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Aquatic Plants Out of Water

February 21st, 2008

When I got back from Florida last year, I started a small emersed setup in my office to keep some of the cryptocorynes we bought there. First, an emersed setup is one that allows you to grow your plants terrestrially, or out of the water. Really, all that is required is a light, a closed container to maintain proper humidity, and some sort of fertilization plan. It’s not much different from starting seeds or a lite version of hydroponics.

Emersed Setup

Why would any planted aquarium keeper want an emersed setup? There are many reasons, but one good reason is to more quickly grow out enough plants to start a new aquascape. It’s also a good place to store plants that you want to keep, but don’t want in your current aquascape. Or, you can use one to flower your plants for get seeds, or just simply to see what the terrestrial version of a plant/flower looks like.

Dome and Emersed Tank

I started with a simple seed-starting tray and dome (above) from the hydroponics store. Make sure to get a high dome so that there’s room for your plants to grow vertically. Just recently, I transferred all of my plants from that dome/tray setup into a 10G aquarium in order to gain even more height.

Moss Pot

I use mostly coconut-fiber pots filled with a mixture of leaf compost and ADA Aquasoil. This is especially good for most cryptocorynes, but works for other plants as well. Then, after planting each plant, I lightly cover the surface of the soil mixture with moss. Mosses have a natural anti-fungal agent that helps to prevent your plants from being overwhelmed with white-fuzzy-fungus that can easily ruin the whole setup. After that, I fill the container to a water level of about an inch below the rim of the pots. This supplies the pots with a constant water source. Finally, I’m using plain fluorescent strip lights over top, and a small powerhead to circulate water around the tank.

Emersed Tank

CO2 is not a concern because it is abundant in the atmosphere. Algae doesn’t grow out of the water, so all of your leaves will be algae free. These two things are the largest reasons many of the large aquatic plant nurseries grow their plants emersed before they arrive at your local fish store. For fertilizers, you can use hydroponics solutions, dry ferts, or even aquarium liquid ferts.

Anubias nana 'petite'

Currently, I’m growing Cryptocoryne moehlmannii, Utricularia graminfolia, and several Anubias barteri nana ‘petite’. I want to build up a nice supply of A. ‘petite’ for some upcoming aquascapes. I’m curious to try and flower the Utricularia, and I just haven’t managed to move the crypt to a tank. I hope to expand the number of plants grown this way now that I have more space in my 10G aquarium.

Cryptocoryne moehlmannii Emersed

4 Responses to “Aquatic Plants Out of Water”

  1. Jason J Brunet Says:

    That’s really neat!! I may consider doing this myself!

  2. guitarfish Says:

    Good luck, and feel free to post back how it goes!

  3. Daniel K Says:

    Hi! I was just wondering if you noticed the moss growing faster out of water. I posted this question over at barr’s site but no one seems to know. I think I will give it a try!

  4. guitarfish Says:

    You know, I’d say that I think the mosses actually grow faster submersed for me. Submersed after a number of months, I’ll have clumps and clumps of Taiwan moss in my 75G, but I can’t recall ever pulling out moss from the emersed setup. This could be due to the fact that I spend more time fertilizing and caring for my aquariums than I do the emersed setup, however.

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