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Re: Question (Alternathera)

>Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998 16:16:54 -0600
>From: Dave Webb <dwebb at sunset_backbone.olemiss.edu>
>Subject: Question

Boy, this is fun, and no, I'm not answering my own question.  ;-)

>I've just gotten on the list and am a professed 'newbie', but something
>is puzzling me.
>I'm from a small town and the only supplier of aquatic plants is our
>good old Walmart.  They have some decent little plants and starting out
>on my 1st ten-gallon tank, I bought the dreaded and, unbeknownst to me,
>non-aquatic Alternanthera.  So I start looking on the web and see that
>'this plant isn't supposed to go in your aquariums' (big gruff
>instructor's voice). 

Your source isn't entirely correct.  I have plenty of alternathera growing
submersed in my tanks:
http://www.dallas.net/~dwebb/aquarium/a_reineckii.jpg  It grows like a
weed, in fact.  However, alternathera that's adapted to growing emersed
isn't going to easily grow submersed.  They do best in a 100% humidity,
emersed environment, but will grow both fully emersed and fully submersed,
depending on the what the particular plant is used to.

>Being a good student, I rush home, take the plant
>'this plant isn't supposed to go in your aquariums' (big gruff
>instructor's voice). Being a good student, I rush home, take the plant
>out (it had been in the tank about two weeks) and pop it in some very
>moist potting soil since the advice was something like 'this plant will
>be more at home on your windowsill than in your aquarium'.
>Well, three hours later the plant looked like my sister's hair after a
>thunderstorm.  So I yank it out of the dirt, pop it back in the tank and
>presto-chango, it looks great again.

If the alternathera has a rigid, woody stem, it's an emerse-grown specimen.
If it has a relatively soft stem, it's submerse-adapted.  It sounds like
your alternathera is a submerse-grown specimen.

>Am I just delaying the inevitable here? I'm changing it out for another
>plant, but I'm putting it in my girlfriend's five-gallon tank to see how
>long it will last. What's the deal here though? After a few days would
>it have straightened up? Was I a bit to reactionary?
>Thanks for your time,

Here's the deal.  Alternathera is a very high-light plant.  If you have
plenty of light (45w) for your 5.5g tank, you should be able to keep it
happy.  If it's getting direct sun, it will stay happy too.  It grows like
a weed in the right conditions and will very quickly reach the top of your
short tank.  I suspect that it's not the right plant for your tank though,
and do recommend that you exchange it for something that will not grow
quite as quickly and as tall.  If you have bright light, E. tenellus is a
good choice, as is R. rotundifolia (another stem plant like alternathera).
If you don't have bright light, try to stay away from the red plants.  Red
plants are red because they produce lots of anthocyanin (similar to the
melanin that we produce in response to direct sunlight).  Red plants are
adapted to very bright light.

There are two types of Alternathera in the aquarium trade.  Both behave
more or less equally.  One is the wide-leaf variety and the other is the
narrow leaf variety.  The wide leaf variety has leaves up to about 1.5 cm
in width and usually around 4 cm long in larger leaves.  The narrow leaf
variety usually doesn't have leaves much wider than 1 cm, and the leaves
get to around 5-6 cm in length.  Not really much difference, but they look
different.  The wide-leaf variety does better in dimmer light than the
narrow leaf, and usually has more green than the narrow leaf.  Both often
have bright pink undersides of the leaves.

>Dave Webb
>Univeristy of Mississippi, Classics Dept.
>Oxford, Miss.

I hope this helps,

David W. Webb           Texas Instruments
(972) 575-3443 (voice)  http://www.dallas.net/~dwebb
(214) 581-2380 (pager)  2145812380 at alphapage_airtouch.com