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Old 09-17-2011, 01:08 PM   #1 
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Join Date: May 2011
The Joys of Emergent Plants in Aquariums

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.
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Old 09-17-2011, 06:16 PM   #2 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
That is great, however, one thing that we don't test for that can also cause the DOC's and along with the lack of water changes you will have natural decomp that can make the water more acidic and when you make a water change this often can shock the fish and with the high DOC's that can cause compromised immune can end sure to make very 10% if and when you do decide to make a water change.....also, the fresh water from water changes contain micro nutrient that the fish and plants need for long term health.....if you have a soil based tank-the soil can prevent this from happening......

And yes, adding emergent plants will help with the uptake of ammonia...I like to use willow branches from my willow tree and peace lily in the filter box has worked well for me....

If you are using the test strips-be careful...although they will detect some-they are not always the best source to use for water change needs in regards to water quality.......

Love to see pic of the setup....
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Old 09-17-2011, 10:22 PM   #3 
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Join Date: May 2011
Yes the substrate is sand/soil. The tank has been completely cycled for a long time as well.

Besides the heater, everything in the tank is DiY (filter included) and as such... it's not a very pretty tank especially now that the submerged plants have been nutrient deprived to death. So even though I'm very happy with the state of the tank, I don't want to show it off per say lol.

As for decomp, I have gravel vacced a few times to clean up the dying aquatic plants in addition to pruning the plants as they die off from lack of nutrients. In fact I've moved the surviving plants to another tank I have set up specifically for plant growth and they're making a great recovery.

The tank is entirely open air and there is A LOT of evaporation going on. I have to add almost two gallons to the tank each week. So fresh nutrients are added very regularly. Yes, I'm aware that Betta's can jump there's a good 1.5-2 inches of glass between the water line and the lip of the tank to hopefully help prevent stranded fish.

Finally, I love my snails. I add a calcium supplement regularly that seems to keep the PH fairly even *edit* as well as keep their shells nice and thick.

Last edited by GalvatronX99; 09-17-2011 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 09-17-2011, 10:46 PM   #4 
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Thread hyjack, but what do you feed your snails for calcium?? Now off to Google what your talking about LOL
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:09 PM   #5 
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Join Date: May 2011
It's just calcium pills off the shelf from my local Walmart. No extras (like vitamin D), just calcium. I think the brand is spring valley? I can't get to the bottle at the moment, because they're in the room with my sleeping wife and I don't want to disturb her. Essentially they're like those vacation feeders without the embedded fish food and in pill form.

Fish, snails, and ghost shrimp love the things.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:27 AM   #6 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA a natural planted tank....correct....what kind of dirt did you use....if your rooted plants started to out of balance...what kind of lights are you using and photoperiod....

Without the right number and species of plants in a NPT you may have a crash....I would watch the livestock will go anaerobic on you even with the emergent plants....

All of my NPT are open top too.....I have 2 light strips over most of them and along with the floating plants to help stop any jumpers.....

With the plant deaths you may want to do some small volume water changes.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:52 AM   #7 
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No, not naturally planted. I had used live aquatic plants more as decoration and a side benefit of better water quality. I have never used any ferts.

What's going on with my plants is simply that there's just not enough nutrients to go around for the aquatic plants. The golden pythos is literally sucking up everything my fish produce because it photosynthesizes extremely efficiently. Also there is a filter that I made myself. Works wonderfully too, just search google for DIY aquarium filter and you'll see what my filter is based on. Anyway, the filter disturbs the surface enough to sadly destroy any bubble nests, but thankfully there is more than enough disturbance to ensure there is more than enough O2 dissolved in the water. At the same time it generates very little current so the betta inside the 10 gal is never bothered.

Lighting used is natural sunlight. Tank is right next to the window with absolutely no algae problem thanks to the golden pythos sucking up all available nutrients in the tank.
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