Jungle Val (Vallisneria Americana): Ultimate Care Guide

Jungle Val (Vallisneria Americana), also known as Jungle Vallisneria, is a beautiful and common aquarium plant. Sold under many names including: Water Celery, Tape Grass and Eel Grass; Jungle Val is readily available from many aquarium suppliers.

Jungle Vallisneria is one of the earliest plants to be used by aquarium hobbyists. It is found in North, Central and South America, Asia and Australia. Preferring slow moving waters and ponds, Jungle Val’s long green foliage presents a striking visual. No wonder it’s been popular in aquariums for many years!

Ease of care is another defining feature of Jungle Val. One of the most forgiving aquarium plants, it is suitable for planted tank beginners. Far from simply a beginner plant, the beautiful foliage also appeals to the Aquascape requirements of the more experienced hobbyist.

Planning on adding Jungle Val to your tank? Get all the information you’ll need with this guide!

How to Grow Jungle Val in an Aquarium

Jungle Val grows easily in most aquariums. Many planted tank substrates provide a good medium for the hardy Vallisneria. In fact, you may have issues with excessive growth. This species can take over smaller aquariums and can even get out of hand in larger tanks.

Planting is easy, whether you received your plants in pots or bare propagations. Simply secure the roots in your substrate, being careful not to cover the crown. The crown is the part of the plant where root ends and leaves begin and branch out. Covering this will cause your Jungle Val to rot.

As your plants acclimate to their new home you may experience “melting.” This happens when some leaves die off to allow for new growth. Sometimes mistaken for dying or other serious problems, it is a natural process and will correct itself.

Consider were you want your Jungle Vallisneria positioned in your tank and how much you want to grow. Because it can become very tall it is best used as a background plant. Due to how it propagates–runners–it is likely to take over more of your tank than planned.

One method for controlling growth is by cutting slats from a sheet of clear acrylic and placing these around the plants you want to fence off. If done correctly, the top of the slats will be below the surface of your substrate forming an invisible barrier to stop runners. If you have cichlids or other fish that like to move substrate around, they may expose your acrylic strips. Consider the behaviors of fish in your aquarium when deciding if this method of growth control is a good fit.

Jungle Vallisneria
Jungle Val (Vallisneria Americana)

Jungle Val Lighting Requirement

Jungle Vallisneria are light loving plants. In nature they grow close to the surface to maximize light exposure. Your plants will do best with 8 to 10 hours a day of moderate to bright light. Consider adding specialty plant lights in addition to your regular light source.

Low lighting can cause growth problems for Jungle Vals. If light levels are too dim your plants will die. This is a plant that isn’t suited to low light environments.

Jungle Val Temperature

Jungle Val is comfortable with a wide range of temperatures. A target range of 64°F – 82°F (18 – 28°C) is best. This species grows in many different environments and is tolerant of a similarity large temperature range.

Jungle Val pH

Jungle Val can tolerate a pH range of 6.0 to 9.0, but slightly alkaline is best. Its ability to flourish in alkaline environments makes this plant a natural partner for fish such as African Cichlids. Not only do they prefer similarly alkaline water, but Jungle Vallisneria is tough enough to withstand nibbles.

Jungle Val Growth Rate

With enough lighting and proper water pH, Jungle Vallisneria grows rapidly. This plant propagates via runners. Much of that growth can be invisible under your substrate. If you don’t control your Val’s lateral growth they can quickly take over a tank, especially a small tank. Some hobbyists will cut lengths of clear acetate and bury them under the sand as “runner fences.” Controlling runner growth can make the difference between a plant that accentuates your tank and one that takes over, making it look like a tank full of weeds. Plan your Jungle Val’s growth carefully to have the best experience with this plant.

Jungle Val Growth Height

Jungle Vallisneria will quickly grow to fill the available water column in your tank. Excess plant material will float sideways on the surface of the water. In the wild they can reach up to 6 feet. The rapid and tall growth of this plant lends itself to background placement in your aquarium. If you decide to place some in mid or foreground it can grow to obscure parts of your tank that should be easily visible.

Is Aquarium Co2 Injection Necessary?

In nature, Jungle Vallisneria grows in shallow water where Co2 concentrations are low, so they won’t usually require Co2 injection. However, they do best with bright lighting and this can lead to algae growth. If you have issues with this in your tank Co2 injection might help.

Note that a heavily planted tank can often benefit from Co2 injection. Vallisneria is tolerant of low Co2, many other plants are more sensitive. Take your entire tank ecosystem into consideration when deciding on adding Co2.

Jungle Val Propagation

In an aquarium, Jungle Vallisneria propagates by sending runners out under the substrate. When these form a new rooted plant with developed leaves it can be separated and replanted in a new location. The roots and runners of this plant can be tough. Make sure to use very sharp cutting tools to avoid bruising.

When placed in a new location, Jungle Val takes a few weeks to acclimatize and begin growing again. There may be a period when leaves die off in a process called “melting.” It is natural and will correct itself, so there’s no need to worry.

Can you grow Jungle Val in sand?

Jungle Vallisneria can grow in sand. Depending on the sand you may need to assist growth with liquid fertilizer or root tabs. When planting in an already established tank the substrate will have a mix of nutrients that support growth. New sand can often be nearly free of nutrients. Plants in this fresh material may need support fertilizer, at least until the tank ecosystem becomes stronger.

How to use Jungle Val in an Aquascape

Jungle Val grows larger and faster than other Aquascaping plants. Best suited as background, extra planning is needed to ensure it doesn’t overrun your tank. Vallisneria is often planted in the rearmost and side regions of tanks. Consider using clear acrylic strips buried in the substrate to discourage runners and keep it as a background plant. Left to its own devices, this species will send runners throughout your tank causing growth to appear where it isn’t wanted.

When planting Jungle Vallisneria in an established aquarium remember these new plantings will be delicate. When fully integrated into a tank, Vals can take a lot of punishment from omnivorous fish such as Cichlids. Even large, hungry Cichlids won’t be able to do much harm to these tough plants. Newly planted, they are much more delicate. At early stages it doesn’t take much tugging to pull them completely free from your substrate. Take steps to protect your new plantings and keep them as safe as possible from disturbance.

Why is my Jungle Val melting?

Jungle Val is susceptible to “melting,” or browning and withering of foliage. This often happens with newly transplanted specimens. The good news is this normally resolves naturally and new healthy leaves appear!

If you are worried about your Jungle Vallisneria melting make sure you purchase from a source that has grown the plants fully submerged. Often breeders will grow the plants submersed to save money. This results in foliage that is acclimated to air exposure. This growth will die back to allow new leaves to form while submerged. Starting with plants that have already become used to fully submerged growth can ease transition to a new tank.

Where can I find Jungle Val for sale?

Jungle Val is an extremely common aquarium plant and should be available from most suppliers. Often you can find another hobbyist who will be willing to provide bare propagations to start in your own tank.

Jungle Val vs Italian Val

If you are worried about the large size of Jungle Val (Vallisneria Americana) you might be interested in the thinner and shorter Italian Val (Vallisneria spiralis).

Italian Val is sold by suppliers as Vallisneria Spiralis but this name is a synonym for Vallisneria Americana. Varieties sold as Italian Val have finer root systems, thinner leaves and smaller overall growth. If you are planning on including Vallisneria in an aquarium less than 30 gallons, Italian Val might be an option to consider.

Though smaller, Italian Val grows similarly to Jungle Val, with a finer system of roots and runners. It is easier to trim and cut back than larger varieties.