Jump to content


Photo

Planting Brackish Aquaria


  • Please log in to reply
40 replies to this topic

#1 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 02:52 PM

Planting Brackish Aquaria

There has been a large void in the aquarium world with regards to planted brackish aquariums for a number of reasons. I hope to share my knowledge on the subject and hopefully try to fill a portion of this void and open a new field of interest to hobbyists.

Why Plant Brackish Aquariums?
Planting brackish aquariums serves a number of purposes that are beneficial to hobbyists. The most pain staking aspect of brackish hobbyists is algae cleaning. Provided your plants are under the appropriate care they will rid you of ALL your algae worries. Another important aspect that plants provide the brackish aquaria with is a superb aquascape. Many hobbyists (including myself) are meticulous with their brackish d�cor such as the perfectly stratified rocks, the perfect selection of woods, the perfect mix of sand with the delicate sprinkle of gravel, and other painstaking aquascaping. Plants fill that void between the dull artificial versions and the real thing, helping create that perfect aquascape. Plants are also natural filters. They absorb nitrates (N03), which can sometimes be an issue in the messy-eating puffer tank. Broad-leafed plants such as Java Fern provide an ideal resting place for Gobiidae fishes that use their suction cup-like pelvic fins to adhere to their favorite resting places, which are usually the aforementioned broad-leafed plants. There are many other reasons not listed above to plant your brackish aquarium, and with a little help from this article I hope to persuade TFF members into doing so.

What Will I Need To Plant My Brackish Tank?
The Plants & Planted Tanks forum will provide you with all the necessary information about the equipment you will need to run a planted tank.

I will tell you one note though that pertains specifically to brackish aquariums, if you are looking for your plants to rid your brackish tank of algae you will need a source of carbon dioxide (c02) and appropriate lighting to match. The c02 and appropriate lighting (along with fertilization) allows plants to photosynthesize at a rate that will out compete algae for necessary nutrients that allow algae to grow thus depriving your tank of algae. In freshwater aquariums an addition of c02 and higher wattage lighting isn’t absolutely necessary to choke algae, but since brackish tanks produce algae at an astonishing rate the algae can still grow and cover your d�cor without c02 and appropriate lighting. (I actually like the look of plants mixed with algae covered decor because it looks very natural, but most people don’t like it, oh well).

Brackish Flora
Contrary to popular belief there are thousands of aquatic brackish plants, the problem is that aside from Java Moss and Java Fern (and a couple others) none have made their way into the aquarium trade. Luckily hobbyists have a wide selection of common aquatic freshwater plants that naturally occur in brackish waters or plants that are brackish tolerant.

Brackish plants that will survive with a specific gravity 1.005 and lower:

Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)- This popular moss naturally inhabits brackish waters and is perfectly suitable for brackish aquaria. Ideally the specific gravity should be 1.005 and lower, but Java Moss can withstand higher salinities. Java Moss is quite hardy and can even thrive in brackish settings. Highly recommended for brackish aquaria.
Java Fern (Microsorium pteropus)- Java Fern also naturally occurs in brackish waters. Java Fern is remarkably hardy and makes a great addition to brackish aquaria. This fern is probably the most accepting aquatic plant of brackish waters available to hobbyists, also highly recommended for brackish aquaria. Like Java Moss, Java Fern can also thrive in brackish aquaria. All aquatic Microsorium species are accepting of brackish waters.
Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis synonym Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae)- Lilaeopsis brasiliensis naturally inhabits brackish waters and has a lighter green coloration in brackish waters compared to freshwater. This plant is pretty demanding in terms of light, substrate, and fertilization but once these demands are met Micro Sword grows quite nicely in brackish aquaria. Note that there is another species labeled as Micro Sword, Lilaeopsis carolinensis. Lilaeopsis carolinensis will grow in slightly brackish waters and appreciates subtropical temperatures but will grow in tropical temperatures.
Glosso (Glossostigma elatinoides)- This highly demanding plant is often referred to as brackish tolerable by many aquatic plant resources. I have not used Glossostigma elatinoides in any of my own brackish tanks but it is definitely worth trying.
African Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea zenkeri)- This beautiful lotus is rather hardy and both red and green varieties grow quite well in brackish settings provided there is a rich substrate and proper lighting. Nymphaea zenkeri makes a wonderful addition to brackish aquaria, and makes an ideal resting spot upon its leaves by many Gobiidae fishes.
Moss Balls (Cladophora aegagropila)- This Japanese oddity “plant” (which is actually an algae) is rarely considered brackish but I have used them with great success in the past. They are easy to grow, and many hobbyists have had a much higher specific gravity and the Moss Balls have done fine, I am personally reluctant to do so.
Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri)- Moneywort is another naturally occurring brackish plant. This plant is pretty undemanding and hardy, grows great in brackish water. Many hardy aquatic Bacopa species are/may be tolerable of brackish water, such as Bacopa caroliniana (synonym Bacopa carolina).
Vallisneria (All Vallisneria species) – All Vallisneria species are a favorite among brackish hobbyists for their great tolerability of brackish water. Some species of Vallisneria fare worse than others in brackish waters, so it is worth testing each desirable species. Vallisneria americana in particular is very tolerant of brackish waters.
Watersprite (Ceratopteris thalictroide)- Not known for tolerating brackish waters, Watersprite usually fares well in brackish aquaria. Ceratopteris thalictroide is odd when in brackish settings, it usually fares quite well but sometimes shows browning and very slow growth. Worth trying in my opinion.
Cryptocoryne ciliata (Cryptocoryne ciliata)- There is no defined common name for this plant. Cryptocoryne ciliata naturally inhabits brackish waters, quite often actually. Provide high lighting and a rich substrate and this plant will prosper in brackish settings, possibly even in higher salinities.
Hornwort/Coonstail (Ceratophyllum demersum)- Hornwort is very hardy in most conditions but prospers in brighter lighting. Hornwort accepts brackish waters quite well, and has a nice lime green color in brackish settings.
Onion Plant (Crinum species)- There are a few species of Onion Plants, but all grow very well in brackish aquaria. Provide a rich substrate for this hardy plant. Highly recommended.
Hygrophila Species (Hygrophila species)- There are numerous Hygrophila and most are tolerable of brackish waters, especially Hygrophila polysperma. Provide a rich substrate, high lighting, and plenty of fertilization and Hygrophila will grow well in brackish aquaria.
Wendt Crypt (Cryptocoryne wendtii)- Cryptocoryne wendtii super easy to grow, accepting all kinds of water conditions and light levels. Cryptocoryne wendtii comes in a few color variants including Red, Bronze, and Rose. I have had this plant in my low light, no c02, sand substrated, 10 gallon brackish tank and it still manages to grow! A must for low-tech brackish tanks.
Banana Plant (Nymphoides aquatica)- The popular Banana Plant grows very well in brackish aquaria. Be sure to provide high lighting and a rich substrate. A favorite resting spot for Gobiidae fishes. This plant can sometimes be delicate, so be sure the specific gravity never exceeds 1.005.
Anacharis (Egeria densa)- This very fast growing plant prefers subtropical temperatures but normally does fine in tropical aquaria. Anacharis may grow in waters with a specific gravity over 1.005, though this is not recommended. Some-what hardy.
Parrot Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)- Parrot Feather has a huge temperature range despite being some-what delicate. Provide high Lighting. I use Parrot Feather in my own brackish tank and couldn’t be happier with it.
Carolina Fanwort (Cabomba carolina)- Though Carolina Fanwort prefers soft acidic waters, it can grow rather easily in brackish settings. Provide plenty of light and your Fanwort won’t disappoint! Note that Cabomba aquatica won’t grow in brackish aquaria.
Mexican Oak leaf (Shinnersia rivularis)- Mexican Oak Leaf is tolerable of many conditions, but prefers high lighting. I have had success with most Shinnersia rivularis in brackish aquaria, but once in a while it starts to look ill. A lower in salinity usually cures the ill look.
Aponogeton crispus The rare Aponogeton crispus is very easy to care for. This plant grows rather tall, about 20 inches, but can grow to a massive 4 feet! This plant flowers often, and grows rather well in brackish water despite thriving in acidic waters.
Widgeon Grass (Ruppia maritima)- See description below under "Seagrass".

What are my options if my specific gravity is over 1.005?


1. Aquatic plants
See plant descriptions above. Note that the specific gravities listed below are approximately accurate and may be slightly higher or lower depending on the conditions of the tank such as lighting, fertilization, c02, and substrate.
Java Fern (Microsorium pteropus)- Up to 1.013
Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)- Up to 1.010
Moss Balls (Cladophora aegagropila)- Up to 1.009
Anacharis (Egeria densa)- Up to 1.008
Cryptocoryne ciliata (Cryptocoryne ciliata)- Up to 1.009

2. Mangroves
Mangroves are a popular plant among brackish hobbyists. Mangroves are an actual tree with a massive root system. Mangroves are NOT aquatic, the bulk of the tree must remain out of the water while the roots and lower portion can remain in the water. Mangrove tanks are becoming increasingly popular as they provide an ideal environment for the popular Mudskipper. Mangroves are also filters themselves, especially popular among reef hobbyists who use them in their sump and refugiums. Mangroves can eliminate nitrates and phosphates while out competing algae for nutrients.
The best place on the net for mangrove husbandry is RC's Marine Plants & Macroalge Forum.



3. Seagrass
Seagrass is a true vascular and aquatic marine plant. Seagrass has a massive root system, and even flowers. There are over 60 species of seagrass, most are marine but few are brackish. Seagrass meadows are home to a diverse ecosystem including various shellfish species, algaes, Syngnathids, various invertebrates, sea turtles, and much more other animal life. Seagrass can be difficult to grow effectively and is better used for display rather than nutrient uptake.

There are a few seagrass species that do inhabit brackish waters, but from my experience these species do better at full marine salinity. However, Widgeon Grass (Ruppia maritima) is a true brackish species. Widgeon Grass can tolerate a specific gravity of 1.003 up to hypersaline conditions and anywhere in between. RC's Marine Plants & Macroalgae forum is the best place to learn about Widgeon grass and other Seagrass. Reefkeeping magazine article Beyond the Refugium: Seagrass Aquaria explains the specific husbandry required for Seagrass aquariums.

4. Macroalgae

Edited by AMS, 02 February 2007 - 03:26 AM.


#2 sabby

sabby

    Fishaholic

  • Member
  • 427 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 06:40 PM

Hi AMS

Brilliant !!! This should be pinned !!

As we where talking about aquascaping a few days ago do you think the seagrass would be any good in my tank providing the salinity is high enough ? Over the weekend I was talked into having a 6x2x2 instead of the 5x2x2. Guess my cat sharks be happy. I realy like the look of the seagrass. What do you think good idea or not ?

Thanks

Sabby

#3 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 06:49 PM

It was actually you asking me about aquascaping that got me thinking about writing something up about brackish plants :D .

Since you are going up to marine conditions I do not see why not as long as you are up to the challenge. I hope those links seemed helpful, but there really is no mention of how to care for them in aquaria. If I were in your shoes I would personally skip on the seagrass. If the tank were small, say 29 gallons or so I would but in a tank as large as 6x2x2 it would be a daunting task (not to mention expensive). Its too bad though, seagrass makes a beautiful tank.

I am actually have the plans out for a 29 gallon seagrass tank myself. I will let you guys know how it works out.

#4 sabby

sabby

    Fishaholic

  • Member
  • 427 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 07:10 PM

It was actually you asking me about aquascaping that got me thinking about writing something up about brackish plants :D .

Since you are going up to marine conditions I do not see why not as long as you are up to the challenge. I hope those links seemed helpful, but there really is no mention of how to care for them in aquaria. If I were in your shoes I would personally skip on the seagrass. If the tank were small, say 29 gallons or so I would but in a tank as large as 6x2x2 it would be a daunting task (not to mention expensive). Its too bad though, seagrass makes a beautiful tank.

I am actually have the plans out for a 29 gallon seagrass tank myself. I will let you guys know how it works out.



Hi Me Again

I am glad I did ask about aquascaping if it made you write this. Regarding the sea grass !!!! I would only do one corner of the tank with sea grass as I have to provide some caves for my toad fish. When you say expensive how much are we talking about ?
I will be getting the tank in about 3 month time.

Sabby

#5 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 07:18 PM

Even if one corner of the tank was seagrass you would stll need equipment. That includes a pressurized c02, ferts, high lighting ("target" lighting would be possible though), deep sand substrate for the entire tank, etc. A cost is tough to estimate, but its safe to say a lot. Like I said if you are up to the challenge go right ahead and try it, you have nothing to loose (except money :rolleyes: ).

#6 sabby

sabby

    Fishaholic

  • Member
  • 427 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 08:01 PM

Even if one corner of the tank was seagrass you would stll need equipment. That includes a pressurized c02, ferts, high lighting ("target" lighting would be possible though), deep sand substrate for the entire tank, etc. A cost is tough to estimate, but its safe to say a lot. Like I said if you are up to the challenge go right ahead and try it, you have nothing to loose (except money :rolleyes: ).



Hmmmm if you put it like that. I just can't imagine a brackish tank without plants. Never mind one can only dream. One day.

Thanks

Sabby

#7 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 08:04 PM

Sorry sabby! If you really want to do it go ahead dont let me try to tell you otherwise.

Anyone else with questions/comments/suggestions?

#8 nmonks

nmonks

    A stroke of the brush does not guarantee art from the bristles

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,803 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 May 2006 - 10:27 PM

Obviously, should be pinned. Outstanding work.

While you often hear people say you can't have plants in brackish water, as AMS points out so well, this is nonsense. What I think is apparent is that many of the plants that do well in hard water do well in brackish water too (up to a point, at least).

My impression has always been if you get the lighting and substrate right, plants will adapt to saline water quite well.

What I've heard about seagrass is that it isn't easy to establish in hobbyist aquaria. I'd like to know more, since I've never tried them out. There's obviously a big gap in the market for high salinity, submerse, aquarium plants that can be kept with monos, etc.

Cheers,

Neale

#9 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 22 May 2006 - 11:16 PM

What I've heard about seagrass is that it isn't easy to establish in hobbyist aquaria. I'd like to know more, since I've never tried them out. There's obviously a big gap in the market for high salinity, submerse, aquarium plants that can be kept with monos, etc.

I am actually in the plans for a 29 gallon seagrass tank. From what I have read, older resources do not give seagrass any credit and basically label seagrass as near impossible to grow for Joe hobbyist. The newer more accurate resources say quite the opposite. With the advancements in aquarium technology seagrass (and realistically just about all aspects of aquaria that one can afford) is not out of reach. So long as you have the right equipment seagrass can actually thrive in hobbyist aquaria. Initially seagrass can be difficult to establish, but once it becomes established it can be no more difficult than freshwater plants.

#10 lljdma06

lljdma06

    Retired moderator :)

  • Retired Moderator
  • 11,767 posts
  • Gender:Female

Posted 13 July 2006 - 08:07 PM

Great thread AMS!

Mother has a fondness for mollies, which wouldn't do so hot in my traditional FW planted tanks, but will do well in a brackish setup. Thanks for taking the time to post this thread.

llj :D

#11 RadaR

RadaR

    The things we do for our fish..

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 4,332 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 13 July 2006 - 08:47 PM

Great article. I had no idea what plants could be kept in brakish tanks. You said that Vallis could be used? I had some Vallis and as soon as salt was introduced all the vallis died. So I'm kind of confused :sad:

#12 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 13 July 2006 - 09:03 PM

Thanks for the kind words.

Great article. I had no idea what plants could be kept in brakish tanks. You said that Vallis could be used? I had some Vallis and as soon as salt was introduced all the vallis died. So I'm kind of confused sad1.gif

What SG was your tank at? Vallis does very well in waters with a SG of 1.005 and under, but any higher may cause some problems. But more importantly, what species of Vallisneria was it?

#13 RadaR

RadaR

    The things we do for our fish..

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 4,332 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 14 July 2006 - 03:45 PM

Sorry, no idea although it was a table spoon of salt for 3 gallons of water and its a 20 gallon (I was treating Whitespot). The vallis was just the most common one if that helps. Don't worry about it.

#14 three-fingers

three-fingers

    Fish Gatherer

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,554 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:United Kingdom
  • Real Name:Sean

Posted 23 September 2006 - 08:51 PM

Great thread! I never knew java fern occurs naturally in brackish waters :) . I was looking for plants that could survive in a slightly brackish 3.5 gallon T.Australiensis tank i was planning on setting up, and i have tons of the stuff growing in my main tank :D .

#15 jkj454

jkj454

    New Member

  • Member
  • 8 posts

Posted 18 October 2006 - 01:54 AM

Excellent thread - I have a couple of follow up questions.

I had been trying to grow several of the enumerated plants in 1.005 SG conditions, with little success. I think perhaps my substrate and lighting could be at issue, though, instead of the salinity. The tank in question is 29 gal., housing mollies and a knight goby. Sadly, I introduced some sort of parasite into the tank through lack of QTing a new molly (lesson learned!), so as a last resort and after losing many fish, I just tore the tank down Sunday night. I was using aragonite sand (black), Instant Ocean marine salt, and had very recently (within past week) upgraded to a power compact lighting fixture. I intend to set the tank back up with entirely new substrate, and am wondering what type would be best. I like the look of sand, but I believe perhaps it was too compact to allow proper aeration... how about mixing the black sand with Flourite?

Re: lighting, specifically I've got java moss, java fern and tiger lotus...the microswords were choked out by hair algae. Is the PC too much light, and perhaps causing the algae issues to become worse? I use only RO/DI water, run a PolyFilter to help control phosphates, do weekly 5 gal. water changes.

And what about a CO2 system - would this perhaps aid in the plant growth? I've heard competing reviews of running CO2 on a BW tank.

I don't know what all fish will be in this tank...the knight goby, hopefully (he's in QT at the moment), and perhaps a figure 8 puff...trying to decide between the puff and Florida flag fish.

Advice here would be greatly appreciated! I have no problem growing low-medium light plants in my FW tank (44 gal. pentagon...tall tank, with PC lights), but it's been a disaster thus far w/ the BW tank...

Thanks in advance,

-JKJ

#16 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 18 October 2006 - 03:11 AM

Excellent thread - I have a couple of follow up questions.

I had been trying to grow several of the enumerated plants in 1.005 SG conditions, with little success. I think perhaps my substrate and lighting could be at issue, though, instead of the salinity. The tank in question is 29 gal., housing mollies and a knight goby. Sadly, I introduced some sort of parasite into the tank through lack of QTing a new molly (lesson learned!), so as a last resort and after losing many fish, I just tore the tank down Sunday night. I was using aragonite sand (black), Instant Ocean marine salt, and had very recently (within past week) upgraded to a power compact lighting fixture. I intend to set the tank back up with entirely new substrate, and am wondering what type would be best. I like the look of sand, but I believe perhaps it was too compact to allow proper aeration... how about mixing the black sand with Flourite?

Re: lighting, specifically I've got java moss, java fern and tiger lotus...the microswords were choked out by hair algae. Is the PC too much light, and perhaps causing the algae issues to become worse? I use only RO/DI water, run a PolyFilter to help control phosphates, do weekly 5 gal. water changes.

And what about a CO2 system - would this perhaps aid in the plant growth? I've heard competing reviews of running CO2 on a BW tank.

I don't know what all fish will be in this tank...the knight goby, hopefully (he's in QT at the moment), and perhaps a figure 8 puff...trying to decide between the puff and Florida flag fish.

Advice here would be greatly appreciated! I have no problem growing low-medium light plants in my FW tank (44 gal. pentagon...tall tank, with PC lights), but it's been a disaster thus far w/ the BW tank...

Thanks in advance,

-JKJ

How many watts is your PC lighting? As for substrate, if you want microsword or tiger lotus regular sand won't cut it, you really need something like laterite for proper growth. C02 is perfectly fine to inject into brackish water, but you may not need it depending on how effective your lighting is. What (if any) ferts are you using?

#17 jkj454

jkj454

    New Member

  • Member
  • 8 posts

Posted 18 October 2006 - 07:53 PM

"How many watts is your PC lighting? As for substrate, if you want microsword or tiger lotus regular sand won't cut it, you really need something like laterite for proper growth. C02 is perfectly fine to inject into brackish water, but you may not need it depending on how effective your lighting is. What (if any) ferts are you using?"

My PC is 36watts. With regard to the substrate, yes, I realize that the sand wasn't ideal. I suppose maybe it is a blessing in disguise that I had to tear down the tank, so now I can start again properly. I had been keeping FW plants in pea-sized gravel with great success, but the more reading I've done, I realize that it's the type of plants (annubias, crypts) that allow me such latitidue, as they are not-so-demanding. I do not have any micro-swords left, as the were choked out from algae, but I may want to try them again. Will a substrate like Fluorite be good enough for tiger lotus/micro-swords? At this point, I want to give myself as many options as possible for plants, so am willing to spend the extra $$$. With regards to fertilizer, I had just started using www.aquariumplants.com's proprietary substrate tabs. Prior to that, I wasn't fertilizing at all. So that, coupled with just a regular NO flourescent light and plain sand substrate all probably added to the problems.

This time I'm determined to do things right, which is why I'm asking all the questions! I am in the process of reading Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Planted Aquariums as well, to better educate myself.

I'd be curious to know what substrate and fertilizer you would recommend, as well as whether you'd suggest CO2.

On a final note, I was attempting to gros java moss on rocks (had it attached with cotton thread). Unfortuntaly, it isn't taking off at all - it's mostly brown, and has yet to form roots. Any further suggestions there? The java fern was doing fine, on the other hand...

Thanks!!

-JKJ

#18 AMS

AMS

    Fish Addict

  • Member
  • 864 posts

Posted 18 October 2006 - 08:09 PM

Yes, flourite should be fine. C02 isn't neccessary on a 29 gallon tank with 36 watts of PC. Sometimes java moss just takes time to establish itself, make sure it isn't shaded by other plants. As for ferts I personally use Seachem and I highly reccomend it, although you won't be needing much as you only have 36 watts.

#19 jkj454

jkj454

    New Member

  • Member
  • 8 posts

Posted 19 October 2006 - 12:44 AM

Any tips of controlling the algae this time 'round? As mentioned before, I use RO/DI water, run a PolyFilter, try not to overfeed, and do regular water changes...

I had read before (sorry, cannot remember where), that CO2 may well be the only way to effectively control algae in a BW tank. What is your opinion on the effect of CO2 on algae, if any? Or do you have any other solutions? I realize you want more plants rather than less, to use up the excess nutrients, but with the problem of getting anything to grow, you can see how this becomes a Catch 22...

-JKJ

#20 nmonks

nmonks

    A stroke of the brush does not guarantee art from the bristles

  • Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,803 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 19 October 2006 - 01:38 PM

There's a very good pinned topic in the Planted Tanks section. Well worth a read.

Basically, the nutrients are less of an issue the higher the rate of plant growth is. Once the plants are growing, they actively depress algal growth rates by pumping out toxins. I've seen algae in tanks with barely any nitrate, and tanks with tonnes of nitrate but minimal algae. I swear by hornwort... it seems to be an amazing algae buster. I'm sure there are lots of other options, Hygrophila, Vallisneria, and the like. Slow growers like Java moss and Java fern are rubbish at beating algae though.

Cheers,

Neale




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users