After spending some time thinking about how to deal with the  top-heavy mature form of Lobelia cardinalis ‘Wavy’ even after a very aggresive trimming, I decided to pull it out and replace it with a (hopefully) smaller form:  Lobelia cardinalis ‘Dwarf’.  There are still challenges with aquatic plant supplies so when I got notified by Aqua Essentials these were back in stock I picked up two pots straight away.

These dwarf lobelias are grown in emersed form in rockwool by AquaFleur in the Netherlands.  When they arrived they were larger than I had expected and carefully prising away the rockwool with pinsettes revealed three good-sized individual plants per pot.  You’re never entirely sure how many individual plants will come in each rockwool pot –  the catalogs tend not to list this information – sometimes it’s one plant per pot, and other times a good many.

The pinsettes made planting easy.  There’s a perspective shift when looking through the aquarium acrylic walls at an angle and although I thought I was planting these towards the front, the side-on view showed they are actually about halfway back, which is fine.  The Lobelia cardinalis ‘Wavy’ adapted to submerged-form growth almost immediately, so I’m optimistic the dwarf form will as well.

The fish were very interested in checking out the new situation…

Time lapse  sequence following major aquarium plant trim

About a month ago I revised the layout of some of the aquarium plants.  I didn’t like the look of all the stemmy/rooty bits of the Lobelia showing up against the front wall of the aquarium so I planted a row of dwarf Cryptocorynes in front to grow into a low cover.  The problem though was the lobelia were already crowded against the front.  When one of the lobelia plants came loose it was an opportunity for a do-over and I removed all the lobelia except the smallest plant closest to the left side and replanted lobelia trimmings taken from the removed mature plants in a line a bit farther back from the front wall.  Some of the ludwigia was also looking a little ratty with heavy algae cover on some of the lower leaves so I did a pretty aggressive takedown there as well.

Continue reading “Aquarium plants recover from trimming”

Planting Bucephalandra caterina

Bucephalandra caterina pots
Bucephalandra caterina pots

Looking for a replacement epiphyte for the failed Anubias nana ‘Snow White’, I’ve plumped for Bucephalandra caterina.  There just isn’t much availability for aquatic plants in general in the United Kingdom recently, and the availability of Anubias and Bucephalandra varieties seems extraordinarily poor especially for the smaller size varietals.  I managed to score two pots from Pro Shrimp, as grown by Aquadip, and they arrived today.

Species and varietal names are not very well defined for Bucephalandra with several hundred types known (or claimed).  There’s some question as to whether Bucephalandra caterina is (or is not) the same thing as Bucephalandra ‘Mini Needle Leaf’.

Bucephalandra caterina pots are each their own individual plants

Bucephalandra caterina pot with rockwool removed
Individual plant (right)
Bucephalandra caterina pot with rockwool removed
Individual plant (left)

I was expecting each pot to be composed of a number of plantlets that could be easily teased apart and planted separately, like the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’, but this was not the case.  Once the rockwool was removed from the roots it was clear that each pot was its own defined thing that was not obviously subdividable.  I suppose I should have expected that from a plant that grows from a rhizome, but I was thinking of the Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ tissue culture pot where there were many individual plantlets even though Anubias also grows from a rhizome – that might be a difference between growth in pots vs. in tissue culture.  I thought about cutting the Bucephalandra in half with sharp scissors, particularly the one on the left that sort of looked like it had a semi-obvious point where it could be divided, but in the end decided to plant them ‘as is’.

Continue reading “Planting Bucephalandra”

It’s been six weeks since the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ was planted so it’s time to take a look at how the emersed growth form from the shop compares to the submerged growth form in the tank.

Aquarium plants for commercial sale are, for economic reasons, almost exclusively grown “emersed” – the roots of the plant and whatever media they are planted in is kept submerged underwater in the nursery but the leafy part of the plant is grown in the open air.  There is a massive difference to the plant, however, in growing with leaves in the open air vs. leaves that are always submerged underwater, and so plants will very often have a different form of leaf, sometimes dramatically different, after they get established in the aquarium.  You can see the effect in the Fireplace Aquarium with e.g. ludwigia and lobelia and now here we see it with the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’.

Continue reading “Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ – submerged vs. emersed growth”

Aquarium after major plant trim
After the trim
tank before the plant trim
Two weeks before the plant trim
plant cuttings removed from aquarium
107g of plant trimmings

The ludwigia had reached well beyond the height of the tank casting a considerable overshadow so it was time for a trim.  I had just received a new set of ADA pinsettes and was looking forward to trying them out for replanting the trimmed tops*.  It was also time for a water change and I’m switching to a new  EI fertiliser scheme** so potentially big changes coming.

Continue reading “Major aquarium plant trim”

Aquatic plants for aquaria are commonly classed by how tall they can be expected to grow, with the idea that it is sensible to grow the shortest plants at the front of the tank, middle-sized plants somewhat further back behind the shortest plants, and the tallest plants at the very back.  In the community these are generally called, logically enough, foreground, midground and background plants.  Of course, you don’t have to follow this scheme and there might be a specific effect you’re trying to achieve by putting taller plants in front of shorter plants, but ideally this would be a deliberate choice and not something you unintentionally discover by accident.

In this video, you can see the effect in action.  On the left, at the very front bottom of the tank, low down and in the shadow of the lobelia, is a single dark green line of newly planted cryptocoryne lutea ‘hobbit’ which is expected to grow to a maximum of 5 cm.  The aforementioned lobelia cardinalis ‘wavy’, bright green and filling the bottow left quadrant of the tank, was planted six months ago and has topped out at its maximum height of just under 20 cm.  In the back of the tank, the red plant arching over the lobelia is ludwigia palustris mini ‘Super Red’ which would be around 45 cm if stretched out to its full length.  The very low carpeting plant on the right side all around the base of the mountain is marsilea hirsuta (although if you look carefully, there is another ‘hobbit’ hiding in the bottom right front corner.  The marsilea was planted over a year ago and will never get any larger than it is currently.  Some people like the look of plants that float on the surface such as frogbit or duckweed, and in a larger setup these can be effective, but I prefer not to go there in this instance.

I like the look of the different horizontal layers of plants on the left, contrasting with the verticality of the mountain sculpture on the right.  The fish seem to appreciate the differences too – if they’re nervous they can hide under the lobelia, or explore above the lobelia while still feeling a degree of sheltering protection (or at least so I project upon them) from the overarching ludwigia.

Anubias nana 'snow white' rear view
38 days later – underside view
Anubias nana 'snow white' front view
38 days later – topside view

Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ – one month update

It’s been a little over five weeks since I planted anubias nana ‘snow white’ in the aquarium.  I wedged it into the various crevices on “the mountain” which is a biOrb Amazonas Root ornament sculpture.  There has been some discussion around the impossibility of actually being ‘real world’ successful with this plant, but nevertheless,  I decided to give it a go .

Zebra thorn snail near anubias nana 'snow white'
Zebra thorn snail getting close
Anubias nana 'snow white' wedged back into place
Back in place

I can say that so far it hasn’t been an instant disaster.  Not dramatically successful either, but the plant is still in there mostly holding its own.  It definitely doesn’t look like it has had a significant number of the white leaves ‘melted off’ but neither would I say it’s shown much (any?) evidence of new growth.  There might be some green algae growth, but nothing too bad (I had expected much worse).  These specimens above had been dislodged from their place on the mountain and wound up wedged against the intake of the powerhead.  I took the opportunity to pull them out for these photos, but didn’t other do any cleaning or maintenance, and wedged them back into place in the tank.  The plantlets coming loose like this has happened before and is infrequent but not unusual.  I haven’t tied or glued them in place, just wedged them in, and I quite suspect that they are being periodically dislodged by zebra thorn snails, who seem to be the little miniature juggernauts of the aquarium.  In theory the anubias will grow roots that will attach themselves more firmly to their substrate, but I haven’t seen evidence of that happening either.

I think we’ll call it a draw for now – the snow is still in the game.

Today I got in two pots of Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ from Aqua Essentials as grown by Dennerle.  The idea is to fill in some of the space in front of the lobelia and to hide the bare stems and adventitious roots that make up the lobelia understory.  As usual (always?) the plants arrived in prime condition and seemed to survive shipping in the cold British weather including storm ‘Christoph’ which was happening at the time.

pots of Cryptocoryne lutea 'Hobbit'
Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ – emersed growth form
Cryptocoryne lutea Hobbit plantlets
Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ ready for planting

I took the plants out of their pots and removed the rock wool they had been grown in.  Each pot could be separated into a number of plantlets and a few extra mini-plantlets as well.  The root systems were robust and healthy-looking, and the leaves also looked good, a firm dark green, although of course this represents the emersed growth form from the nursery and not the final submerged growth form for which they are now destined.

Continue reading “Hobbit in the house”

full height ludwigia and lobelia
Ludwigia breaks the surface

Figures are approximate, as they say.  When planning a planted aquarium (and there should be some type of plan!) it’s important to consider the expected maximum height of plants in the layout.  I went wrong previously planting echinodorus radicans, a fine plant but much too large for this aquarium.

After not trimming back the ludwigia last week today it managed to reach the surface of the water.  This version of ludwigia, ludwigia mini ‘super red’ is listed online as “Dimensions: grows up to 30cm” however in this aquarium it is 41 cm from the aquasoil floor to the water surface, so this plant has overachieved.

I can’t complain and I’m glad it’s healthy.  I’ll give it a trim today and replant some of the better looking top portions to have it fill in a little to the right.  Stem plants like the ludwigia are pretty flexible that way:  you can trim them to pretty much whichever height works for you, just the growth rate and how much you trim will determine how often they will need this type of maintenance.

Digging around a bit more on the Tropica entry for this plant it says in the “Plant info” section in the ‘Height’ entry if you click on the +/- expander button:

Height: 10 – 30+
Average height (cm) of the plant after two months in the tank.

so to be fair there is a little + sign after the 30 and it does say ‘after two months’ and it has been three months in tank (nearly to the day) since it was planted, so I suppose it’s “fair play” to the description, even if 30+ is actually 41…

Anubias nana 'Snow White'
The snow – Anubias ‘Snow White’
biOrb Amazonas root ornament
The mountain

Anubias nana – ‘Snow White’

I was looking for an epiphyte to grow on the large sculpture in the aquarium which has lots of nooks and crannies that could be colonised.  Such a plant has to be small and stay small.  Narrowed down to either anubias or bucephalandra, one of the smallest is anibias “snow white” where the leaves are a very pale green.  The conventional wisdom seems to be that absent significant chlorophyll (resulting in the whiteness), this plant is difficult/impossible to grow.  There is some text on the interwebs relating, “in the Anubias Snow White plant, photosynthesis takes place exclusively in the rhizome and in the roots. Therefore the roots must always be left free.

I picked up an in vitro grown pot from Riverwood Aquatics which arrived in fantastic-looking condition.  Sure enough, the leaves are a creamy white with possibly the faintest green tinge, but the non-leaf bits are dark green.