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Related FAQs: House Plants not for the Aquarium Garden,

Related Articles: Live Plants for Aquariums, Editorial: Why Do Retailers Sell Non-Aquatic Plants by Neale Monks,

/The Aquarium Gardener Series

Caveat Emptor: Don't Buy Non-Aquatic Plants For Aquaria!

By Bob Fenner

Underwater Dracenas? Not!

Have you ever wondered why many of the plants offered to the aquarium hobbyist are not described in aquatic plant books? Ever consider why live plants are so much more popular in Europe and the Far East? Are you surprised at the similarity of some house plants and plants sold at fish stores? Ever had "no luck" with "aquatic" plants no matter what you tried?

    The main reason this part of our hobby doesn't grow, in my opinion, is the prevalence of an unscrupulous practice of selling non-aquatic plants for underwater use. No one can keep these plants successfully because they are unsuitable for aquariums.

    For years I have sat by thinking this practice would die out with the common-sense growth in the industry and hobby; nolonger. Some plant source lists contain less than half truly aquatic plants!

A "Growing/Non-Growing" List of Non-Aquatic "Aquarium Plants":

Sanderianas; the popular corn plants


Dracenas: light, dark,variegated and "compacta"

Spathophyllums; sometimes sold as Brazilian (?) swords

"Underwater Palms"

Mondo Grass; cheaper by the flat from your local nursery

Purple and silver waffle

White and Pink Lace

Aluminum Plants

Black Pagoda

Dragon's Tongue

So-called "Hedges"

Baby Doll

Umbrella Pines

Ponga "swords"

Prayer plants; you don't have one with this plant

Princess Pines; our favorite; actually a North American Club Moss cutting.

There are unfortunately many other names and species used geographically, across the country.

    Some folks will argue that some of these plants are useful as aquarium "decorations"; that due to their toughness and bad-taste/texture, cichlids, silver-dollars and other plant eating and destroyers leave them alone. Others will argue that a few weeks to a couple of months ornament is enough to expect.

   What does that make our hobby?

    We have met with mixed results in suggesting to the trade that this practice be abandoned; it will no doubt persist until it is uneconomical. Therefore, we call on the hobbyists to bring about this change.

    Be an informed consumer. Consult your own and your fish society's library and members for useful information. Many of them have instituted Horticultural Award Programs. Much like Breeder's Award Programs for fishes, these serve to recognize and promote excellence in the field of plant propagation.

    Approach your local shop. Challenge them to provide you with information regarding the identity, life history and usefulness of their aquatic plants.   Frequent shops that demonstrate a professional attitude by boycotting "underwater house-plants".

There are many species and varieties of truly suitable aquarium plants. These are no more unavailable or expensive than those that are doomed to die and fall apart underwater.


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