The Pogostemon Helferi is an unusual, yet beautiful, foreground plant for aquariums. Its unique look is due to the curled appearance and dark green shade of its leaves. Thailand locals named this plant “dao noi,” meaning, “little star.”
Its natural habitat is in riverbeds, from Thailand’s border with Burma, and living both submerged and partially immersed.
Strong light is preferred if you want to keep the plant growing low and compact. It will still thrive with lower lighting (1.5 watts/gallon), but it will grow as high as 6 inches to reach for more light.
The Pogostemon Helferi thrives in a wide range of water temperatures, 73.4-86 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it suitable for many kinds of tanks. It prefers slightly alkaline to marginally acidic water with pH levels of 5.5-7.
Also, it is pretty tolerant to changes in water chemistry, as its natural habitat in Thailand is constantly changing; this makes it even easier to keep, as water parameters can vary.
Planting your Pogostemon Helferi
The bundle in the pot should be planted as is, about 1.8 inches deep in the substrate and leave it to acclimate to your water conditions. After that, you can divide it into 4-5 smaller stems and replant it in the substrate at about 1-2 inches away from another.
In a short while, the new plants will form a dense carpet. The Pogostemon Helferi will look good in smaller and/or larger packs in the tank foreground.
You can also use it as a centerpiece or in the background in a very small or a Nano aquarium.
For a more interesting effect, the Pogostemon Helferi can also be grown on porous rocks or pieces of driftwood. Just tie the roots gently around the rock or wood using fishing line or cotton thread.
Remove dead, old, and already detached leaves, as they will die and rot anyway, thus delaying the establishment and development of the new and healthy plants.
It has been noticed if you leave a portion together to acclimate in your tank and divide and plant the stems after the acclimation, the stems are less likely to die off or go into shock.
Care for your Pogostemon Helferi
The Pogostemon Helferi is very easy to care for, thus very popular with hobbyists, especially beginner aquarists. It can thrive in either low or strong lighting, but it will grow high in search for light when it’s not strong enough.
In order to achieve the commonly desired carpet look, strong light (about 5 watts/gallon) is recommended.
It needs constant fertilizing, particularly when there are not many fish in the tank to contribute. The leaves will become yellowish when they don’t get enough iron, but they can recover fast if you notice it early and add nutrients in the recommended doses.
CO2 may be added to accelerate growth, but the plant will still grow without it, just a bit slower.
If the Pogostemon Helferi grows too high, trimming the leaves is mandatory, as well as removing entire stems, to allow light and nutrients to reach the entire plant.
You can replant the removed stems if you want to propagate the plant.
This plant propagates through small side shoots, each developing its own roots. You can leave it to propagate on its own or snip off the shoots and replant them for faster coverage of the tank floor.
When grown immersed, the Pogostemon Helferi will develop small flowers that produce seeds. These seeds are released into the tank, resulting in new plants.
Just make sure the substrate and water column are rich enough in nutrients and CO2 to support healthy growth and development.
The Pogostemon Helferi may be planted alone or together with other foreground plants, like the Dwarf Baby Tears, for a stronger impact.
Some herbivore fish may think of it as a tasty salad, so try to avoid species like rainbow fish, rummy nose, or the almighty goldfish.
Also, this may not be the best option for fish that like to redecorate their tank, like Oscar cichlids, as they will try to uproot any plant they find in the tank, as much as you keep replanting it.
This plant requires moderate care and a lot of attention in order to have a healthy growth, but its beauty and unique look are sure worth the effort!
Just be careful to remove any brownish parts to prevent all the plant from becoming infected and eventually dying off. As the Pogostemon Helferi can be kept in many tank setups, be sure to add this unique plant to your aquarium!