If you have been thinking about adding live plants to your freshwater tank, but are concerned that they are too difficult to grow, then you should definitely consider one of the Vallisneria species. Val or Vallis, as they are called, are a group of true aquatic plants that are very easy to propagate and make a great choice among aquarium plants for beginners !
Appearance and size of Vallisneria
Vallis aquarium plants typically have long, thin, almost ribbon-like leaves that have rounded tips with tiny, barely noticeable spikes on the end. The attractive, usually green leaves can grow straight or corkscrew-twisted, depending on the species, and form a loose wall of vegetation in your tank.
Their long leaves make them an ideal intermediate or background plant, and some types are especially suitable for tall, narrow aquarium shapes that would otherwise be a bit difficult to plant. Depending on the species, its leaves can range from 6 to over 60 inches long but, like true aquatics, it will stay completely inside your tank!
6 Common Types of Vallisneria for Aquariums
While there are over 30 species of Vallis currently recognized, only 6 are routinely sold for aquariums. These species differ primarily in the shape and length of their leaves, but can also exhibit different shades and colors depending on water conditions. Some species are more cold tolerant than others or prefer higher levels of alkalinity.
Straight Blade Valleys: Italian Val vs Jungle Val
One of the most popular and easy to care for species is Vallisneria spirallis, also known as Italian or Straight Vallis. Italian Val aquarium plants can reach up to 20 inches and are often available in a bright red morph. Water hobbyists appreciate V.spirallis for its use as a colorful background plant in smaller tanks.
In contrast, Vallisneria americana or the Selva Val has broader leaves that can grow up to 5 feet long! Jungle Vallis can quickly take over even very large tanks. Long leaves can float on the surface of the water and block lights if not trimmed regularly.
There is also a smaller one with straight leaves. Australian species, V.nana, which only reaches 12-20 inches and is a beautiful choice as a background plant in small tanks. You can also use it in the middle of a larger tank to create the look of a grassy meadow.
Vallis Corkscrew Varieties
Many types of Vallis have shorter, tightly twisted leaves that add a lovely texture to an aquarium. V. fortifolia is a dwarf version perfect for nano tanks, while V. torta and V. asiatica only reach about 20 inches and fit well in tanks 10 gallons and up.
|Size range (height)
|6 to 8 inches
|Thin and well rolled
|5 to 30 gallons
|11 to 20 inches
|narrow and straight
|pale green to red
|20 gallons and up
|19 to 60 inches
|wide and straight
|100 gallons and up
|up to 20 inches
|thin and twisted
|10 gallons and up
|12 to 20 inches
|Thin and grass-like
|10 gallons and up
|12 to 20 inches
|short and twisted
|10 gallons and up
Habitat and water preferences
Valleys are generally undemanding plants and don’t require a lot of special care, making them ideal for first-time aquascapers. However, they are not low light aquatic plants and grow best in moderate to strong lighting conditions.
Like all aquatic plants, they do best in well-filtered water that is changed regularly. They prefer hard, alkaline water and do not thrive in acidic or soft water conditions. Enriching your aquarium water with a CO2 Diffuser can bring out the reddish tones in your V.spiralis and help encourage growth in all types of Valles.
For fertilization, I find it best to use a complete potting soil with plenty of iron and slip a fertilizer tablet under the root ball when planting. If using a sand-based substrate, you may want to hide a layer of iron-rich gravel and small pebbles underneath to improve water circulation.
growth and spread
Vallis leaves grow from the crown in a rosette pattern, similar to lettuce and cabbage. When planting your Vals, it’s best to gently push the roots and crown into the soil with your fingers or an aquascaping tool, then pull up until the crown sits just above the surface. If it’s under gravel, your plant won’t grow.
Vallis propagates by sending out runners, which take root in their substrate and develop into new plants. These racers can quickly take over your tank if you don’t pinch them back. You will also need to prune the leaves regularly by pinching or cutting them near the crown.
Vals Produces Flowers and Seeds
Vallis species produce male and female plants with white flowers. The female flowers float on the surface, while the smaller underwater male flowers break off and float in the water. Once the female flowers are fertilized, they produce a seed pod that can be collected and saved for future propagation.
Valleys are not prone to specific diseases or health problems, with the most common problems being excessive algae growth on the leaves or slower growth due to low light conditions. While the leaves of other plants may turn brown from nutritional deficiencies, this is not usually a problem with the undemanding Vallis species.
Benefits of having Vallis in your tank
Aquatic plants like Vallis provide many benefits to your freshwater tank beyond their beautiful appearance:
- Plants produce oxygen and use the carbon dioxide produced by their fish and invertebrates.
- Its roots provide an ideal home for good aquatic bacteria that help regulate your tank’s nitrogen cycle and also prevent dead zones in your substrate.
- They also provide shelter for organisms in your tank.
What do you need to grow Vallis?
You don’t need a lot of fancy tools or gadgets to grow a thriving Vallis aquascape. Here is a list of the supplies you will need to start your own underwater garden. :
- Aquarium (size depends on the species you plan to keep)
- Filtration system
- Aquatic plant substrate (iron-rich soil, sand, or gravel)
Optional but useful supplies may include:
- CO2 diffuser
- Pruning and aquascaping tools
- Fertilizer tablets or liquid fertilizer
|Common name (species)
|Vallisneria, Vallis, Val, Eelgrass, Tape Grass (multiple Vallisneria sp)
|It is found in subtropical regions throughout the world, including North America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
|easy to moderate
|6 to 60 inches
|64 to 82°F
|6.0 to 9.0
|Hardness of water
|4 dGH and more; prefers hard water
|moderate to intense
|Ideal for community or shrimp tanks, and raising fry.
Dig bottom dwellers or single-tailed goldfish can cause problems by uprooting plants.
Aquatic snails are likely to eat the leaves
|Ideal tank placement
|middle to back
|Runners and Seeds
Ideal for community or shrimp tanks, and raising fry. Dig bottom dwellers or single-tailed goldfish can cause problems by uprooting plants. Aquatic snails are likely to eat the leaves
As you can see, Vallis is an ideal choice for aquatic aquariums and planted community tanks, and you don’t need a green thumb or a lot of expensive equipment to grow and propagate. We’d love to hear about your experiences with this beautiful aquatic plant, so join us on social media or leave a comment below!