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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been trying for some time to use aquarium stem plants (e.g., Hygrophila, Alternanthera, Rotala) in ripariums, but I have thus far only had limited success with them. In contrast to most of the rosette plants that I've used (e.g., Cryptocoryne, Echinodorus), most stem plants have had failed to prosper in my riparium setups, with tendencies to grow very leggy. The only ones that I have used with much success are a couple of Bacopa, including B. monnieri and another one that I believe to be B. madagascariensis. These develop as attractive floating carpets when grow in hanging planters and draped across trellis rafts, as shown here...



About a month ago I decided to replant some nice stems with a little more care in order to produce some new propagation material. I set them up in a 20-gallon tank with hanging planter and trellis rafts and they have grown in well. Here is a shot through the open canopy front of the tank...



I'm not really using this tank for display right now, so the underwater area looks rather dingy. I might try to clean it up for a full-tank shot. I will need to do some replanting underwater too--there is currently just one crypt variety in there, which would not harmonize so well with the variety of foliage in the emersed area.

Here is the same shot cropped a little more to detail the plants...



I think that this is promising. I only did this in a haphazard way, but it suggest for me the contrasts of color and texture used in Dutch style planted aquariums. The plants are pretty sturdy and stand up well, in contrast to most of my previous attempts with stems, with leggy plants tipping over and becoming bogged down in the aquarium water. I think that the key here is that I have the light fixture, a pretty bright T5 lamp, shining right down on the plants and I have not included any large swordplants or other big specimens that shade the stems. I have also taken the time to trim a few of the plants to encourage branching and improve their forms.

Anyway, I just thought that these are interesting observations. I should try to do a new setup using mostly stem plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think that I put the planters in here about a month ago, but I had started a few of them some time earlier, maybe three months ago.

They do not seem to be growing very fast. I have been surprised but stems actually seem to grow more slowly as emersed plants than as underwater plants. The opposite is true for most of my riparium plants, including crypts, Anubias, ferns and others.

I don't know why.
 

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have you tried rotala indica or rotala rotundifolia? My LFS has a bunch of it (they call it rotala indica, but i'm assuming its rotundifolia because it doesn't look anything like true R. indica) that they got from their supplier in emersed form and its really quite charming :hihi:
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have tried R. rotundifolia, but it didn't take. I have found that most stems, with the exception of Bacopa, are slow to establish in riparium planters. I wonder if a lot of them might prefer to be underwater(?). One specific observation I have is that the stems have grown much better when I have added mineralized top soil to their planters. I wonder if stems are more demanding of ferts than some other plants like swords and crypts or if they might need a broader complex of nutrients(?).

I saw good responses from all of these plants when I added MTS to their planters. I just used a chopstick to open a little tunnel in the planter gravel, filled it with MTS, then topped with gravel.

I'm pretty excited about this. I mean to do a setup just with stems. I might try to just work this one up some more--fixing the underwater scape--or start again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks very much. They do look really nice from that angle. It's too bad that the rest of the tank isn't in better shape. The emersed stuff still has more room to grow up, so maybe I can work on the underwater area and get a good FTS.

The emersed plants at least don't have a speck of algae on 'em.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Here is a neat plant, Bacopa caroliniana. This one is not so full like the rest of the stems in there, but I had struggled to get it to grow and now it is finally responding. I think that the important factor for this one might have been the addition of mineralized topsoil to the planter cup. This is a handsome plant that grows as floating mats on the edges of streams and lakes.



These little sprouts grew from the bases of the older stems growing off to the right. I hope that this plant will grow more bushy and cover the trellis raft that I have floating in front.
 

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Are those stem plants all growing in a closed top tank, with high humidity? It is my impression that you have previously said that to do well with emersed aquatic plants you do need the high humidity. And, that makes sense to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I would say that this setup has moderate humidity. It has one of those Aqueon versa-top canopies, but with the plastic strip removed so that there is a ~2" gap in the top. The air circulates pretty well and this tank doesn't have any condensation on the glass.

I imagine that for the plants that can grow in drier air their stems are more sturdy than if grown in high humidity. It seems to me that most stems can be grown in moderate humidity. It seems that most crypts however do need to be kept in high humidity all the time: they just don't grow right in drier air.

Hey Hoppy I finally got that Bacop caroliniana to turn around. I think that it helped to add the MTS to the planter cup. That one will look real nice if I can get it to cover the trellis raft.
 

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Most stepm plants should be able to survive well if they are rooted under water and the stalks are in high humidity. However the stalks need to be strong enough to hold up the plant without bouyancy. Have you tried L. aromatica? Mine grows above water once they reach the surface.

I think if you plant them so that they are fully submerged when planted and let them grow out of the surface, they will adjust better to the semi submerged atmosphere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I do have L. aromatica in there. It is just to the right of center. It has been slow to develop, but it is just beginning to grow more quickly. I like the smell of that plant.

I think that it might be preferable to use moderate humidity (maybe ~60%?), rather than high humidity (>90%) for growing most these stems in ripariums. It looks as though the stems are stiffer in lower humidities and the glass also stays fog free with more air circulation, so it's a nicer display. Now that the water heater is on my crypts tank has foggy glass all the time.

The trellis rafts are really handy for supporting the plants. If I hadn't used them here most of those plants would have just become swamped and mostly sunk underwater.
 

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What is the mottled, crinkly leafed plant at the left, that kinda resembles aluminum plants? I'm guesing it is a hemigraphis.

I can see why you have so many tanks going - just so many types of plants to try out. One could keep rotating plants in and out of a display tank and keep it looking brand new every day. I may have to set up my old ten gallon tank again.

One more thing: don't underestimate the effect of the very high lighting you are providing. T5HO lights are very bright compared to any other lights, and you have a lot on that tank. My two ripariums are lighted just at the edge of what we consider high light for a planted tank, but that is probably low for emersed plantings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
That plant at left is a Pilea sp.. I think I sent you a few stems of the same thing(?). It is one of my new favorite plants. It grows well on the Nano Trellis Raft with its roots right in the water. The leaves have that attractive silver streak down the middle.

Yes I think that the higher light is the reason I am seeing better results from thes particular plants--they are growing with nice bushy shapes and bright colors. The T5 is shining right down on them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok, like I mentioned earlier there are some pretty neat plants in this arrangement, so I return with a numbered picture to point them out. THis shot is 1000 pixels wide, so click it for the larger view to see more detail.



  1. Ranunculus inundatus. I acquired most of these plants via trades with generous members here on TPT. Crispino Ramos sent me this one. It just sat in its planter for a long time--months--but now it's growing well. However, it doesn't have the best growth habit for riparium planters; it runs.
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  2. Staurogyne sp.. I got this plant from zeek21 in trade for some livebearers. What a neat little plant. This one actually has a pretty sturdy stem and it stands straight up. Right now it is covered with flower buds and I am excited to see its flowers. Maybe I will be able to determine the species.
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  3. Pilea sp.. This plant is in the nettle family, Urticaceae, and it has the general look of the wild nettles we have around here, but it doesn't sting. This is one of my new favorite plants. It has a perfect habit for planting on Nano Trellis Rafts. It grows great with its roots right in the water. It will probably do best planted in this was with regular water column dosing, especially for N and Fe.
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  4. Alternanthera reineckii var. rosaefolia. gmccreedy gave me this plant along with a number of other vigorous emersed-grown stems. The pieces that he sent were a beautiful rosy red that I have failed to match. This is an easy plant to grow like this, but it gets leggy.
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  5. Ludwigia sp.. This might be L. repens? gmccreedy also sent this one. This plant was very slow to start growing in the riparium planter, but now it is growing well. I saw a response when I added mineralized topsoil to the planter cups.
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  6. Limnophila aromatica. From Crispino Ramos. This one has had performance similar to the Ludwigia. It is just now starting to grow better. I want to turn this one into a nice floating carpet.
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  7. Hyptis sp.. This plant has been circulating in the hobby as Hemigraphis traian, but it's not a Hemigraphis. It grows well on the Nano Trellis Raft with its roots right in the water, as I have it here, but it grows sort of tall and leggy. I am going to see if I can encourage more bushy growth by pruning the growing tips.
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  8. Bacopa caroliniana. I don't quite recall where I got this one. I was busy this summer and lost track of several new plants. I think that i might have purchased it at a garden center(?). I was disappointed in the initial performance of this one--it almost fizzled completely--but this one too turned around when I added MTS to the planter cup. This might be the magic solution for some of these plants. This plant develops as a very pleasing floating mat along the edges of ponds and streams and I am going to do my best to nurture these little stems along. It is a handsome plant.
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I am having a lot of fun with these plants. I am pleased that I have finally figured out how to grow stems well in a riparium setup.
 

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Here's a close up of that Pilea sp.. It's a nice plant...

The cuttings you sent me looked pretty bad a week ago, but they are starting to send out new growth now. It does look promising, and it is certainly a beautiful plant. I think I saw that plant at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago, in a bunch of unnamed "house plants" in little 3 inch pots. That is one source of plants I have thought of trying - if I find room to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Yeah like I said that one doesn't travel so well, but it is otherwise hardy and a great grower. It makes a nice midground hedge for depth and for covering up the planters.

I have found some of the best riparium plants at Home Depot. I encountered a couple of good Spathiphyllum there and also got this fun surprise, Alocasia amazonica...



I was advised that this plant would not do well with its roots in the water, but I got several divisions from this pot and the ones in the riparium have grown faster and look better than the one in regular potting media in the greenhouse.
 

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That is really nice looking. I have some Ludwigia repens and what I believe is Ludwigia glandulosa growing emersed in my back yard. Not very much humidity but obviously alot of light. The Ludwigia glandulosa looks alot like the Alternanthera rosaefolia you have but with a bit more color. It took awhile for them to color up though, even in sunlight.

Thank you for constantly showing us your progress. It is very interesting and you have obviously inspired a bunch of people on the boards.
 
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