The Little Argentinian Sword That Could!
This is the tale of the long journey of a very durable plant. Its moral is: don't give up!!!
Over 2 years ago I bought a plant in a tube from a local Petco to put in my 10g tank with my fish. After some research online I found out it was a Argentinian sword, a close relative of the Amazon sword but generally a bit narrower/smaller. The plant grew surprisingly well for not having roots tabs or soil (its a big root feeder species), and shot out several babies. Unfortunately it shared the tank with a ticking time bomb: a plant eating pleco that learned Sword leaves and roots are tasty!
Within 2 months of buying the plant all that remained was the crowns (small brown/grey part that roots and leaves grow from) everything else was consumed. I removed the plant and put it in a small mason jar with some old tank water and left it under a regular house light (not proper plant lighting by any standards) in the basement where it was cold... The little plant stayed there for many many months and didn't do much of anything.
Nearly a year later I ended up with an Evolve 4 (was on sale to get rid of inventory) and decided to try revitalizing the swords. I put root tabs and gravel in the tank then planted the swords. They grew long roots quickly, but the leaves kept starting then dieing off. I contacted the manufacturers of Evolves and found out their light is only BARELY the lowest of low light and only directly under the center. So the plant was getting its nutrients but not its light. Gave up on the evovle4 as I learned just every aspect of it was a piece of junk (loud filter, too much flow, plastic got stress fractures and bowed from daring to actually fill the tank up all the way, horrible light.. just low quality all over. For a while the swords sat in a jar again in the same place as before, but now they had roots and some leaves.
In February I grabbing a flower vase from upstairs to try one more time... Put Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix (MGOPM) in and capped it with gravel, then planted the 2 sword crowns that were doing the best from the evolve and filled it, then put it in the windowsill upstairs where it got plenty of ambient light. Though they started as pathetically small leaves, they grew and grew and grew! The soil and hitchhiking pond snails gave them plenty of nutrients and the sunlight all they needed to produce their energy. I threw In random scraps of other plants including hornwort, duckweed, salvia minimia, and even some dwarf water lettuce.
For the first few months I did weekly water changes in the vase to get out loose soil and snail poo.. but after a while I got lazy and since I was not keeping any serious fauna in the vase, stopped cleaning it. Unfortunately the combination of months of no water changes (just top offs) and a lot of sunlight from the window led to a large buildup of hair algae. It got to the point that there was no free space in the vase, I was just a solid mass of this thin green thread like algae, tangled into itself and the plants. I finally got sick of the algae vase getting so thick with the stuff I could barely see the sword anymore..I was sure the sword was suffering from the greatly reduced light it was getting in these conditions.. so I hunkered down and prepared to clean it out! Turns out it was much easier than I expected! I put my fingers in and tugged on one thread, then just slowly pulled it out.. the hair algae had grown over itself and tangled so much that the entire mass came out from just staging the one tiny piece! Once it was out it was interesting to look at, had a rather cool texture! But it was still algae so in the sealed trash it went! Along with most of the floaters that had been with it. After that I moved the vase down onto the bookshelf just below the windowsill where it would get much less sun, but was supplemented with plant lights from my bowl and jar tanks. I started doing weekly water cages again and the plant flourished.
I decided I wanted to move the sword to Magnus' bowl after it had been re-done in prep for the betta. When I removed the swords from the vase they made an absolute mess, pulling up a ton of soil with tier long roots. After planting and letting them stay overnight I decided I did not like the look of the sword leaves amongst all the grass like plants so I pulled them back out and redid the vase to put them back in. Now they sit in the vase with no other plants, and as far as I know, no snails (but I’m sure one will turn up in there). The leaves have grown so long they fold over to stay under water now. I'm trying to gently encourage the plant to grow its leaves out of the water -as swords can grow emersed- but I'm not sure how it will do in the low humidity air of the house. For not it its in its usual place in front of the jar and bowl just happily doing its thing after surviving all sorts of hardships. Who knows what the future will hold for this resilient plant, but all I can say is: if you have a sword plant: don't give up on it! Even if all you have is the crown (as long as that is not mush), give it nutrients, and light, and it will grow!!
Sadly I have no photos of it in the 10g or in the jar before replanting, here's what I do have:
Oct 2013 Evolve
Feb 2014 Vase
Hair Algae adventures in July
Tried moving it to the bubble bowl... didn't like so put it back in the vase