Aquatic Plants of the Patuxent River

July 31st, 2008

Yesterday, I went with a couple friends out to survey what native aquatic plants are growing along some portions of the Patuxent River in Maryland. I like to do this every once in awhile because each time you go, you’re likely to find something different. In addition, from year to year, certain plants may exist in huge patches, while the next year, they’ll be quite sparse. Finally, if I ever get around to setting up a tank to mimic my local habitat, it’s good to know what the local habitat consists of.

Patuxent River

Lake off the Patuxent River

We visited a lake that is part of the Patuxent watershed. The lake itself is covered with tons of lily pads, which during this time of year were flowering quite nicely. This trip, we saw both white and pink flowers. I didn’t know that the pink flowered lilies were native — perhaps they’re not?


Lily pad, with flower

All along the banks, hairgrass, likely Eleocharis parvulus, carpeted the lake bed. Of course, there was also several giant hairgrass species as well.


Hairgrass, probably Eleocharis parvulus

In several places, amoungst the hairgrass we found a flowering bladderwort, which could be Utricularia gibba. Although the yellow flower is pretty, this is definitely a native plant that I would not want to keep in my tanks. Often found as a contaminate on plants that you buy, this carnivorous plant is much like hair algae in its invasiveness of your aquarium.

Utricularia gibba

Utricularia sp. flower

All throughout the area, Ludwigia palustris could be found. This is one of the nicer local native plants that is an excellent stem plant for any type of tank. We were talking yesterday about how surprising it is that Ludwigia repens is the most widely sold plant from its genus, but that L. palustris is smaller leaved, and thus probably more suitable for a wider variety of aquariums.

Ludwigia palustris

Ludwigia palustris

One of the other surprises that we saw yesterday was this patch of Brasenia schreberi. Everywhere else throughout the lake this plant sent small 2-3″ pads to the surface. Within the cracks of the boat ramp it looked like this, staying completely submersed. That brings up the question as to why? My theory is that due to being on the boat ramp, it is occasionally trampled, and thus is being trained to stay short, like a Red Tiger Lotus can be trained in our aquarium. It’s also possible that it’s just stunted due to the limitations of living in a crack between the boat ramp’s cement tiles.

Brasenia schreberi

Brasenia schreberi

Another plant that could potentially be suitable for aquarium use is Lindernia dubia. Currently, I don’t think it is being produced by any of the large aquatic plant nurseries, but this is a nice stem plant. We found it growing both submersed, and emersed with flowers, as shown below. (I like the dragonfly too!)

Lindernia dubia

Lindernia dubia

One of the more interesting plants that we have locally is Proserpinaca palustris, or Mermaid Weed. Emersed, the stems look like a Rotala with serrated edges, but submersed, the leaves become quite tooth-like and bright red. I’ve never kept this plant myself before, but I understand it’s a fairly difficult plant to grow in the aquarium. This is probably why it’s available, but not commonly traded among aquarists.

Proserpinaca palustris

Proserpinaca palustris (Mermaid Weed) with Brasenia schreberi

We saw a few plants that we couldn’t identify, with the most interesting being this plant below. At first glance, we thought it might be an Eriocaulon sp., but the bulbs on this grass are wrong for that. It’s probably just a stunted giant hairgrass, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to find a grass plant that stayed this size underwater? (Updated: a reader identifies this as Xyris caroliniana.)


Probably Xyris caroliniana, unsuitable for aquarium use

Now that I’ve mentioned what we did find, we were surprised that we didn’t find any Lysimachia (Creeping Jenny) or Rotala ramosior. Both of these plants are excellent aquarium plants, and usually present in some quantity locally. Additionally, there were a number of Polygonum species around, but I didn’t get any pictures of those. Despite incredibly hot and humid weather, we had a really good time, geeking it up, exploring our local waterway. Lastly, I need to stress that whenever you go out in your local habitat, do not collect plants from protected areas. If you are in an area where it is legal to collect, only take a stem or two, and grow it out in your aquarium. Never take a plant if it is the only one in the area. Be responsible!

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GWAPA July Meeting – Luis Navarro

July 27th, 2008

On Saturday, GWAPA brought Luis Navarro all the way from Houston, TX to do an aquascaping demonstration at our monthly club meeting. I was fortunate to have some time to hang out with him on Friday evening after picking him up from the airport. He’s a really talented and knowledgable aquascaper, so just to talk plants with him was an honor. Prior to the start of the meeting, a few of us gathered at Francine’s house to prepare the 125G aquarium that Luis was going to aquascape. We also had to get the plants he wanted to use ready, which involved tying anubias to small rocks, breaking up Marsilea minuta into small plugs for easy planting, and such.

Around 1:00pm, members started arriving, and by 2:00pm we had almost 30 people packed into Francine’s basement. Everyone was very interested to watch Luis work. He answered a number of questions, and proceed with the aquascape. After about an hour, he had completed this rock scape using Marsilea minuta, Anubias barteri var. ‘nana’, Cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae, and Vallisneria nana.

Francine's 125

Francine's 125G, Scaped by Luis Navarro.

After the demonstration, we held our auction, which consisted of nearly 100 bags of plants for sale. I came away with a number of items this month, including Rotala verticillatus, Rotala sp. ‘Green Narrow,’ Nuphar japonica, Potamogeton gayi, an assortment of other plants. I also was happy to have some other plants on my doorstep when I got home, including Juncus repens, Limnophila sp. “mini”, Hygrophila difformis “variegated”, and Hemigraphis traian. I barely had room for all of that stuff in my tanks! Thanks GWAPA for another great meeting!

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75G – July Update

July 24th, 2008

It’s time that I post an updated picture of my 75G tank. (Previous version here.) Besides my recent disaster with not quarantining fish, I haven’t worked too much on this tank. I removed one of the pieces of driftwood in the front middle to make the scape flow a little bit better. The Blyxa japonica in the front right has grown by leaps and bounds. The Eleocharis sp. ‘Japan’ has grown, but not filled in near as full as I’m hoping for in the left foreground. Otherwise, in the back-right I’ve removed all of the Pogostemon stellatus and put Ludwigia glandulosa in its place. I still have a stem of Ludwigia sp. ‘Cuba’ back there, but I’ll likely move that to my 40G tank once it has stabilized. I’ve also added Hygrophila corymbosa ‘Kompact’ to the midground-center.

75G - July 24, 2008

75G - July 24, 2008. Click for larger image.

I’m working to fight off a minor black brush algae attack that I believe was caused by medicating the tank. Otherwise, it’s growing fairly well. I looks a little bit unbalanced now with the hairgrass being so sparse, and the empty background on the right side, but once those plants fill in, I’ll be fairly happy with it. I’m open to comments and critiques, however. 🙂

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AGA Aquascaping Contest Is Open

July 23rd, 2008

From Bailin Shaw of the Aquatic Gardener’s Association:

Fellow aquascapers, it’s that time of the year again! Time to tidy up the tanks, finish growing and grooming the plants, and time to make the final preparations before you snap the pictures for the annual Aquatic Gardeners Association International Aquascaping Contest. With this year’s convention being held in Atlanta, Georgia, your tank might be one of the winning aquascapes to be presented at the awards banquet. As in past contests, each aquascape will be judged by an esteemed panel of judges, and this year is no exception. Deadline for entry of a tank will be September 15 to allow ample time for judging prior to the convention.

I look forward to another exciting year of new and unique aquascapes.

Kind Regards,
Bailin Shaw
Aquascaping Contest Chair

So what are you waiting for? Prepare your tanks, and submit them for the contest!

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40G – Wormstrate Aquascape!

July 22nd, 2008

After my previous soil vs. earthworm casting experiment, I decided that it was time to really give one of the methods a chance in a “real” setup. For this, I decided to tear down my ailing 40G aquascape, and start anew, using an earthworm castings mixture as the base for this substrate. Following a mixture of Vladimir Simoes’ method and the soil substrate method used by many GWAPA members, I setup the tank.

Miracle Mud

Earthworm castings, Sand, 1 lb Clay

Vladimir Simoes’ method is basically just a mixture of earthworm castings and sand in a 50/50 ratio. As I did more research, I found that several of the past successful aquascapers that used this method, also used a clay source with a high CEC ratio. For this, I decided to follow much of the soil method by liquifying a pound of clay into the EC and sand mixture.

Dolomite, Potash, and Traces

Dolomite, Potash, and Traces on bottom. Aquasoil around edges.

Also borrowing from the soil substrate method, I added a handful of dolomite, potash, and CSM+B traces to the bottom of the tank prior to adding the earthworm castings mixture. The purpose of these minerals is to provide a nutrient source while the neccessary bacterial colony builds up in the substrate to make these same nutrients available to the roots longterm. Additionally, my final modification is to reuse the spent ADA Aquasoil that was in my 40G previously as the top layer of the substrate. For aethestics, I used aquasoil exclusively around the visible borders of the tank.

40G Hardscape

Basalt and African bogwood

After adding the earthworm casting mixture, and topping it with the Aquasoil, it setup my hardscape. I’ve never really attempted a “mound” style aquascape before, so I decided to give it a try. I used a combination of the porous mossy rock (basalt) and African bogwood for my hardscape. I left plenty of space behind the hardscape to plant my background plants.

40G - Just Planted

Finally, the planted scape is above. At this point, I’m not entirely pleased with the result. I need the plants to grow in a bit more, and I need the background plants to fully crest over top of the mound. I suspect that I may have placed the mound too far to the front of the tank, but am willing to let things play out for awhile to see how it looks. I basically just reused the plants that I had in this tank previously, but I did add some Echinodorus angustifolius ‘Vesuvius’, Pogostemon stellatus, and Ludwigia sp. ‘Cuba’ to the tank, removing Rotala rotundifolia and Eriocaulon sp. ‘Type 2.‘ My goal for this tank is to have a successful aqauscape while having the earthworm casting substrate provide all of the minerals needed so that I do not have to add supplemental fertilization. Comments welcome!

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2.5G Aquascape – 3 Weeks

July 20th, 2008

Three weeks ago, I setup this 2.5G aquascape, and if you compare it with my previous update, you can see that some progress has been made. The HC has grown tremendously, largely due to the injection of pressurized CO2. The java fern in the background as stayed largely the same, but that’s about how I want it to be.

2.5G - 3 Weeks

Aquascape, 3 weeks after initial setup.

Unfortunately, the downoi has all but melted. I suspect that the combination of the buffers in the ADA Aquasoil and the added CO2 has made the water a bit too acidic for its taste. I think the tops have started growing again, so hopefully in a few more weeks it will grow back, obscuring the ugly CO2 reactor on the left side. (Sorry, I don’t remove equipment when taking incremental shots. Note, however, that if you ever enter a contest to do so because some judges view a perfect aquascape, but see a filter intake, and act as if a mortal sin has been committed. End rant.) Comments welcome on what I can do to improve this scape.

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Blackworms in the Substrate!

July 17th, 2008

I try to feed my fish a varied diet of commercially prepared foods, as well as, live foods when I have the extra time to obtain and care for them. A couple months ago, I was cycling a 10G tank, and when I was feeding blackworms to the rest of my tanks, I inadvertantly threw some in the 10G as well.


Blackworms in the 10G Substrate

As you can see, the worms have taken up residence in the substrate, and have actually multiplied quite readily. This is now the tank that I have my yellow shrimp in, and thus far I don’t think the worms are causing a problem. In fact, they’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning up any extra vegetable matter or algae wafers that the shrimp let be.


Blackworms looking for food.

It is a little bit disturbing, however, when you look in the tank, and you see a series of worms waving themselves from the substrate, presumably to filter the water overhead. In some ways, I probably should consider this a boon because I am now culturing my own source for blackworms, verses having to depend on my LFS for fresh shipments.


Just hanging around.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to figure out how to adequately harvest them from the tank. I have to be awfully quick with tweezers to snag one because when I get close, they speedily retreat down into the substrate. I may be able to siphon the substrate, through a sieve, and get them that way. Any suggestions? Anyone think they’ll be a problem long term?

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Yellow Shrimp – Neocaridina heteropoda var ‘Yellow’

July 16th, 2008

After much anticipation, today I received a dozen Yellow Shrimp, Neocaridina heteropoda var ‘Yellow,’ via a trade with another aquarist. I’ve seen some pictures of these guys online, and knew that I must have them. Yellow Shrimp are the same species as Cherry Red Shrimp, but they have been selectively bred to exhibit a striking yellow coloration.

Yellow Shrimp

As soon as I put them in their own dedicated 10G tank, they went to town exploring the space. I added an algae wafer, which they quickly dismantled, and readily absorbed. The shrimp that I have are not full grown adults. Like cherry reds, when full grown their exoskeleton can become much more opaque in color, making them an incredibly bright yellow.

Yellow Shrimp

The best thing about these shrimp is that they’re supposed to be just as easy to breed as the Cherry Reds. This makes sense since they’re the same species, but that isn’t always the case. While some of you may be wondering, “if you crossed a yellow shrimp with a cherry red, would you get an orange shrimp?” The answer, apparently, is no — they would revert back to their drab natural coloration, brown.

Yellow Shrimp

It’s a shame that I’ve already stocked my pond with Cherry Red Shrimp, otherwise I would probably have put these guys outside. Last year, I pulled hundreds of Cherry Reds out of the pond in the fall after only having them outside for 3-4 months. I’m hoping to be as lucky with these guys, albeit, inside. If anyone has kept these shrimp themselves, I’d love to hear your experiences.

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Quarantine Your Fish

July 14th, 2008

I’m going to share an embarrassing story about something that I neglected to do, and am continuing to pay the price for. A couple weekends ago, I was at my favorite local fish store, and decided to pickup a dozen Neon Rainbowfish, M. praecox, to add to 7 others I had, in order to form a nice school in my 75G aquarium. The store has a good reputation for properly quarantining their fish for sale, and they all looked extremely healthy and vibrant. So, against my good judgement, I decided to acclimate them directly into my 75G.

Melanotaenia praecox

Well, the next day, I noticed that 2-3 of the fish were off by themselves, some of them having discolored patches on their bodies. The next day, those fish were dead, and over the next 4-5 days, all 12 of the others continued to follow suit. I contacted the store owner, and he had received similar reports from the other customers who bought the fish, and agreed to fully replace them once he got a healthy batch in. That’s fine, and had I quarantined them, that would be the end of a very sad incident.

Red Lizard Catfish

Instead, I’ve lost one of my other M. praecox in the 75G, all five of my beloved Red Lizard Catfish, and my newly bought and favored Apistogramma hongsloi sp. ‘Super Rostrich.’ The corydoras, L729 plecos, and Nannochromis nudiceps so far seem to be unaffected, but I’m not considering myself out of the water yet. In addition, I’ve also incurred the extra expense of having to medicate the entire 75G tank, instead of just a 10G quarantine tank.

Apistogramma honglsoi 'Super Rostrich'

So, please, learn from my mistake, and quarantine your fish. Even if you just keep an empty 10G aquarium lying around, you can fill it with water from your main tank, throw in a sponge filter (preferably a used one), and be setup for 2 weeks prior to introducing the fish to your main aquarium. I usually follow this advice, and wish I did in this instance, as well.

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AGA 2008 Convention – Register Now!

July 11th, 2008

The Aquatic Gardener’s Association’s 2008 Convention will be held in Atlanta, Georgia later this year on November 14-16. Showcasing one of the best speaker lineups ever, I can’t wait to attend this meeting. Takashi Amano will make his third appearance at the convention, while other former speakers such as Jeff Senske, Karen Randall, and Greg Morin (Seachem president) will present.

New speakers include Benito Tan, who will talk about aquatic mosses and Michael Kane, who will discuss tissue culturing for the aquarist. They’ll do a live Iron-Aquascaper competition, and of course have one of the best aquatic plant auctions on Sunday. Don’t miss it!

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