be planted yet. Planting a floating bulb will most likely lead to the rotting and death of the plant. You can select the sinking bulbs for planting right away.

– Sprout the bulbs before planting

Planting the bulbs before they start sprouting roots can also lead to rotting. The plants need time to grow roots and prolonged water exposure before that can be damaging. Once you’ve found some sinking bulbs, you’ll have to sprout the roots before introducing the bulbs into the tank.

Take the bulbs and submerge just the bottom part in a little bit of water. It should take a few days to see the roots growing.

– Plant the bulbs without completely burying them

After all your healthy bulbs have sprouted roots, they’re ready for the big move, the planting step. This is the last and easiest thing you have to do. Just submerge 1/3 of each sprouted bulb into the gravel. Leave the rest exposed so the plant can grow freely.

Covering the entire bulb in the substrate might kill the plant. The roots will grow quickly once in the soil. In a few days, the bulbs should be very well anchored.

– Choose the right spot for the plants

I should also note that the position of the plant matters a lot. Tiger Lotus plants have large leaves and they grow very quickly. It’s best to plant the bulbs closer towards the back and corners of the aquarium. That way, they’ll be easier to manage and they won’t prevent you from seeing what’s going on in the aquarium.

Does Tiger Lotus Need CO2?

Tiger Lotus is a sturdy plant. It can grow and thrive in most conditions. It doesn’t require that much special care. Extra CO2 dosing isn’t necessary, but it can be beneficial. If you’ve already grown other aquarium plants, you know that CO2 is very important.

CO2 is indispensable for aquatic plants due to its role in plant respiration and growth. Without it, plants can’t photosynthesize light into energy to fuel their growth. Luckily, there’s some natural CO2 in the aquarium water. It’s produced by bacteria in the soil, and also by other living organisms such as fish and shrimp if you keep any in the tank.

Unlike other aquatic plant species, the Tiger Lotus can get all its required CO2 from the water. A lack of supplemental CO2 won’t lead to any damage, but you might notice slower growth. If you want to grow your Tiger Lotus faster, some extra CO2 will help. Extra CO2 might also be a good idea if you already keep multiple plant species in the same planted aquarium.

The Tiger Lotus might start “competing” with the other plants in the aquarium for energy resources. Injections with small amounts of CO2 should lead to a boost in plant growth for both the Tiger Lotus and other plants in the aquarium. However, if you keep shrimp in the planted tank, know that spikes in CO2 can be dangerous for them.

Does Tiger Lotus Need Fertilizer?

In essence, any nutrient-rich aquarium substrate will be enough to keep this plant healthy. Fertilizer isn’t necessary for Tiger Lotus to grow. But it can help the plant thrive. Adding some extra fertilizer can enhance the growth speed of Tiger Lotus. This is especially important when you first plant the bulbs. Fertilizer can also help the plant develop larger, shinier leaves and deeper red color.

Fertilizer is also a good idea if you have other plants in the tank, too. The Tiger Lotus doesn’t have higher nutrient requirements per se when compared to other plants. But it tends to grow very quickly. Its roots also spread around under the substrate and they can cover the entire floor area of the tank.

Because of its rapid growth, Tiger Lotus tends to “take over” the other plants in the aquarium, sucking all the nutrients in the soil. This plant is particularly hungry for iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. You might want to add some fertilizer just to prevent your other plants from starving because the lotus plant might take it all for itself.

How Much Light Does Tiger Lotus Need?

Tiger Lotus can manage almost anything you throw at it. It can survive in most climates. Its light requirements are also quite flexible. This plant needs medium to high light exposure to thrive. The stronger the lights, the quicker and higher the Tiger Lotus will grow.

If you want the lotus to grow tall and reach the surface, you’ll need some strong lighting. But if you want better control over the growth, medium lights work better. They still provide enough energy for photosynthesis, but not so much that the plant grows out of control.

Medium strength lights are also a better choice because they won’t damage the lily pads. Although strong lights will improve the growth and blooming of the lotus, they can also dry out or burn lily pads that are directly exposed to it.

This will result in dark streaks on the leaves. The Tiger Lotus can also survive in lower-light conditions. Dim lights should provide enough for the plant to stay healthy. It will slow down growth and the plant might not reach the surface though.

How To Propagate Tiger Lotus?

When at least one bulb has successfully grown into a Tiger Lotus plant, you won’t have to worry about propagating the plant. If you provide your lotus with all the CO2, nutrients, and light it needs, you’ll have more than enough foliage in your tank. If you intend to plant another Tiger Lotus in a different tank, there are two ways you can do this.

– Propagation through seeds

When your lotus plant grows enough to reach the water surface, it will start producing flowers. When the flowers wither, the fruit leaves behind seeds that help the plant propagate. If these seeds reach the substrate, they’ll develop roots to anchor themselves into the substrate. Then, a new bulb starts growing. With time, you’ll get a new Tiger Lotus plant.

– Propagation through bulbs

As the main plant grows and spreads its roots throughout the substrate, new bulbs start to develop in other locations in the tank. These bulbs can then grow into new plants. You can detach them from the main plant and move them to another aquarium.

How To Prune Tiger Lotus?

If left unchecked, the lotus will eventually grow out of control. If the leaves and off-shoots spread everywhere, the lotus will consume more nutrients, starving other plants in the aquarium. Additionally, if there are too many lily pads covering the water surface, other plants in the aquarium won’t get enough light to survive.

You want to take measures before it happens. Pruning is the quickest and easiest way to control and confine your Tiger Lotus. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. You can trim the stems in any location. Cutting off the stem at the base, closest to the bulb will give you more time before the plant grows again.

Clipping the lily pads closer to the leaves will allow the plant to spread wider, rather than growing too tall. You can also change the lighting and nitrogen content of the soil. Less lighting and less nitrogen-rich fertilizers will keep the lotus from growing so quickly.

How Fast Does Tiger Lotus Grow?

How fast a Tiger Lotus grows depends on its aquarium conditions. Are you using CO2 injections? Are you using fertilizers? Is the plant getting medium to high light exposure? If all these factors are met, you can expect the plant to grow extremely quickly.

In the wild, the Tiger Lotus can spread so fast that it’s considered an invasive species. Imagine any type of weeds you know. Now assume the Tiger Lotus will grow twice as quickly and you have the Red Tiger Lotus in a nutshell. That’s about how fast it grows. Some people report extreme growth in just half a month.

You can expect the plant to grow leaves larger than your palm in a few weeks. And we’re talking about two to three weeks from bulb to fully-grown plant here. Even a few inches’ worth of growth in a day is quite realistic if you provide the plant with everything it needs to thrive.

How To Get Tiger Lotus to Flower?

If you have a newly planted lotus, you might just have to wait for enough for the plant to mature. It takes some time for young plants to flower. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to encourage the lotus to produce flowers.

  • Stop pruning the leaves closest to the surface. The lotus plant needs to grow tall enough to form lily pads on the water surface. This is where the flowers develop. Letting the leaves float on top of the water is the first thing you have to do to encourage blooming.
  • Check the water filtration and flow. This is a bit tricky. You’ll have to meet the filtration requirements in the tank while turning down the flow. Sometimes, the filter current is too strong, and it will prevent the leaves and flower buds from staying afloat.
  • Provide enough CO2 and nutrients for the plant. Fertilizer provides extra minerals and nitrogen that plants need to grow. It encourages faster growth. More CO2 can also be beneficial because it helps the plant photosynthesize the energy it needs.
  • Crank up the lights. Strong lights will encourage the plant to grow taller and reach the water surface. It also encourages blooming. But make sure that the lights aren’t too powerful or too close to the leaves and flower buds. The heat might end up burning and destroying the buds.

What Is the Best Tank Size to Grow Tiger Lotus?

Tiger Lotus can grow in any tank size, including nano tanks. However, it’s best to plant it only in aquariums 10 gallons and up. While you can keep a Tiger Lotus plant in a smaller aquarium, maintenance becomes a problem very early on.

Remember, the Red Tiger Lotus grows very quickly. Its roots also spread everywhere in the substrate. If you don’t want to contain its roots or prune the main plant every few days, a small tank isn’t a good idea. Larger tanks give you more leeway when it comes to maintenance.

You’ll have to prune the plant less often. You’ll also be left with enough space for other plants. Larger tanks are also easier to equip with lights, filters, water pumps, and all other necessary equipment. If you plan to keep fish in the aquarium, it’s a win-win!

Why Is My Tiger Lotus Not Growing?

Plants need energy to grow. They generate this energy thanks to a process called photosynthesis. Through this process, they turn water, carbon dioxide, and light into simple sugars and oxygen. Plants also take up nutrients from the soil to incorporate into their cells. Nutrients play an important role in the size, health, and color of plants.

If you find that your Tiger Lotus is stalling, it’s probably because the plant doesn’t have what it needs to fuel its growth. There could be only one main issue or a combination of multiple issues. To help your Tiger Lotus, you might want to check some of the following factors:

  • Insufficient or weak lighting. If you have dim aquarium lights or a tall aquarium, maybe the light isn’t traveling far enough to reach the lotus. If possible, crank up the lights and wait a few days to see if it makes any difference.
  • Depleted substrate. Soil depletion will be a problem if you’re relying on the substrate alone to offer all the nutrients for your plants. If you have multiple plants in the aquarium, perhaps all the nutrients in the soil are already gone. Replacing the substrate can help, but that would mean uprooting all your plants. For an easier alternative, try adding some fertilizers to the tank.
  • Poor quality or old fertilizer. If you’re already using fertilizers, you might want to check the labels. Maybe your fertilizer has a lower nitrogen content than other brands. Improper storage can also lead to nitrogen loss when the fertilizer is exposed to air. The quantity of other minerals in the fertilizer is also important. Try switching fertilizers to see if it helps. Root tabs are another great option for highly concentrated fertilizers. They’re also easy to use and store.
  • Not enough CO2. There might not be enough CO2 in the water. If you haven’t added any supplemental CO2 to the tank before, now’s the right time to try. You can try using tablets, liquid CO2, and even an injection system.

Why Is My Tiger Lotus Melting?

If you notice that some leaves are melting, don’t freak out yet! This is quite common under certain conditions. As long as you keep trimming the unhealthy leaves, the plant should be alright. To prevent this issue, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

Tiger Lotus leaves tend to melt when the plant is disturbed. If you’re replacing or cleaning the substrate too often, you might want to scale it back a little. Strong water currents and filters can also cause issues.

Leaves get damaged when lights are too strong. Taller leaves are closer to the lights. If the leaves get too hot, they start developing burns. Combine that with the constant water exposure, and the leaves don’t stand a chance!

Sudden changes in water parameters are another potential source of damage. Fluctuations in water temperature, pH, or hardness can stop the plant from growing and feeding. Sometimes, this leads to melting leaves.

When nutrients get depleted, the plant can’t sustain its leaves. If there isn’t enough nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium, the plant will start melting. In scarcity conditions, the plant is doing its best to conserve all the remaining energy to keep the bulb alive.

Bulbs can also start melting if not planted properly. You shouldn’t push the lotus bulb too deep down. Just 1/3 of the bulb should be submerged, enough to get the roots covered. Don’t cover the bulb’s tip.


A Tiger Lotus doesn’t have many different requirements compared to other aquarium plants. In fact, this plant is very adaptable to most conditions. It doesn’t usually need extra nutrition and it can grow in any type of tank. It also grows very quickly, so it’s very easy to propagate.

Just remember that this plant is very nutrient-hungry. Normally, the nutrients in the soil should suffice. But if you have other plants in the tank, you might have to supplement extra CO2, nitrogen, and minerals to account for the Tiger Lotus. Otherwise, the other plants in the tank might end up starving.

You’ll have to trim the leaves and lily pads often. Letting them get out of control will cause problems for other plants in the tank. Luckily, you can manipulate the growth of Tiger Lotus through different means. Altering the lighting, supplementation frequency, and pruning are some of the most common ways.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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