Another cracking floating plant for aquariums

We’re really loving floating plants – they not only look good but offer shelter to fish in two ways – shelter from very bright light above them and somewhere to rest. Small fish can in particular rest in the trailing roots that floating plants offer, and odd as it seems, some roots can actually look quite attractive. I think the main reason is that they give your tank a very natural look as floating plants would be very common in the wild.

Ultimately we’re trying to replicate what nature offers and no better way than by offering floating plants. The latest one we have available is called Trapa natans – it’s been around for a long time throughout Europe and Asia (Eurasia) and if you like the sound of it you can find it here Trapa natans.

trapa natans

Also check out our other post on floating plants which details 4 others by clicking here.

Which plants will my fish not eat?

I was asked this question twice this morning – not sure why but felt it promoted a quick blog post.

If your fish eat plants, you are massively restricted with regards to the plants that you will ever grow and keep in your tank. So you have 2 choices:

  1. move the fish on to someone who wants your fish
  2. only keep 2 species of plants

I know which choice I would have! But if yours is the second option Anubias and Microsoriums are the only species of plants I know that tend to be avoided. These plants either taste horrible or are simply too tough to digest. Who knows which one!

You can find all the anubias here and the microsoriums here.

Does your aquarium have too much light?

I suspect in many cases it does.

The market is definitely light obsessed and that is a guarantee. Whilst I would agree the more light you have the potential for better growth exists, you have to balance that off with everything else going on in your tank at the moment.

Let’s look into powerful lighting now and what might be causing you issues. LEDs are pummelling the market and rightly so – they are very effective, cheap to run and pack a punch in terms of lighting, but the BIG question is how much light does your tank need and when you pummel your tank with light, are you increasing everything else like fertilisers, CO2, water changes, water circulation etc? I know when I first started using more powerful lighting, I didn’t make this correlation and very quickly ran into troubles, and I’m keen for you to avoid the mistakes I initially made.

Before I go into this a little more, let’s take a trip down memory lane. In the days before modern lighting, hobbyists would illuminate their tanks with T12 lights – that sounds funny just writing it! T12s were clunky, chunky and not particularly effective and were soon superseded by T8s which are still sold in the market today. When Takashi Amano (google his name if you don’t know who he is) was creating wonderful aquascapes in the late 80s and early 90s he used huge amounts of T8s over his tanks and I remember reading (being slightly astonished) that he was using 12 x T8s over a 200cm tank. I just couldn’t believe it. I was running 2 x T8s over my 120cm tank… But it probably won’t surprise you that back then, algae issues weren’t really there. Sure people got algae but it wasn’t anything like it is now. Saying that, I can bet you anything you have some sort of algae battle going on in your tank, whether it be hair algae, brush algae, brown algae – the list is endless. But I also suspect you may have quite a lot of light in your tank; you may have even introduced LED lighting hoping that was the answer to some of your aquascaping prayers in terms of plant growth. So the question begs – why weren’t hobbyists getting the algae issues back in the day that they are today? The simple answer is most probably down to lighting.

T8 lights are not particularly powerful and this is why to get real success, you had to use quite a few (in Takashi Amanos tank, 12). Today, the majority of hobbyists use T5s which are more powerful and as a result you need less of them. Juwel tanks for example use T5 lighting – this is what people want and Juwel have taken note and changed their manufacturing. We all want more light yet most of us struggle to handle it. T8s will struggle to penetrate water and if your tank is any more than 30cm you will be familiar with this. So is more light better? This really depends on what you are trying to achieve.

You only need to do a little browsing online to see lots of wonderful aquariums and some are super dooper – you know the type that really has the X factor. You look at it and think I WANT IT!!! You compare your tank to theirs and one main difference is the amount of light they have to yours. They’re probably using a lot of light, LEDs and T5s – some may even use metal halides. But the difference is, the tanks you see in magazines that impress you, the owners of these tanks aren’t new to the hobby. They have probably had a very rocky road to get to where they are now and they certainly know a lot more about lighting than they did at the beginning. They will have failed many times beforehand. They also know how to create a balancing act and that high lighting means high everything else because you can’t have one without the other.

You’re probably reading this wondering about your tank and if you do have too much light? If you are, you have one of two choices. You either reduce your lighting intensity by elevating the lighting from where it is now, or you crank things up a touch and you start raising your game.

High lighting is the equivalent of putting your foot on the accelerator. In a fast car, you need better than average breaks otherwise the higher the speed you are travelling at, the harder your breaks have to work in order to stop yourself from crashing. In the aquascaping world, you can crash very easily – your tank can quickly become full of algae – this happens fast because you have high lighting (fast car analogy). Slow things down a bit (take your foot off the gas) and you have more chance to react to any changes that you are making and how your plants are reacting to what you are or have done. Remember in this game we want to cruise – we want to arrive without crashing, we want to enjoy the journey, look out the window and appreciate the views. We’re not racing because we’re not in a rush and we know what happens if we go too fast right?!

So my final nugget of the day is this – high lighting is only suited to hobbyists who are experienced. Specifically those who have tried many times and failed and tried again. They got there in the end because they learnt so much and they know the balance is a fine one. They started slowly and so must you. Keep your lighting down to a minimum, make sure the intensity is not too high & that way you won’t be in for any surprises. Any changes that you do make will be slow and steady which is what the plants want anyway.

Richard

Propagating aquarium plants.

So your wonderful plants have arrived from us and you’re wondering (perhaps) what to do with all the cuttings/trimmings you get from your plants. Some will grow really fast and rather than chucking them in the compost bin, you could propagate them. This is essentially what commercial growers do and what you can do too – it’s fairly simple for plants that live under water (above water is slightly harder but that’s something for another day!). Let’s assume you have a nice stem like this one (Alternanthera roseafolia).

Alternanthera rosaefolia

This plant grows pretty quickly and as soon as it’s getting a bit too long, hack it in half and I mean literally in half. Chopping it 50% at a time makes the plant grow very bushy and more attractive, and whatever you trim back simply plants straight into the substrate – it’s as simple as that. You can take cuttings from the side of stem plants but they are never as strong as the one’s from the top. Wherever you do trim, you’ll get a couple of buds forming there and this is why the plant can become very bushy as every time you trim, two more buds form.

Other plants will have what’s called Advantageous Plantlets. This asexual reproduction occurs when small plantlets form on the main plant – I see this quite a lot with plants from the Bacopa family. Let them grow for a while so they are a good couple of inches long and then cut them off with a pair of scissors and replant. I’ve found if you do this when they are too young and too short, they melt and die so give them a bit of time to grow  and get strong.

Another asexual way of reproduction you may see with your plants is what’s known as  offsets. This very simple method is similar to runners (which is when the plant literally throws off runners), except offsets grow off the main part of the plant but in particular , exceptionally close to it – they don’t wonder like runners do. You can pick offsets off the plant and then place them into your substrate and away they go! Again, don’t pick them when they are too young as they may die off. Similarly if you let them grow for longer they quite often fall off on their own, land in the substrate and then start growing again.

Biology lesson over :)

how to plant aquarium plants

So I’ve chosen this question as I know A LOT of you who are new to planted aquariums, wonder how to plant aquarium plants. So I wanted to cut straight to the point and I have combined this post with a YouTube clip I made sometime ago now.

1) assuming you have purchased the plants from us, there is no need to clean under tap water – our plants DO NOT contain any pesticides or anything that would harm you tank inhabitants. So relax about that one :)

2) Remove the plant from the plastic pot and if you can please recycle the pot as most recycling centres now accept them.

3) You are now looking at your plants and on the bottom of it is rockwool. This is totally inert and safe for your tank. It’s used so that the plants can root into. The easiest way to remove rockwool is to physically remove what you can by hand, and the remainder run it under tap water and it comes off very easily that way. If you are using plants such as Hemianthus then I recommend that you leave about 10mm of rockwool as this will help to anchor the plant down as they are very light and likely to bob up to the surface otherwise. For those of you unsure about this plant – it looks like this:

Hemianthus callitrichoides

4) You now need to split your plant into several sections (if possible). Using Heminathus as an example, you can cut this with scissors into 5-6 pieces. Other plants like cryptocorynes you will be able to gently tease apart and  plant as 4-5 new plants. But, not all plants can be split – most Echinodorus are only one plant and that is how they will stay.

5) Some plants will have a decent root structure to them, others will not. If the roots are big and you find they will get in the way, simply cut them off with scissors. Leave about 20mm – you will find this does not effect plants at all and can actually have the reverse effect and create positive plant growth. A bit like stemmed flowers – they’re always trimmed at the base before putting in water to improve nutrient uptake and the same goes for aquarium plants.

6) So you’ve now removed the pot, removed rockwool (if necessary), split the plant and trimmed the roots, all you need to do is plant into your substrate. You need to make sure you give your plants room to grow so for smaller plants give them at least 30mm between each plant. With larger plants, realise that they will grow a lot more and spread out so bare this in mind. Stem plants you can plant fairly close together but bare in mind if insufficient light makes it down to the bottom, then the leaves will fall off and you’ll be left with strange looking plants. Push your plants about 50mm into the substrate and I recommend using tweesers for this – it makes the job so much tidier.

7) Now your plants are in place, let them settle in. Try and avoid moving them and certainly don’t trim them for at least 2 weeks. They need to become acclimatised to their new world – which may be dramatically different to their old one. It’s your job to make sure you give them what they need, and in most cases that’s lots of CO2, lots of fertilisers and plenty of water changes.

Any questions? Ask away :)

How to diffuse CO2 like a pro

I’m regularly asked about CO2 diffusion, what works best and what would I recommend and the answer is always the same. If you have a CO2 regulator that allows you to adjust your bar pressure to 3 or higher, then Easy Aqua Atomisers are the best. They win hands down every day without fail. And what’s more they only cost just over a tenner and are available in small or large varieties.

Not only are these atomiser cheap, but they’re also economical in the amount of gas  you need. They diffuse CO2 better than any other diffuser I have ever used by creating tiny CO2 bubbles – you actually need less gas when compared to a glass diffuser for example. You see when you’re using an Easy Aqua atomiser, the bubbles are so small they literally hang in the water. They don’t shoot up to the surface which means it’s really easy to push the CO2 around the tank. And the longer the bubbles stay in contact with water, the better the CO2 diffusion and the better your plants will grow. Simple heh :)

Check out the video below to see what I mean.

Ever seen microsorium grown on Lava Rock?

It looks great. Super fresh, super healthy and (the best bit) super easy to grow! You can position these rocks anywhere and that is part of their charm. The plant itself has been growing for a good 6 months and you will see when it arrives with you that all the roots are embedded onto the rock itself (in fact this is what makes lava rock so good for plants).

microsorium-on-wood-small

microsorium on lava rock

You can literally place these wherever you want. Use them to cover up filters or maybe fill in a gap. Which ever place you decide, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.

Currently available in 2 sizes – click on the pictures to take you right to the product :)