Invasive Aquarium Plants and What You Can Do About Them

»Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in Blog, Conservation, Education, Jenn, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Invasive Aquarium Plants and What You Can Do About Them

Invasive Aquarium Plants and What You Can Do About Them

Invasive Aquarium Plants and What You Can Do About Them Thanks to globalization, there’s a variety of aquatic plants and animals available in the aquarium trade that has never been seen before. While this means more gorgeous tanks and ponds than ever, it also brings a new threat: invasive species. You’ve probably heard about the snakehead, a predatory fish native to Asia that can travel short distances on land, leading it to populate New England, or maybe your rose bushes have been chewed up by Japanese beetles. Those are both invasive species, introduced to the US accidentally in the case of Japanese beetles, and purposefully as food stock in the case of snakeheads. Animals are not the only living things that can become problems when introduced to lands not originally their own. Aquatic plants can also cause destruction when introduced to rivers, lakes, or oceans. Following are the three most common invasive plants found in the aquarium trade. After learning about the damage they can cause, we’ll learn how to prevent it.   Anacharis: A common trait all of these plants have is their ease of care, which lends itself to their success in environments they should not be in. Anacharis is possibly the easiest plant on this list. It requires medium light (perfect for lakes) and doesn’t even need to be planted in the substrate to thrive and grow. Floating anacharis will grow roots along its stem, drawing nutrients directly from the water column. Anacharis can be propagated by breaking the stems into pieces, which is great news for a plant that humans try to physically remove from waterways. Any pieces left behind can immediately begin to repopulate. Problem: Anacharis grows faster than many native aquatic plants and can block out light and rob them of nutrients, out-competing them. Anacharis can also form thick floating mats that prevent recreation like swimming, rowing, fishing, and boating. An unsuspecting boater can get a nasty surprise when their propeller gets tangled in a mass of anacharis.   Water hyacinth: An admittedly gorgeous ornamental pond plant, water hyacinth has a dark side. Like anacharis, it can form massive, acres in width patches, blocking light from lower levels of the water and making recreation difficult if not impossible. Its light blocking effect doesn’t just slow down growth of other aquatic plants. Preventing light from reaching those plants prevents them from photosynthesizing, which prevents them from producing oxygen. Additionally, just the hyacinths’ presence on the water surface decreases the area for gas exchange. What we end up with is a body of water that is oxygen starved and full of dying fish. Waterfowl can’t land on hyacinths. Their habitat is effectively destroyed when lakes and rivers are clogged with floating plants. The density of hyacinth patches slows down any water movement at the surface, enabling algae growth and mosquito breeding (and remember, all the fish that might eat the larvae are already dying from a lack of oxygen). Hyacinths are also excellent at reproduction, employing two strategies: budding, and seeds. During their active growing season, hyacinths grow “daughter plants,” small hyacinths that grow off of the original plant until they are large and established enough to grow on their own, and then break off and begin growing and budding on their own. Hyacinths can also reproduce sexually, producing seeds. Seeds are the insidious sleeper cells. They can begin growing within a few days, or lie dormant for years in case of unfavorable conditions like droughts. Once the environment is more conducive to growth, the seeds will sprout and begin the invasion all over again. The main weaknesses of water hyacinth are herbicides and cold winters, which have prevented their spread into the northern half of the US.   Water lettuce: Can any plant sound less threatening? Water lettuce? C’mon. How dangerous can soggy Romaine be? Don’t be fooled: this plant is nearly as bad as water hyacinth. It is another floating plant that clogs up rivers and lakes, out-competing native plants, lowering oxygen concentrations, creating mosquito nurseries, and stealing habitats. Additionally, it’s invaded Hawaii, where some of their most important crops are grown at least partially underwater, like taro and rice, and is becoming a noxious weed. Another layer of difficulty in controlling water lettuce is its inedibility. Very few animals are willing to eat it, because it is full of needle-like crystals made of calcium oxalate. Eating water lettuce would lead to a severe itchy burning sensation in your mouth and throat, as well as damage to your GI tract. Only two animals can really make a dent: the hippo, and the manatee. Unfortunately, it would be a...

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Top 10 Low-Light Plants for Beginners

»Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 in Blog, Jenn | Comments Off on Top 10 Low-Light Plants for Beginners

A huge java fern “mother plant” Top 10 Low-Light Plants for Beginners Jennifer Ruivo Java Fern If you have the opposite of a green thumb and kill every plant you touch, try Java ferns. These are incredibly hardy plants that can survive extreme neglect. In fact, you could remove all of the leaves and have no problem, as long as there’s a healthy rhizome (the thick horizontal “trunk” of the plant). The fern will simply grow back new leaves, and the leaves you removed will start growing baby java ferns complete with roots! Speaking of the rhizome, when “planting” the Java fern, only plant the roots, not the rhizome! The lack of water flow under substrate can cause rotting. Alternatively, don’t even plant the Java fern! You can just tie the rhizome and roots to driftwood or rocks until the plant grabs hold. Either use transparent fishing line or dissolvable thread for aesthetics. Under favorable conditions, the Java fern grows steadily and new growth can be easily spotted as translucent leaf tips.   A pile of happy marimo Marimo This is my favorite “plant” on this list! Marimo, or Japanese Moss Balls, are actually spherical clumps of a type of algae called cladophora. They are very hardy, due to the conditions of their native home, which are deep lakes in Japan. Marimo are unbothered by dim light and cold water, and will tolerate a small amount of salt in their water. The only downside to them is their slow growth. A marimo may grow only half a centimeter per year! But look on the bright side: no trimming! Marimo also appreciate being moved or rolled around once a while. It helps them stay spherical. If they get out of round, don’t worry! Just pat them back into shape in your hands like a meatball. Combine with white sand and large stones for a zen look.     Anubias with a healthy rhizome Anubias This is another plant that grows from a rhizome which should remain uncovered. Anubias are almost as hardy as Java ferns but have darker, smoother, and rounder leaves. If you think your anubias is growing slowly, you’re right. These plants are notorious for how slowly they grow. I like to think of them as the sloth of the aquatic plant world, as they also move so slowly that algae can grow on them. If that’s the case, gently wipe the leaves or trim ones that are too far gone. Propagate by cutting the rhizome, assuring at least one leaf per section.         Aquascape using tiger lotus lilies Nymphaea Lilies The smaller relative of water lilies found in ponds and lakes, dwarf lilies are an interesting low light plant. Usually they’re found as not-yet-sprouted bulbs. Plant them halfway into the substrate, root end down, at an angle. You’ll soon see their characteristic wide leaves on thin stems begin to erupt from the bulb. Let the leaves reach the surface of the water to increase its access to CO2, which will quicken its growth. Fish appreciate the shadows of the leaves, which in the wild provide shelter from piscivorous (fish-eating) birds. These plants are available in many different varieties, but red dwarf tiger lotus is my favorite.       Cryptocoryne wendtii “green” Cryptocoryne My second favorite plant on this list, particularly Cryptocoryne wendtii “red.” Most red plants can only be kept in high-fertilizer, high-light set-ups, so this is a chance to bring color into a low-tech set-up. The stems and bottoms of the leaves on this plant are a dark scarlet. Unlike many other plants on this list, plant it like you would a terrestrial plant, with its roots in the substrate. When you first introduce a crypt into your tank you may notice something called “crypt melt,” which is when the leaves of this plant start softening and dissolving. Mitigate this by acclimating the plant like you would a fish and trimming off any leaves that begin to melt. Don’t worry too much; crypts will almost always recover from crypt melt, and once they do they’ll start spreading and growing like a weed! There’s no need to buy more than one crypt if you have patience; this plant propagates itself quickly by growing more plants along its roots. Once they’re large enough to have their own roots, you can sever the connection to the original plant and replant the young one somewhere else, or just leave them alone to form a thicket. If you want them to really thrive, tuck a fertilizing root tab into the substrate under the roots.   Wild eleocharis growing emersed   Eleocharis Eleocharis...

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