Pogostemon helferi, commonly known as Downoi is a small, compact aquatic plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It is native to Thailand and is highly popular among aquarists for its unique and attractive appearance. Pogostemon Helferi is an unusual tank plant with very nice ornamented leaves. It is small sized and it has incredible green coloring. It quickly forms a very impressive green carpet in the foreground and in the middle of the tank.
Plant Habitat in the wild
Natural habitat of Pogostemon Helferi is in areas of Thailand, specifically the region of Kanchanaburi and sharing border with Myanmar, where locals call it «downoi», which word-for-word translation means little star. It is labeled with the same name ‘downoi’ in catalogs of importers from South-East Asia.
Like vast majority of tank plants Pogostemon Helferi isn’t a purely aquatic plant. In natural biotopes, during dry season you can often see the plant growing along shores of rivers and streams flowing over downland about 100 m above sea level. The plants transform to their submerged form only during wet season when rivers overflow.
Water temperature in its natural biotopes remains almost constant (about 20 °C) regardless of the season. In naturally impounded bodies Pogostemon Helferi can be encountered growing both under direct sunlight and in the shadows of shore vegetation.
In its natural habitat, Pogostemon helferi faces threats due to habitat loss and degradation. Its popularity in the aquarium trade has also resulted in increased harvesting from the wild. As a responsible aquarist, sourcing from reputable suppliers and considering sustainable alternatives like propagation can contribute to the conservation of this species.
Pogostemon helferi is a small, compact plant that forms attractive rosettes. The plant typically grows to a height of 3-5 centimeters (1-2 inches) under optimal conditions. The leaves of Pogostemon helferi are one of its most notable features. They are bright green, curly, and have serrated edges, which give them a unique and textured appearance. The serrations along the leaf edges create an interesting contrast and add visual interest to the plant.
The growth habit of Pogostemon helferi is dense and compact, making it ideal for creating carpet-like effects in aquariums. The plant sends out runners that produce new rosettes, allowing it to spread horizontally and create a lush carpet over time. This growth pattern makes Pogostemon helferi a popular choice for aquascaping, where it can be used as a foreground plant or as an accent to highlight other aquatic features.
|Scientific Name||Pogostemon helferi|
|Common Names||Downoi, The Downoi, Thai Pogostemon, pogo helferi|
|Native Habitat||Thailand, specifically Kanchanaburi|
|Growth Habit||Small rosettes with curly, bright green leaves|
|Leaf Appearance||Serrated edges, textured look|
|Size||3-5 centimeters (1-2 inches) in height|
|Lighting Needs||Moderate to high|
|Water Parameters||Soft to moderately hard water, pH 6.0-7.5|
|CO2 Requirement||Beneficial but not mandatory|
|Propagation||Division of rosettes, runners|
|Tank Compatibility||Compatible with most fish and invertebrates|
|Aquascaping Use||Foreground carpeting, accent plant|
|Sensitivity||Sensitive to sudden changes in water parameters|
|Conservation Status||Not evaluated|
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Difficulties in keeping
Pogostemon Helferi is rather demanding. That’s why when keeping the plant in a tank you should take into account some of its peculiarities. It is recommended to put the bush at a the most lighted place in the foreground of the tank and provide the plant with additional CO2 supply as well.
Pogostemon helferi exhibits a moderate growth rate. It spreads horizontally by sending out runners, which produce new rosettes. Over time, these rosettes form a dense carpet effect, creating an appealing and natural-looking aquascape.
Care and keeping in a tank
Ornamental properties of the plant highly depend on the tank conditions. Pogostemon helferi prefers growing in tanks with settled biological balance. Therefore, living in a recently run tank will be too challenging for it, which makes it almost impossible for the plant to survive there.
It is better to get Pogostemon Helferi as an adult plant with a strong root system (a healthy plant should have white colored roots) and not less than 3-5 cm high. Such plant will have higher chances to adapt in a new place. The plant doesn’t like replanting, so don’t do it too often. Any attempt to disturb its root system effects the plant development process.
Very often Pogostemon Helferi leaves change their color as they grow from bright green to yellowish brown. It is ok for this plant, since this coloring is peculiar to many adult species.
Pogostemon helferi thrives under moderate to high lighting conditions. Aim for a lighting intensity of around 2-3 watts per gallon or 0.5-1 watt per liter. This measurement provides a general guideline, but it’s important to consider the specific type and efficiency of your lighting system. Pogostemon helferi typically thrives with a photoperiod (the duration of light exposure) of 8-10 hours per day. It’s recommended to provide a consistent lighting schedule to mimic natural day and night cycles.
Keep in mind that lighting should be balanced with other crucial factors like CO2 supplementation, nutrient availability, and water parameters. A well-rounded approach to aquarium care ensures the overall health and growth of Pogostemon helferi.
To improve Pogostemon Helferi appearance you should provide it with intense illumination. In general, the plant can grow in the shadow of other plants or at less intense lighting, but in this case it becomes very elongated and looks ‘sickly’, its growth rate noticeably slows down and altogether these issues effect its appearance.
Pogostemon helferi benefits from a fine-grained substrate that allows its delicate roots to anchor and spread. Fine-grained substrates such as aquatic soil, fine sand, or specialized plant substrates provide a good base for the plant’s roots to establish themselves.
As for the substrate, it should be nutritious and silted, since the plant gets basic nutrients through its root system. Quite often naturally silted tank substrate can be not enough for the plant, which shows when its leaves become yellowish.
While Pogostemon helferi is not an epiphyte, it can still be used in aquascaping designs alongside epiphytic plants. For example, you may choose to attach epiphytic mosses or ferns to rocks or driftwood in your aquarium, while planting Pogostemon helferi in the substrate to create a visually appealing aquascape.
As for water hardness and acidity, this unique plant can grow within a very wide range of these values. However, when these parameters change, the plant takes it very severely.
It successfully grows in tropical tanks with warm water from +20 to + 30 °C, while 23-25 °C is optimal temperature range for it. Desirable pH level is 7, however the range of 6,0-7,5 is also acceptable.
As for carbonate hardness, the optimal value is 4°; range from 5 to 10° is acceptable. At that general water hardness can vary from 1 to 30°, but range from 8 to 15° will be the most preferable.
While not mandatory, providing carbon dioxide (CO2) supplementation enhances growth and coloration. This is a must to ensure that the plant develops properly. Without CO2 supply it will still grow, but its appearance and ornamental features will suffer.
Pogostemon helferi is a nutrient-demanding aquatic plant that benefits from a balanced supply of essential nutrients. Proper nutrient levels are crucial for its growth, coloration, and overall health. The plant requires macronutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), as well as micronutrients like iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), and trace elements. These nutrients play vital roles in various physiological processes, including photosynthesis, cell development, and enzymatic reactions.
Providing a nutrient-rich substrate, supplementing with liquid fertilizers or root tabs, and maintaining appropriate water parameters can ensure that Pogostemon helferi receives the necessary nutrients for vibrant growth and optimal development. Regular monitoring of nutrient levels and adjusting fertilization accordingly will help maintain a healthy and thriving Pogostemon helferi in the aquarium.
Pogostemon helferi propagation
Pogostemon Helferi propagates with its spurs, which you can carefully cut off and plant into the substrate. Some time later the sprig strikes roots and starts to grow. You should keep in mind, that when replanting a young plant into a new tank with water parameters that differ from those that the plant has got used to, its old leaves may become yellow and shed off, but new leaves will gradually appear then.
Provided with intense illumination the plant forms many spurs, though it is not a ground-covering one. However, its shoots strike roots near the parent plant and form new ones and this way they quickly form a very impressive carpet in the foreground.
The plant looks the same appealing on its own, when planted as separate bushes in the middle of the tank. Another important thing you should keep in mind is, that most of herbivorous fish species love eating Pogostemon Helferi soft leaves.