Dwarf Aquarium Lily Care Sheet

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The dwarf aquarium lily is scientifically described as Nymphaea nouchali or Nymphaea stellata and is often confused with many other Nymphaea species. This plant should not be confused with the blue Egyptian lotus (Nymphaea nouchali var. Caerulea / Nymphaea caerulea). Nymphaea leibergii is also commonly known as the dwarf water lily, but it is an entirely different species.

Most often these water lilies are called blue lotus, star lotus or manel flower. While some of these common names might include the classification of “lotus”, these plants are true water lilies belonging to the Nymphaeaceae family and have distinctive triangular split leaves.

Other uses

The dwarf aquarium lily is a very important fixed plant in Sri Lanka and the national plant of Bangladesh. It is valued for its medicinal properties and is harvested for human and animal consumption in some regions of the world.

What is the smallest water lily?

Although Nymphaea nouchali is a dwarf lily, it is not the smallest member of the genus Nymphaea. In fact, Nymphaea thermarum grows much smaller than any other related species, with leaves less than 1 cm in diameter when fully grown. Interestingly, these miniature plants have become extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction, but are preserved through the work of botanical gardens.

Natural habitat

The dwarf aquarium lily occurs in slow to standing wetlands in large parts of India and Southeast Asia as well as in Australia and Taiwan. It prefers decent amounts of sunlight and is best suited for tropical and subtropical conditions with shallow to medium depth.

Consequently, due to its popularity as an ornate species of pond, it has been introduced into ecosystems far from its natural range and has found its way into most of North America. It is believed that this plant has since hybridized with other native plants in these regions to create new variations.


Not only are these lilies desirable for their size, but they also produce a beautiful flower that adds color to the water systems. These plants are fully grown and can reach a spread of 10.2 to 12.7 cm.

While these plants can come in many different variations and colors, the most common is to find them with a star-shaped purple flower that has pink edges; Some flowers may be pink than others while others are darker blue and purple. Its bright red-green leaves sit on the surface of the water and have uneven edges that often look tattered.

How to care for dwarf aquarium lilies

Dwarf aquarium lilies are relatively easy to keep in both an aquarium and pond. In most cases, however, this is better in an area with full sun in tropical conditions between 22.2-27.8 ° C. When temperatures start fluctuating, they can go into a dormant state.

If you can keep up with lighting requirements in a closed tank system, you will likely need to dose fertilizers and inject carbon dioxide as well. With root tablets, they are most likely better than liquid fertilizers, although both can be dosed if a balance is found. Some hobbyists have succeeded in not dosing fertilizers at all, although a small boost won’t damage the plant and will provide more nutrients to mature plants.

In the aquarium you can use this plant as a middle or foreground plant. You can either let the leaves grow to the surface or cut them regularly to keep them underwater.

How do you plant dwarf lilies in an aquarium?

Planting your dwarf lily is actually easier than you might expect. Most hobbyists find that it is a good idea to simply leave the bulbs on the substrate to stimulate root growth. Other hobbyists like to anchor their lightbulbs to a rock or wood, or even bury the lightbulb 25% to 50% down once they put it in their tank. As soon as the roots start to grow, you can also push the onion harder into the substrate so that the roots are really anchored in the plant. You don’t want to bury the entire lightbulb as it can cause rot.

The growth should be visible in a couple of weeks. If you don’t see any growth by the third week, then you should turn the lightbulb as the lightbulbs are trending up and down. However, if your plant does not start to grow after turning, it may be dead and should be removed from the tank before decay begins. You can spot a dead lightbulb if it’s mushy and has a foul odor.

If you put a new lightbulb in your tank, it can float for a few days before it gets soaked and sinks. A white, fuzzy film of bacteria can also develop. Do not worry! This is harmless and the same film that will grow on new driftwood when added to the tank.

How do you propagate dwarf lilies?

Propagating dwarf lilies is also very easy. When your plant is happy and healthy, it should send out shoots which will then grow into daughter plants if not pruned. These shoots can be carefully pruned and transplanted elsewhere in the aquarium, or even completely transferred to a new system.

Dwarf aquarium lilies are relatively fast growing plants and love to suck nutrients out of the water. As mentioned earlier, most hobbyists like to use root fertilizers to keep their plants growing and adjust the amount of light they need. If you find that your plant is not growing, make sure to regularly trim old and dead leaves while you are dosing fertilizer.

Where can you buy dwarf aquarium lilies?

Most dwarf aquarium lilies come as bulbs with no growth or minimal root growth. Most of these onions are available online and usually come packaged in peat moss or some other moist alternative. If you go to your local fish or pond store, you can purchase the plant with the leaves already sprouted. These leaves may fall off after moving into your system, but should grow back in a few weeks.


Water lilies don’t just have to be grown in ponds. When kept in check, dwarf aquarium lilies can grow to almost any tank size! These plants are a bit demanding on lighting and nutrients, but if the requirements are met they will grow almost every day which makes it easy to propagate.

If you have any questions about dwarf aquarium lilies or any other species of water lily, or if you have experience moving lilies between aquarium and pond setups, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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