Micro Sword Plant (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Micro Sword, Micro Sword Plant, Brazilian Micro Sword
Scientific NameLilaeopsis brasiliensis
OriginSouth America
Ease of GrowingMedium care level
AquacapeForeground carpeting plant
Height3 inches
Temperature72-85°F (22-29°C)
Growth RateSlow
PropagationSplitting runners by the roots
Light RequirementMedium light level (0.5 W/L)
CO2 RequirementMedium CO2 (6-14 mg/L) can help encourage faster growth.
Micro Sword
Micro Sword Plant (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis). Steven Nichols, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Micro Sword Plant

Micro Sword plants (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) are widely used by aquarium owners to create a beautiful environment for their fish swim in and potentially used to breed in. The plant is usually placed in the foreground of the aquarium, and it significantly improves tank aesthetics. Micro Sword resembles grass and can be easily grown in water, emersed or submersed. Aquarium owners trying to recreate the effect of a grass – like carpet for their aquariums can try Micro Sword plants.

A Brazilian Micro Sword can be identified as a green coloured, grass – like plant whose leaves are flat and narrow at the bottom, wider towards the middle and have pointy tops. The leaves will sprout from very small branches.

Micro Swords are also known by the names, Brazilian Micro Sword, Carpet grass or Copra grass. The genus name Lilaeopsis literally means ‘charming the eye’ and the species name Brasiliensis was given because the native habitat of the Micro Sword plant is Brazil (South America). Also, the word ‘Micro’ is included in its name to represent its small size and compact structure.

Micro Sword Care

Planting Micro Sword clumps should be done carefully since the roots are fragile and delicate. It is recommended to use a pair of aquarium tweezers while planting, to avoid any damage. Make sure that all the blades of the plant are not planted in one single clump. Holes can be made in the soil using aquarium tweezers before planting the clumps. Once the roots are properly buried and planted, it will take a few days for them to take hold of the substrate. During these initial few days, any aquarium filter that provide a water current in the tank may be switched off so that the plant does not get uprooted.

Micro sword plants are recommended to be planted in nutrient rich soil for example, in iron rich clay or aquarium soil. The soil should also be provided with sufficient nutrients by using fertilizers in the tablet or liquid form. The tablet form of the fertilizer is said to be more efficient because it can be used to specifically target the area around the roots of the plant. The excreta of the fish also serve as a nutrient supplement for the aquarium plants.

Micro Sword plants can be grown in gravel or sand, however, the survival of the plant will need additional amounts of CO2 or other nutrients (phosphate, potassium, nitrate and micronutrients) in the form of fertilizers.

In addition to nutrients, proper lighting and good flow of water will promote healthy growth of the Brazilian Micro Sword plant. A steady water current in the tank ensures prevention of algae growth. Routine cleaning to remove algae formations and periodically changing the tank water and is also recommended to avoid contamination due to algae.

Micro Sword plants should not be planted in tanks that contain large – sized fish are because there is a chance of them plucking out the plant from the soil. Try to avoid large herbivore fish species like goldfish, Oscars, cichlids, and Jack Dempseys. Micro Sword plants are recommended for use in tanks containing tiny fish. 

Micro Sword Lighting Requirements

Micro swords can be grown rapidly by providing proper aquarium lighting along with good amounts of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). These plants respond well when the lighting conditions are kept at bright and intense levels and the light is aimed directly at them. The intense amount of light helps the plant photosynthesize better and generate a lawn inside the aquarium. At low levels of light, the growth of the micro sword plant will be severely affected, taking more time to grow than expected.

Usage of 5000 to 7000 Kelvin full spectrum bulbs or T5/T8 fluorescent lights is recommended for obtaining the lawn effect inside the aquarium. Any kind of LED lights can also be used, provided they have bright light intensity. The minimum tank size requirement for growing the micro sword plant is 5 gallons, although the recommended tank size is 10 gallons. The lighting should be such that it covers 3 Watts per gallon.

The light should also reach the bottom of the tank, wherever the stems of the Micro Sword are planted. Take care that the neighbouring plants in the aquarium do not cover the Micro Swords, preventing direct light exposure.

The colour of a healthy micro sword plant is supposed to be light green or dark green. Usually, a bright and intense light will result in dark green plant and a moderate light will produce a light green plant. A yellow colouration in the micro sword plant might indicate that it has become unhealthy. This change in colour might indicate that the lighting conditions in the tank are not proper. In some cases, yellow colour can also mean that the plant is not being supplemented with enough nutrients.

In some cases, too much intense lighting may promote growth of algae. This can be prevented by introducing algae eating fish, shrimps, snails, or mild water currents in the tank.

Micro Sword Temperature and pH

The Brazilian Micro Sword has its natural habitat in Brazil and other parts of South America like Argentina and Paraguay, which are regions that experience a tropical climate. The temperature inside an aquarium with micro sword plants should be maintained between 72-85°F (22-29°C)  which represent the temperatures in tropical conditions in South America.

The pH levels must be maintained at 5.0 to 7.5. This is said to be slightly alkaline or soft to moderate hard water. Care should be taken that the pH level does not go into extreme alkaline levels. (pH level is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, where 0 is highly acidic, 7 is neutral and 14 is highly alkaline).

Micro Sword Height and Growth Rate

Micro sword plants can attain a height of up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) when grown in an aquarium. These plants can attain up to a height of 4 to 7 inches if the aquarium owner includes a high technology set-up inside the tank with perfect lighting conditions and regular CO2 injection. The growth rate will depend on the availability of proper lighting and the maintenance of CO2 levels in the tank and can take several months to grow the entire carpet inside the tank.

Micro Sword CO2 Requirement

All plants require Carbon Dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis, which is why it is naturally important to supply sufficient levels of CO2 into the water tank that houses the micro sword plant. It is possible to grow the Micro Sword plant without supplying CO2; however, that will slow down the growth. If the aim is to grow a luxurious green carpet in the aquarium within the span of a few months, CO2 injection into the aquarium is an important factor. 

The levels of CO2 should be maintained at 10 to 30 mg per litre while growing micro sword plants. The recommended CO2 level is 15 mg per litre. Ensuring adequate levels of CO2 aids in speeding up the growth of shoots, attaining a dense and compact form across the tank and keeping the micro sword plant healthy and vibrant. Since the light in the tank controls the amount of CO2 absorbed by the plant, both the CO2 levels and the lighting conditions should be maintained properly and balanced at appropriate levels for growth to take place.

Care should be taken that the aquarium containing the micro sword plant is dosed with CO2 regularly. It is recommended that CO2 may be injected into the tank during daytime, so that there is sufficient light to aid with photosynthesis. There are several methods to introduce CO2 into a tank. A combination of a CO2 canister, diffuser and regulator can be used to keep a check on the CO2 rate, ensuring the recommended rate of 1 to 2 CO2 bubbles per second.

Micro Sword Propagation

Micro Swords will reproduce from the base of the plant and produce runners (which look like smaller versions of the parent Micro Sword) which will later develop into a new plant. Once the runners reach about half the height of the mother plant, they can be separated from each other. Each runner will produce more runners when it becomes mature.

Propagation of the micro sword plant can be done easily by cutting off the runners with their baby roots and planting them in a nutrient rich substrate. Take the mother plant and divide it into small plantlets or clumps containing 3 to 5 leaves each. Replant each clump, keeping them a few centimetres apart from each other. The plant will grow and spread across the tank using runners (extensions of the mother plant that produces new roots and leaves).

The grass – carpet effect can also be created inside the aquarium by growing the micro sword plantlets diagonally in rows in the form of a chess board. Place each plantlet at a distance of  inch apart from each other. The chess board formation helps each plantlet to spread out and grow into the open spaces in between. The micro sword clumps should ideally be planted at a depth of  inch (1 to 1.5 cm) below the substrate; the base of the plant should not go deeper than that.

Propagation of the Micro Sword plant can also take place naturally, even when it is left alone. A desired grass – carpet can be generated without any human interference. However, it is recommended to pinch off the runners and replant them so that the whole process is accelerated.

How to Trim Micro Sword

There is no harm in trimming a micro sword plant using a pair of sharp scissors. However, before trimming a micro sword plant make sure that it is separated into several clumps and planted at a few centimetres apart from each other. If the plant has not been separated into plantlets and is trimmed straight along the top before separating the clumps, there is a chance of it decaying eventually.

Also, carefully trim the roots using sharp scissors or a razor blade before planting the micro sword plant into the substrate. Trimming of the roots of the micro sword ensures faster rooting and growth. The roots must be completely buried in the substrate and must ensure the firm placement of the plant, so that the fish in the tank do not manage to dig it out.

Micro Sword vs Narrow Leaf Micro Sword

Brazilian Micro Sword (Liliaeopsis brasiliensis) and Narrow Leaf Micro Sword (Liliaeopsis Mauritiana) look very similar in appearance. In fact, they share more similarities than differences.

The Narrow Leaf micro sword can be used in larger aquariums because it is relatively taller (about an inch more) when compared to the Micro Sword plant. After a period of two months, this plant will attain a height of 5 to 10 cm. The leaf is skinnier and smaller in width.

An advantage with the narrowleaf micro sword is that it demands lesser light than the regular micro sword; It will grow in a medium light setting of 0.5 Watt per litre (1.92 Watt per gallon). Lower the intensity of light, shorter the plant and denser the leaves will be. If the intention is to obtain a lawn like carpet inside the aquarium, low levels of light can be used, since bright light will make the plant grow tall. Temperature requirements are in the range of 15 to 28 C, which is similar to that of the Brazilian Micro Sword. The Liliaeopsis Mauritiana can be planted in the same way Lilaeopsis brasiliensis is planted.

Micro Sword vs Dwarf Hairgrass

Micro Sword (Liliaeopsis brasiliensis) and Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis Parvula) are both carpeting aquarium plants. From a distance, they look similar in appearance.

As the name suggests, the Dwarf Hairgrass has a very thin leaf, and it is narrowed in size. The Dwarf Hairgrass plant can be a lot less demanding than a Micro Sword plant in terms of the light needed. The former can thrive in medium light conditions with low amounts of CO2. A tank with large amounts of CO2 will indeed promote better growth of the plant, but that is not necessary in every case.

The dwarf hairgrass will require well fertilized soil to survive and is recommended to be grown in a coarse, sandy substrate. Since Dwarf Hairgrass is a denser plant, it might promote the collection of debris and therefore, the growth of algae. The propagation of the Dwarf Hairgrass plant will take about a year or two, which is a longer period when compared to that required for the Brazilian Micro Sword. The Eleocharis Parvula does not require a high technology setup to grow, but the aquarium owner will have to be patient enough since it will take longer time to form the carpet in the aquarium.

Where Can I Find Micro Sword for Sale?

A few things must be kept in mind while purchasing Brazilian Micro Sword plants. Choose a plant that has vibrant green leaves that are at least 2 inches long. Yellow leaves and presence of algae indicate an unhealthy plant and should be avoided. Even the smallest trace of algae will spread fast and can later damage the entire aquarium. If the Micro Sword plant is purchased in it’s emersed form and then submerged in water afterwards, it will shed its emersed leaves and grow new submersed leaves within a few days.

The Micro Sword plant is widely produced by several fish – keeping nurseries and can be purchased from any local fish store that stocks aquarium plants. Micro Swords may be available in the form of potted plants or mats (like a piece of thick cloth, in which the roots will be visible). If the roots are visible, check whether they are densely packed together and are white in colour. In this era of internet shopping, Micro Sword plants can be easily purchased online on popular shopping websites like Amazon and eBay. A simple Google search can yield many sellers of Micro Sword plants in the locality.

Micro Sword Price

The Micro Sword plant is available in the cost range of 3 Pound sterling to 6 Pound sterling (4 US Dollars to 8 US Dollars).

The Micro Sword plant is the perfect plant for aquarium hobbyists. Beginners in fish – keeping should know some basics about growing aquatic plants before attempting to grow Lilaeopsis brasiliensis because its growth can be a little difficult if not careful. The compact structure of the plant and its grass – like features will assist in creating a beautiful aquatic environment inside an aquarium, once the carpet is formed. The dense carpet – like formation of these plants serve as a great hiding place for fish eggs and newly hatched fish (fry) from other adult fish in the aquarium.

Micro sword is easy to propagate and a chess board formation while planting aids in faster propagation. Planting and trimming of the plant must be done carefully because it is fragile, and it is usually recommended to use a pair of aquarium tweezers to do the job. A micro sword plant is a fast grower if provided with proper lighting conditions, nutrients in the soil and more importantly, adequate amounts of CO2. A healthy grass – carpet can be produced within a few months if all these conditions are met. A Narrow Leaf Micro Sword plant can be considered if the aquarium is of a larger size. Another grass – like plant is the Dwarf Hairgrass that can also be grown like a Micro Sword.