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Where are the South American aquatic epiphytes?       1/4/17
Dear WWM,
Thank you so much for being there. I am indebted to your website in my endeavour to become a better hobbyist. And so are life forms in my tank in turn.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
An inquiry: I wonder why don't we come across any commonly available aquatic epiphyte from South America like the Java Ferns and Anubias of the Old World? A quick search on the interweb returned Utricularia humboldtii - almost a force fit into this niche.
I would be grateful if you could help me with a starting point to find more, as most of the common and popular 'planted tank' sites are surprisingly silent on this. This apparent rarity feels intriguing as many environs in the two Worlds are rather similar and should present similar opportunities for species to evolve and exploit.
<The question really isn't whether amphibious or aquatic epiphytes exist in South America, but whether they get imported. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any commonly traded epiphytes similar to Anubias or Java Fern, but there
are some mosses. The North American coldwater species Fontinalis antipyretica ("Willow Moss") is fairly widely traded in the US, less so elsewhere. Fissidens fontanus ("Phoenix Moss") is another North American species, more subtropical though, and adapts better to tropical tanks than Willow Moss. Vesicularia montagnei ("Christmas Moss") is perhaps the
commonest truly South American species. Originally from Brazil, it's rarely seen in aquarium shops but more regularly available online. Then there's good old Riccia fluitans ("Crystalwort") that's been grown by hobbyists as a floating plant for decades, but can be grown attached to bogwood if a bit of effort is made to tie it down first. It's worldwide distribution justifies its inclusion in pretty much any aquarium. Finally, there's an undescribed moss known in the trade as Amblystegiaceae sp. "Manaus", usually traded as South American Moss or Queen Moss. It's rather rare and expensive, but popular with the Amano Aquarium crowd. Frankly, all these mosses look very similar to me, so if Java Moss was the only thing on sale near you, I'd have no qualms using it as a "stand in" for a true South American moss. But that's just me!>
Best wishes and regards
<Epiphytes are not really the quintessential South American biotope. Most of the tetras and cichlids we keep come from the seasonally flooded forest areas (which is why South American exports are strongly seasonal, generally August to December). So if you want something truly Amazonian, perhaps thinking about evoking a flooded forest is the way to go. Lots of sunken wood, silica sand substrate, leaf litter -- all these would be typical.
Actual greenery that grows all year around under the waterline is actually pretty uncommon except for a few lakes and such, where things like Vallisneria would be more typical. Even your classic Amazon Swordplants are marsh plants, underwater for only part of the year. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Where are the South American aquatic epiphytes?       1/4/17

Dear Neale,
Thank you for the detailed response as always.
<Most welcome.>
I was not really looking for such epiphytes to sculpt an 'authentic' biotope as personally I am not a stickler for such micro level perfections.
<In which case...>
I am comfortable with equivalents like Anubias and Java Ferns primarily because they are much easier and forgiving allowing me to fuss less and devote more time to enjoy the whole aquarium.
<...do exactly this!>
My personal (mostly with S American small fishes) tank has lots of 'botanicals' like Catappa leaves, seed pods, floaters, etc. and love the more natural lightly tannin stained look. And yes, all the mosses look very similar to me too.
I was more interested to know if there were larger aquatic epiphytes with 'broader leaves' (not only the moss types) from South America and if yes, where to find a little more about them. This was not only as an aquarium hobbyist but out of general curiosity.
<So far as I know, there aren't. As I understand it, most exports of aquarium plants come from Southeast Asia, where they're either farmed or collected. Some farming goes on in Europe and elsewhere in greenhouses, but these are largely established species. Relatively few "new" plant species enter the hobby each year. Most of the "new" plants are hybrids or varieties produced on farms.>
Thanks again for your time and valuable inputs.
<And to you, too. Neale.>

Hello and Thank You. FW maint.; plt sel.      11/2/16
Dear Neale,
You probably do not recognize my name or email address but you have been in correspondence with my husband Tom Sisk.
<Yes; do recall.>
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support in setting up our aquarium tanks. It was quite a struggle until you pointed us into the right direction with the filters. Without this guidance I would have given up.
Daily water changes and dying fish was just getting too much.
<Oh boy, yes!>
That is history. No more ammonia, no nitrite just the pesky nitrate. I do water changes once weekly now with nitrates hovering around 10 ppm.
<This sounds much easier to manage.>
We have 6 pretty big baby mollies, big enough to swim around with the big girls. (Big girls equals 5 female mollies; also one male platy named Max; one Pleco of undetermined gender called Harvey). Yesterday I saw a couple of very young fray. Strangely enough they look black even though we do not have a black Molly. We will see...
<Indeed! Being hybrids, Molly offspring can be unpredictable, even more so if you buy adult females that might have mated with males other than the ones in your aquarium.>
Also got my sword, Fred, two female companions which together with the nitrate leads to the question about floating plants. Do you have a recommendation in regards to floating plants fit for a 20g tank and a pretty high pH of 8.2?
<The two I'd look at first are Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) and the floating form of the Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides). Sometimes the latter is sold in the non-floating form that has fine, ferny leaves rather than the flat, floating leaves we're after. Don't worry, although the finely divided, fern-like leaves won't be happy and may die back, they'll be replaced with the proper floating form. Trim any above-the-waterline fine ferny leaves that appear, and you'll mostly get a lovely green mass of floating leaves extended a couple of inches below the waterline. I like these two species because they do well under aquarium hoods. Most other floating plants get "burned" under the lights, and don't thrive. But these two species are pretty good.>
(The mollies, Max and Harvey share the 38g tank. Fred, his two girls, four Fabio's, and Junior, the Pleco live in the 20g tank. Both tanks are well within the 1 inch fish per gallon rule at least for now. )
<Quite so. Long term though, Bristlenose Plecs are better choices for tanks below 55 gallons; whereas Common Plecs really need more than 55 gallons, if not 75+.>
Regards, Maria
<Thanks for writing back, and glad you're enjoying the hobby! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hello and Thank You      11/2/16

Thank you, Neale. I will check out the plant suggestion.
One clarification: both Plecos are Bristlenose. I just do not know whether the are female or male. I am suspecting they are both female because they do not have pronounced bristles.
<Understood, and thanks for the clarification. Most people who say "Plec" or "Pleco" are describing the big Pterygoplichthys species. So it's good to know you're keeping the much smaller Ancistrus. Sexing isn't too hard for
adults, but young specimens of either sex can be lacking in the bristle department! Cheers, Neale.>

How do I "disinfect" new plants   /RMF  12/15/14
Dear Crew
<Yasfir, greetings>
How are you all doing?
<Fine; thank you>
Well I hope. I have a quick question, when ever I bring new plants into my tanks I worry about carrying disease,
parasites and other Hitch hikers into my system. Is there any way to prevent this from happening?
<Yes; a few approaches...>
I usually quarantine/acclimatise my plants for a few days to get ride of the hitch hikers i can see <Good; I'd make this time frame a week or two>
but I still worry that I may have missed some thing like parasites, fungi or bacteria.
thank you for any ideas you may have that will help.
<Historically folks have employed "soaks" in solutions of the oxidizer Potassium Permanganate (KMnO3) and Alum (Aluminum Sulfate)... and commercial products made of these and some other compounds... Do read re on WWM... searching by their names. Bob Fenner>
How do I "disinfect" new plants
     /Neale        12/16/14
Dear Crew
How are you all doing? Well I hope. I have a quick question, when ever I bring new plants into my tanks I worry about carrying disease, parasites and other Hitch hikers into my system. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? I usually quarantine/acclimatise my plants for a few days to get ride of the hitch hikers i can see but I still worry that I may have
missed some thing like parasites, fungi or bacteria.
thank you for any ideas you may have that will help.
<Greetings. A 10-minute dip in a potassium permanganate solution (10 mg/litre) will do the trick nicely, getting rid of snails. It's toxic stuff, so be careful with it. Quarantining plants for a few days at 25 C should break the life cycle of Whitespot and Velvet. You can't eliminate bacteria completely though, and in any case, Pseudomonas, Aeromonas and the like will be latent in your aquarium anyway, so your job is to ensure each fish's immune system works properly. Do that, and these pathogens (and arguably Whitespot and many other parasites) will be kept in check. Cheers, Neale.>

All's well! Stkg. FW sys.; and plt.s....         9/17/16
Neale, I hope you are doing well and that your fish aren't giving you cramps! Our aquaria are doing well, amazingly enough.
<Time, the great healer!>
We set up the pump filters with as much of that store bought bacteria (not that there were likely any in there), and waited, while doing water changes as radically as necessary to keep the ammonia down. The small tank has between 0.25 - 0.5, but not rising and we're thinking it will come down as the tank cycles. The 38 gallon tank, with 2 lonely fish, is doing well. The ammonia is around 0.1 and going down. We're going to put some extra filter media into the tank to populate with bacteria in case we need it for some reason.
It's time to add some company to the tank. We're thinking of getting over time a couple of female yellow swords and a Betta,
<I would not keep Bettas, even female Bettas, in mixed species set-ups; there are many, better suited, Betta-like labyrinth fish out there...
Banded Gouramis for example. But do understand that the flowing-water conditions Swordtails need is the opposite of the still-water situations labyrinth fish have evolved to exploit. Perhaps consider one of the smaller, but hardy, cichlid species; Rainbow Cichlids for example are from Central America (like the Swordtails) and enjoy similar environmental
conditions. Very peaceful too.>
and maybe some other fish way down the road. But over the next two months, just those three. I know Bettas don't do well with other Bettas, nor with other large finned fish, but we won't be getting any of those. Nor will we over populate the tank - this is going to be the quiet tank. One tank with crazy Danios, etc, is plenty. Whatever we get first will sit in the 10 gal quarantine tank for a couple of weeks to give us a chance to observe and watch for illness before it (they) will go into the big tank. The 10 gal tank is set up with water from a water change from the big tank and one of the two filter sponges from the big tank.
So the questions are (and you KNEW there were going to be questions, right?
:) ): is the Betta a good idea?
Would it be OK with the swords and a platy and a Pleco?
<Platies are pond rather than stream fish, so like the Betta, appreciate sluggish currents. If you look at Swordtails compared with Platies, the streamlined Swords versus the dumpy Platies pretty much gives the game away in terms of speed and swimming ability. Plecs, at least the farmed ones, adapt to pretty much anything, and in theory at least could be kept with Bettas, assuming adequate tank size and filtration.>
Would it be better to put the Betta in first and give it a month to claim its territory or doesn't it matter which order the Betta and swords go in?
<Bettas actually ignore dissimilar fish. So yes, they sometimes chase gouramis, and will certainly be hostile towards other Betta species, let alone their own species. But no, they aren't a thread to Danios, dwarf cichlids, catfish, etc. Indeed, the threat is usually the other way around. Bettas find it hard to compete for food when kept with non-mutated species
(bear in mind their ridiculous fins slow them down, and humans have bred them that way, assuming the Betta would be kept on its own, usually in a jar in Thailand. Once you stick the Betta in with other fish, things get difficult for the poor Betta. Much better to keep them on their own, or else alongside very gentle species that won't compete for food at all; the smaller Corydoras for example work well, as will Kuhli Loaches, and perhaps things like Ricefish.>
Got any other advice for us? We wanted to ask ahead of time, rather than playing catch up, after a mistake was made.
<Hope that this helps! As you're learning, pre-empting problems is the name of the game here. The right fish in the right tank with the right water chemistry will pose few, if any problems even across many years. I've got one tank that's pretty much zero maintenance beyond occasional water changes! Has been like that for a good 10-11 years now.>
Thanks again for everything you've done to help. I think we have our feet under us now.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

re: All's well!       9/18/16
Well, things change, don't they? #eyeroll
So, we thought about it and came to the same conclusion as you did regarding Bettas, so we passed on them.
<Wise. Much written in books and online about Bettas; it's not just me being difficult! They're a species-only set-up fish, like puffers. On their own, easy enough to keep; alongside other species, both Bettas and puffers cause problems.>
We were going to get the yellow swords, but didn't like the look of them.
They had reddish gills, which might be a natural thing, but might not. They had some white under their chins, but that might also be natural coloration - most of them had it, but not all. There was one that had EITHER air bubbles on his tail, OR ich and given the whole picture, we decided to pass on them and all the other fish that shared their water stream (six tanks in all).
<I'd have passed on these, too.>
We came home with one 2" female silver molly and two small gold dust mollies. When we checked the quarantine tank, the pH had risen to 8, from 7.6 in the large tank where we got the water. There was nothing in it but a couple of plastic plants and a white composite "stone". Nothing on the bottom. So we decided to go ahead and put them in the big tank. There's so much room, there shouldn't be much stress. We'll watch them to see if everyone is getting along.
<Let me have you do some reading...
Although easy enough to keep in the right conditions, Mollies aren't general purpose community tank fish, despite their widespread sale.>
While there's a pretty good current in the left end of the tank, the right end is pretty quiet, though honestly, our platy spends at least half (or more!) of his time in the end with the current. We also have a bubble wand, against the back wall in the center. He occasionally plays in that, riding the bubbles to the surface, then swimming back down to do it again. The Pleco occasionally hides on the back wall behind the bubbles.
<While "play" behaviour is not unknown among fishes, scientists believe it to be rather rare. So when ordinary fish seem to play, it's wise to think if there's another explanation. Air bubble streams provide water movement and extra oxygen, two things that some fish might not find elsewhere in the tank, especially if temperature is higher than the fish like (more heat = less oxygen in the water, which can stress those species adapted to cooler conditions, such as Platies). Review, and act accordingly.>
We'll take a look at the rainbow cichlids, as well as the other fish you mentioned. But we won't consider another fish for at least a month. Let everyone get used to each other and let the bacteria catch up to the new bio-load.
<Quite right!>
All of this sound ok?
<See above.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
re: All's well!       9/18/16

Our tank is at 77 degrees, ammonia this morning is damn near zero.
The Platy, who had spent the last month almost by himself, has been harassing the little gold dust Mollies.
<Pretty common behaviour. All the "big four" livebearer males will try to mate with females of other livebearer species; i.e., Mollies, Guppies, Platies and Swordtails. Equally, males of all four species behave aggressively towards each other, size allowing (a male Guppy isn't going to get far harassing an adult male Giant Sailfin!).>
We have plants, but just added a couple of fake plants that we had left over from the beginning of all this. They filled in the open spaces on one end of the tank. Maria said that when she put those in, ALL the fish immediately gravitated to the plants and she could see the stress level drop.
So we have one end of the tank heavily planted and the other end kind of bare. Maria said to tell you that she will be watching the ammonia and nitrites like a hawk.
I'll quite possibly attach a picture... could go either way.
<Right... well, I'd get the lucky bamboo out for a start. It isn't an aquarium plant, and can introduce toxins (i.e., the pesticides or herbicides used to grow it) and will eventually die and rot when kept underwater. The live Amazon Swords at right aren't going to do well above the gravel. What I'd do is get pots like those wit the bamboo, fill with fine gravel, and plant the Amazons into them. Keep any green parts above the gravel, taking care to not get gravel between the leaves (this ends up snapping them). All you want to do is anchor the roots in the gravel. Stuff a fertiliser pellet into the gravel and let the Amazons do their thing. All else being equal they'll be fine. That stripy green plant on the left is a Dracaena. Again, a land plant. VERY commonly sold to inexperienced aquarists who don't know any better, unfortunately. Do you know the "Ti Plant", Cordyline fruticosa? It's very similar, and cared for the same way.
The actual species is Dracaena braunii (used to be Dracaena sanderiana) and it's the same species as your lucky bamboo, just smaller. In any case, both the Dracaena and the lucky bamboo can be plonked into houseplant soil and
grown somewhere sunny. Ironically, they actually prefer soil that drains freely rather than waterlogged soil! Let me have you do some reading on these non-aquatic plants mis-sold to beginners...
It's a crying shame that aquarium stores still sell these plants to beginners. So far as general advice goes -- don't put any plant in your tank you haven't positively identified as a true aquatic, and since some of the true aquatics are quite demanding, make an effort to check your water chemistry and lighting level are appropriate too.>
Thanks again, Neale!
<Cheers, Neale.>

re: All's well!       9/19/16
Rats. Ok, plants, then. We'll take out the bamboo and, eventually, the stripey plant (when I can find a good replacement).
When you say "fertilizer pellet", do you mean something that is specifically designed for aquaria? (I like that word, "aquaria"...) We don't want to put the wrong things in there.
<Understood. Yes, you can buy little pellets (about the size of a small bean) designed for fish tanks. You pop them into the gravel and the plant roots absorb the nutrients slowly.>
I read the link about what NOT to put in the tank, thanks. Do you have a link about what DOES go in? Can you recommend any books?
<Many. But one I often recommend is called "A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater Aquarium". Out of print, but available on Amazon for one whole cent, it's attractively put together and strikes a nice balance between covering the basics while offering a bit of extra depth for those who want it. It's a good first book for the fishkeeper's library. For your second book... oh my, where to begin! Everyone has opinions, and to be honest, I haven't bought a general aquarium book for many years, mostly sticking with the specialist stuff from the likes of Aqualog. But a few
thoughts here...
Often these older books sell online for pennies, so it's hard to go wrong.
That said, the Baensch aquarium atlases, especially volume 1, really are classic and almost perfect books that remain my bibles for the subject.>
Looking online simply tells me that if you have 5 fish people, you'll get 9 opinions about everything.
<Sort of. I think the fundamentals are pretty well understood, but some folks "get lucky" with unreliable (or just plain dumb) combinations of fish or plants, post their successes online, and that's the way it's easy to mislead people. There are some GREAT websites though. Not just us (!!!) but I think SeriouslyFish.com totally rocks, and PlanetCatfish and Loaches.com are two examples of outstanding websites focused on specific fish.>
Hard to know who to listen to. You have our ear, certainly, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to be our sole source of information!
As usual, thanks again!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Got my new plants... gen.     5/24/14
I went to a world of fish and brought the following
3 types of Amazon swords, one type is smaller has thicker red leaves, other two are taller and are green,
<Many of the inexpensive Amazon Swords are hybrids, so it's often difficult to identify them. Most tend to need a decent substrate and fairly strong lighting.>
Water sprite
<Ceratopteris thalictroides? An excellent floating plant.>
and Anubias
<Anubias is an epiphyte; do not plant in the substrate, despite often being sold potted. Attach to bogwood or a rock, e.g., using black cotton thread.>
I was reading on your website the swords are heavy feeders.
What types of plant food do you recommend?
<Could not matter less what brand you choose. Anything will be better than gravel! Some good results have been had using the fertiliser tablets, which you wedge into the substrate near the roots maybe once a month.>
I do use advanced carbon in my power filter. Lighting is one coral sun 36 inch T5 10,000 K and one 36 inch 6,500 K The tank is 36 L by 20 high by 18 wide. Substrate is a mixture of white sand and sechum plant substrate. I had trouble planting the swords and left some roots exposed should i redify this?
<Would not worry too much. It is better to leave roots exposed than to break them. Indeed, many aquatic plants are happier this way, Vallisneria for example, and some will produce daughter plants where roots are exposed to light.>
Thanks, Alex
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Got my new plants    5/24/14

Do you think my lighting is good enough for the swords? Right now I have a 36 inch Coral sun T 5 10,000 K bulb and a 36 inch T 5 6,500 K bulb. The tank is 36 long by 20 inches high by 18 inches wide.
Those who live by the sword die by the sword, I love my sword plants lol.
<Indeed. Since the Amazon Swords were presumably inexpensive and they're there now, you may as well see what happens. Some varieties do okay in average lighting, and some even do a little better than that. As a rule of thumb when shopping for plants, the paler the green, the more light-demanding a plant is, while pink-leaved plants are often the most demanding at all. Red/brown-leaved plants are a mixed bag, most need strong lighting, but there are some Cryptocoryne species with red/brown leaves that can thrive in low to average light levels. But when all is said and done, you really need to research specific plant species before shopping. Tropica are one of the best-known plant growers in the hobby, in Europe at least, and their website has lots of brief descriptions of the plant species they export, including information on light requirements.
Some of the details are in Danish for some reason but they categorise the plants into "easy", "medium" and "difficult" species and if you choose "easy" species you can't really go wrong. You'll see several Echinodorus varieties are listed as "easy" so see if those match yours. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Got my new plants      5/30/14

Thanks for the tip. I have an issue with my plants, they are growing fine but algae is starting to coat the leaves,
<Not unusual for the first few weeks after replanting a tank. It takes a while for plants to settle in and start growing new roots. Adding some floating plants for a few weeks may help by shading the new plants, and once they're settled in you can remove the floating plants if you want. Do also review the type of algae. Green algae is fine, and to some degree a few diatoms aren't a problem either. Diatoms especially come and go after dramatic aquarium changes. But hair (brush) algae and blue-green algae are
often (usually) signs of deeper problems that need investigating.>
is there a fish I could get to help clean the leaves of the plants (was thinking Otos).
<Do approach with care. Otocinclus need a mature aquarium and excellent water quality. I'd wait at least 6 weeks after setting up an aquarium before adding them, and I'd also want to make sure the water quality was consistently good. When shopping for them, look for lively, well-fed specimens; once starved and hollow-bellied, they often don't recover.>
I keep south American bumblebee catfish, do you think Otos would be eaten by them?
<Depends on their relative sizes. Assuming we're talking about Microglanis iheringi, then generally no, this catfish is a micro predator that won't eat anything bigger than, say, livebearer fry.>
Also is it normal for bumblebee catfish to uproot/ dig around plants.
<It's normal for pretty much all catfish. Cheers, Neale.>

Duckweed or Frog bits      4/20/14
I am trying to decide on an easy plant for the aquarium.
<Choosing such is a common problem for many aquarists.>

I have two angelfish, a group of emperor tetras, a few swordfish and a Bristlenose in the 75 gallon. I had Indian Fern before and bit by bit it just got sucked up into the filter until it was gone.
I was thinking Duckweed, but I heard angelfish eat them or Frog bits.
<Duckweed won't ever be eliminated by the Angels, and I'd be surprised if they ate very much of them at all (Angels are more or less entirely predators in the wild, primarily taking insect larvae). While they might peck at Lemna spp. while foraging, I'd be surprised if they actually ate the stuff with much enthusiasm.>
The fish I have may eat the roots of the frog bit.
<Actually less of a problem than you'd expect, assuming the Amazon Frogbit is growing reasonably briskly. I have kept this species with herbivorous fish, such as Ameca splendens, which really does eat Frogbit roots and Indian Fern leaves, and up to a point, the Frogbit in particular persisted fairly well. Unless the roots are totally eaten away, it seems to manage okay, and all I did was remove moth-eaten specimens, leaving the numerous daughter plants to take their place. None of your fish are anything like as herbivorous as Ameca splendens, so should be fine. Swordtails are algae eaters to a degree, but they don't eat (healthy) plants so far as I know.>
I have an empty 10 gallon to maybe keep growing the duckweed in to replace what is eaten. Just wondering what is the best to get. I like a floating shade plant.
<Any of the choices you mention is viable. Growing something like Indian Fern in the spare tank, perhaps on a windowsill, then dumping clumps in the Angel tank would be a nice idea. Just sometimes it fails to take, either getting clogged up with blue-green algae or else just going brown and falling apart, bit by bit. Duckweed is easy to grow, but difficult to
remove if you change your mind, and it can be a menace to some types of filter because it's so small. Strong water currents can submerge individual plants, pushing them down towards the filter inlet where they clog the inlet grille. On the other hand, few plants are as authentic as Duckweed, and in tanks with gentle water currents it adds a nice thick layer of green, and growing so fast that you can physically remove nitrate (yay!) on a daily basis if you want. Amazon Frogbit is a lovely plant, and always worth trying. It looks awesome in tanks that aren't too deep so the roots (over 20 cm/8 in given the chance) actually anchor in the sand, creating a really complex habitat that's perfectly suited to small fish and shrimps.
The only thing it hates is being burned or dried out, but provided your lights aren't right on top of the water, you should be okay.>
Thank you
<Duckweed is free, so a no-brainer if you're not too bothered about the hassle involved in removal. For the other two, trying them out is the best advice I can give! Cheers, Neale.>

Mystery plant   1/28/13
Hey guys first off, love the website. You are awesome.
<Thanks for the kind words. Apologies for late reply; been out of town a while.>
I recently set up a freshwater planted aquarium about a week ago. I have some java fern, Anubias, sword and disforma all growing really well in a 6 gal, with eco complete. At the time i got the tank i also got two "Anubias" from PetCo. Upon getting home i realized one of them wasn't a nana as i had been told i was getting.
<I agree. This is not an Anubias species. Hope you didn't pay an Anubias price for it!>
I've been trying to figure out what it is and I'm starting to think its a water cabbage.
<Pistia stratiotes? It is not.>
It is the only plant not doing great. Here are some pics. What is in my tank?
<To be honest, I don't recognise it. I'm fairly sure it isn't a true aquatic; or at least, not a widely sold true aquatic. I would take it back and ask for a refund or replacement.>
And any advice on how to take care of it or just get rid of it are appreciated.
<Do find one of the good plant forums, like the UK Aquatic Plant Society or the Aquatic Gardeners Association, and try positing some pics there; might be more helpful. Cheers, Neale.> 


Closer picture of aquarium - 1/25/13
Just wanted to send a picture of the 40 breeder S. American build out.
Thanks for all your help.
E. ozelot
E. bleheri
E. tenellus
E. pariflorus
Bolivian ram x3
Blue Acara
Bristle nose Pleco
Emperor tetra x6
<A fine mix of beasties. The only thing I'd add would be some Amazon Frogbit. This is a GREAT plant. It'll provide quick shade as well as greenery that fills the top third of the tank. The roots hang down 20 cm or more, and look really lovely, just like how you'd imagine a swamp to look. Cichlids will show better colours in the shade, and the Emperor Tetras will
have real habitat to occupy and for the males to use for their displays.
They're easy to crop (pull them out) and not fussy about light. They remove nitrate really quickly as they grow so fast, so that helps to ensure excellent water quality. They'll stop algae growing as well. Try some;
shops like Aquatic Design Centre on Great Portland Street in London have them in little pots for a couple quid. Wait a few weeks for them to grow, and see what you think. Cheers, Neale.>


And one more volunteer, plant ID, Hygro?  - 12/18/2012
Neale, this other plant came as a small sprig mixed in with the shrimp.  No idea what it is, but I just realized it's spreading.  It's the green one growing over the Crypt wendti and it's a floating type....no roots.  Maybe one of you all can identify it.
<Looks like some sort of Potamogeton, but honestly, I'm not sure. Quite a few plants have this look, with rosettes of slender leaves at periodic nodes along the stem; Heteranthera for example. Do you know the Tropica site? They're a plant wholesaler and grower, and their web site is pretty good:
Have a read of their A-Z index.>
In the other photo I sent you...the one they told me was "soft hornwort," I know it kind of looks like Cabomba but it seems sturdier and hardier.  I recall once "trying" Cabomba in a betta tank, obviously with out success.
I've no idea.
<Cabomba is obviously different to Hornwort when handled; Cabomba is soft and has finely divided leaves (i.e., the leaves fork several times) whereas Hornwort is "crunchy" and the leaves don't fork much, if at all.>
Though perhaps being at the top near the light source could make that plant work in a lower light environment and appear sturdy due to having it's requirements met. I'm planning to buy more water sprite today if they have some.  It's pretty and sturdy as you said.
<Quite so. Only thing is to trim away the thread-like above-the-waterline ("emerse") leaves as these tend to burn and look pretty stupid anyway. It's the flat, submerse leaves we want.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: And one more volunteer - 12/19/2012
Thanks, I'll check that site.  I couldn't find it pictured when I Googled floating plants, nor in my plant book, and ones that seemed similar weren't
free floating.  It seems very prolific a as there were just a few small sprigs and now in a couple weeks it's tripled.
<Always a good sign with plants.>
Some has also grown into some java moss.  It tends to harbor floating plants and encourage their growth. I was rolling the water sprite when it
put leaves out.  Sometimes you can just push them back down too.  I will trim if it gets too ambitious.
<If you find out what this plant is, let me know. Cheers, Neale.>
re: And one more volunteer - 12/19/2012

Hygrophila polysperma narrow leaf looks like a good candidate.
<Really? Hygrophila is "easy" enough but does need lots of light. Otherwise tends to become leggy.>
Had to rule out Rotala due to it is said to be difficult and looks like it primarily roots!!
<Would certainly agree Rotala needs very bright lighting (and often CO2) to do well.>
Here's a site with pictures of Hygrophila:
I agree Potamogeton could be a possibility but there are so many to go through.
<For sure.>
The one that I found so far that looks like it said that the leaves can grow to 20 cm, and mine doesn't looked inclined in that direction, in spite of the form being so similar.
I'll let you know if I figure it out.
<Real good.>
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: And one more volunteer     12/23/12

It is leggy.... I noticed that. It sure looks like that picture, just a bit leggier.
<Ah yes, etiolation. Under intense lighting the internode distance (the distance between the nodes from which leaves emerge) gets smaller.
Effectively, the plant can pack in more leaves into a smaller amount of stem, which is the optimal way to grow. More plant dedicated to producing food, less to getting the leaves close to the light. Under poor lighting plants increase the internode distance. The aim is to get the leaves closer to the light source, but that means more energy is "wasted" growing stem, which in practical terms doesn't produce much, if any, food. So this is the non-optimal arrangement. If a plant becomes too etiolated, the ratio of food-making growth (leaves) to food-consuming growth (stem) becomes so poor the plant uses up all its reserves and the plant starves.>
I guess I could try moving it... I'll see if I can get it to float at the top.  If it fills out more, it might be Hygrophila. It's a beautiful green, whatever it is, but it would be even nicer if it filled out more.
<For sure. Wait and see how it does. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the green, the more light the plant needs (science bit: under low light, a given area of leaf will work better if it has a higher density of chlorophyll per square centimetre, hence leaves of plants that grow in the shade tend to be darker green, e.g., ivy, periwinkle, holly; also aquarium plants such as Anubias and Cryptocoryne wendtii).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Plants for fw... rdg.     3/23/12
Can you recommend some good looking plants for my tank. I've got a sword, Cabombas, twisted and straight vacillis, and a crypt (not sure which it's low and has crinkled purple/green leaves). The problem is the vacillis and Cabombas grow like mad and I have to strip them out and replant every few weeks which kicks up the sediment in the substrate and as I have a new baby I don't have as much time so I want things more like the crypt which grows slow but won't die easily. I have a jewel rio 125 with standard lights and heater, with 2 Hagen co2 yeast things. The bulbs are 28w t5 high lites.  If you have any suggestions for a/some tall plants for the back that would be great. In the tank are cardinal and X-ray tetras, opaline gourami, bn pleco and some peppered corys.
Many thanks for any suggestions, apologies for spellings on plant names sending this from my phone and it's fiddly.
<Sure. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html
Bob Fenner>

Planted Aquarium Issues... set-up, op.... Mis-fish-stocking    10/4/11
I have a 75 gallon Planted Tank
6X65watt T5 florescent (5.2 watts/gal) 1hr dusk morn/even 12 hours light.
Marineland 360 Canister Filter
Marineland course foam, bio balls, ceramic, RENA 30 foam, RENA Micro foam, RENA Super Micro foam, Marineland polishing pad 40 watt Emperor Aquatics Smart UV Sterilizer
Marineland Tidepool sump
2 sets of Marineland filters, bio-wheel, filled with bio balls
CPR Continuous Overflow Box with lifter pump and foam filter
Fluval G3 Fine Filter connected to 180 gal/hr pump
25 watt Emperor Aquatics Smart UV Sterilizer
2/200 watt inline heaters (81°F)
CO2 Reactor supplied by pressurized CO2 controlled by Pinpoint pH controller (6.8 � 6.9), which also controls dual supply air pump (6.7 � 6.8)
Fluval G3 Fine Filter connected to 230 gal/hr pump
HOB Refugium with Water Sprite (harvested bi-weekly)
20 watt T8 lighting
<All sounds great!>
5 Discus (4-6 inches)
1 Electric Blue Jack Dempsey
3 Denison Barbs
8 Fox SAE
3 Clown Loaches (3 inches)
5 Boesemani Rainbows
6 Madagascan Rainbows
1 Bristlenose
1 Pleco
<An interesting mix, by which I mean unlikely to work in the long term. Denison Barbs are subtropical fish and aren't happy above 25 C/77 F, i.e., they're much shorter lived. Ideally, you'd keep them much cooler, around the 20-22 C/68-72 F mark. Discus, by contrast, are high-end tropical fish that need to be kept at 28 C/82 F. Furthermore, Clown Loaches are plant eaters, and as they get bigger, they'll not only eat your plants, they'll uproot them too. Jack Dempseys have absolutely no place in this aquarium at all.>
Anacharis, Madagascar Lace, Moneywort, moss ball, Red Rubin, Temple Narrow Leaf, Wisteria, Anubias Nana, Balansae, Java Fern, Water Sprite
(Plants pearling nicely, looks like soda pop)
Chemistry (All tests done daily with API test kits, except O2 which is
measured by Pinpoint Dissolved O2 Monitor and FE which uses a Seachem kit)
O2 5.5 � 6.3
GH 6 dGH
KH 3 dKH
NH3/4 <Minimum Detectable
NO2 <Minimum Detectable
NO3 10 ppm
PO4 1 ppm
FE <Minimum Detectable
Water is RO/DI, 25% (Assuming a total water volume of 100 gal.) water changes done weekly.
Chemical Additives (Usually added to sump)
Seachem Flourish Excel
Seachem Flourish FE
Seachem Flourish P
Seachem Flourish N
Seachem Flourish K
Seachem Flourish Trace
Seachem Equilibrium
Seachem Acid Buffer
Seachem Alkaline Buffer
Water is crystal clear and there is minor green algae, weekly mechanical removal.
I have 3 potential problems.
<Excluding the fish!>
First is that I add FE and there is not a corresponding increase in iron levels when tested.
<May well be being used up quickly, or reacting with something else in the aquarium, either chemical or biological. If the plants aren't showing signs of iron (Fe) deficiency, then you might not need to worry either way. But if they are showing symptoms like Chlorosis, you may want to up the dosage by, say, 50%, and see what happens.>
I have added as much as 40ml and sample within 10 min, sump and aquarium, the FE is <Minimum Detectable. I have done a reference test and it indicated properly. It doesn't seem that the uptake of FE by the plants could happen so quickly. I don't have any Carbon, Chemipure or Purigen (I did previously) in any of the filters.
<But bacteria and algae can use up iron.>
Second there is something else buffering the pH. Before I started the CO2 injection, pH increased over time. With the continuous CO2 injection either CO2 flow has to be increased or acid buffer has to be added to allow the CO2 to control pH in the band. Any ideas?
<How much is the pH varying by? And are there any signs of problems with the plants or the fish? If all looks good, and the plants are growing, then why worry? Don't obsess over the numbers. Biology isn't a bunch of chemical reactions. Or rather, it is, but such complex reactions that something as crude as a pH test tells you virtually nothing of significance. In itself pH is a remarkably unimportant measurement, and pH levels in natural streams and ponds vary much more than people imagine, and by different amounts on different days. So roll with it for now, unless there's something obviously not right about your tank.>
Third is that it took ¾ of a bottle of P to raise the phosphate level to 1 ppm. Much more than calculated. Any ideas why?
<Does sound odd, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes. Do bear in mind your hobbyist test kit is far less accurate than anything scientific, so the margin of error is really quite wide. Once again, if the plants are healthy, and you're seeing good growth and lots of new shoots and leaves, then why worry? To a degree, phosphate will be produced by the biological filter and recycled around the tank.>
Thanks for your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Planted aquarium   9/7/11
This may seem ridiculous, but how long should you wait before introducing plants into a new fresh water aquarium.
<As/when you want! Before the fish is ideal.>
Along with the plants, shrimp will be added and then some small Danios (celestial peals). The set up is a 24 gallon tank and the only light I have is a 70watt 10000k metal halide with some Fluval shrimp substrate bought at Foster and Smith's website. Right now I have some baby dwarf tears in there that are not doing well, but the tank is new (3 days).
<Plants get stressed when moved for a variety of reasons, not least the damage to their roots. Changes in light intensity and water chemistry can cause problems too. There's much to be said for adding hardy plants first, like Hygrophila or Indian Fern, and then the delicate ones. This way the hardy plants knock back the algae, and you can gradually replace them with delicate ones as the tank settles down. But going straight for difficult plants is fine too, just harder work.>
I didn't have the light on them for about 60 hours, but I would not have thought that would be the sole purpose of the leaves turning somewhat transparent and flaccid. Flourish by Seachem was added before as well. I can find a lot of information about planted tanks but not on the time interval for introduction into a new tank. Am I rushing this a bit?
<Hemianthus callitrichoides isn't an easy plant. Like other plants that aren't truly aquatic, it prefers a rich substrate and CO2 fertilisation, and usually does poorly without them. A crucial thing to understand is that the substrate won't compensate for the CO2 fertilisation -- plants need MUCH more CO2 than they do iron or magnesium! Truly aquatic plants like Vallisneria and Elodea tend to be better able at extract minerals and CO2 from water directly, so they're the ones we often find do well with minimal effort, even in plain gravel and without CO2.>
Thank You
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: planted aquarium   9/7/11

Thanks Neal. Another thought that I had was in regard to Flourish Excel to replace the CO2. I've read about the pros and cons (mostly pros) about using this at the recommended dosage level. I know there are some gimmicks out there for buyers to trip over, but I'm new to the fresh water hobby.
<I'm skeptical, to be honest. Gaseous CO2 is at least a proven technology.
For what it's worth, I tend to choose plants that grow without CO2 fertilisation of any sort, and if you want an easy life, that's the way to go. It's important to realise that these "Amano style" tanks are very high
maintenance and designed primarily for hobbyists who want something to do, and to take photos to record their achievements, rather than to create a simple, straightforward aquarium to decorate.>
So far it seems that reef keeping is easier for some reason.
<Well, Amano tanks are, anyway.>
I'm still torn over LED lights versus metal halides for the plant life.
<LED are miles better.>
Thanks again
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: planted aquarium   9/7/11

Thanks Neale. I don't really see how gluteraldehyde can benefit plant growth, but I'm not a botanist either.
Thanks for your help.
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Salt, plants, and crabs -- 07/21/11
Dear plant and crab expert,
<Yikes! Quite a combo, there'¦>
I'm converting one of my 10 gallon tanks to a paludarium. Most of the tank will be water (approximately 4 gallons), with lots of shelves on the back (for plants), and a shelf on the left with a ramp for easy access in case a land animal falls in the water.
<I see.>
I'm planting it with hairgrass, several crypts, and any other plants I can think of, even though I want it to be an Asian biotope (Samolus sp, baby tears, etc). I'd like to host red claw crabs (Perisesarma bidens),
<These are best kept as brackish water animals
and don't do well in freshwater indefinitely.>
Hermit crabs (Uca sp.),
<These are 100% brackish/marine animals -- whatever the retailer says -- and will die unless kept in brackish to marine conditions.>
and some aquatic insects (springtails, water louse, water striders).
<May not/will not be compatible with brackish water livestock.>
I can't really find a solid answer about how much salt is needed'¦ I was hoping 1 tsp of reef salt per gallon would be enough.
<SG 1.003 would be the absolute minimum; that's about 6 grammes per litre of water. Teaspoon measurements are very, VERY inaccurate, but 6 grammes is about 1 level teaspoon. Check it yourself using kitchen scales and act accordingly. Above SG 1.003 you'll have problems with plants; below, the Uca and probably the Perisesarma will be less robust, dying.>
I also can't really find out whether that would kill the plants or not.
<May well do unless you choose plants carefully. As it happens, Samolus valerandi is extremely salt tolerant. On the other hand, Hemianthus callitrichoides is not. Eleocharis species sometimes tolerate slightly brackish water but it varies between species. Hardy Cryptocoryne species like C. wendtii tolerate slightly brackish water, and C. ciliata is a true brackish water specialist. So do your research here, for example:
If I use reef salt, would I still need iodine supplements?
I'll also likely add some glass shrimp to the tank- if they get eaten, that's okay.
<These tolerate slightly brackish water well.>
Because the land area is built of shelves, is it ok if the crabs don't have a dry area to tunnel in? The terrestrial and aquatic plants should provide hiding places to help them feel secure.
<The plants will also be food for the crabs, especially the Perisesarma.>
Can you recommend any other inverts that would do well in this setup?
<Crabs generally don't cohabit with anything, and you would be very unwise to mix Perisesarma and Uca; the Uca are essentially non-aggressive (if territorial) deposit feeders that sift mud and algae, while the Perisesarma are aggressive opportunists that will view the Uca as potential food.>
I was also considering Nerite snails'¦
<Can work extremely well with Uca and shrimps.>
Thanks, David
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Salt, plants, and crabs -- 07/21/11
What about moon/Halloween crabs?
<Gecarcinus quadratus.>
I was thinking maybe mixing a mostly terrestrial crab with a mostly aquatic crab so the smaller ones could escape'¦
<Not a chance of mixing Gecarcinus quadratus with Uca spp.; do understand that crab species DO NOT cohabit in the wild, and most view one another as either rivals for living space or potential meals. There is an ample literature on this based on crabs in reef tanks; do read.>
It's ironic to me that Uca might be less likely to eat plants, but prefer more salt'¦
<Hmm'¦ not really ironic, merely a reflection of the fact these crabs come from beaches and salt marshes where freshwater aquarium plant species are absent.>
I might have to decide whether to kill my plants with salt or serve the crabs a salad bar. It's a shame. I might end up having to scrap the crabs altogether,
<Do look at Thai Micro Crabs.>
and go with Cambarellus Patzcuarensis var. Orange, also known as the dwarf mexican crawfish.
<A fine beastie, though irregularly traded.>
At least it's plant-safe and peaceful according to everything I've read.
<Hmm'¦ the smaller crayfish are less aggressive and less destructive, but it would be unwise to assume non-aggressive and non-destructive. Potentially safe in mixed species tanks, but do bear in mind these have only been in the trade a year or two, so there's very little experience to draw on, and certainly not every combination of crayfish, fish, and plant hasn't been tried.>
Not sure if it would ever leave the water though..
<Fully aquatic.>
I don't want the land area to go to waste.
<Paludarium systems tend to work best with frogs, to be honest, rather than inverts. You might consider tree frogs alongside, say, similar sized aquatic frogs or newts. Mudskippers are of course another possibility, and can, if species are chosen carefully, cohabit with Uca spp. and certain brackish water livebearers, such as Mollies. Provided the plants above the waterline are insulated from the brackish water and watered with freshwater, there's little risk of salt poisoning them, and conversely, there are true brackish water plants that might be placed under the waterline to green things up there. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Salt, plants, and crabs  7/23/11

Sorry, I've been doing a lot of research. I think instead of giving the fiddler crabs (Uca sp) the minimum amount of salt, I'll give them whatever is ideal. Do you think 1.008-1.010 would be about right?
After a lot of research, I've found a list of plants that should survive at those levels... I'll put it here so you can share it with others. I assume some of these plants won't make it, but most should, as long as they're
acclimatized slowly.
Variegated Acorus (Acorus gramineus var. 'variegatus') Terrestrial/Emersed
Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia Terrestrial/Emersed
Crinum Calamistratum Submerged
Lilaeopsis novae-zealandiae (Microsword) Terrestrial/Emersed
Glossostigma Terrestrial/Emersed
Java Moss Terrestrial/Emersed
Java Fern 'Windelov' Undecided
Anubias Nana Emersed
Azolla Floating
Various Crypt species (already had) Submerged, will allow to grow emersed
Hairgrass Submerged
<Would be very, VERY surprised if most/any of these would survive above SG 1.005 at 25 C/77 F. Would strongly recommend you run the tank at SG 1.003 at 25 C/77 F to start with, using those plants. That's just short of 20% seawater, and more than ample for most brackish water fishes and livestock.
It'd be acceptable for your Fiddler Crabs, and being relatively benign animals, you'd have lots of options for things like Endler Guppies, Black Mollies, or, if you can get them, oddball livebearers such as Micropoecilia parae melanzona, Micropoecilia picta, and Limia nigrofasciata.>
For livestock, I'm thinking (I know, I can't seem to make up my mind!) 3-5 Fiddlers, 5-10 opae'ula shrimp AKA Halocaridina rubra (I'll have hiding places to let them get away from the fiddlers in case they think they're food)
<Very likely. Do bear in mind Cherry Shrimps adapt well to slightly brackish water, and in fact virtually all shrimps are worth trying at low-end brackish water.>
In addition, Fiddlers are mostly Diurnal, while the Opae'ula shrimp are mostly nocturnal. To wrap it up, I think I'll throw in a couple horned/corona Nerites and a ghost shrimp.
<Clithon corona, Clithon sowerbyana and Neripteron auriculata would all thrive in brackish water.>
The tank is a 10 gallon. I know they like to dig, but I think they'll have to settle for man-made tunnels made out of 1/2" PVC pipe.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Plant Suggestions  5/19/11
Hello, WWM Crew,
<Hello Emily,>
I've read your site for several topics, now (thanks for saving me from dwarf Gourami; I have honeys, instead), and have perused your articles on planted tanks, but I can't quite parse the information it has for my situation. I was hoping that emailing you would provide some answers, and I hope you don't mind if I write a novel (feel free to prune out bits that are irrelevant, if you end up posting this!)
<I see'¦>
My first foray into plants was getting some java moss, as by all accounts, it's idiot-proof and grows well even if you ignore it.
<Yes and no. It can grow steadily in places it likes. But at the same time certain fish, such as suckermouth catfish, won't let it attach itself easily, and I have to be honest and say I've never found Java Moss all that easy. It's a good choice for tanks with just small tetras and other small midwater fish that won't move anything stuck to the bottom.>
Needless to say, it's done fine in the 10 gallon under the old lights (2x15 or 25 watt florescent tubes on a standard el-cheapo beginner tank hood) and I'm glad I learned that my pathetic bulbs that came with the Betta tanks (7 watt, very yellow, very dim) kill it with something that dim and inexpensive. I also have a 2.5 gallon shrimp tank that I threw some of the moss into, that was previously lit with a woefully insufficient 60w incandescent on a desk lamp, but I didn't manage to kill it before I got my new lights. I just purchased some new compact fluorescent bulbs in the correct spectrum (6500k :)) so I am now running 2x14 watt CFLs (60w equivalent, 830 lumens, 6500k) over the 10 gallon
<24 watts/10 gallons, or 2.4 watts/gallon, tending towards moderately bright light'¦>
and 1x14 watt CFL (same as above) over the 2.5, lamp leaned over the side the plants are floating at.
<14 watts/2.5 gallons, 5.6 watts/gallon, really quite a high brightness, though in small tanks the whole watts/gallon thing doesn't really work as expected because of the shape of the tank relative to the physical size of the light.>
The stocking lists for the tanks are as follows: 10 gallon: 2x honey Gourami (male/female: they spawned once under high ammonia during the cycle and haven't since), 6x Corydoras atropersonatus (recent acquisitions, eating well, happy, schooling well). The 10 gallon has an Aquatech 5-15 filter, a temporary 25 watt heater (as my 50 watt was just recalled and the replacement hasn't arrived) and finished cycling a couple of weeks ago. I have some java moss and some wire-y stem plant whose leaves are like pine needles, arranged in rings every so often along the base. Maybe a sort of * Myriophyllum*, from a brief search?
<This looks to me like Ceratophyllum, or Hornwort, a quite nice floating plant that tends to do better in ponds than aquaria but is certainly growable in an aquarium. Needs bright light to do well in tropical tanks.>
This plant has started branching (in both tanks) since I received it a week ago, so I guess I'm doing something right. My 2.5 gallon tank is currently UNcycled, unfortunately, as the cycle seeding didn't take before the shrimp were introduced, and is unheated (my spare heater's in the 10), unfiltered (haven't been able to pick up supplies to make a DIY sponge heater, as what I had didn't work), and stocked with 10+ yellow-morph cherry shrimp (hopefully to breed, raise to sell? or supplement fish with). I have the majority of my java moss in there, as well as one of the stems of the plant they were shipped with, both floating, neither anchored.
<Hornwort at least is happiest floating; it does form sort-of rootlet things that may secure strands to the substrate, but I've never found it to be happy grown at the bottom of tanks, at least not long term.>
Both tanks are bog-standard gravel with no soil mixed in, and I imagine it would be interesting, to say the least, to try to mix some in now.
<Yes and no. The idea you need a good substrate to grow plants is misleading and wrong. Aquatic plants get most, and in some cases all, of their nutrients from the water. Floating plants get all their nutrients from the water (Ceratophyllum for example) and epiphytes also get all their nutrients from the water (Java moss for example). So neither of these cares less about the substrate, and the less substrate, the more water in the tank, and the more water, the better the living conditions for your fish. Even if you have plants with roots, such as Amazon Swords or Vallisneria or hardy Crypts, these will all do perfectly well with a plain vanilla substrate into which fertiliser tablets are pressed every month or two. Adding fertiliser to the water can work, too.>
Given a 7.2-6 pH (I'm right between tests, so I have to guess), both heated (78-80F) and unheated (72-4F) and cycling and cycled tank, and the lights I have, could you recommend some plants that are fairly idiot-proof under my lighting conditions, don't require additional fertilization (hopefully, but if they do, something easy and idiot-proof that won't hurt fish or shrimp) beyond what the fish/shrimp will provide, and would leave shrimp, Corys, and Gourami happy? I don't have hardness tests, so I'm afraid I can't give that information. :(
<I'd start with good, reliable species. Anubias is a bombproof epiphyte, and provided it has some shade, shouldn't experience any problems (strong direct light tends to cause it to get covered with algae). Next up is Cryptocoryne wendtii, a lovely rooted species available in lots of varieties. It does quite well in pots, and these can be pushed into the substrate and the Crypt left to its own devices pretty much after that. It'll slowly spread out on runners. The reddish-brown varieties make a lovely contrast to the dark green Anubias. Cryptocoryne beckettii is another very hardy little Crypt, this time with light green leaves. Moving on, consider Vallisneria spiralis for the background. Vallisneria are adaptable and very unfussy about the substrate. I'd also recommend the hybrid Aponogeton available as bulbs for a buck or two in many stores. Plonk these in the aquarium (don't bury them!) and wait for them to sprout. Although individual plants may only live a year or so, they produce baby plants on the end of long stems, so with minimal care you get a constant supply of them. Of the Amazon Swords, Echinodorus bleheri is a good, reliable species but I suspect rather too large for your aquarium. Java Fern is an epiphyte that can make a nice alternative, but it's slightly fiddly to get established, so buy one attached to bogwood already if you want to keep things simple. If all of these work out, you can then try out the more demanding species, pulling out the plants you're bored with.>
I'd like to escape the plastic jungle I'm starting with and move to live plants that will be more beneficial to the tank. I've attached pictures (hopefully small enough with file size but large enough to see the setups I'm talking about and evaluate light levels, etc. to be helpful) of the 10 gallon tank (sans hood) and the 2.5 gallon setup (showing light and the kind of absurd way I have the glass lid for now).
Many thanks for the information I've already found and the info you'll undoubtedly give me,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Guppy behavior/water smell (actually about plants taken from the wild, plus shrimp selection) 10/26/10
Hello again, a new thing has come up. I happened to be able to get free fanwort from a lake, the lake was man-made and the water is still fairly pure. It has green algae on it, would it be ok to put it with guppies? Also, unfortunately the cost of cherry shrimp isn`t feasible for me at this time, would ghost shrimp be at least as good?
<Ghost shrimp are fine companions for Guppies, but they don't breed under aquarium conditions and aren't as pretty. They're also a bit larger. As for adding plants from the wild, sure, you can do this, but a plant adapted to the oncoming winter season won't be happy being stuck in a tropical tank. So if you're going to collect temperate zone plants, even species you know tolerate tropical conditions, do so towards the end of spring when they're gearing up to the growing season. Another issue is that plants taken from the wild can carry both predators (e.g., damselfly larvae) and, more crucially, potential pests including snails and (if the pond/lake contains fish) parasites. Dipping plants for up to 10 minutes in a very dilute (10 mg/l) KMnO4 solution should shift most potential pests. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Guppy behavior/water smell   10/26/10

Ok thanks! Maybe I`ll just try to get some plants from the pet store. :)
<Usually the best plan. Or find a friend with a fish tank. I'm regularly donating clumps of unwanted plants! Cheers, Neale.>

Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
I was wondering if you could help me? I have a Southeast Asian blackwater tank with 2 Gourami.
For the plants I have chosen, Blyx japonica, Nomphilia stricta and some Cryptocoryne wendtii (although the latter is not from blackwater which I found out after planting!) What I can't seem to find out is a floating plant that would come from this same area? I have done a lot of research but not sure if there is even such a thing? What about Indian fern? Anyway I really don't know but I would like some floating cover for the fish.
Thanks in advance.
<Hello Gemma. Blackwater habitats tend to lack plants of almost any kind because the low pH is created by organic decay. So while the plants you mention thus far certainly occur in soft water habitats, they aren't going to be common in peat bogs and the like. Among other issues, the darkness of the water cuts out light, making it hard for plants to grow. Do bear in mind that most gouramis don't occur in blackwater habitats. Colisa and Trichogaster species, for example Dwarf Gouramis (Colisa lalia) and Opaline Gouramis (Trichogaster trichopterus) come from soft water streams, ponds and lakes. These often are thickly vegetated, and gouramis are adapted to precisely those conditions, using their flat body shape to slip between plants. In Asia, the floating plants in such habitats would include Indian Fern, Pistia, Salvinia, Azolla and Lemna, among others. Of these, Indian Fern is probably the easiest to grow and the one that provides the best amount of cover, colour and nitrate removal. The others are problematic for one reason or another, so research their needs carefully. All should do well in moderately soft water, around pH 6.5, 5-10 degrees dH. Unless you have a darn good reason, don't make the water any softer or more acidic
than that: very low pH and hardness levels are unstable and provide poor conditions for filter bacteria, most fish, and many plants. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
Thank you so much for such a fast reply!
<No problem.>
I wondered then If I could ask what would be the correct setting for my Gourami?
<These little fish come from ponds, rice paddies, ditches along the sides of roads, that sort of thing. Shallow water, lots of aquatic plants. Water chemistry middling, a bit on the soft side, but not super-soft. Colisa lalia is intensively farmed, and unfortunately hasn't done well over the generations and tends to be prone to viral and bacterial problems. But good specimens are adaptable, and provided they're kept fairly warm, 26-28 C is about right, they shouldn't pose too many problems. The difficulty is getting healthy specimens!>
They are Colisa lalia. I was originally creating the blackwater setting for my female Betta, who sadly died. After many hours and days or research, I concluded that this would suit the Colisa lalia.
<Soft water and blackwater aren't the same thing at all. Blackwater is what you get when rainwater flows onto a peat bog. Because the rainwater has no carbonate hardness, there's nothing to buffer against pH changes. So the water absorbs the tannins and other acids from the bog, becomes extremely acidic, in some cases below pH 5. Relatively few fish tolerate these conditions. Among the Gouramis, it's things like Chocolate Gouramis and Liquorice Gouramis that come from blackwater habitats. Colisa lalia, by contrast, comes from ordinary ponds and ditches where the water will have absorbed at least some carbonate hardness. Perfect conditions would be 5-10 degrees dH. Here in Southern England for example the tap water is about 20 degrees dH, so mixing it 50/50 with rainwater produces moderately soft
water ideally suited to Colisa lalia and indeed a wide variety of tropical fish. You don't need to worry about pH too much, provided it's stable; pH 7-7.5 is ideal for Southeast Asian fish as well as filter bacteria (which don't like pH levels below 7 and essentially stop working below 6).>
Now after your kind info, I am slightly confused. If I am going to create a natural environment for these fish, I want to get it right.
<If all else fails, try Fishbase. In this case, read here:
Are the plants I have still correct for the soft water streams, lakes and ponds you mention? Were they even correct for the Betta?
<Oh, yes. Blyxa is a notoriously difficult plant to grow so unless you had a burning desire to grow it, I'd skip it. And "Nomaphila" species grow much too fast for large tanks. I kept some in a windowsill tank and they grew at least a meter ABOVE the waterline within a few months. These are huge plants. Good choices for a Southeast Asian tank include Hygrophila polysperma, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Cryptocoryne beckettii and Vallisneria spiralis, as well as Java Fern and Java Moss. All these are fairly adaptable, though Hygrophila does need a lot of light to do well, otherwise it becomes gangly, more stem than leaf.>
I am doubting everything now, lol. Would there be leaf litter?
<I'm sure there would in the wild, but I wouldn't worry in the aquarium.
Gouramis live at the top, so floating Indian Fern produces precisely the kind of canopy they enjoy. Smooth silica sand (sometimes called smooth silver sand) from a garden centre makes a great substrate, though you can use plain gravel too.>
Thanks so much for your more than helpful advice.
<Always glad to help, especially when it's something a bit different to sick goldfish! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
Thanks, so helpful.
I am really sorry to bother you again, but when I went upstairs just now I have noticed that 1 of the Dwarf Gourami has built a huge bubble nest!
There are just 2 males in the tank, shall I do anything? Is this normal even though there are not any females present?
<Yes, quite normal. Do watch that the males don't become aggressive towards each other, as is very likely.>
Sorry to ask a 3rd question today!
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Growing Aquatic Plants article   5/3/10
If I may, I would like to add a little info to this section / quote:
<Please do>
"Plants Themselves:
So, you say, "My water checks out, my tank and gravels okay, but I still can't grow those blasted aquatic plants!" Well, maybe it's the plants. Unfortunately, many plants are sold in the trade that are unsuitable; some are house plants or worse, others are so beaten by shipping and storing at the dealers that they are doomed. How to tell? Ah, there's indeed the rub."
<Ah yes>
In today's internet age, buying plants online is becoming increasingly popular. This is fine, if it is purchased from a trusted source (of course). Cross border shipping is of a concern. Some agencies feel the need to decontaminate the plants as they arrive and this produces a number of problems. They may smoke the box with pesticides which in turn is detrimental to the fish, or they may hold it for a quarantine period for up
to 6 months and the plants will be DOA. The correct packaging (avoiding crushing) and locally acquired flora will always produce the best results.
Hope that helped a bit.
<Likely so, thanks. BobF>

FW Plant sel., low light   4/7/10
Dear Crew,
What species of plants are able to thrive with a 16 W light or less (16W isn't that much I'm guessing for most aquatic plants)? I have also heard that java fern is not a real aquatic plant is this true?
Thank you lots
<The total wattage isn't what matters, but how much per gallon of water.
Actually, it's a bit more complicated than that, but for casual fishkeeping in average tanks between 10-55 gallons in size you should find 1 watt per gallon adequate for Anubias, Java moos and Java Fern, 1.5 watts per gallon
adequate for those three plus hardy Cryptocoryne species such as C. wendtii, and 2 watts per gallon adequate for a good variety of species including Vallisneria and some Amazon swords. Floating plants generally do well with even 1.5 watts per gallon because they're right up close to the lights, so some Indian Fern might be worth adding if you want something at the top of the tank. The best advice is to try out a variety of plants, and then throw out the ones that aren't doing well. Healthy plants will have vigorous growth and look bushy and the right colour; sick plants will grow slowly, will become etiolated (long stems, small leaves), and colour will be paler or more streaky than normal. Do understand that tanks with poor or slow plant growth tend to have more problems with algae. As for Java fern, yes, in the wild it probably spends more time above the waterline than below it. But in aquaria it does very well underwater, provided the rhizome is not buried in the sediment but instead attached to bogwood or lava rock. Most folks who fail with Java fern do so because they stick it in the gravel! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Brown Algae   2/9/10
Any ideas on where I might purchase these plants online. I'm not having any luck.
<I'm in the UK, so that's the only place I can speak about from experience.
I've received good plants from both Java Plants and Green Line.
You'd also want to visit the Tropica site, and have a look on their "Dealers" page to find a retailer near you. Even if that retailer doesn't have Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) or Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) in stock, they will certainly be able to order them in for you.
Finally, do try getting in touch with your local aquarium club. This is BY FAR the best value way to obtain aquarium plants. By their nature, aquarium plants are "weeds", and once established, most folks end up with cuttings they're only to happy to share with others.
Cheers, Neale>
Re: Brown Algae   2/9/10
Do you know if Amazon Frogbit is also known as Java Fern?
<No, it isn't. Java Fern (Microsorium pteropus) is a slow growing epiphyte, not a floating plant. Java fern is completely useless for algae control. It grows very slowly, and in fact is more likely to become an "algae magnet",
getting covered with hair algae and the like. The same holds true for Anubias, another epiphyte commonly traded. Both great plants, but useless
for algae control. Cheers, Neale.> Adding plants to an already existing freshwater tank setup 10/2/09
Hello there!
Let me give you information about my freshwater tank setup.
<By all means.>
50 gal long tank
2x Marineland Penguin Bio-Wheel 350
4x media baskets with ammonia chips
<Zeolite is pointless if you have a biological filter. Well, it's good for the company that sells the stuff, but bad for your bank balance.>
3x full size Red Parrot Fish
5x small Otocinclus
1x heater
1x standard florescent light that came with the tank setup
Temp is 74
<Little on the cool side for Blood Parrot cichlids if that's what you're keeping. Would up to 25 C/77 F.>
and I am not sure of my water quality since I ran out of test strips last week. The last time I checked ammonia, nitrite and nitrate were 0. I do know our water is naturally hard with a high pH. I am going to be buying some peat and water softener to lower the pH and soften the water.
<Wouldn't waste your time on this. None of your fish needs soft water, and for multiple reasons, moderately hard, slightly basic water is actually optimal.>
I need to add live plants for my Otocinclus to be happier and feel safer in their home.
<Actually, they couldn't care less. What they want are lots of flat surfaces where they can graze green algae. The vast majority die in captivity through starvation. Feel free to use plastic plants and bogwood instead of live plants, if you want. The main thing is that their habitat is complex with green algae all over the place, a good water current, and nothing too aggressive.>
I have had them for almost two months. I started off with 6 but one is MIA. He probably died, but I did not expect him to live because he was the smallest of the bunch and always had a pale color to him in my tank. The other 5 have big bellies and are feeding off of the brown algae aka diatoms in my tank. I have tried giving them algae wafers and algae strips but they ignore them and I am going to the store to buy some zucchini to see if they will munch on that.
<Do also try cooked peas. But so long as they're fat, don't worry too much.>
Their bellies are big and their color is wonderful, but they just stay on the sides of my tank and I would like to actually see them at work and I want them to be as happy as possible.
<They'll go where the algae is. Simple as that. If you have a flat slate or bogwood stump under a bright light, and that slate or stump has lots of algae, they'll graze there. But you can't "make" them go anywhere there
isn't food.>
I know my Parrot Fish are going to disturb the plants by playing the substrate but I would like to try having a few plants in there for the Otos and to grow some green algae since I want that for the fish. I am trying
to grow some green algae on some rocks outside in a pool of water right now for them. How do I add plants to a tank that is already set up?
<Depends on how you want to do this. But the easiest option is to choose Java fern, Java moss and Anubias species. These plants grow attached to bogwood (or pieces of lava rock, sometimes). You can buy them already attached, and then simply rest the wood (or rock) on the substrate wherever you want them. Since these plants are epiphytes, they couldn't care less about the substrate. They do become algae magnets under bright light, so a few floating Indian Ferns might be used to moderate the algae a little bit.>
Do I need to change out my small pebble substrate for one that is for plants or can I add substrate for plants on top of what I have and just mix everything together?
<There are two schools of thought here. Or really, three. The first is to ignore the substrate and assume the plants take their nutrients from the water. This works fine in most cases provided you regularly add fertiliser
to the water. The second is to replace the substrate. I use a bottom layer of pond soil and pea gravel mixed together, a gravel tidy on top, and then gravel or smooth silica sand on top of that. But there are lots of
alternatives here outlined in any aquarium plant book. So long as the substrate is enriched somehow -- pond soil, laterite, special nutrient-rich gravel -- all the options work. Replacing everything in an established
aquarium is a good afternoon's work, but the main thing is to put the fish in a big bucket (ideally 5 gallons, with a lid) and to put the filter in another bucket of water, and leave the filter running, so the bacteria are
happy. The third option is to buy potted plants in rock wool, and push the pots into the existing substrate. This works reasonably well if you keep adding fertiliser pellets to the pots. Not all plants do well like this,
but some, such as Cryptocoryne, Amazon swords, and Vallisneria, do very well.>
Should I buy a double strip light fixture for my plants as well?
<You need reasonably bright light, around 2 watts per gallon, for the widest range of plants (and green algae) to thrive. Java fern, Java moss, Anubias, and hardy Crypts will get by with a bit less. There's some
argument about whether brighter lights, above 2 watts/gallon, are essential, but it seems to be that *without* adding CO2 to the system, brighter light is important for "difficult" plants.>
I don't really care what plants I buy as long as my fish are happy.
<In which case, epiphytes and floating plants are the way to go. Few plants make fish as happy as floating plants! Indian fern and Amazon Frogbit especially have long dangling roots which collect food and algae, and become very attractive hide-outs for small fish.>
Thanks for any advice that you do have.
<Cheers, Neale.>

180 litre tank set up, planted, stkg.    7/31/09
I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you. Ok, first, I have just bought a Juwel rio 180 tank and I'm obviously quite excited about setting it up.
<I have this tank, and it's a winner.>
The tank has 2 45Watt light and I will be adding on some Juwel reflectors so my tank will probably be above the 2WPG rule.
<Are these the high-output T5 tubes or the standard T8 tubes? With the latter, I never found plant growth all that good, and had to double the number of tubes to get good results, even with the reflectors. If you have the new T5 tubes, you may be okay, but you'll have to wait and see. My suspicion is that because these tanks are rather deep (around 50 cm) even high-output T5 tubes aren't going to "punch" light down to the bottom of the tank. In which case, adding additional lights will be important.>
My substrate is Fluorite at the bottom, mixed with silica sand and then top it off with a few centimetres of silica sand.
I will be injecting co2 with the DIY method & I will be dosing dry fertilisers to my tank.
<Fine. But do remember CO2 usefulness depends on how bright the lights are, and I suspect light, not CO2, will be the limiting factor. Try it and see.>
I'm currently planning to stock my tank as follows, 3 SAE, 4 Otos, 8 sterbai cories, 25 neon tetras and 2 angelfish. Do you think that my tank is overstocked?
<Should be fine, especially with a second filter.>
I will be adding a Fluval 205 canister filter to help the internal filter that is already included in the tank.
If it is overstock which species of fish can I reduce the number on? E.g. 8 to 6 cories. My other concern is the number of algae eaters that I'm going to have in the tank.
<I'd actually augment the SAEs with some Nerite snails; I find they go after different algae, and work well together.>
As you already know, the tank is 180 litres (47 gallons) so will that provide enough algae for 3 SAE and 4 Otos? If not, then which species of algae eaters should I reduce? I will be adding some MTS and Ramshorns too.
<Ramshorns usually eat plants, so that's an odd choice. Colombian Ramshorns are notorious plant eaters, other varieties perhaps not so much. The Melanoides snails are useful. But I'd swap Nerite for the Ramshorns, to be honest.>
The tank is going to be heavily planted with Cabomba, Hygro polysperma, Rotala rotundifolia, Amazon sword, Anubias nana, Lysimachia, java fern, java moss and maybe a few others.
<Lysimachia is a difficult plant and needs good, strong lighting. I suspect you'll need additional lighting for this one to work. Likewise, Rotala is a species that, in my experience, demands a lot of light. The others are more or less adaptable. To a degree, you're going to have to try them all out, and see which ones work.>
When I set up the tank, do you advise me to introduce all the plants at once or just the fast growing ones?
<Would set the tank up with all of them, leaving space for growth. Add some floating plants as a temporary measure to control algae if that's an issue, but otherwise you should be fine.>
I will be using the EI method of dosing & do 50% water change weekly. For the co2 dosage.. I currently have 3 3litres of juice bottles. For my set up, do I need 2 or 3 of those bottles?
<No idea. Honestly don't think CO2 will be the limiting factor here. CO2 makes good tanks work better; it doesn't make failing tanks suddenly workable. Get the tank set up, see how things are looking, and then adjust your CO2 system weekly until you find a good balance between growth and cost.>
If so then what formula of recipe do you recommend?
<Not an expert; would suggest you consult those fine folks at The Krib:
E.g.1 teaspoon of yeast or 1/2 teaspoon of yeast... And also one last thing :) I'm doing a silent cycle with the plants & snails.. so after about 2 weeks time should I introduce the SAEs and Otos at once or just the SAE and then wait for another week before I add the Otos??
<Snails can help the cycling process, but you'll still need to be adding fish flake or ammonia to get things going. I'd recommend adding a pinch of flake each day, letting the snails eat it, and then use your nitrite test kit every few days to determine when the cycling process is done.>
This is just out of convenience as the nearest specialist fish store is a half an hour drive.
Anyways thank you for your time and help.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Silver / Tri Colour Sharks, losses (It's a mystery! RMF?)     7/30/09
Hello Crew,
Having a problem with our Bala Sharks. We have lost two of them in the last three weeks.
<Oh dear!>
Symptoms : Starts with cloudy eyes, this seems to spread backwards and looks almost like a fungus spreading. The fins, particularly the Pectoral and Dorsal start to look as though there is some sort of 'fin
rot'. The fish seems fine but stops eating 'enthusiastically' although it does still eat. After a period of approx 6 weeks the fish is found swimming upside down and dies soon after.
<Hmm... putting aside the obvious -- old age -- if it's the same species of fish getting damaged, infected, and then dying, there's two obvious explanations. One is that there's a species specific virus (or equivalent)
in your tank. This isn't likely though, and the classic cases, like Neon Tetra Disease and Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus are well known and easily recognised. The more likely explanation is that something has changed in the tank, perhaps environmental, perhaps social, that means this particular species of fish no longer "works" in this tank.>
Aquarium : 2000 Litres approx (7ftx3ftx3ft), 3mm Dorset Pea natural gravel
Filtration : 2 Eheim Pro III 2180's
Heating : Hydor under gravel 2 * 300w (supported by integral heaters in filters but filter heaters are rarely required)
Circulation : 2 Hydor Koralia 4's, 1 Seio M2600
Water Stats : Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20, pH 6.5, water is relatively hard, temperature 27 Deg C Min, 28 Deg C Max. water changes are carried out fortnightly and calculated to keep nitrates below 25ppm so it
can vary in amount. Water changes are carried out using Tetra AquaSafe and a 'Python', gravel is vac'd at same time.
<All sounds fine.>
Stock : 18 Clown Loach ranging from 4 to 8 inches in length, 2 Red Tail Tinfoils 8 inches, 1 Sailfin Plec 14 inches, 2 Silver Dollars 6 inches, 4 Black Widow Tetra, none of these are showing any signs of any problem
whatsoever, there are no plants, there is a large amount of 'bog wood' shelter and places to hide type holes. There are now 5 Bala Sharks (were 7) ranging from 6 to 11 inches.
<How old are these fish? They do live for around 10+ years, but if they're substantially older than 10 years, you may simply be seeing normal mortality.>
Feeding : Principle is JBL Novo Bel but once weekly add frozen 'shrimp' and 'bloodworm', additional variation provided by JBL Novo Tab.
Feeding is monitored and if the feeding is less than enthusiastic the next day will be a 'fasting' day.
<I would class Balantiocheilos melanopterus as being a "heavy" feeder, so one factor is whether they're getting sufficient food. Make sure your specimens have nicely rounded bellies, and when viewed from the front, the profile on the flanks is slightly convex rather than concave.>
Things that I have tried
1 : Increase the vitamin uptake of the fish incase it was a dietary deficiency using JBL Atvitol for a 4 week period. - effect none.
2 : Treat individual fish in hospital tank using JBL Ektol at recommended dosage and period. - effect dead within 24 hours.
3 : Treat entire aquarium using JBL Ektol at recommended dosage and period - effect none except dead filters, never again.
<Have never used JBL Ektol so can't comment on its efficacy/safety either way. Will make the usual statement that carbon neutralised such medications and should be removed before use. Can't think why your filters crashed; do review dosing, usage.>
4 : Treat entire aquarium using eSHa 2000 at recommended dosage and frequency - effect another dead Bala shark.
<I do use eSHa 2000, and find it to be very reliable, even with catfish and pufferfish.>
I now have another shark showing the cloudy eye and am out of ideas, I cannot keep throwing chemicals at this, it is damn expensive to treat 2000 litres, no other fish show any signs of problems.
Best regards,
<There's no obvious reason from the data here why your Bala Sharks aren't doing well. So would suggest taking another approach: is there anything that might have stressed/be stressing them? They are nervous fish, and when alarmed, sometimes throw themselves into the glass or at the hood. Clown Loaches and Silver Dollars should be fine, but the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb, Barbonymus altus, is a big, boisterous fish that tends to be rather restless. Similarly, Black Widows can be nippy, though this varies, and sometimes they're utterly harmless (but mine never were...). I'd also consider age, how much you're feeding them, and whether there's anything outside the tank, like banging or paint fumes, that might be stressing these fish. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Is mysterious to me as well... What would just affect the Balas... I would default to serial water change-outs, the addition of some hardy, palatable floating plant material (to cut down light, give the fishes something to chew...) and use a goodly amount of activated carbon (bagged, in an area of water flow)... BobF>>

Re: Silver / Tri Colour Sharks (It's a mystery! RMF?) -- 07/30/09
Would not argue with this at all. In fact if you're anywhere near Berkhamsted, you're free to come pick up a couple clumps of Ceratopteris from me! I seem to be throwing out bucketfuls ever couple of weeks. But seriously, Bob's point is sound. Many of my fish eat the stuff, and it certainly makes nervous fish -- hujeta gar, red-tail pufferfish -- much less skittish, and much more settled than otherwise. Really, I'd class Ceratopteris as almost as useful as heaters and filters!
Cheers, Neale
<Yowzah! I swear Neale and I are two individuals! Perhaps characters would have a better, more accurate connotation. Cheers! BobF>

Re: Silver / Tri Colour Sharks (It's a mystery! RMF?) -- 07/30/09
Funny boy! Yes, I'm a recent convert to Ceratopteris. Not sure how I'd live without the stuff now. I think pet shops should give a leaf or two away with every fish! I started off with a few fragments, and now I have tonnes in every tank, and even some in the pond.
<C. thalictroides is one of my all time... olde... faves>
My Ameca splendens seem to eat nothing else. They refuse flake food entirely when they have the stuff.
Cheers, Neale
<And you, BobF>

Advice/Ideas for Low-light, 10 Gallon Tank 6/25/09
Hey guys and gals,
I'm working on getting a 10 gallon planted tank planned out. It has the standard leader dimensions. Marineland 100 Power Filter, Red Sea Flora Base, All-Glass Deluxe Fluorescent Hood. There will be a low amount of light in terms of wattage, because I cannot afford a more high-tech set-up right now. Thus, I will use only one 15 watt bulb.
<This isn't much light: make your plant species choices very, very carefully or you'll be disappointed.>
I've been researching bulbs with optimal spectral characteristics that still maintain a suitable color temperature and CRI. That process has been frustrating, because good information is somewhat difficult to find. When it is found, it can be more difficult to synthesize/analyze it with other sources. However, I'm wondering about the Zoo Med Flora Sun Max Plant Growth bulbs. Are they a good option?
<At the wattage you're working at, and the very limited plant species that would be viable, either would be fine, as would any other plant-friendly strip light.>
Also, given the proposed set-up, can you guys recommend a good carpet plant that will readily spread across the substrate, filling all the empty spaces?
<None; all the "carpeting" species required bright light; as you'd expect, a plant stuck at the bottom of a pond or river wouldn't be growing somewhere shady because there'd be no light there at all!>
Some plants I'm interested in utilizing to create the entire set up are Hygrophila polysperma (Big-leaf or normal variety),
<Poor choice; needs lots of light otherwise becomes etiolated.>
Hygrophila corymbosa 'Siamensis' and 'Siamensis 53,'
<Not going to work; these need lots and lots of light, and get very tall anyway, so would look stupid in 10 gallons.>
verities of Cryptocoryne becketti and wendtii,
<Should grow fine; would stick them in pots, add fertiliser pellets as required.>
verities of Microsorum pteropus,
<Should do well; obviously doesn't care about the substrate since it grows attached to wood.>
Pogostemon helferi,
<Doubt this will grow.>
Riccia fluitans,
<Never had much luck with this under low lighting conditions; might work as a "floater" but probably won't attached to stuff.>
Hemianthus callitrichoides,
<Forget it.>
Monosolenium tenerum,
<Prefers good light; might grow under lower light levels, but forget about
the thick green mats you see in showpiece tanks - it'll probably get overgrown with Java moss or even algae first.>
and Taxiphyllum barbieri (Vesicularia).
<Should do fine, though I find it a very temperamental species that doesn't always work in situations where you think it should.>
Do these (or some of these) sound like good options for me?
<Not all of them, no.>
Will any of the last plants listed spread enough and stay low enough to form a thick carpet?
<No. You simply can't create "carpets" of green under low light conditions.>
Thanks for your guidance in advance. You folks are a big help.
With gratitude,
Joey E
<Under low light, Java fern, Java moss, and Anubias are the three most reliable choice. All of these are epiphytes, so they're attached to bogwood or rocks, and don't care about the substrate used. Crypts can work under low light conditions if Cheers, Neale.>  

Grass-like aquarium plants 6/1/2009
Hello, my name is Juanita
<Hello, Juanita.>
A couple of days ago I was looking at some pictures of aquariums, and I saw some that had some kind of "grass". I have a 30 gallon aquarium, it has nothing but gravel in it and one goldfish. I thought that if I was to put that grass instead of gravel I wouldn't have to vacuum it because the grass would use it as a fertilizer, right?
<Wrong. Aquaria with "lawns" of "grass" are actually very high maintenance, precisely because the aquarist needs to keep the substrate clean and regularly keep the plants pruned and free from debris.>
But, is there different types of this grass?
<Yes; but the common species is Echinodorus tenellus. It's a difficult species to get established, and to be honest I've never had any success with it. Admittedly, my tanks are quite messy and filled with big fish --
and that probably explains my failure!>
Is it okay to put it with the goldfish?
Would it be too hard to take care of ?
<Yes, very hard.>
And would it take over the aquarium easily?
<Under perfect conditions, yes, it grows quite quickly. Needs a rich substrate, very strong lighting, middling water temperature, and CO2 fertilisation. All stuff you won't have in a goldfish aquarium. If you want
plants for a Goldfish system, your best bets are floating plants and inedible species such as Anubias and Java ferns, both of which are grown attached to bogwood or rocks, rather than buried in the soil.>
Thank You.
<Sorry can't say anything more positive! Neale.>

FUTURE TANK!! FW, incl. fish and plant stkg.... issues   5/17/09
Hiya to u all,
Hehe I'm sorry to bother u all but I think I'm going to go crazy if I don't get things straight...... so I've decided to ask u guys ( the best site for advice for an inexperienced aquarist :) ) Well this is my plan: I'm planning to buy a 55+US Gallon tank with a stand and a lid (as my current 20G tank have no lid and my SAE died!). the livestocks will probably be.. 6 platies (2 males, 4 females), 5 SAEs, 5 otos, 6 bronze cories, 4 spotted or whatever types of cories that have spots :). 2 peppered cories (the ones I have now), 20-25 neon tetras, 1 cobalt Gourami, 2 angels (still deciding on this one) and finally 2 pearl gouramis (I'm also still deciding on this one..).
<I'd review this list a little before you did anything else. Neons can/will be eaten by large Angelfish, and Siamese Algae Eaters and Otocinclus will be competing for the same food, and I'd expect the Otocinclus to starve to
death within weeks/months. Cobalt Gouramis (Colisa lalia) are a total waste of money in my opinion, much of the farmed stuff being plagued with an incurable, inevitably fatal virus (something like 22% of them according to
one study). Even without the virus, they're sensitive and delicate fish prone to bacterial infections. Pearl Gouramis by contrast are generally hardy and peaceful, and make superb companions for Angelfish. I'd also suggest keeping at least six of each Corydoras species; only in reasonably large groups will you see them behave properly, and will these catfish be truly happy. Cherry Shrimps are Angelfish food.>
Along with all the fishes I also want to have 10 red cherry shrimps, and some red ramshorns and Malaysian trumpet snails. I'm planning to make my tank a community tank (obviously) and in a heavily planted sort of way...
Well what lighting should I get?
<Depends on the specific types of plants you want. Assuming you want fast-growing, underwater jungle type things like Hygrophila and Vallisneria, you need reasonably strong lighting, a good estimate being 2-3 watts per gallon of water. It's better to overestimate than under, since you can easily provide extra shade for the fish via floating plants like Amazon Frogbit and Indian Fern.>
100Watts? or more? or less? I'm planning to include a couple of DIY CO2 and the substrate is probably going to be Fluorite(2 inches deep) with maybe 1 inch of white fine gravel or sand to cover it up.
<Do check the substrate you want is compatible with Corydoras; many aren't, and the results are eroded whiskers and a greater likelihood of infections along the underside of the fish. Carib Sea Floramax for example isn't suitable fish with soft bellies; refer to the manufacturer for details before purchase (the Carib Sea web site describes this quality as "soft belly safe").>
Filter will probably be an external filter. Now the questions begins :)
First of all do u think my plan would actually work? Will my fish be compatible towards each other?
Especially the pearls, cobalt and the angels. Will my shrimps be eaten by the angels?
Can I keep snails co-peacefully along with shrimps?
Do u think red cherry shrimps are allowed to be shipped into New Zealand? ( I can't find any around my LFS).
<No idea; from my vantage point in England I really can't answer this. Your Department of Fish & Wildlife should be able to answer this though.>
Should I get an external filter? what brand is best suited?
<It's hard to fault a decent external canister filter, with the Eheim ones being universally regarded as the best value in terms of longevity and reliability.>
Should I go for a DIY or a pressurized CO2? Do I even need one?
<You can get great results without CO2 if you're happy with just adding whatever plants do well, and removing anything that doesn't. I find Hygrophila, Vallisneria, Cryptocoryne, Anubias, Java fern, Java moss and all floating plants do perfectly well without CO2. But if you're after something more like a "garden", with a mix of specimen plants like dwarf Echinodorus, Rotala, Myriophyllum and other sometimes finicky plants, then adding CO2 to the mix can make a difference.>
Am I overstocked? Will 20-40% weekly water change be enough for my tank? I know that every1 says that black substrate really brings out the colour of the fishes but I've seen aquariums with white gravel and I simply adore
them! So which colour do u recommend?(white/black?) Should I use sand instead of gravel? Will my Malaysian Trumpet snails be able to 'tunnel' through the sand? Do u recommend Fluorite?
<Avoid white substrate when keeping tropical fish since the brightness tends to cause the fish to "fade" their colours. Other than that, use whatever works for burrowing fish and is available within your budget.
Personally, I use plain vanilla pond soil (basically nitrate-free compost)
mixed with pea gravel for the base, to a depth of an inch or so, and then top that with either fine gravel or smooth silica sand. All of this is very cheap, available from garden centres, and works extremely well.>
Cuz they r quite expensive in New Zealand..($60+ for a bag!!) My plants will probably consist of an Amazon sword (specimen plant planted in the center), 60% stem plants maybe Cabomba, baby tears, some hyperphilas(wrong spelling hehe), some red plants I think its called rotolas, Anubias (foreground), and more waiting to be decided(like star moss, Christmas moss, java moss, java fern, Vallisneria etc). I greatly appreciate ur time and knowledge!
Urs sincerely,
<Francis, do please try and use regular spellings and grammar next time; besides the fact I'm not a teenager and therefore irritated by text-speak, the search engines that make this website usable (and financially viable in
terms of advertising and hits) depend on messages being written in normal English. Put another way, badly written messages don't help us at all, so you're "taking" without "giving" in return. Think of clear English as being the currency people pay us in return for our help. We think that's a good deal; I hope you do too. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Requesting small freshwater aquarium stocking advice 3/24/09
Hi Neale and Crew! I'm really hating that I have to send you a query because I feel like I should be easily gleaning this information from the great articles and FAQs you guys are nice enough to share. That being the case, let me first apologize for having to take your valuable time with this and adding to the multitude of similar queries.
<No need to apologise. Of course, yes, you should peruse the pages of WWM, but only because that approach is usually quicker for all concerned!>
I doubt you'll remember my tank from our previous conversation below, so I'll try to quickly recap my tank (actually my mom's tank at the library she works in that I am TRYING to oversee for her). It's a 10 gallon planted freshwater with 7 Paracheirodon axelrodi, 7 Nannostomus sp, 4 Caridina japonica and 4 Nerita sp. I also have 2 small groups of Hygrophila deformis (which is not doing well-the only leaves remaining are at the very top, so it looks like a healthy stalk with a crown of leaves) and a good amount of thriving Vallisneria americana (they've really, really shown their corkscrew shape of late and I've actually had to do some trimming).
My non-plant creatures all seem to be doing really, really well and now the Val is doing well too, but the Wisteria seems at an impasse.
<I probably warned about Hygrophila deformis; but if I didn't, let me say again: this plant really only ever does well under very strong lighting.
It's even more finicky that Hygrophila polysperma. Small tanks tend to have weak lighting simply because of the confined space in the hood.>
My water parameters seem strange to me-0 ppm Ammonia, 0 ppm Nitrites, 20 ppm Nitrates (hard to read test, but I think that's right), the GH was 7-8 dh (I hope that's the right unit of measurement), which is up from last time we spoke when it was at 2dh. However, my KH is still between 2-3 dKH and my ph is now 8.2 (I believe it was slightly under 7 when we corresponded before). This combination of parameters has me confused as to what to do. I think I need to raise my KH, lower (or at least not raise at all) my pH and increase my lighting and everything should be perfect minus my nitrates, which I'm hoping to lower with better plant growth.
<Your carbonate hardness (that's the KH reading) is fairly low, and that's likely one reason pH varies. The other type of hardness (measured with the GH test kit) certainly does "add stuff" to the water in terms of minerals, but it has essentially no impact on pH stability. Hence, carbonate hardness is the thing to focus on. If you raise the carbonate hardness to around 5 degrees, you should find pH stays stable between water changes. It doesn't matter much what the pH is, provided it's stable.>
The reason I am not including increased water changes for lowering nitrate is because at present, my mom does about a 15% water change weekly and I come in monthly and do about a 40% water change. Part of our problem there, I believe, is that when I tested her tap water, it had about 10ppm nitrates in it, so we're probably only slightly, if at all diluting it. Is that odd to have that much nitrate in tapwater?
<No; the safe limit in the European Union is 50 mg/l, and certainly city-dwellers here will be dealing with levels upwards of 20 mg/l fairly routinely.>
So, my major issue is how to raise that KH while either stabilizing or lowering my pH. From reading the FAQs, I was about to go the baking soda route, but then it seemed like there was some muddy information about that raising pH and I wanted to avoid that. I see 2 Seachem buffers, one that buffers and lowers pH to 6.0 and one that does the opposite. I'm thinking using the one that buffers and lowers is the way to go? However, after reading the FAQs and seeing some horror stories, I thought it best to consult your sagely advice before doing something dumb and disastrous rather than just humbly asking.
<Do read here:
Scroll down a couple of queries to "Re: Torgo the Betta update - 03/06/09".
Over there, I discuss making up a Rift Valley cichlid salt mix for pennies a go. While you don't need full dose, a 1/4th to 1/3rd dose added to each *bucket of water* (not the tank directly) should raise the KH and thereby steady the pH, likely around the 7.5 mark. Don't change all the water at once, but just do this as part of your weekly routine. Over the weeks, the water chemistry will alter, and the fish adapt alongside.>
My other question is whether you had any other ideas on lowering the nitrates other than what I've mentioned, and the last quickie (so sorry this is so long) is if you think this is a proper lighting upgrade.
<Wouldn't worry about nitrates. Once you get some vigourous plant growth going, the nitrates won't be much of an issue. Certainly, 10 mg/l isn't at all dangerous.>
Currently, I have 2-10 watt Coralife Colormax bulbs in my little All-Glass hood, and I was going to replace that with this:
...the freshwater version. I'm hoping that in addition to correcting my water parameters will help the Wisteria recover, or barring that, set up good conditions for another medium to high light hungry plant to replace the Wisteria.
<Should certainly do the trick, but if you have a lot of light, but only a few plants using up that light, algae will be the end result. That'll be green algae though, which is fairly easy to control. I'd add some floating plants to the system, for example Amazon Frogbit or Indian Fern. Floating plants do three things: they devour nitrate, they block light, and they make fish feel happy. Once happy, you cull them back weekly (!!!) and that physically removes nitrate in a way that's easy to do. Dump the waste plants on your compost heap, and you really can't be any greener!>
Okay, once again, I am incredibly sorry for the length of this query. I certainly did not originally intend for it to be this long. Thanks so much for all of your incredible help and I hope I am not being a bother. I really do try to survive without your guys' direct help, but admittedly, there's something very assuring and calming about receiving a direct response from the experts (and no saying that you guys aren't experts-we all know you are and there's no need to be modest!) Thanks, thanks, thanks-Nicholas
<Hope this helps. Neale.>

Re: Requesting small freshwater aquarium stocking advice  03/24/09
Thanks a million times over Neale, that absolutely helps very, very much.
<You're welcome.>
As far as the Wisteria, I made the mistake of not asking you beforehand and unfortunately I went by Live Aquaria's care sheet in choosing that plant because I interpreted their description as saying that if insufficient light was provided, it would simply result in a different growth form.
I should have asked you (but I really, really try to only bother you guys occasionally).
<Not a bother.>
Not disparaging Live Aquaria at all either because I love the whole Drs Foster and Smith company, but they list it as a "Moderate" (vague term that I should've researched more) light hungry plant and it was my fault for not
doing my due diligence and researching completely.
<The colour of the leaves is usually a give-away: plants with pale green leaves invariably need lots of light.>
You have cautioned me to keep an eye on them though in past emails. I want to get a good picture of how they look now and send it to you to see if you think they are able to be saved with the lighting improvement or if it's
time to let them go, but that may take me a bit, and maybe I'll wait to see if some of the changes help first.
<I wouldn't spend $100 on a lighting rig just for the sake of $5 plant. I have a 60 litre tank with two 18 W bright blue-white but otherwise standard fluorescent tubes (with reflectors) and frankly, plant growth is rampant. The trick is to choose plants that make sense. In this case, there's Anubias, hybrid Crypts, Vallis, some Hygrophila, hybrid Aponogeton and a
water lily. Plus lots of Amazon Frogbit! Some are low-light plants (like Anubias) while others are known to be adaptable, to a degree (as with the Vallis). My usual recommendation is for people to buy a few hardy plants that put up with anything (like Crypt hybrids and Anubias) and then gamble on one or two adaptable species such as Vallis or Amazon swords. See what grows, and throw out what doesn't. There's no point keeping plants that are straggly, so if the Hygrophila for example is all leggy (long stems with small, widely-spaced leaves) then chuck it out; it'll never improve.>
I'm definitely going to take your advice on the floating plants as well. I was hesitant to add them at first with my lower light levels in fear that the rooted plants would not receive enough light, but with the lighting change, the shade may even help, so thanks for that as well.
<Floating plants combined with low-light plants works very well. Indeed, Anubias and Java ferns tend to get smothered by algae otherwise.>
I have another set of questions for you about some thoughts on a 30 gallon planted freshwater tank that I am in the "idea phase" with, but I'm going to give it a couple of days so I don't Bogart all your time all at once... I don't want to be one of "those guys".
<No problem.>
So, thanks kindly again-Wet Web's services are so kindhearted that it makes me frustrated that I can't do anything in return except offer my thanks.
You guys all have good karma overflowing all over the place. Thanks again!-Nick
<Good karma is probably more useful than either UK Sterling or US Dollars these days, so thanks! Neale.>

First planted tank questions!!! -- 03/02/09 Hello Crew!! I've been researching plants via the online Tropica database and narrowed my choices down to (from SE Asia/Asia) : (nothing set up yet :-) For background/midground or specimens: Bacopa monnieri Cardamine lyrata OR Nymphoides spec. 'Flipper' (Dennerle N88) Ceratophyllum demersum 'foxtail' (hornwort) Ceratopteris thalictroides (water sprite) OR/AND(?) Hygrophila difformis Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae AND/OR Microsorum pteropus 'Philippine' Egeria densa Vallisneria asiatica var. biwaensis AND/OR Vallisneria americana 'Mini Twister' Rotala rotundifolia Rotala sp. 'Nanjenshan' Cryptocoryne ciliata <Most of these are extremely light demanding. So be prepared!> For foreground or specimens: Monosolenium tenerum Pogostemon helferi Riccardia graeffei Riccia fluitans Taxiphyllum barbieri Eleocharis parvula <Eleocharis can be extremely difficult to settle in, and does tend to require both good lighting and a nutritious substrate. Like a lot of "difficult" aquarium plants, it's really a bog plant, and only survives under water if kept on life support.> [ Maybe later? ] [Limnophila aromatica? ] [Rotala wallichi? ] [Lysimachia nummularia? ] Floaters: duckweed and Salvinia cucullata (Asian water moss) <Wouldn't add Duckweed; does tend to take over. While nitrate removal is useful, I'd choose a big plant that is easy to crop back, like Amazon Frogbit or Indian Fern. The smaller plants tend to be difficult to crop, and within days can take over. Just spend half an hour cropping back rampant Duckweed this afternoon, about two weeks after I thought I'd exterminated it from that tank!> But now the super hard part begins!!! How many (and which would you recommend) to fit into a 40 gallon breeder tank??? I want the fish to have plants to eat and plants to import excess nutrients. <Depends what you're after, but almost always, a select list of 3-6 plant species looks much better than dozens and dozens. An aquarium needs to be more like a landscape than a greenhouse, so the aim is to create coherent beds of plants differentiated into foreground, midground, background and specimen categories. One or two types of background plant usually works well, and likewise working forwards. Specimen plants usually look best as just one plant in the tank. If you're going with red plants, these can look distracting if everything else is green. Sometimes the contrast is nice, if it's one red plant against a sea of dark green plants. But if its just a mess of different shades of red and green, you end up with a jumble. It's also important to choose plants that "behave" in a complimentary way; Vallisneria for example can become rampant and overgrow low lying plants, so looks best when kept with equally vigourous plants in the foreground. Consider growth rate, distribution of leaves, whether the leaves go up or bend in the current, etc. Background plants for example are often expected to flow in the current, while foreground plants are often used like fixed "bouquets" in the centre. Much written on this topic in many books. Peter Hiscock's book 'Aquarium Plants' is probably the nicest and least expensive quality book on the topic, and remarkably unpretentious. If, on the other hand, you like pretension, then almost anything in the 'Nature Aquarium' series will stimulate your creative processes.> The 40 gal. breeder tank will have Eco-Complete substrate with heater cable, an Eheim 2028 pro. II canister filter, Prime chiller/Jaeger heater on controller to keep it between 68 and 73 degrees F. (my house gets pretty hot in the summer especially so I will need to cool it down to keep enough oxygen). I've got a Current USA Orbit with two 96 watt bulbs, dual actinic and dual daylight. I still have to buy timers but will set it up for the actinics to come on first in the morning for an hour (then shut off) then the daylights to come on for 10 hours (then shut off) then the actinics come back on for another hour (then shut off) then the moonlight LED's come on for the rest of the night. Does this sound correct so far? <Yes. But do remember Eco-Complete is NOT compatible with burrowing fish (Corydoras, dwarf cichlids, etc.).> My intention is if I am successful with the planted tank, it will eventually hold a maximum of 4-6 crown Pearlscale goldfish. <Wouldn't mix Goldfish with Eco-Complete for a start; they'd shovel the sand, and since this stuff is sharp, they'll damage themselves. More significantly, GOLDFISH ARE HERBIVORES. A planted aquarium is a SALAD BAR to a Goldfish. Let me be honest here: I have yet to see a "serious" planted aquarium that contained anything other than tiny schooling fish. Big fish create too much solid waste, and they also demand strong water currents, and both are incompatible with fancy plants. Water current will drive off CO2 for example, and silt will block the fine/feathery leaves of things like Ceratophyllum and Eleocharis.> But I want to run it with just plants initially. (I need to get used to all the cycling/testing/adjustments/gardening tasks!) Our water has 7.0 pH and is basically liquid rock in Phillipsburg, NJ. <Liquid rock suits some plants extremely well, including things like Vallisneria and Cryptocoryne ciliata (the latter being as common brackish water as fresh). But others won't like it, so just as with fish, draw up a list of plant species that enjoy your water conditions. If you're keeping Goldfish, robust, non-edible species would be high on the list: Vallisneria, Crinum, big Cryptocoryne species, Anubias, Java fern certainly, perhaps even Hygrophila corymbosa and Bacopa monnieri if the Goldies left 'em alone. I am prone towards the few following because they are brackish adaptable in case I have to add salt for the fish: Bacopa monnieri, Java Fern, Java Moss, Cryptocoryne ciliata and the dwarf hairgrass but alone they would make a boring tank I think, so I've added the others to the list. <Ah, I think you're confusing "style" with "substance" I have seen spectacular arrangements using just rocks and Java ferns, or bogwood with Anubias. It's all down to design. Next time you're in a second hand book shop (or online) hunt around for 'The Complete Aquarium' by Peter Scott; it's a classic book of aquarium arrangements with 6-page features of dozens of different tanks, each designed for a certain type of fish community.> I'd like to NOT use driftwood as these goldfish are golf balls with tiny flippers and not the most intelligent fishes on the planet----I think they'll smash into it and damage themselves! <Actually, probably wouldn't; fish have a "distance touch" system called the lateral line, and in general are able to navigate perfectly well, even in the dark. Water-worn bogwood like Mopani wood would actually be pretty good, provided the hardness in the tank ensured the pH wouldn't drop too much (Goldfish hate acidic water).> If they do, the pearl scales will be permanently damaged, I understand they grow back 'normal' not 'pearled'. <Not sure; sounds unlikely, given fish continuously lose their scales as they grow. But who knows?> So if I use plants that like to be attached it will probably be on flat rocks or mats not to driftwood. <Round stones like cobbles would be ideal, and coupled with a silica sand substrate, you'd create a nice habitat for Goldfish to root about it (they like digging!). I'd be seriously tempted to look at plants attached to stones: Java fern, Java moss, Anubias, Bolbitis, etc. Why? Three reasons. First, you can install a thin layer of sand for the fish to root about in, and maybe add a couple of weather loaches if you were so minded. Secondly, you could easily clean the tank with nothing more than a quick stir of the sand with a bamboo cane. Goldfish are notoriously messy fish, and gravel tends to become foul quite quickly. An inch-layer of sand would not get so dirty because the gunk tends to sit on top, so you can siphon it out easily. People often thing sand gets messy faster than gravel: in fact sand merely SHOWS the dirt more easily, hence SEEMS dirtier. Finally, all these plants are super-tough or nasty-tasting, and the Goldfish won't eat them. Floating plants would work great as well. Best of all, low tech! Floating plants don't need CO2 or fancy fertilisers, and epiphytes are generally so slow growing they don't care either.> So, any comments, suggestions, plans for the new tank?? Is there something I missed? And thanks so much for helping me out!!! Being a newbie there are so many questions, and first I need to learn what they are ;-) Thanks again!!!! Lisa in NJ, still learning! <Hope this helps. Neale.>

Good plants/lighting for 52 gallon basement tank..   2/25/09 I have a 52 gallon basement tank, 36, inches long,15 inches wide 20 inches deep. I plan on stocking with Rams and cardinal tetras. I plan on using RO water- PH of 6, and adding driftwood to the setup. I was wondering what types of plants like the water rams like, Also the substrate is Sand, river sand, I collected from a river by my house (to save $$) Any good choices? Some here, say Cryptocoryne and Limnobium as good for my tank Thanks. <Greetings. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi really doesn't care about plants, so I'd actually focus more on their other needs. Since they don't like bright light, and their colours look best in peat-stained water, your use of bogwood to create hiding places is good. Add to these some Java moss and you'll be doing even better. Add to the top floating plants, ideally Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) and Indian fern (Ceratopteris) and you're well set. Otherwise, no really need for plants. This will simplify maintenance dramatically: the river sand can be a shallow bed, and the Rams will forage naturally in the sand. You can easily move bogwood and Java moss clumps about if required. The floating plants will create shade and also remove nitrate at a very fast rate, optimising water quality. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank... Plant sel.    2/25/09 Neale, here's a photo of the tank. Thought you might like to see it! Not sure about the background, but for the moment, it seems to make the fish happy. <Your fish couldn't care less about the background, so long as their is one! So if you want corals behind your freshwater fish, go for it. A bigger issue is likely the planting. The live plant on the far left appears to be a Dracaena species; these are NOT AQUATIC plants and WILL die underwater. They are widely sold by ignorant retailers, and purchased by uninformed aquarists. Whip the plant out and treat as you would any houseplant. You appear to be relying on plain gravel for a substrate, and while that can work, you will need to add fertiliser pellets to the gravel around the base of each potted plant on a regular basis. Liquid fertilisers don't, in my opinion, work in tanks with a gravel substrate so don't waste your money on them. Liquid fertilisers are useful for floating plants, epiphytes, and plants with roots in a rich substrate like aquatic soil. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank Fish are not gasping at all, they are active all over the tank and very curious every time I go near. They know I might feed them. I am monitoring the ammonia and nitrite levels twice a day. Fingers crossed even if I did make a mistake by putting them in, my diligence will keep them healthy. <Sounds like they're fine. Feed moderately, do regular water changes, and you should have few, if any, problems. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank Hi Neale, Here's a closer picture of that plant on the far left. Is it as you suspected, a Dracaena species that I should rip out of the water? Thanks again! Summer <Yes and yes. Nice houseplants; bad aquarium plants! In fact as houseplants they don't like waterlogged soil, so why anyone thought they'd do great underwater is beyond me. The plant in the black plastic pot is a Cryptocoryne, probably a C. wendtii variety, and these are an excellent choice. Very undemanding and does well in hard water. The plant further back seems to be a Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis). Needs good light and supposedly suitable for beginners, and to be honest I've never had any success at all with them. Then again, I've never had any success with Neon tetras either. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank Thanks - plant is no longer in the tank and I now wonder about my LFS's knowledge. <Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/keepoutfw.htm These are some of the most common non-aquatics sold in the UK and elsewhere. Pet shops get them in because they sell. People buy them because they're pretty. When they die, buy some more, so the pet shops sell them again. It's a idiotic cycle.> Can you help identify the other plants in the two pictures below and give any pointers on them too? <Image 001 is Ophiopogon japonicus in front of Bacopa monnieri. Ophiopogon japonicus is a non-aquatic as well, so it needs to be repotted. Bacopa monnieri is a good aquarium plant, but needs a LOT of light to do well, i.e., 2+ watts per gallon, otherwise it goes straggly and eventually just falls apart. A good substrate will help, though fertiliser pellets can be used instead. On the plus side, it loves hard water. Image 002 has the Water Wisteria mentioned earlier on the left, then Giant Hygrophila (Hygrophila corymbosa) in the middle, and Anubias barteri 'nana' in the front. Giant Hygrophila is another plant that needs masses of light. I've had great success with it in an open-topped tank next to a windowsill where it grew some 70 cm in height and produced lots of lively purple flowers. It's woody and has a massive network of roots, and tends to become too big for most aquaria unless pruned aggressively. On the other hand, unless you have lots of light, it will barely grow at all, and probably fall apart eventually. (Note: keeping bright-light plants in low-light conditions doesn't slow their growth, it kills them.) Anubias are bullet-proof plants grown correctly. For a start, do NOT plant them in the substrate! They're epiphytes, just like Java ferns, and should tied to a piece of bogwood or lava rock with some black cotton or lead weight. Bits put under the gravel or sand will rot. Notice how they have green stems and a green rhizome (horizontal stem)? Whenever you see that on a plant, it means "put me above the ground". The only bits that go into the sediment are the tips of the roots, and even then, they'll do fine in midwater. These plants need moderate light and do best in tanks with lots of floating plants. They are good plants in terms of fertiliser, requiring hardly anything beyond liquid fertiliser in the water. Superb plants, and though expensive, like Java ferns they "years of life per pound spent" is something like 10 times that of cheap plants. There is a huge argument to be made for beginners buying just Anubias, Java ferns and Java moss: none needs bright light, none needs a fancy substrate, and none is fussy about CO2 or fertiliser. My bet here is that 3-6 months from now only the Cryptocoryne and the Anubias will be alive. The others will all be dead or living happily as pot plants.> Muchas Gracias!! <Cheers, Neale.> I have so much to learn. Thank you Fish Yoda. <My work here is done. Cheers, Neale.> <<Highly unlikely... RMF>>

Good plants/lighting for 52 gallon basement tank.. 1/25/09 I have a 52 gallon basement tank, 36, inches long,15 inches wide 20 inches deep. I plan on stocking with Rams and cardinal tetras. I plan on using RO water- PH of 6, and adding driftwood to the setup. I was wondering what types of plants like the water rams like, Also the substrate is Sand, river sand, I collected from a river by my house(to save $$) Any good choices? Some here, say Cryptocoryne and Limnobium as good for my tank Thanks. <The "some here" were probably me, and I'll stick by call that plants such as Limnobium and Cryptocoryne wendtii would work particularly well in this system. There are other Crypts like C. becketti, C. lutea, and C. walkeri that would work well too. Crypts are good because they're not too big, they tolerate shade, they do well in acidic water (with a few exceptions) and have sturdy root systems that keep them secure around digging fish like Mikrogeophagus spp. They are also very long lived and will gradually spread out across the tank. Most Crypts (at least here in the UK) are sold in pots, and these are very convenient. You can leave them in the pots if you want, or not if you prefer. Because sand contains no nutrients, it will be important to push fertiliser tablets into their roots every few weeks. Other good plants would be among the epiphytes, things like Java fern and Anubias. These get their nutrients from the water and are very easy to look after. Cheers, Neale.>

Plants, plants, and plants... sel.   1/18/09 Heyyyy!!! How are you guys. <? Okay!> I must say, I love your site and it is so useful. I spend hours and hours looking at it. Well, I have a question to ask you obviously, and I hope you won't mind. What plants are the hardiest, cheapest, less light required, and easiest to maintain? <Posted on WWM...http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/agpltlvstkfaqs.htm and the linked files above... Some "standards" are Watersprites, Aponogetons, Crypts, Vallisnerias, Sagittarias... but there are MANY more... depending on temperature, some aspects of water quality...> This is for the freshwater aquarium by the way. Oh, and I need a tall plant as my tank is tall. I have a 35 gallon tank. Thanks Bob Fenner and crew members for this amazing site. <Please use it... Read the genera, species accounts... Bob Fenner>

Planted tank and livestock compatibility ~ 01/09/09 Hello to the WWM crew! After much reading/research, I have compiled a desired stocking list for my planted tank. I've gone through a lot of the FAQs and articles on your site, visited several of the LFS, and asked questions among some local hobbyists. I have been trying to find a good balance between the plants and livestock (i.e. what fish are less likely to destroy my plants, and what fish will have the best chance of getting along with one another). <Ah good> If you don't mind, I'd like to run my stocking list by you before I finally consider it "final". First, here is some basic information about my setup and current plants/inhabitants: 29 gallon tank, 70/30 mix of Fluorite/aquatic soil with half-inch layer of natural dark gravel on top, approx. 4 watts/gal of 6700K PC lighting, parameters (last checked a couple of days ago) were...0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, 20ppm nitrate, pH 7.6, temperature of 78 degrees F. For fish, only have 7 zebra Danios; they are doing quite well, very active, etc. Tank was set up about 4 months ago. For plants, I have (several of each of these) Hygrophila deformis, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Crinum thianum and java fern. All are doing well. Have been using Flourish as well as the Flourish tabs. 11 hours of light per day. Doing one 10% water change on Wednesdays, and one 25% water change on Saturdays. <Good plant choices... the Hygro and Crinum will grow very quickly, the Crypt and Fern not...> As of now, my plan is to (over the next 6 months) add the following: -7 cherry barbs -1 Colisa fasciata <A fave Gourami species... may prove too aggressive, but you should be able to discern this as time goes along> -1 "real" SAE -1 cherry shrimp <Mmm, I'd get more SAEs and Shrimps... they're social species... and much more active, interesting in groups... and you have room for them here> I will also be adding quite a few more plants. I know that the barbs may pick at the plants a bit, but especially with the Hygro, I'm seeing rapid growth and feel that they can probably "keep up" with whatever the barbs might eat/pick off of them. <I do agree> I guess this is more of a "sanity check"...in terms of the plants, and selection of livestock, does it seem like I'm going in the right direction? Thanks! -Matt <I'd say so! Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Breeding Velvet Platies/Live Plants (ID, sel.)    12/17/08 Hi Crew! I have a couple tricky questions and am hoping you can help. First of all I have a 29 gallon aquarium and I am currently trying to breed some velvet platies and velvet platy swords. <Should mix Platies and Swordtails; they frequently hybridise, causing problems with the quality of the offspring.> I have two pure swords, three half sword/half platy (one of which is a female), and three more pure velvet platies (another female in here). They are all from the same batch and mother and father. I bred them myself. My question is how do I get them to breed again? <Assuming you keep the male Platies with the female Platies, breeding will happen automatically. The tricky bit is catching the fry before they're eaten.> And what kind of conditions do I need? <Platies and Swordtails both want hard (10+ degrees dH), basic (pH 7.5-8) water of moderate temperature (around 23-24 C being perfect).> have separated my two females and one pure bred male plattie into a separate 10 gallon breeding tank. I have a sponge filter operating so no babies get sucked up my filter (I learned the hard way when I lost a few last time round), I put two layers of marbles down on a clear bottom tank (no gravel) for the babies to hide in, I feed them a variety of live foods to condition them including flake, blood worms, and Tubifex worms, and keep my nitrates and nitrites all at zero with a stable pH of 6.5 by testing my water weekly. <Your pH is far too low for Xiphophorus spp.> I also do weekly 15-20% water changes to suck up any waste and provide optimum conditions. Every other week I rinse my sponge filter in luke warm water. My platies ARE ready to breed as I have observed the slight transparency in their gills changing to a bright clearer somewhat see-through orange. They also seem to be very affectionate towards each other with my male rubbing up against my two females continuously. I was told by my LFS that their should be two females for every male. I also have a few small live plants such as Cabombas and a small Cryptocoryne for the young fry to nibble the algae off of during their first stages after I remove the parents so they won't eat them. My lights are on a timer set for 12 hours a day and my water temp between a steady 22-24 degrees Celsius. Is there anything else that I should be doing to help my platies to breed? Any help at all would be great! <Improve hardness, particularly carbonate hardness. This will correct the pH. DO NOT just add "pH up" potions!!! Carbonate hardness is what's required.> My second question is in regards to a few new plants I recently bought at my LFS. When I inquired as to the names and water conditions of the plants the manager didn't know, saying that they come in bunches of different plants each time. I took a few pictures of the three plants I purchased below. I was wondering if you would have any idea by any change of their names and water conditions from looking at the pics and my brief description of each. I fertilize all my plants weekly with Flourish, Flourish Iron, and Flourish Organic Carbon and have two 20 watt fluorescent lights in my 29 gallon aquarium. All my plants, both red and green are growing very well.<http://ujyq9g.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pqJ_hZNbZ3xlycfEItpAGb5k3VK-Oxza KhwIZe29ZgNI55sVv8WhJL91tsB0SgKrxuCgPwv0NbOc/121520081806.jpg?download> 1. <http://ujyq9g.bay.livefilestore.com/y1p6yPJwWe0v0KSAgmp-GVWTYUK2eV4n8nO2g8P 1-JDzR63a5w-ffTxEX2fhrYMmjbc0KHk2PpWgM4/121520081807.jpg?download> 2. <http://ujyq9g.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pEMUodsKJseRf-WrLFRsZh1YXdTZVj5cn5Jdq jRpOWgZJhFbirpTrU548ZPETVexiZEA_7oZpDPs/121520081808.jpg?download> 3. 1) The leaves on the first one look very much like a pink flower. It is a bright pink approximately 5 inches high with thinner green stems. The veins in the leaves are quite noticeable and stand out and it appears to be very light loving which is not surprising for a reddish/pinkish plant. There are no roots on the stems. It also strikes me as a more sensitive and fragile species. 2) This second one has bright red leaves on the undersides and a lighter reddish brown on the top sides. The stems are rather thick and bright red as well. It is approximately 4 inches tall and also likes the light. On some stems there are a couple tiny roots. 3) This last one is kind of like a very bushy fern (next to red plant in pic). Its very thick and full and a light brown reddish in color. The stems are very skinny and the plant has many fine threads the same width of sewing thread as well. It stands about 6 inches high and appears somewhat light loving but not as much as the other two mentioned. It has one small cluster of roots at the base from each stem. <The feathery one is Myriophyllum, an extremely difficult to species to grow except in tanks with crystal clear water and incredibly bright lighting. Rots is virtually every other aquarium. The red ones are something like Rotala or Ludwigia. In any case, all these red plants need VERY BRIGHT lighting. We're talking 3 or more watts per gallon.> If you happen to have any thoughts on the above plants it would be very much appreciated. I like to know the names and requirements of the plants I house in my tank. <Almost everyone who buys red aquatic plants without knowing about them first ends up with dead plants. Myself included! Red plants are notoriously difficult to maintain in aquaria because they need so much light. The red colour is an adaptation to intense lighting conditions; the darker the green, the more shade-tolerant plants tend to be.> Thanks a bunch!!! David <Cheers, Neale.>

Aquatic Mosses 12/07/08 Hello to all of you. Hope things are going well! Even though I have done some research on aquarium mosses I am still unsure of which one I would like to grow on my driftwood. One of my main concerns is the plant breaking apart and having to net out small pieces everywhere. Could you please recommend a moss that is attractive, good for beginners and will not fall apart easily? Thank you for your help. James <James, I'm not sure *any* moss qualifies in this regard. By their very nature, Bryophytes are fairly loosely put together because they lack vascular tissues, which is why, among other reasons, they never get more than a couple of inches tall. The only common moss in the trade is the Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana), though there are liverworts (e.g., Riccia) and even algae (e.g., Cladophora) that get sold as "mosses" from time to time. The only other mosses you sometimes see are Fontinalis spp ("Willow" and "Christmas tree" mosses), but not all species do equally well in tropical aquaria and in general they're best suited to subtropical to room temperature tanks, depending on the species. In any case, my experience of mosses is basically this: in a tank with small, gentle fish they frequently become established very quickly and soon develop into a lush bed of green. But in a tank with fish that root about or scrape (e.g., Plecs) mosses can be destroyed before they get a chance to become established. The "trick" if there is one is to carefully bind the moss with lots of black cotton to whatever bit of wood you want it to cover, and then to make sure big fish aren't going to destroy it. Cheers, Neale.>

Floating Plants, Aq. sel.   12/3/08 Hello Crew, Hope things are going well for all of you today. I have been thinking of putting some type of easy floating plant in my aquarium that will be very attractive, provide cover, not hard to trim. One that will not fall apart in small pieces a lot. I have been debating on crystal wort, some for the surface and some to anchor to driftwood. Please tell me your thoughts on this plant please. Thank you, James <James, my two favourite floating plants are Indian Fern (Ceratopteris) and Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium). Both are very easy to grow and yet don't fall apart all the time, so you can crop them back as required. Both stay at or below the waterline, so they don't get burned by lights, a common problem with species such as Salvinia that grow above the waterline. They do an excellent job of removing nitrate and also provide shade for sensitive fish and plants. Crystalwort (Riccia) is certainly popular, but personally I don't find it terribly easy to establish. It needs a lot of light. Because it fragments so easily, it can be a menace if you have a lot of water movement. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Floating Plants  12/4/08 Thank you. And could you please tell me also if java fern is hardy. I thought about trying some on some driftwood. Thanks again. <Java fern is very hardy once established. But I have to admit to finding it difficult to establish in some tanks, perhaps because the catfish I like to keep eat the wood and so uproot the ferns! If you can buy a Java fern pre-attached to bogwood, so much the better. Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater tank upgrade -- 10/10/08
Good afternoon, wonderful WWM,
I am upgrading from my 29 gallon planted freshwater tank to a 60/65 (not sure exactly) gallon bowfront tank. I'm having trouble picking out lighting for the new tank and there's so much research out there that I just get lost. Hopefully you can help out a bit. I will be using Fluorite Dark substrate and moving over my existing plants of Java Fern, Java Moss, Green Crypt, Jungle Val and Giant Hygrophila (rooted and floating). I've purposely kept plants that do not require too much light as I'd like to avoid the highly complex sets that require C02 and fans. I found a Compact Fluorescent fixture on Dr. Fosters that has 1 96W bulb. Do you think that's acceptable for my 24" deep tank? If not, what do you suggest? The livestock include 2 SAEs, 3 yo-yo loaches, 4 Congo Tetras 4 Blue Emperor tetras and a random Endler. I use tap water and live in Florida so it's as hard and alkaline as it can get.
Any advise for lighting is appreciated.
<Hi Christine. A good rule of thumb is to work upwards from 2 watts per gallon and see how things go. Your 96 W light fitting should be ample. Do try and strike a balance between the fast-growing species that help with algae control and the slow-growing species that become algae magnets if kept under bright light. If you find algae becoming a problem, add fast-growing species like Cabomba and Hygrophila polysperma and you should be fine. Water chemistry shouldn't matter either way, and as for CO2, yes, that can make a big difference under bright light but it's rarely (if ever) the difference between success and failure. By contrast, using a good rich substrate with lots of laterite or aquatic soil has a tremendous affect on plant growth. Cheers, Neale.>

Live aquarium plants... collecting, sel., found in NJ    7/26/08 Are there any plants native to New Jersey that are suitable for an aquarium? Thank You, rjmacrae <For a coldwater aquarium, very likely yes, provided the tank provides equivalent conditions in terms of substrate, water chemistry and light intensity. But broadly speaking temperate zone plants do not do well in tropical aquaria. The high temperature and the lack of a cold phase during which the plant can go dormant stresses the plant, eventually leading to its death. Cheers, Neale.>  

What is the best live plant for Otocinclus?  4/19/08 What is the best type of live plant for Otocinclus? I have two tanks, one 30 gallon and one 10 gallon. I just added two Otocinclus to the 10 gallon, which is 4 months old and has 8 molly fry, born two months ago. (As they grow, I plan to move them to a bigger tank and only keep 2 mollies in the 10 gallon with the Otos.) I appreciate your site. Thank you! <Otocinclus spp. couldn't care less about plants, so use whatever you want. What Otocinclus need is green algae (not diatoms and not hair algae). So provided you have 2 Watts per gallon upwards, plus lots of surfaces to grow green algae (rocks, plastic plants, etc.) they will be happy. Otocinclus spp. are not compatible with Mollies; their water chemistry requirements are entirely different. Specifically, Mollies more often than not need salt to do well and definitely need hard, basic water conditions. Salt will stress the Otocinclus, which need not-too-warm, oxygen rich water that is soft and slightly acidic. There's no overlap really between what the two species need to do well in the long term. Otocinclus are extremely demanding, difficult fish, and the vast majority of specimens die within months of import. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: What is the best live plant for Otocinclus?  4/19/08 Thank you for your help. I will separate my Otos and my mollies. I am very new at this, and I obviously have a lot to learn. :) <Glad to help. There is indeed lots to learn, so buying a book before buying a fish is always good advice. Remember, the guys in the pet store mostly want to make sales! Good luck! Neale.>

New set up question, planted tank set-up, plt. sel.   2/2/08 Good afternoon all. I have had two aquariums going for about two years now. One for goldfish and one for tropical fish. I have now decided to upgrade to a planted tank with fish. <Ahh!> I love the look of a planted tank but also do not want the aquatic gardens that I have seen in many pictures as I am a big fan of the fishy inhabitants too. Following is a list of my planned aquarium and would like your opinions since I have been reading non-stop for about a month now. Thank you for any help you can give me. Jorge 1. 50 gallon glass aquarium 2. Coralife 2x65w 6700K lighting system <Mmmm, may need, want more light intensity than this> 3. 48in 24LED White moonlight 3/4w each <I'd switch this to more daytime...> 4. Cascade 1000 canister filter a. Filter floss b. Zeolite c. Bio rings 5. HOB power filter for mechanical filtration only 6. HOB 150w Heater 7. Root Therm 160 substrate heater <Nice> 8. Red Sea CO2 Bio reactor w venturi pump 9. Aquarium Plants.com <http://plants.com/> Substrate with associated pellets (Trace elements, Iron etc.) 10. One extra power head, not sure if necessary for water circulation? <Mmm, of use here with the canister filter> Flourish additive Tap Water: GH= 70-75 ppm or 4 and 5 degrees kH= between 120 and 180 ppm Do these parameters and pieces of equipment seem good for the following plants (ordering from you guys when all other equipment is set up): 1 bunch Rotala indica 1 Ludwigia palustris 1 Ludwigia peruensis 10 Corkscrew vals 1 Indian Red sword 1 Alternanthera reineckii 1 Limnophilia aromatica 1 Anubias nana on driftwood 1 Java fern 1 Crypt Wendtii v bronze 1 Crypt Undulata 1 Tiger Lily Red 1 Dwarf lily <Mmm, the lilies will not likely grow here> 10 Sagittaria subulata 2-3 clumps of Riccia grass <All else can/could adapt to the water, light conditions listed... best to start with the lower growing plants first... introduce the taller plants a month or two later. Bob Fenner>

Plants and fish... stkg. both   1/5/08 Hello. <Ave!> I have a 55 gallon aquarium and got my water tested. ammonia = 0 mg/L nitrite = .25 mg/L nitrate = 40 mg/L pH = 8.4 alkalinity = 300 mg/L hardness = 75 mg/L chlorine = 0 mg/L temp = 78 F <Nitrite still too high... only add very hardy fish at this point. How are you cycling this tank? If using a "no fish" method, then carry on cycling another week or so before adding fish.> I have a few ideas on what plants and fish I want, but am wondering if they will all be compatible. I am wanting to get assorted kinds of platies, mollies, and Danios. <I'd nix the Mollies because they do infinitely better in brackish water tanks than freshwater. But Danios and Platies will both do well in your water chemistry and can be considered excellent fish for a new aquarium. Do remember both are sociable: I'd add a school of six Danios first, let them settle in, and only then think about a second species. Do also remember schooling fish look better the bigger the group. A school of 20 Danios will be an amazing sight, and far more rewarding that small numbers of half a dozen species. Trust me on this. Schooling fish only school in big numbers, and when they do, they put on a shimmering display of co-ordinated swimming.> I also want an eel of some sort, like a dinosaur eel or peacock eel kind of thing. <Hmm... "Dinosaur Eel" is, I assume, one of the more silly common names given to a Bichir, likely Polypterus senegalus, the Grey Bichir. A superb community fish in many ways, and not difficult to keep, but remember two things: It's a predator, and will eat small fish even though it gets along with other fish of similar size (20-30 cm). Secondly, it needs chunky, meaty foods like prawns and mussels, and won't eat flake or pellets. Peacock Eels are typically species of Macrognathus, such as Macrognathus siamensis. A very difficult species to maintain in aquaria. Must be kept in well-planted tanks with a SAND, NEVER GRAVEL substrate and lots of hiding places. Quite sociable, so keep in groups of at least three specimens. Will try to escape from tanks if unhappy. Only eats wormy foods, and CANNOT compete with other nocturnal fish, so never mix with catfish or loaches unless you want it to starve to death. 99.999% of the spiny eels purchased by aquarists die because most people can't be bothered to work around this essential requirements. When cared for properly they are lovely animals though.> Are there any that are possible to live with the fish I want to have and the planted aquarium. I want a fish that will make my aquarium unique, like a different kind of fish to spunk it up. <Lots of options here, but not all of them go with Danios and other small fish. Spending some time with a decent aquarium atlas such as Baensch's Aquarium Atlas is likely the way forward. Failing that, a medium-sized loricariid is usually a safe way to add a community oddball, since these catfish tend to be harmless loners. I also have a fondness of Halfbeaks, which would do well in your water chemistry and generally ignore everything below the surface of the water. Glassfish are great community tank oddballs, too, but a bit fussy about diet. You can't go wrong with a school of Kuhli Loaches either. In big groups they form real tangles, with their heads poking out of their chosen cave. A variety of new species are available, all similar to the standard orange and brown species usually traded.> Right now I have 2 Corys and an African dwarf frog, but I might move that to another aquarium. Any suggestions would be great. <Some more Corydoras would be a start. They're schooling fish and are unhappy kept in groups of less than six. The more you keep, the more fun they will be. In a 55 gallon tank, you have no excuse to be stingy here. Get half a dozen more, sit back, and enjoy.> The plants I am considering are Java fern, Anubias nana, possibly some java/willow moss, Cabomba, Wisteria, Water Sprite possibly, Amazon Sword, Anubias barteri, and Dwarf Hairgrass. Do these work with my water parameters and fish? <Should all be fine. Loricariids are sometimes a bit hard on Anubias though.> If you have any suggestions, I'm open to all. Thanks. <Hope these help. Cheers, Neale.>

29 gallon, FW... temp. high and Ram and plant sel.... algae-eater sel.  10/21/07 Hi, I have had the same 29 gallon aquarium since 1993 when I received it as a birthday gift from my dad when I was 12. Since that time I have evolved quite a bit in my knowledge of fish keeping! I recently moved, giving me the opportunity to completely overhaul my tank to become a planted aquarium. I purchased a 50 watt cable heater from Aquarium Designs (but it has no thermostat?!) which I sandwiched between a thick layer of sand on the bottom. I then spread a thin layer of Eco Completer, a thin layer of Fluorite, and finally mixed the rest of the two substrates with my original gravel to bring a good 5-6" layer for rooting. The problem is, with no thermostat, the water is a steady 84 degrees. Too bad 29 gallons is too small for Discus.? I started the cycle with black mollies, Cory catfish, and a Chinese algae eater (I hate them, but didn't want to buy another pleco that would quickly outgrow the tank and uproot everything ~ I can't find any dwarf pleco's locally and the shipping is quite high on my budget for online ordering). I have several large pieces of wood, and a small (but growing) collection of plants. <Hmm... I think you'll regret the "economy" of a Chinese algae eater. Since you don't need an algae eater (the idea you do is a myth) better to just go without. Ancistrus sp. catfish make a better alternative, and as 2-3 cm "kittens" they are usually easy to obtain and very cheap.> Would Blue Ram's be ok in water this warm? Are there any plants that thrive in warm water that you would suggest? <84F (29C) is just about perfect for all Mikrogeophagus species, so this shouldn't be a problem. However, most Corydoras *hate* water that warm, and in some cases (e.g., bearded, peppered, panda and bronze Cories) they will die prematurely from heat stress (those species are subtropical fish). Mollies are fine in very warm water. If you can, swap out the Corydoras for something else, or at least make sure you have true tropical Corydoras species (like Corydoras sterbai and Corydoras adolfoi). At 84F (29C) you're basically running things at "Discus temperatures" and need to make allowances for the fact relatively few tropical naturally endure such temperatures indefinitely. Likewise with the plants. Good choices tend to be things like Cryptocorynes, Java ferns, Anubias, Echinodorus bleheri. Coldwater plants, like Elodea and Eleocharis, tend to do not so well. Subtropical and low-end tropicals, such as Vallisneria, are somewhere in between. To some degree, you'll need to experiment, but going by the temperature guidelines in an aquarium plant book would be a sensible way to start.> Thanks, Ben <Good luck, Neale>

Plant Issues for discus tank   8/22/07 Hello everyone at WWM, My name's Peter Johnstone, I live in Melbourne Australia. Like many others, I've been (excitedly) reading for a couple months now after stumbling onto your site while looking for general aquarium advice. Your site is amazing and has helped increase my understanding immensely which is very much appreciated. I've got a few questions that I'll put together because I think they're probably related somehow. I've got a small, approx 90 L (22G) freshwater tropical tank which has been running very successfully for approx 4-5 years as a community tank with some basic plants. Here's the stats for my tank so far: Tapwater is very soft and ph neutral. Approx 90L, under filter, with only a gravel substrate approx 3-5cm thick 18W plant-grow single tube (6 weeks old), adequate heating. Temp is now 28-29 degree Celsius (changed from 24ish about 2 months ago) pH 6.4 ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 10/15 GH 5 KH 4 I have 7 cardinal tetras (? small amount of ich, non responsive to 2 weeks at 32degrees and Multicure but seem happy otherwise) 1 black ghost knight (growing healthily) 2 glass cat fish (very interactive) 1 pearl gourami (appears happy) 2 flying fox (doing their job) 2 bristle nose Am planning on getting 2, 3-5cm discus in the near future once I've got a hold on everything. I have the following plants with the attached problems. Any thoughts on the cause would be most appreciated. 4 various Anubias (edges of the leaves and new shoots being eaten/nipped off-added lettuce and zucchini which are eaten up daily with no changes to the plant state) 1 wisteria (happy) 2 Amazon swords (1 growing slowly, one has rotting roots which turn brown and translucent and rot off. Not sure why may be terminal) some small old java ferns (very very slow growing) java moss (not dying) stag horn java fern (new growth turns brown and dies within 1-2 days for no apparent reason. Tiny new shoots still sprouting occasionally) 1 Bolbitis fern (only the rhizome left after it turned very dark green/brown and rotted away, 2 days after being in the tank from the shop) 3 pieces of drift wood. Here's the history. I'm aware that under filters are not great for plants, however the tank was originally given to me as is, and I've been learning more along the way. The plants were doing very well up until the end of 2006, with essentially no algae, when I went away for 2 weeks and left the tank in the care of my housemates. On return I had lost almost all of my plants due to an unknown reason- no problems with the fish. I've been learning more about the tank in an effort to get some discus soon and so have the current plants and testing kits as stated above. Since the big die off, I've never been able to get the plants to grow well again and I'm not sure why because nothing else has changed. I have a few remnants of the java fern which have very slowly regrown a couple of leaves off the rhizome root over the past 6-9 months however I bought 2 great specimens a couple months ago, only to have them both start rotting from the bottom up within two days of them being in the tank. 1 week later they were gone- and no the roots weren't buried in the gravel. Why will the old plants regrow slowly, but new ones of the same species die off so quickly? the Bolbitis died off within 2 days too. Not sure if its rhizome will survive. I've lost every type of crypt that I've tried to house with the leaves becoming transparent and flaccid -> rotting off. The rest of my plants are o.k. but non thriving like they once did when I had multiple flowering anubias. I have started using fertilizer pellets and some liquid fertilizer to help add nutrients about 2 weeks ago. Is it possible to over fertilise, because I think I initially put in too many pellets as my water levels blew out to high ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels and the ph dropped within 4 days, which is rare as my tank is always very stable. I removed much of the pellets, multiple water changes and all's back to normal with no fish fatalities thankfully. So here's the questions. As I'm looking towards getting discus, I've put the temperature up from approx 24 to 28 degrees in the last 2 months. Can this effect the plants I have or have attempted to have? My fish appear much more active and happy since the temp went up. All fish are growing nicely. Am I likely to get good plant growth with my setup or is it flawed from the beginning with the under filter, and if so, why was I able to get good growth for the first few years? Also, something is eating/nipping many of the anubias plant leaves and any new growth that does appear. I'm yet to witness the culprit after hrs of observation so I'm thinking it may be a nocturnal thing. I'm sure I have no hitchhiker snails. Any thoughts on who's to blame? Are products such as black water extract likely to be of benefit to me and can you suggest any others that may help. Any other thoughts/advice on the general setup would be most appreciated before I get the discus in. If all goes well for 6 months or so I'll probably invest in a nice 4*2*2 setup and redo everything properly, keeping the old tank for quarantine/breeding. Again, any help/advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. Thanks again for such a useful, entertaining and interesting site. Cheers. Pete J. <Hello Peter. Your problem is insufficient light coupled with the wrong water chemistry. Lighting for shade-tolerant plants needs to be upwards of 1.5 Watts per gallon, and for most everything else at least 2-3 Watts per gallon. So, Java ferns and Java moss will want no less than 33 W of light in your tank, and the Amazon swords 44 W upwards. This is non-negotiable: while plants can adapt to quite a lot of things, light is something they can't do without. The type of light used makes a big difference, too. Lights optimised for terrestrial plants (e.g., Gro Lux) don't work well in aquaria because the red light doesn't penetrate water well. Instead you need something around the 5500 to 6500 Kelvin colour temperature. To human eyes, this will seem blue-white. Adding reflectors to the lights is a low cost way of getting the best from them and highly recommended. Second, the water chemistry. Relatively few plants like soft water, and many are highly intolerant of it. A lot of aquatic plants get at least some of the carbon used for photosynthesis from dissolved bicarbonate salts. Aim for a water hardness around "medium hard" on the GH and KH scales for the best results with a broad range of plants. If this is out of the question, then carefully select plants that tolerate soft water. Amazon swords -- despite the name -- include many common species (such as E. bleheri) that don't like soft water. And very few plants come from water that is completely soft in the way aquarists mean it when keeping blackwater fish like discus. If you look at those blackwater habitats, there is virtually no aquatic vegetation at all. As for the damage to the plants, when the plant leaves start to decay, they can become attractive to Loricariid catfish that would otherwise ignore healthy plants. I agree with you that trying to get rooted plants (like Cryptocorynes and Amazon swords) growing in a tank with an undergravel filter is a waste of time. They won't ever do well. But epiphytic plants, like Java moss and Anubias, which should NEVER be planted in the substrate, should do fine. Since you have a mind for discus, and ideal water for them too, you may decide to forget about plants. Plants are NOT part of the discus habitat in the wild: dead wood is what they swim around and lay their eggs on. Hope this helps, Neale>

Plants for Discus and Angel Fish  -- 4/10/07 I have a 60gal freshwater aquarium with 2 Discus and 2 Angel fish in it I would like to know if I should use artificial plants or real plants... <Aquatic plants aren't part of the normal discus (or angelfish) habitat: these fish live in the "flooded forest" where nutrient poor waters wash around sunken wood and the trunks of huge trees. The fish live hidden among the wood, and when pairing off, guard bits of wood on which they lay their eggs. So by all means use real or plastic plants if you wish, but the fish don't care. They'd sooner have nice tall bits of real/artificial wood that they can explore, guard, or school around. Also bear in mind not all common aquarium plants enjoy soft/acid water. Vallisneria spiralis and the common Amazon sword Echinodorus bleheri for example both like neutral to basic, moderately hard water.> ...also if it is a good idea to  use volcanic rock in it as decor. <Volcanic rock -- if you mean artificial lava rock rather than actual pumice -- does acidify the water. This is the porous, reddish-brown "rock", right? While harmless enough in a tank with a basic pH and lots of hardness, in a soft water discus tank I'd personally be vary wary of using it. At least, not without trying a little first, and monitoring the pH for a few weeks before buying any more.> I do not want the fish to get hurt on the rock. <They shouldn't.> I would also like to know how many of these fish I can put in it if I was to add other fish and what kind of fish I can add with them and how many. <Discus, and to a slightly lesser degree angels, need good water quality. Understocking is the easiest way to get this. Also, once they mature, angels especially become very territorial, and will hold an area about 60-90 cm in diameter, vigorously pushing away any conspecifics. So while you can probably house half a dozen of either fish in a 60 gallon tank, the question is whether you want to and whether the fish will put up with that once mature. As for tankmates, both angels and discus appreciate slightly higher than average temperatures. Lace gouramis and moonlight gouramis can work well though both are a bit large. Clown loaches also work well, but again, rather large. Small tetras (e.g. Neons) become angelfish food so not recommended. Bleeding heart tetras, silver hatchetfish, African Glowlight tetras, and other non-nippy characins of this size would work well. Warm-water catfish include Brochis spp., Bristlenose plecs, and non-subtropical Corydoras (i.e., not bronze or peppered Corys). Very small Suckermouth cats, like Otocinclus spp., can attack the sides of these slow moving fish to eat the mucus, so avoid. Likewise aggressive loaches and cichlids will often terrorize them. All this said, discus are perhaps best kept alone, simply because it makes maintaining water quality good so much easier.> George <Cheers, Neale>

Freshwater Plant Questions, growing    1/7/07 Hello crew, <Hi!> I know Java fern should be grown attached to wood, right? <Or rocks, decor, etc.  It can also be grown in substrate - actually, it pretty much grows anywhere, in most any conditions!> Well, what about the following, can they be grown attached to wood, grown right in the substrate, or both? Java Moss, Java Lace Fern, and Anubias nana. <The java lace fern is merely a different species of java fern, and thus has the same requirements.  Java moss, to my understanding, does need to be grown attached to something, like plants, rocks, decor, etc.  Anubias can be grown either directly in the substrate or attached to rocks, wood, etc. All of these plants you mention are fairly undemanding.> Also, is hornwort grown in the substrate, or is it a floating plant because I have heard people use it both ways. <It is my understanding that hornwort doesn't have roots, per se, thus is a floating plant.  In cooler waters, I understand it sinks, but it doesn't actually grow from the substrate.> Also, my LFS told me that Flora-Glo fluorescent lights are good for growing plants, but my other LFS told me they were useless. Have any of you found that "special" bulbs help the growth in plants? If so, which ones? My other LFS said the Coralife Trichromatic bulbs are nice. <This is largely a matter of preference, really.  It sounds as though you have normal output lights (i.e., not power compacts), right? There are different brands advertised for plant growth, but in all reality, so long as the minimum wattage requirements for the species of plants you want to grow are met, it really doesn't matter.  The plants you mention above are relatively undemanding, and require only around 1.5-2 watts per gallon (WPG).  Here's a helpful link that makes sense of the WPG calculations: http://www.aquariumplants.com//Articles.asp?ID=111 The bulbs that are specifically advertised for plant growth, such as the ones you mention, are simply coated on the inside of the tube to emit more reddish/yellow/violet/blue colors.  This is indeed ideal for plants, but doesn't look as "pretty" as a full-spectrum tube.  If you are using two bulbs, I'd recommend perhaps one of each.  If not, simply go with the plant bulb, as there are benefits for the plants. Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants does a nice job of explaining lighting (as well as everything else plant-related) - it's a must-have book for the planted aquarium lover. Thanks! <You're welcome.  Best of luck, Jorie>

Lake plants to Aquarium?   8/22/06 Hello! <Hi there> Is it safe to add Floating Myriophyllum sprigs found in a lake to your aquarium to make a new plant? <Mmm, with some prep., quarantine...> Is there a way of cleansing the sprigs from unwanted lake bacteria before adding them to your tank? Or is this just not advised all around? Thanks! R <"Outside" plants can often be acclimated to indoor/aquarium use... given a tolerance/range of conditions... I would at least isolate these in their own tank... mixing more "domestic" water in with water changes... for a month... checking on the presence of unwanted hitchhikers (worms, insects, snails...), treating to rid the plants of same if discovered. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lake plants to Aquarium?  8/22/06 Right now the sprigs are sitting in a small fish bowl where I change the water frequently and add little bits of aquarium salt <Not much of this...> and stress coat (same as I would treat the water for all my tanks). I'll think about adding them to the main tank in a month or so after I see how it does. Thanks so much for you help! r <Real good. BobF>

Stocking... FW fishes and plants   8/14/06 I have just recently got a 70g tank with plenty of caves and hiding places in it. It hasn't yet got any fish in it but I will be adding them slowly in the next couple of months. I was just wondering if the following fish would go together without fighting: Red tailed shark <May well become nippy... feisty with time/growth> An angelfish Red line torpedo <Mmm, is this a barb? http://www.aquahobby.com/gallery/e_Puntius_denisonii.php> A type of catfish A gold nugget pleco Clown loaches Kuhlii loaches And maybe a blue crayfish, <Yikes... not this... too opportunistic a feeder> some crabs <Neither these> and some snails (so the clown loaches can eat them) Will the crabs try and get some of the fish like the loaches? <Oh yes> Also could I have a black ghost knife fish? <Perhaps... see WWM re> What types of plants would these type of fish like? <Ditto> I have researched on the fish and I know how big they will get and how many I need of each one. Many thanks. <Take a read on WWM re the plants that "like" similar water quality to the fishes listed. Bob Fenner> Transitioning a Discus Tank from Artificial to Live Plants   8/1/06 Hi, <Hello> I have a 120 gallon discus tank that I'd like to transition from artificial plants to live plants, and I'd love to know what you think and if you have any suggestions. Here are the details: Current setup: 120 gallon glass aquarium (60" x 26" x 18") 2 x Fluval 405 External Canister Filters 2 x 250W Visi-Therm Stealth Heaters Medium-size gravel (about 3mm in diameter) Artificial plants and driftwood 4 x 24" Marineland Eclipse T8 18W Fluorescents Temperature = 81 F (a little low for discus, I know, but I have Corys... do you still think I should raise it?) <I would not raise this temperature unless there was some "call" to do so... Disease, reproduction/breeding... Likely you have cultured livestock... can/does do fine at consistently lower-tropical thermal regimes> pH = 6.8 3 dGH, 3 dKH NH3 = 0 NO3 = 0 NO2 = 0 30% water changes twice a week, 50% water changes once a week 6 discus (3" and growing) 6 cardinal tetras 2 Corydoras axelrodi (I plan to get a few more Corys once the plants are in to keep these guys company) What I'd like to add: 4 x 24" Coralife Aqualife Single Compact Fluorescent Strip Lights: 6700K (260 W total)  (I would remove the current lighting) "Deluxe Fully-Automatic CO2 System" from Drs Foster & Smith Substrate: 1/2 sand, 1/2 Eco-Complete Driftwood from www.aquariumdriftwood.com Plants (Amazon biotope package from freshwateraquariumplants.com) - Alternanthera reineckii "Red" - Lilaeopsis novae zelandiae - Echinodorus osirus - Echinodorus tenellus - Mayaca fluviatilis - Myriophyllum elatinoides <Mmm, no... Doesn't do well in warm water: http://www.fnzas.org.nz/plant_survey/aquarium_plants/?user_plants=98&cHash=bfa1164e86> - Heteranthera zosteraefolia - Hydrocotyle leucocephala - Echinodorus latifolius <Mmm, a couple other plants will be near their upper thermal limit... I encourage you to review these individually> I know the gravel isn't great for plants (or the Corys, either), so I'd like to upgrade to a mixture of sand and Eco-Complete. The Eco-Complete appeals to me because it would involve less rinsing and it is packed in blackwater extract, which I think my discus would like. Would simply mixing the sand and Eco-Complete into the gravel be a bad idea? <Can be done... slowly... a few pounds per day> I think the visual effect might be pretty cool, and the gravel would help prevent the sand from packing in too tightly and creating anoxic areas. Not to mention that it would be much easier than removing all the gravel. Is the "Deluxe Fully-Automatic CO2 System" overkill for the plants I'd like to keep? <No. Very worthwhile> The system is expensive, but it would be nice to have good control over the pH. Without the automatic controller, I'd always be worrying about a pH crash since the water is relatively soft. Same for the lighting - is it too much? Or just enough? <Should be fine... the plants, fishes listed are adaptable to its output> Am I missing anything? Any other advice? Thanks for all your help, Danielle <Mmm, your set-up and maintenance listed are close to "picture perfect"... the transition will be a bit stressful for you and your livestock, but will result in greatly more enjoyment and vitality for both. Bob Fenner> FW Planted Tank Set Up   7/28/06 Hi WWM Crew, First I would like to say thanks for having such a great and knowledgeable site open to the public. My question is about setting up an freshwater community planted aquarium, here a my plans. A 30 gallon tank, substrate would be 2 inches of EcoComplete (for the plants), the filtration would be a Rena xp3 canister filter, as for fish I'm thinking 3 angels, 2 German blue rams, and maybe 4-6 true Rummynose tetras, as for plants I was going to get the drfosterandsmiths standard plant pack. I just wanted to know if this was an ok setup equipment wise, and if the fish are compatible for a community planted aquarium, any recommendations, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks love the site. --SBatiste < As long as the rummy nose tetras are big enough not to be eaten by the angels the fish set up looks OK. Rams like it on the warm side around 82 F and this may be a little warm for some plants. Stem plants usually do better with CO2 and lots of light. Plants like Cryptocorynes, Amazon swords, Anubias and java fern are very easy to grow and don't require strong light. Try the other types and see how they do.-Chuck>

Gouramis and plants sel.    7/13/06 Hi folks. Could you please help me with a small problem? I have a 100 gal. freshwater tank with 10 blue Gouramis and 8 albino Cory cats. I am trying to get some live plants started but the fish eat them down to the stalk. I need advice on  low lighting plants that they won't eat. <Mmm, Ceratophyllum demersum, Ceratopteris, Anubias, Cryptocorynes...> The Amazon sword I put in lasted 2 days...The anacharis lasted 30 min.. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work and thanks again...DR <Good to provide some inexpensive live plants for food occasionally... Like the Anacharis/Egeria. Bob Fenner> Setting Up A South American Plant Tank  - 5/5/2006 Hi Guys, I was wondering if you could give me any information about South America plants, I'm hoping to set up a biotope aquarium but I only know of one or to species such as Amazon swords I would like some medium plants for the mid ground and some small plants for the foreground. If you could help with any info about this biotope and how I would go about setting it up I would greatly appreciate it, looking to put cardinals and Rummynose once it set up. thanks Yasfir Nadat < The dark tannin stained waters of the Amazon River actually have very few plants in them. Go to freshwateraquariumplants.com and click on the biotope and there you will find lots of South American  plants and how to plant them,-Chuck>

Mainly FW plant selection, growing with UG filtration  3/21/06 Dear Bob / Sabrina I have been keeping tropical fishes for the last couple of years. I have 5 Angels, 3 Clown Loaches & some tetras in my aquarium. During this period I tried so many times to keep real / live plants in my 5 feet long tank which is based on under gravel filters but I never got success :-( again I had to decorate my aquarium along with Plastic Plants. This time again I am trying to keep the real plants. I need some information from you 1. Can I keep them in Under Gravel filters based tank. ( Here in Pakistan I have seen many aquariums which are full of live plants and are running on Under Gravel filtration ) <Not all species... or not w/o "blind-potting" many of the rooted varieties (in their own substrate, containers, or with a solid barrier placed on top of the UG plate between the gravel...> 2. What species of plants should I keep ? I mean what types of plants ? I intend to keep Hygrophila, Cabomba, Vallisneria, Java Fern & Cryptocoryne, are these plants suitable for keeping with each other. <Posted: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html> 3. If the above mentioned plants are o.k. then what are the lighting requirements for these plants and what types of fishes I can keep along with these plants <Also posted...> 4. Here in Pakistan a local plants dealer told me that Java Fern do not grow well if it is potted in a gravel. Placing it on a Bog Wood will do better. Is he right ? <Yes... posted> I am a regular visitor of your website and I think it is very informative. Wish you good luck in your future endeavors Very Best Regards Shany Karachi, Pakistan. <Thanks much. Bob Fenner> Moss sel., mis-mixed FW  2/10/06 Hey James, <Methinks he's ducked out> I will start by saying thank you for the quickness in which you answered my email and the information you gave me, I am very grateful.   That being said, I think I need to reword my last question a little  bit  Do you know what kind of moss (mosses since there are so many  different kinds) would be most beneficial to an aquarium of 5 months loaded with  fresh water fish....as to help keep the water at acceptable levels for the   fish....were would be the best place to find the moss you recommend for  this? <Requirements and suggested species are posted on WWM. Sources? Depends on where you're located...>   I have two Disc, <What?> two Angle fish, two Neons, one Chinese algae eater, <Watch this last... can be trouble/mean> two Rummy nose, six other assorted tetras, and two other algae eaters that I  think are going to get very large, all in a 29 gallon  tank.             <Keep reading... Bob Fenner>             

FW Plant Recommendations  1/1/06 Crew, Great site, came across it tonight.  I have had aquariums in the past  and have had limited success with live plants.  Hornwort - success - it  grows anywhere.  Swords - fair.  I just moved and I am setting up a 75  gallon freshwater aquarium. What are a good combination of plants that are  attractive and easy to grow? < Crinums, Cryptocorynes, bulb plants, swords.> What type of lighting do you recommend and is a co  2 system of some sort necessary? < Go with florescent lights with a color length of around 6500K. You will need at least 80 watts. More is better, maybe two double hoods for 180 watts. Use Fluorite as a substrate too. Stem plants and red colored plants require good CO2 levels. The one I have recommended with do better with CO2 but generally it is not needed.> I am trying to avoid the expense and involvement on the plants, I prefer to put that toward fish.  IF you could recommend a variety of plants that are   attractive, grow easily and anything else I need to keep them flourishing, I would be grateful. Happy New year Mike < Get all your plants at once. If you don't, the algae will take over with all the new lighting and cause problems. Get at least 3 to 4 inches of Fluorite. This is pretty expensive stuff but works great. If you don't want to do an entire tank then place the plant in a pot with the Fluorite. Cryptocorynes will do very nicely. This is not a good time of year to buy plants. During the winter the plants are not really growing and often come in in poor shape. If the conditions are right your plans will bounce back in a couple of weeks and look great in no time.-Chuck>

Comment re www.aquariumplants.com shipment, and WWM  12/18/05 Dear WWM,    I have benefited greatly from your website and your crew's experience -special thanks to Adam Blundell, back when I had a 72gallon reef tank. Since then I've moved from the north east to the SF bay area, and am in the process of starting a planted FW tank.    I don't really have a question, just a comment. I've seen several crew members recommend www.aquariumplants.com and so decided to go with them. Let me just say the plants I got from them were mostly full of dead leaves or leaves with holes in them or broken stems -they were shipped USPS overnight, so it couldn't have gotten here sooner. <Perhaps the shipping was somehow delayed on their end... I do hope you immediately contacted them re the shipment> I'm in the process of replacing it all with plants from my LFS, with the exception of a single Anubias nana! I'm not so sure that they are worthy of your endorsement... Of course this is only one data point... Thank You, Narayan <Mmm, thank you for this. For clarification, we (collectively) don't "do" endorsements. The comments by individuals here are simply that... their opinions... borne of first and other-hand experience. Bob Fenner>

Plants For An Unfriendly Plant Tank  11/11/05 Hey guys, quick question about freshwater plants, I've got a 55 gallon tank with two big silver dollars and a ton of apple snails, there's some other fish in there too, but those guys are the problem. I've tried many times to plant a wide variety of plants but the only ones that seem to survive are the anacharis, and they are really growing out of control, nobody seems to touch them. My question is, are there any other types of plants that could survive in this situation? There must be something out there, I've heard good things about one called moss something, or something moss... anyway if you could recommend one for me to try, that would be fantastic. Thanks- Julian. < Try some of the Cryptocorynes, crinium sp., Java moss and java fern. Aquariumplants.com has a lot of mail order plants. Just tell them what you have and they can put together a plant list for you.-Chuck>

Aquarium Plant Retailers and E-tailers - 11/07/2005 Hello to both of you!! <Both? Actually, there are about 30 on the Crew.... probably 15-25 of us regularly answering questions.... Or, if you meant both of the personalities of the one Crewmember answering your question, then I and I say Hi back. Sabrina and Sabrina with you, this evening.> I discovered wetwebmedia.com recently when a colleague referred me to an article on your site regarding teeth trimming on pufferfish. It is a fantastic resource and I have shared the link with the members of my local fish club. <Excellent, thank you for this!> I've been in and out of the tropical fish hobby for about 40 years. I'm back in now (thanks to a relative) and have been keeping normal tropicals, as well as fish we collect from the local canals and lakes, which includes natives and non-natives. See http://myfwc.com/fishing/Fishes/non-native.html for some state info on non-natives such as Oscars. <Very nifty.> I have some tetra schools, some angels, and a bunch of local stuff such as darters, <Etheostoma, yes? I love these little guys....> killies, and the like. Our canals have some interesting finds, and the club members know canals down south near the Everglades where there are huge numbers of tremendous Plecostomus and other exotic fellas. They're a very small club but the members have a huge institutional memory, know their fish, and know the local waters. They're at http://www.gcassf.org/. <An immense value to one's knowledge, experience, and life-in-general to take part in such a group. You are very fortunate.> I have always been a natural aquatic plant nut, and am trying to continue this with the few aquaria I have set up at home, as well as a small whiskey barrel pond outside (hey, I have to start somewhere!).... bigger projects to come. My problem is availability. Even here in plant nursery heaven, I cannot locate most of the plants I love that you guys write about like water sprite, Vallisneria and the others. <What?? Really?? Most of the plants that come to most parts of the country come either out of or through Florida....!! Surely someone somewhere sells them in your area.... Might be worth making friends with an owner of a local store and see what he can bring in for you.> <<If I recollect, there's also an aquatic plant nursery out in Ramona, California (east of sunny San Diego).  MH>> These are the plants I used to raise when I was a kid in the hobby. Where are they now?  <Uhh, aside from growing in my tanks and buckets?> Local fish sources usually have hornwort, anacharis, swords and a few others plus some house plants masquerading as water plants. <Wow, slim pickin's, eh?> Is there a mail order source for the rest of them, as well as floating water plants for the small pond? Where do you guys get your plants from? <Mm, I'm hesitant to recommend any specific mail-order retailers - not because any are better/worse than others, but because they all have their individual quirks that make them unique.... I and others have posted reviews on our forum ( http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk ), for a starting point.... You might also take a look at our links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/general_links_pg.htm as there are a few e-tailers listed there in a couple different sections that you might take a look at.> Keep up the great work, I am just starting to explore all the information on this site, it's really quite excellent. <Thank you very kindly.... these words are appreciated.> Sincerely, -Ed Spenser <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Freshwater Questions, stocking, use of live plants Dear WWM Crew,    The site is wonderful but sometimes there is too much information that I can't pinpoint an answer I'm looking for. I've sent in a couple emails and Sabrina has been great in helping me with my questions and I appreciate it very much.    Anyways, I have a 10 gallon tank (20"L, 10"W, 12"H) with a light hood with 2 15 watt bulbs (blue), <These lights won't likely work for growing plants>  a Whisper 30 power filter, bubble wall, 10+ small - medium sized plastic plants, a fake log, and I recently changed my gravel from shallow creek pebbles to black Tahitian moon sand (for my Cory cats). I am in the process of stocking my tank. So far there are 4 Corydoras paleatus in my 10 gallon who have been there for a couple of months. I plan on adding 3 Panda Cory cats and a small school of Flame Tetras (or Von Rio tetras). <Sounds good>    I'm new to the whole sand substrate and was wondering if there are any shrimps or snails that stay small, are compatible with the livestock I plan on keeping, and would help keep my sand bed clean. <Should stay pretty clean with all the Corys> I searched around the web, but have only found sand cleaners for marine tanks. I was also wondering if floating plants would be good for the fish I am planning on keeping (Cory cats and flame tetras). <Yes... some live plant material is a good idea for almost all freshwater systems> There seems to be plenty of cover for them to feel safe but I think a live floating plant would be a nice addition. Could you give me some suggestions? Wayne <Please read here re plants, selection: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html Bob Fenner> Low Lighting, Small Tank... Plants?  You Bet! - 08/20/2005 Hi, I have a question about lighting.  I have a standard 10g freshwater tank, with 5 head and tail light tetras.  I have just upgraded the hood from incandescent lighting to fluorescent, hoping to grow a few plants.  I purchased (on advice from the pet shop clerk) an 18000k 15w  55 Lux power-Glo bulb.  I also purchased a couple of plants: Dwarf hairgrass-which I now know needs very high lighting, Rotala indica <Also does better with higher light than what you have, but may survive and even grow.> My question is, will this light work for these (or any) freshwater plants?   <These, maybe not - any?  Yes!  Most certainly!  I would look to Anubias, Microsorium pteropus/java fern, Vesicularia dubyana/java moss, Ceratopteris/watersprite, maybe Hygrophila polysperma....  Some of the Cryptocorynes will thrive in this, as well.> Or should I exchange this for something better suited to freshwater (from reading I think I understand this to be better for marine?).   <This will be okay for those lower-light plants.> Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks,  Leah <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Planted Aquarium Remodel 7/30/05 Hello, I have a 46 gallon tank that's been established for a couple of years.  I've been successful with my livestock (2 schools of tetra's, 3 loaches, 2 SAE's.  I've tried on several occasions to add plants to my aquarium, never with much success. <Mmmm, I do so like such mysteries> I've done much research, and I've decided to take the plunge and truly update my system so I can grow plants.  I now have a Aqualight 2X96 watt CF (6700K bulbs), timers, Milwaukee regulator, 10lb CO2 tank, and a Milwaukee pH controller to work with the regulator.  I'm now to the point of getting my hands wet.  I have normal LFS bought aquarium gravel.  I'd like to put a layer of Fluorite under my current gravel, but 1) I'm worried about the dust cloud that seems to accompany Fluorite, <Yes... I would rinse it... BTW, this is the material I have in my tanks> and 2) I don't want to ruin my the biological filtration I have in my substrate.  Might the dust from the Fluorite hurt the livestock? <Yes, definitely> As long as I leave filtration running (Emperor 400), will the biological filtration be OK?   <Yes... likely so... I would vacuum the existing substrate... and mix in the pre-washed Fluorite> I don't want to worry about cycling my tank again.  Also, on to plants.  I'm considering the following package from Aquabotanic.com. 6 assorted bunched stem plants, 3 Cryptocoryne pots, 10 dwarf sag, 2 small swords, 1 Red Rubin sword, 3 Anubias coffefolia, 2 Crinum onion, 4 Java fern, 10 corkscrew vals,2 Java moss.  Does this sound like too much? <Mmm, no... but a real "mix" to be sure... plants of differing water chemistry and light preferences... the Crinum will grow quite large... and quickly... the Crypts and Java Fern... very, very slowly...> I want to make sure to out compete the algae, but I don't want to be throwing away plants because I can't fit anymore.  Thank you for your help.  You're my last line of defense before I break out my checkbook again.  Thanks. Jeremy <I say "go for it" or whatever the current equivalent is... with some degree of near neutral pH, some bit of alkaline reserve, this mix should do well for you. Bob Fenner>

Hardy Aponogetons - 06/07/2005 I got some live aquarium plants called hardy Aponogeton bulbs from a pet store and I don't know much about them; could you tell me more about them? <Aponogetons are pretty neat plants.  Some are very easy to grow, and others require a bit of attention; chances are, at least some of your bulbs will grow into nice plants, maybe all of them.  Here is an article about this genus of plants:  http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Plants/apons-randall.html .  If you go to http://www.google.com and do a search on the word "Aponogeton", you'll get tons of information.  My own personal favorite is Aponogeton ulvaceus, which is a very beautiful plant with broad, wavy leaves....> Please Email me back with info. <There is a wealth of information awaiting you on the web; read that article and do a Google search, and you'll soon know all you like.> Thanks. <You bet.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Lighting Question on My Planted Tank I am looking for suggestions on tank plants. I have a 30H Freshwater tank. I have African Cichlids in it. The substrate is blue aquarium sand. I have the Current Satellite 24" 1X65 power compact fixture. The bulb is: "Satellite Singles come with SmartPaq Lamps (10,000K/460nm Actinics)." This thing is two strips one a 10k and an actinic. I chose the actinic because I wanted to bring out the colors in the fish. I am now looking for suggestions on plant life that will do well in the 10k/actinic environment. < Stay away from stem plants and try Cryptocoryne, Amazon swords, and different types of Val and sag too.> I also have a 150 that I am going to setup with 3 ft fixtures. I have the option of (1-96w 10K white/1-96w blue or 2-96watt 6500K whites only for planted tanks). I am wondering what combo I should do. I have a lot of blue fish and don't like the yellow effect in my tank. What do you suggest here?? < I would go with the 2-96 watt 6500K. The other set up will not provide enough of the right kind of light for your plants to survive or thrive. Here is a little tip I learned years ago. Go down to the LFS and check out the lighting on the saltwater fish. They usually pay more money for these fish and so give them the better lighting. These lights work great on African cichlid tanks.-Chuck> 

Plenty Of Plants? - 01/11/2005 How many plastic plants would you recommend for a 75 gallon tank, mix and match 11" and 7- 8 ".  Let me know, I don't want to purchase too much or too few.   <Well Corey, it's mostly all about aesthetics and what pleases you....  This may also be somewhat dependant upon what fish you plan on having.  I, personally, like the look of a very densely planted tank.  That might end up being "too much" to someone who prefers a very sparse approach.  As long as the fish have enough cover to feel secure, then it's all a matter of what you like.  And keep in mind, if your fish are hiding, it's probably best to ADD plants or decor rather than remove - the more places a fish has to hide, the safer it will feel, and the more you'll see it!> Which ones would you recommend, ex foxtail, red arrowhead, ruffled sword etc.   <Again, this is mostly just a matter of your personal preference.  I, personally, prefer "natural" colored plants (mostly greens with just a few dark reds as accents).  A very large sword as a centerpiece might be nice.  I also like the look of a large group of Vallisneria.  Maybe add some Cabomba shaped plants for a different texture, and some dark green color.  It's really totally up to you.> I have it established with fish, I just want to make it nice and attractive now. <Just one little tip, you might try grouping several of the same type together for a nice effect - it will look more natural this way.  Taller plants toward the back and smaller toward the front is usually more pleasing to the eye.  It's really all about what you like, as long as the fish have enough cover to feel safe. Thanks CG Corey <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> New tank ideas 4 Aug. 2004 Hi <Hi Luke, MacL here with you today> I'm getting a 100 gallon tank soon. <Congratulations>  And I'm having a hard time deciding as to what to put in it. <Really its all a matter of taste.>  I was wondering if there are any books or web sites that have tank designs in them or any thing of that nature I already have picked up a book on fish and plants that I could put in its just the look that I haven't figured out. <I'd suggest you look at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html, and also do some research on terrariums and native fish aquariums sounds like that's where you might be heading.> Currently I have 3 tanks a 50 gallon hex,  20 gallon gold fish tank and a Lizard and crab tank.  I was thinking of putting the 100 gallon and the  lizard tank together, but I'm not sure as to how or if I even can.  I was thinking that the lizard part would be up top and the lizard could swim in the fish part. Hard to explain the picture I have in my head. <I think I understand, and I think you'll find the answers if you start where I sent you.  Its really all about what you have in mind and making it happen. Good luck Luke> Thank you Luke Planting the Rift Lake Tank  I have a 75 gal 20" tall tank and am keeping African Cichlids. Water parameters are PH=8.4 GH=15 KH=10. Lights are kept on for 12 hours/day. I have (2) 55w 6500k pcf's installed in the canopy and recently added a fixture for (2) 24" 20w T-8's or T-12's. My question is what type and color temp bulb would you suggest in the 24" tubes for good plant growth?  <My personal preference is for 10,000K bulbs, all the way.... many folks prefer 7500K bulbs, though, for PC-lit plant tanks. Please do read up on this topic, as there are quite a few opinions, and no perfect "right way" - here is an excellent article to help you understand and decide what you want: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm >  I have tried Java Fern and Amazon Sword because they were recommended. Seems the Africans won't trash them quite as bad as some of the tastier types.  <Mm, beside the fact that rift lake pH is simply too high to keep healthy Swordplants in, I'm pretty sure any Echinodorus would be a nice cichlid salad.... but they shouldn't eat java fern. Please check to be sure you haven't planted the rhizome (the thick base that the leaves and roots sprout from) of the java ferns; burying this will cause the plant to rot and die. Only plant the soft roots. Or, better yet, attach them to driftwood or porous rock. For some more hardy plants, look to the genus Anubias - these should be too tough for the cichlids to eat. Plant the same way as java fern. Java moss (completely unrelated to java fern) is particularly indestructible, and extremely versatile. Crinum (especially C. thaianum) plants would be a good option, if you want something tall and grass-blade like. There are other options, but these should get you off to a good start.>  Haven't had very good luck getting them to grow, seem to be slowly withering away. As of yet I haven't tried any plant fertilizer. Any types you can recommend?  <My preference is with the Seachem and Kent fertilizer lines; at this point, start with a simple liquid fertilizer containing iron while you decide exactly what plants you want, and learn their needs. Please check out this article to learn more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/majmicrnutrplts.htm >  Thanks.  <You bet! Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Plants, Fish, and Information for a New Beginner Over the last few days I have been pouring over all of the info you have on this site, it's amazing, THANK YOU!! I have learned so much. <And thank you for the kind words, I'm glad you're enjoying it!> We live in the middle of nowhere and our only choice for fish supplies is Wal-Mart or the internet. <Eek!> So, as I'm sure you'll understand, I'm trying to figure all this out on my own. <Yes, research will be your best friend!> I do think I've come up with a plan that will work, but wanted to run it by you folks to see what you'd think of it first so I don't hurt my fish or waste time or money. <We will help however we can.> 10g tank from Wal-Mart with the Tetra Whisper filter that came with it, a few plastic driftwood ornaments and a pretty coarse river rock gravel. <Smaller gravel, pea-sized or less, is much easier to care for and keep clean, you might want to take this into consideration.> We have a Fancy Goldfish  who is about 5" and a Koi who is about 2". (We were not aware of the size of the adult Koi and he will probably eventually be put into my brother's pond.) <Ultimately, the fancy goldfish may have to go into the pond, as well; these also get potentially huge and worse, they are very, very messy fish and really foul up the water.  Goldfish really aren't a great choice for small tanks, unfortunately.> The hood has the regular incandescent lights. I would like very much to give my fishies some real plants, as I've learned this is much more healthy for them and the tank in general. <A wonderful plan!> The tank has been set up for about 3 days and all is going well, as I'm monitoring everything I possibly can. Here is my plan...to add some Java Moss and Java Fern. <Two of the best plants you could possibly choose.  These are nearly indestructible.> I've learned that Goldfish will eat darn near any plant, which is ok with me, I just don't want to waste money on a beautiful plant and then see it get devoured in a week. <Fortunately, these two that you've chosen will not be eaten by the goldfish.  Java fern leaves have a really nasty taste to them (I do not know from experience, just from reading - I'm not too keen on licking my aquarium plants, hehe) so the goldfish won't eat it, and the java moss (no relation to the java fern) is too tough for them to tear apart, though they will "suck" on it a bit, and get any food that has settled into it.  I would also recommend plant of the genus Anubias.  These thick-leaved plants will withstand anything the goldfish can dish out.> I don't mind if they nibble on the plants, I know that would be good for them. <You might want to get them some elodea/anacharis plants specifically *for* them to eat.  These are cheap, and very good for them to nibble, but they won't last terribly long - they're just too yummy!  The goldfish would love you for it.> Would any other plants be very easy to care for and withstand the Goldfish grazing on them? <Nearly any Anubias, as above.  Not a whole lot else will stand up to these herbivorous fish with perpetual munchies.> Do I really need to add Fluorite substrate, or something like it to have these plants grow? <Java moss, java fern, and Anubias will all do just fine without.  Be certain to only plant the soft roots of the java fern and the Anubias, not the thick rhizome, or the plants will rot and die.> Will these plants grow with the regular incandescent lights, or should I replace one of them with a grow bulb? <Mm, if you can go to a fluorescent "strip" light instead of the incandescent, that'd be a plus, but none of these plants (the "food" plant anacharis/elodea included) need anything terribly special.> BTW, once the tank is cycled and the Koi begins to get too big he will probably be replaced by a small school of Danios or Guppies. <I would do this soon, to be honest, and re-house the goldfish, as well.> I would like a schooling fish that remains as small as possible, and know that both of these are ok with Java Moss & Java Fern. <As are just about any other fish.  You might want to look into white cloud minnows, as well, as these are attractive and inexpensive, as well.> Also, we have a 5g tank that is set up the same way with a 2 1/2" Kissing Gourami and a "Mixed Fruit" (?) Tetra who is currently around 1 1/2". <Oh my....> Poor Kisser ended up in there because he was tormenting the poor Goldie. He was extremely lonely, so the Tetra came to keep him company. <I'd like to note here, tetras are schooling fish, and do best in small groups.  Also....  that kissing Gourami will ultimately grow to be one foot long, more or less.  He will also be a terror, as you have noticed with the goldfish.  Unless you want a *really* big tank, I'd strongly recommend trading him for some of the small schoolers that you like.> They've only been together less than 24 hours and are best friends already, swimming side by side and playing chase. No "kiss fighting" going on from the bully. <This is ultimately their way of trying to establish a "pecking order", since they don't have any of their own kinds to do so with.> I would also like to add some plants for them and remove the plastic ones. Again, I was thinking Java Moss and Java Fern, but also adding some Water Sprite to float on the top. I've read that Gouramis love to nibble on this plant. <They do, indeed!  It would also be a good choice for the goldfish.  I'm not sure how long the watersprite would last, as it would definitely be chewed upon, but it grows and reproduces like mad, as well.> Ok, what do you think? Please don't slam me to hard if I'm doing something wrong! <I hope I'm not slamming at all!  I'm glad you're researching the care of your fish, that's the biggest, hardest step - and the more you learn, the more fun you will have, even with bumps in the road like kissing gouramis and koi in too-small tanks.  Live and learn, and definitely research fish you like *before* you get them, now.  That's probably the toughest lesson of all to get down.> I really am trying my best to give these fishies a healthy, happy life. Starting at Wal-Mart doesn't help a lot, I think their people try, but they are not a pet store. <Well put.> When you also factor in not having a ton of money to spend it can get tricky. I know we'll upgrade everything in the future, but this is what we are working with for now. <And with knowledge, it will become great fun, and great tank(s).> Thank you so very much for your help...for all of us Newbies!!! :)  -Heather <And thank you again for the kind words.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Plant Descriptions Dear Bob Fenner, <Hey Justin, Gage here today.> I had A look at your website.  I was trying to find physical descriptions of at least 20 plants.  Hopefully you could forward me a few descriptions of any plants.  As all part of A school project.  If you could that would be great! <Check out http://www.tropica.com they have a lot of information on different aquatic plant species.> Thanks if possible!  Sincerely,  Justin Pitts

Plants for a New Tank Hi, I am new to fishkeeping and would like some advice regarding a new fish tank that I intend to buy.  Some details: 1)Its a 10 gallon tank 2)I would like a moderately planted tank 3)the water is around 28C all year long I was thinking of getting neon tetras as I like the way they school and their colour. I would appreciate it if you all could give me ideas on what to get to complement the fishes. Plants: (would like some grass-like small plants in the foreground, taller ones at the back). Found some that I liked, but I do not know if they are compatible with each other, the fishes and lighting. Foreground 1) java moss <tolerant of extremely minimal light conditions as well as strong lighting> 2) micro sword 3) dwarf hairgrass <Both need strong lighting> 4) anubias <If your tank is strongly lit, Anubias must be shaded.> Background 1) java fern <Another low-lighter, can tolerate stronger lighting> 2) Amazon sword <At least moderate lighting, for best results - but this will get far too large for a 10g.> 3) Cryptocorynes <There are crypts out there for just about any tank.> can they all be planted directly into substrate? <Anubias, java moss, and java fern will attach to wood or rock.  If you choose to plant java fern or Anubias, only plant the soft roots - do NOT plant the thick green rhizome of the plant, or it will rot and die.> I understand that neons prefer darker lighting and soft water, thus I would like plants that can suit them. <I'd definitely recommend the Anubias, java moss, java fern and some of the Cryptocorynes (specifically C. affinis, lutea, and walkeri) if you want to stay a low lighting levels.> 2) type of substrate (preferably dark colour to emphasize the colour of the neons) <Seachem makes a product called Fluorite - I use and recommend this product very happily.  Good Stuff.> 3) lighting (how much wattage will be suitable for the plants and neons) <With the abovementioned low-light plants, a single normal output fluorescent tube would be just fine.  If you're really bent on having the dwarf hairgrass or microsword, I'd suggest at the absolute least two normal output tubes - perhaps even power compacts.  Good luck on your tank - I hope you have great fun with it!  -Sabrina>

Green With Something Other Than Envy (07/26/03) Greetings O' Learned Ones! <Hi! Ananda here tonight, thinking "O Learning Ones" might be more accurate...> I have been diligently reading through your various articles on "bad" algae, yet I am still unsure how best to proceed.  My fiancée and I are having a discussion so we're turning to you as the final authority.  We have string algae and the ubiquitous green algae that discolors the water. <Ugh. I've had both of those, too.> We're relatively new to the aquarist group and we've been dealing with our first serious outbreak of algae.  We refuse to treat the symptoms, e.g., use chemicals, and want to try to get at  a more systemic solution.  Here's my data: Tank:    Oceanic 37 gallon Show Filtration: Currently an Emperor 280 and a brand new Fluval 304 <Sounds good...if you are using any bio-media in the Fluval, make sure to rinse it in old tank water every once in a while -- if the bio-media catches detritus, your Fluval just might end up contributing to your nitrate levels.> Livestock: 7 Danios, 12 Neon Tetras, 4 Gouramis, 4 German Rams, 1 Gold Nugget Plecostomus, and 1 Dwarf Angelfish (the Angelfish was put into the tank yesterday). <The only dwarf angels I know of are saltwater... what species is this?> Plants: 2 Amazon Sword Plants, 1 Anubias, 4 Pygmy Chain Swords, 6 Rotala indica, and 6 Anubias frazeri.   <Nice selection.> The plants have a Coralife fluorescent lighting system, 28 inches and 65 watts.  Up until this past weekend, the light was running for 12 hours a day.  I have since cut it back to about 7 hours per day. <Might help the algae problem....> Here's the latest chemistry: pH = 7.25, NO3 = 5.0, NO2 = < 0.3, PO4 = 1.5, <There's your culprit! Your phosphates are WAY too high... check your source water (tap water?) for phosphates. Phosphates and nitrates are algae food. Also check what the phosphate levels are in the fish food you're using -- freshwater fish food often has fairly high phosphate levels. Any uneaten food turns into extra phosphates for your tank.> KH = 7, GH = 13 The Nitrate and Phosphate testing equipment is from Red Sea and the rest is from Tetra. <Your water is fairly hard, too... BTW, Phil says he's gotten some crazy readings from the Red Sea phosphate kits. I use the FasTest or SeaTest kits for "high range" phosphate testing, and the Seachem test kit for "low range" phosphate testing. Of the two, I'd suggest the FasTest/SeaTest for you right now.> For the last week I have been using Kent Marine's pH Minus to try and bring the pH below or around 7.0.  Interestingly, the pH is always lower in the morning than in the evening. <That's normal. Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen by day. At night, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. The increased carbon dioxide decreases the pH. So if you use any CO2 supplementation for your plants, that would help decrease the pH.> I have a gravel substrate.  If I have left any pertinent facts out, please let me know.  I was thinking a couple of Platies might be in order for the string algae. <What you really want for hair algae is a Florida flagfish or two. For the rest of the algae, get those phosphates down. My favorite thing for that is Seachem's Phosguard, as it can be left in the filter for a long while. Additionally, it won't fall out of the media container in the Emperor. You might also consider some algae-eating shrimp or a Siamese algae eater (the true SAE, not its impersonators... see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saes.htm for details). They aren't the most colorful fish, but they are always active and quite fun to watch. --Ananda> Planted aquarium I'm wondering, are there any plants that can take temperatures around 28-30C ? (Discus tank)<Do check this link out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html ,IanB> Thank you, Luke

Re: new 72-gallon tank setup Hi Ronni at wetwebmedia, I guess this is all on a voluntary basis?  I myself is an application developer by trade...what about you? <Yep, we're all volunteers. For my living I manage the family furniture business.> The link you put down is for the conversion site, not on how to get started with a planted tank...Yah, you have convinced me to stay away from any type of soil.  :) <Doh! Try this one http://www.aquabotanic.com/begin.htm I did notice after I sent the last message that The Krib doesn't sell plants but they have a ton of info there!> I did visit www.aquabotanic.com and they do have a couple of "hard to kill plants" starter packages that I might be interested in.  I need plants that won't easily die on me.  What do you think about these 2 packages? --------------------------------------------------------- The New Hard to Kill Package (20 plants - $48.99 US) 2  Java Fern 2 Anubias nana 3 Java Lace Fern 2 Cryptocoryne spiralis 1 Aponogeton olivaceus 1 Hornwort 2 Hygrophila 6 Dwarf Sag 1 Java moss --------------------------------------------- Hard to Kill Package 2 (32 plants - $125.00 US) 2 extra large Anubias 3 Anubias nana 2 Anubias coffefolia 2 Anubias cogenesis or Frazer 3 Java fern 2 Java lace fern 3 African Bolbitis fern 3 portions Java moss 12 assorted small Cryptocorynes ------------------------------------------------- Do you have any experience with any of those plants??  Are they really hardy kind of plants??  What about value for money??  Do you think I should go for package 1 or package 2?  I want to decorate my 72 gallon well with plants...do you think package 1 will be enough??  Or will package 2 be too much for my tank?? <I like heavily planted tank so would probably go for package two myself. I've tried many of those plants and have had good luck with them. The one thing I would do if it were me, order whichever package you like but ask them to leave out the Java Moss (or see if they'll sub something else for it) or just throw it away when it gets there. Java moss grows really fast and can rapidly take over an entire tank. I spent hours trying to clean my plants of the stuff and ended up having to replace many of them because the moss had taken over so bad.> I'm also reading about rinsing of the fluorite and I have been hearing allot of people complaining about it - the fluorite will turn your water cloudy...Is this true???  Any comments? <Unfortunately, it's very true so rinse it extremely well. It's still probably going to turn your tank water a little murky but that will soon settle and not cause any problems.> Thanks for your input/feedback. Paul <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: new 72-gallon tank setup Hi Ronni, <Good morning Paul!> Thanks for replying to my email so quickly.  I didn't expect such a quick response.  By the way, how does the people wetwebmedia get to answer all those tons of questions from people all around the world??  You must get thousands of emails each day. <You happened to send in your message when I was online answering my messages. :o) We don't get thousands of messages daily but we do get quite a few. At last count we are averaging somewhere around 10,000 unique ISP hits a day but only a small portion of those people write in, many others stop by to look something up or read the daily FAQ's. As it is it's taking all of us to keep up but it's a labor of love, I don't think any of us would give up doing this.> Today is overcast.  The temperature is about 10 degrees Celsius...don't know what the Fahrenheit temperature is <That works out to about 50F. There's great conversion site at http://hemsidor.torget.se/users/b/bohjohan/convert/conv_e.htm I use it all the time to convert sizes, weights, and temps.> LUCKY YOU!!!!  How come I never get birthday gifts like that?? :)) <LOL! It took a lot of begging and pleading on my part.> Hmmm....you make me wonder again if I should use just an inch of organic soil as my base.  Can I have a problem having too much nutrients in my substrate....using soil + fluorite?? <I was looking around this morning and AquaBotanic has a good article on getting started with a planted tank. After reading it (http://hemsidor.torget.se/users/b/bohjohan/convert/conv_e.htm) I would suggest staying away from the soil. Yes, too many nutrients can be a problem. At the very least they can cause huge algae problems and if they are too high they can cause problems for your fish as well.> Okay, no peat moss for me then <Good choice.> I'll see if I can exchange one of the lights <If not, you should be fine with these.> WOW!!  No question about it....marine tank is the way to go <I'm still an oddball though, especially here on WWM. I love my marine tanks and am glad I finally set them up but my FW tanks are still my favorites. It probably has something to do with expense and the hardiness of most FW fish.> Ok, I'll try to send some pics when I get the tank all setup and I'll probably have to write to you again for other questions <Feel free to write to us at any time.> Here in Toronto, Canada, we don't really have a good supplier of aquatic plants.  Would you recommend that I order from the US??  Is it safe?  Is it guaranteed?  After transportation, will the plants be able to survive? Can you provide me of some reputable sites? <I don't know about shipping to Canada. I know it can be done but I've heard varying reports of charges from the border. Safety should be fine as long as you quarantine all new stock, even plants. And also see if you can get yourself some Lime-It, it's a great cleansing product for live plants and many retailers carry it. If I were you I would order from the established sites, The Krib -- www.thekrib.com -- and Aqua Botanic - http://www.aquabotanic.com/ - are both very reputable. I have personally ordered from Aqua Botanic a couple of years ago and was very pleased with my plants.> I would also like to setup my tank to have the back slightly higher than the front....What would you suggest using to keep the gravel slightly higher than the front of the tank??? <Really, if you just slope the gravel it should stay that way without being propped or held in place.> Thanks. Paul <Have a great day! Ronni>

Re: clown loaches and snails Hi gang, <Greetings!> I have a planted tank with several medium (3") clown loaches...initially stocked to control snail stowaways on plants, which they do well.  In fact, not only have the loaches become one of my favorite fishes in all my tanks, I actually breed and raise Ramshorn snails just so I can give them a treat a few times a month!  =) <I'm sure they love this, I do it myself with my clowns.> My question:  I have a couple LARGE (2" or so) Gold Inca (not exactly sure of the species) snails in need of a home.  They've been housed in my quarantine tank for nearly a year, so I doubt introducing pathogens would pose a risk to the tank, however, would the clown loaches pose a risk to these big guys? <Very possibly. I know I've seen clowns eat snails that were over an inch in size so I'd be afraid to try it even with snails as large as yours.> Also... now that I have your attention, hehe.  What are some species of plants (if any) that would do OK in a moderately aerated tank?   I'm not looking to win any awards in these tanks, just to add some "live" decorations. <A lot would depend on your lighting. Some of my favorites for moderately lit, moderately aerated tanks are Anacharis (this one is rumored to be touchy but I've always had good luck with it), Elodea, and Anubias.> Thanks a bunch, and keep up the good work on WWM! Cheers, Michael <Thank you and you're welcome! Ronni>

Aquarium Plants 3/31/03 I have some Dwarf Sagittaria available to a good home.  Also a bit of  Sunset Hygro (Hygrophila polysperma), some moneywort (Bacopa monnieri). Have some Cryptocoryne Wendtii  but only for trade. Bob Alston 918.494.4913 BobAlston9@Aol.com <Okay to post your number, email address? Have you looked to posting your offer on our chatforum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ ? Bob Fenner>

Re: It's a jungle in there! Hi Ronni, I threw out the Mondo grass before it did any harm <Good idea> I moved the large Bacopa to the right of the tank- however, it sort of hides the wendtii green I have behind it. I know Bacopa needs more light but now am wondering if I should move the two. <If you like the way it looks, leave it and see how the plants do in those spots.> In the left corner the first plant is a Hygrophila polysperma, has lots yellow lower leaves, hope it acclimates soon <I've tried Hygro a couple of times and it's never done well for me. Never could figure out why though, maybe you'll have better luck.> Behind it is another piece of Bacopa. There are java ferns on the driftwood centerpiece. <I love the looks of this!> I want to add a Val.s spiralis plant behind the driftwood for height- maybe 2 small skinny ones- or maybe one. The only other thing that is ugly is the long black filter column <It looks like your tank is fairly tall, at least 15' or so? You might be able to put some of the Crinum onions in front of the tube, I have these in my tank and they do a pretty good job of hiding it (although I'd like a couple of more). You'd probably have to trim them fairly frequently though as the get quite long very fast.> I want to add a windelov fern and attach to driftwood left corner- haven't found a store that will sell only one plant. AquaBotanic has tropicus, which is too big and not as nice and someplace called petSwarehouse has it, but only sells in groups of 12. <Maybe you could get them, keep what you want and then resell the rest on eBay or Aquabid? BTW, where did you get your driftwood pieces? I've been looking for some and those look really nice!> QT- no idea what that is, then read your site, oh my! I have been washing off plants and adding direct, and acclimating fish (float bag, add water, etc) and scooping them in. <Ack! Never a good idea. People have wiped out their entire systems by not quarantining new arrivals.> I am suppose to get a 6 gallon eclipse from manufacturer, since this is the tank that exploded, and could use that as QT- but please tell me it doesn't have to be on all the time- couldn't do it.   <Nope, doesn't need to be set up all the time. A day or two before you get new stock, set the QT tank up with water and filtration material from your main tank. Don't put any gravel or anything in the QT, it's not needed. Just a piece of PVC pipe or something for the fish to hide in.> Also, that tank might take up to 6 weeks to come in- and I want to add otos by end of week. Any thoughts?   <Maybe get just a small 1-2 gallon tank to keep on hand for QT'ing new arrivals? It needs to have filtration of some sort but that's it. You should be able to get one for $10-$20 max.> This one fish store is actually very good, lots of recs, etc., Absolutely Fish in Clifton NJ. So I have to hope that that will be ok. Thanks, Rosa <That's good that you have a nice LFS, many of them aren't so great. If they're easy to deal with, they may let you put a deposit on the fish and leave them there until you know they are disease free. Many places won't do this though because they are constantly getting new arrivals and need the room. Ronni>

Re: Bubble wand- is it necessary? Hi Ronni- thanks so much for quick response!! <You're very welcome!> Two more questions, ok? <Sure!!> Since this is new planted tank for me, first time at it, can you think of any other plants I can add before I start with fish? Vallisneria Spiralis? Pennywort or maybe a Java Lace Fern? I want to add some height and more room for fish to swim through plants.... <Some of my favorites for adding height with easy to grow plants are Anacharis and Crinum 'Onion' plants. The Anacharis is rumored to be a little tough but I've tried it in numerous different situations and it's always grown wonderfully. It can easily reach heights of 2 feet. The Crinum is my absolute all time favorite FW plant. Mine have reached lengths of over 5 feet and swirl on the waters surface. They are pickier about light but will live in even poor lighting and grow very rapidly in high light. Anubias is another very hardy plant that can grow fairly tall. Java fern and Corkscrew Val would be good choices for you also, just be sure to stay away from java moss as it can rapidly spread and take over a tank.> With water changes and plants--do I still 'dig' into the gravel? Seems harder now with the plants, especially since they are not established. Any tips on that? <You should still vacuum the gravel but probably not as frequently. Just kind of work your way around the plants, being careful not to disturb the rooting process. These plants are all pretty tough though.> Last, should I add fish first and then otos and shrimp? I am worried that since plants are not established there will not be much for them to munch on. I know I can give algae wafers but I read that if I do that too often, they get lazy and don't eat algae--any truth to that. <I've never had this problem, I supplement all of mine with wafers and they still keep my tanks sparkling. But with the fish you have, it wouldn't go hurt to go ahead and wait. You shouldn't have any aggression problems even if you add these guys later.> I liked the idea of barbs and rummy tetras- I think they are cuter. What about a five banded barb instead of cherry barb? I read they are less likely to 'fin nip'. Would they be a better choice than the cherry barbs? <I don't have any experience with the Banded Barbs but I have 3 Cherries in with my Tetras and have no problems with fin nipping. If you go with the Cherries, do try to get them when they're young and this should help. The young ones are a bright red color, the older ones fade to a brown with stripes.> Thanks SO VERY MUCH for quick response. I am off for fish store tomorrow and will let you know how it all works out. I'm glad I found your site- have gotten a ton of 'bad' advice so far and would like to keep the fish I have.... Best, Rosa <Do keep me posted. It sounds like your tank is going to be similar to my 60 gallon. It's a beautiful setup and never fails to get compliments. I'd also love to see some pictures of it once it's completed. Ronni>

Baby Plants (Aponogetons) Hello,  I found a bunch of baby Aponogeton plants in my 29 gal. tank and I am not sure what I did right to have this happen.  I have Crispus and Undulatus in the same tank.  I do remember letting a flower grow out of the water and it be seemed to have shells on it. <Neat... sounds like these seeds germinated> Then I stuck it back in the tank.  The filter system was very slow at that time...I am not using co2, just the old way of having the fish provide the co2. <Still works> As I am just starting back in live plants from a number of years of using plastic I started with the bulb plants as they always seem to grow fast and easily. <Yes... Aponogetons are great for this> In the 25 years or so that I have grown these plants, I never got babies.  The seedlings are about 1 inch or so and I did find other seed sprouting when I dug up the tank to get the worst of the algae out and plant more plants to try to get a better balance going. <A great technique> Any help will be appreciated.  I enjoy your site and welcome all the info. <Mmmm, just keep "doing what you're doing"... these plants should grow their own bulbs... Do you pull them out, let them "rest" after a few months? Bob Fenner> Thanks, Vicki  

Riccia Plants Hello, My name is Alex, i live in N.Y and i searched a lot of websites about the Riccia fluitans Plant. It seems impossible to buy. I saw even in your website this plant is for sale. Please let me know how i should order and why everybody tells me it is impossible to find here because it is a tropical plant. <Please contact the etailers of plants listed on the WetWebMedia.com Links Pages. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Alex

Re: Plant questions Hi Bob! Well, I called Arizona Aquatic Gardens on P-F's suggestion (many moons ago in a brackish thread), and found out they've been wanting to do a brackish "package" for a few years... sent the guy I talked to over to your web site, and he was impressed. For the 30g, here's the list he came up with after I told him which plants I was interested in: Background: 2 Hornwort 2 wisteria 6 Val. spiralis 8 Val. americana 2 Asian Ambulia Midground: 2 Anacharis 10 Java ferns 6 Aponogeton crispus (I requested bulbs, since they're a lot cheaper) <Very much> Foreground: 20 dwarf Sagittaria 2 Stargrass 2 pennywort Looking back over this list and comparing it with the various notes I have, I'm thinking I'll make a few changes: - take out the Stargrass and pennywort <I would> - add a couple of Ceratopteris - maybe add some pygmy/narrow leaf chain swords - decrease the Java ferns and increase the crispus (to cut the costs a bit -- Java ferns are $3 each and crispus bulbs are 50c each!) <Cheap> Any further suggestions? (BTW, he ixnayed the Mexican oak-leaf plant as being difficult to grow. ) (BTW 2: with all the info about puffers on the brackish plant FAQs page, you might want to add a link from the freshwater puffers page! :-) <Thanks for this... better do right now. Done. Bob Fenner>> Thanks!! --Ananda

Air Ferns Hi, I'm doing a science experiment on Sertularia argenta and preservatives. Do you have any information on Sertularia argenta? Rob Moeller <Sertularia argentea Linnaeus 1758? Air "Ferns" (actually tissue grade animals, hydrozoans) are almost unknown to me. Unfortunately they have been utilized (treated, colored) as "ornamental plants" for aquariums. Bob Fenner> Re: Air Ferns Thank you for your help. I think the class is Hydrozoa and the phylum is Cnidaria. I am looking for the order and family. I am leading toward the order being Hydrocorallina?  <No, Order Hydroida or Thecata... depending on differing schema.> Would you know the order and the family. <Sertulariidae according to my references. Bob Fenner> Thank you again. Rob Moeller

Lilaeopsis sp mauritius I have tried in vain to find a source in the US for Lilaeopsis sp mauritius. Any suggestions? <I would posit the same question on The Aquarium Gardener's listserv, to the etailers listed on our Links Pages who deal in live plants> It seems strange that most plants offered for sale require low pH and soft water, and yet all waters west of the Mississippi are hard and 7+ pH. Is there a San Diego area based aquarium plant farm as opposed to all the Florida firms with their super soft water? <There was one... of good size... sort of like a local Tropica, Dennerle... wholesale only... now gone. Do know some folks who are major hobbyist growing types. Will ask them if they have this to go. Bob Fenner> Regards, Ron Whitefountain Polson, Montana

Arizona Aquatic Gardens Hi Bob, PF here. I noticed this company wasn't on the links page. Being that you're a proponent of planted FW setups, I thought you might want to check them out. <Thanks much Michael. Do know of these folks... just one of many, many oversights, "haven't gotten to yet" items.> I ordered from them on several occasions and was very happy with what I got. Even the little Corbicula fluminea (golden clams) did well, I ordered a dozen only lost one in shipping and had 3 fatalities over the 5 months they were in my tank. I've heard from others that sometimes they get only 1 or 2 alive out of that many. <Yes, often none> I also ordered the large SAE who did very well in my system, and all my plants did very well also. I did have a hard time with the Amano shrimp, but then I think they had problems with the water hardness, though nothing else did. http://www.azgardens.com Hope all is well with you and yours, Mike <Will add two days hence. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Hygrophila polysperma Hi Rob, I've been having problems with my Hygrophila polysperma recently. I have 3 40watt tubes in my 170L tank and the h. polysperma is growing well at the top near the light but lower down the leaves have small black holes in them and seem a little thinner. <Yes... a not uncommon situation with "Hygros" in aquarium use> I've recently started fertilizing with Dupla plant and Duplaplant 24 in hopes to rectify this. <A good choice in complete fertilizers> What advice can you give me? <Do check on the "age" of your fluorescents... they may be "too old" (phase shifted, lost luminosity), and read over our site (WetWebMedia) and links to "the Krib" re use of carbon dioxide and nitrates in planted aquariums. You have a deficiency syndrome going here... that is easily solved once identified. Bob Fenner> Keith :)

Looking For Live Plants, the Best Ones For Use Where can I get good freshwater plants for my aquarium, any good websites? What are the best plants for a new aquarium? <Please read through "Plant Index" on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com and the Links Page there... a section on "Plants" is there. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Steven Ho

Hello (offer of sale of aquatic plants, add link) Do you grow or sell Cyrtosperma, Lagenandra as well as other aroids? <The only aroids we have are Magnolias... no my friend, no live anything for sale.> I collect them and have been looking for a place that would sell them. THANKS <Will post your Araceae offerings on our site, www.WetWebMedia.com just the same. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> www.angelfire.com/ky2/bwilliams

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