Emersed Setups Need Attention Too

January 13th, 2010

I’ve often talked about the wonderful benefits of having a place to grow your aquatic plants emersed:

  • A place to store plants you don’t want in your aquariums anymore but don’t want to lose
  • Ability to see flowers that you wouldn’t otherwise see
  • Algae-free!
  • Easy to maintain since growth is slower
Overgrown Emersed Setup

Overgrown Emersed Setups

While all of these statements are true, this doesn’t mean that you can just setup and forget about an emersed setup. A prime example of what can happen is in the picture below. Look at the setup on the right, and take note of what a tangled mess the plants are in there. Hyptis lorentziana and Pogostemon stellatus var. ‘Broad Leaf’ are the two culprits, taking a little while to establish, but then going absolutely insane in growth over the next few months.

Pogostemon stellatus var. 'Broad Leaf' Flower

Pogostemon stellatus var. 'Broad Leaf' Flower

I did get a number of Pogostemon flowers, but unfortunately the overgrowth shaded and outcompeted virtually every other plant I had stored in this setup. I surely would have had more plant-mass if I had grown these plants submersed in my aquarium, but I should have done a better job occasionally pruning back the stems as you would a weedy plant in your garden.

Murdannia sp. 'Red' Flower

Murdannia sp. 'Red'

In the other emersed setup, I’ve had a different problem. I made the mistake of introducing a pot of plants that was in my pond, and I believe the soil contained spider mites. I originally tried a DIY organic spray of vegetable oil and dish soap, but that ended up killing more plants than it did the intruders. I wanted to avoid using pesticides since I am not keen on spraying chemicals inside of the house (or outside for that matter), so I am now in the process of completely emptying out both emersed setups, submerging the plants in a bucket for 48 hours to drown the spider mites, and will then repot and set back up the two setups anew.

Murdannia sp. 'Red' Flower

Murdannia sp. 'Red' Flower

I will begin this process just as soon as the plant sold in the hobby as Murdannia sp. ‘Red’ finishes flowering. Above is a picture of a flower just before maturation. I’ve hoping that my friend will be able to use the flower to research its true scientific name. The long and short is that emersed setups are still valuable tools to grow and store aquatic plants, but they still require some maintenance. I suppose that if I didn’t keep any stem plants in my setups that the length of time between maintenance could be significantly reduced. Comments/suggestions welcome!

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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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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

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