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Pygmy Chain Sword: Ultimate Growers Guide 2021

What should you know about Pygmy chain sword?

Pygmy chain sword one of the easy-care aquarium plant for beginner fish keepers.

It well suits the foreground and mid-ground of your fish tank.

In Latin, it is also called Echinodorus tenellus. It is very famous because the world-famous Japanese Aqua scaper Takashi Amano used this aquatic plant prominently in his aqua scaping.

This pygmy chain sword not only expert aquarists but also beginners of this field/fish keepers can get outstanding results. Because it is an easy growing carpeting plant.

and it is a plant that can easily care for and trim without affecting its growth.

So under this article, all the necessary information regarding the Pygmy chain sword discuss that will help you to have an eye-catching aquascape fish tank.

What is the pygmy chain sword’s scientific name?

It is Helanthium tenellum and belongs to the family Alismataceae. Its genus name is Helanthium and its species name is H.tenellum. 

Therefore scientific classification can be shown as follows,

  • kingdom – Plantae
  • Order – Alismatales
  • Family – Alismataceae
  • Genus – Helanthium
  • Species – h.tenellum.

There are multiple subspecies within this family which vary slightly on genetic factors.

There are two main varieties of chain swords, most people get confused with them. They are the broadleaf chain sword and the narrow leaf chain sword. ( It is also called the narrow chain sword.)

You may confuse thinking about what differences can use to identify them separately.

Do not worry it is easy as the broadleaf chain sword plant ( Echinodorus quadricostatus) has a broad leaf compare to its cousin pygmy chain sword plant.

This also grows much taller than the Pygmy chain sword, it grows up to about 10-15 cm long and has a 15-20 cm wide leaf. Thereby we can conclude it well suit for a larger tank.

But it is also possible to grow in smaller tanks.

It also has light green color leaves whereas the narrow chain sword is with Dark green narrow tipped end leaves.

Pygmy Chain Sword Origin

Pygmy chain sword is native to North, South, and Central America.

It is spread from Texas to Florida and north to Michigan. it is endangered in the Michigan and Indiana regions.

In wild it can found around the slow-moving estuaries where they can easily grow, flowering and reproduce.

It has many common names as follows,

  • Dwarf chain sword
  • Narrow-leaf chain sword 
  • Echinodorus tenellus

Many people get confused with the micro sword thinking it is the narrow leaf chain sword. It is totally wrong.

what are the differences between Pygmy chain sword vs micro sword?

The micro sword is completely different and they have very tiny blade leaves that are much shorter.

Whereas narrow chain swords taller and their roots are not stronger compare to the narrow chain sword. And also micro sword is with light dark green color it depends on the light conditions.

In micro sword mother plants directly not producing baby runners. where it can see in the pygmy chain sword.

These pygmy plants get to fill in a large space, leaves make a widespread due to their arch shape.

We can count the shape of the leaves as a major difference.

Even the micro sword is not considered an actual sword chain plant where pygmy shows all the actual sword plant characteristics to the other sword plants.

Therefore it can show as these two are different plant species where most of the fish keepers get confused.

What are the differences between pygmy chain sword vs dwarf sag?

Dwarf sag is also called dwarf Sagittaria. Most of the time this plant may also get confused with the pygmy chain sword thinking both plants are the same.

No, It is not true.

Dwarf Sagittaria has a white bottom with lots of white color roots where it can not be seen in Pygmy plants.

And also it has horizontal lines on the leaves from bottom to top where you can not see horizontal lines in the narrow leaf chain sword.

Both these plants are well suited for your foreground of the tank.

These Sagittaria differ by overall color and size. There it has light darker green and pygmy chain sword with a dark green hue.

So I think you may have got the point.! Now you have the knowledge to identify Pygmy chain sword from the dwarf sword and dwarf sag.

When it comes to the Pygmy chain sword size

It grows up to about a maximum height of 3.9 inches(10cm) and has a maximum width of 2 inches (5cm).

These dimensions vary with the pygmy sword chain. Hence with the light, it grows faster and growth is suppressed if it grows under the shadows of taller plants.

So aware of that, Pygmy chain sword leaves are long slender. Leaves with arrowhead type leave at the top, if you plant them in a low light area it will grow towards high light when it grows.

Well grown plants will have 12-14 per bunch which can be 1.4 cm long. It also has a thin, erect 3-20 cm long stem.

And smaller plants this stem ends with a single inflorescence.

Growth and development

This pygmy chain sword is a superb plant for new fish keepers. Why I am saying this if it has plenty of light and nutrient-rich substrate as it is a root feeder, can easily grow throughout your fish tank.

Even it is easy to maintain. The important thing is this plant, carbon dioxide is optional. It doesn’t matter CO2 has or not.

Only you have to provide the nutrition-rich substrate and enough light. If you need you can add fertilizer to the Pygmy chain sword.

It will further enhance the carpeting of this aquatic plant.

Here you have to remove excess growings, that can be planted at different empty spaces at the tank.

Mother plants produce new baby plants by the runners. Each adult plant produces a new baby plant.

How could this happen?

As they are well known as runners, it produces adventitious shoots and plantlets. Once these baby plantlets grow up to about half of the mother plant can separate and implant in another place at the same tank or a different tank.

When fully grown it produces a long flower stalk which is beautiful when flowering.

How to plant pygmy chain sword?

When I first brought these aquatic plants for my tank, the aquarium owner told me to keep the aquatic plant pot inside the water until I plant them.

But when I arrived home I forgot to keep them inside water for about 10 minutes. I saw plant color turns to a very pale and look like wilted/dry.

I suddenly put them back in the water, fortunately, it turns back to the original appearance, so be aware if you going to have those.

when planting I bleach each bush into 9 parts and planted them one by one at open areas in the tank. Here I used an aquarium scaping scissor to plant these.

I want to say my tank is not comprised of larger pebbles as substrate. So I planted them digging around 3cm deep into the substrate.

Do not forget to trim after planting. it will help to regrowth of the new leaves quickly.

Why Do we need Pygmy chain sword trimming?

As I told you earlier after the planting shop brought one, we need to trim in order to induce new leaves. What if the plant has damaged leaves? Sometimes algae may grow on those leaves.

There we have to trim and remove unnecessary leaves.

When doing the trimming do not cut very close to the base of the plant. Carefully cut without damage to the plant. If get damage it will die. So be aware of that.

Note: Here I forget to say my tank is a 29-gallon water tank. It is 18 inches in height and after planting you may not give much attention toward carpeting the grass.

If you want to fast carpeting, can use bulbs with 2-4 watts per gallons of water for around 14-16 hours per day.

When it comes to Pygmy chain sword requirements

Temperature for optimum growth

It will well grow around temperature between 68-84 F (20-29C) water. It also capable of growing under a wide range of temperatures.

There even it is possible to grow on cold water without any problem.

the pH of water?

It also adapted to grow in a wide range of pH. Optimum pH for growth is between 6.5-7.5 but it favors neutral pH a lot. As I told it can bear a wide range of pH even it is possible to grow below pH 6. It means towards the acidic pH.

You may research whether it can grow on brackish water or saltwater.

It also requires water hardness to between 3-10dGH, CO2 is optional for its growth.

Substrate for optimal growth.

Rather than having a normal substrate, it needs a nutrition-rich sandy substrate for optimal growth.

Most of the experts say it is better if the substrate contains 25% clay and laterite.

Even though it is possible to grow in the gravel substrate, but there you need to supply it with additional nutrition via fertilizers.

The following supplementary fertilizer is well suited for a large pebble containing tank.

  • liquid fertilizer
  • Root tabs

Also if you want can use specifically made aqua soil. The only thing you need to fulfill is the hunger to grow.

Note: It has a good nitrate tolerating ability vice versa it will help to cycle the tank nitrate level and reduce the ammonia spikes which is poisonous to many fish.

When it comes to Pygmy chain sword propagation

As I mentioned earlier these plants propagate by runners. Mother plant makes a chain of runners suddenly all these give rise to many daughter plants.

As earlier told when these daughter plants are half the size of the parent can de attach and plant in a separate place. ( I found it is very easy to grow even if you are willing to sell the plants it is also possible.)

In commercial production produce a huge number by an advanced technology called tissue culture. It helps to produce a large number within a short period of time in a very small space.

Why is my pygmy chain sword melting?

It mainly occurs due to incorrect practices and treatments. Melting means the veins of the leaves getting thinner and rot away keeping the outside edge to interact with many veins until plant leaf completely rot away.

This can happen due to many reasons. The first thing in aquariums growers makes faster the growing by keeping roots immerse in water.

But its leaves exposed to the atmosphere. When a newly purchase plant immerses in tank water, now the leaves are not adapted to absorb water nutrients.

It has only adapted to photosynthesis by exchanging gases, result melting.

The plant itself discards and new leaves encourage to grow which are well adapted to underwater conditions.

Second thing if you are not fed your plant properly as it’s a root feeder need a well nutritious substrate. Result roots use stored nutrients slowly lead leaves to melt.

Another thing if you do not provide adequate light it can also lead to melting the pygmy chain sword plant. I hope you may get the point.

Fish health and safety with pygmy chain sword?

It is a fish friendly plant and non-toxic to the fish.

It helps fish in many ways. This carpeting contains a large number of roots nitrogen produce within the tank utilized by these roots. Thereby their growth promotes and prevents harmful ammonia spikes.

The best example is as mentioned earlier world-famous aqua scaping expert Japanese Takashi Amano used well in his aqua scaping. So no other evidence is needed.

Algae can be grown on the leaves of this plant. Best way to overcome this by adding algae-eating fish and shrimp species.

So even a beginner fish keeper can use it without much knowledge of that.

Why my Pygmy chain sword turning red?

If you are not given plenty of light, that may lead to leaves turn into a red color. As earlier mentioned when a plant adapting to underwater conditions, it shed all the leaves.

Therefore these new leaves appear in red or purple color.

It will eventually turn in green after a few days.

Therefore it is totally harmless. So give them enough light and time to grow.

Pygmy chain sword tankmates

This plant is well suited for most of the community fish species. But do not use Oscars, Jack Dempsey, Texas cichlids. They can eventually damage the sword chain plants.

The best fish that keep with pygmy chain sword are plecos, Goldfish, and all the shrimps’ species. I hope you got the point.


It is an amazing plant to have in your aquarium tanks. Why I am saying this, it helps to buffer the water.

Where protect many fish and shrimp species from ammonia spikes. Also, it adds so much beauty to the tank by aqua scaping.

Easy to grow, easy to manage, what else do we need to expect from an aqua scaping aquatic plant? I hope this article will help you to get a clear knowledge about the pygmy chain sword. Happy aqua scaping!

Further reading:

  1. Do platies need a heater?
  2. Green dragon pleco: Ultimate care guide 2020
  3. How on can Goldfish go without food?

Pygmy Chain sword on wikipedia

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