Making stem plants grow bushier? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-25-2005, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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Making stem plants grow bushier?

And swords grow more compact?

Some of you may have been following my thread in the photo album about about my new planted tank, and so have seen my stem plants are growing long and tall with lots of stem between each leaf node. Makes them look spindly and thin. And they're not branching at all either. Just the one stalk growing straight up.

Same with the swords. Instead of being compact 'rosettes', the leaves are growing on long stems.

pH - 7
CO2 - 27ppm
light - 3.5 watts/gal

Can I make them all grow more compact/bushier by cutting back on the CO2 (to about 15ppm) as I'm planning to do? I thought I'd better ask and check first! I've already cut the light back in half to a single 55w tube so can't reduce that any further.

I'm just guessing it's the CO2 making them grow tall and fast and spindly instead of short and bushy, as the same Sessiliflora and Hygro and Aromatica in my non-CO2 tank with 3 watts/gal is growing a lot slower but it's thick and bushy and branching a lot (which is the way I want it).
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 04:18 AM
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I really wish I had an experience based answer to your question. I don't. But I've been trying to pay close attention to the same issues for the last year or so, and have come to the following general conclusions:

1) Trimming is it's own art. Different plants respond differently. And to ask about how to make a given plant more bushy is a plant specific question, as far as trimming practice is concerned.

2) As a general rule, plants will grow lower and more compact, in higher light. They don't have to grow to get to better light. It's coming to them.

3) Light coloration plays a major role. While very, very high light in the 10K range seems to be a solid way of getting bushier growth, the amount of red, at any light level, seems to be a major factor too. Apparently near red (70 nanometers?), when in abundance vs. far red (760 nanometers?) seems to play a role in creating bushier growth.

4) Finally, and I'm less sure about this - nitrates may play a role. As with the general feeling that reds become more pronounced in low nitrate tanks, bushier growth may also accompany this. But I'm really unsure about this one.

I'm really looking forward to the responses on this, as I'm just as interested in understanding this issue.

Steve - 33g reef and a 180g planted in need of a re-scape.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 05:04 AM
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This has always been a problem for me, so let's get to the bottom of it!

- Erik
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 06:21 AM
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I have heard that it is really, really high light levels that get the results that you want.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 08:47 AM
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I really depends on what sword specie it is. There are many varieties of Echinodorus, and most do NOt grow compact, but grow to be quite large. There are a few dwarf species. Many swords have leaf stems. Nothing you can do about that, it is how the plant grows. Now if you are talking about runners with baby plants,, that is how the plant reproduces. A fully mature common Amazon sword is over 20 inches tall, 30 to 40 leaves and takes up about a third of a 55 gallon tank. Many swords will out grow a typical tank within a year. Swords with round or oval leaves have stems for lack of a better word, such as Melon swords, Ozelot, Oriental... and none of these are dwarf or compact species. I had a Oriental sword that took up almost half a 100 gallon tank.

Smaller species are E. horizontilas, E. parviflorus var tropica, E schuelteri var leopard, E. compacta, (which can still get up to 20"), and then the smallest of all are the grass like species.

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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 09:06 AM
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I have tried growing plants 2 seperate times with different results each time. The first time I tried it (when I had no knowledge), I used the stock 20W bulb that came with the hood on my aquarium. One plant managed to survive in my 29Gal tank: Moneywort. Eventually even my Moneywort died off. Last year, I upgraded my lighting to a dual 65W PC light. I again tried Moneywort, but this time it grew differently for me. It still grows fast and tall, but it also sends out plantlets off of the stem close to the base. Also, the leaves are closer together then what they used to be. There are other factors that I have left out like dosing micros and macros, which I wasn't doing before.

My overall experience has been that with this particular species of plant, it will grow differently depending on its environment. My initial guess is that the lighting had the most drastic impact on the way that the Moneywort is growing for me now (bushier IMO).
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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Higher light equalling bushier growth makes logical sense, because that's what we expect with terrestrial plants - shaded plants grow more taller and thinner, trying to reach for the light.

But the exact reverse appears to be true with my aquatic plants though. Or at any rate, it's not the light at all, but the CO2 levels.

Here I can make a direct comparison between cuttings from the exact same original Sessiliflora plant. Some in a high light / high CO2 tank, the other in a non CO2 tank. Compare:



Whether the light in the high CO2 tank (left) was 7w/g or reduced to 3.5w/g made no real difference to the stem distance between leaf nodes, which is on average about 5 to 6cm. The stronger light simply made the growth faster, with no difference to the actual growth pattern - long non-branching stems.

In the other tank (right), you can see a totally different growth pattern to a cutting taken form the identical plant. With what can be considered high light at 3w/g, the growth is far bushier, the spread of the leaves is greater and the stem distance between leaf nodes is less than 1cm. And there's a small branch developing. Overall speed of growth is far slower too.

Apart from just 0.5w/g difference in light and the (non)presence of CO2, all other factors except NO3 can be considered equal (the NO3 is actually lower in the more stemmy growth tank, Scolley).

My conclusion is it must be the CO2 which promotes growth speed which translates as stem growth. So high light does indeed promote bushier plants, but not with high Co2.

Robert H, I also have two Marble Queen swords as examples too, taken from runners from the same parent plant. One is in the same high CO2 27ppm, 3.5w/g light tank has a stem of approx 16cm before the leaf actually begins. The other plant of equal size in another tank also with CO2, but only half as much at 12ppm, and 3w/g light has a maximum stem length of 8cm on all its same sized leaves. Literally, half the CO2 is producing half as long stems.

These are just my own personal observations.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 01:53 PM
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awrieger - these are some great observations. But I must ask, were the lights themselves identical? Your seem to be making a conclusion that the major differing factor was CO2, and that might well make the difference.

But light color is definitely implicated in this question. For more information on this topic, read this thread. In that thread you will also see that nitrate deficiency is also implicated in the "bushiness" issue.

I think at the end of the day you will find there are a lot more differences between those two tanks than just CO2.

Steve - 33g reef and a 180g planted in need of a re-scape.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the link, Scolley. Never occured to me to search for 'internodes'!

I had a quick scan and will read it through properly a bit later. Lots of posts! I got up to page three where Shalu writes "hm.. perhaps NO CO2 is the key"..

Anyway, I'm in Australia. Which basically means I can only get one type of CF plant-suitable spectrum bulb here. All three tanks have 6500/10000K tubes from the same manufacturer. So I can safely say the differing spectrum theory mentioned there doesn't apply because my setups all have the identical spectrum.

The only significant difference in my setups is the CO2 (and by inference, KH also as the CO2 tanks have higher KH).
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 05:19 PM
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Well, that means we can toss out the light spectrum. That's great.

But what about the Nitrates? What's the difference in the two tanks? I'll wager the lower light, shorter internode tank has much lower Nitrates.

Steve - 33g reef and a 180g planted in need of a re-scape.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 05:57 PM
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-NO- CO2?? Isn't that going to cause algae-havok? Granted, I've never had BBA, and I'm all for lowering it if that will result in short internodes, but no CO2 sounds like asking for trouble.

Regardless, I'll lower my CO2 to 15ppm and test if that helps over the next couple weeks.

- Erik
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 06:31 PM
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I was having the same problem with my cambomba where the noads were almost 1 to 1 1/2" apart. And I have 260watts over my 72 (3.6wpg). I just let it grow till it hit the surface where they nodes got much more compact and bushy the higher it got. Then after a few days I chopped off the bottom half (there were still roots coming out that could be planted) and planted it again. Now it seems to be growing much closer together. It's still growing very quickly to.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 06:33 PM
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Troy, I think you are jumping the gun. IMO no one is suggesting any specific course of action here. We're just trying to bottom out the possible causes.

I wouldn't cut back on anything just yet.

Steve - 33g reef and a 180g planted in need of a re-scape.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-26-2005, 07:21 PM
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I understand what you're saying, Steve. It's just a test...a very unscientific test.

In my 85gal that has no CO2 yet, the hygro internode length is much shorter than it was while growing out in my 10gal with CO2. I have transfered all of the L. repens from the 10g to 85g and will observe their growth. Hopefully they will be effected in the same way.

- Erik
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-27-2005, 07:56 AM
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I thought we were talking about sword plants in this thread...now we are talking about stem plants? I find the comparison picture odd, and the notion of higher light getting leggy growth, and low light bushy growth odd. In ten years I have never found that to be the case. I have grown Cabomba, Lymnophila, and Myriophyllum under very bright light and high levels of C02 and still have bushy leaf growth without the wide spaces between the leaf nodes. For me it has always come down to pruning. If you keep re planting the original tops, the stems remain thicker, the leaf nodes bushy and close together. If you allow new growth from cut stems, the new growth will always have thinner stems, thinner leaves, and wider spaces between the leaves.

Quote:
Robert H, I also have two Marble Queen swords as examples too, taken from runners from the same parent plant. One is in the same high CO2 27ppm, 3.5w/g light tank has a stem of approx 16cm before the leaf actually begins. The other plant of equal size in another tank also with CO2, but only half as much at 12ppm, and 3w/g light has a maximum stem length of 8cm on all its same sized leaves. Literally, half the CO2 is producing half as long stems.
Thats because without the C02, growth is stunted. As the plant matures, the stem portion gets longer and the leaf bigger. Swords plants can however vary in shape under any conditions. They are not always uniformily the same. My monster oriental sword had huge oval shaped leaves, but the baby plants it produced had more elongated shaped leaves. Swords that are hybrids of two or more species can revert back to one of the parent plants in the next generation.

Robert Paul Hudson

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