A 1976 NY Times article on Planted Tanks
I randomly came across this 1976 NY Times article on planted tanks that I thought some would appreciate...
Weekend Gardening: Aquatic Plants, a New Frontier
By Richard W. Langer
Dec. 17, 1976
The Leiden tank is stirring up as much static in the aquarium world as the Leiden jar did in the world of physics several centuries ago. Plants, although not completely replacing fish, are beginning to dominate the tanks of the avant‐garde aquaculturists. Perhaps it is a natural offshoot of the terrarium cult, or just a reaction against the plastic flowers and Japanese; bridges that threatened to engulf the aquariums of the 1950's and ‘60's. Whatever so, a new world has opened up not only for the aquarist, but also for the plant lover,
Aquarium plants are the easiest of all green things to grow indoors. There is no way in the world you can overWater or underwater an aquatic garden. Second, those hard‐to‐eradicate potted‐plant pests such as spider mites, aphids and their ilk simply do not exist in the aquarium.
Last, you can control the total environment for your plants in an aquarium much more easily than you can a whole room, or even a terrarium, for that matter..Teniperature is easily regulated with an electric heater. Then there is the quality of the water. About the air quality in New York an individual can do little. And it's a fact that our city air simply. kills some plantsPapayas for instance‐before they can get much past the seedling stage. The water in your aquarium is something else again. The ‘balance of the two primary conaitions required for plant growth, pH and dH, can be altered by any grower.
Right Water Conditions
The PH is a measure of how acid or alkaline the water is. A simple test kit will let you know if you need to make your aquatic environment more acidic or more alkaline to suit your‐plants. Usually it's not acid enough. To change this, take some clean oak leaves and wrap them in cheesecloth to Make a giant‐sized tea bag. Let it steep in your tank till the pH has fallen sufficiently. If there aren't any oak leaves present, or • if on the other hand you need a more alkaline environment, there are drops’ easily procured at a pet store that will balance your water to the desired pH.
Water hardness, Measured in dH, is the second quality that must be checked for the plants. A simple litmus paperlike kit is readily available and • costs only a few dollars. If the water is too hard, which is the case usually, its dilution with plain distilled water will do the trick. Do not use chemical water softeners'. They will kill ‘the plants.
Once the right water Conditions are established, . care is minimal: a little pruning, some fertilization, feeding of fish if they are included (personally I .think they should be), and an occasional ‘Check’ on the ‘water quality: And when it comes to vacation, you don't have to tell your neighbors which’ plants gets watered when. Here is a garden that ‘really takes cares of itself.
Now ease of care alone, of course, is not a sufficient reason for going aquatic if the plants themselves have no appeal. But the submerged vegetation available at better pet stores and aquariums today has come a long way from the standard Vallisneria and Anacharis of only a decade ago. Some of the plants are nothing short of spectacular. And numerous varieties planted together, waving gently in the currents of an air stone, present a tranquil, even hypnotic display. Often they grow on gossamer‐thin stems. Some have lacy open leaves that simply could not support ‘themselves without the flotation provided by water. A few colorful fish darting about will add contrast. But the fish should not be added to a. Leiden‐style tank until the plants have established themselves thoroughly, which usually means at least three to six months.
From the Tank Floor Up
As with so many things horticultural, the Leiden‐style aquarium was developed by the Dutch, as was the jar. And although it is now popular throughout Europe and making rapid inroads in the United States, for anyone starting out ‘some hints might be .useful:
First, unlike most aquariums, one devoted more to flora than Pisces requires a groundwork of sand plus: For a tank floor rich in vital nutrients, the Dutch use a four‐layer arrangement. First a thin layer of unwashed sand is spread on the bottom. This is covered with a thick layer of two‐thirds gravel, one‐third loam, with an extra 10 percent fine peat. To keep the lighter organic matter from floating free, a second thin layer of unwashed sand is placed over this and topped off with fine decorative layer of thoroughly washed clean sand‐natural, of course, none of this red, blue, and yellow poppycock. The ,whole “cake” should be minimum of two inches thick and range up to five inches or more toward the back of large tank.
Submersibles to Choose From
Aponogeton fenestralis, popularly known as the Madagascar lace plant, is one of the aristocrats of the aquarium, A. fenestralis is surprisingly tough and easy to grow‐if somewhat inconsistently so. Sometimes a plant simply will not take, yet a second one planted under exactly the same circumstances will flourish. Any trace of calcium spells doom, so make sure to check the fertilizer content. It prefers soft water (dh 4), slightly acidic (ph 6.8‐7.0), with a temperature of 68‐76 degrees. Moderate light and snails or algae‐eating fish to keep the plant's lace, or “windows.” open will produce the healthiest specimen. Although the plant itself epws entirely submerged, on rare occdsions a long bud‐carrying stem will break through the surface, enventually producing a “V” or trident‐shaped set of spikes covered with small white to yellow flowers. A prolonged 5‐10 degree temperature drop, say of two or more weeks, will either induce the plant to flower or send it into domancy. When dormant, the plant will lose most of its leaves. It prefers to grow far enough from other plants so that their
Another species, A. undulatus, is often sold as A. crispus. It is even hardier, and differs mainly, from an esthetic point of view, in that its leaves are a greener green and float more erectly.
The Water Sprite
Ceratopteris thalictroides, or Water Sprite, is a rampant‐growing member of the fern family. Its fecundity is such that it rapidly becomes the dandelion of your aquatic garden if you don't keep it under control. Bits of leaves break off, forming new plants. Bits of ‘stems break off, forming new plants. With an active bottom‐feeding catfish (something you are better off without in an acquarium primarily given over to plants), bits of roots break off, forming new plants. Given good light and acid, soft water (ph 5.0‐6.5, dh 5‐8), the plants can pack your tank within months if you don't remove the plantlets regularly.
Cryptocoryne, or Crypts, are Asiatic swamp and bog plants that do not naturally spend their whole lives underwater. However, they are content to do so for years at a time, and their dramatic shrubby forms make an excellent centerpiece for any water garden. Most Crypts flower with a spectacular ‘underwater or surface‐breaking spadex similar to, if not as large as, that of the more familiar terrestrial Voodoo Plant. The long‐lasting spadix ranges in color from rose‐spotted ivory to green to almost purple.
The genus as a whole prefers soft, acid (pH 6.5) water. The temperature range can be broad, although one in the lower 80's seems to produce the best growth, and below 65 degrees, growth will stop and leaves will die back. Coming from well‐shaded jungle streams, Crypts’ light demands are about the lowest of all the commonly grown aquatic plants. This makes them ideal for water gardens with a relatively dense crop of floating plants.
Easiest to grow is C. affinis, often sold as Chordate. Its long soft emeraldgreen leaves are contrasted by carmine or purple undersides on mature specimens. It spreads rapidly with runners producing new plants continuously during active growth. Leave the young plants connected; they grow well ‘as a family group.
A Strong Grower
Another strong grower is C. Its narrow olive‐green leaves are veined with purple and wavy along the edge.
If permitted to grow through the srface, it will become darker and sto&iar. C. wiliisii makes a splendid, if somewhat jealous, centerpieces. It will not grow well if other species of Crypts are in the same tank.
The genus ‐ Echinodorus comprises some 30‐odd species rather undemandr ing as to care and water conditions. The Amazon Sword Plant. E. paniculatus, E. brevipedicellatus • the Small‐leaved Amazon Sword Plant, and E. magdalenensis, the dwarf version. All but the dwarf variety should be planted in a 20‐gallon or. larger tank; in a 50‐gallon tank, they really come into their own.
For small leaves and rich texture, try the submerged forms of Lysmachia nurrunularia. Very undemanding, it will grow well in plain unwashed sand, although the addition of some mud or other organic matter will give it a boost Relatively soft water with a 4H of from 6 to 20 suits it fine, as does a pH” of ‘6.8‐7.0. Hardy and most attractive when grown as a grouping.
Nitella gracilis is one of the most common of the stoneworths, a group of plants representing some of the oldest known aquatic species. Its fine tangle of hairlike leaves makes an excellent spawning ground for egg‐layir; fish. N. gracilis also produces a luxurious “lawn” in your tank if cropped short two to three inches from the sand bed. Fresh cut, this plant is repu to smell like new‐mown hay. In the wilds, eutrophic waters sometimes produce areas of N. gracilis so dense they've been nicknamed .water meadows. ‘The meadows will grow almost as thickly in your tank as long as the water is alkaline (pH 7.5‐9.0), calcerbus, and has a dH n the 15‐25 range. Any water temperature from 45 to 86 degrees is tolerated. Any che‐tical is not. The stoneworths are sr iensitive to chemical pollutants as to constitute an equivalent of the miner's canarY in the aquarium world.
Where to Get Them
Following are seine sources of exotic aquatic plants.
R. A. Gasser, 129 S.W. Linden Street Stuart, Fla. 33494; free list.
Three Springs Fisheries, 2726 Tropical Road, Lilypond, Md. 21717. Mostly pool plants, but also several species of aquarium plants. Catalogue, $1.
Bee Fork Water Gardens, Route 1, Box 115 Bunker, Mo. 63629, free illustrated folder.
Westerleigh Aquarium, P.O. Box 11 Staten Island, N.Y. 10314; free list
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