red tiger lotusAs I recall, the plant pictured on the package had large and colorful leaves, so it may well have been a tiger lotus (Nymphaea lotus). One type has green leaves streaked with purple, while the similarly striped red variety is--of course--ruddier.

Natives of West Africa, these "tigers" (sometimes also known as Nymphaea zenkeri or maculata) are actually water lilies rather than lotuses, though with heart-shaped rather than round leaves. They are often recommended for aquariums because they tolerate temperatures from 68 to 85 degrees and ph levels from 5 to 8. They also provide a contrasting hue to the solid green of most other water plants, and can even produce white, night-blooming flowers about 2 1/2 inches across.

Their main drawback is that, if you allow them to reach the surface of the water, they will block light from reaching other plants beneath them. green tiger lotusAlthough relatively small for water lilies, they can still cover surfaces 30-some inches above where they were planted and make leaves up to 6 inches across. For that reason, some people cut off all the floating foliage and only allow what is submerged to remain. This will prevent the plants from blooming, but they are usually grown for their colorful leaves rather than their flowers anyway.

They do best in large, warm aquariums with good light and supplemental carbon dioxide, so my murky and unheated 10-gallon goldfish tank probably wouldn't have been the best setting for them anyway. If you can find tiger lotus bulbs yourself, plant them in the substrate so that at least a third or fourth of each bulb protrudes. Avoid any that appear to be light-colored or just light. Viable bulbs should be dark--and heavy enough to gradually sink once they are dropped into water.

Some people prefer to plant them in pots before placing them in the aquarium, to contain their roots as well. The plants will reportedly survive even if they eventually break free of their bulbs. They can make runners and, in conditions where they are happy enough to bloom, they will also self-seed freely.

red tiger lotus in aquariumI eventually purchased other aquarium plants or swapped for them. The goldfish did eat some, though one spiky type and one ferny type still seem to be surviving--if barely! Fortunately for this extremely amateur fish-keeper, the goldfish seem fairly easy to please and are still surviving too. Mine get by with no aquarium gadgets except a light and filter.

As I heartily dislike plastic plants, I will probably keep buying real ones, since nibbling them keeps the fish occupied. What else is there to do, after all, when you are swimming around a 10-gallon tank all day?

Photos: The thumbnail and red lotus photos are by pinpin and the green lotus photo by Haplochromis, both courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The aquarium photo, from the Dave's Garden PlantFiles, is by ogon.