Scarlet Temple Growing Guide – Updated for 2022 (growing, feeding & propagating)

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Scarlet Temple, which is also sold under its scientific name Alternanthera reineckii, is a fairly easy to grow, red-to-pink stem plant that works well either as a midground or background plant. This slow-growing plant is often recommended as an ideal plant for beginners.

Although Scarlet Temple grows best with medium to high light, it does not need CO2 injection to grow well and it can stand a wide variety of temperatures.

Typically the leaves of Scarlet Temple are green on top with a pink underbelly. The intensity of the pink color generally increases the brighter the light it grows under.

Overview of Scarlet Temple

Scarlet Temple is a relatively slow-growing stem plant that brings the most stunning pink color to any aquarium, creating an amazing contrast to the usually green aquatic plants.

This plant is native to South America where it grows in submerged and semi-aquatic habitats such as marshes, stream banks, and ponds.

There are several different varieties of Scarlet Temple available to hobbyists and these include Alternanthera reineckii ‘Rosanervig’, which is almost completely pink and Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’, which is a miniature version of the traditional Scarlet Temple.

Scarlet Temple Characteristics

Common Name:Scarlet Temple
Scientific Name:Alternanthera reineckii
Origins:South America
Care Level:Easy
Growth Rate:Slow
Light Level:Medium to High
C02 Level:Low
Tank Location:Midground or Background
Temperature:72°F – 82°F (22°C – 27.5°C)
Color:Green and Pink/Red
Propagation Method:Stem Cuttings
Maximum Height:12″ to 20″ (30cm to 50cm)
Minimum Tank Size:20-gallons (76 liters)

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Scarlet Temple General Description

Scarlet Temple is a tall stem plant that boasts leaves that are a dark green color on top with bright pink to deep red color undeath, all growing on a bright pink stem. Whilst this plant does not require CO2 injection to grow, to achieve the best possible coloration, strong light, and CO2 injection help.

As is typical of stem plants, Scarlet Temple is an easy to propagate plant that we can use to fill out large areas of our aquariums.

This plant is typically grown as a midground or background plant due to its eventual size. Although, with very frequent trimming, it could be grown in the foreground.

Scarlet Temple is loved by both professional aquascapers and those of us who just grow plants for fun thanks to the bright color it brings to the aquarium.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Scarlet Temple

Scarlet Temple is a fairly undemanding plant that will grow in a wide variety of water parameters. In my own fish room, I currently have this plant growing in aquariums with gravel, sand, and Fluval Stratum as the substrate. It appears to be flourishing in all aquariums.

I have this plant growing in some tanks with moderate lighting and some with bright lighting. Some of those aquariums also have CO2 injection, although not all of them, and it does make a difference to the color.

I have detailed some of the specific conditions Scarlet Temple prefers below.


Above I have listed Scarlet Temple’s preferred water temperature as between 72°F and 82°F (22°C and 27.5°C), although I have also grown it in aquariums that were slightly warmer than 82°F. It did grow very well in my German Blue Ram tank, which was also warmer than 82°F.

I did try growing some Scarlet Temple in my Discus tank which runs closer to 88°F (31°C), but it did not do very well, suggesting around 82°F is its maximum temperature.


To get the very best coloration out of Scarlet Temple, it really needs to be grown under high light. That doesn’t mean it won’t grow under moderate light, or even a low light in the right circumstances.

I have a number of tanks that run the Fluval Aquasky plant, which grows plants really well. The Fluval Aquasky is considered a moderate light.

With that said, the best color comes from those tanks in my fish room that run the Fluval Plant 3.0 LED light fitting.

Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 59 Watts, 48-60 Inches
  • Features programmable, gradual 24-hour light cycle settings (sunrise, midday, sunset and night)
  • Includes six unique band waves for full spectrum results
  • Includes optional pre-set habitat light configurations like Lake Malawi, Tropical, and Planted
  • 120 degree light dispersion for full area coverage and uniform lighting
  • Extendable mounting brackets allow easy installation on a variety of aquarium widths

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

CO2 Injection

CO2 is often injected into aquascapes to help the plants grow. Typically a CO2 injection system comprises a pressurized cylinder containing CO2, a regulator to control the amount of CO2 being released into the aquarium, and a diffuser to physically dissolve the CO2 into the water.

As with the level of lighting Scarlet Temple receives, the level of CO2 definitely has a factor in the color the plant produces.

I have this plant growing in tanks with and without CO2, and although the plants grow pretty much equally well in all those plants, there is no doubt the color is brighter in the tanks with CO2 injection.


In my experience, Scarlet Temple does not really have a preference for a substrate. Providing it can sink its roots in, it will be happy.

I have found that Scarlet Temple grows well in sand, gravel, and Fluval Stratum, which is a substrate developed especially for aquarium plants.

How To Grow Scarlet Temple

Scarlet Temple is a relatively easy stem plant to grow. It really does grow well whatever substrate you plant it in.

If you purchase your Scarlet Temple from a local fish store or a big box store, the chances are it will come in a small plastic pot filled with Rockwool. Before planting the Scarlet Temple we need to remove the plant from the pot and get rid of all the Rockwool.

When you break open the Rockwool it will probably expose several little plants all bundled together as a single plant.

Images: Tropica Plants

After removing the plant from the pot and taking away as much of the Rockwool as you can, the smaller pieces of Rockwool will also need to be removed. I have found the best way to do this is with a small bowl of water and some aquascaping tweezers.

All the tiny pieces of Rockwool can be picked off with tweezers or washed off in the water.

As mentioned above, what appeared to be a single plant in the pot will probably be 3 or 4 individual plants that can be planted in the aquarium either as a single clump or as individual plants.

Once you have removed all the Rockwool and separated out the pot into individual plants, it is time to plant the Scarlet Temple. The best way I have found is to carefully place the plants into a pair of aquascaping tweezers, then push them one at a time into the substrate.

Fertilizing Scarlet Temple

As is typical of stem plants, Scarlet Temple takes nutrients in through both its roots and its leaves. As such, I have found this plant benefits from both root tabs, which we bury in the substrate and liquid fertilizer that we add to the water column once a week.

The root tabs I have found to work the best are Flourish Root Tabs which are made by Seachem. I tend to bury one or two near to the clump of the Scarlet Temple. It takes a couple of weeks for the roots to reach the root tabs, but once they do, there is a noticeable increase in the plants growth.

Over the years I have tested pretty much every liquid fertilizer on the market. Right now I believe Easy Green, which is made by Aquarium Co-op, is the best liquid fertilizer on the market.

To use Easy Green you just have to add a few squirts directly into the aquarium water once a week. That’s it! The plants will extract all the nutrients they need, and as a result, grow stronger and look greener.

Scarlet Temple Maintenance

Scarlet Temple is a fairly low-maintenance plant. It does not grow quickly so does not need a great deal of day-to-day maintenance.

I have found the only real maintenance Scarlet Temple needs is the occasional trim. When the plant reaches the top of my tank, I just trim it down to about 4″ to 6″ (10cm to 15cm) tall and leave it to continue growing.

The pieces I cut off can be grown on to make new plants (see propagating Scarlet Temple below)

About once every couple of years I tend to pull out the old plants, as they become woody and less productive, and just replace them with newer cuttings.

Propagating Scarlet Temple

Like so many other stem plants, Scarlet Temple is incredibly easy to propagate. In fact, it is the ease with which we can propagate Scarlet Temple that makes it one of the most popular red plants in the hobby.

To propagate Scarlet Temple, follow these steps;

Step 1

Using a sharp pair of scissors, carefully cut the stem of the plant, ideally just above a set of leaves. Often, Scarlet Temple will begin to grow roots partway up a stem. This is an ideal place to cut the plant.

Step 2

Carefully push the freshly cut stem into the substrate, taking care not to crush the stem or damage it by pushing it too hard. Ideally, push the new stem into the substrate right up to the first set of leaves. This is where the roots will grow from.

Step 3

Make sure the new plant does not float up or get knocked out of the substrate before the roots have a chance to form. Within 4 to 6 weeks the new cutting should have a healthy root growth.

What Other Plants Can Be Grown With Scarlet Temple?

Scalet Temple is an easy-to-grow plant that does well in medium to high light with little or no CO2 injection. As such, there are a wide range of plants that also grow well in those conditions. Personally, I like to try and contrast leaf shapes and colors.

When I look around my fish room, I have Scarlet Temple growing in a number of tanks, and other plants growing with them include;

Mermaid Weed

Mermaid Weed, which is also known as Saw-Tooth Hygro thanks to the saw-like edges to its leaves, is one of the most dramatic plants in the aquascaping hobby. Not only do the leaves have a stunning natural shape, but they also change from green to deep pink when conditions are right.

Although not the easiest of plants to grow, the rewards for growing this plant are huge as a good specimen of Mermaid Weed makes any aquascape look amazing.

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword plants are probably one of the most recognizable plants, and certainly one of the most popular plants in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby. Amazon Sword plants have been in the hobby for 50 years or more, and their popularity has barely wained.

Amazon Sword plants are beautiful, architectural, and incredibly hardy, making them an ideal plant for those who are new to aquatic plants.

As I sit and look around my fish room, I think I have more Amazon Sword plants in my tanks than any other plant.

Hygrophila Corymbosa

Temple Plant, which is also known by its scientific name Hygrophila corymbosa, is one of the hardiest and easy to grow plants available to hobbyists today. This bright green plant makes an ideal background plant for any aquarium.


Moneywort, which is sometimes sold under its scientific name, Bacopa monnieri is a fairly easy-to-grow stem plant that is considered to be hardy, making it ideal for both beginners and those with a little more experience.

Moneywort grows fairly tall, making it ideal for growing in the midground (with regular trimming) or as a background plant. Tall plants like Moneywort provide excellent hiding places and line of sight blocks for the more timid fish in your aquarium.

Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus

Fortunately, Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus is easier to grow than it is to say! In fact, Pogostemon Stellastus Octopus is one of the easiest stem plants to grow. It is practically bulletproof.

This beautiful plant quickly grows to fill any space it is planted in. Whilst not necessarily one for a highly aquascaped tank, it certainly has its uses. I especially like to use Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus in all my breeding fish for profit tanks.

Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Tropica’

Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Tropica’ is a truly unique plant whose leaves offer a stunning contrast against the traditional green of most aquarium plants. In my experience, this slow-growing plant grows well, even in lower light tanks, and is suitable for use in the midground of medium to larger tanks.

Originating from Sri Lanka, Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Tropica’ is happiest when grown in harder water tanks with a nutrient-rich substrate.

Dwarf Hairgrass

Many of the plants that we can use to create these carpets require special lights and lots of dedication from the fish keeper. Dwarf Hairgrass is the exception. This low-growing, grass-like plant will create a lush carpet with very little help from us fishkeepers.

Water Sprite

Water Sprite is one of the easiest stem plants to grow in an aquarium. Whether grown traditionally as a rooted plant, or as a floating specimen, Water Sprite will quickly grow and fill your aquarium with lush green, fern-like foliage.

Water Sprite can be grown either as a background, mid-ground, or foreground plant, and just trimmed accordingly to be kept at the desired size.

What Fish Can Be Kept With Scarlet Temple?

There are many different species of fish that can live in the same tank as Scarlet Temple. I keep a lot of Tetras in my tanks with Scarlet Temple growing. Neon Tetras, Silver TIp Tetras, and Lemon Tetras are some of the fish that look really good. I also keep German Blue Rams, Angelfish, and Bolivian Rams.

There are some fish I would not keep with Scarlet Temple. Although this is a fairly hardy plant, the stems can be easily damaged or snapped off by more boisterous fish.

I would avoid African Cichlids and Fancy Goldfish, as well as the large South American like Oscars, Green Terrors, and Dovii.

Benefits Of Growing Scarlet Temple

The benefits of growing live aquarium plants, including Scarlet Temple, have been proved both through scientific research and the accumulative knowledge of millions of fish keepers the world over.

Growing Scarlet Temple will bring many different benefits to your aquarium. The first one is the increase in aesthetic appeal. Growing any aquarium plants makes a tank look and feel more natural, but adding an easy-to-grow red plant like Scarlet Temple adds a real pop of color that will make your tank stand out.

The second major benefit is the improvement live plants make to the water quality. As discussed above, as Scarlet Temple grows, it absorbs ammonia and nitrate from the water column. This makes the water cleaner and safer for the fish to live in.

Growing live plants reduces the amount of ammonia and nitrate in the water making it cleaner and safer for the fish. Live aquatic plants also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which again improves the quality of the aquarium water.

Finally, tall, bushy plants like Scarlet Temple provide hiding places and line of sight blocks in the aquarium, meaning fish that are being bullied or are maybe a little timider, will feel safer because they can get away from the more aggressive members of the aquarium.

Common Problems Growing Scarlet Temple

As I mentioned above, Scarlet Temple is a fairly easy-to-grow plant, that given enough light, will grow for many years without giving you too many problems.

The only real issue I have found with my own Scarlet Temple is it sometimes sends roots down from the stem near the top of the plant. Whilst this does not create any issues for the plant or the fish, it can look a little unsightly.

When this happens I usually just trim the excess roots directly from the stem.

Where Can You Buy Scarlet Temple?

Scarlet Temple is commonly sold in local fish stores and big box stores around the world. Any shop that sells aquatic plants will probably have it in stock or may be able to order some for you.

Scarlet Temple usually sells for between $8 and $10 per pot. My local store also sells XL pots which cost $15 each, but you do get a fair few more stems for your money.

If your local store does not have Scarlet Temple for sale, you can also order some from Amazon. I have always found live aquarium plants from Amazon to be really good quality.

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In Conclusion

Scarlet Temple is a fantastic plant that is easy to grow and will bring a fantastic pop of color to what can often be a plain green aquascape.

Providing you give this plant at least a moderate level of light, it will grow strong and bushy with bright pink stems. Whilst it does not strictly require CO2 injection to grow, in my experience the color is definitely more intense with CO2 injected.

If you enjoy growing aquatic plants, why not check out my article titled Java Moss: Complete Growing Guide or Anubias Barteri Growing Guide.

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James

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