Alternanthera Reineckii Care Guide: Tips for Growing and Maintaining this Vibrant Aquatic Plant

Alternanthera reineckii is a very appealing long-stalked plant with the leaves which color varies from rose-red to dark-violet. Its shoots trailing along the water surface can be quite long. The plant looks great as part of various aquascapes and as a rule it is used as a focusing point. In its habitat Alternanthera reineckii and its dwarf form called ‘mini’ grow as a paludal plants, but under the conditions of mild climate they are grown only in tanks.

Habitat in the wild

Alternanthera is a plant from amaranth family. Its name comes from Latin ‘alternans’ which means “changeable”. This kind numbers about 170 species of annual and plurannual herbaceous and suffruticous plants.

They come form tropical and subtropical areas of Africa as well as from Galapagos Islands, Asia, Australia. Many kinds of the plant are cultivated by gardeners in their backyards, some are used as aquatic plants in ponds.

Alternanthera reineckii comes from South Brazil and Paraguay, where it grows as a paludal plant which is well adapted to a long-term living over water. This kind is the most enduring one and it is easily cultivated under water.

For many years A. reineckii has been a perfect decoration used in natural tanks. In the wild this plant belongs to the species which dwell in flooded areas for a long time. These can be flooded fields covered with trailing stems having their top above the water.

Scientific NameAlternanthera reineckii
Common NamesRed Alternanthera
Scarlet Temple
Purple Temple
AR (abbreviation for Alternanthera reineckii)
OriginSouth America
PlacementMid ground or background Plant
Maximum Sizeup to 12 Inches
Care LevelModerate
Growth RateModerate to Fast
PropagationCut the stem and replant
Feed TypeLeaves
CO2 RequirementYes
Temperature Range72-82 °F
pH Range6.5 – 7.5


The plant has oval-shaped stalkless leaves which are decussate (each next pair of leaves is perpendicular to the previous one). The leaves are 2.5-3.5 cm long and 0.5-1.5 cm wide. Their upper side is green and the down side is pink or red. In summer small stalkless green-yellow or pinkish flowers appear in the leaf sinuses.

The plant has fibrous root system which grows prolifically. The roots are thin and long, they have filamentary structure.

Under water the plant stem grows vertically and if a tank isn’t deep, the plant quickly gets out of the water. These emergent shoots are used to adapt the plant for growing on the ground. If you put them under water again, they will shed their leaves.

Alternanthera reineckii vs Alternanthera reineckii Mini

This plant also has a dwarf form called Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’, which has brown tinted color and grows not more than 10 cm high. When describing this plant we should mention its unusual phylotaxy. The distance between the leaves is very small, which makes them look fluffy.

A lot of off-shoots grow from parent plant, that’s why gradually expanding Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’ forms a large carpet. The shoots grow slowly and they need 2 months to develop.

The main difference between ar mini plant and Alternanthera reineckii lies in their size and growth patterns. Here’s a comparison between the two:

Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’:

  • Size: ‘Mini’ refers to its smaller and more compact size compared to regular Alternanthera reineckii.
  • Growth: It has a slower growth rate and forms dense, low-growing clusters.
  • Height: Typically grows to a height of 5-10 cm (2-4 inches).
  • Leaf Coloration: The leaves exhibit vibrant red or pink coloration, adding a striking visual appeal to the aquarium.
  • Placement: It is often used as a foreground or midground plant due to its smaller size.

Alternanthera reineckii (Regular):

  • Size: Regular Alternanthera reineckii is larger and more elongated compared to the ‘Mini’ variant.
  • Growth: It has a faster growth rate and tends to grow more upright.
  • Height: Can grow up to 30- cm (12 inches) in height.
  • Leaf Coloration: The leaves display a range of colors, including red, pink, orange, and green, depending on the lighting conditions and nutrient availability.
  • Placement: It can be used as a background plant or as a centerpiece in the aquarium due to its taller growth.

Alternanthera reineckii ‘Rosanervig’ vs Alternanthera reineckii

Alternanthera reineckii Rosanervig and Alternanthera reineckii are two distinct variants of the same plant species, but they differ in their leaf coloration and appearance. Here’s a comparison between the two:

Alternanthera reineckii:

  • Leaf Coloration: The leaves of Alternanthera reineckii are typically vibrant shades of red, pink, orange, or green, depending on the lighting conditions and nutrient availability. The coloration can vary from plant to plant and throughout different growth stages.

Alternanthera reineckii ‘Rosanervig’:

  • Leaf Coloration: The leaves of Alternanthera reineckii Rosanervig have a distinct pattern. The upper side of the leaves is typically green, while the lower side has an intense pink to red coloration. This creates a striking contrast and gives the plant a unique appearance.
  • Leaf Veins: One prominent characteristic of Alternanthera reineckii Rosanervig is the visible vein network on the leaves. The veins are often light in color, adding to the overall visual appeal of the plant.
  • Growth Habit: Alternanthera reineckii Rosanervig has a similar growth habit to regular Alternanthera reineckii. It can grow tall, reaching heights of up to 5 – 25 cm (2-10 inches) depending on the tank conditions.

In summary, while Alternanthera reineckii exhibits a variety of leaf colors, Alternanthera reineckii Rosanervig is specifically known for its distinctive leaf pattern and coloration, with green upper sides and intense pink to red lower sides. Both variants can be visually striking additions to an aquarium, providing vibrant colors and adding interest to the aquascape.

Care and propagation in a tank

In a tank Alternanthera reineckii is planted in the middle distance or around the sides of the tank. It should not be put very thickly, since the plant is rather fragile.

Under water the plant stems grow perpendicularly and quickly reach the water surface; in small tanks (up to 10 inches high) the plant grows above the water and develops its leaves there.

In this case leaves that are under water are no longer needed and the plant sheds them. That’s why the top of the stem should be timely cut off, when it reaches the water surface.

This will allow not only to preserve the underwater leaves, but also this will make the stem branchy and it will form bushes that change their coloring depending on the environmental conditions. Alternanthera reineckii growth rate is quite high in a tank, about 10-15 cm in a month.

It’s better to keep this plant in a tropical tank provided with tank water temperature about 24-28 °C. It will stand temperature decrease up to 20 °C, but at that its growth rate will slow down. Water hardness and its violent reaction don’t play any sufficient part in this case, though it’s desirable to keep Alternanthera reineckii in water with pH value close to 7. The plant requires constant water renew. It grows slower in old water.

Alternanthera reineckii needs very bright tank light. This is the factor that influences the leaves color and the plant appearance in general. Natural light, especially direct sunlight is very good for this plant. Provide moderate to high-intensity lighting in the range of 3 to 5 watts per gallon (0.8 to 1.3 watts per liter) or higher. This ensures that the plant receives sufficient light energy for photosynthesis and encourages compact growth.

It’s important to note that insufficient light can result in elongated growth, reduced color intensity, and decreased overall health of Alternanthera reineckii. However, excessive light without proper CO2 supplementation and nutrient balance can lead to algae issues.

Keep in mind that filament bulbs may burn the shoots that grow above the tank water. Light day for this plant should last not less than 8 hours. Presence of silt on the tank substrate doesn’t affect Alternanthera reineckii much. The plant develops rather small root system near the stem base and it has lots of additional roots in its leaf sinuses.

Alternanthera reineckii gets nutritional substances mostly right from the tank water. Type of the tank substrate doesn’t make any significant difference to it, but its root system develops a bit better in large grained sand.

Thickness of the substrate layer in a tank may vary, even 2 cm thick layer of sand can be enough for the plant to grow successfully.

Mineral feed is very helpful when the plant grows fast. During this time it should get enough nitrogenous matter and mineral nutrients. It is crucial to add iron and potassium into the tank water.

In simulated conditions Alternanthera reineckii demonstrates successful vegetative reproduction by cutting. You can divide its stem into pieces, each of which should have 4-5 leaf whorls. If you leave such sprigs to float on the water surface, they will soon develop roots and then you can plant them into the substrate.

However, you don’t have to do this right away, since the plant can grow as a floating one for some period of time.

Does Alternanthera reineckii need CO2?

Alternanthera reineckii can benefit from the addition of CO2 in the aquarium, especially if you want to achieve optimal growth and vibrant coloration. While it is possible to grow Alternanthera reineckii without injecting CO2, providing a consistent supply of carbon dioxide can enhance its growth rate and color development.

CO2 supplementation helps promote healthy and robust growth in Alternanthera reineckii by providing the necessary carbon for photosynthesis. It can aid in the production of energy and nutrients needed for the plant’s metabolic processes, resulting in faster and more vigorous growth. Additionally, CO2 availability can enhance the red or pink coloration of the leaves, making the plant even more visually appealing.

However, it is important to note that Alternanthera reineckii can still grow and thrive in low-tech setups without CO2 injection. In such cases, it’s recommended to ensure proper lighting, nutrient-rich substrate or fertilizers, and adequate water parameters to support the plant’s growth.

Ultimately, the decision to add CO2 to your aquarium depends on your setup, goals, and willingness to invest in additional equipment and maintenance.

Is Alternanthera reineckii easy plant?

No. Alternanthera reineckii is considered moderately difficult to grow in aquariums. While it is not the most challenging plant, it requires specific care to thrive and achieve optimal growth. Here are some factors to consider when determining the ease of growing Alternanthera:

  1. Lighting: Alternanthera reineckii requires moderate to high lighting levels. Providing sufficient light intensity and duration is essential for photosynthesis and maintaining healthy growth.
  2. CO2: While CO2 supplementation is not mandatory, it can significantly benefit Alternanthera reineckii’s growth and coloration. Adding a CO2 system can enhance its development, but it is possible to grow it without CO2 in low-tech setups.
  3. Nutrients: Adequate nutrient availability is crucial for Alternanthera. Ensure that your aquarium substrate or fertilizers provide essential macro and micronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and trace elements.
  4. Water Parameters: Maintaining stable and suitable water parameters is important. Alternanthera reineckii prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.0) and moderately soft to moderately hard water.

While Alternanthera requires attention to specific care requirements, it can be successfully grown by aquarists with some experience and willingness to provide the necessary conditions. With proper lighting, nutrient supplementation, and attention to water parameters, you can enjoy the vibrant and beautiful foliage of alternanthera in your aquarium.

Is alternanthera reineckii fast growing?

Alternanthera is generally considered a moderately fast-growing plant. Its growth rate can vary depending on the specific conditions provided in the aquarium, such as lighting, CO2 supplementation, nutrient availability, and water parameters.

Where do you put Alternanthera Reineckii?

Alternanthera can be placed in various locations within an aquarium, depending on the desired effect and aquascape design. Here are some common placement options:

  • Background: Alternanthera reineckii can be placed in the background of the aquarium. This allows it to grow tall and create a vibrant backdrop for the rest of the tank. Trim the stems regularly to encourage bushier growth and prevent them from overshadowing other plants or blocking the view.
  • Midground: Alternanthera reineckii can also be placed in the midground area of the aquarium. This allows it to be visible without dominating the entire tank. Plant it slightly towards the back of the midground area to maintain balance and create a focal point.
  • Foreground: Although Alternanthera reineckii is not typically considered a foreground plant due to its taller growth, the dwarf variant, Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini,’ can be used in the foreground. Its compact size and low-growing nature make it suitable for creating a colorful carpet or adding depth to the front portion of the aquarium.
  • Hardscape Accent: Another placement option is to use Alternanthera as a hardscape accent. Plant it strategically around rocks, driftwood, or other hardscape elements to create a visually appealing composition and highlight specific features in the aquarium.

How to plant Alternanthera reineckii?

To plant Alternanthera reineckii in your aquarium, follow these steps:

  1. Trim and prepare the plants: Trim any damaged or excessive growth from the stems of Alternanthera reineckii. Remove any lower leaves that may be submerged in the substrate to prevent rotting.
  2. Planting technique: Create small holes in the substrate using your fingers or tweezers. Space the holes based on the desired spacing between each plant. Make sure the holes are deep enough to accommodate the roots of the plant.
  3. Insert the plants: Take each trimmed stem of Alternanthera reineckii and gently insert it into the prepared holes, ensuring that the roots are placed securely into the substrate. Plant multiple stems together to create clusters or a dense grouping, if desired.
  4. Cover the roots: Once the stems are in place, carefully push the substrate around the roots, ensuring they are covered and held securely. Avoid burying the stem itself too deeply, as this can lead to rotting.
  5. Adjust placement: After planting, adjust the positioning of the plants if needed. Ensure they are upright and spaced according to your desired arrangement. You can gently lift and reposition the stems as necessary.
  6. Regular Maintenance: Monitor the growth of Alternanthera reineckii and trim any excessive growth to maintain the desired shape and prevent shading of other plants. Routine maintenance such as fertilizing and water changes will also contribute to its overall health and growth.

How to propagate Alternanthera reineckii

Propagation of Alternanthera reineckii can be done through various methods, including stem cuttings and side shoots. Here are the steps for each propagation method:

  1. Stem Cuttings:
    • Identify a healthy and well-established Alternanthera plant.
    • Using clean and sharp scissors or pruning shears, cut a stem from the parent plant just below a node (the point where leaves emerge).
    • Remove the lower leaves, leaving a few at the top.
    • Plant the stem cutting in the substrate by creating a small hole and gently inserting the cutting, ensuring that at least one node is covered by the substrate.
    • Provide optimal growing conditions, including moderate to high lighting, sufficient nutrients, and stable water parameters.
    • Monitor the cutting for root development, and once roots have formed, it will start growing new leaves.
  2. Side Shoots:
    • Identify a healthy Alternanthera plant with side shoots (new growth emerging from the leaf axils or nodes along the stem).
    • Gently uproot the plant and separate the side shoots from the parent plant, being careful not to damage the roots.
    • Plant the separated side shoots in the substrate, making sure the roots are covered.
    • Provide suitable growing conditions, including appropriate lighting, nutrient supplementation, and stable water parameters.
    • Monitor the separated side shoots for growth and ensure they receive proper care.


Alternanthera reineckii is a captivating and visually stunning aquatic plant that will add a vibrant touch to your aquarium. Its colorful leaves, fast growth, and versatility in aquascaping make it a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. With the right care and conditions, you can enjoy the beauty and dynamic presence of Alternanthera reineckii in your own aquatic paradise. Explore our website for more information on caring for this remarkable plant and discover how it can transform your aquarium into a breathtaking underwater masterpiece.