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Re: Newbies in aquatic plants

Brian Forsythe wrote:
> I am something of a (self-proclaimed) expert on the husbandry of the
> fishes available to us as aquarists.  What I've been thinking upon
> lately is how we recommend to the newbie to stick to fishes that
> prefer his water chemistry, and (barring that) fishes that prefer a
> similar water chemistry.  I've seen it said many times that individual
> plants prefer specific water chemistries, but in the plant
> net.cultivation world, this concept hasn't seemed to make an impact.
> Wouldn't it be best for newbies to try to start planted tanks
> utilizing species that prefer similar conditions?  IME, this has been
> implied, but never explicitly stated.  IMO, the FAQ should explicitly
> state such information.

Hmmm... the older aquatic plant books did used to suggest values for KH
for aquatic plant species however I think it is now recognized that
aquatic plants for the most part, tolerate a range of pH, KH values.
Some plants are able to survive under conditions where certain nutrients
are in short supply however there seems to be little need to try to grow
plants using only tap water when it is quite simple to supplement
calcium, potassium, magnesium (and sulphur), in solution. In many cases,
the supply of calcium and magnesium may be quite adequate in tap water
(except west coast rain forest areas).

The range of pH where plants can grow can be quite species dependent. I
suspect that you could probably grow most plants if you get your pH
under 8. Many nutrients are more available when the water and substrate
ph is somewhere between 6.5 - 7.0 

Can anyone quote more precise pH ranges for certain plants?

> As an example, I've decided that my next planted tank (after several
> tanks that failed with almost as many plant species as they succeeded)
> will be primarily a cryptocoryne tank.  I will use a soil substrate
> (beneath a layer of sand), which I will heavily fertilize, and the
> only nutrient I will add to the water column will be iron.  My
> questions are the following:

I don't think it is a good plan to "heavily" fertilize your substrate
especially if you have never tried growing aquatic plants, much less
growing them using a soil substrate. See the previous posting on "Clay
Balls" for specific recommendations. Dr Huebert has stated that Ca, K
and Mg should be supplied in solution so if these are not present in tap
water, you might need to consider adding them to the water. You might be
able to add calcium sources such as coral, dolomite lime granules,
shells. Many people grow plants quite successfully without adding any
minerals to the water but this is only because many water sources
abundantly contain these minerals. Many experts suggest you try the
simple approach first. I like to recommend obtaining a water assay from
the utility company because its free in many cases and tells you a LOT
of information that is very useful if you ever do need to diagnose a
mineral shortage.

> Is it necessary to add iron to the water column? (Paul and George, I
> would especially like to hear your thoughts on this.)

I grow aquatic plants without adding iron to the water column directly.
There is some iron in my aquarium water as a result of the substrate
composition. I believe it has been shown conclusively that aquatic
plants are able to absorb iron both through the roots and the leaves. My
floating plants are not deficient of iron even though I don't add any
iron fertilizer to the water. 

The definitive answer is that it is not necessary to add iron to the
water column if and only if the substrate contains sufficient available
forms of iron. Nominal and typical values for iron in rocks and soil is
about 5%. Please visit my website or search the APD archives if you are
actually interested in learning about substrate iron. (long sigh)
> Which species of crypts should I use for the foreground and the
> background?   I realize that there are several choices (though I admit
> that I am not very familiar with the taller crypts), but I think the
> debate will be interesting.

Most Crypt species can get quite large in an aquarium and those that
stay really small are rather difficult to grow and propagate to
sufficient numbers to be used as a low foreground plant. I think the
best way to use a Crypt in an aquascape is to use a medium sized
individual as a focal point in the mid ground. Large groves of Crypts in
the background tend to get a little out of control. Some types of Crypts
tend to spread by sending runners throughout the tank. You need to keep
chopping these off and selling them to friends or they will invade the
space reserved for other plants.

C crispatula (balansae) make a nice contrast and are quite large. C
blassii is a very striking Crypt with a dramatic violet under leaf
coloration (see pictures on my website). C nurii has a very nice leaf
coloration pattern but is slow growing (which may be an asset). A small
grove of green or red C wendtii is nice. C bullosa is very nice looking.
I think the trick is to create contrasts in color, leaf shape and
texture and to allow open spaces. For this you need a variety of plants
although some of the nicest displays (see Amano) use only 4-5 species.

Steve Pushak                              Vancouver, BC, CANADA 

Visit "Steve's Aquatic Page"      http://home.infinet.net/teban/
 for LOTS of pics, tips and links for aquatic gardening!!!