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Dwarf Tiger Lily, The Best Freshwater Aquarium Plant

Dwarf Tiger Lily, The Best Freshwater Aquarium Plant 1

The Dwarf Tiger Lily is a strong growing aquatic plant. You can propagate it really easily. It is also very hard to kill. The varied color and leaves make for a solid contender in your tank.

I have a lot of aquarium plants that I really like. They should be easy to keep and be beautiful too. The Dwarf Tiger Lily is no exception.

Today I am going to be talking about the Dwarf Tiger Lily (Nymphaea Stellata).  It can be easy to confuse it with the Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri). The lotus is also very similar and can be found just as commonly as the Stellata.

The lotus/lily family has many relatives, from large wild lilies, to even a distant-cousin, the aquatic banana plant. Pretty much any lily species can grow in aquarium conditions but many will get too large. That is why the hobby focuses on the dwarf variants only.

Considered sacred to many, lily’s like these are native to Asia, Sri Lanka, and India. They grow wildly in slow-moving waters. Invasively taking over and blocking out the sunlight from the plants below it.


The reasons I think the Dwarf Tiger Lily is the best:

  • Color Variance
  • Super Easy To Grow
  • Easy Propagation
  • Bushy Or Long stem
  • Filters The Water
  • Doesn’t Get Algae!

This lily is unique in so many ways. It can provide many different colors depending on the environment provided. I think it produces the most color variance of any aquatic plant I have used.

The next thing I would pick growth rate, just by the fact that this plant grows like a weed. You literally just put it in water and wait. The lily will melt away the old material and make new ones adjusted for your tank parameters.

Speaking of just putting it in water. You can break offshoots from the main plant, you can put the bulb in another location and also just plant the leaves. There are so many ways to propagate.

It can be grown in a small bushy or a long and lanky style. I like that it has adaptability. If I want some lily pads in my open-air tank I will surely get some in no time by just letting it grow to the surface.

Growing so quickly, allows the lily to be a good filter. It absorbs a lot of nitrates and phosphates, and can even soften water.

I saved the best for last. Are you ever tired of slow-growing plants like Anubias Nana that just sit there and collect algae?  Well with the Dwarf Tiger Lily you won’t have to worry about that. It grows so fast algae can’t grow on it.


I think you’ll find that the Dwarf Tiger Lily is really easy to plant. It can be purchased in a few different ways such as a bulb (rhizome) or a rooted bunch.

Oftentimes the bulb you purchase will come with a few plants attached. You can just remove these from the rhizome and plant them into the substrate.

When you get your bulb, you may notice that it almost appears to be broken. This is usually an indication that the rhizome can be broken into two parts. You should be able to cut it in half. Make sure that you are cutting at the crown.

You can plant the rhizome in two ways, one is to let it sink from the surface and just let it be where it lands. Other people will plant the bulb into the substrate so that it is only partially buried. Not being immersed in the substrate is important so that it doesn’t start to break down.

I just prefer the drop-in method. Doing it this way will cause the bulb to right itself. After roots have grown I can then remove the bulb and plant it somewhere else. If I had planted the bulb it wouldn’t be as easy. It can sometimes become dislodged and float, try your best to get it partially buried again.

The rooted bunch can often have some kind of peat moss or another temporary substrate alternative. The plant will be growing from it.  Make sure you always clean the roots thoroughly to avoid any contaminants in your tank and any hitchhiking snails.

When cleaning your new plants, put some bleach or hydrogen peroxide into a bowl full of water.  Rinse the plants by shaking them lightly in the solution. Most of the contaminants will fall off or get eaten up by the solution. I do this every time without fail, if you fail to do so then your tank will suffer for it.

One thing to note is that your bulb may go dormant when you put it in the tank. If your bulb doesn’t produce any growth within a month or two, go ahead and feel it. You want the bulb to be hard and firm, not soft, if it is soft then it is bad. Dormant bulbs can come back, sometimes if I just move them it does the trick.


The Dwarf Tiger Lily really is an awesome plant and it is such a high yield grower. The lily can also be propagated so easily. Primarily lilies are considered flowering plants and will produce a flower that will germinate. The flower can be many different colors and will be projected above the lilypad.

Other methods of propagation are:

Bulbs – As I explained before with the bulbs. Once the plant has grown its roots into the substrate then you can remove the bulb from the plant. Put the bulb in a new location and it will start all over again. This makes it so easy to fill up your tank with plants. You can also put the bulb in another tank or give it to a friend.

Plant Offshoots – The plants will produce lateral or horizontal shoots from the base. These shoots will produce new lily’s. Once the plant is established you can separate the plants along the shoot and replant if needed. Some of the dwarf lilies will make a considerable amount of these volunteer plants in your tank.

Planting Leaves – This is probably the more unique way of propagation, just planting your cuttings. So the plant is bushy and in need of a trim. You can tank the cut plant and put the stem in the substrate. It will take a bit to get going but will create a new plant and the old leaf will melt away.


The problem with trimming the Dwarf Tiger Lily isn’t the trimming part, but how often you have to do it. Of course, this depends on how you want the plant to look and perform in your tank. If you want it low and bushy then you will need to keep up with it. The lily pad lovers will want to let it grow.

A warning to the lily pads lovers though, if you do not keep it trimmed then you will be dealing will all kinds of runners. The tank will be quickly taken over by pads from side to side on the surface. Having the surface like this will not allow light to penetrate the surface and get to the plants below.

To make for a bushy plant you can trim it. Just start at the leaf and follow the stem down to the substrate level, then just clip it with your fingernail. Then just keep the leaves from reaching the surface.

The plant will attempt to shoot out a runner towards the surface to try and gauge where the level is. You can observe this usually over two days, if you don’t catch it in time, then the plant will keep sending more and more. This runner is normal behavior as in nature it would be used to find the constantly fluctuating levels of their natural environments.

Recovering from the runner and the following lily pads isn’t as easy as if you avoided it in the beginning. Trimming can train the lily into staying low.  Light can also affect the plant’s behavior.

You will start to understand which leaves need to be pulled and at what time.  The older ones will start to go bad and break down, getting soft and then melting away.


Ok so I could keep this section short and sweet, but I am not going to. The Dwarf Tiger Lily doesn’t need anything special to grow. I said it, that is what I am sticking with. Some people who I read will give the statistics of this plant as if it was somehow picky. The fact is, it is nearly indifferent to its environment.

Though it doesn’t mean that providing ideal conditions cannot make the lily grow bigger and faster. This plant is ideal for low to high tech tanks, with or without CO2. A good rule to go with is if you have other plants growing already, then this plant will be fine.

For facts, you can provide them with the same dosing you give your other plants, and maybe provide some extra Chelated Iron. The iron along with some red-spectrum light will give you some nice red leaves, most likely with tiger spots.

Without the proper conditions, you will see more green tones, and the characteristic arrowhead leaf shape will be much narrower. In ideal conditions, you can see many colors and a shimmering on the leaves.

As with all plants, CO2 can help give dwarf lilies an extra boost to really take over your aquarium. With the introduction of this carbon, you will need to make sure to do your micro and macro dosing so that the plants have enough fuel to eat up the CO2.

I also heard one report of burn-like marks on the surface of the leaves. This is attributed to low potassium levels. In this state, it is also exacerbated by the light intensity and level.

Other things to consider would be if you planted it in a tank with known plant-eating fish. While I find this shouldn’t be a problem due to how fast the plant grows, you might want to check and see if it is compatible.

As with most plants in the aquatic hobby, the lily is tropical and thrives in warmer waters. Keeping these conditions should be sufficient.  For the specifics, I gathered all of the information I could and summarized it as some were slightly different.

The acceptable temperature for this lily is from 68-83 degrees Fahrenheit. That seems like a comfortable temperature for me as well. It also likes a PH from 5.0-8.0. Just to reiterate, I do not worry about the parameters for this plant as it will thrive in anything I plant it in.


This plant can be considered incredibly invasive in tropical areas. Proper caution should be taken when introducing the plant or bulbs to natural environments. Slow-moving or stagnant waters such as ponds can become overrun with lilies in no time.

Overgrowth of lilies can happen quickly. The lily can quickly take all of the resources needed by other plants and fish as well. The light will have a hard time finding its way into the water. This can cause the water to become paralyzed and not able to oxygenate correctly due to the reduced algae content.

Some countries, including some areas of the United States, have banned these dwarf lilies from their estuaries and waterways. If you are not careful with handling you can get fined a hefty amount. You may not be able to get these plants in your area.


A lily-only tank is one type that I haven’t done myself. I haven’t done it only because I like a whole bunch of different aquatic plants.

The Dwarf Tiger Lily is more than capable of taking over the tank. Just as stated above it is banned in some place because of its invasiveness.

With all of the different ways to propagate, filling the tank up will not be a problem. Get a few bulbs and then move them around as soon as the plants take root.

The excessive growth that this can produce as well as variant colors within the same plant can make it a viable option for a Lily only tank. Just make sure to use the root tabs.

So the speed of growing the plant was my reason to do it, but what about why not? There are a few things I can think of as to why I wouldn’t.

First off is the variation. Like I said I want the different plants in my tank, the different shapes, different colors, and heights. I get the varied color more so with different plant types. A stem-plant, some Vallisneria, or even the carpeting plants can add something that the lily can’t.

Also if you do a lily only tank, it would be just that, Lily’s only. The lily will overshadow the other plants in no time, killing them off. Kiss your beautiful planted carpet goodbye. The overshadowing lilies will even compete with themselves for the critical light. Many will just melt away.

With that said, I think the all lily tank could be a fun experiment, but not suited for the long term.

Check out this video from Michael Langerman on YouTube, he has some great points on why the Dwarf Lily is so awesome. They show of some unique ways of keeping the plant. You can see how it grows so easily in all environments.


I just cannot say enough about this aquatic plant. With the notes I have, I could write another article. I hope you can see why I like it so much.

This plant makes such a statement no matter how you decide to grow it. It can take up as much of your tank as you want. The color variance alone gives the Dwarf Tiger Lily so much character. Maybe I will come back with a lily-only tank and show off the variance it can produce.

I know I keep mentioning the growth rate. The speed at which it grows in any environment will match or exceed even the most notorious aquatic growers.

If you take proper care of this lily, by keeping it trimmed and feed, then you be rewarded with a very strong plant. This plant is so strong it cannot be killed. I recommend it to any planted tank keeper, beginner or experienced. Go out and get some lily bulbs today, you won’t be disappointed.

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