So after reading a thread about them in June I decided to try out emergent plants in my 10 gal to see their benefits for myself.
I'm happy to report (and slightly shocked) that they are beyond a runaway success, and anyone who is able to use emergent plants in their aquarium should.
I started my experiment with a cutting of Golden Pythos from my local Walmart (the garden associates told me I could take it). I took a larger cutting planning to make the "real" cutting at home. Eventually the cutting I used had three leaves and the stem prepped for rooting. After prepping the cutting, I simply propped it up with it's leaves in the corner of my tank nearest the window.
Keep in mind my tank prior to my experiment was medium-heavily planted with Anacharis and Corkscrew Vallisneria. Both of which began as individual purchases from Petsmart in April and by the end of May had practically taken over most of the "free" space in my 10 gal.
My tank is moderately stocked, with 4 albino Corys, a male Betta, and a mystery snail.
Now, prior to adding my cutting, I was doing regular water changes (10-20% a week depending on tests). It took a week for my cutting to sprout new roots, and only a few more weeks after that for the roots to be significant in length. Based on test strips, I have not had to do a water change since a few weeks after my cutting's roots had really taken off.
I have not done a water change in my 10 gal in at least two months, probably two and a half. Truthfully, I cannot remember the last time I took a reading of my water params and had to do a change. I have continued to do regular tests of my water paramaters as well. My levels have been 0 across the board for months. In fact, the pythos cutting has done such an amazing job of removing waste that it actually STARVED several of my anacharis shoots and all but a small clump of my valisnaria to death. Algae is practically non existent in the tank save the side of glass literally right next to the window.
My fish have shown no ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate poisoning throughout the duration of this experiment. I actually believe their health has improved tremendously since the cutting really took off. The only things that suffered in my tank were the aquatic plants. All I have had to do as far as tank maintenance goes is replacing evaporated water (open tank).
I HIGHLY recommend trying out emergent plants if you're able to. If you do, don't expect the plants to do everything for you immediately (unless you go with the submerged potted plant route, but that's a different thread entirely). You should continue to do routine water changes and check water params until you notice your nitrates staying at zero for an extended amount of time. Even then, check the water params regularly in case anything goes wrong so that you can immediately take action.
I wish I had kept the readings from when my nitrate levels zeroed permanently to share, but I did not. I actually really miss having a well planted aquarium as far as aquatic plants go, but I don't want to use ferts and I don't want to put any more fish in the tank for space concerns.
Anyone else had an experience like this?
P.S. - I use a smaller cutting from a golden pythos in my 1.5 Gal prior to this experiment with very similar results (crystal clear water without doing anything is so amazing). So those of us with small tanks should keep in mind emergent plants can be used in small tanks as well. Also remember that emergent plants DO NOTHING as far as oxygenating the water is concerned, so make sure you have something to disturb the water to increase CO2/O2 exchange.