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of Mud and Marsilea

Steve Pushak wrote re foreground plants:

> Another plant which I would like to recommend is Marsilea, the so-called
> 4 leaf clover plant. It spreads in much the same way as Lilleaopsis but
> can grow in much lower light. It only has the distinctive 4 leaf form
> when grown emersed (how it is grown for sale). Submerged it has a single
> ovate leaf but it looks (I am told) very much like a grove of
> Glossostigma.

Someone floated a letter last week asking about Marsilea, with reference
to a specific species that I'm not familiar with, so I didn't respond.

I have a Marsilea sp. fully submersed in two of my tanks.  In one tank it
produces plants with one-, three- and (mostly) four-lobed leaves.  In the
other tank the plants have one-lobed leaves; the leaf has the form of an
inverted gravy ladel.

The plants are tough and wirey and very interesting looking.  And as Steve
said, they grow very well in shaded areas.  The plants are especially nice
when they have 3 and 4 lobed-leaves when they offer more to look at than
say, Lileaopsis or E. tenellus.

In my tanks the growth seems unpredictable.  The plants will sit without
apparent growth for weeks, then suddenly put out a burst of growth -
doubling or tripling in size in a week or so - followed by another dormant
period.  In all cases when I first transplanted the Marsilea it remained
largely dormant for a while afterwords.

> ------------------------------

Olga Betts wrote:

> I did not ask "is it true plants grow better in mud"?. You should re-read
> my post. My thoughts had to do with whether or not one should try to be so
> "real" in an aquarium. I, personally feel that a small unnatural ecosystem
> like an aquarium does not handle well a "natural" substrate...meaning mud.
> And I asked for thoughts on that.

Thanks for the clarification, Olga.

Unless you count mason jars of stuff dipped out of ponds by a kid, then I
don't have much experience with mud-bottomed tanks.  But then, it looks to
me like I have as much experience with mud-bottomed tanks as anyone else
who has posted in the thread.  I don't think that a mud-bottomed tank
would be a beginner's undertaking.  The aquarium wouldn't handle it
"well", but with careful balancing, skill and experience I think it could
be done.

There's more than one kind of planted aquarium and if you want to build
one that's a microcosm of a muddy-bottomed natural habitat, then you need
to use a mud substrate.  If you aren't doing that then a mud bottom is
probably going to cause more grief than it's worth.

If I were to pick out any natural setting that we might be able to handle
in an aquarium then it probably would be a mud-bottomed streamside pool.
Those little pools can be about as isolated as an aquarium and they often
support very high biological loads from fish and aquatic invertebrates
trapped in the pool.

There are natural substrates other than mud bottoms.  In any one cross
section of the local river, the bottom varies from mud in shallow
backwaters to sand in the main channel, up to cobble-sized gravel in bars
and cut banks.  Any one of these substrates can support plants of
potential interest to aquarium keepers.  There are also natural substates
consisting entirely of peat or peat-like materials, entirely of organic
slime, and even bottoms composed of fractured bedrock.  And again, any of
these bottoms could be of interest to aquarists who want to build
microcosm tanks.  Some of them might even be good for plants that are
specifically adapted for that substrate.

"Soil" the way its usually used on this list doesn't refer to a natural
aquatic plant substrate.  Much of the argument on the thread so far seems
to relate more to water-logged terrestrial soils and maybe potting soils,
so it may not be relevant to experience with a natural muddy substrate.
Terrestrial soils and potting soils just aren't much like natural aquatic
substrates.  If you want a natural aquatic substrate you have to go to the
setting and get the real thing.  Garden soil isn't the same.

Roger Miller