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Something I've wanted to make for a long time is a tank focused primarily on emergent plants - that is, plants growing up and out of the water. This is something I've seen incidentally in other aquascapes but it's often just a "happy accident", or at least isn't an intentional part of the design. But why is that? I think it looks very natural and attractive. I'd like to try growing tall Crypts or sturdy stems like Hygrophila in this way, maybe small pond plants.

(I have seen pond-style scapes before, but even those are closer in function to paludariums, with building up a bank of soil to the surface. I mean starting a plant at the bottom, in the substrate, and allowing it to grow out into the air.)

What would be the best way to go about doing this? I'm considering a long-term dry start until the plants are tall enough, followed by flooding the tank to the desired water level. This won't be a large-scale project as I've only got a 29 gallon to play with, but if I could keep it around halfway full, that would still be plenty of space for dwarf shrimp or nano fish.

Has anyone tried this before? Pros/cons?
 

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Shallow tanks like a 60S or a DOOA H23 (in my case) are a lot of fun to play with. The biggest problem with them is water changes because they require at least once a week top-off and honestly its better if its closer to 1.5 times a week. Evaporation has a much more dramatic affect on these scapes. My water is only about 6" deep when full and it will drop 1.5 inches in a week during the winter.

The other issue is humidity for above the water plants. Some plants (like ludwigia) do great growing above the water with nothing additional needed. Other plants (like brazilian pennywort) require misting on at least a daily basis and more would be better. This makes some plants growing emersed VERY high maintenance. Miss a day of misting and your leaves start to curl and turn brown at the edges. If using a regular aquarium you can put a tight fitting lid to keep in humidity and avoid the need to mist, BUT then the glass will fog with condensation and you can't see your emersed growth.

For my tank I am growing emersed ludwigia, cardinalis, and some kind of arrow plant I found in a swamp. Right now there are very much in the grow out phase, each time they get a bit taller and start producing offshoots I cut them back and replant the extras to create more stems. Eventually I hope to have enough for a proper emersed section. The fern in the middle is rabbits foot fern and a terrestrial epiphyte. All of these are low maintenance emersed growth not requiring misting. I got rid of (or eliminated from consideration) bacopa, java fern, anubias, and swords all of which either die or look terrible without regular misting.

 

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I wish I still had pictures of my vivariums.... If you are looking for advice on emergent plant start ups and maintenance look into vivarium keeping. Very rewarding but incredibly high maintenance if you don't have the money to invest in auto misters. On a secondary note some plants that are semi aquatic can do very well if you have a shallow spot that only their roots and bases are in the water, usually the evaporation is enough to keep them happy. Lol I've had my nymph lilies bloom, even had my aponongoton flower one time. I love surface flora. I love your emergent growth, looks beautiful!!!!!
 
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