All posts by Richard

I'm a massive planted aquarium fan sharing my knowledge. I've added stacks of information over the years on this blog and it's all 100% planted aquarium based. Crazy heh? If you've had a question, I can almost bet I've answered it on here so search through the posts before you ask. Check out the Ask Dr Richard section too.

Ahhhhh hair agae!! – Solution is here (part 2 of 2)

  1. Reduce your lighting intensity. This will limit the environmental pressures on your plants and decrease the strain they are undergoing. If you can, raise your lighting (height wise) so rather than it being a few inches above the water, it could be 10-12” maybe. If this is not possible (i.e. you have a hood and can’t move the lighting) reduce the number of light tubes you are running and cut it down by half. If you were using 4 tubes, use 2. If you were using 2, use 1 etc. In addition to the above, reduce your lighting duration to 6 hours per day.
  2. Add liquid carbon, such as Neutro CO2 – if you’re already adding it, increase the dose. You can increase this to double without any issues unless you have plants like riccia or vallis which don’t appreciate it. Liquid carbon is hostile to CO2 related algae but not only that, it offers carbon to the plant itself which it desperately needs. Hair algae often changes to a reddish type of colour and then to grey when exposed to higher dosages of liquid carbon (very satisfying to see). Another idea is when  performing your weekly water changes, find a small paint brush (which is new) and dip it into some liquid carbon. Then paint the plants which have been effected by the algae – leave it 10 minutes and then top back up with water. You can use this technique on wood if algae is also growing there.
  3. Increase your water changes and this goes for any types of algae. As soon as the algae monster shows up, perform more water changes (minimum of 30%) 2, 3 or 4 times per week – the more you do the better and your plants will love you for it (algae will hate you). Algae loves dirty water with lots of organics and broken down plant matter – invisible to you and I yet very visible to algae. But when you are using your syphon (or however you perform your water changes) make sure you get into every nook and cranny – don’t be lazy and syphon off the top 30% of water – that’s already clean; get right to the bottom and suck up all the debris around the rocks and bases of plants. Make sure your tank is really clean remembering that decomposing leaves break down into ammonia which feeds algae. You should be able to look into your tank and see around the base of plants easily. For some this is going to be hard work but keeping a clean tank is very important if you want success.

In conclusion, this combination of increased CO2 (pressurised and liquid), decreased lighting intensity and duration and increasing your water changes is the way to get rid of your hair algae. Not only that, your plants will begin to respond more positively too – the extra carbon you’re adding will be enormously beneficial to them and they will grow quicker, thicker and a lot more healthily. Lastly, finish off any last strands of algae with an old toothbrush. Twirling it round the algae and twisting as you go will help to remove any lasts stubborn strands. Masterclass over!


Ahhhhh – hair algae!! Solution is here (part 1 of 2)

Hair algae problems? Dr Richard can fix it 🙂

Here’s part 1 of 2 blog posts on it. Second part will be updated tomorrow.

Frustrating algae or what?! I think so…

It’s annoying right? Gets everywhere, looks horrible and grows so darn fast. I’ve written about this in my blog numerous times and spoken to countless customers about it. I know how much it can spoil an aquascape but more importantly I know how to fix it.
In order to fix anything, we need to know more about it. We need to know how it’s created, what can cause it and ultimately how to get rid of it. It’s worth mentioning that 95% of all algae is CO2 related. That’s right, you can fix most plant issues in the aquarium if you get your CO2 levels correct and this is something I have been banging out about for ages and you will hear me beating the drum again and again until it sticks. For those of you who are yet to invest in a CO2 system, now is your chance – if you want to deal with your algae head on and make your tank look spectacular you need pressurised CO2. Baring in mind that most algae is CO2 related you can see why having a pressurised set would be useful right? Good. And if you are already using CO2, you’re probably not using enough and your lighting is either too strong or on for too long. I hear lots of people ‘self diagnose’ and say it’s excess nutrients – this is a load of poppycock. Excess nutrients DO NOT cause algae. Lack or unstable CO2 levels, poor water movement, insufficient fertilisers, excess lighting and a lack of water changes do.

So now you know excess nutrients do not cause algae – this I can be sure about. I have loads of nitrates and phosphates in my planted aquarium and I never have hair algae unless something happens to my CO2 levels. With that in mind you need to crank up yours  (without killing your fish) and use a drop checker with bromo blue to monitor levels. If you’re not sure about drop checkers, have a look on our website and you will see the different types available. In a nutshell drop checkers all work in the same manner and monitor your CO2 levels. The solution within the drop checker starts at blue and then changes to green if you have the right amount of CO2 or yellow if you have too much. All you need to do is adjust your CO2 flow rate according to the colour change of your drop checker – it’s as simple as that. Get your CO2 right and algae issues are generally a thing on the past – get it wrong and you know the rest. But there are a few other tips I want to share with you:

(end of part 1 of blog post – second post made tomorrow!)

Keep more equipment out of your tank

So we know the general idea is to keep as much equipment out of view right? After all no one wants to look at equipment that doesn’t have to be in the tank. Same goes for diffusers and this is why the Neutro Inline Glass Diffuser is so great.

Made with laboratory glass, this inline diffuser comes in 2 sizes – 12mm and 16mm. I recommend placing these diffusers on the outlet pipes – some place them on the inlets for better diffusion but you end up cleaning them more.

To attach it to your tubing, warm it up with a hair drier and it slips on nice and easy. Similarly when it comes to cleaning them (and removal) get a hair drier on it again which makes the tubing easy to remove.Neutro Inline CO2 Diffuser 12mm

This bulb has pointed leaves

It’s been around for a long time but the Nymphaea stellata Bulb has always been a favourite. Not always available from commercial growers, I can only imagine it’s dormant at certain times of the year.

The leaves are attractive, generally red in colour and narrow to a point. Very similar to the Tiger lotus, but smaller and different shaped leaf. Simple to grow, you just drop it into your aquarium and in no time shoot will grow.

Find this plant on our website by clicking here.

Nymphaea stellata Bulb

Mother Natures insecticide

When you keep tropical plants in a tropical environment, you naturally get quite a few pests. This is inevitable – flies like the conditions of a tropical environment. Now I’m not comfortable killing flies – I know this may sound crazy but in general they don’t harm me and they don’t harm the plants. However sometimes there are too many or they lay their eggs and then the babies hatch, and then you’ve got real problems.

So I’ve implemented a plant that many of you will be familiar with, aka the Venus Fly Trap. As a young boy I loved these plants but could never keep them alive – that was totally my fault as I used to enjoy ticking the ‘feelers’ on the traps so that they would close. If you do this, the plant anticipates it will get something to eat, but sadly nothing. Do this more than a few times and you will kill it 🙁

But I’ve grown up now and know better. All this plant eats is flies. And if you look closely, the trap in the middle has actually closed and you can see the remains of a fly. So it’s doing its job which put a smile on my face today.

There’s a couple of leaves that have gone black and died, but the bulk of the plant is very healthy and active. I don’t know how many of these traps I will need for our tents but quite a few. Nevertheless I’m a lot more comfortable with they way they deal with flies, so I don’t have to.

Do you have a venus fly trap at home or maybe something similar you could suggest? I would love to hear about your experiences with them.Natures fly traps

Bacopa myriophylloides in flower

So it would seem that Bacopa myriophylloides is enjoying the conditions now and has treated me to just 2 single flowers this morning. A crisp pinky/white, but none the less very attractive. The stems are only about 15cm high at the moment so it’s a small plant, but a happy one! We’ve got about 30 of these in stock at the moment, so I wonder when the others might flower – would be great if they all did!IMG_0344 IMG_0345 IMG_0346

Limnophilia aromatica in flower

Here we have another very happy stem plant, and more lilac coloured flowers too – I wonder if this is a common theme in aquatic plants – I have seen white and lilac – maybe a yellow will show soon?

Limnophilia aromatica is a very easy stem plant – nice strong stems which are reddy brown and then rather soft green leaves. Easy on the eye, easy on the pocket. You can’t really go wrong with this beauty.

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Beautiful flowering aquatic plants

You know how much we love our plants here, and nothing puts a smile on our face more when the plants begin to flower. Not only is it delightful to see but it tells us a lot about the plant – i.e. it’s very very happy.

So I wanted to share this news with you. Today’s flowering plant is Hydrocotyle leucecephala and this is one of the easiest aquatic plants to grow underwater. Below are a few shots of it flowering (quite a nice round flower) and also an image of what they look like in groups (and yes they get tangled easily).

I’ll keep you posted on any other plants that flower!

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Tissue Culture Plants from Anubias in Italy

Due to the rising popularity of tissue cultured plants, I wanted to expand the range and offer some more plants that were a little different to what is available from Tropica.

Anubias which is a company based in Italy produce a very broad range of tissue cultured plants and some of them look pretty exciting. I also realise some of you may not have a clue what tissue culture plants are so here’s the definition:

Tissue culture (T/C) is a way to obtain perfect, sterile clones of a plant thanks to in vitro conditions, from a very small piece of a mother plant. T/C cultured plants are the best solution for many problems, for the aquarium enthusiasts.

Benefit for the aquarist:

  • The availability of plants generally avoided by plant nurseries, because difficult to grow emerged
  • Many T/C cultured species start growing very promptly once in a tank, faster than potted plants grown emerged
  • T/C plants are pesticide-free
  • T/C plants are algae spores-free
  • T/C plants don’t carry Lemna sp., snails, Hydra and any other unwanted organism
  • T/C plants are rockwool–free, so no contaminants or mechanic threats are carried into the tank

So there we have it. They’re pretty neat and as you can see from the above, sterile and free of all snails and algae. You can check out our range by clicking on this link.

Cryptocoryne petchi Pink CUP

have you seen our YouTube videos?

So I’m getting creative and producing high quality HD videos of our plants. This allows you (my lovely customers) to get a more in depth view of the plant you are currently admiring. And what better way to do this than a short clip.

Each one lasts about 90 seconds, and I’ve left a few notes on each plant for reference.

What do you think?

Fixated on iron…

I’m really surprised how iron focussed some people are. It’s rather worrying too. Problem is that so many manufacturers have banged on about it for some long, they’ve given the impression that it’s really important. So here’s some news for you:

iron is a trace element

That’s right – trace. That means it’s required in small quantities – not large quantities. Iron does not cause hair algae, it won’t make your plants grow better (on its own) and you really need to stop focusing on it so much.You’re also very unlikely to have only an iron deficiency, because nutrients are all generally linked.

Those of you who are wise will know that there are far more important things to be concerned about such as good water circulation, lighting on for no more than 8 hours per day, minimum 30% water change per week (and more if you are having algae issues) and adding quality fertilisers on a daily basis.

So does iron ever need to be dosed separately? You probably know the answer to this by now but for those of you who haven’t worked it out then no. You just need to add more of your main fertilisers, that’s all. Neutro T and Neutro+ cover this.

Enough said.

Not all plants are easy to grow…

Not all plants are easy to grow…

Yes, it’s true – some are and some aren’t. But if you decide on adding pressurised CO2, then those tricky plants become…not so tricky. To make that transition from easy plants, to difficult plants you need lots of CO2 better lighting and better water distribution with macro and micro nutrients. But here’s the flipper – when you improve one, you have to improve all of them. Step up CO2 and you have to tweak a few others. It’s no big deal but important that the right steps are taken – something people often overlook.

So what is easy then? An easy plant is one where you don’t really need to do much to succeed. You take it out of its pot, remove the rock wool and plant. Then in no time you’ll probably have some new shoots. An example of easy plant is Anubias nana.

You really don’t need to do much with this plant in order to grow – it’s even happy being tied to wood or rock.

Medium Difficulty – this is where it gets a little more interesting. The type of plant that falls into this category is one that prefers some type of CO2, (preferably the pressurised variety). As plants go up the scale of difficulty, in general they need more CO2, more light, more fertilisers and better water distribution. Lobelia cardinalis is one that falls under this category.

This plant (like all of our plants) is kept hydroponically and when we look at it in one of our grow tents, the leaves are dark green on the top and on the reverse, a deep purple (very nice). But you need intensive lighting for this plant to flourish so consider LED lighting or multiple T5 lights, then this plant will fly!!

Difficult Plants – The most tricky and challenging of all plants – and the key word really is challenging. Many have tried and failed very quickly but only because these plants allow little margin for error.

Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC for short) has to be the number one foregound plant. When you establish this plant and get it growing properly, it’s the definition of sheer delight. The tiny leaves (commonly known as baby tears) release O2 bubbles and your plant will literally be brimming with life.

Get it wrong and your HC will melt and disappear in front of your very eyes. To succeed the steps are simple – lots of CO2, medium to high light and lots of micro and macro nutrients. If you tick all the boxes and make sure CO2 bubbles are quite literally being pushed over and into this plant, it will grow quickly.


Not all plants are easy to grow but at the same time, if they were things would be a little boring wouldn’t they? Challenging plants like Hemianthus callictrichoides are difficult but at the same time, the most rewarding.

I always recommend to hobbyists that they start with plants that are straight forward and easy, do lots of research (so much available on google and our blog), build up your confidence levels and then move up the order of plants in terms of difficulty. Don’t jump in with both feet (however tempting) and plump for difficult plants just because you like the look of them. Master the basics and then the rest will simply fall into line.

Food for thought…