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Algae free plants/emersed culture

Steve wrote:
>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.

An idea I came up with is really a fusion of two ideas that may help growing
emersed plants algae free. It's just an empty tank with pots and some water
and a clear tight fitting lid. It's kind of like Neil Frank's method of
using pots in his aquariums, but adding only 2 inches of water on the bottom
instead of filling the tank up completely. This does several things.

1# I can  do small 2 inch water changes and get rid of any build up just
like a water change in a regular aquarium. Keeps the tank clean. No soil on
the bottom just the pots filled with soil /sand/ peat mix. Build up diffuses
into the water and is removed.
2# I can add different things to different plant using small plastic
3# I can replace any mixtures I suspect might be too rich or poor.
4# I add things to the water and/or to the soil and/or to the air also.
These levels can be changed easily.
5# Keeps everything together and makes labeling of plants much easier and
keeps confusion way down with plants that make runners. This is important
with Crypts. 
6# Old tank water is used for replacement water. No wastewater.
7# Java moss or Riccia can be used to hide the pots if these are a visual
issue for some folks.
Adding a sponge plant like these retards algae in the 2 inch layer.

I can add KNO3 to the water, add a jobes to the soil or the water and add
extra CO2 to the air or mist with a liquid fertilizer. Seems like a flexible
system with more control than some other methods I've seen out there. I'm
very pleased and happy with it and the results. Aphids were quite a problem
but using a mild insecticde(thanks Neil) I was able to rid of them in one
day. Ladybugs will do well for this also and maybe some other terrarium
animals such as frogs etc. Be neat to have some colorful poison arrow frogs
or tree frogs in there. Poison frogs might cause some problems but I'll have
to look into plants/poison frog problems. 

I have not found the need to sterilize anything using this method. Tissue
culture is less successful IMO at growing pieces of plants for the average
hobbyist and sterilization is needed and a good technique. Perhaps my method
so far has some faults that I do not yet see but no bad  outbreaks except
for the aphid thing. I'm having far more success with it than the tissue
culture methods. I have an expert teacher for tissue culture and have tried
it a few times(4 batches) so far. 

I haven't done this method for that long but I'm very happy with the
endeavor. Plants are growing super, it's very flexible, no problems, Crypts
are producing flowers and seeds, no algae,
 very easy to maintain, uses far less energy than an aquarium(just a light
only), and plants are happy. No fish in there but this could be changed. I
like the colorful frog idea though........kind of goes with the crawling out
of the water evolution notion with plants AND animals!  

>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.

I haven't had any molds............ yet. I figure the sterilization notion
is good in theory but in practice?
I'm just *not* that careful with the planted tanks<g>! I just look for other
ways like good conditions, predators/grazers, give the plants what they
want/need to out compete algae.................................. and a way
to change and redirect things if there is a measurable/observable problem.
The pots can ease a localized out break of mold I would would suspect by
being able to remove a small infestation easily.
Algae covered plants can also be placed in an emersed tank to kill off the
algae with no damage to the plant. Weak plants can be placed in the emersed
tank to help recovery too. Definitely has it's uses for the plant keeper,

Tom Barr