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Online forums and chat rooms are great, but after some time one needs to drop the mouse, turn of the computer and meet fellow aquarium hobbyists face to face! One of the best ways to do this, is via aquarium clubs. Aquariums clubs take on many forms, but all have one thing in common: They’re filled with fellow hobbyists. Being able to interact and learn directly from the many, usually more experienced hobbyists that populate these aquarium groups is greatly beneficial. The benefits of aquarium societies also extends beyond the mental. In my local club especially (See above), there are many fish breeders who are more than generous enough to share their finned wealth (often for free or a very cheap). Add to this the timely field trips to far away aquarium shops, public aquariums or lakes for driftwood collecting, and you’ve got yourself a very fun and beneficial way of getting to learn about this fantastic past time, in a much more hands on way. I highly encourage you to look into joining your local aquarium club of society, whether online or through your near by fish shop. You won’t regret it!
When I came into the hobby, I was all about finding plants that would tolerate my black thumb. Over the years, I have compiled a list of some of the easiest aquatic plants to be kept in a planted aquarium. This post is me putting those plants into a list with a few pointers about growing them. Hopefully this will help you make good decisions when it comes to selecting and growing your first aquatic plants!
Java Fern (Microsourum Pteropus)
Microsorum pteropus (commonly referred to as java fern) is arguably one of the hardiest aquatic plants in the hobby. The leaves of java fern grow off a rhizome, which is sort of horizontal tuber. It is very important to not bury the rhizome when planting java fern. Burying it will cause it to rot, killing the plant. Java fern does best when it’s roots are attached to driftwood, rocks or lightly placed above the substrate of the aquarium. It is a relatively undemanding plant, requiring very low amounts of light to thrive and no CO2. Although high intensities of light, fertilization and CO2 injection is preferably, it is not necessary.
Java fern makes a perfect plant for decorating setups that have destructive fish or burrowing fish. This is because it is often not planted in the substrate, burrowing fish do not affect it. They are also very resistant to the herbivorous fish that tend to turn aquatic plants into snacks. This is partly due to the leathery and tough texture of this fern’s leaves. Another factor could be that the taste of the plant wards of adventurous snackers. I have heard rumors that chemicals in java fern keep hungry fish at bay, but this may be more skepticism than anything.
I will note that there are a couple different variants and species that fall under the term “java fern.” These include Microsorum pteropus ‘windelov,’ ‘narrow leaf’ and ‘trident.’ Each of these have a different leaf shape than normal java fern, and are great plants to aquascape with.
Anubias is just about as hardy as java fern. Like java fern, Anubias grow via a rhizome, which means that it does best when attached to driftwood and rock-work. The leaves of the this plant are very rough and leathery, which allows it to, with some luck, be kept with certain herbivorous or boisterous fishes. Anubias barteri requires low intensity levels of lighting, no CO2 injection and little fertilization (though the addition of those things will increase its growth speed).
Anubias barteri is native to rivers and streams in Africa. Even so, it is often wrongly used in African Cichlid (Malawi, Tanganyika, etc) biotopes. There are many, many different variations of this plant. Though they all have the same basic needs, they very greatly when it comes to the size and shape of their leaves. A few examples of pretty common Anubias barteri varieties include: Anubias barteri, Anubias barteri ‘nana’ (or simply Anubias nana), Anubias barteri ‘coffeefolia’ and Anbuias barteri ‘petite.’
Anubias barteri ‘nana’ and ‘petite’ are very common in aquascapes (nano especially), and are usually found surrounding rock and driftwood outcroppings. This is mostly due to their small size, and ability to grow in the shade of larger plant specimens.
Cryptocoryne wendetii, although not as hardy and forgiving as the above two specimens, still easily makes this list. This Cryptocoryne (mercifully abbreviated “crypt”), is an example of a rosette plant as its leaves grow out from one central root crown. This plant requires l0w levels and lighting, no CO2 injection and little fertilization (though the addition of those things will increase it’s growth speed).
Wendetii is great for adding color and texture to an aquascape. Although this crypt is endemic to Sri Lanka, it often finds its way into many an “Asian” biotope. Like most common aquarium plants, there are many different varieties of Cryptocoryne wendtii, including: ‘green gecko,’ ‘brown’ and ‘tropica.’
Just a small warning: As with all Crypts, Wendtii suffers from what some refer to as “crypt melt.” This is a small window of time when a newly planted or moved crypt will melt back. Often losing it’s leaves. Do not worry if this happens to your new plant. As long as the root system remain healthy, you are golden!
Amazon Sword (Echinodorus amazonicus)
Amazon swords are the monsters of the aquatic plant trade. Their large size makes them really only suitable for 20+ gallon tanks. Amazon swords require low levels of lighting and no CO2 injection. They do require however a good root fertilizer, as they are heavy root feeders. Amazon swords are also often prone to iron deficiencies, so the addition of an iron rich fertilizer is commendable.
These swords are also a type of rosette plant, and have two leaf forms: ovular and elliptical. The ovular leaf shape can really only be obtained when the plant is grown emersed (out of water) or in an aquarium with high levels of lighting and CO2 injection. The elliptical leaf shape is often achieved when a sword is grown in low lighting conditions.
Rotala Indica (or Rotala rotundifolia)
Rotala Indica is often mistakenly named Rotala rotundifolia, even though these two are different species. The differences between indica and rotundifolia are very few, with the only really noticeable alteration being their flowering pattern. With that in mind, I will be talking about both plants synonymously from here on out, due to their great similarity.
Indica is a stem plant, meaning that the leaves, root system and flowers grow off of a single, main stem. Like most other stem plants, this Rotala can be propagated via cuttings. This plant requires low to medium levels of lighting, no CO2 injection and little fertilization. To bring the leaves of this plant from the normal green to a beautiful red, it is necessary to grow Indica in an aquarium with high levels of lighting, CO2 injection and a decent amount of fertilization (especially potassium).
House/Pond Plant Species
- Spathiphyllum sp. (peace lily) – Most species
- Pilea sp. – P. cardieri (aluminum plant), P. depressa (creeping jenny), P. grandifolia, P. mollis ‘move valley,’ P. myriophylia, P. nummulariifolia (creeping charlie), P. spruceana ‘silver tree’
- Gibasis geniculata (Tahitian bridal veil)
- Dieffenbachia sp. (dumb cane) – Dieffenbachia amoena
- Chamaedorea elegans (parlor palm)
- Acorus sp. (sweetflag) – A. americanus and A. calamus
- Pogonatherum crinitum (baby panda bamboo)
- Cyperus sp. – C. alternifolius, C. gracilis, and C. papyrus
- Oplismenus hirtellu
- Syngonium sp. – S. wenlandii, and various other species
- Cyrtosperma johnstonii
Emersed Aquatic Species
- Microsorum sp. (java fern) – pteropus, pteropus ‘wendelov,’ pteropus ‘needle leaf’, (Any java fern species that can be grown emersed)
- Echinodorus sp. (amazon sword) – E. bleheri, E. cordifolius, (any species that can be grown emersed)
- Hygrophylia angustifolia
- Limnophilia aromatica
- Anubias sp. – A. barteri, A. nana, A. hastifolia, (any species that can be growned emersed)
- Cryptocorne sp. (crypts) – C. ciliata, C. wendtii, C. cordata, (any species that can be grown emersed)
- Bacopa sp. – B. monnieri and B. caroliniana
- Taxiphyllum barbieri or Vesicularia dubyana (java fern)
- Taxiphyllum alternans (Taiwan moss)
- Vesicularia montagnei (Christmas moss)
Aquatic plants require three main things in order to photosynthesis and flourish: Energy, nutrients and CO2. In an aquarium environment, energy can be provided by via flourescent lighting. Nutrients can be provided by dosing macro and micro nutrients and CO2 via “DIY” or pressurized CO2 systems or naturally. (CO2 naturally diffuses into the water column, along with oxygen). For plants to properly grow, they require all of these things to be properly balanced, or “Houston, we have a problem”. This is especially true if one has excessive lighting, and low CO2 and/or nutrient levels, as these conditions equal algae. As with water chemistry, the key to healthy plants is finding a balance between lighting (energy), nutrients and CO2.
Hobbyist have labeled the different balances low-tech and high-tech. Low-tech (also know as low light) setups utilize low lighting levels, low fertilization levels and (generally) no CO2 injection. High tech (also known as high light) setups utilize high lighting levels, high fertilization levels and pressurized CO2 injection.
Small planted aquarium vases are nothing new. In fact, they are quite popular. But having never tried one myself I decided to take the fifteen minutes (or less) to set one up. My main inspiration is Hydrophyte’s 2-Gallon Planted in Glass Vase. Like him I will be using Riparium Supplie’s Tank Planter system to keep this tanks main plant: an amazon sword (Echinodorus). I plan to add some floating plants as well in the near future.
Other than the tank (vase) itself, which holds about a half of a gallon, I do not plan to use any other equipment. Lighting can easily be provided via the sun though my kitchen window, while filtration can simply be water changes. Other then that, nothing is really necessary, which is good as I plan to keep this as low tech as possible. The only fauna conceivable in such a small tank would have to be shrimp, though I am not sure if I will be taking the plunge with them yet. Maybe some crystal reds in the future?
Well, that is all for now! Enjoy!