Newly planted Cryptocoryne lutea 'Hobbit'
Before: emersed leaves cut off

Jurijs Jutjajevs’ (of Tropica) has a “pro tip” for avoiding ‘crypt melt’ and getting Cryptocoryne species more rapidly adapted to submerged growth in an aquarium:  cut off all the emersed form leaves when planting.  It’s quite a dramatic thing to get your new plants in from the vendor and then immediately cut all the leaves off, but I gave that a try with Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ and it’s time to report the results.

In the ‘before’ picture you can see the stumps of the newly planted row of ‘Hobbits’ to the immediate right of the Lobelia cardinalis ‘Dwarf’ and to the left of a mature row of fully adapted submerged form Hobbits up against the glass.  The idea is for the new plants to focus energy on developing submerged form leaves straight away since there are no residual emersed form leaves left.  Another upside is not having to clean up the decayed form of the emersed leaves as the plant transitions.

Cutting off Cryptocoryne ermersed form leaves really works!

Pre-trimmed Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ six weeks after planting

Jurijs’ tip worked beautifully!  The newly planted row of Hobbits have in just six weeks grown fully adapted submerged form leaves and are already more than half the size of the Hobbits planted six months ago that had the emersed form leaves left on.  The new Hobbits have adapted so well and so quickly that it’s hard to visually pick them out behind the row of older Hobbits.

Non-pre-trimmed Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ six weeks after planting

When the emersed form leaves are left on at planting, there are at six weeks a few fully submerged form leaves present, but most of the plant is still trying to give it a go with emersed form leaves.  That might be a good strategy in the wild where water levels might fluctuate above and below the plant, but it won’t work long-term at the bottom of an aquarium.

Great tip for all Cryptocoryne species (except Cryptocoryne parva)

Jurijs says the tip works for all species of crypts except for Cryptocoryne parva.  Parva doesn’t change its leaf form between emersed and submerged growth, so there’s no need to ‘help’ it transition.

Special note:  also don’t try this with Cryptocoryne species grown in tissue culture form.

Golden creeping Jenny in an aquarium

Also known as ‘moneywort’, the golden form of creeping Jenny came up in the weekly sales email from Aqua Essentials and even though I know impulse buying isn’t a good way to go with a planted aquarium, I was looking for a plant that gets to around 30 cm and the golden colour sounded appealing (and who doesn’t like 40% off list price?) so I picked up a pot.

The first surprise was the large amount of emersed leafy growth – six inches.  I don’t have any experience with this plant so wasn’t sure whether the emersed growth would simply rot away when submerged in the aquarium, in which case prophylatic vigorous trimming might be in order, or whether as a marshy plant the emersed growth would be ready for full submersion.  I decided to trim off any obviously rotted portions and the lower leaves near the roots so I could plant the stems to good depth, but otherwise to leave the emersed growth in place; this can always be trimmed off later after planting if not doing well.

The second surprise was that after prising away the rockwool growth support, there were nine quite vigorous looking individual stems.  The catalogs never tell you how many individual plantlets to expect from a single pot and nine is on the high end in my experience.  With a good amount of stems, planting in a row up against a side wall of the aquarium aiming for a “golden curtain” type of effect seemed feasible, so starting at the back on the left side I planted in a forward row as close to the tank wall as reasonably possible.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this new plant behaves.  The Fireplace Aquarium has developed into a multi-coloured live plant display with various shades of light green, dark red, blue/green, dark green, darkish purple and whitish foliage, and now hopefully golden yellow.

How to avoid crypt  melt

I’m really liking the look of Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ in the front of the Fireplace Aquarium and it might be nice to put in a second row but it has taken this slow growing crypt more than four months to really get going.  Is there a way to speed up the transition from the emersed growth form of the plant as received from the shop to the submerged form it will take in the aquarium?  I previously noticed Jurijs Jutjajevs’ “pro tip” to simply cut all the emersed form leaves off and only plant the roots and crown of the plant.  Leaves that have already been removed can’t melt.  I wasn’t brave enough to try that last time, but this time, BRAVERY UNLOCKED.

Continue reading “Planting Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’”

Fireplace Aquarium top down view during water change
View from the top during a water change

Unusual view* down into the Fireplace Aquarium during a major water change.  On the top of the mountain on the right is Bucephalandra caterina, with newly installed Anubias barteri nana ‘Pinto’ further down.  The flopped over red plant is Ludwigia palustris mini ‘Super Red’ with bright green Lobelia cardinalis ‘Dwarf’ just below it.  The low green carpet at the front is Marsilea hirsuta.  Very difficult to see are a few dark brown fronds from Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ at the front edge on the left side and a few sprigs in the lower right corner.  The built-in air lift tube from the underground filter system is the central whitish cylinder.  At the back from left to right are the drop checker, the heater and the powerhead.  

*It’s unusual because there’s not much overhead clearance between the top of the aquarium and the bottom of the chimney breast so it’s a little tricky getting a camera in there.

Planting Anubias barteri nana ‘Pinto’

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.

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.

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

Anubias barteri nana 'Pinto' attached to hardscape
Secured with monofilament 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.

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.

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.

After spending some time thinking about how to deal with the  top-heavy mature form of Lobelia cardinalis ‘Wavy’ even after a very aggressive 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 seventeen 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”