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.
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…
Anubias nana – ‘Snow White’
I was looking for an epiphyte to grow on the large sculpture in the aquarium which has lots of nooks and crannies that could be colonised. Such a plant has to be small and stay small. Narrowed down to either anubias or bucephalandra, one of the smallest is anibias “snow white” where the leaves are a very pale green. The conventional wisdom seems to be that absent significant chlorophyll (resulting in the whiteness), this plant is difficult/impossible to grow. There is some text on the interwebs relating, “in the Anubias Snow White plant, photosynthesis takes place exclusively in the rhizome and in the roots. Therefore the roots must always be left free.“
I picked up an in vitro grown pot from Riverwood Aquatics which arrived in fantastic-looking condition. Sure enough, the leaves are a creamy white with possibly the faintest green tinge, but the non-leaf bits are dark green.
Today I gave the ludwigia palustris its first trim. A couple of the stems were just under the surface so I clipped off the three tallest. This ludwigia, in contrast to some reports, doesn’t have very many aerial roots but where there were a few part-way down the stem, I trimmed to just above the node below the roots to allow (hopefully) new growth, then clipped off the stem to just below the node where the roots are and planted those pieces on the far left of the tank in a region that was more thinly grown, very likely due to less light off to the side and in the shade of the taller stems in the centre.
I was following this guide to trimming stem plants from dw1305 so we’ll see how that goes. Seems straightforward and reasonable. There was some question as to whether the shrimp would just immediately dig up the newly planted tops, but happily that hasn’t happened yet.