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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
True Marginal Aquatic Plants for Planted Ripariums

I have posted a few times before with lists of riparium plants, but here is a new discussion with some updates.

The best kinds of plants to use for ripariums are true marginal aquatics. Granted, many kinds of plants, including most houseplants, can grow with their roots in open water or in a riparium planter with a very coarse planting medium, such as hydroton. But marginal aquatic plants are specifically adapted to saturated soils with low oxygen, so they grow very well in a more dense gravel substrate submerged in the aquarium water.

Secondly, true marginal aquatics make the best representation of the shoreline environment. Riparian, rheophytic, swamp and marshes are specific kinds of habitats in nature with their own combinations of plant and animal species. Why not try to recreate this kind of habitat in a realistic way?

While they might grow if planted in open water, using plants from non-aquatic habitats in a riparium is akin to using "faux aquatics" underwater in an aquascape. Marginal aquatic plants have some very characteristic kinds of foliage and growth habits, such as slender, arching leaves that bend in fast floodwater, but other non-aquatics may look very out of place growing in the water.

I'll write again pretty soon with the beginning of a list. Stay tuned.


 

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I subscribed to this thread because I have wanted to do a riparium for a long time and I am just really starting to learn. Hopefully some of what you come up with will apply to my idea, assuming my idea is even feasible.
 

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I do mostly agree with you, but I feel the irresistible urge to play the devil's advocate for a post. My apologies.

As much as they might look 'correct' for the environment... There's still something incredibly fun about finding non-aquatics that can end up loving life in the riparium. As a gardener as well, there's also very practical reasons for me to put non-aquatics in my tank as well.

An example of this is coleus, a stunningly colorful foliage plant that is extremely easy to clone by putting stem cuttings in water and waiting for them to root. Usually it takes weeks to get them to the point where they've developed enough roots to plant in dirt. However, by putting them in my tank instead, with nutrient-rich, circulating, oxygenated water, I can have coleus rooting within 3 days. In 7-10 days, they've developed enough to plant in dirt. Though only a temporary part of the tank at best, they really are an eye-catching addition.

I've accidentally multiplied other plants in the same way- a butterfly bush cutting I meant to use as an art study, and a few houseplants that were near death. There's something incredibly fun about noticing that a plant is doing unexpectedly well. Equally exciting is seeing a plant in a place you don't expect it to be. To each their own though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I have a couple of different ways to list plants here. Here is a list of the ones that are all fairlyeasy to find for sale/trade and easy to grow. The plant botanical name is provided first followed by one possible common name and the way(s) that it is usually sold in horticulture.


  • Acorus gramineus, Japanese Sweetflag - pond plant, bedding plant
  • Asclepias curassavica - Mexican milkweed - bedding plant
  • Cyperus var. - Dwarf Papyrus - pond plant, bedding plant
  • Chamaedorea cataractarum - Cat Palm - houseplant
  • Echinodorus cordifolius - Radican Sword - pond plant, aquarium plant
  • E. cordifolius - 'Tropica Marble Queen' - aquarium plant
  • Pilea cadierei - Aluminum Plant - houseplant
  • Ruellia brittoniana - Bluebell - bedding plant, pond plant
  • R. brittoniana "Katie' (and others) - Dwarf Bluebell - bedding plant, pond plant
  • Spathiphyllum sp. or var. - Peace Lily - houseplant
  • Zephyranthes sp.- Rain Lily - bedding plant, pond plant

These plants all look pretty good in riparium layouts. They are true semi-aquatic marginals that grow in various kinds of wild habitats, so they make good representations of this kind of area.

There are quite a few other aquarium plants, especially stem plants, that can grow well in ripariums if adapted with emersed-form foliage, but E. cordifolius is especially easy to grow like this.

I will add at least one more quick list like this with some different kinds of plants. I also have notes to add for all of these plants.
 

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Acorus gramineus- Many varieties, dwarf (few inches) to over a foot. Grows well in an outdoor pond setting, good choice for a riparium.

Cyperus var- Several species and varieties. The larger ones (the papyrus used for paper in Egypt) gets very large (over 6' in the small pond in my greenhouse). Pond plant. Quite a few are mid sized. Perhaps suited to the largest of ripariums, but not to a tank. Roots are very strong, and can spread and break apart containers.

Zephyranthes sp- A very nice choice! Common name is Rain Lily. When it rains, it grows, and flowers. When it is dry it may stop flowering, perhaps go dormant. But it does not seem to need to go dormant. I keep mine in an HOB where it stays green all the time, and comes in and out of flower as it wants. Bulbs will increase under these conditions (running water, high O2)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Acorus gramineus- Many varieties, dwarf (few inches) to over a foot. Grows well in an outdoor pond setting, good choice for a riparium.

Cyperus var- Several species and varieties. The larger ones (the papyrus used for paper in Egypt) gets very large (over 6' in the small pond in my greenhouse). Pond plant. Quite a few are mid sized. Perhaps suited to the largest of ripariums, but not to a tank. Roots are very strong, and can spread and break apart containers.

Zephyranthes sp- A very nice choice! Common name is Rain Lily. When it rains, it grows, and flowers. When it is dry it may stop flowering, perhaps go dormant. But it does not seem to need to go dormant. I keep mine in an HOB where it stays green all the time, and comes in and out of flower as it wants. Bulbs will increase under these conditions (running water, high O2)
Yep those are good observations.

The Acorus gramineus variety that has worked best for me is 'Ogon'. It grows about 12" tall. There are also a couple of real little varieties only about 4" tall. Divided and transplanted Acorus are rather top-heavy without a lot of root, so I find it useful to hold in place with a rubber band wrapped around the plant rhizome and the planter until new roots grow to anchor the plant. Acorus grows like Anubias with a creeping rhizome, so you should plant with the rhizome just on top of the substrate surface.

There are a couple of Cyperus that grow well. Cyperus 'Baby Tut' is pretty easy to find and very easy to grow. It usually only grows to about 14" tall, but I have seen that under dimmer light it stretches out more and reaches up to 30". C. alternifolius var. gracilis is harder to find, but stays shorter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Zephyranthes are very easy to grow, but you will have the best luck with blooming if you give them pretty good light and also bury a root tab fertilizer in the planter with them. They probably won't bloom until the bulb gets pretty big, about 1" in diameter.

The most common one available for sale is the white rain lily (Z. candida), but I have found that the pink rain lilies (there are a few different species of these) are easier to bloom.

 

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I got rain lily as a free toss in when I bought riparium plants a few years back. Its done well but its leaves are very droopy and tend to end up arching down into the tank's water as they get longer, they don't do well with tips submerged..
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I posted a couple of other threads that show planting details for Acorus and Zephyranthes. These two plants are easy, but you will have the best results with them if you plant with some care.

Acorus Sweetflag grows from a rhizome like an Anubias plant. You should avoid burying the rhizome because it might rot and die if you do. The rhizome should be planted on top of the substrate and seated against the back fo the planter so that it will have room to creep forward as the plant grows. Planted at a shallow depth like this and with the roots trimmed back the Acorus will be rather top-heavy and prone to tipping out of the planter. If you wrap a couple of rubber bands around the planter top-to-bottom they will hold the rhizome in place until new roots form to anchor the plant.

 

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I've seen Zephyranthes offered for sale in pet stores as a "dwarf water onion". Those water onions seem to be doing just fine in a pot in my front yard (and are a nice accent in a pot of mini flowers). No blooms yet though, and I could never seem to make them happy in a riparium setting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
While I have them handy, here are some new plant photos. These are all very good riparium plants.

The Ruellia and Dichromena both have very nice flowers.

I have tried a few different Echinodorus swordplants in ripariums, but observed good results with just a few of them. E. grandiflorus grew well.

Leather fern is a cool plant. It can grow huge if you plant it outdoors, but in a riparium planter it only grows to about 18".









 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I also have a journal thread for this setup. This is a shallow 6.5G tank that I planted last week. I used a pretty nice selection of plants. The swordplant might eventually get pretty big, but the others are nice choices for a smaller layout like this one.


  • Ruellia Dwarf Bluebell
  • Dichromena Star Grass
  • Acorus Japanese Sweetflag
  • Echindorus grandiflorus



 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I've seen Zephyranthes offered for sale in pet stores as a "dwarf water onion". Those water onions seem to be doing just fine in a pot in my front yard (and are a nice accent in a pot of mini flowers). No blooms yet though, and I could never seem to make them happy in a riparium setting.
I have grown the white Zephyranthes, a pink kind and a yellow one in ripariums and they have all been very easy. They grow best if you root them in a fine clay gravel, not open water or LECA. They are more likely to bloom if you give them good root fertilization with a root tab. All of them have kind of spindly leaves like an onion, so they should be combined with other plants that have more foliage.
 
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