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Moss Confusion

As most of you know, there are a number of aquatic mosses available within
the hobby - most of the plant books written for the hobby and the commercial
nurseries which sell the plants identify them as either Fontinalis
antipyretica (Willow Moss) or Vesicularia dubyana (Java Moss). I have seen
catalogues for some nurseries based in South East Asia which also list
others, usually unidentified, and I've been told by a local plant guru who
works within the trade that even Tropica occasionally has one or two
unidentified species available (these aren't on their web site). I'm sure
that there are hobbyists all over the place who may be growing others, some
identified, others unknown, from a variety of sources both commercial and
some possibly locally collected.

Loh Kwek Leong and a few other very generous hobbyists in Singapore are
doing a wonderful job to help distribute another beautiful aquatic moss
within the hobby - the Christmas Moss. The more the merrier! While moss
might not be everyone's favorite plant, it certainly has its place and its
uses in our tanks and the more different types we have to grow, the more
options we have.

While it certainly isn't necessary to know the scientific name of any plant
in your tank in order to enjoy and grow it, it does help to increase our
knowledge of the amazing world we live in if we do and it can help in
communications between hobbyists in different parts of the world if we can
be reasonably assured that we are talking about the same species or not when
we discuss different ones.

I have been scouring the internet and various university libraries searching
for identity "keys" for different mosses to see if I could figure it out for
myself to no avail. To positively identify many mosses you need to know
where it was collected, a good "key" and access to a microscope because the
many of the things which separate the species are very small features.

During my search, I came across a bryologist (thats a botanist who has
special interest in mosses and liverworts), and I pointed him to the
excellent photographs the Loh Kwek Leong has posted on his web site of his
"Christmas Moss".  I was hoping that an "ID" could be made from the
photographs. Here is part of what I was told:

"Yes, there is a common aquatic moss sold in the
aquaria shop in SE Asia which is not Fontinalis nor Vesicularia.  In fact,
in the aquaria in SEA, the many populations of Vesicularia sold in the local
market belong to two species.  The sellers and the aquarium keepers are not
bothered with the correct scientific name."

"Now, back to your enquiry about this SE ASian moss that has a featherly
growth pattern.. Your photo of this moss in your url is too distant that
accurate identification of the moss is impossible."

All is not lost however, as the bryologist did tell me that he would be
willing to identify dried samples of moss, if I was to send them to him at
his lab.

With the cooperation of other hobbyists (that's you.....) I would like to
try and determine, and obtain positive "ID's" for as _many_ of the DIFFERENT
aquatic mosses that we may have in our tanks as possible. Since mosses
really don't require much space, I have the aquarium space and the
facilities to grow and keep separate a large number of different samples. I
would like to grow them both emersed (in high humidity environments) and
submersed in aquaria and take a variety of photographs (ranging from life
size to 10X life size) of the various mosses in as many stages of growth as
possible and then post these to the web.With the help of the bryologist, I
will attempt to have each different moss positively identified as to its
scientific name.

With luck, and your help, it might also be possible to get more of these
different mosses into wider distribution within the hobby - if I can grow
them and identify them, it should be possible to then distribute known
strains to all who care to own them.

That's were your help comes in - I'm going to need small portions of live
moss to culture. I am most interested in obtaining samples of aquatic mosses
where the aquarist has at least some idea of where it came from, whether it
was collected in the wild or came from one of the established aquatic plant
nurseries. The name (both common and/or scientific name) it was sold as
would also help (it could tell us how accurate the seller was in their
identification) but is not absolutely necessary. I'm _not_ particularly
interested in getting multiple samples of generic Java Moss (although I'd
love to get a few which were known to have come from Tropica as well as
anything grown and sold by Dennerle and/or Oriental and/or Florida Aquatic

So, if you have an aquatic moss growing in your aquariums which you think
might be "different", or you live in a climate where there might be local
aquatic mosses which could thrive in a tropical aquarium environment, and
would like to get involved in this - please get in touch with me privately
[jppurchase at home_com - use "Moss Confusion" as the subject header of your
e-mail message]. I won't need much of a sample, just enough that will fit
into a small ziplock plastic bag and fit securely into an envelope and go
through the mail.

I am especially interested in aquatic mosses that originate or might have
originated in tropical areas - Central and South America, Australia, South
East Asia, India, Africa, etc. but there might also be interesting aquatic
mosses growing in the warmer parts of the U.S. which might be promising.

If anyone is a subscriber to the list for North American Native Fishes, I'd
appreciate it if you could "cut and paste" this message into there as well -
moss seems to be popular with the folks on that list. [That goes to any
other lists and/or forums were hobbyists might congregate as well.]

I don't see this as being a short term project - it will take a while to
collect the samples, get them growing well and have the ID confirmed, but at
least its a start......


James Purchase