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Home > Fish > Pygmy Chain Sword: How to Grow & Complete Care Guide

Pygmy Chain Sword: How to Grow & Complete Care Guide

pygmy chain sword

The pygmy chain sword is an aquatic plant that provides a much-needed splash of color to fish tanks of almost any size. This plant is considered a carpeting plant, which means it acts as a ground cover. Easy to care for, the pygmy chain sword is a great option for those who are just beginning their adventure of growing aquatic plants. Let’s learn more about this interesting aquatic plant!

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Useful Information About Pygmy Chain Swords


Family Name:  Echinodorus tenellus
Common Name:  Narrow-leaf chain sword
Origin:  North, Central, South America
Color:  Light to dark green
Size:  About 4 inches in height
Growth Rate:  Rapid
Care Level:  Beginner
Lighting:  Full spectrum
Water Conditions:  Neutral pH
Minimum Tank Size:  5 gallons minimum
Supplements:  C02, fertilizer, root tabs
Placement in Tank:  Midground, foreground
Propagation:  Self-propagation
Compatibility:  Most aquatic plants that are low growing

Pygmy Chain Sword Appearance

Growing quickly and low to the base of the aquarium, the pygmy chain sword has grass-like leaves that are broad at the base and thin at the tip. This plant creates a nice cover that looks kind of like shag carpeting. The average pygmy chain sword grows no bigger than 4 inches in height, so it is not likely to overrun the aquarium that they are living in. You can trim your pygmy chain sword down to the shape and size that you prefer.

Where to Find It?

Pygmy chain swords can be found at a variety of different outlets. They are commonly sold at plant and garden stores. They can also be found in pet stores, garden co-ops, online gardening shops, and even auction websites.

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General Care

This beginner-friendly plant is easy to take care of and requires little effort to keep alive. However, this doesn’t mean the plant is hands-off. You should know how to maintain the aquarium and supplement your new plant to ensure that it thrives.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Your pygmy chain sword must have a proper habitat setup to grow well and thrive. Here is what you need to know about the pygmy chain sword’s preferred habitat, aquarium conditions, and the overall setup.

Aquarium Size

It is important to make sure the aquarium that you put your pygmy chain sword in is at least 5 gallons in size, as anything smaller will not accommodate the sprawling nature and the propagation of this plant. Large aquariums are ideal, especially when other types of plants will also be grown in the space.

Water Temperature

Pygmy chain swords do best in water temperatures between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they can live in cooler temperatures without a problem. A tropical environment is ideal, with a water pH between 6 and 7. It is important to test the water’s pH regularly to ensure that the water doesn’t become too unstable at any time.


All pygmy chain swords rely on a substrate to sink their roots into and to get nutrients from for good health. The best option is a fine material, such as gravel or nutrient-rich sand. Your aquarium should be filled with at least 2 inches’ worth of substrate before you plant your new pygmy chain sword. You can add supplements to the substrate that will help fertilize your plant and help it grow strong. Consider C02 products and root tabs as additives.


Your new pygmy chain sword will yearn for light. Without it, these plants tend to get dull and brown. Consider putting your aquarium near a window that gets full sunlight throughout the day. You can also place a full-spectrum light on the aquarium to mimic the sun when it’s cloudy outside and overnight.


The great thing about pygmy chain swords is that they filter the water of toxins, such as nitrates and ammonia. These plants can even keep algae growth under control! Therefore, there may be no need to incorporate a filter into your aquarium setup. Working with other plants in your aquarium, the water should stay fresh and clean as time goes on.

Planting Tips

Before planting your new pygmy chain sword in your decked-out aquarium, it is a good idea to gently but thoroughly clean the plant with water to ensure that it does not introduce any unwanted dirt or debris to the aquarium. You should also add a little fertilizer to your substrate before planting.

When you are ready to plant your pygmy chain sword, do so gently, and ensure that the roots are completely covered by the substrate and that the stem and leaves are exposed above. You should pat the substrate down over the roots to ensure that the plant doesn’t float to the surface when you let it go.

Don’t plant your pygmy chain sword in a crowded aquarium full of plants that will tower over it, as the plant likely won’t get enough sun to thrive. Your plant should always have direct access to sun or LED lighting.

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The 3 Benefits of Having a Pygmy Chain Sword in Your Aquarium

1. Keep the Water Clean

Pygmy chain swords are great at filtering the water and keeping it clean throughout the year. They even absorb nutrients that leach into the water from other aquarium inhabitants to keep themselves strong and healthy. This is great news for any fish, crabs, or shrimp that might be living alongside the plant, as the filtering will help keep them healthier and happier.

2. Provide a Hiding Place

Pygmy chain swords provide the perfect hiding spot for small fish and other inhabitants that want to get away from the spotlight for a while. Large fish seem to like nestling into the grassy plant for comfort and a sense of protection while they rest. 

3. Don’t Overrun Other Plants

A benefit of growing a pygmy chain sword in your aquarium is that it will not overrun other plants growing alongside it. It will grow along the bottom of the aquarium and around the other plants. The plant won’t crowd others and will never make your aquarium seem cluttered.

Concerns About the Pygmy Chain Sword

One concern about this type of plant is that small animals like to hide out in it, so you may have a hard time seeing your pets unless you are peering into the aquarium from above, and even then, the task can be tough. Also, you may end up having to trim your pygmy chain sword occasionally to keep the entire bottom of the aquarium from looking like a bed of grass.


Final Thoughts

The pygmy chain sword is a beautiful little plant that does well in most aquarium settings, with little need for maintenance as time goes on. Fish and other aquatic animals tend to love this plant’s protective growth. What’s great is that they self-propagate, so you won’t have to worry about adding new plants as old ones die.

Featured Image Credit: Pygmy Chain Sword (Image Credit: Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

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