Q. I am about to set up my aquarium with natural plants. Why should I add Pure Laterite to the gravel, and should I feed the plants?
A. The Pure Laterite is a convenient packaged form of the rich substrate that is found in natural tropical streams where the plants thrive. The rooting systems of the plants will search out this clay-like medium to embed into, giving the plant firm root-hold and a healthy system to absorb further nutrition. The plants need feeding just as the fish do, and those that are left to scratch an existence from what is available as a natural product of the fish’s metabolism will suffer deprivation. The addition of some form of fertiliser will greatly enhance the growth potential of the plants.
Q. Which plants can I use for the back of my aquarium?
A. You will need to select something that will grow tall enough to give an attractive background to the aquascape. Such species as “Eel grass” Vallisneria spirallis, “Green cabomba” Cabomba caroliniana, and “Giant hygrophila” Nomaphila stricta, might be considered.
Q. What foreground plants can I use?
A. The true dwarf foreground plants are not so easily obtained from non-specialist dealers, but look out for Some of the lower growing Cryptos (Cryptocoryne species), Pygmy chain sword plant (Echinodorus tenellus), Hair grass (Eleocharis species), and similarly low-growing species for this purpose.
Q. I have been told I can attach certain plants to pieces of bogwood or rocks. Which ones are these?
A. The species usually used for this kind of growing are Anubias and Java fern.
Q. I have seen some beautiful variegated and red coloured plants, but I was told they are not truly aquatic plants. So why are they being sold for aquariums?
A. It is true that these are not water plants but they can sometimes last for quite a long time underwater before they have to be removed and discarded. It is a bit like having certain plants in your garden that have a certain flowering time and make the garden very attractive during that time. But once they have finished flowing the plants are pulled up and composted or disposed of, and something else is planted to take their place. (If the plants are removed from the aquarium in time enough before they have deteriorated too far they may be potted up and re-grown on a kitchen windowsill or in the greenhouse, ready for another later use again in the aquarium).
Q. What species of plants can I use in my coldwater aquarium?
A. If the unheated aquarium is never likely to be exposed to temperatures cooler than about 65 degrees F then there are few barriers to what you can keep from the general selection of aquarium plants, whether considered coldwater or tropical. But if the aquarium is situated where it might fall to lower temperature values then more thought should be given as to what might be chosen. “Elodea” (Egeria densa) is a top favourite, and the rootless “Hornwort” (Ceratophylum demersum) is another excellent coldwater species. “Eel grass” (Vallisneria spirallis) will also tolerate low temperatures quite well, but will often lose its original leaves progressively as the hardier new leaves grow out to replace them.
Q. Why am I unable to buy plants for my brackish water aquarium?
A. Most plant life will not tolerate the salt content of the brackish water, although sometimes you can but the mangrove shoots for this purpose. But as it is only the root and stem seen below water this is not much good for the aquarium. Best stick with good quality replica plastic plants for this use.
Q. What kind of lighting should I use for my planted aquarium, and how long should I leave them on for?
A. Check the spectrums available that have been developed for this purpose. But in general if you choose to use a good bright fluorescent lighting with the fish viewing in mind, your plants will usually do well in the conditions provided. But bear in mind that the fall-off in light intensity is quite rapid as the light penetrates the depth of the aquarium water. There are other options from different light forms other than fluorescent, and some of these are preferred for plant growth if that is your priority. The length of time you have the lighting on for will vary according to how much ambient light the aquarium receives, what species of plant you are keeping, and other minor factors. But as a guide try to aim for what would be the natural tropics daylight duration, and that is about 12 hours.
Q. My plants have an unsightly green slime and fungus-like growth on them. Why is this and what can I do to remedy this?
A. You have one of the biggest problems that can ruin a beautiful aquascape – Algae growth. There are various ways to combat algae, from electronic devices to simple natural product extracts, and a host of algicides in between. But wherever possible it is best to avoid the algaes getting established in the first place. Keeping at least one algae-eating fish in the community will often be sufficient to prevent its appearance completely. Good healthy plant growth will usually compete with the algae and starve it of the sort of conditions it thrives in. Where the aquarium has been allowed to become infested with the algae it will usually be necessary to strip everything down to remove it, then re-set the aquarium and add the algae eating fish to hopefully swat any odd bit of growth that might re-appear.
Q. Why have I been told that putting floating plants on my aquarium is not a good idea?
A. Assuming you have an all-over lighting cover on top of your aquarium the heat would scorch up any plants floating on the surface so close to the lighting. But there is the further consideration that any floating plant will reduce the amount of light penetrating down to the bottom of the tank.