The Ultimate Marsilea Hirsuta Care Guide

Marsilea Hirsuta

There are live plants to suit every purpose. Some are tall and sit at the back whereas others are short to fill the foreground.

Marsilea Hirsuta is the latter. It is a carpet-forming species that will cover the bottom of your aquarium in dark green.

This is a species that anyone can care for. Its needs are simple and it can be placed in many different setups.

This article will help you to decide whether Marsilea Hirsuta is the plant for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know, such as the ideal tank setup and propagation techniques.

Marsilea Hirsuta Facts & Overview

Marsilea Hirsuta

Care Level:Easy
Color Form:Dark green
Height:Up to 4 inches
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Tropical freshwater
Growth Rate:Slow

Marsilea Hirsuta is an aquatic freshwater fern from the Marsileaceae family. This group is more commonly known as the Pepperwort Family or Water-Clover Family.

This species is native to Australia, where it grows on the banks of lakes and rivers. It’s amphibious, which means it can grow partially or fully submerged in the water.

This shows its hardy nature, which makes it a great choice for beginners, as one of the hardiest foreground plants available. Its versatility makes it useful for a Paludarium too.

It grows quite slowly, which makes maintenance a bit easier.

Marsilea Hirsuta is a short plant that makes an excellent carpet for the bottom of your aquarium. It sits best in the foreground, so it doesn’t get lost further back in the tank.

You should be able to pick some Marsilea Hirsuta up cheaply, at around $5. To save money, you could buy a small amount and propagate it to produce more.

Before purchasing, check that the plant isn’t losing color or showing signs of damage, to ensure you are getting a healthy plant.

Is Marsilea Hirsuta Hardy

Yes, this is a hardy species that can survive small changes in its environment, so don’t worry if you make small mistakes.

Its toughness means it can be kept in a range of setups with different water conditions. We’ll specify its preferences later.


Carpet plants are beautiful additions to aquariums and paludariums. A cover of green across the substrate adds lots of color to the tank, and it’ll be appreciated by your bottom-dwelling fish.

Marsilea Hirsuta only reaches 4 inches in height, making a great shelter at the bottom of the tank.

Under low light, it could grow higher because it will grow more vertically. This reduces the carpet effect, which is why many people get this species in the first place.

Its stems are very thin, each with leaves at the end which resemble a clover. These could be in two-parts, three-parts, or four-parts.

The round leaves are small, only reaching up to 0.2 inches by 0.4 inches. In the wild the leaves are quite dense, blocking out all light to the substrate.

These plants are dark green. This can look particularly powerful under bright lighting.

As it grows, this plant will produce runners. These help it to spread across the substrate.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Marsilea Hirsuta originated in Australia. The tropical environment here is perfect for the species to thrive. Modeling this Australian habitat is the best way to keep a healthy plant at home.

It lives on the edges of rivers and lakes, either submerged in the water or close by. As the season pass, water levels can change, so Marsilea Hirsuta must be adapted for this.

The ability to tolerate varying water levels has made it a sturdy plant for home aquariums, which is one reason why it is so popular.

The species prefers warm water with a fairly neutral pH. It is used to intense lighting, sometimes feeling sunlight directly in the wild.

These conditions are simple to recreate so you shouldn’t have a problem when designing a suitable aquarium.

Tank Conditions

When fully submerged, this plant prefers soil. Ideally use this as a substrate, but fine-grained alternatives like sand can be used too.

Place Marsilea Hirsuta somewhere under direct light. Take care that there aren’t any decorations or tall plants that could cast shadow from above.

Don’t plant it too densely or you risk causing competition for space and resources.

As a short plant, the foreground is where it’s most effective.

The water in the tank should be heated to 68-77°F and the pH should be 6.0-7.5. These conditions are quite broad, making it adaptable for community aquariums.

Provide intense lighting if you can. Marsilea Hirsuta will grow under lower lighting too though.

You shouldn’t need to use supplements to help growth, but things like CO2 injections and fertilizers can increase growth rate and enhance colors.

These might be useful if you notice a plant’s health worsening.

What Size Aquarium does it need?

This species usually only reaches 4 inches tall, so it is a great option for smaller tanks. A 10-gallon aquarium would be ideal.

You could use Marsilea Hirsuta in larger tanks too, but you might want to mix it with some taller species for the background to fill the empty spaces higher up.


This is an easy plant to take care of. It can tolerate a range of conditions and its hardy nature makes it particularly desirable for beginners.

Pruning isn’t required very often because Marsilea Hirsuta grows so slowly. This saves you some time during tank maintenance.

Keeping your tank healthy is important for a successful plant. Regular partial water changes and the removal of algae will help the plant to thrive.

If you want to increase the growth rate and enhance the dark green colors of Marsilea Hirsuta, you could try using supplements. Fertilizers and CO2 injections will help. They may be useful if health start to deteriorate as well.

Be careful when adding CO2 with shrimps in your tank; it could be dangerous for them.

A common problem to be aware of is melting. This is where a plant becomes weak and starts falling apart. It’s usually caused by the stress of being introduced to a new environment.

The worst example of this is when a plant grown outside of the water is moved to a submerged habitat.

As the plant recovers, new growth will be better able to tolerate the conditions it has been placed in.

Tank Mates

Marsilea Hirsuta is a great choice for a community aquarium. It can tolerate a range of conditions which reduces compatibility issues.

As a short plant, bottom-dwelling fish are going to benefit most from it. They will use it as a refuge when escaping other fish or bright lights.

Examples include Kuhli Loaches, Yoyo Loaches, Otocinclus Catfish, and Corydoras Catfish. Lots of species that swim higher up the tank are suitable too but always check compatibility.

Some fish should not be kept alongside Marsilea Hirsuta. Species like Clown Loaches and Jack Dempsey enjoy eating it, other species like Oscars have been known to uproot it.

This plant will likely withstand low levels of nibbling from smaller fish.

You could try adding some invertebrates. Shrimps and snails are the most common options, like Ghost Shrimp and Mystery Snails.

Avoid crayfish and freshwater crabs as they will tear your plants to shreds.

You don’t even need tank mates, perhaps you could try starting a paludarium.


This species reproduces via rhizome division. Essentially, new branches grow from the plant, eventually separating and forming a whole new plant.

You can speed up propagation quite easily by cutting 1-2 inches of the new branch off early. You can then plant the cutting elsewhere.

Make sure the cutting has leaves attached or it won’t be able to photosynthesize, which is essential for growth.

New plants can take a while to establish themselves, so don’t worry if you don’t notice growth immediately.

Marsilea Hirsuta has a slow growth rate, so it might take even longer for the new plants to develop fully. Patience is important for propagation.

You can use fertilizers and CO2 injections to help to speed up growth. Bright light will be very useful for this too.

This species also reproduces via spore production, but this is more common when growing out of the water.

Is Marsilea Hirsuta Suitable for Your Aquarium?

There are so many live plants to choose from for your aquarium. Picking a species depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Carpet species are often difficult to care for, but that is not the case with Marsilea Hirsuta. This is one of the easiest species to maintain because it is hardy and it grows slowly.

It can be slotted into most freshwater setups as it is fairly adaptable in terms of water conditions.

Propagation of this species is easy, so you should be able to turn a small amount into a dense carpet over time.

Marsilea Hirsuta is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a carpet to add some color at the bottom of their tank.

Why did you choose Marsilea Hirsuta? Let us know in the comments below…

About Robert 468 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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