Variety Erio

A World of Eriocaulon Aquarium Plan...

A World of Eriocaulon by Bernd Marks Unfortunately Eriocaulons are still a marginal phenomenon in the hobby, and they really don't deserve this sta...

Dividing Eriocaulon

Multiplying Eriocaulon Plants by Di...

Dividing Eriocaulon to Produce New Plants by Bernd Marks I have kept a variety of eriocaulon for a couple years.   Erio's are a marginalized aquar...

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence Biotope Fish

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence ...

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence Biotope by Jeroen Vanhooren Biotope: Small tributary of the Koyna river near the confluence with Krishna river ...

low tech low cost

Low Tech and Low Cost Planted Tank

Low Tech and Low Cost Planted Tanks by Xiaozhuang Wong What makes plants grow well in low techs tanks is the right soil, a shallow tank, and in ...

A World of Eriocaulon Aquarium Plants

A World of Eriocaulon

by Bernd Marks

Variety ErioUnfortunately Eriocaulons are still a marginal phenomenon in the hobby, and they really don’t deserve this status.  For almost 2 years I have kept E. shiga, E. sieboldianum, E. polaris,  E. sulawesi sp, and E. goias. In the course of time I have made the additions to include: Needle leaf, Feather duster, bushy green, Malaytor, Ha’Ra, Vietnam and parkeri. Currently some new babies are also growing from Parviflorum, Black ball, Heimesilatama and more.

My eriocaulons tanks are exclusively soft water with a maximum kh of 2. For six months I can also use my tap water for it.  Only magnesium do I have to add to make my plants happy.

Nutrients are administered regularly and I do not aspire particularly to have overly high values. Nitrates are approximately 10 mg / l and PO4 in small amounts are sufficient. With Fetrilon and a complete fertilizer, the regimen of my fertilization is completed.

I won’t be going into detail or dwell on the naming of the eriocaulons. Erios are like Bucephalandra, even with the named Erios, if something is amiss I still use the name name from under which I got it.

Eriocaulon sp Sulawesi

Erio Sulawesi

Erio Sulawesi

Short story about this form is it was once imported by two brothers but it died out and was lost to the hobby. That which is available to collectors now, was years ago brought in through Italy from Asia and imported under the same designation. The few existing photos of the original sp sulawesi however suggest that they are different plants.

Maximum height is 3 cm, it is hardy permanently submerged and good at lawn making.  It is though, slow growing. Propagation is by adventurous runners and seed would also be possible as an occasional flowering appears.

Eriocaulon Shiga and Sieboldianum

Erio Shiga

Erio Shiga

These two I would like to deal with together as they are very similar.  Max diameter is 8-10cm and they are hardy as permanently submerged. In both of these there is no submerged flowering!   An important difference to cinerum, sp and Polaris is that there is not flowering in submerged shiga and sieboldianum.   The round stature can sometimes be disturbed by their numerous side shoots. However, therefrom they always produce new plantlets.

Shiga and sieboldianum begin at a certain size (about 5cm) to differ from that of sieboldianum as the blade tips are curved downward. Moreover sieboldianum is colored slightly darker.  Depending on the conditions submerged, it is possible that sieboldianum temporarily sets upwards its leaf tips. Shiga, however, has never sent its leaf tips upward and it has a little fresher green.

Erio sieboldianum

Erio sieboldianum

Overall sieboldianum is somewhat less demanding than shiga and some grew quite joyfully.  When moving into a new tank its leaves die from the outside toward the inside.  However, new leaves are soon growing out of the middle

Eriocaulon australia I have rejected because it was not possible to distinguish them from the Shiga. It is supposed to be possible for very large plants, since the blade tips are to hang somewhat in Australia. Whether I will try that again is not clear.

Eriocaulon Polaris

Erio polaris

Erio polaris

Maximum diameter is 10-12 cm and has darker leaves than shiga and like a hedgehog has erected leaves that stand. The leaves are thicker and more robust than what is found in shiga and sieboldianum.

Unfortunately polaris doesn’t grow permanently under water and will die after some time. It tends to push upward a flower formation and from there it is super exciting. The Polaris provides no new foliar growth and only pushes up the stalk. But that is not the end. There is a possibility that the buds grow adventitiously and create new plants. If polaris secures its health you should allow it to grow on its own. Cut the new plant fast and share the plant can be successful.  The formation of side shoots is rare with her, and I’ve experienced it only once.  Anything is possible, and this is why the Erios fascinate me.

Eriocaulon Needle Leaf and Feather Duster

Erio Needle Leaf

Erio Needle Leaf

Although they can be in appearance clearly different, they have many similarities to each other.  Your grassy look is somewhat reminiscent of Helferis Cyperus.  Needle leaf has of the two the most significantly broader leaves, about 5mm at the widest point.

Feather duster brings it more narrow with a width of about 2-3mm.  Needle leaf also achieves a submerged height of 50cm and can reach effortlessly to the surface. Feather duster attains a slightly shorter height of around 40 cm.

The proliferation of both of these plants is by abundant side shoots from the rhizome so that beautiful new bushes arise .  Flowers I had not yet experienced in my plants. However adventitious growth of a needle leaf, on one stalk grew.  An economical and easy representative of Eriocaulon, the growth rate is considerably high for the normally slow rate of growth most Erios make.

Eriocaulon Malaytor and Bushy Green

Erio Malaytor

Erio Malaytor

So far I can not see much if any difference so I will summarize both of them here.  However beautiful, these Erios demands its rightful place. Currently, I can report a total height of about 20cm. She is always bushy so they are rather something of a  solitary planting

Reproduction came forth from runners growing from the rhizome.  The Malaytor once pushed up a stalk, where then grew small adventitious plantlets. Simultaneously offshoots grew increasingly from the rhizome.  The motherplant died over some several months.

Eriocaulon Parkeri

Erio parkeri

Erio parkeri

With the average plant around 6-7 cm, it has a stellate appearance and it is quite a looker in the front area.  This Erio counts with me to be the rather easy-care Erios.

Propagation is via independent rhizome division, and is accompanied by the bustle of flowering stems. This new growth can be left as is, or it can be pulled with a little jerk from the plant. It does not matter.
Under extremely good conditions they can actually reach 10 cm, that is for me so far the longest but only once reached that far. Then it also shows beautiful long, light green leaves. Under less favorable housing conditions, the leaves can be short, dark, and resemble a green stinger.

Eriocaulon Vietnam / Taiwan

Erio Vietnam or Thailand

Erio Vietnam or Thailand

With these two we have two different names but in my view, they are identical plants.  The Vietnam / Taiwan is the easiest and best multiplication of  all Erios.  I’ve had the height reach almost 12 cm.  It is ideal for the foreground, or even a background in a nano setup. The dark green leaves are also circularly arranged, however perhaps irregular.  So far, there was no flowering.

Eriocaulon Goias

Erio Goias

Erio Goias

Goias is a jewel among the Eriocaulon.  With a height of up to 15 cm and bright green leaves, it is a focal point in any aquarium.  The symmetrical design makes it look very orderly.  With sufficient light and nutrients along with good water values they are quite possible. Who wants to tease out this jewel should simply offer it everything!

Flowering I have never had with her never, but I know of plants with flower stalks with adventitious plantlets.  Multiplication with me so far has only been from the rhizome. However, the mother plant is not dead and I have kept it in my care for about two years.


I have purposely omitted technical terms. This is supposed to be well understood by anyone.  These are all my own experiences and observations, but I am for the exchange of ideas with the handful of lovers of Eriocaulons.  So now you know my addiction and worst vice: Eriocaulons.

Multiplying Eriocaulon Plants by Division

Dividing Eriocaulon to Produce New Plants

by Bernd Marks

Eriocaulon polarisI have kept a variety of eriocaulon for a couple years.   Erio’s are a marginalized aquarium plant and it should be more popular with hobbyists for many reasons.  First of all, they are easy to keep and secondly they are rather easily multiplied by dividing a plant with multiple crowns.  This is how I divided an Eriocaulon goias. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very mindful and there were 2-3 crowns formed so  I only divided it into two.

Use a sharp knife and cut cleanly and straight through where you see the plant divided.  The important thing is to divide the plants correctly.  The leaves show a circular pattern for each plant. In between the new plants is where you need to cut.

If you don’t do this properly there is a good chance the plant will not become the full beauty of a single clean plant.  Trim off the old and dark roots and back to the aquarium it goes.

Dividing Eriocaulon

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence Biotope

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence Biotope

by Jeroen Vanhooren

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence BiotopeBiotope: Small tributary of the Koyna river near the confluence with Krishna river (India)

Dimensions: 70*50*35 (l*d*h)

Technical description

Lightning: 1 x Aquatlantis Easy Led 6800 K (28 W) – time controlled.

Filter: Internal sump with 2 sizes mechanical filtration media and a biological filtration medium. Pump with flow of 700 l/h used to circulate the water.

Substrate: light colored gravel combined with cobbles of different sizes.

Water change:  Automatic with 2 episodes of adding fresh water each day by a dripping system.

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence Biotope FishWater temperature: This stream is 23-27°C, depending on time of year with highest temperatures generally in pre-monsoon period.  Water temperature is controlled by a aquarium heater of 200 W and will be variable during year.

Plants: none

Fish: Botia striata and Devario aequipinnatusis

Biotope description: This aquarium simulates a small tributary of the Koyna river near the confluence with Krishna river. Koyna river originates near Mahabaleshwar and is one of the major tributaries to the Krishna river. Koyna River flows in a southward direction for about 65km, turns sharply eastwards at Helwak, in which direction it flows until its confluence with the Krishna River at Karad.

Stream velocity, temperature and pH in these streams are driven by monsoon. The water in this small stream that drains into Koyna river is well oxygenated and relatively soft.

Koyna and Krishna River Confluence AquariumTemperature is fluctuating 23-27°C, pH 6,8-7,5. No macrophytes can be found in this system. River bottom consists of gravel and cobbles of different sizes.

Botia striata and Devario aequipinnatusis live sympatric with several other fish species in these waters (Labeo porcellus, Puntius jerdoni, Rohtee ogilbii, Schismatorhynchos nukta, Tor khudree and Neotropius khavalcho and many, many more). Cyprindae are the dominant group with the beautiful endemic Puntius sahyadriensis, which seems to be dissapeared in the hobby.

Koyna river system is relatively less threathened by anthropogenic pressure, although fishing pressure, tourism and organic pollution in some parts of the river could not be neglected. A major part of the Koyna River backwaters is also protected by the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary.

Low Tech and Low Cost Planted Tank

Low Tech and Low Cost Planted Tanks

by Xiaozhuang Wong

low tech low cost made easy
What makes plants grow well in low techs tanks is the right soil, a shallow tank, and in this case, high level lighting.  Excel wasn’t used in this tank and I sat out the algae.  There was a bit of Black Brush Algae and green dust at the 4th week but it died off after a month or so.  Minimal fertilizer dosing was used and a low bio-load with organics in the soil was used to break down and create co2.

I never have had sustained BBA in a low tech tank before. Probably due to a low bio-load and a good water change schedule.  The tank pictured above has a pretty low bio-load. Fast growth equals more maintenance; if not plants shade each other and get crowded.  This will impede flow, cause problems with the lighting, etc. so it makes a big difference.

I have been a bit tardy in keeping track of the low tech tanks. I think the setup matters quite a bit, because there are fewer factors to manipulate in a low tech setup.  I also wanted to do a bit more experimentation so I’ve been trying on tanks with slightly different dimensions and soils.

With the advent of nature style scapes that emulate mountains, scenery, and forests, smaller leaved green plants that blend into each other seamlessly preserves the illusion better than glaring bushes of red plants.  Emphasis is placed on getting the rockwork and landscape illusion right rather than on growing interesting plants. For the same reasons you’ll never see sword plants, lotus, and other large specimen plants in competition scapes. Also a scape that is fun for a hobbyist might not make the best photographs for a competition

A certain amount of CO2 comes from the soil decomposition I believe, and the low tech tanks have very low bio-loads.  The mechanics are similar to high-tech – having more competitive plants means less algae issues. Low tech tanks benefit from being very stable compared to tanks with pressurized Co2. Also I use a simple 24w cfl (compact fluorescent lamp) desk lamp for lighting all the smaller tanks.  They give great adjustability. Higher up for lower light and closer for higher light makes it simple.  It also allows for altering light direction to shine around the hardscape.

Filtration and Water Flow

The powerheads I like to use are very cheap ones from China, only a few dollars each. I choose them because I wanted something low-power and gentle. These were as small as I could get. HOB creating flowI treat them as disposable; basically run them till they give out and then I change them. Some of them last surprisingly long though.  Flow cycle is important, not only for the sake of flow, it keeps the area clean as well

Filters are a rather weak filter actually and are more for just water movement because the tank size is small and there is a very low bio load as well.  There isn’t anything special about the Hang on Back filters, except that I choose HOBs that have a horizontal flow output.  The water outflow from the filter should travel from the filter outflow horizontally across the tank surface, hit the other side of the tank, then flow downward.  It makes a large impact difference flow-wise opposed to HOBs that produce a downwash straight from the outflow, though it is more noticeable in pressurized CO2 tanks.

Lighting is Important but Doesn’t Have to be Costly

Shallow tanks not only improve gas exchange in general but for shallower tanks lets light penetrate toward the bottom as well. This tank is probably at 80 at the substrate.  Lighting is a Phillips CFL  23w bulb in a warm white which would be around 2700k. The pictures are not color corrected, so they actually don’t look as yellow as one might think.

Higher PAR lighting doesn’t always mean more compact growth. Stem elongation in aquatic plants is mostly due to ethylene accumulation in the meristem.  This is brought about by poor O2 levels in the water or a high CO2 to O2 ratio.  It is connected also to growth rates – and therefore temperature as well.

Lean fertilizer dosing with moderate CO2 levels in cool water create slower growth rates. This gives more compact growth forms than warm water which makes for fast growth rates. Some plants react differently in different parameters as well so it’s not always a universal answer.

Substrates for Low Tech Systems

For the non-CO2 tanks I have organic compost soil capped with an aquarium substrate. There is peat and iron rich clay below the organic compost without additional chemical fertilizers. I pre-soak the soil for a couple of weeks before using.  As per habit,  I add some base fertilizer like Osmocote slow release to the soil.

Lit Low TechI use a less organic heavy layer for the bottom base where it’s going to be deep, so that anaerobic conditions don’t occur.  This build up layer mostly provides iron.  In the middle layer I use an organic compost.  The very top layer is an Aquasoil cap.  I find that such a setup allows fine rooting, high CEC, yet is cheap enough to set up.

A rough gauge of a mixed soil organic content is how black it is.  The darker it is, the higher the level of organics.  The finer the debris the more decomposed is it. The level of clay can be seen through how sticky it is when it’s wet.  If you can form balls with it then the clay content is significant.

The rest of the variables that are available, like  NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium,) etc., can be estimated through soaking the soil and testing how much is leached into the water column.  I prefer slightly acidic soils. For high tech tanks I use leaner soils with less organic content while for low tech tanks I use a higher organic content soil.

Fertilizing The Budget Tank

Dosing is 20ppm nitrates(KNO3) and about 1ppm phosphate (k2HPO4) every 2 weeks, combined with a 50% water change. I don’t dose Fe until I start to see deficiencies or slowed growth.  I do most of the fertilization through the water column.  As the water column permeates through the substrate layer some of the fertilizers will end up enriching the substrate.

The temperature of my tanks are quite warm though (it’s the tropics here) and all tanks run about an average of 80 F, with highs of 84f-86f.  It’s not a static system though, dosing changes as plant reaction changes. For example if I see GSA on the glass, I’ll increase phosphate dosing.

 Choosing the Right Plants

Most of the nature style amano scapes that many people fancy are largely green heavy. It’s just that it’s hard to grow carpet in low tech.  My low tech carpets take about 3 months to grow in.  After they have grown in I maintain the scape for a year or so before changing.  Avoid algae by having a very low bio-load and healthy plants.  This goes the same for my high tech tanks.

Use anubias, crypts, moss, ferns, and other low light less demanding plants.  Dwarf Hair Grass is good but requires quite a bit of light.  Hemianthus glomeratus also known as baby tears or pearlweed work well in a low tech set up.  Obviously java fern and anubias combination do well also. Alternanthera Reineckii is okay but shouldn’t be shaded.  Sword plants are good choices for larger plants and there are a variety of them.  Most mosses do well as they have requirements that are easily met in a low tech tank.

However, depending on how the plant growth shoots form, not all are suitable for pruning into dense bush form. Rotala rotundifolia/wallichi, Hemianthus glomeratus, Ludwigia arcuata/brevipes, Limnophila aromatic/vietnam are some examples of plants suitable for dense background bushes. Ludwigia repens is one of the worst; it grows wide and open with large flattish leaves. Some others like Rotala macrandra/Ludwigia pantanal prefer to be unshaded, and doesn’t form a lot of side shoots (and look nicer with a single large shoot).

Plant Maintenance

It’s a combination of trimming off the tops to a height that I want, and pre-emptively pinching or cutting off tips that start to grow towards a direction that I don’t want it spreading to. For many stem plants if the rooted stem is quite strong and healthy, then the top can be trimmed off repeatedly. Often side shoots sprout fast.

Plants Make a TankAbout every 4 months I allow the current batch to grow longer, then do a replanting of tops (where the top node to bottom has no branching).  I think that trimming and allowing side shoots to sprout allows more self-organization (because the plant will grow in a way that doesn’t shade itself that much), it makes for a neater, denser bush.
Replanting tops kinda resets the plant form to be competitive against surrounding plants. In the search for neater tanks I’ve been doing a lot more pruning and almost no replanting for tops until after many months.  this is just a theory based on observation though. It seems to apply to other plants as well.

Summary of Low Tech Like Why Do it?

Low tech planted tanks are cheap to set up as well as easy.  During the initial months growth, quality, and speed are quite similar to some high tech setups.  Long term though the growth effect runs out after about 9 – 11 months from setup.  I have tried before to know the effects of course; and it begins to suffer the same way as when high tech tanks run out of CO2.  Poor growth, it becomes sparse and less dense, some species don’t do well, then algae starts to appear.


Read More About Ethylene Elongation

To learn more about ethylene elongation you can read Ethylene-promoted Elongation: an adaptation to submergence stress by Michael B. Jackson Oxford Press.


Attaching Plants with a Fly Tying Bobbin

Pinpoint Plants With a Fly Tying Bobbin

by James Montgomery
Fly tying bobbinThere are many ways to attach plants to rocks, driftwood, and other materials.  The advances in cyanoacrylate glues have made fast sticking super strong glues available cheaply.  Rubber bands and wire clips also work well. However there’s one tool that I like to use to fasten plants to objects when I can.  The fly tying bobbin works great for this job.

The bobbin is made to wrap a fishing fly with thread, and attach tiny feathers and materials to make lures that imitate bait.  The thread must apply the thread accurately and neatly.  This is something that also is needed for the aquarium plants in a well manicured tank.

Bucephalandra attached to felt

Bucephalandra attached to felt

The bobbin lets you pinpoint your fastening locations.

The longer the bobbin neck is the more well suited it will be for aquarium plants.  The long needle like arm that the thread passes through makes near surgical accuracy possible.  Moss, stem plants, and rhizomatous plants alike can be attached with deliberate accuracy.  The best fly tying bobbins to use are for saltwater flies and for large hair flies as the tube is longer on the tip.  This makes it easier to work around plant stems and leaves.

To start with a number of loops is made to secure the polyester thread to the object you are using.  About a dozen wraps against the end of the thread will do.  Simply attach your plants while turning the tip of the bobbin along your project.  Once done simply tie it off or you can make a loop with a reusable piece of string to help pull the tag end of the cut thread through itself to fasten it.

It really is a simple way to accurately and quickly attach plants to your hardscape.  Making a wabi kusa, Biotop, insularium or any other planted project will become very easy.  Applying polyester thread with pinpoint accuracy speeds up your projects and makes them look better.  Try it out and you might be surprised at your results.

Buying New Aquarium Fish

Buying New Aquarium Fish

Aquarium offeringsOne of the greatest feelings that many hobbyists experience is when they get new fish.  There’s something exciting about being handed that bag of fish at the local fish store for you to take home.  Carefully you handle it as you make your way to the register to pay for your new specimens.  We have a few tips to help you savor that feeling and avoid the dreadful dead fish episode from buying new freshwater or saltwater fish.

Look At the Tank Health of the Store

The overall appearance and tank health of a local fish store can say a lot about their upkeep.  Tanks with livestock should be clean and in a good presentable order.  One can look at a tank and generally get a good idea of whether the tanks are maintained and cleaned.  There are plenty of signs to tell you to wait and shop elsewhere.

Are There Dead Fish?

One of the biggest tell tale signs is that of dead fish in the tank.  Unfortunately fish do die in the local fish stores.  They are farmed sometimes halfway around the world, bagged, and shipped to your LFS for you to purchase.  The occasionally rare dead fish is not necessarily a bad omen.  What is bad is when there are fish in multiple states of decay, especially when they show signs of disease.

Eating Fish are Healthy Fish

Healthy fish most often times go about their business meandering back and forth or whatever fanciful explorations they might have.  It is a stressful ordeal to be bagged and shipped for days in the dark so it is understandable if they sulk and hide behind driftwood.  However a fish should eat, and an easy sign that they are hungry is to simply place your hand above the tank in such a manner that they follow your hand waiting for a meal.  This may not always be the case, especially with larger specimens, but if they show any interest they most likely have a normal appetite.  This is good.

Are the Fish Healthy?

What isn’t normal though is clamped fins held tight to the body.  Look also for signs of Ich, which resembles grains of salt on their fins and body.  Fungus may also grow on the fins and body, which you should look for as well.  Scales should be laid flat and smooth and the eyes should be clear and not bulged or malformed.  The form of the fish should also be straight to avoid abnormal, bent, or misfigured stock.

If the fish did not seem to pass the ‘feeding simulator test’ performed moments ago look at their midsections.  Are their stomachs sunken in or look like they haven’t been eating?  On the other hand they shouldn’t be so extended that they look bloated or have scales standing out so that they look rough.

Select Your Fish and Have it Bagged Properly

Fish to be taken home must have a sufficient amount of water, and air in the bag.  Air is absorbed through the surface of the water where it becomes available to the fish for respiration under water.  Fish can readily die when they cannot obtain available oxygen.  This is the purpose of the layer of air included in the plastic bag your fish are sent away with you in.  Make sure that there is more air than water but there should be enough water so that your fish is comfortable.

If you are buying multiple fish split them into more than one bag if you are putting more than a few fish into one bag.  Long distances will require that more air is included in the top of the bag but fish can last several hours easily with atmosphere quality air.  Oxygen from a compressed tank will suit the fish for much longer extended periods.

Be sure to cover your fish in a paper bag or some suitable manner to protect them from bright light and outside movement which may stress the fish.  Maintain a secure and stable condition for them to be taken home in by not letting them roll about on the floorboard of the car.  Keep them in the shade from excessive heat or cold until you get home.

Acclimating Your New Fish

New fish should be floated to get them acclimated to the water temperature of your aquarium.  To do this simply place the closed bag into your aquarium and let them sit for about 15 minutes.  You want to allow the water in the bag to reach the same temperature as your aquarium to prevent a deadly shock to their systems.

Once they are of the same temperature the bag can be carefully opened for a second stage of acclimation.  Carefully add about one fourth to half  of the amount of the water in the bag from your aquarium into the new bag of fish.  This lets the fish slowly become accustomed to PH and other water parameters.  After about 10 minutes do so again until you have doubled the amount of water in the new bag.

Introducing Your New Fish

New fish should really be quarantined in an empty tank that is already cycled but it isn’t practical for everyone.  Never, ever, under and circumstances should you simply dump the contents of the new bag into your aquarium.  A host of problems can come from this, mostly disease related.

Go to the sink (close the drain while you do this) or use a bucket and pour the water and fish from the bag into a net.  The fish being temporarily in the wet net will cause no problems so long as you don’t let them jump out of the net onto the floor.  Turn off the lights on the tank and add the new fish.  After 15 or 20 minutes you can turn the lighting back on and feed your other fish to help avoid chasing and other behaviour problems that can occur from adding new fish.

Buying New Fish Shouldn’t be a Gamble

Buying new fish shouldn’t be a gamble and with a few informed precautions can largely be avoided.  From time to time it can be expected to have a fish perform poorly but it need not be the norm.  Buy healthy stock and carry them home properly and you are well on your way to a head start inthe aquarium hobby.

Capable and Versatile Cryptocorynes

The Capable and Versatile Cryptocoryne

by James Montgomery
photos by Obienk Aquascape and James Montgomery

OAcryptosCryptocorynes are an interesting group of plants.  They are largely easy to keep and make great low light plants for the planted aquarium.  Naturally they grow along shaded stream banks and shallow water being a semi aquatic plant.  There is a wide variety of species available to the aquarium hobbyist and terrarium keeper.

Since they are semi aquatic they can live underwater submerged, or above the water level in dry a state called emersed.  When grown emersed they must have moist soil and higher levels of humidity.  In the rainy season it is common for them to be underwater but as the rain dries up and subsequently the stream they live throughout the season above the waterline.

Melting disease, or crypt disease is an adaptation to this natural occurrence.  Instead of suffering through a stressful time when changing the foliage from submerged to emersed the cryptocoryne simply melts off its leaves.  This melting helps the plant survive harsh transition by giving up its foliage to grow suitably for the environment whether it be underwater or dry.  A healthy plant will come back from its rhizome if left undisturbed.

Luckily there is a wide range of sizes that these plants grow in.  Some of the smaller species are suitable for the foreground like C. parva.  Larger species like C. usteriana can become quite large and make nice background plants.  Of course all of this is depending on the tank size you are using them for.  There are some amazing plants like C. striolata and C. Wendtii “Florida Sunset” that are very colorful and worth the addition to the tank.  Remember that the crown of the rhizome must be planted slightly above the substrate to avoid it from rotting.

cryptocoryne luteaLight requirements are fairly low for most of the cryptocorynes and they can be grown with much less light than many other aquarium plants.  This is a benefit to budget minded aquarists and to those just starting out.  Cryptocorynes can be kept without a high end lighting system.  With higher lighting they do best with diffused light like that from taller stem plants shading them.

Healthy plants can be grown rather easily with a moderate fertilization regimen.  Cryptos are good root feeders but will also benefit greatly from fertilizing the water column.  The red colored cryptos do well with iron and other micronutrients.  Large mother plants can benefit from root tab fertilizers like the ones Biotope One made with clay and dry fertilizers.  Liquid fertilizers and dry dosing the water column also produces great results.  Cryptocorynes can be grown with or without the addition of carbon dioxide.

Substrates for these wonderful are pretty simple as well.  They can be grown in the numerous planted tank substrates, as well as coarse sand and fine gravel, and dirted tanks capped with sand.  There are two main types coming from different environments and optimum growth can be attained by keeping limestone or clearwater species together or blackwater peat loving plants together.  Most will do well however in a substrate previously mentioned.

emersed growthTerrariums can also be enriched with cryptocorynes.  Basic requirements are moist roots and higher humidity for emersed growth.  A low lying area that accumulates more water in the substrate will suit most cryptocorynes in enclosures.  When first planted in the terrarium most submerged living plants will melt back.  Leave them and let them grow back from their rhizome and they should adapt and thrive well.  This is a highly overlooked plant for the terrestrial terrarium.

Biotops and wabi kusa lend themselves quite well to the emersed growth of cryptocorynes.  When kept in an understory of taller emersed stem plants to keep humidity trapped in the foliage they make great displays.  Since they don’t need high light they can be kept in diffused lighting on a windowsill out of direct sunlight.

Cryptocorynes are a great plant for the advanced hobbyist as well as the beginner.  It offers something for a wide variety of hobbyists from aquarists, to terrarium keepers, to ornamental displays on a desktop or windowsill.  They are versatile and adapt well to their environments for what most people think of as strictly an aquarium plant.  They are widely available so there is little reason not to search them out and add them to your collection.

Removing Glue From Glass Jars

Terrarium bottleRemoving Glass Label Adhesives

I like to use glass jars for my projects for several reasons.  Storing chemicals, keeping mosses or emersed aquatic plants, or making a terrarium.  They are readily available and easy to find.  They have all sorts of lids, shapes, and sizes that come in handy for a multitude of uses.  The glue however, is usually the only downside.  Fortunately there’s a handy and simple way to get it off, easily.

I tear the label off if it’s only glued on one seam and put the jar and lid in the dishwasher.  If you don’t have a dishwasher a simple soak in hot water will work.  Cold water works too but hot is faster.  After it has been wet for some period of time I rub off any paper residue remaining.

Occasionally I find a label that must have some sort of waterproofing on it.  This makes the water soak difficult to remove the label.  When I run across this I take a sharp knife and cut the label off in strips.  The remaining glue can be attacked with the normal method of removing the adhesives.

paste mixThe trick to getting the adhesive off the bottles is a mix of some type of oil and baking soda.  Mix equal parts to make a paste that is thick enough to wipe on and stay.  Too dry and it will crumble off but too oily and it will run off too fast.  Generally a tablespoon of any kind of oil like olive oil or vegetable oil and a tablespoon of baking soda will be more than enough for an average size label.  It’s so inexpensive to make I apply it liberally.  I use a small spoon to mix the paste and apply it to the glue on the glass.
Rubbing off the glueLet the paste sit on the glass for at least a half hour but I generally set it and forget it.  After the paste has done its work I take a moist paper towel and rub the paste off along with the glue residue.  The oil and baking soda work together to clean the glass.  Rub the moist towel in circular motions and move along as the adhesive is removed.

Finally I wipe with a clean damp cloth to take off any residual oil, baking soda, or glue and use the bottle or jar for whatever it was intended for.

A Fishroom Filled With Biotopes

A Fishroom Filled With Biotopes

Photos and article by Jeroen Vanhooren

Fishroom Filed With Biotopes
I am Jeroen from Belgium. I have been infected with the aquarium-virus since I was an 8-year old kid. After almost 30 years I felt like I was needing a new challenge.  I started to plan my fully automated aquarium-room. Into the fishroom 10 tanks were placed. Three of them are pretty large (400-500 liters) with an external sump. Six of them are about 100 liters.  The last one is a special tank for my water turtles.

I made the decision to go all the way, and try to simulate 9 biotopes from different parts of Central-America, Asia, Australia, Africa and South-America.  For most of these I used peat extract and added a whole bunch of almond leaves and alder cones. The effect of the alder cones on hardness and colour were amazing. The wood I used is Manzanita, because it looks really natural to me.

Looking up information on correct sympatric fish was not easy, in my opinion. I checked numerous publications, used GBIF (The Global Biodiversity Information Facility), googled days and days, but still am not sure that all my research was correct. For aquatic vegetation the challenge was even greater.  Please, do not hold me too accountable if I make mistakes on the composition of the fish-species. I am a simple amateur, who will make mistakes. I’d rather want you to correct me if I’m wrong.


Cenote of Dzibilchaltun (Mexico) – 500 L – young and old Poecilia velifera – Nymphaea sp.

Mexican Biotope Aquarium


Inundated area in Indragiri basin (Sumatra) – 750 L – Chromobotia macracanthus and Trichogaster leeri – Cryptocoryne sp.

Sumatra Biotope Aquarium


Small tributary somewhere in Rio Essequibo basin (Guyana) – 100 L – Hemigrammus erythrozonus (Apistogramma steindachneri to add) – Cabomba aquatica

Rio Essequibo basin (Guyana)


Small stream in Rio Orinoco (Colombia) – 100 L – Paracheirodon axelrodi – Cabomba aquatica and Helianthum tenellum

Rio Orinoco (Colombia)


A small creek in Guyana – 100 L – Nannostomus beckfordi – Najas guadalupensis

Guyana Biotope Aquarium


Small stream in the Western Ghats region (India) – 100 L – Botia striata (Puntius sahyadriensis to be added) – No aquatic vegetation

Western Ghats region (India)


Somewhere in the Nilwala basin (Sri Lanka) – Puntius titteya and Pethia nigrofasciata – Lagenandra thwaitesii and Cryptocoryne beckettii

Nilwala basin (Sri Lanka)

Planted Aquarium Substrates


Planted Aquarium Hardscape

by Trent Lloyd

The first step in any planted aquarium or aquascape is the substrate, but this introduction also extends to rocks and driftwood. In a tank that features any combination of those three is called a “hard scape” and is an art form in its own right.   Before anything else be sure you are confident in your design, and where stones and driftwood will be placed if used.

If you are planning on using heavy rocks consider using egg crate also known as light diffuser or light grating down first.   If you’re using gravel the plastic grate will need to be flush to the glass so you will need to get that perfect before adding your substrate.  The plastic grate helps distribute the weight of the rocks and helps avoid breaking the glass of your tank.

The trick to growing great plants is in the roots, and what substrate you use for your scape can have a profound effect on growth. The roots themselves need plenty of oxygen, and this is because the fertilizers are utilized by bacteria growing on the root tendrils, it’s these bacteria that produce the nutrients plants need in a form they can absorb and make use of. Much in the way a filter works by surface area, so surface area plays a role in plant growth by providing more places for this bacteria to do its thing.

Substrate Types

coarse sandWhen considering substrate there are three main groups; sand, stone, and soil. The first, sand has its own variables in color and construct.  While white silica sand is readily available as a substrate, bear in mind the silica in the sand promotes diatoms, ( brown algae ) which in itself isn’t so bad.  It can be problematic if the sand needs to stay in place undisturbed.

Black silica on the other hand is made up of a lager glass chip type structure, which can damage the barbels of bottom dwellers like the loaches, so bear this in mind too.

Another alternative is propagation sand,  available at garden centers or pool shops. It provides a very natural mottled effect, and does not suffer the same issues with Diatoms. It also settles out well and does not stir. It is also great for plant roots with a myriad of airspaces between varying sizes of grain.

A third option is blasting sand,  available at tractor stores and home improvement supply chains. Blasting sand comes in white and black, but can still be sharp so check before you buy.  Beyond that you can seek out rarer sands either from a landscape supply or from wild sources. Lakes are great for this, so are certain beaches. If you want a golden sand some play sands are great, though the gold variety can be hard to find.

Even harder but even more desirable is Kaiteriteri golden sand but so too are river stones and many other raw sources. If you do do this avoid picking up too many shells, as in water that’s already above pH 7 this can make things harder for most species of plants, which prefer acidic conditions, coral sand will also do this . Many cryptocorynes, java fern, saggitaria, vallisineria and mosses all do well in higher pH and even brackish conditions. Also be aware. of potential toxins from run offs, drain outlets, etc.

One thing to be aware of is that finer grains of sand will settle over time, and that will make oxygen less available, even becoming anoxic. This will choke a plant and promote fungus, as well as producing not so nice compounds like hydrogen sulphide and others which can be harmful to fish. One way around this is to mix in gravel of a suitable grain.

With any project consider the color scheme, and what will work best for you, dark colors are great for showing off the colors of fish.  Darker colors also tend to make them feel more comfortable as many natural substrates are darker. Darker substrates can also make a scape seem smaller, much in the same way a painting a small room in dark colors makes it feel smaller

Fluorite is a raw mineral high in the minerals plants need to thrive.  It’s more expensive but pays off with plant growth, and has the added benefit of appearing much like black sand and earthen shades.  Fluorite can be rinsed, but the fines are also good for the plants. So unlike all the other sands and gravels does not need to be rinsed, and is best not rinsed but will more likely cloud when disturbed.

The next gravel is aragonite, which is white, but again this media causes pH to rise, and is used for this property to create the conditions suitable for African lake cichlids, so isn’t the best choice for a soft water planted tank. This also comes in the form of larger round stones and has the same properties.

Occasionally you may be able to find volcanic gravels to choose from, scoria  being one that is high in iron among other things. And the more solid forms provide extra surface area that is great for promoting root growth.

If you do want to use river stones, from an actual river, consider treating with 1 part bleach with 20 parts water after rinsing thoroughly , and by thoroughly, you can’t overdo it.

Soil as a Substrate

Soil is arguably one of the best substrates for promoting vibrant and lush plant growth. Soil has the great ability to store surplus nutrients and provide a slow release to the plants as required. This process will typically last two years or more, but this doesn’t mean fertilizers shouldn’t be added, as it will expire in its own time and the additional supplies serve to “recharge” the substrate. One thing to be careful of is the potting mix or seed mix with slow release terrestrial fertilizers, which while great is typically higher in phosphates and in the absence of an immediate demand form well established plants can bring on troublesome algae blooms.  Terrestrial plant fertilizer often has its nitrogen source in the form of ammonia, which is not a good option for the aquarium.

Many soils are suitable, but they should be considered on their loam content. Loam is soil made up of stone, sand, and organic matter, however the higher the organic compound, the higher the nutrient potential.

There are several companies that produce an aquatic mix which is the preferred choice for most. Most also will cap a layer of soil with a layer of sand or gravel to prevent it from being stirred up in the tank. It can be done neatly if care is taken not to disturb it too much. One issue with capping soil is that eventually plants will need to be removed or added, and this process can effectively disturb the layers and turn into one big mess. So bare this in mind in relation to your level of experience of you which to try it.


Last but not least are the clays. Clay is a fantastic source of chelated minerals, which simply means compounds that are readily available for uptake by the plants.  This is especially so with red clays, which due to the high iron content are ideal for promoting color in red plants.

Laterite is the ideal form, but other red clays are very good as well. Laterite is a unique form of rock that is formed in specific conditions where soluble minerals bond and form a kind of plant “superfood”. Laterite is usually widely available though it is very expensive at around $1 a gram vs the $1 per kg of most sands.

Another option of you don’t want to work with all the potential for mess the clays and soils present you can opt for the best of both in the form of fired clay balls, which still provide the high value chelated minerals of clay and the oxygen content of organics like soil. Clay balls, also called hydroton, go in easy and are much lighter than the raw forms, which can mean a lot when dealing with a scape that features terraces, or reaches high in the back, such as behind rock walls. It could also serve as a base layer and be capped with a substrate that still meets the designer’s aesthetic needs.

When filling the tank use a small plate in the bottom of a plastic shopping bag and fill into that to avoid stirring the substrate, this works with all the media, and should be used during large water changes.  Whatever substrate you choose, bear in mind you will want a fair amount to spare when finished, and this will be used to patch holes and assist with planting extra plants etc.


Collecting RocksWhen choosing rocks for your design, again consider color scheme and weight. The best rocks are highly detailed and have naturally worn faces, much as you would expect in an actual waterway. Ignimbrite is igneous (granite) rock found throughout much of the world, and is often used in sea walls and roadworks. If you do find something you like near a busy road, be sure to treat thoroughly with home brand bleach followed by a treatment with prime and crushed coriander to remove any potential heavy metals.

Better yet source rocks from a landscaper, gneiss slate is the perfect example. Tile slate is an especially interesting option, as it can be broken down, stacked and glued into place to create artificial rock walls.  Most slate is quite soft and can be drilled rather easily.  A carpenters hand saw will also cut most slate with little more effort than hardwood.  Work slowly and deliberately with the saw to make your cuts.

A word of warning, many adventurous hobbyists feel inclined to stack large rocks in the aquarium. This is better avoided if at all possible, as well as the risk of the rocks falling and impacting the glass is high and does happen, more often though fish are crushed when the structure collapses. For this reason if a rock stack is the goal consider using silicon glue and allowing it to set for 48 hours before adding to the aquarium. The same goes for weighting down wood in the tank rather than waiting for it to waterlog first.

Some more interesting rocks include the sandstone form called “dragon stone” which is riddled with Swiss cheese like holes. Rotten rock on the other hand has deep earthen tones, and volcanic rocks come in a wide variety of shades and profiles. Basalt can also make for a unique look.


DriftwoodThere are many forms of driftwood but not all are ideal.  Avoid any wood that is soft or brittle, as it may crumble and deteriorate in a tank. Hardwoods, and especially the hardwood heart of a tree and established root systems are ideal.  Most driftwood from pines and other similar trees do not make good driftwood because of the resin in their wood.

One of the best forms available to us is “spider wood”, which is available at most pet stores that sell fish. Choose carefully, and know what forms you want before you decide. Unless it has a purpose, the most intricate pieces can turn into a headache if they don’t have a definitive role to play. Whilst it appears light colored on the shelf , once waterlogged it will take on a rich dark brown tone.

Boiling driftwood is an effective way to draw out tannins which will otherwise stain the tank water tea colored. Boiling also helps to water log wood, but most will need to be left in a bucket with a heavy stone on top in order to sink the wood before trying to place in the aquarium. With larger pieces this process may take longer than desired. If so, consider using tie tags or stainless steel screws to affix the wood to a flat stone.

Wood collected from freshwater environments is the most ideal, river beds and boulder traps, even the bush itself are great sources. While you may find the perfect piece on a beach, consider whether that piece hasn’t been floating in a back corner of a port amongst potential toxins. Even with treatment like boiling and soaking (recommended regardless) one must accept a potential risk.

Once water logged, driftwood makes a great home for such plants as the ferns; Indian, Javan, Africans, and the anubias, which need their roots exposed to the water, but benefit from having a surface to adhere to.

A few moments forethought into building your hardscape will improve your end results.  Substrate, rock, and driftwood choices are important when planning and building an aquarium.  Make sure you know your tank inhabitants requirements also and take that into consideration.  With the right combination of hardscape components you can make a great looking aquarium.