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Red Tiger Lotus

(Nymphaea Zenkeri)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Lighting: Medium   • Maximum Size: 10" - 32"
• Placement: All   • Water Conditions: 70-86° F, KH 3-15, pH 5.5-7.8
• Propagation: Seeds   • Color Forms: Red / Green
Supplements: Root tabs, Iron supplement, CO2
• Origin: West Africa   • Family: Nymphaeaceae

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Species Information

Red Tiger Lotus native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri) originates from West Africa where it is found growing in drainage ditches, the margins around lakes and ponds and other areas of stagnant water. The relatively shallow water in its native habitat has made this plant quite tolerant of water temperature, lighting and dissolved CO2 in the water. When under high lighting and CO2 the Red Tiger Lotus will grow more rapidly, but it is equally at home in environments with medium lighting intensity and no added CO2. Red Tiger Lotus are capable of absorbing atmospheric CO2 from the lilly pads that reach the surface of the water, which accelerates their growth compared to plants that must take in all of their CO2 from the water column.

The Red Tiger Lotus will grow to about 36 inches tall and 24 inches wide in ideal water and lighting conditions. They will extend arrow shaped lilly pads to the surface of the water, producing red or blue flowers. It is these flowers that once they fruit will produce the seeds that propagate the plant. The seeds develop into bulbs that root them selves into the substrate and begin the growth of another plant.

Without a doubt the Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri) will quickly become a center piece of the aquarium due to its brilliant red and green coloration, arrow shaped red leaves, lilly pads and bright red or blue flowers. It not only looks attractive, but also serves to create areas underneath the broad leaves and lilly pads that is filtered from the bright aquarium lights, which is ideal for fish or inverts who appreciate areas of diffused or filtered lighting. Additionally, it is a versatile plant that can look great in all different areas of the aquarium and can integrate well with a wide variety of other plants, driftwood and rock scapes.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Red Tiger Lotus in the home aquarium.

Red Tiger Lotus is generally sold within the aquarium hobby as either a bulb or a small juvenile plant with an existing root system. If purchased as a bulb, make sure that the bulb is firm and not soft or squishy which would indicate it is dead. A good firm bulb can be planted about a third of the way into the aquarium substrate or simply place on top of the substrate, where it will begin to establish a root system and producing leaves. Do not bury the bulb too deep or completely covered by the substrate as this will kill the plant.

While the Red Tiger Lotus can absorb nutrients and CO2 from the water column, it is primarily a root feeder and does best with a soil rich in iron; additionally, once its leaves have reached the surface of the water where it will take in atmospheric CO2. When kept in aquariums with plant substrates or dirt the Red Tiger Lotus will grow out extensive root systems and take in much of its nutrients through the roots. However, in aquariums with inert substrates the Red Tiger Lotus will be forced to take in the majority of its nutrition from the water column. In these cases it is best not to plant it near more sensitive plant species that it will out compete for nutrients and starve out.

Often times with this species hobbyists find that its growth is too rapid, which is often the case in tanks with high intensity lighting, use of liquid fertilizers and CO2. The two primary ways to slow down the growth of the Red Tiger Lotus is to trim leaves before they reach the surface of the aquarium or constrain the roots so that they cannot spread into the whole substrate. Keeping leaves and lilly pads from reaching the surface of the water keeps the Red Tiger Lotus from accessing atmospheric CO2, which is much more abundant than dissolved CO2 in the water column. Constraining the root system prevents the plant from accessing all the iron and nutrient rich soil or plant substrate throughout the entire aquarium. Limiting both CO2 access and root growth controls the amount of fuel the plant has access to and thus controls the rate of growth of the plant.

Propagation Information

How to propagate Red Tiger Lotus.

The Red Tiger Lotus propagates through producing lotus flowers at the surface of the water, which produce a large amount of seeds which when dropped fall back into the water and can take root in the substrate and produce another plant. This is a very effective way for the plant to reproduce and in the aquarium environment the fast growing Red Tiger Lotus can quickly take over the aquarium.

In order to keep the plant from taking over the entire aquarium it is best to trim surface flowers before they develop fruit and produce seeds. The flowers will only develop when leaves are allowed to grow to the surface of the water. Many hobbyists enjoy the look of surface leaves and the shading it provides within the aquarium, so trimming the flowers is the best approach. However, for those who do not want or care about surface leaves, they can simply trim the leaves before they reach the surface, which will prevent flowering, grow more submerged leaves and slow down the overall growth rate of the plant.

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