Xyris Red (Xyris Smalliana) 101: Care, Propagation, Tank Setup

Xyris sp. Red in the aquarium.

A rare and beautiful aquatic plant, Xyris red (Xyris smalliana) has a striking red coloration that makes it highly desirable among aquatic plant enthusiasts. It belongs to the Xyris genus, and it is scarce in the aquarium hobby. Xyris Red is a prized and coveted plant that adds a unique and stunning visual appeal to aquatic environments.

It is a relatively new addition to the aquarium hobby, and its exact origin is unknown. Aquarium hobbyists first came across the plant in the early 2000s, and since then it has gained popularity for planted tanks.


Xyris sp. red in an aquarium
Carbon dioxide injection, even at lower saturation levels, greatly improves the success rate of growing Xyris smalliana.

The plant has a different appearance in the wild and in the aquarium. In the wild, it is a flowering grass that grows in wet and peaty soils on the coastal plains of the eastern and southern United States, as well as in Cuba, Central America, and Mexico. It has yellow flowers that emerge from the center of the rosette and green leaves that are narrow and pointed.

In the aquarium, it has no flowers, but its slender leaves turn a reddish-pink color, which makes it attractive and unique. It forms a fan shape with its leaves that sprout from a central rosette, and it can reach up to 10 cm in height. When viewed from the front, the plant appears flat and two-dimensional, resembling a peacock’s tail. However, when viewed from the side, it is so thin that it appears as a single line.

The root structure of Xyris red is similar to that of most Eriocaulons, with short, dense, fine, white hair-like roots that anchor the plant in place and feed on nutrients from the substrate.

Xyris Sp. Red Care

ParameterPreferred Range
Lighting:Strong lighting (100 umols of PAR and above)
pH Range:5.7-6.7
KH: 2 dKH
GH 6 dGH
Growth Rate:slow

Growing Xyris sp. Red is not that difficult, but it has some specific requirements. One of the most important factors is lighting. Xyris red needs bright light to show its best color and growth. It can grow under strong artificial lighting, but it will suffer in low-light conditions. It should also be planted in a position where light rays can hit the plant at an angle and not be shaded by other plants.

Another factor that affects Xyris red is water quality. It prefers soft water with a low hardness and a slightly acidic to neutral pH. It can tolerate slightly hard water, but it will not thrive in very hard or alkaline water. CO2 injection is not essential, but it can greatly improve the success rate of growing xyris red, especially if the light is strong. Even a low level of CO2 (10 ppm or more) can make a difference.

The substrate for Xyris red should be rich in nutrients, as the plant is a root feeder that absorbs most of its food from the soil. A soil or aquasoil-based substrate can accelerate the growth of Xyris red, which is normally very slow. However, it can also be grown using an inert substrate and a liquid fertilizer added to the water column. The key is to provide a stable and consistent environment for the plant and avoid sudden changes in parameters.


xyris red plantlets
Xyris red is a rare and scarce plant that commands a high price. A single stem can cost between $10 and $30.

To propagate Xyris red, detach the baby plants that grow at the base of the mother plant. Cut or twist off these plantlets with scissors or your hands, making sure they have their own root system and decent-sized leaves. You can wait for the baby plants to grow to an inch in height before detaching them if you are afraid that smaller-sized plants are too delicate to handle. Plant them in a rich substrate and give them enough light to grow well. Xyris red does not produce flowers or seeds in the aquarium, so this is the only propagation method.

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