Originally there were five or six otocinclus catfish in the Fireplace Aquarum as part of the algae cleanup crew. These are cute but sensitive little critters and I suspect that early unstable tank water parameters contributed to the gradual yet early demise of all them except one. Ottos are social and like to be in groups so it didn’t seem right to have just the one remaining. Today the local fish store had a restock on ottos so I picked up five more. They acclimatised well (no casualties) and have definitely upped the peppiness level in the aquarium. They seem to enjoy playing in the current from the powerhead because they could hide out in the more sedate regions of the tank but instead they’re upfront and active.
Filed under “I know I’m going to regret this”, even though the Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ was a disaster, I’m still enamoured of the concept of a white(ish) plant adding some colour contrast. I’ve been kicking around the “only partially white” Anubias nana ‘Pinto’ option, and when I saw they were down to their last pot at Aqua Essentials, I impulsively pulled the trigger and picked it up.
Anubias barteri nana ‘Pinto’
As may be common practice, there were two distinct plants in the single rockwool pot. Sourced from Dennerle, the ‘Pinto’ varietal similar to both the pinto horse and pinto bean is primarily white, but speckled with another colour, in this case green. Interestingly, there were several sproutings of leaves along the length of the rhizome, with leaves at the base nearly completely green, progressing to more primarily white farther along. Conceivably, having at least a few leaves properly able to provide photosynthesis may support the more decorative rather than functional whiter leaves at the top. The ‘Snow White’ varietal didn’t have this option with no green aspect to any of the leaves at all.
Anubias ‘Pinto’ on the mountain
Anubias barteri nana ‘Pinto’
As with the other epiphytes, I planted the ‘Pinto’ by simply wedging it into cracks/crevasses in the “mountain” sculpture. These plants came with an impressive root structure so I’m hoping they’ll grab on successfully. I was originally looking for Anubias nana ‘Pangolino’ which would have considerably smaller completely green leaves, but that was impossible to source in the UK, and although I was initially concerned the ‘Pinto’ leaves looked out of proportion relative to the nano-scape size of the Fireplace Aquarium, now that it’s planted I’m starting to appreciate the look – if you get a showy plant, let it be showy!
Securing ephiphyes with fishing line
Two days later and the Pinto on the right was waving around pretty good from the water current and when I looked closer there was a zebra thorn snail up against the base of the Pinto using its shell to pry the plant out of its niche. I don’t think this is intentional behaviour, just something I’ve seen them do before when plants aren’t wedged in really well. This wasn’t a problem with the Bucephalandra caterina, but it definitely was with the Anubias nana ‘Snow White’… maybe the snails like messing with Anubias?
I reset the Pintos but a few days later the one on the right had worked loose again, likely because it’s right in the main current coming off the powerhead. Time for stronger measures.
Much more secure
The usual advice when planting epiphytes is to secure them to hardscape by either tying them down with thread or using aquatic glue to fix them in place until their root systems can grab on. I’ve been resisting that because I expected it would be difficult to reach into the tank and sort that all out. I gave it a go though and it wasn’t nearly as tricky as I thought it was going to be. I did a major water change to get the water levels down so to not have to work underwater, then looped some monofilament fishing line across both of the Pinto plants. The mountain sculpture has lots of convenient hooks and crags for holding the line in place. This should give the Pintos a fair chance.
Anubias nana ‘Pinto’ two month update
It’s been two months since the Pinto got installed in the Fireplace Aquarium and the plants are doing well. There are some new leaves on these slow-growning Anubias, mostly with a very strong white colouration, presumably supported by the older, more green leaves lower down. The fractured green/white pinto pattern is interesting. I had some concern the plants would get colonised by green spot algae, but so far there is no sign of trouble.
Anubias nana ‘Pinto’ after two months
Anubias nana ‘Pinto’ after 2 months
The plants haven’t worked themselves loose at all and there is some noticeably new root structure, particularly on the left side plant which also seems to have larger leaves, perhaps because it gets more light facing in towards the centre. The monofilament line is still in place but is nearly invisible now.
Today I shifted the location of the CO2 diffuser from the left wall of the tank to behind the moutain and underneath the powerhead. The atomised CO2 gets sucked up directly into the flow and actively pushed around the tank. Previously I had the diffuser on the opposite side of the tank hidden under the plants and whilst it seems sensible to put the CO2 where the plants are, because the flow pattern is circular, that puts the plants “upstream” of the diffuser last in the queue – the water has to do a full circuit to get back to them and by that time all the microbubbles have already reached the surface. Those plants can still benefit from the dissolved CO2 of course, but they won’t get any microbubbles trapped under their leaves. The diffuser is also now hidden behind the mountain, which is good, and is shaded by the powerhead to reduce algae growth on the diffuser, also good.
While I was moving things around and doing a cleanout I also took the opportunity to clean the diffuser by removing it from the tank while still active, layering on a few drops of liquid carbon, and letting that go for 10 minutes or so. Back in the tank this increased the CO2 flow rate from 120 bubbles per minute to 130 bubbles per minute, so that worked well.
The fish seemed pretty happy about the whole thing but it will take a few weeks to get an opinion from the plants and algae.
Notes: Cute video of a 5-banded barb swimming through the tunnel under the mountain. The plant growing on the mountain is Bucephalandra caterina. The carpeting plant at the base of the mountain is Marsilea hirsuta.