Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)

Hydrocotyle leucocephala, more commonly referred to as Brazilian Pennywort, is a great vivarium stem plant to have in an enclosure with or without animals.

Both aquatic and terrestrial, it will have its home in a variety of setup types. It is a low-maintenance yet highly visual plant that will bring a unique look to your vivarium.

This plant is also very safe for pets of all sizes and ages, making it ideal for any starter tank. 

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name:  Hydrocotyle leucocephala

Family: Apiaceae

Common Names: Brazilian Pennywort, Rounded Pennywort, White-Headed Pennywort

Habitat: Swamps, Streams, Rivers

Height: Up to 10 inches tall

pH Range: 5.0 to 7.0

Temperature: 65°F to 80°F

What is a Brazilian Pennywort?

Hydrocotyle leucocephala is a unique plant species from the Apiaceae family.

It is used as a decorative aquatic plant as well as a semi-aquatic plant with many varieties used commercially.

Brazilian Pennywort, as the name suggests, is native to Brazil and other parts of South America.

This plant has air-filled leaves that are rounded and shaped like coins, hence the alternate names for the species. 

Hydrocotyle leucocephala "Brazilian Pennywort" Plant Care Guide

Brazilian Pennywort Facts

The leaves of Brazilian Pennywort make them stand out from the rest.

Not just because of their rounded shape, but because the tips of the leaves have a bright white surface.

This spot of color will contrast any flora and make it stand out in the environment.

This plant is known to grow well in any kind of environment and can adapt itself to a wide range of temperatures and lighting levels. 


Hydrocotyle leucocephala is a low-growing stem plant.

It grows to be a maximum of 10 inches in height and has oblong leaves that are shaped like coins.

The top surface of the leaf can vary from bit with shades of light green to dark green from location to location.

Underneath the leaves are purple-tinted veins and the bottom surface is a bright white which makes for a really nice contrast. 


This species is native to Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and other parts of South America.

A lot of the regions where it grows are tropical and wet. This is why the Brazilian Pennywort is most comfortable in warm and humid environments.

Wherever this plant is found, it perches on the edges of rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. 

pH Preference

Hydrocotyle leucocephala are plants that can easily cope with a wide range of pH levels.

In their natural habitat, they will typically be found in areas with 5.0 to 7.0 on the potential hydrogen scale.

Whilst this plant can thrive in both acidic and neutral environments, it prefers to be in slightly acidic waters of between 6.0 and 6.5. 

Vivarium Type

The Brazilian Pennywort is quite an easy-going species. With that in mind, it will not be too complicated when choosing the type of enclosure it is grown in. It is best to try and replicate the plant’s natural habitat as much as possible.

Doing so will make it easier to provide this foliage plant with its basic needs. The proper setup and theme of the enclosure will make a big difference to the overall look and health of the plant. Be sure to choose setups that are moist and high in humidity.

Here are recommended vivariums it will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosures with some terrain features present.
  • Aquariums – Fully aquatic-based enclosure with little to no dry terrain.

Vivarium Placement

Depending on the style of the vivarium being built, Brazilian Pennywort can be used above and below the waterline.

In an aquatic-style enclosure, plant the stems in the substrate a few inches from the bottom.

This will allow oxygen to the roots without adding to the tank decor.

In a semi-aquatic or even partially submerged environment, look for a spot in the middle of the water for placement. 


The easiest aquarium substrate to work with will be a medium-texture soil packed enough to hold the Brazilian Pennywort in position.

Alternatively, use stones and gravel for more of a dryer atmosphere.


This plant is a resilient species that can handle all aquarium lighting levels and temperatures.

In the wild, it typically grows in a semi-shaded environment so the brighter the light the better.

Aim to use either full spectrum lights or a mixture of blues and whites to recreate that natural setting. 

Buy Brazilian Pennywort

When buying Hydrocotyle leucocephala, there are a few things to keep in mind. Making sure the plant is healthy when purchased is essential for its success in a vivarium or pond. Vegetation that is already in poor conditions will have a very hard time adjusting to new environments.

Click the image below to learn more about the current price and other relative info about this plant.

Brazilian Pennywort Care & Propagation

Brazilian pennywort is a relatively easy plant to propagate. All that is needed is a pair of shears, a water source, and patience.

To propagate, simply snip off the ends of the stems and replant. If the stems remain in the water, they will start to form roots and new leaves in just a few days.

How to Grow

For best results, Brazilian Pennywort should be planted in the substrate of the vivarium.

Position the Pennywort stems into the substrate one inch from the bottom. To ensure good root growth, add a slim line of gravel around the sides of the plant.

The best results will be achieved with consistent water circulation in the area. 

Water Requirements

To keep the Pennywort in prime condition, the substrate should be kept damp, if not wet.

An evenly sprayed mister of demineralized water is the best way to get it. Alternatively, drip a few drops into the substrate and continually keep it moist.

Plants Similar To Brazilian Pennywort

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing setup. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you find the Brazilian Pennywort hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this aquarium plant… Here are other stem plants you might find will do well with or in place of Hydrocotyle leucocephala:

Egeria densa "Anacharis" Plant Care Guide
Alternanthera reineckii "Scarlet Temple" Plant Care Guide
Hygrophila polysperma "Dwarf Hygrophila" Plant Care Guide


Overall, Brazilian Pennywort is a great all-rounder that can be used in virtually any type of aquatic vivarium.

If given the right nutrients and conditions, this plant will reward the caretaker with exquisite beauty.

With endless possibilities in design, this plant is an ideal choice for the beginner or experienced aquarium grower.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Hydrocotyle leucocephala is easy to grow and is a great choice for beginner aquarists. It is a fastgrowing and undemanding plant that will quickly spread and help create a lush aquatic paradise.

Yes, Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala) can be an invasive species of aquatic plant in some regions. It is listed as an invasive species in some states in the United States. In addition, it has been identified as an invasive aquatic plant in Europe and other parts of the world.

No, it does not require any substrate for healthy growth.

Yes, Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala) can grow and thrive while floating on the surface of a pond or aquarium.

Yes, Hydrocotyle is an oxygenator an aquatic plant which releases oxygen into the water.

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