Aquascaping an Ceratopteris

Subject: What are your aquascaping techniques?

Bob Hoesch writes:

>      I found some used surgical scissors (from a friend), the on
>      handles about 25 cm (10 in)long. Amano shows a picture of t
>      scissors. These things cost about 100 bucks new (U.S.), and
>      bucks.  Definitely worth 20 bucks. This is a great tool. It
>      to go in and snipsnip in just the right places. Unfortunate
>      unable to find any source for cheaper long scissors. Sorry,
>      suggestions.  

If I could get a pair of long scissors like that, I would, but I 
have found another way of cutting things down low that in a way is 
even more precise.  I take a pair of small sharp scissors, and 
open the blades just a bit at the tip.  Then I hold the scissors 
at the point where the tips meet rather than by the handle.  This 
gives me the ability to follow a single leaf down from the surface 
to the base with my fingers, slip the open tip of the scissors 
over the base of the stem and close them all with one hand.  It 
sounds complicated, but once you've done it a couple of times and 
get the knack of it, it's easy.  Of course you have to reset the 
blades after each cut, but it's really not very hard. 

>	But such a useful tool that I urge folks to g
>      longest good quality scissors they can find I also got a co
>      of long forceps with serrated tips.  They are called "speci
>      forceps", are available in 11 inch length and cost 8 or ten
>      a scientific or medical supply company.  These are extremel
>      also.
>      By trying different things with my plants arrive at the onl
>      conclusion: having results like Amano's means going in and 
>      snipping, replanting almost every day.  Sword plants, for e
>      their slowly dying leaves for a long time.  You can be ruth
>      remove these leaves as soon as they show even a bit of brow
>      plants don't mind.  By doing this diligently, the whole tan
>      green and lush.  This is the only way to get pretty looking
>      I think.  In my tanks they take a long time to attach, and 
>      produce leaves very quickly for several months.  Then they 
>      out leaves more quickly; at this point you can start geting
>      with them, and trim leaves as soon as they start to develop
>      spots indicating spore production.  They DO get nice and bu
>      lush.  Don't know what to do about the ugly brown roots, th
>      (Except to trim every day...this is becoming a litany..)

I suspect even Amano doesn't trim every day... he's got tanks set 
up in shops and restaurants all over the place!<g>  I suspect that 
he does a really good job about a week before he wants to take 
photos of his tanks. ;-) (that's what I do before our "home shows" 
and it's just about the right length of time to get over that 
"shorn" look, but not long enough for major deterioration anywhere 
>      I don't have time like this to devote, and a doubt whether 
>      do either. Personally, I'm still trying to find the right b
>      between doing a little bit every day, and doing a hell of a
>      every 6 weeks.  But I think to achieve Amano's level of suc
>      requires "sculpting" very reqularly.
>      Amano's tanks really convey a feeling of tranquility, like 
>      Japanese-style gardens.  It seems to me that this is becaus
>      don't look like they are competing with one another.  Of co
>      are, slowly but furiously.  I think he consciously trims an
>      plants to look like they are not in competition for light. 
>      think it takes a while to learn how to position plants in t
>      place. Different tank conditions favor or disfavor differen
>      all these things are inter-related.  I just think Amano has
>      processes into a Way of Life. 

In Amano's second book he actually shows the progression of a 
single tank over a period of a year.  In the beginning it looks a 
little naked.  In the interim shots, things change and some plants 
outcompete others.  In the end, at least to my eye, it looks 
overgrown. (Gee... sounds a lot like my tanks<g>)  

I really think we have to remember that he picks a "moment" to 
take a photo of any given tank.  He certainly isn't going to waste 
time and effort on photographing one in it's worst state.  I'm not 
saying that the "worst" state might not be _very_ nice to the 
casual observer (I know there are times when I'm disgusted with 
how things are going in a tank, and someone walks in and tells me 
how nice it looks) but I'll bet that the photos in the books are 
the "best" moments for these tanks.

I find that my tanks are cyclical, perhaps as much due to my 
schedule as anything else, but also to some extent due to 
environmental factors.  I find that in my family room tank which 
receives some direct sunlight in late winter, all the Anubias 
bloom together, and it's an awesome sight.  I can't plan it...if I 
could I'd arrange it for Home Show time, but it seems to happen 
every year.  

The flip side is that August is by far the low month in my tanks. 
The copper level goes up in my tap water, the temperature goes up, 
and my maintenance is probably at an all time low due to outdoor 
activities.  The plants seem to go into a state of suspended 
animation.  The fall and cooler weather arrive, both I and the 
tanks are rejuvenated, and by the beginning of October, they reach 
another peak.  Do other people see repeating cycles like these in 
their tanks?


Subject: Ceratopteris thalictroides

> I have a question about my Ceratopteris thalictroides (hereafter
> plant. I started with one CT potted plant and now have 3 -- two 
> sized and one very large. The large one, the original, has becom
> wonderful "stag-horn" type plant -- large, thick stems with a lo
> branching structure with points, nothing that looks like a leaf.
> smaller ones has wide leaves and the other has the fine leaves, 
> original plant used to have.
> What's going on here? Is the "stag-horn" look the way CT develop
> ages? Does it have something to do with light, or iron? 

It's is perfectly normal for Water Sprite leaves to be extremely 
variable and as you guessed, you only see the "staghorn" type 
leaves on mature plants.  It happens under good growth conditions.

> Another 
> when I had less iron in the water the stems would seem to rot --
> turned black and disentegrated -- but they would hang on by a th
> the leaves would not be affected. When I added more iron this ha
> much lesser degree. Is this normal for CT?

I haven't experimented with iron alone, but I know that Water 
Sprite acts as a "bell whether" in my tanks for trace element 
dosing.  I think because of their extremely fast growth, they suck 
up nutrients quickly, and also show signs of distress more quickly 
 than other plants when the trace element levels gets too low.  I 
know immediately if my Water Sprite starts to loose color or look 
limp that I am under-dosing with trace elements.  Because I use a 
balanced trace element supplement, I have all but stopped using an 
iron test kit to check trace element levels... if the Water Sprite 
looks good, there's enough in the tank. (BTW, I pull a salad bowl 
full a week out of the tanks.  I wish you could eat the 

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Assoc.
Boston, MA