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