Keeping the Madagascar Lace (Aponogeton Madagascariensis) in Your Tank

Everyone who sees a well-grown Madagascar lace plant “oohs” and “ahs” at its beauty.  Lace plants are usually the focal point of any tank you find them in.  If you see a poorly grown lace plant or bare bulb, you’re more ho-hum about the plant.  Full-grown lace plants do not ship well and are on the pricey side.  So most lace plant growers start with less cash, a bare bulb, and lots of faith.

No where near full grown.  One lace plant will quickly fill a 10-gallon tank.

Name Change.  Last millennium someone changed the lace plant’s name from A. fenestralis to A. madagascariensis.  You’ll find it under both names in many places.  Too bad.  Fenestra in Latin means window — a phrase that aptly describes their leaves.  Here’s your mnemonic device to help you remember that word:  When the coroner says, “Death by defenestration” it means someone threw the corpus out the window.  Unfortunately, lots of Aponogetons come from Madagascar which makes that term less descriptive.  So we’ll call them lace plants. 

Starter bulbs cost less and do not look particularly impressive — even when started.

They grow slow..

Compared to Aponogeton ulvaceous and hornwort, lace plants grow very slowly.  Compared to bolbitis, lace plants grow like a weed.  Lace plants usually grow from a bulb (of stored energy).  It just seems to take forever — but certainly not as long as it takes to earn a law degree.

Enough leaf to tell it’s a lace plant.  Enough roots to let you know it’s going to grow.

Lace Plant Substrate

We recommend smaller gravels for most plants.  Since nearly all Aponogetons grow whether you plant them or not, the substrate may make little difference.  We like to mix vermiculite into our plant gravel because we usually forget to add fertilizers on a regular basis.  By the way, if you fertilize them with smaller amounts more frequently, it seems to help.

Leaf Pattern

And here we see where the madagascar lace (formerly window plant) gets its name.  The delicate lace pattern that catches your eyeball also makes the lace plant hard to grow — for most people.  Too much light grows algae.  Too little light retards growth.  Plecostomus and silver dollars more than decimate (another good Latin word that means “kill every tenth person” not “obliterate”) the leaves.  Your capture net can rip the leaves and uproot the whole plant.  Still, Aponogetons are tough as nails.  Lace plants usually recover completely.

Even young lace plant fronds grow to a foot or so.

Lace Plant Stems.

Leaves and the stems that hold them don’t always grow straight or even in the direction you prefer.  Step back and say “Bonsai!”  Take a tip from those tree torturers.  Solomon said:  “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree” or in this case, so grows the lace plant.  Forget that copper wire and use those very pliable lead-like plant weights and espalier your leaves as you’d like them to grow.  Lace plant leaves change directions much faster than Japanese red maple trees.

Unplanted roots turn green from chlorophyll, not algae.

Lessen the Light

Green plants need light to grow.  However, too much light can “burn” your leaves or grow algae like a rug.  Decrease the light by putting lots of duckweed atop your lace plants (after they get off to a good start).  Duckweed really sucks up the light so you’ll need to thin it periodically (like weekly).  Duckweed also eats excess nutrients in the water that would otherwise feed algae.

Other De-Algifiers.  Unleash the algae-eating shrimp squad and cry havoc.  Once these shrimps snack off all the algae, start feeding them or remove them.  Hungry shrimp do not hesitate to eat most plants.  You may be able to use otocinclus, but since they changed their name from O. arnoldi I just can’t trust them anymore.


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