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alternatives to bleach for getting sterile aquatic plant samples

Bleach treatment can be awfully hard on fine leaved plants like Cabomba,
Elodea and so forth. There was a website that gave detailed instructions
on how to perform tissue culturing using special culture medium. In
those situations, it is common to choose a piece of meristem, the
growing tip and to grow it in an absolutely sterile nutrient solution.
If you are interested in that technique I recommend that you do a search
of the APD archives using "tissue culture" as the search string. You can
also do a search on the world wide web using a good search engine like
Ask Jeeves. There is a good summary of at home techniques for tissue
culture at http://www.aquabotanic.com/stiffaquatic.htm

I would recommend that you practice culturing bits of plants for a few
months in order to master the techniques you will need. But once you
have succeeded in getting a plant sample which is free of filament
algae, your problems are not over:

I think one of the biggest problems once you have set up a traditional
aquarium with fish and an assortment of plants is to keep the aquarium
free of contamination from your other aquariums which probably still
have all kinds of filament algae in them. I have found that Spirogyra is
particularly difficult to prevent from spreading around without
resorting to antiseptic treatments such as disinfecting nets, hoses and
quarantining new fish. The problem with Spirogyra is that bits of it
float around in the aquarium water and the least droplet on a net, hand,
a splash or on your faithful Python water changer is enough to spread

I've noticed that Spirogyra never seems to be a problem in my aquariums
which have SAEs. It also seems to become less of a problem after the
aquarium has had a chance to mature for about a year and the plants have
had a chance to gain the upper hand in capturing the available
nutrients. In my Killiefish species tanks I can't keep SAEs with the
Killies and the feeding regime is not conducive to limiting nutrients, I
tend to have more algae. Probably the best strategy is to choose vert
fast growing plants such as Hygrophila polysperma or Myriophylum.
Myriophylum might be a good choice because it might have allelopathic
properties to fight the algae. Coincidentally, I noticed a recession of
Spirogyra after I added a capsule of a strong antibiotic (250mg
Dalacin-C / 50gal) to treat blue green algae. 

Another way to get algae free plant samples is to grow the plants in
emersed culture. I believe you can grow all kind of aquatic plants in
this manner if they can be grown in humid conditions. Any stem plant
with roots should be very easy to grow in this manner. You have to be
careful not to overdose nutrients if you are using soil or adding a
nitrate or phosphate fertilizer since you can end up with cyanobacteria
or mold in your culture jar. I think it should be possible to grow
Elodea in 100% humidity conditions in a jar with a little bit of a
sterilized soil medium in the bottom. You can sterilize the jars and
soil by using a microwave; see the directions on the aquabotanic site
which I listed above. I bet you could also grow Java moss using a
sterile sealed jar and misting the plant once or twice a month with a
sterile nutrient solution.

I have several Crypts and some 2 gallon aquariums which I'm planning to
use for emerse culturing. I'll probably grow some of my fine leaved stem
plants in them too. I plan to make a mixture of sphagnum peat, garden
soil and some pottery clay and sterilize it in the microwave. I'll clean
the aquariums and sterilize them. The soil mixture will be put into the
bottom of each tank with enough sterile water to make the soil damp.
There is always a problem of getting molds into the containers. In order
to maintain humid conditions, I'll use either glass covers or plastic
wrap which is even easier to seal. I'll probably use foliar feeding and
perhaps I'll try to give the plants a little boost by bleeding some CO2
into the mini paludariums occasionally.
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!!!