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54G – Haircut or No Haircut?

August 26th, 2009

Today I did water-changes on my aquariums, and while looking at the 54G tank, I decided to actually try trimming back the hairgrass a little bit. I had talked about trimming it down for awhile, but various folks said they liked the long-wavy-look, so I put it off. I ended up deciding to just try it once and see how it goes.

54G - After Hairgrass Cut

Above you can see the trimmed tank immediately after the water-change. Below is the tank, immediately prior to the trim and water change. Which do you like better? To me, I think the trimmed look brings out the hardscape a little bit more. I know that the rest of the plants are a bit of a mess right now. That’s my next problem to solve!

54G - August 26th, 2009

The good thing is that the plants are actually starting to grow quite well, and assuming I keep my dosing regimen and water-changes on schedule, I haven’t had near the issues with algae that I have had previously on this tank. The Potamogetons in this tank are doing wonderfully.

54G - August 26th, 2009

I did have a beautiful stand of Lindernia dubia in here, but I trimmed it very hard to send to a friend. I may have trimmed it too hard. Fortunately, I have more stashed away in my emersed setup. Overall, this tank is starting to come into its own. Please let me know if you like the haircut or not. Comments welcome!




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GWAPA: Carnivorous Plants Nursery

August 24th, 2009

On Saturday, GWAPA’s meeting was hosted by Michael Szesze, the owner and operator of Carnivorous Plant Nusery, in Derwood, MD. Michael runs an impressive local and online business, exclusively selling bog plants, with a huge emphasis on carnivorous plants. He currently has two greenhouses, filled with healthy plants.

Greenhouse

Walking through the nursery, it could have been easy to overlooked all kinds of interesting plants. The sheer number of pots was quite staggering. Michael explained to us that carnivorous plants are pretty easy to keep provided you follow a few strict rules. Provide a nutrient-free environment, water with nutrient-free water, and don’t overfeed.

Carnivorous Plants

He pots all of his plants in a near 50/50 mixture of peat and quartz sandbox sand. For some plants he may adjust the ratio slightly, but he says that if you start with a 50/50 mixture, you’ll be able to grow just about any carnivorous plant. He collects his own rainwater, linking all of his home’s downspouts to a subterranean series of cisterns to store the water.

Pitcher Plants

Outside of the greenhouses, Michael keeps several boxes of carnivorous plants. He is able to overwinter these plants in place, covering them and monitoring the temperature under the cover to ensure that it does not reach 22 degrees F. He explained that 22 degrees F is the bursting point for most vascular plants, so if you maintain the temperature above that, your plants will be fine.

Grow Boxes

Michael recommended against explicitly feeding carnivorous plants, as enough insects will find their way to the plants on their own. He leaves his greenhouses open during the summer to allow critters to come in and fall prey to his plants. He has also effectively used carnivorous plants as a fly and pest control method on his porch.

Sundew

In addition to the grow houses and boxes, Michael has maintains an attractive bog/pond area in his backyard. Many of the plants in the pond are not specifically bog plants, but he has filled the surrounding areas with the peat/sand mixture, so various carnivorous plants line the pond’s border.

Pond

Despite being a steamy rainy day, I very much enjoyed visiting this Carnivorous Plant Nursery. In addition to perusing the greenhouses and grounds, we also held our regular GWAPA aquatic plant auction. There were some serious deals to be had on plants this month!

Sundew

Of course, the dangerous thing about going to places like this is that now it’s tempting to try and start a little bog to try and grow these plants. I was able to forestall that impulse at the meeting, but I could foresee a bog plant or two in my future. Comments welcome!

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Connecticut Trip

August 18th, 2009

Last weekend, I was in the Connecticut area with a couple of friends, so we took the opportunity to check out a few of the local bodies of water in the area. Our first stop was actually not in Connecticut, but nearby in Rhode Island at Worden Pond. Worden Pond is a large pond with lots of campgrounds and houses surrounding it. There was a lot of marsh and floating debris, creating rather tannin colored water.

Worden Pond, RI

In with the rushes were quite a few large Sagittaria plants in flower. The flowers are an attractive white with yellow in the center, resting on a long stalk that protrudes from the water itself. A campground was kind enough to allow us to use their beach to take some pictures while we drove through.

Sagittaria Flower

One of our other stops was Roger’s Lake in Old Lyme Connecticut. This is the town from which Lyme’s Disease is named, but fortunately, I didn’t encounter a single tick on this trip. We stopped at one of the public boat ramps to see what types of vegetation were present. It’s a very pretty lake with lilies growing in several places. It looks like the wonderful place to kayak for the day.

Roger's Lake, CT

One of the interesting plants growing in this lake is an isolated population of Ludwigia x lacustris. This particular Ludwigia is a natural hybrid between Ludwigia palustris and Ludwigia brevipes. Below is a picture of the emersed form growing on the bank.

Ludwigia x lacustris

One of the ways to differentiate it between regular Ludwigia palustris and the hybrid, is that the hybrid’s flower contains petals, while L. palustris‘ flower does not. The flower is very typical looking compared to other Ludwigia species that I’ve seen.

Ludwigia x lacustris Flower

Submersed, Ludwigia x lacustris is a wonderful plant. I’ve kept some in my aquariums for a little while prior to this trip. Below is a picture of the submersed form in the lake. As you can see, the leaves are long and narrow like L. brevipes, but not quite as narrow, and exhibit a nice reddish orange color like L. palustris. It’s not too dissimilar from Ludwigia repens x arcuata, but it’s growing pattern is more upright, whereas, L. repens x arcuata grows more at a 45 degree angle.

Ludwigia x lacustris Submersed

Of course, we weren’t there to just look at plants. We enjoyed seeing several species of waterfowl, and of course, several frogs and turtles were present. Looking at the picture below, I imagine that there were quite a few more frogs than we spotted due to their excellent ability to blend with their surroundings.

Frog

Another notable stop on our trip was Chapman Falls at Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT. The falls are large series of cascading falls, which are only partially shown below. The full falls are probably 4-5 stories tall, and are quite impressive.

Chapman Falls, CT

The top of the falls are just as beautiful, being lush with plant life. There was a huge expanse of some Polygonum species growing up out of the water, as well as, some Schoenoplectus subterminalis bulrush flowing in the strong current.

Top of Chapman Falls

All in all, it was wonderful to be able to experience a few of Connecticut’s wonderful nature areas while traveling through the state. I would really like to get back up there to do some more hiking than I was able to do on this trip. I highly recommend checking out these parks to anyone in the area.

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50G: Updated Picture + New Shrimp

August 14th, 2009

It’s been a few weeks since I replanted the 50G, and as you can see the plants have been growing quite well. The tank is definitely due for a trim right now, especially the Ludwigia brevipes on the left, and the Limnophila repens var. ‘Mini’ in the back left. I do have two notable additions to this aquascape. In the back-left, I added a number of Blyxa aubertii plants which were previously in my 75G aquarium.

50G

Also, I was fortunate to get in on a fantastic group buy that GWAPA conducted to add 15 crystal red shrimp, and 15 crystal black shrimp to this aquarium. Below is a picture of one of the red ones, which I believe is a “tiger-tooth” because the one red band looks like two teeth coming down. I don’t know very much about grading the shrimp, and really don’t care, as I just think they’re quite striking inhabitants in a planted aquarium regardless of the grade.

Crystal Red Shrimp

So, hopefully, these shrimp will start a little breeding population in my 50G! Elsewhere in the aquarium, the hairgrass is starting to spread in the corners where I transplanted a few plants, and I’m generally pleased with the direction that it’s headed. I’m waiting on the stems on the right side to grow out a bit more and multiply, so that I can really focus on trimming them into new compact bushes of plants. Comments/critiques welcome!

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2009 AGA Aquascaping Contest

August 13th, 2009

2009 AGA Contest

The 2009 AGA International Aquascaping Contest is coming up with the entry deadline only 1 month away, on September 15th. I encourage everyone, even beginners, to enter into this competition. One of the best things about the competition is that you get honest feedback from expert judges, which can really help you grow as an aquascaper. The first time I entered a tank, Takashi Amano was a judge, and his comment was “the foreground is ugly.” You know what, that was a bit harsh, but I look at foregrounds a heck of a lot differently now than I did before. So, whip your half-trimmed scape into shape, you’ve got 2 good trimmings left before September 15th, and show the world what you’ve got!

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75G: New Aquascape!

August 12th, 2009

Last week, I finally got around to clearing out the jungle that had formed in my 75G, and completely rescaped it. Previously, the aquascape was dominated by a ton of Narrow Leaf Java Fern, but this scape doesn’t contain any fern, except for some Trident Java Fern topping off the two mounds of driftwood.

75G - 2 Days Later

75G: 2 Days After Setup

I had a couple of goals in mind for this new scape. For one, with my farm tank overflowing with plants, I wanted to use a few more stem plants in this scape than I did in the previous one. Hence, ferns are out, and stems are in. Additionally, since I’ve had some plecos breeding in the hollowed out driftwood, I wanted to continue to use the same African bogwood as I had in here previously, but I also wanted some more open space for a foreground. Those were the goals.

75G - Hardscape

75G: Hardscape Finished

Toying around with a couple of different layouts, I ultimately settled on the two mound approach, with one larger mound on the left, complemented by a smaller mound on the right, with open space in between. Yes, I know it’s been done a million times. So, I stacked up a bunch of pieces of the bogwood, trying to making them look like they fell on top of, or in the nook and crannies between, a base of rock.

75G - Foundation Plants Planted

75G: Foundation Plants Planted

After finishing the hardscape, I planted what I feel are foundation plants. These are the plants that are actually kind of part of hardscape itself. Plants like Cryptocoryne, Anubias, Java Fern, etc. After getting those in place, you can really start to see what other areas need to be filled in. I added an inch or two of water, and finished planting the foreground and stem plants. The foreground is Glossostigma elatinoides, and in the back I have Hygrophila sp. ‘Guinea,’ Ludwigia repens x arcuata, Ludwigia arcuata, Elatine americana, Clinopodium brownei, Hottonia palustris, Limnophila aromatica, and Limnophila sp. ‘Wavy’. Of course, you can’t see most of them now.

75G - Finished Planting

75G: Other Plants Planted, Filling Up Tank

After filling up the tank, this is what I had. I removed a ton of Malaysian Trumpet Snails so they wouldn’t uproot the foreground, and hundreds of cherry shrimp came out of the substrate to begin exploring their new home. It’s very difficult to catch all of the shrimp when doing a rescape, but fortunately, most survived the ordeal.

75G - Right after Scaping

75G: Right After Scaping

So now, it’s just a matter of letting it grow in a little bit. I already see a few things I’ll probably end up tweaking. I probably ought to pull out some of the background plants between the two mounds to keep them more seperate, and have the Glosso extend all the way to the back. Additionally, the Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia behind the right mound should probably be moved to the right a little bit. I may adjust some of the hardscape on the left side, but at this point, I kind of want to see how it evolves on its’ own, and go from there. Comments and critiques welcome!

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Staurogyne sp. ‘Bihar’ Flowers!

August 8th, 2009

Back in April, I bought this plant from another hobbyist by the name Hygrophila sp. ‘Bihar.’ Submersed, this plant has pinnatifid (feather-like) leaves, which makes it very unique looking, but above water, it looks fairly ordinary.

Staurogyne sp. 'Bihar'

We now suspect that this is likely a Staurogyne, instead of a Hygrophila because of the pubescence (hairs) on the stem and leaves. In addition, one stem has flowered for me out in the pond, and the flower very much resembles that of a Staurogyne.

Staurogyne sp. 'Bihar'

Compared to the rest of the plant, the purple flowers are fairly small. I almost missed that a flower was present. Even the flowers have hairs on them.

Staurogyne sp. 'Bihar'

I’m hoping that combined with these pictures, and a pressed specimen of the plant, that my friend can work with other experts to figure out what species of plant this really is. S. sp ‘Bihar’ most certainly is not correct!

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New Emersed Setup

August 6th, 2009

Last year, I posted about my previous emersed setup, which consisted of a domed tray and a 10G aquarium. I have recently retired that configuration, upgrading to dual terrariums that I picked up for a great price at an out-of-business sale. The nice thing about these ZooMed terrariums is that they have doors on the front of the glass, so you don’t have to fuss with moving the light over-top to work inside of the tank.

Emersed Setup

Out of the box, the terrium comes with a aluminum screen top for ventilation. Since I want to keep some humidity inside, I had window glass cut at the hardware store to fit the top. I didn’t cover it tightly because I don’t necessarily want 100% humidity.

Emersed Setup

I’m growing the plants with their roots/bases sitting in water, without any soil in the pots. I have mesh pots filled with clay balls, which are used in hydroponics, and a small powerhead to circulate the water. I also have a heater in the water to maintain a consistent temperature, and dose fertilizers into the water like I do my aquariums.

Emersed Setup

There are a number of reasons to keep an emersed setup, but I’m largely interested in two things: 1) Store plants that I want to keep for future use, but don’t want to take up valuable space in my aquariums, and 2) Attempt to flower unidentified plants to help my very knowledgable friend try to identify them.

Lindernia dubia

I’m already getting a few flowers on my locally collected Lindernia dubia. I’m just hanging onto this plant. I am currently only using one of the two terrariums I picked up, but I suspect that in the fall when I shutdown my pond, I’ll use the second terrarium to overwinter many of those plants. So far, the only problem I’ve experienced is a little bit of mold on some of the leaves. I’ve manually removed those leaves, but would welcome any experienced grower’s advice on preventing it in the first place. Comments welcome!

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Suitland Bog

August 2nd, 2009

On Saturday, a few GWAPA members met at the Suitland Bog in Suitland, MD for a guided tour by the bog’s caretaker. We visited this bog two years ago, and thought it was time for another visit. On my previous trip, I had thought I had gotten a picture of Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra), but was corrected by a reader that infact I had not. So, this year, I’m proud to have found it, and got the picture below!

Red Milkweed

In addition to the Red Milkweed blooming, there was also another type blooming in the bog, which is shown below. Both are very pretty pink flowers. The ranger stated that the milkweeds weren’t always present in the bog, but showed up one day many years ago. He suspects that they were introduced by birds.

Milkweed

Also, interestingly enough, the main attraction at the bog, the Northern Pitcher-Plants (Sarracenia purpurea), are also not native to the bog. Apparently, prior to the mindset of preserving native habitats, botanists would collect interesting plants from other areas, and transplant them into habitats they believed the plants would do well. This is exactly what occured with the pitcher-plants, which were originally transplanted from New Jersey. Currently, the ranger actually has to weed out some of the pitcher-plants to prevent them from over-crowding the natives.

Sarracemoa purpurea

Another one of the carnivorous plants in the bog, Round-Leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) has been shaded out a little bit since I was there two years ago. Only a few remain, but the ranger is hopeful that some tree maintenance in the bog will help them make a comeback.

Sundew

The main attraction for me personally is the Ten-Angled Pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare), which is a magnificant grass, and was in full-bloom. One of the reasons I’m so interested in this particular plant, is that I believe it would probably grow submerged.

Eriocaulon decangulare

It’s quite easy to distinguish an Eriocaulon from other grasses, as the flower-heads are very distinctive. Fortunately, these plants seem to be doing pretty well in the bog. The ranger told us, however, that if they didn’t actively trim and maintain the area, that the whole bog would be totally reclaimed by the forest, and would likely disappear.

Eriocaulon decangulare Flower

For that reason, I’m extremely grateful to him and his colleagues for knowing the importance of preserving this habitat, and making it available for the public to visit. I’m hoping that a few GWAPA members will be able to help volunteer a couple times a year to further this effort.

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