Littorella uniflora comes as a tissue culture clone from Tropica, and I purchased several pots from AquaEssentials.  I thought the look of this plant resembled terrestrial grass and if you’re supposed to have your garden landscaped in grass (right?) then why not landscape your aquarium in grass as well?  In retrospect that doesn’t make a lot of sense…

The initial concept was for a very “low tech” tank that didn’t need a lot of fancy equipment or maintenance.  That turned out to be a pretty naive appoach.  While that might have been possible for a fish-only type of setup, having decided to go for aquatic plants the low-tech approach just doesn’t (usually) work, and it certainly doesn’t work with the biOrb which has a lot of design baggage built in like poor filtration, low lighting and a miserably impossible plant substrate.  Particularly if you want to grow a carpeting plant, this is just going to fail big-time. 

Littorella uniflora in biOrb ceramic media

Littorella uniflora in Aquasoil
(Echinodorus radicans in background)

First attept was putting sprigs of Littorella uniflora straight into the biOrb ceramic media.  That was very difficult to do because the sprigs float in water and the highly coarse gravel doesn’t hold the roots down very well so they sprigs kept popping out and floating to the surface. I tried just taking an entire pot and weighing it down with ceramic media on top of ceramic media so the plant wouldn’t float up.  The expectation was that the plant would magically root itself into the coarse gravel, carpet beautifully over the bottom and then the weight on the top could be removed.  What actually happened was the plant did a whole bunch of just sit there and not look very happy.

Reasoning the ceramic substrate wasn’t going to work for plants, the next approach was aquasoil, simply dumped right on top of the ceramic media.  This isn’t necessarily a recommended approach from Oase on how to run a biOrb, but I haven’t actually noticed any great difficulties at all.  I think the undergravel filtration is still working just fine as I’ve never had any detectable levels of either ammonia or nitrite, so something’s working anyway.  It was certainly more straightforward planting the littorella; I held the mass of littorella down, poured aquasoil on top of it, and then worked the aquasoil around the leaves of the plant.  Great idea, but the littorella failed to thrive, just slowly becoming weaker and more elongated with no outwards growth.  Tropica rates littorella as ‘easy’, but the biOrb defeated it all the same.  The aquasoil is good, and the claim is that littorella doesn’t require much light and doesn’t require CO2 so it sounded doable for a low-tech approach, but no.

So why didn’t it work?  I suspect contributory was the temperature.  Littorella grows in temperate zones, whereas the tank’s temperature of 25C is right on the very upper part of littorella’s range.  The other problem I suspect was the light levels were just too low.  The biOrb MCR light isn’t very bright as these things go, and it’s a long way from the very bottom of the aquarium.  After an additional two months of futile effort in the aquasoil, I gave up on littorella.

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