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"topping" Amazon Swords

>The amazon sword plants in our 100 gallon tank have grown so robustly
>that the we recently decided to "top" them.  The leaves had grown out of
>the water filling over half of the hood and were cutting off much of the
>light to the lower growing plants and causing the Oak hood to warp.  We
>cut the leaves off just above the water line, leaving the stalks which
>we like as part of the look of the tank.  We filled a 5 gallon bucket
>over half full with leaves.  Has anyone had a similar experience?  Will
>"topping" do long term damage to the plants?  The tank is illuminated by
>2-40 watt shop light bulbs and 2-40 watt grow lux bulbs,  the substrate
>is medium sand blast grit, and the plants are fertilized by spot feeding
>via the Plantguild pellet system , no undergravel heating is provided. 
>We would appreciate anyone with information on the effects of "topping"
>to respond.

THis is certainly no good for the plants.  If you must limit the size of
Echinodorus, it is better to do it by removing as many as the older, outer
leaves as necessary.  They will probably recover from a single "topping"
such as you describe if they are kept under good conditions.  However they
would probably succumb to repeated assaults of this sort.

There are _MANY_ species of Echinodorus. Some grow _very_ large, while
there are also many of more modest size.  Just as you don't buy a red tail
catfish and plan to keep him long term in a tank that's too small, the same
is true of plants.  Pick a species that does not grow as tall.  

I believe that you also supplement your substrate with fertilizers that
contain PO4?  The reason that most people limit this substance is to avoid
algae problems.  WHile _some_ PO4 is clearly a necessity for plants to
survive, limiting amount of PO4 available will also keep some plants from
growing as large.  You may want to reconsider your fertilizer mix.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association