Trimming Plants in the Nature Aquarium by Takashi Amano - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
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Post Trimming Plants in the Nature Aquarium by Takashi Amano

Published in Tropical Fish Hobbyist, November 2005
Translated by Tomoko Schum

Quote:
In last month's issue, I explained the method for planting aquatic plants. Aquatic plants grow well when the substrate is set up and the filter, lighting, and CO2 are working together to make environmental conditions in the aquarium ideal for plant growth.

Left unchecked, however, aquatic plants grow too tall and the layout becomes unattractive. Since stem plants and other sun-loving aquatic plants in particular grow rapidly, trimming down to size is important. With trimming, stem plants grow multiple terminal buds, and their stems and leaves grow densely. Repeated trimming shapes the beautiful thicket of stem plants.

Trimming of aquatic plants is best performed with specialized scissors. Scissors made for trimming aquatic plants are characterized by their sharp edges and long handles. The sharp edges cut without squashing the cells near the cut surface, thus lessening damage to the aquatic plants during trimming, and the long handles enable you to reach into the intricate part of the layout. Trimming scissors are very handy for trimming stem plants into well-formed bushes.

Trimming is also essential for maintaining Glossostigma, Riccia, and hair grass over a long period of time. These aquatic plants are relatively short, and the cutting height is very low near the substrate. Therefore it is difficult to cut a large area horizontally with straight-bladed scissors. For trimming this type of plant, I use scissors with curved blades. I use scissors in different sizes and shapes depending on the aquatic plant types and the location of the cuts. If you are new at this, I recommend trying basic style trimming scissors first. You can add curved blade trimming scissors to your collection if you feel the need. This makes a difference in the ease of operation and the finished condition.

If you have your tools ready, let's start trimming aquarium plants! The first trimming of stem plants is done when their stems have grown upward to some extent. Stem plants grow relatively fast. If left unchecked, their terminal buds reach the water surface in short order, and the plants start overhanging along the water surface. I recommend that you trim them sooner since the condition of the lower part of their stems becomes poor once they reach this point. Over the bottom part of the stem plants where light does not reach very well, they eventually lose their leaves, put out roots, and become unsightly. In the Nature Aquarium, Cryptocoryne and other aquatic plants are planted, or driftwood is placed in the mid-ground, to hide this part.

Although it depends on the layout, you should generally trim for the first time along the outline of a compositional material such as driftwood, which can serve as a useful guide for trimming. Normally, multiple shoots develop from a stem in a week or two after trimming. Taking advantage of this nature of stem plants, the second and subsequent trimmings are done at a location that is a little higher than the previous trim position. This encourages the tip of a stem to branch out and the stem and its leaves to grow densely.

When you trim stem plants, it is also important to sculpt the overall shape of the bush. Envisioning the way they grow, you must trim the bush so that the stem plants will grow into a beautiful bush in two to three weeks. One or two shoots start to protrude before all the stems grow out; if this happens, this type of shoot must be cut off immediately.

Various aquatic plants other than stem plants are used in an actual layout. These aquatic plants should be trimmed at the same time to keep their growth in balance. First of all, Glossostigma and Riccia in the foreground need to be thinned down as much as possible, since they grow into a thick mat if not trimmed, and they tend to dominate the layout space. As I explained earlier, I thin this section down using curved trimming scissors.

It is also important to trim willow moss that is grown attached to driftwood; if willow moss is allowed to grow unrestricted, it covers the driftwood completely, which makes the driftwood appear too bulky and destroys the overall balance of the layout. You can tear the moss off by hand to a certain extent, and then cut away any protruding part with scissors. If a fern such as Microsorium sp. is grown on driftwood, large leaves should be cut off frequently. By doing so, the size of its leaves gradually becomes smaller and the fern looks more attractive. Any leaves that are starting to touch the glass surface should be cut off since they can create a crowded, claustrophobic feeling.

Among others, the family of hairgrass needs periodic trimming. If hair grass is trimmed down to about 1 cm from the root, new leaves develop quickly and the plant appears attractive again. The leaves of hair grass also become gradually smaller with repeated trimming. Eleocharis vivipara, a family of hair grass, forms plantlets at the tips of its leaves. These plantlets should be removed frequently to maintain a clean look, since the layout looks untidy when too many plantlets appear.

The maintenance of aquatic plants after trimming is important as well. Although stem plants are relatively tolerant of trimming, the lower stems near the root become old and new shoots do not develop easily with repeated trimming. When this happens, I add a fertilizer containing some plant hormone to encourage the development of new shoots. If the stems become overly aged and the base of the plant lifts up from the substrate, I pull out the entire stem plant, trim off the older bottom section, and replant the top younger sections of the stems. You can enjoy stem plants over a long period of time through trimming and rejuvenating in this manner.

For tall-growing stem plants, mid-ground ferns, and low-growing ground cover and mosses, proper trimming and maintenance is essential to the long-term success of a beautiful Nature Aquarium layout.
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 01:34 AM
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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It's very clear that Amano doesn't just "plant and forget" in his tanks. Even though they look very natural, there is a LOT of trimming and work involved past planting, fertilizing, and changing water.

I've always said when trimming stem plants you pull it out, clip the bottom, and replant the top. Amano doesn't do that. He trims the tops, which is similar to what gardeners call "pinching." The plants form side buds and grow wider and denser. And he doesn't just do it once, he does it several times and actually shapes and sculpts like one does with a Bonsai tree.

Eventually he does pull and replant the tops, but there's a lot of intermittent steps he does before it gets to that point.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 02:10 AM
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Yeah I read that at Barne's & Nobles, I wonder how many more articles he'll write for TFH?

By the way, how come it doesn't tell how to trim vallisneria plants?
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 02:13 AM
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Quote:
Normally, multiple shoots develop from a stem in a week or two after trimming. Taking advantage of this nature of stem plants, the second and subsequent trimmings are done at a location that is a little higher than the previous trim position. This encourages the tip of a stem to branch out and the stem and its leaves to grow densely.
I found this particularly helpful, and it was something that I'd just started to notice on my hygro' polysperma. Wherever I make a cut, at the node below the cut, it seems to grow a new shoot and thicken out. So you can predict where to cut to make it grow how you want. Pretty cool.

Thanks for writing this article out. Very informative.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 02:46 AM
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Quote:
I've always said when trimming stem plants you pull it out, clip the bottom, and replant the top.
I basically do the same thing as well. I trim most of my stem plants from the bottoms, with the exception of Hemianthus micranthemoides.

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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 01:07 PM
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Nice summary. I just happened to read that article last night going to bed and your summary is right on! Good job!
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 02:23 PM
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I had the pleasure of meeting Tomoko a few months back, we do not live far from each other, we met at the LFS along with a couple of other fellow hobbiest's for a good chat for an hour or so, I had the pleasure of giving her some plants she was wanting for some time, Stellata, Diandra, L. Aromatica, P. Gayii to name a few...She was interesting to talk to, very knowledgable, was a good meet.

Just thought I would share

Craig

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-07-2005, 04:41 PM
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Amano has been giving TFH aquascaping articles for awhile now. I imagine there are still a few more coming up.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-08-2005, 05:12 AM
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it's interesting to see his suggestions on glosso and hairgrass. Does he mean to say you should trim glosso like "mowing the lawn"? At least that seems to be what he's implying using curved scissors.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-09-2005, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amano via TFH
Scissors made for trimming aquatic plants are characterized by their sharp edges
Just curious, does anyone use real specialized scissors for trimming? I use my the scissors that came with a disecting kit which seem to work well. Anyone use anything else "special"?


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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-09-2005, 09:43 PM
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I will start using scissors I guess. I have just been pinching them off with my finger nail. I have some laying around somewhere.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-09-2005, 11:39 PM Thread Starter
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I know he uses surgical steel scissors. He sells them for quite outrageous prices (if you ask me) - http://www.aquariumdesigngroup.com/c...hp?cPath=22_33

You can get ones for more reasonable prices here --> http://www.azgardens.com/newtools2.php
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-11-2005, 05:39 AM
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This is the technique that I use to trim my stem plants. Often the new nodes that develop are in pairs. Which makes the plant bunch more full.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-28-2006, 09:09 PM
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As I'm ready to 'evolve' in my stem trimming techniques, I found this article with a quick search, and it was exactly what I needed!

So, I'm commenting to bump this one up, so others may benefit as well.

Now, if I can just carry out what is suggested...
Brian.

Oh, and for those that might be interested, Amano is still getting a monthly article into TFH.
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