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Re: Cladophora

Fredrik Agetoft wrote:

> Has anyone here had any experience with using the algae Cladophora
> aegagropila in aquascaping? Itīs a dense, green thread algae with very
> growth. If Iīm not misinformed, Tropica has recently started selling it
> itīs becoming quite popular in Denmark. Itīs used stretched out in the
> foreground of the tank to form a lush, green carpet - much like Riccia in
> Amanos tanks. The difference being that Cladophora stays in place and
> doesnīt need constant pruning since it grows very slowly. And to my eye,
> itīs at least as beautiful.

I have been working with it for quite a while now.  Claus gave me a couple
of balls when he was here a year and a half ago, and I obtained another
couple from a domestic source earlier this year.  I have a third that came
adventitiously from a friend's tank.  The balls, as Tom says are fun, and
easy to work with.  They are slow growing, but do grow fast enough that I
have been able to divide the oldest ones to share with other people.

The trick is getting them round again.  I have found that if you cut them in
half, you can then give them a "tummy tuck" with a stapler to establish the
round shape again. The balls get started by rolling in the waves at the edge
of large lakes, so under still conditions, or with the directional currents
we have in the aquarium, they need encouragement to become round.  Once
round, they tend to stay that way.  I have read that in the wild, they
occasionally get as large as a human head, but these would be quite old, and
as Tom mentioned, they would be hollow inside.

The problem of floating that Tom mentioned seems to be light dependent.  I
am quite sure that the algae itself is not buoyant.  But under strong light
conditions, it photosynthesizes fast enough that the resulting O2 bubbles
carry it to the surface.  The simple solution is to place it in a dimmer
area of the tank.  Unlike Riccia, it tolerates low light levels very well.

I agree with Tom that I'd be more inclined to use these in their ball shape
than to try to turn them into a mat, for a couple of reasons.  First, they
are very cool just as they are.  Second they grow SO-O-O slowly that a good
ground cover would take quite a while to achieve.  Third, the growth is so
fine and dense, that it becomes a mulm magnet.  When it is in its ball form,
it is easy enough to pick up, and squeeze out a few times, just as you would
clean a sponge.  Drop it back in the tank, and you're done.  If you are
trying to maintain it as a carpet, at best, it will be unsightly with a
build-up of mulm adhering to it.  At worst, if it became to heavily coated,
I can't imagine that it would be good for it.

The type of Cladophora (whether it's a different species or just a different
form is open for discussion) that forms these balls doesn't seem to want to
adhere to a substrate.  I have them sitting on driftwood, sitting on the
substrate and tucked into the branches of Anubias.  They have never attached
in any of these situations.  And as Tom mentioned, they don't seem to be
very tasty.  I have good algae eating crews in my tanks, and the balls have
remained untouched.  I can't think of any negative aspects of this algae!

Because of my positive experience with algae balls, I became interested when
a friend's tank developed a beautiful growth of Cladophora on a large piece
of driftwood.  He watched this develop over quite a long period, and the
algae never climbed off its perch to infest other parts of the tank.
Eventually, he sent me some to play with.  Unlike the algae balls, this form
does attach to wood.  But like the algae balls, it is very slow growing, and
has shown no sign of being ill-behaved.  It is clearly different from the
algae ball type, with shorter filaments that develop into a shorter, velvety
mound.  I actually have both sitting touching each other, and neither
invades the space of the other.

I don't think this type competes well with fast growing plants.  I have not
been able to establish it in my high light/fast growth tanks, but only in my
moderate light/no CO2 tank which houses only ferns, mosses and Anubias.
Maybe if I were to transfer it already attached to a piece of driftwood it
would do better, but I'll need to wait until it has grown more before I try
that, and as I said, the growth is slow.  Maybe next year.<g>

I think this type has a better chance of being used as an effective
foreground plant, if you got it to colonize a flattish piece of driftwood
across the front of the tank, it would fill the same roll as Riccia covered
rocks, and could be easily lifted up to shake/brush off mulm.