A Survey Of Non-Aquatic Plants

lljdma06

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Non-aquatic Plants

When you purchase aquarium plants, it's important that you understand that not all plants available for sale are truely aquatic. Vendors have no qualms offering this plants for sale, because they are very easy to obtain, and it is rare that you will see the designation "non-aquatic." While these plants can often survive as long as a year submerged, more often than not, they begin to decompose in as little as a couple of weeks or months, causing an ammonia spike, which can lead to algae, or worse, prove toxic to fish. These plants are not meant to be grown in an aquarium long-term and it is best that you avoid purchasing them for your benefit and the benefit of the non-aquatic plant. They are terrestrial plants and are meant for either indoor or outdoor gardening. They are at their best when they planted and cared for the right way.

It is the purpose of this guide to introduce you to the various non-aquatics frequently seen in the trade. I have grown many of these plants successfully in my garden outside in Miami, FL, so I will vouch that they are non-aquatics! :lol: It is my hope that this guide helps you with the identification of these species and possibly avoid the wasted money and the problems that commonly occurs when they are purchased. Please feel free to comment and even add your own experiences with these species. By no means is this an exhaustive list, these are only the most common plants I've seen, and this only serves as a starter point. It is correct to the best of my knowledge, but taxonomy is a tricky business. I will leave this thread open and invite you to add to this list by following the format I give for each plant below. Be sure that you properly credit your photo source. I will cross-check the references and photo credits. If they are not correct, I will delete the post.

In addition to each photograph, I offer a brief write-up on how the plant typically behaves when submerged. I also provide Aquatic alternatives to these plants that for the most part are easy to care for.

Before I begin with the guide, I'd like to take the opportunity to cite the following sources.

Works Cited
-Baensch, Hans A. and Dr. Rudiger Riehl. Aquarium Atlas Volume 3. Mergus: Melle, Germany. 1997.
-Hiscock, Peter. Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants. Interpret publishing: New York. 2003

Images and Some Commentary
-All images are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, unless otherwise stated, and are being displayed here because I am complying with Wikimedia Commons' license agreements
-Photos used in this guide are individually credited using either the photographer's full name or member name.
-The purpose of this guide is educational and I ask that you not reproduce any of the images without following the license agreement in Wikimedia commons or from other websites.
-The image of Borneo fern (Trichomanes javanicum) is taken from Plantgeek.net's Plant Guide. Some of the taxonomy in that website, however, is questionable or outdated. The confusion of the Acorus and Ophiopogon genera for example. This is the problem with common names. The same common name can be used for multiple species, especially if they look alike, as is the case with those genera.
-The image of Hemigraphis colorata is taken from the website Top Tropicals. It is a commercial site that sells tropical terrestrial plants. I put it up to make a point, not to make any endorsement of the site or what they sell. Most of the plants featured below will be on sale in this site, as terrestrial plants. Further evidence for you.


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Acorus gramineus "Japanese rush" - Sold in pots, this plant will survive up to a year submerged though older leaves will deteriorate and should be removed. When submerged, the plant prefers cooler temperatures, which can lead to quicker decay in the warmer temperatures of a tropical aquarium. Aquatic Alternatives - Lilaeopsis species, Echinodorus tenellus, Sagittaria subulata, Vallisneria species.

800px-Acorus_gramineussmaller.jpg

Photo by Wikimedia commons user Cliff originally posted to Flickr as Japanese Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus) which is also a common name for Ophiopogon japonicus and the plants are very similar.

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Caladium bicolor "Caladium" - This plant will only survive fully submerged for 6 to 8 weeks and does better with its leaves above the water. It is often sold as either a potted plant or as an unsprouted bulb and comes in many differently colored cultivars. Aquatic Alternatives - Nymphaea lotus, Nymphoides aquatica, Barclaya longifolia.

398px-Caladium_bicolor_Florida_Swee.jpg

Photo by and ©2006 Derek Ramsey

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Chamaedorea elegans "English Parlor palm" - This plant can survive long periods submerged and is usually sold as small seedlings in the aquarium trade, either in pots or in bunches. Terrestrial specimens can grow to 2m tall! Aquatic alternatives - Hygrophila difformis (similar leaf shape).

450px-ColliniaElegans2smaller.jpg

Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Fanghong

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Chlorophytum comosum "spider plant" - Another plant found in the trade as a potted plant. While robust in its terrestrial form, it rots very quickly when submerged and is inappropriate for aquarium use. Another similar species in this genus is Chlorophytum bichetii (Wheat plant or Siam lily), which has slightly wider leaves. Aquatic alternatives - Larger Sagittaria species.

800px-smaller.jpg

Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Digigalos

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Dracaena sanderiana "Lucky bamboo" or "Striped Dragonplant" - The "lucky" bamboo that is so common these days and very popular among aquarists. If the leaves are kept out of the water, it can survive for quite some time. When completely submerged, the lifespan is roughly 8 weeks. It is sold as rooted stalks. Aquatic Alternatives - This is more tricky as there are very few truely aquatic plants with varigated leaves. Java fern and anubias, though not similar are tough-leaved like this plant and very hardy true aquatics, or perhaps Amazon swords that possess a more lancelate leaf-shape or even Blyxa japonica.

484px-LuckyBamboo_2005_SeanMcCleans.jpg

Photo by Wikimedia Commons user SeanMack

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Dracaena marginata - Like Dracaena sanderiana, it can survive 2 months completely submerged. It can survive considerably longer if the leaves are out of the water and I have kept several specimens in buckets of water for about a year while I waited to plant them. :) It is sold in a similar fashion to D. sanderiana. Aquatic Alternatives - Ludwigia glandulosa, Alternantera reineckii, Echinodorus rubin var. narrow.

800px-Dracaena_marginata_Tricolor_0.jpg

Photo by Digigalos

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Fittonia verschaffeltii "Fittonia" - This is a beautiful, compact little plant and a huge temptation when it is sold as a potted aquarium plant. Unfortunately, it only lasts a couple weeks submerged before it begins to decay. Aquatic alternatives - Lobelia cardinalis, Staurogyne sp.

800px-Fittonia_albivenis_3smaller.jpg
pink cultivar
800px-Fittonia_verschaffeltii_Argyr.jpg

Photos by Daniel J. Layton

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Hemigraphis colorata "Purple waffle Plant" or "Crimson Ivy" -Probably after "Lucky Bamboo", the most commonly seen non-aquatic in the trade. It is often sold as cuttings secured with rubberbands or lead weights in the fashion of a typical stemplant. It will survive up to a year submerged and requires brighter light levels. The plant slowly deteriorates, however, becoming full of deficiencies (pinholes, yellowing, stunted growth) before finally dying. Aquatic alternatives - Lobelia cardinalis, Cryptocoryne wendtii "red" or "bronze".

4393smaller.jpg

Photo by Mark Landa through Top Tropicals

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Iresine lindenii "Iresine" - A beautiful plant, completely unsuitable for the aquarium, as it only lasts a short time submerged. Sold as a potted plant in the aquatic trade. Aquatic alternative - Alternantera reineckii.

800px-Iresinelindeniismaller.jpg

Public domain photo by Wikimedia commons user Stickpen

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Maranta leurconeura "Prayer Plant" - Like Iresine and Fittonia, this species does not do well submerged. However, all three species are very good choices for terrariums and paludariums if one takes care to keep the soil moist but not overly soaked. There is another form of M. leurconeura that features dark green leaves marked with a bold pattern stiped pattern of red, white, and purple along the junction of the leaf's veins. Aquatic alternatives - Lobelia cardinalis, Echinodorus "red flame", Echinodorus "Ozelot Green".

537px-Marantaceae_018smaller.jpg

Photo take by Wikimedia commons user Omegatron

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Ophiopogon japonicas "Fountain plant" - This species will outlast some truely aquatic plants in the aquarium as it is not especially demanding and can survive months submerged. It is also sold in pots and it is often confused with Acorus species and labeled as "japonese rush". Ophiopogon, however, will tolerate warmer temperatures. When the leaves do begin to deteriorate, the plant should be removed and grown emersed. There are several cultivars, including a dwarf species, a giant species, and a varigated form. Aquatic Alternatives - Vallisneria americana, gigantea, spiralis, and nana.

445px-Ophiopogon_japonicus1smaller.jpg

Photo by Ken Pei

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Pilea cadierei "Aluminum Plant" - Another plant sold as simple cuttings. It can also survive submerged for some time, though not as long as Hemigraphus colorata, about 4-6 months. There are many species in the genus Pilea and several are available in the aquarium trade, Pilea cadierei is the most popular. Aquatic Alternatives - There is a new form of varigated cryptocoryne, Cryptocoryne wendtii "sunset" that may work.

800px-PileaCadierei2smaller.jpg

Photo by Wikimedia commons user Fanghong

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Selaginella martensii "Selaginella moss" - Unfortunately, this plant only has a 2-week lifespan in the aquarium and is often sold in pots. However, it makes an excellent paludarium plant. Very similar to Selaginella martensii is Selaginella willdenowii (umbrella fern, peacock fern). Aquatic Alternatives - Aquatic mosses, including Frontinalis antipyretica, Taxiphyllum barbieri and other Taxiphyllum species, and Vesicularia dubyana and it's related species.

800px-Selaginella_martensii_fg01sma.jpg

Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm

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Spathiphyllum wallisii "Peace lily" - There is a lot of debate regarding the Peace Lily, and it is often seen in the trade as a potted aquarium plant. In Peter Hiscock's book, it is listed as a suitable plant for the aquarium, since it is extremely hardy and can remain healthy in the home aquarium for many months or even years. It is slow growing and can grow with minimal effort and in lower light levels. It is not, however, a true aquatic plant. Aquatic alternatives - Try its close relative, the anubia, is also able to thrive in bog and paludarium conditions. Their flowers are even similar, betraying their close relationship.

800px-Spathiphyllum_wallisii_a1smal.jpg

Photo by Jerzy Opioła

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Syngonium podophyllum "Arrowhead plant" or "Stardust ivy" - Though suitable for paludariums, the "arrowhead plant" quickly dies if left submerged. It can, however, be kept in situations where its roots are submerged. It is often sold as a potted aquarium plant. Aquatic alternatives - Hygrophila corymbosa, Echinodorus "Ozelot green", Anubia species (especially A. gracilis and A. barterii var. barterii.)

695px-Arrowhead_plant_002smaller.jpg

Photo by Omegatron

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Trichomanes javavicum "Borneo fern" or "Aquatic fern" - A very popular plant. Sold in pots, or more recently, in clear plastic tubes with plant-growing gel, the leaves of this terrestrial fern can remain green for months in the aquarium, while the rhizome decays in the substrate, polluting the water without the aquarist even being aware that something is amiss. Eventually, the leaves will blacken and die. Aquatic Alternatives - Bolbitis heudelotii looks almost exactly the same and is a true aquatic. Microsorium pteropus, especially var. "windelov" is another alternative.

tjavanicumsmaller.jpg

Photo by Curt Dunaway through Plantgeek
 
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lljdma06

lljdma06

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I just completed this little survey of the non-aquatics. Let me know what you think. I hope it helps.

llj
 

bae1994

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very good should be pinned
 

aaronnorth

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Chlorophytum bichetii; Wheat plant, Siam lily, a terrestrial plant - this is similar to "comosum" so it could just be listed as an alternative name. The difference being bichetii has broader leaves.

Selaginella willdenowii; Umbrella fern, peacock fern, a terrestrial plant - again, only a slight difference to "martensii"


Excellent thread :)
Aaron
 
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lljdma06

lljdma06

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Chlorophytum bichetii; Wheat plant, Siam lily, a terrestrial plant - this is similar to "comosum" so it could just be listed as an alternative name. The difference being bichetii has broader leaves.

Selaginella willdenowii; Umbrella fern, peacock fern, a terrestrial plant - again, only a slight difference to "martensii"


Excellent thread :)
Aaron

Yes, I am aware of the different species as I keep Selaginella willdenowii at home and Chlorophytum bichetii grows in a neighbor's yard. I'm also missing a terrestrial Alternantera species (Alternantera ficoides to be exact). I didn't add them because I didn't find a suitable public domain photo, as they are slightly different, but if it doesn't cause confusion, I can certainly add them as other plants within the genus. There are numerous species and cultivars for most of the genera mentioned, to name them all would be quite the undertaking, and many are not commonly seen in the aquarium trade. Thanks for pointing it out.
 

cheesy feet

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I got caught out by an ebay seller when I first got into planted tanks :lol:
Well, its definitely got to be a sticky!
 
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lljdma06

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I got caught out by an ebay seller when I first got into planted tanks :lol:
Well, its definitely got to be a sticky!

Yes, I've been there too. It happens to everyone, which is what prompted me to write the thread.

Thank you. :)
 

SuperColey1

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I got caught out by an ebay seller when I first got into planted tanks :lol:
Well, its definitely got to be a sticky!

I am being pedantic which id not like me (where's the tongue in cheek smiley :) )

I know it phrased to be not confusing but most of the plants sold are not 'truly aquatic' Nearly all of them are marsh / bog plants that can survive submerged.

I'm not too sure it is the fault of the sellers half of the time. They get bog marsh plants and assume they can all survive under water when some can't :)

It is a good article though. Should stop the 'I've had Dracena in my tanks for years' statements :lol:

AC
 

cheesy feet

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I bet the sellers know.
I know some shops which certainly do, but still sell them.
If anyone does get bummed send the plants my way- dracaenas go well in my CWD vivs. :shifty:
 

aaronnorth

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I bet the sellers know.
I know some shops which certainly do, but still sell them.
If anyone does get bummed send the plants my way- dracaenas go well in my CWD vivs. :shifty:


My local MA sells non-aqatics as some people like a bit of colour in their tnkas :unsure: :/
They do tell you though which is good :D
 
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lljdma06

lljdma06

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I know it phrased to be not confusing but most of the plants sold are not 'truly aquatic' Nearly all of them are marsh / bog plants that can survive submerged.

I know full well most "aquatic" plants are bog plants. That is not the point of the article, especially since most "aquatic" plants are grown emersed for quicker propagation anyway. The "aquatic" plants are simply able to convert to a submerged life quicker and can survive indefinitely, which isn't long anyway for the most part, especially with how some of you cram them full of light and grossly excelerate their lifespans. I find most stems have pretty much a 2-3 year lifespan or less, which matches most terrestrial annuals or bi-annuals, while the rhizomes and rosettes last considerably longer, comperable to our terrestrial perrenials. This article is designed for the plants that only have a limited lifespan submerged, which the above, for the most part do. Or if they do survive, their health is severely compromised. Take most of the above "non-aquatic" plants above out of the water, and you'll have a houseplant that can survive for decades in some cases, at least 2-3 years in others. Certainly longer than the 2-8 weeks submerged.

Would you prefer I phrased it as "plants with a limited level of submersed tolerance?" This is probably more accurate an assessment, but I think that will be ultimately more confusing. People are used to the terms "aquatic" vs "non-aquatic" so I chose those terms. Very black and white, but I get my point across.

I am being pedantic which id not like me (where's the tongue in cheek smiley :) )

Don't kid yourself, SuperColey1, you are pendantic and it is like you. I am too. It is what makes us good in our hobby, otherwise we would not question the established rules like we have been doing. If we weren't pendantic, we would still be growing plants with 4WPG of CFs and having a lean water column because algae is caused by excess nutrients. Don't apologize for it, I certainly do not and will continue to be. That being said, I certainly don't mind adding a little burp about your comments to the main body of the article if you think it screams for it.

llj
 

ssjrrupp

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Crud!!!

I see I have two of these! They've been in my tank for about a week and a half.

Guess I better take them out and do some serious shopping this weekend!

The live plants really make the tank.

Darn it.

Thanks for the informative thread,

Best Regards,
Ssjrr Family
 

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