The ludwigia had reached well beyond the height of the tank casting a considerable overshadow so it was time for a trim. I had just received a new set of ADA pincettes and was looking forward to trying them out for replanting the trimmed tops*. It was also time for a water change and I’m switching to a new EI fertiliser scheme** so potentially big changes coming.
Plant layers add vertical interest
Aquatic plants for aquaria are commonly classed by how tall they can be expected to grow, with the idea that it is sensible to grow the shortest plants at the front of the tank, middle-sized plants somewhat further back behind the shortest plants, and the tallest plants at the very back. In the community these are generally called, logically enough, foreground, midground and background plants. Of course, you don’t have to follow this scheme and there might be a specific effect you’re trying to achieve by putting taller plants in front of shorter plants, but ideally this would be a deliberate choice and not something you unintentionally discover by accident.
In this video, you can see the effect in action. On the left, at the very front bottom of the tank, low down and in the shadow of the lobelia, is a single dark green line of newly planted cryptocoryne lutea ‘hobbit’ which is expected to grow to a maximum of 5 cm. The aforementioned lobelia cardinalis ‘wavy’, bright green and filling the bottow left quadrant of the tank, was planted six months ago and has topped out at its maximum height of just under 20 cm. In the back of the tank, the red plant arching over the lobelia is ludwigia palustris mini ‘Super Red’ which would be around 45 cm if stretched out to its full length. The very low carpeting plant on the right side all around the base of the mountain is marsilea hirsuta (although if you look carefully, there is another ‘hobbit’ hiding in the bottom right front corner. The marsilea was planted over a year ago and will never get any larger than it is currently. Some people like the look of plants that float on the surface such as frogbit or duckweed, and in a larger setup these can be effective, but I prefer not to go there in this instance.
I like the look of the different horizontal layers of plants on the left, contrasting with the verticality of the mountain sculpture on the right. The fish seem to appreciate the differences too – if they’re nervous they can hide under the lobelia, or explore above the lobelia while still feeling a degree of sheltering protection (or at least so I project upon them) from the overarching ludwigia.
Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ – one month update
It’s been a little over five weeks since I planted anubias nana ‘snow white’ in the aquarium. I wedged it into the various crevices on “the mountain” which is a biOrb Amazonas Root ornament sculpture. There has been some discussion around the impossibility of actually being ‘real world’ successful with this plant, but nevertheless, I decided to give it a go .
I can say that so far it hasn’t been an instant disaster. Not dramatically successful either, but the plant is still in there mostly holding its own. It definitely doesn’t look like it has had a significant number of the white leaves ‘melted off’ but neither would I say it’s shown much (any?) evidence of new growth. There might be some green algae growth, but nothing too bad (I had expected much worse). These specimens above had been dislodged from their place on the mountain and wound up wedged against the intake of the powerhead. I took the opportunity to pull them out for these photos, but didn’t other do any cleaning or maintenance, and wedged them back into place in the tank. The plantlets coming loose like this has happened before and is infrequent but not unusual. I haven’t tied or glued them in place, just wedged them in, and I quite suspect that they are being periodically dislodged by zebra thorn snails, who seem to be the little miniature juggernauts of the aquarium. In theory the anubias will grow roots that will attach themselves more firmly to their substrate, but I haven’t seen evidence of that happening either.
I think we’ll call it a draw for now – the snow is still in the game.
It is relatively straightforward to use the visual editor of WordPress or BoldGrid to embed pictures and have text flow smoothly around the picture to either the right or the left: Insert the picture using ‘Insert Media’ from the column tab, then select the picture in the visual editor, click the ‘edit’ icon, and then click on the icon for picture positioning on the right or left. Centre puts the picture in the centre of the column, but text doesn’t otherwise flow around it. It can be a little fiddly, but it mostly works. You can then drag the image around to reposition it within a paragraph as well.
The problem is, you can’t do the same thing with an embedded video. You can construct a dedicated row and column setup to contain the video but then it’s complicated to get the text to flow around that structure correctly, particularly across different viewing platforms. I’ve done a lot of searching and getting text to wrap around an embedded video using only the visual editor is a “can’t get there from here” situation.
Simulated daily light programme
My daily lighting sequence with the Kessil A80 LED light controlled by a mains timer was pretty straightforward: lights off for 18 hours per day and lights on full for 6 hours per day. That’s fine but of occasion I’d head into work with the lights off and they’d already be off by time I came back home. The problem is you can’t really extend the lit period very much before the algae starts to grow like crazy. As a way around this I picked up a Kessil “Spectral Controller” which is a programmable timer that plugs into the light and lets you adjust both the light intensity and light colour throughout the day.
The video shows a looped simulation of my current lighting pattern – this is from the controller doing a “preview” of the programme so it’s very sped up and not done to time-period scale. When I was using the mains timer, the “on” setting meant the light at full power (100% intensity) and a mostly white end of the spectrum colour (80% colour). I like the look of that and the plants do well with it so I kept that setting for the main lights-on period with the spectral controller during the day. I then added periods of extended low intensity on either side of the main lights-on period, and some gradual ramps up and down between those. Brighter and bluer during the middle of the day, dimmer and redder in the morning and evening.
Current lighting programme:
- 00:00 – 09:00: lights off
- 09:00 – 10:00: 5% intensity (lowest possible setting without turning off), 0% colour (as “warm” or “reddish” as possible)
- 10:00 – 10:30 smoothly ramp up both the intensity and colour of the light to get to…
- 10:30 – 15:00 100% intensity, 80% colour (the “on” setting with the mains timer)
- 15:00 – 17:00 smoothly ramp down both the intensity and colour of the light to get to…
- 17:00 – 18:00 5% intensity, 0% colour
- 18:00 – 00:00 lights off
The extended low light periods are good for observation purposes. The fish don’t seem to behave radically differently. They still show the same lights on behavior vs. lights off behavior, but with some larger amount of intermediate swimming, particularly while the light intensity is ramping down at the end of the day. It’s too soon to say whether the algae or plant growth will be different.
Today I got in two pots of Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ from Aqua Essentials as grown by Dennerle. The idea is to fill in some of the space in front of the lobelia and to hide the bare stems and adventitious roots that make up the lobelia understory. As usual (always?) the plants arrived in prime condition and seemed to survive shipping in the cold British weather including storm ‘Christoph’ which was happening at the time.
I took the plants out of their pots and removed the rock wool they had been grown in. Each pot could be separated into a number of plantlets and a few extra mini-plantlets as well. The root systems were robust and healthy-looking, and the leaves also looked good, a firm dark green, although of course this represents the emersed growth form from the nursery and not the final submerged growth form for which they are now destined.
Figures are approximate, as they say. When planning a planted aquarium (and there should be some type of plan!) it’s important to consider the expected maximum height of plants in the layout. I went wrong previously planting echinodorus radicans, a fine plant but much too large for this aquarium.
After not trimming back the ludwigia last week today it managed to reach the surface of the water today. This version of ludwigia, ludwigia mini ‘super red’ is listed online as “Dimensions: grows up to 30cm” however in this aquarium it is 41 cm from the aquasoil floor to the water surface, so this plant has overachieved.
I can’t complain and I’m glad it’s healthy. I’ll give it a trim today and replant some of the better looking top portions to have it fill in a little to the right. Stem plants like the ludwigia are pretty flexible that way: you can trim them to pretty much whichever height works for you, just the growth rate and how much you trim will determine how often they will need this type of maintenance.
Digging around a bit more on the Tropica entry for this plant it says in the “Plant info” section in the ‘Height’ entry if you click on the +/- expander button:
|Height:||10 – 30+|
|Average height (cm) of the plant after two months in the tank.|
so to be fair there is a little + sign after the 30 and it does say ‘after two months’ and it has been three months in tank (nearly to the day) since it was planted, so I suppose it’s “fair play” to the description, even if 30+ is actually 41…
Following up on observations of changing fish behaviour when either lighting or flow rates are changed, here we take a look at what happens when the lights turn off.
The video shown starts after the Kessil A80 light has been on for nearly 6 hours, the typical photoperiod for the current setup. The tetras and barbs are towards the bottom right portion of the tank, as they have been for almost the whole day. Once the lights turn off (automatically) they become more adventuresome, and expand their range to the upper reaches. To see whether this was a temporary reaction to the change in lighting the video also skips ahead to 30′ after the lights have turned off, and the fish are behaving in about the same way, suggesting is it the state of the lighting rather than the change in lighting that is driving their behaviour.
More thoughts after the break…
Lights turn off at 0:30
30 minute time jump to low flow at 1:25
High speed flow at 1:57
In transitioning from a low tech to high tech tank I noticed a significant change in the behaviour of the fish* where they used to swim mostly at the top/middle regions of the tank under low tech conditions but then spent a lot of time at the bottom with the high tech conditions. At the time I attributed this change in behaviour to the increased water flow from installation of a powerhead, but now I’m not so sure.
Embedded is a video that starts with the tank in a lights off, low flow state. This is 4 hours after the lights have turned off for the day at which time the fish also got fed so they’re not behaving in a hungry mode anymore here. After the first minute the powerhead will automatically change from low flow mode to higher flow, and after the 2 minute mark I’m going to manually turn on the main tank light.
* The otocinclus catfish and shrimp don’t seem to care about either flow or lighting – they pretty much always behave the same way regardless.
High speed flow starts at 1:02
Lights come on at 2:20
I’ve been running the Kessil A80 light for 6 hours per day on the maximum intensity. The aquarium looks nice either with the lights on or lights off so here are some contrasting photos.
With the lights on, the fish tend to stay at the bottom of the tank. With the lights off they are considerably more adventuresome and happily explore the upper reaches. They have also come to expect that shortly after the light turns off in the evening that it will soon be feeding time and eagerly start congregating at the top (and following me around) in anticipation but in this “lights off” photo they have already been fed.
I also recently changed the flow pattern by moving the powerhead so the flow goes across the width of the tank from right to left rather than from the back to the front so the ludwigia isn’t drawn in, and put the powerhead back down to a lower level which reduces the amount of shimmer considerably. The fish always take a little while to adjust to a new flow pattern but it doesn’t take them long to figure it out. With less disruption of the water surface in an open-top tank you might expect increased levels of CO2 retained in the water column, but with this closed lid aquarium there doesn’t seem to have been any noticeable effect.