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Success With Aquatic Plants  Pt.  3 

    A Good Selection


Bob Fenner & John G. Pitcairn                      


Previous installment: Success With Aquatic Plants 3: Maintenance

First Part: Rationale, Buying, Keeping

                In the two previous installments in this series we introduced the rationale for keeping aquatic plants, their selection, introduction and maintenance. In this article we will briefly describe some of the most hardy, easily kept, beneficial and prolific varieties available and offer some notes on their keeping. 

So, now that you're convinced that although plastic plants are spiffy, living plants are better because they are natural and more beneficial ; let's list the most appropriate readily available species  of rooted, bunch, & floating plants. 

A Classification: 

To help us describe and make generalizations regarding how to display and maintain groups of species:

Rooted Plants: are sold with roots, they require individual planting.

Bunch Plants: are sold as cuttings, without roots; most require strong light.

Floating Plants: float above or below the surface and generally do not root. They should be protected from over-lighting/burning. 

A List of Suitable Aquarium Plants by Genus: 

Names               Growing Conditions            Notes <Note, loss of formating with HTML conv... need to re-make tables>

Rooted Plants: 

Aponogeton     grown from tuberous root-       many species stock, 65-85 F.,            dormant stage hard, alkaline water to   in winter, slightly acid water, low    store in 55-65 F. to medium light  

Anubias:        propagation from root          slow growers, division, warm water,         hardy and neutral to acid water,  beautiful low light 

Cryptocoryne   reproduce by flowers and        avoid moving Crypts              runner. 72-80 F., medium      around, roots light, softer acidic water    grow first, preferred by some species     many species. If plants lose leaves, change water. 

Echinodorus    reproduce by crown division,     several species, Swordplants         runners, plantlets from     2" to two feet flowerstalk, lots of light    tall, crown of (14h/day+), water chemistry   plant must not  not critical    be buried  

Nymphoides     Strong light, 68-77 F.,       does well floating Banana Plant        reproduces by lateral         or rooted above   shoots after rooting          gravel 

Sagittarius    reproduces prolifically         several species, Arrowhead           from runners, neutral to      a few inches alkaline-soft water,          to two feet good light 

Vallisneria    very hardy and fast growing     don't bury the Eelgrass, val       avoid very soft water,        crown slightly acid ok, 60-85 F.     

Bunch Plants: 

Cabomba        needs strong light, 55-80 F.,    minimum of water Fanwort             slightly acid, soft water,  motion, lime-free propagation by cuttings       water  

Elodea         rapid grower with few demands,    make sure leaves Anacharis           50-77 f., low to high light  are bright green good for hiding babies          and firm  

Hygrophila     Easily rooted from cuttings       easy to keep, Hygro              moderate light, grown from      bog plant cuttings, wide temp., chem. tolerance 

Ludwigia       warm water to 80 F.,            easy to grow good light, water not too hard and alkaline 

Myriophyllum   Needs lots of light. 75 F.       when stems look foxtail, milfoil    or less, 60-70 F. best,       stringy, uproot alkaline, high pH 7-10,       and trim high calcium 


Ceratophyllum  moderate light, likes hard      useful for cold Hornwort            water 65 to 75 F.             water, spawning media, cover for baby fish 

Ceratopteris   very easy to grow, good       free floating water fern          light, soft, acid water,      or rooted, no to hard, alkaline 68-78 F.    snails needed, outgrows algae Lemna, Azolla  Strong to medium light,       good for filter-

Wolffia       wide chem. & temp. range      ing light Duckweeds 

Other Species: are available through the trade and hobby seasonally and geographically. Those listed here are the most commonly available, that do the best of all the things that live plants do. Do read the available literature and try these and other aquarium species as resources allow you.

We have already written a piece on the several, unsuitable species and cultivars of houseplants et alia mal, that may be your misfortune to be offered (Fenner & Pitcairn 1987).

Avoid these inappropriate, doomed-to-failure "non-aquatic plants". (insert list?) 

Grow Your Own: Having trouble securing adequate plant material all year round? Try growing your own. It's easy, fun and can be profitable. Plants may be reproduced and grown in any water-holding container in your "extra" yard space. Even in the cold areas of the country, "tropical" aquarium plants may be cultured 4-6 months of the year. Add a transparent cover to extend your growing season and follow propagation instructions  offered in the references in the bibliography; those of Colin D. Roe and the Tetra series are especially excellent. Try it! 

Wild Plants: Be extremely careful if/when collecting and using live plant material collected from "the wild"; many possible dangers await you. Diseases, pests, parasites and pollution are to guarded against when introducing wild stocks. If you must use wild stocks, sterilize, treat and quarantine them for a few weeks before use.

It should go without saying that release of non-indigenous species is ecologically un-sound and illegal; please don't do it. Eradication programs for hyacinths, Hydrilla and too many others, cost us many millions of dollars annually. 

General Comments Regarding Water Conditions: 

As with aquarium fishes, aquatic plants could ideally be kept in one of three general biotopes:

1) Cold (<70 F.), hard (30+ DH), alkaline (pH 7-10) water 

2) Warm (72+ F.), hard , alkaline water 

3) Warm, softer (<10 DH), acidic (<7 pH) water 

For most purposes it is fine to maintain your stock in room temperature (68-72 F.), @ neutral pH (@7), slightly hard (5-10 DH) water. 

Bibliography/Further Reading: 

Erlich, Julie A., 1986. From Around The World To Our Own Backyards, Introduced Exotic Aquarium Fish Established in the United States. Freshwater & Marine Aquarium Magazine, 11/86 

Fenner, Bob & Candy, 1982, An Argument For Live Aquarium Plants & Some Suggestions, Freshwater & Marine Aquarium Magazine, 5:3, 1982 

Fenner, R. & Pitcairn, J.G., 1987. Caveat Emptor! Don't Buy Non-Aquatic Plants For Aquaria! Freshwater &   Marine Aquarium Magazine, November 1987 

James, Barry, 1986. A Fishkeeper's Guide to Aquarium Plants, Salamander Books, Ltd.,  New Jersey , Tetra Press  Excellent 

Muhlberg, Helmut, 1982. The Complete Guide to Water Plants, E.P. Publishing, Germany.  

Roe, Colin D., 1967. A Manual of Aquarium Plants Shirley Aquatics, Ltd., England. Still out of print, check your library 

Romie, Ken, 1988. The Florida Aquatic Plant Industry, in Aquatics magazine March, 1988 

Sculthorpe, C. D., 1962. A Guide to Aquarium Plants & Their Cultivation; section of Exotic Tropical Fishes, T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey

Stodola, Jiri, 1967. Encyclopedia of Water Plants, T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey 

Special thanks to Andy & Carol Schmidt of San Diego Brine Shrimp for photographic opportunities, friendship , humor and help with the plants at their holding facility.

Previous installment: Success With Aquatic Plants 3: Maintenance

First Part: Rationale, Buying, Keeping

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