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How to grow Hygrophila sp. chai

May 11, 2021 3 min read

How to grow  Hygrophila sp. chai

Hygrophila sp. chai is a mutation of Hygrophila araguaia that occurred in South Island's farm (Singapore). It takes on a distinctively pink coloration, with occasional white streaks. The growth form is similar to Hygrophila araguaia - it is a stem plant but creeps along the substrate when lighting levels are high. It is generally very slow growing and sensitive.

The older leaves are very vulnerable to algae and thus this plant requires a very clean tank to grow well. Gentle water flow, strong CO2 injection and bright light accelerate growth. The difficulty it thus balancing an algae free tank while using high amounts of light. The samples grown on this page are under 200 umols of PAR. Tank instabilities and dips in CO2/nutrient levels also results in loss of older leaves, hence to have a larger bunch of it, tank conditions must be maintained in optimal ranges for an extended period of time.

The picture above shows the relative size & color of Hygrophila sp. chai in comparison to other plants. Information about this species is hardly complete since so few aquarists propagate it successfully.

Converting it from tissue culture format (which is the form in which it is most commonly sold) is the first hurdle. The TC is very delicate as a whole. It should be planted in matured, clean soil - excessive organic waste causes melting very easily. Good gaseous exchange is essential - this means flowing water, good oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. For this reason some folks find success floating it in the initial week to get some root growth; some of the TC samples can be very short, making it hard to plant. It also seems to favour quite a bit of light. In my farm tank example, substrate PAR levels is around 200 umols. As it is also very vulnerable to algae, it is advisable to grow in a matured tank where there is already dominant plant mass to keep algae at bay.

Hardcore enthusiasts may consider setting up a shallower cultivation tank where gaseous exchange and light access is generally better.

During the growth stage, it is very slow growing and will be shaded / over-crowded by surrounding plants.  Hygrophila sp. chai grows more prostrate when the surrounding area is cleared.

It is important to keep the area around it unobstructed. Once it reaches a certain size, it becomes much more stable, and will grow steadily, but slowly. The main parameters to maintain is high CO2 levels with good flow, unimpeded access to light.

Key success factors

  • Clean, matured tank environment
  • Good gaseous exchange - both O2 and CO2, this usually implies good flow as well
  • High light
  • Avoid crowding by more aggressive growing plants
  • Avoid extreme water parameters
  • Cooler water (25C and below) generally helps with tank stability
  • Low KH ranges/soft water makes it easier, but it can grow fine in moderately hard water also


  • Side shoots form naturally over time. Once it reaches a good size - about 2 inches, you can cut off the top part of the stem and replant it elsewhere.

Buying Guide

  • Emersed plants or submerged grown specimens are much much easier to acclimatize than tissue culture plants. Larger sized plants are easier to convert to tank conditions.
  • If buying TC, Look for larger shoots in the TC cup rather than number of shoots - larger shoots have a much higher survival chance.
  • Fresh TC always work better than old TC.

Reversion to base species

Under stress, fluctuating or unstable growth conditions, it is not uncommon for Hygrophila sp chai to spawn brownish leaves typical of Hygrophila araguaia. If there is only a couple of offending leaves, pick them off and let the plant continue spawning pink leaves.

If many leaves revert to brown, it is a sign that growth conditions in the tank are not ideal. This could be due to being a wide range of reasons; irregular CO2/nutrients, disturbances to planted area, algae etc.