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post #16 of (permalink) Old 09-09-2010, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Posts: 9,734
2. Plant Selection

There are three main groups of plants, classified by position and planting method, to consider in the high-humidity riparium layout:
  1. Emersed Background Plants
  2. Emersed Midground Plants
  3. Underwater Foreground Plants

Emersed Background Plants: This category includes a large number of possibilities. The broadest ranges of shapes and foliage colors are to be found among the crypts (Cryptocoryne), most of which can be adapted to grow emersed and thrive in a riparium display. many very good riparium crypt choices are easy to find in the aquarium hobby. It is generally best to select the larger-growing species and varieties. Very short crypts (such as C. parva) may grow well enough in the riparium, but will tend to get lost in the whole planting. Among the crypts that I have tried, the following have performed the best as riparium plants:
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii (any of various varieties_
  • C. pontederiifolia
  • C. lutea
  • C. moehlmannii
  • C. ciliata
  • C. cordata (certain varities)
  • one that I think might be C. undulata (?)

Aside from being good-sized, these crypts are also relativelly sturdy and stand up well in the emersed state. There are a few others (e.g., C. balansae) that are very soft and flaccid when grown emersed and better kept as underwater plants.

Cryptocoryne ciliata is an unusual case. Unlike the other crypts that I have tried, C. ciliata does not require very humid air and will grow just fine in an open-top riparium setup. It will also thrive in a high-humidity riparium, but the tank should be relatively tall (preferably >24") because it is a fast grower and reaches a large size. This plant is also unusual in that it will grow in brackish water; in the wild it uses river estuaries and mangrove swamps as habitats. I have heard that because of its differences plant taxonomists have actually considered splitting C. ciliata off into its own genus, but as far as I know it is still considered to be a Cryptocoryne. I highly recommend growing it if you have a largish tank. When grown emersed it blooms readily with these fantastic spathes.

When I had these plants I noticed that the spathe had a strong pumpkin odor while open.

The easiest way to grow crypts in a riparium is to pot them up in a riparium hanging planter. This picture shows a very robust C. wendtii (maybe var. 'Red' (?)) rooted in a hanging planter.

It is generally best to hang a number of these planters + plants on the rear pane of glass in the riparium in order to make a nice, full planted layout. To reiterate an earlier point, an especially appealing bonus of growing crypts in a riparium is that their spathes, their unusual floral structures, can be enjoyed along with the rest of the planted layout. The next picture shows the spathe of C. pontederiifolia. This species is easy to bloom in a riparium.

In addition to crypts, another popular group of aquarium plants, the Anubias species, can also function well as emersed riparium background plants. The several varieties of A. barteri are not so suitable for the riparium background because they grow in a horizontal manner with creeping rhizomes. Much better options for the background are larger, more erect Anubias such as A. hastifolia.

That particular specimen is also rooted in a hanging planter. This and other tall Anubias, such as A. frazeri, A. gigantea and A. afzelli, also grow from rhizomes, but their rhizomes are tighter and do not "run" as fast as those of A. barteri, so they can grow well in a hanging planter for some time. Emersed riparium Anubias will also reward you with spathes. The spathes of these plants are less pretty than those of crypts, but interesting nonetheless. Here is the spathe of A. hastifolia.

There are several other groups of plants that deserve mention as high-humidity riparium background subjects. Most others that I have tried in these setups are used most often as houseplants, but grow very well in high-humidity and "look right" planted among crypts. Here is one that I have used because of its unusual pink coloration, a Syngonium hybrid cultivar.

There are many other possibilities among Syngonium with variations in leaf pattern and color. Many (but not all) will grow well in a riparium.

One of the most useful groups of riparium plants are the Spathiphyllum peace lilies. In the wild, most Spathiphyllum grow in very moist soil, such as along the edges of rainforest streams and the margins of swamps, so they are preadapted for riparium conditions. Peace lilies are sold very often as houseplants and they are easy to find. They will also bloom in the riparium with bright white spathes.

One last kind of plant that deserves mention as a companion for crypts in a high-humidity riparium is Dieffenbachia. Some varieties of Dieffenbachia will grow well in riparium culture and most offer the unusual option of white-variegated leaves. The best cultivar that I have found so far is 'Camille'. This one grows well in ripariums and stays relatively small.

If you do try growing Dieffenbachia in your riparium be aware that it has highly toxic sap. It can cause serious damage including chemical burns if ingested or if it contacts the skin. I ahve never had any trouble with toxicity to fish, but do not use this plant if you have children or plants that might be able to reach it. Be very careful with the cut tissue while repotting or pruning your Dieffenbachia plant.

This post has run long. I will finish this section with the discussion of emersed midground and underwater foreground plants in another entry.

(to be continued)
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