Limnophilia Aromatica – a stunning aquatic plant

This has got to be one of my all time favourite plants, particularly now as it’s always in flower due to our new hydroponics set up. This plant really seems to be loving the conditions and what most hobbyists miss is the smell!! It’s absolutely lovely but sadly all this is lost once submerged :( In Vietnam the leaves are actually used as a spice and if you infuse it in hot water you can make yourself some rather tasty tea. If you purchase it from us, make sure you have a good smell first.

A stunning plant

You can clearly see from the picture above the type of flowers that come out when this plant is grown immersed. But as hobbyist grow this plant submersed, lets get onto some finer details about this plant and how to keep it.

Limnophilia Aromatica is not a difficult plant to keep but it does have a few pre-requisites that you must follow. It loves nutrients so plenty of macros (nitrates and phosphates), it’s also rather fond of CO2 so make sure you give plenty. If you plant in a decent substrate expect it to put down lots of roots and of course if it grows to the top of your aquarium, expect flowers. In order to keep this plant from becoming leggy, trim hard and then replant the trimmings into your substrate being careful that you don’t plant too close to each other. It won’t appreciate any shadows and this is main reason why it prefers bright lighting.

Place Limnophilia Aromatica at the background of your aquarium as it grows fast and tall – expect 50cm easily but you can of course reduce this by heavy trimming. Like most stem plants they always look better together so when investing in this plant choose 3 pots or more for the most dramatic of effects. Planting it behind rocks is often a clever way to give real impact, especially with the colour transformation this plant will go through when it’s happy growing underwater.

CO2 Solenoid Valve For Planted Aquariums

If you’re running a high tech CO2 tank, this means you already have pressurised gas. Your choice so far has been excellent because the merits of running CO2 far outweigh the negatives, particularly if you are after lushous plant growth. Plants really need CO2 in order to flourish.

But not everyone who runs CO2 actually has a solenoid valve.This always puzzles me because of the amount of gas wasted in money could easily be retrieved by investing in a solenoid.

If you’re wondering what a solenoid valve does, it allows gas to flow, or not to flow through it. A fairly straight forward piece of equipment that can be used with any CO2 system. When using a solenoid valve, the most common way of using it is plugging it into the timer which your lights use. The reason for this is quite simple:

your plants don’t use CO2 when the lighting is off…

So why waste it? Some hobbyists will run it 24/7 to avoid certain plants from melting like crytps but I’ve never encountered these sort of problems and as a result can’t see the reasoning for it. In addition running CO2 all day and all night can cause fish severe problems if your plants are not producing enough O2 during daylight hours. The excess CO2 can make your fish suffocate (I have seen this before).

How to fit: A solenoid valve fits inline so the set up would be simple if you were considering improving your system. CO2 tubing which currently comes from your regulator would fit into your new solenoid and be secured safely. Then, attach a new piece of tubing to the opposite side of your solenoid attach a non return valve and then further down the line, your CO2 diffuser. The solenoid has a plug attached to that and when the power is on, gas is allowed to freely pass through the solenoid and when it’s turned off (at night) the valve shuts and gas cannot pass though (therefore saving your fish and saving wasted gas).

That’s all there is to it. A very simple and effective improvement to any existing CO2 system. We have a wide range of solenoids on the website.

Fire Red Shrimp

These shrimp are a little more unusual to the typical red shrimp that you may have seen in shops or our website and a little bit more attractive as I am sure you will agree. They’re a bit like Cherry Shrimp but just much redder (see below).

Making sure that you know what grade shrimp you are buying is paramount and this post is to give you the knowledge. So you know the shrimp is redder than a typical cherry, but by how much? Well, there are actually a few different grades of Cherry shrimp – did you know that?! Here’s a run down:

Cherry Shrimp – Mostly transparent with spots of red. Legs are always colourless.

Sakura – The whole body remains fairly red, except the lower part of its body which tend to be striped.

High Grade Sakura – Almost red with only a few cracks on its body and legs. Some can appear slightly orange.

Fire Red - Entirely red with no obvious cracks on the body or legs. The key to this shrimp is the legs are all red.

We only grade our red shrimp at the moment as Cherry Shrimp or Fire Red Shrimp. I don’t believe the market is ready for other grades of cherries at the moment so we’ve just broken it down into two which avoids confusion – this means some of you when purchasing Cherry Shrimp from us may receive High Grade Sakura.

Fire Red Shrimp need the same care as the other shrimp we stock. They prefer slightly acidic water and a temperature of 22C. Give them high quality shrimp food from Genchem and you will find that given time, they will breed. Best to keep them on their own as they are part of the food chain.

Crystal Red Shrimp Grade A

We used to stock Crystal Red Grade A’s a long time ago but demand just wasn’t really there. Since then, the hobby has come on some what and now I believe the demand is beginning to grow and hobbyists are prepared to invest in quality live stock. It’s always exciting to see shrimp arrive, packed in their little bags all clinging onto the filter floss, waiting for their new home.

Crystal Red Shrimp (CRS) are growing in popularity due to their lovely colouration. The red and white banding on them is what makes them so very different to other shrimp and more importantly they really stand out in a planted aquarium. If you have ever seen Grade A or higher CRS you will know exactly what I mean. Today there are lots of different variants on the market of Grade A shrimps so the message I want to get across is what grade A represents and how you know if you are getting the ‘real macoy’. The best way to describe the banding on Grade A CRS is that you get a fairly decent white banding. By decent I mean, pretty good, far from perfect but the white stands out from the red and it looks reasonably solid. The higher the grade, the better the banding. Have a look at the picture below:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a Grade A CRS. If you invest in this type of shrimp from us this is what you will receive. You see how the white is fairly solid but not quite there. But don’t despair if you are looking to improve the white banding, then you can do so with Genchem White Pellet. We’ve been using this product on our CRS for 2 months now and the improvement is noticeable.

So are there any special requirements of CRS? Not especially but you have to make sure you treat them with a bit of caution. They are more sensitive than other shrimp because their gene pool is so much smaller than other shrimp such as Cherry or Tiger Shrimp. However we treat all of our shrimp the same way so don’t let it deter you. We feed them a broad range of foods and use the Genchem range of shrimp conditioners to get the best out of them. So if you’re thinking, maybe I should treat yourself today as you won’t regret it.You can see our CRS Grade A by clicking on this link.

If you’re looking for more information on grading and shrimp in general, I recommend having a look at Plantet Inverts.

How to Hardscape A Discus Tank

Watching aquascaping on YouTube can be very relaxing, especially when you see living art being created in front of your very eyes. Once in a while you see an exceptional aquascaper (normally well known) producing something that really catches your eye and makes you look at things from a slightly different perspective. Aquarium Design Group are no stranger to producing world class aquascapes and more and more I am seeing them designing hard scapes which I think are actually more difficult than aquascapes with plants. Once the scape is in place, you really have to be confident that the placement is right as there is no escaping! ADG nail this in the short clip below:

The clever placement of the wood and rock looks perfect and finishing it off with the discus truly creates a magical effect. If you would like to create a similar effect I recommend Manzanita Wood and Mini Landscape Rock.

I’d also love to hear your thoughts on the YouTube clip above :)

CO2 Regulator For Plants

If you’re a serious hobbyist and you use pressurised CO2, then you’re already heading in the right direction. Providing your plants with CO2 is a must if you want your plants to grow as nature intended – and if you want to grow foreground plants then it’s an absolute must.

In the past, it was difficult getting CO2 bottles refilled as businesses would only refill their own bottles for health and safety reasons. Frustrating but understandable. But like most things in life you can find solutions to problems and the answer was to use pub style CO2 bottles or fire extinguishers. These can be refilled easily and you can buy/rent them for very little money. So what sort of regulator should you use on a fire extinguisher? The answer is:

TMC V2 Pressure Regulator Pro with Solenoid Valve Din477

This regulator is terrific value for money as not only is it well made but also has two gauges, a non return valve and a solenoid valve which means you won’t be wasting any gas either. I do not believe in running gas 24/7 – I see little point in it and I have never found certain plants to melt (such as crypts) because of this. What I have seen is fish die due to a CO2 concentration being too high for the fish to be able to breath properly – if the CO2 had been turned off when the lights were off, this wouldn’t have happened. Regardless, the fact this regulator has a solenoid valve is simply a bonus. The key feature is that it fits any CO2 bottle with a connection size DIN 477 – this is the UK standard thread size.

So if you’re wondering if this is the right regulator for you, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Do I want to use a fire extinguisher or pub style CO2 bottle
  2. Do I want a solenoid valve attached to save gas (and money)
  3. Do I want a quality regulator that won’t let me down

If you have answered yes to all of the above. Click here, add the regulator to your basket and click check out.

Pogostemon Erectus – a foreground and background plant

This really is a cracking plant and new to the scene too, having only arrived about 6 months ago, and never seen before in the hobby. New plants are always exciting as it opens doors to new aquascapes…

Pogostemon Erectus is a fine leafed stem plant which has conifer likes stems (very unusual) which are bright green and vivid. Extremely eye catching, it becomes an instant focal point and one of the reasons it has shot to fame. Like all stem plants if you keep the lighting bright it ensures the plant stays low and compact making it a great plant if you’re looking for something on the foreground. Of course, you can still grow it as a background plant if your lighting is less powerful; expect it to grow up to 40cm in that case.

It’s a fairly easy easy plant to grow, but you need to make sure you have decent fertilisers and of course CO2 is always beneficial if you want to get the best from this plant. Failure to do this always results on algae taking hold and settling quickly of the leaves. Temperature wise, 22-28° C is recommended so this won’t cause problems for most of you. Always plant Pogostemon Erectus in a group of 3 pots or more as it will look best that way, and what is even more wonderful is watching it sway in the current – it’s quite mesmerising…

To see the complete range of our aquatic plants for planted aquariums, please click on this link.

Rotala Wallichii – a versatile plant

This is one of my all time favourite aquatic plants and I’m so pleased that some stock arrived today. Rotala Wallichii is an amazingly versatile plant and I know you will love it as much as me. Originating from South East Asia, it’s a well know plant in the hobby and comes from the Lythraceae family.

It’s not the easiest plant to grow but don’t let that deter you as the plus side to this plant by far out weigh the negative. However I must say that whenever I have grown this plant, I have never found it to be particularly taxing. Rotala Wallichii has very delicate stems and in order for it to stand up right it does need the support of water. The delicate leaves are very attractive and will sway in the current. Give this plant enough light and watch it turn a stunning red colour (in particular the tips). In fact this is probably why some hobbyists find this plant a bit tricky because they use very high lighting in order to change the colour, but then forget to increase their CO2 and fertilisers to suit.

In terms of size, Rotala Wallichii will grow up to about 30cm but I prefer to see it much shorter than this, and treat it like a foreground plant for the best effect. When you trim, you can use cut stems and replant so in no time you will have multiplied this plant. However, I still recommend that you invest in a few pots of this plant at a time to create the desired effect. To make sure this plant really flies (so to speak!) provide CO2 and you will be amazed at the plant growth. The CO2 will also provide the softer water which this plant prefers.

To see our complete range of aquatic plants which all come with a full root structure, please visit our potted plant section on our website.

Microsorium Pteropus Trident

This is a really lovely plant which I wanted to introduce to you. It’s a relatively new plant to us so it felt right to make a short blog post, detailing it so you know a little more about it.

Like all Microsoriums they come from the same family (Polypodiaceae) and all require fairly similar care – this is great news as it’s a straight forward plant to keep. Plant farms don’t need to do very much to grow this plant, and like us, we keep it emerged from water so that only the pot is 3/4 deep in a nutrient rich solution. Lighting is kept to a minimum and if you browse the web (or look at the clip below) you’ll notice that most of the ferns are kept in white tents which let some light through but not a lot. These plants, and many others too like a very humid environment and this helps to keep their leaves nice and green.

Microsorium Pteropus Trident is easy to reproduce – if you split the horizontal rhizome, you’ll create another plant. Incidentally because of the rhizome, this plant must only be tied to wood or rock – if you try and plant it in your substrate you’ll notice it rot quite quickly. The easiest way to tie it to wood or rock is by using Aqua Fine Line. Make sure when you tie it that it’s nice and tight so that it doesn’t float away. As this plant begins to grow you will find black spots under the leaves (you see this in garden ferns too). Don’t be alarmed though, your plant is not ill, what you are seeing are the reproductive organs called sporangia.

The leaf shape makes this plant a very attractive looking specimen. The leaves are elongated and fork off making it similar to the narrow leaf version (but a little nicer in my opinion). Compared to some potted plants, Trident is always a very very full pot so you know you’ll receive plenty of plant for your money :)

In terms of pH, it’s happy in almost anything (5-8) so this is another reason why it should do well in most planted aquariums. If you have fish which enjoy consuming plant matter, they will leave this plant alone (it’s a bit too tough for them…)

There’s little else to say about this plant apart from that it comes with our full recommendation and once you have it in your tank, you’ll love it.

For all our other potted plants, please visit our potted plant section and if you have any questions about this plant or maybe others, ask a question below.

Manzanita Bundles

Manzanita is the most popular wood at the moment and makes for creating the perfect planted aquarium in terms of aquascaping. The reason for this is simple, Manzanita is stylish, creative and steeped in history and every nook and cranny looks incredible. When you look at the wood in close detail, the colours are amazing along with the textures and there’s really nothing quite like it. Aquascaping with it is a breeze and you can transform a new scape into something that looks mature in no time whatsoever.

But one of the hardest aspects of aquascaping is the physical placement of wood and rock. In fact it’s probably harder than growing certain plants themselves as so much technique needs to be used to really ‘nail it’. But don’t dispair as we have an excellent solution…As an online business, he have to take pictures of all the wood we have on the site, otherwise how would you know what you are buying? So it make simply sense for us to take it a step further and actally take a picture of a group of manzanita wood, and we’re calling them bundles. We have carefully selected pieces that work together and would look great in a planted aquarium. We provide dimensions of the shortest and the largest pieces so you get the idea of what the other sizes are like. Manzanita bundles have been really popular so far so now is your chance to take a look at them in a bit more detail – maybe one might catch your eye :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to be a little more creative,you could always try placing a few pieces of mini landscape rocks at the bottom of the wood. Not only does this improve the transition between the two, but is also helps to anchor down any pieces that want to float.

For all our other pieces of manzanita, click on this link.

Supersized Driftwood for planted aquariums

If you have a large aquarium you may find it difficult to source decent pieces of driftwood to create that special aquascape. It’s hard finding pieces that fit your particular tank, maybe because most pieces just don’t look very nice.

We are now stocking very large pieces that we are calling Supersized because they are ideal for large tanks – those which are 200L and over. The pieces are very special with wonderful shapes. Many have pockets in which you could place aquatic soil such as Florabase and then put a plant straight in. You can also tie moss to it very easily.

We recommend with all large pieces of wood that you soak them in a large bucket for at least a week. The reason for this is because of the tannins that will come from it. Now if you don’t mind water that turns a tea colour, then no need to soak, but if you do prefer a tank that is clear, then stick the wood outside soaking for as long as you can. Tannins will only come out for so long, and then it’s fine to put it into your aquarium. Saying that, there’s no harm in putting it straight into your tank and all our wood has been cleaned and is safe for immediate use.

The benefits of using driftwood in a planted aquarium are that it creates immediate impact – something that a plant only tank often misses. it also provides a centre point and your eye will naturally be drawn to it. Fish and shrimp seem to appreciate it too and in no time will shrimp be crawling all over it eating and cleaning as they go.