Anaerobic Conditions Good

-4 substrate rich in organic material (waste matter and nutrient-rich substrates) will naturally contain large numbers of bacteria that break down these organics into usable nutrients. The majority of these bacteria quickly use up oxygen, with the result that the substrate becomes anaerobic. In anaerobic conditions, different types of bacteria form, which do not need to use large quantities of oxygen or can create their own oxygen. These anaerobic bacteria can release toxic gases, most notably hydrogen sulphide, which can cause plant

OR BAD?

roots to rot, damage fish health, and encourage algae to flourish.

However, anaerobic conditions also allow nutrients to become more readily available to plants by preventing the binding of nutrients with oxygen molecules. As the bacteria use up the nitrates, nitrogen is released, which is also an important plant nutrient.

A mixture of aerobic and anaerobic substrate zones can provide the benefits of both conditions. As long as the substrate is not too fine and compact and/or substrate heating is employed, the combination of a slow-moving current and the release of oxygen by plant roots should prevent the majority of the substrate from becoming anaerobic. Anaerobic patches will then appear in denser areas of substrate without plant roots. Because these patches are small, they will not produce large amounts of toxic gases yet still allow nutrients to be produced and available to the plants. So a low-oxygen substrate is often best, where anaerobic conditions are allowed to develop in some places but not in others.

Aerobic and anaerobic substrate conditions

Oxygen released by plant roots keeps the substrate around the root aerobic.

system.

Aerobic And Anaerobic Conditions

Hydrogen sulphide produced by bacterial breakdown of organic material.

Nitrogen gas released by the action of denitrifying bacteria, which obtain oxygen from nitrites and nitrates.

Toxic substances, such as hydrogen sulphide, can damage plant roots.

Plants will extend their roots into both aerobic and anaerobic substrate.

Oxygen released by plant roots keeps the substrate around the root aerobic.

Hydrogen sulphide produced by bacterial breakdown of organic material.

Nitrogen gas released by the action of denitrifying bacteria, which obtain oxygen from nitrites and nitrates.

Bacteria in the anaerobic area break down nutrient bonds, allowing nutrients to be easily assimilated by plants.

Toxic substances, such as hydrogen sulphide, can damage plant roots.

At the surface, the substrate is aerobic, due to close contact with the oxygen-containing aquarium water.

Oxygen is taken in (as well as produced during photosynthesis) by the plant's leaves and transported down to the root system.

Choosing and planting

Oxygen Aquarium

Above: Finding a good source of healthy plants is vital. The plants in this aquatic outlet are kept under strong lighting and well presented. The tanks are kept clean and tidy.

Left: The dealer will pack the plants in plastic bags with plenty of air to provide cushioning and prevent damage. The bags are tied to retain moisture, although the plants do not need to be submerged in water.

Right: You can buy aquarium plants by mail order. They should arrive as here, with the plants in plastic sleeves and slotted into a tray to keep them separate and stable. Newspaper laid over the top of the outer plastic bag helps to insulate them from temperature variations.

Top Aquarium Plants

Above: Finding a good source of healthy plants is vital. The plants in this aquatic outlet are kept under strong lighting and well presented. The tanks are kept clean and tidy.

Left: The dealer will pack the plants in plastic bags with plenty of air to provide cushioning and prevent damage. The bags are tied to retain moisture, although the plants do not need to be submerged in water.

Right: You can buy aquarium plants by mail order. They should arrive as here, with the plants in plastic sleeves and slotted into a tray to keep them separate and stable. Newspaper laid over the top of the outer plastic bag helps to insulate them from temperature variations.

Finding a reliable source of healthy plants is vital, especially when you introduce the first plants into the aquarium. Only a small selection of the large variety of aquarium plants may be available from one dealer, so to obtain all the species you require, you may need to locate several suppliers. Choosing different plants and estimating the quantities required takes careful thought and planning. The overall display should be the result of a buildup of plants that gradually become established. They need not all be introduced at the same time; indeed, there are advantages to taking a staggered approach (see page 50).

Identifying healthy specimens is relatively easy and also important, as healthy plants are better able to survive transportation, establish more quickly, and live longer once established.

Unhealthy plants take far longer to start growing, and if they are in particularly poor condition, may never establish and simply die within a matter of weeks. Once you have selected and bought healthy plants, you must plant them properly and in

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