Excessive Filamentous Algae Growth Aquarium

Using this table we can decide how much CO, to be injected for the desired pH against carbonate hardness.

iii. Fertilisation

Plant require Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur in relatively large amount (major or macro elements) when compared to other important elements such as Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Boron, Copper and Molybdenum. Even though the second group of elements (microelements) is required in very small amounts, these elements together with macro elements are vital for growth. When any one of these elements is missing, plant growth will stagnate irrespective of the availability of the other elements.

Carbon is required by plants for food synthesis by utilising light energy. Carbon in the form of CO, is readily available to the terrestrial plants as the earth atmosphere has high concentration of CO,. The concentration of CO, in water is very low (about 0.2mg/l in equilibrium with air), and its diffusion into the water is 10,000 times lower than into air. In a densely planted aquarium, Carbon is always the limiting factor unless it is supplemented artificially. Depending upon the carbonate hardness, CO, should be injected to keep the pH around 6.8. When plants synthesise food, Oxygen is released to the surroundings as a by-product. In a healthy planted tank, Oxygen is seldom deficient.

Other major elements especially Phosphorus, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur are normally present in all types of water source. Nitrate should be maintained at about 10 mg/1. Fish wastes and fish food are excellent sources of Nitrogen. Phosphorus is required in low amounts about 0.1 -0.3 mg/1. As plants can successfully compete with algae to absorb the available Phosphorus within this range, anything more than this range can invite the threat of algae. Fish food is a good source of Phosphorus too. Potassium should be supplemented as its concentration in our drinking water is low. As Potassium does not contribute to algae growth, its concentration can be kept at a fairly high level, 15-40 mg/1. Calcium is present in all sources of water except in treated water. Calcium at 20-40 mg/1 in aquarium is more than sufficient for the plants. If Mag nesium is low, raise it to 10-15 mg/1. Before fertilisation, do analyse the concentration of Nitrate, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium by providing the water sample to a reputed laboratory. To adjust the Potassium and Magnesium levels, use Potassium Nitrate and Magnesium Sulphate heptahydrate (Epsom Salt) respectively. If your water contains more Nitrate use Potassium Sulphate instead of Potassium Nitrate. Add these chemicals after the water change is done. Addition of major elements should be in accordance with the amount of water changed.

For the addition of microelements, it is better to rely on commercial formulations and it is advisable to adhere to the instructions on the label. Iron concentration in the aquarium is kept at around 0.1 mg/1, because a higher dose of iron can encourage algae growth.

iv. Filtration

Is filtration really necessary for planted tanks? As plants are excellent biological filters, ammonia build up in the tank from fish wastes can be prevented. Fish excreta are a good source of nutrients for the plants. However, in a newly set up tank, the plants are yet fully functional. Moreover, the waste produced by the fish may be excessive due to the increased fish population. Under such circumstances filtration is encouraged. Another advantage of filtration is that it can facilitate water movement. Majority of aquatic plants grow in flowing water in their natural habitat. Water movement will help to keep nutrients including CO, in contact with leaves. An ideal filtration system will be able to facilitate both mechanical and biological filtration.

The filter should have a flow rate of 2-3 times the capacity of aquarium per hour. Mechanical filtration will keep the water free of suspended particles while biological filtration will minimise toxic waste build up in the tank. Filters with chambers filled with ceramic beads allow the denitrifying bacteria to colonise and are permanently bathed by oxygenated water. Wet and dry filter systems are not essential for planted tanks and sometimes it may be disadvantageous as it may allow CO, to escape.

v. Water Change

In nature, aquatic plants inhabit in open water bodies and fresh water is always added from the source through water currents. Water currents help to remove the decaying matter resulting from bacterial decomposition and also bring the required nutrients for the growth of plants. As this process is continuous, all factors for plant growth are always optimal at any given time. When we talk about planted aquarium, we must remember that it is a closed system. In the course of time, accumulation of wastes in the form of dead leaves and dead fishes or fish wastes may accumulate beyond the capacity of biological filtration. The depletion of nutrients will occur. A planted aquarium is never free of algae. Under favourable conditions, the plants can successfully compete with algae for the available nutrients in the medium, hence the proliferation of algae can be checked. When the factors are not conducive for plant growth, algae will strike back. To avoid such situation, water change is strongly advocated.

Initially, it is really advisable to change water, 1/2 of the total volume weekly, as the biological filtration is not fully established. 2-3 months after the setting up of tank, changing 1/3 of the total volume of water fortnightly is sufficient.

vi. Lighting

Choosing the right spectrum of light is always critical to promote the plant growth. Fluorescent tubes are ideal in illuminating aquariums because they generate less heat, consume low wattage in relation to lumens output and produce the right spectrum for plant growth. The following terms are helpful to choose the right source of light.

Lumens : It refers to the intensity of the light.

Lux : It is measured as lumens per sq. meter. Assume the lumens of a standard flourescent tube is 2000. When the entire amount of light is focused from such source to 1 sq. meter area, the light will be measured as 2000 lux for any spot on that area. Flourescent tubes with 2500 lumens or above should be chosen for aquarium purpose.

Colour Temperature : This is measured as Kelvin. To put it simply for instance, when a block of iron heated to melting temperature, it produces a white yellowish orange glow. The temperature at which the molten metal produces this kind of glow is the colour temperature. When the temperature reaches 5000K, the colour will be whiter, further high temperature, around 8000K, results in overly blue cast. In reality, blue light is hotter than white light. The sunlight during noontime in the equator is around 6000K and is called the cool daylight. A flourescent tube which can produce the cool daylight having colour temperature around 5500-6500K, will be ideal for illuminating a planted aquarium.

Colour Rendering Index (CRI) : The CRI of natural sunlight during noon time is 100. When an object is illuminated with a source of light having CRI 100, the object will look like what it is supposed to be. It will be in its natural colour. When CRI goes down, the colour of the object will be distorted, that means, it will not be in its natural colour. For aquarium, the light source with CRI 90 or above is to be selected.

While choosing the light source for illuminating the planted aquarium, all aforementioned factors should be taken into consideration. As a general rule, illuminate the aquarium 2-3 watts per gallon. One gallon is equivalent to 3.8 litres.

vii. Planting

Plants are to be examined for the presence of algae. Plants that are visibly contaminated with algae should be discarded. Majority of aquarium plants in nurseries are grown as emerscd in small plastic pots using rockwool as substrate. If

rhe plants are grown on rockwool in small plastic pots, remove the pots and as much rockwool as possible. Long roots can be trimmed by using a pair of scissors. Clean the plants by rinsing them at least twice under a running tap.

Before planting the plants in the aquarium, water is to be filled to one third of the total volume ol aquarium without disturbing the substrate. Using a pair of forceps or holding between your thumb and index finger insert the root zone of the plant into the substrate. After planting, drain the old water completely and fill the aquarium with new water to its capacity.

viii. Algae Control

Insofar as algae is a part of a fresh water ecosystem, its presence in the planted aquarium can be an irritant to aquarists. The total elimination of algae may be a trying task, however in its benign form, it can be tolerated. When they take an aggressive turn, immediate action should be sought.

Cause of Algae Infestation : Algae infestation is mainly due to nutrient imbalance in the aquarium, caused by either excess or low nutrients in the tank. Two elements namely Phosphorus and Nitrogen must be monitored regularly. These two elements are responsible for eutrophication (green water) in streams and rivers during autumn. Water with Nitrogen at concentrations in excess of 10 mg/l is not required for plant growth. Plants can compete successfully with algae for intake of Phosphorus, even though its level is between 0.1-0.3 mg/l. Some hobbyists are perturbed by the large proportions of algae, even when they maintain these elements at a low level. This nutrient level may not be suitable for the higher group of aquarium plants, resulting in feeble plant growth and algae blooming.

Measures to Control Algae Infestation : Before taking drastic measures to

Black Beard Algae

control the algae infestation, it is advised to take note of the situation.

Minor Infestation : In this case a few plants in the aquarium are infested with black brush algae, blue green algae or green filamentous algae. The occurrence of such mild infestation is not unusual in well-established tanks. A thorough observation will reveal that this kind of algae growth is due to the over crowding of plants. When growing Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana) or Riccia fluitans on driftwood or on decorative rocks, this problem may be encountered after a period of dense growth. Fast growing plants especially stem plants like some species of Rotala, Hygropbila, etc., are subjected to algae infestation in an overcrowded aquarium. This may be due to the development of dead spots as the water circulation is affected. Introduction of algae-eating fishes and shrimps such as Otocinclus siamensis (Siamense algae eater), Jordanelhi floridae (American flag fish), Cardinia japónica (brown spotted shrimp) together with regular thinning of these plants may avoid this problem.

Whenever algae is observed to be more than its normal proportion, analysis of the elements such as Nitrogen. Phosphorus and Iron should be carried out to verify whether the outbreak is due to the nutrient imbalance. If this is not the case, the aforesaid measures shall suffice to circumvent such minor infestations.

Severe Infestations : Major infestation of algae is in the form of green water or dense growth of filamentous algae and black brush algae on each and every plant in the aquarium. This can occur in less established tanks especially in newly set up tanks. Less established plants in the tank and the low density of bacterial population for the Nitrogen cycle are the main causes for such outbreaks.

If the same kind of infestation occurs in older tanks, nutrient imbalance could be the major culprit.

When there is a severe algae outbreak, the remedial action must be immediate.

When there is a severe algae outbreak, the remedial action must be immediate.

Crinkled Aponogeton

CO, injection must be stopped. A major water change of up to 90% should be done twice a week until algae population shows signs of decline. Elemental concentrations especially Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Iron are to be monitored and checked if they are within permissible levels. It is also advised to investigate if the concentration of Potassium and Magnesium in the water are at their optimal. Please refer to the Section on Fertilisation for the corrective measures of nutrient imbalance. Fast growing plants such as HygrophiLa difformis, Hygropbila poiysperma, Ceratopltyllum demersutn, etc., can act as nutrient sponges. Growing such plants in the aquarium would help deprive algae of nutrients. As mentioned above, introduction of algae eating fishes and shrimps are added advantages.

ix. Aquascaping

Aquascaping or arrangement of plants requires a fair knowledge about the plants and the materials for decoration such as different types of stones and driftwood. Takashi Amano is a maestro on aquascaping and his books can provide an abundance of ideas about designing aquarium tanks. The following section will provide some basic guidelines on tank design.

Decorative Materials

When designing naturalistic aquariums, the use of driftwood and different types of stones will become indispensible.

Stones : Bazalt, granite, quartz, slate and sand stones can be safely used in aquarium decoration. However, limestones should be avoided for this purpose as it affects the water chemistry by influencing the alkalinity of water.

Driftwood : Driftwood in different shapes and sizes are available today. Driftwood collected from nature including aged roots or perforated pieces of wood from worm infestation are good examples. Before introducing them into the tank, they must be soaked in water for a few days, as this will help to remove any unwanted elements such as tannins and salt deposits.

When selecting driftwood or stone, proportionate size to the tank should be observed. Growing ferns (Microsorium or Bolbitis) or Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana) on driftwood will enhance the general presentation of the tank. Arrangement of rocks in the form of mounts surrounded by shorter plants can be a real eye-candy.

Habitat Java Moss


When arranging plants in an aquarium, they should he planted on the basis of their height and growth habit. For convenience, the tank can be divided into three sections such as background, mid-ground and foreground.

Background : Plants for background must be taller than any of the plants selected for mid-ground and foreground positions. Plants having more than 30 cm in height will be suitable for backgrounds. Most of the stem plants (Hygrophila dijformis, Hygrophila polyspermy, Limnophila sessilijlora, Limnophila heterophil, Rotafo indica, Rotala rotundifolia, Myriophyllum aquaticum, etc.) as well as rosette plants with long ribbon like leaves (Crinum thaianum, Sagittaria subulata, Vallsineria americana, etc.) are suitable. To decorate the bogwood and rockwork in the background, use different species of An u bias or epiphytic plants like Bolbitis heudelotii, Microsorium pteropus and Vesicularia dubyana (Java moss), as they enhance the natural look of the aquarium.

Middle ground : In the mid-ground, select stem plants of about 15 cm or more in height, such as Rotala nuicratidra, Eustralis stellata, etc., which will introduce a warm red hue in the presence of cool green. At the centre of the aquarium, rosette plants like Nuphar lutea, Nymphea species (tiger lotus), Aponogeton species or certain Echindorous species like E. amazonicus, E. 'Ozelot', E. 'Rubin, E. 'Barrhii', etc., will bring contrast in colour and shape. Cryptocorynes can be amassed among these plants.

Foreground : Plants which do nor grow more than 10 cm in height, should be selected to decorate the foreground. Creeping plants such as Glossostigma elatinoides and Lilaeopsis brasiliensis or pigmy chain swords (Echindorous tencllus and E. latifolius) or Riccia fluitans (a liverwort) are ideal choices. Under thriving conditions, these plants will form a green cover in the foreground. Riccia fluitans is a floating plant but can be adapted to submersed growth. This plant should be secured onto rocks or driftwood by using fishing line.

Finally, plan and design the tank in advance will ensure a more pleasant and enjoyable process in setting up your dream aquarium.

Non-flowering Aquarium Plants


Majority of the plants belonging to this primitive group are rather disturbing than bringing beauty to the aquarium. A few species such as Chlorella vulgaris, Chladophora aegagropila, Nitella flexilis and Rhizocbnium speices can be safely cultivated in the aquarium. However, only very few hobbyists are making any serious attempt to integrate it into their aquascape along with other popular plants. Chladophora aegagropila (commonly known as 'moss balls' but do not come under the moss group) is worthy enough for a try in planted aquariums.

Velvety Green Algae Reef Aquarium
The green algae balls, C. aegagropiLi are usually found in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Sweden and Japan.

Chladophora aegagropila 'Moss Balls'

medium-hard Temperate regions ■ JB A slow growing algae in the form of a ball, prefers strong light and water wirh high carbonate hardness (>7dKH)

This algae is velvet like and can grow up to 30 cm in diameter in the form of balls. They were once thought to be extremely slow growing; needing 150-200 years to reach the size of a tennis ball. Reccnr studies however suggest that the growth can be accelerated by providing more nutrients. In its natural habitat, their ability to move around by using the undercurrents to sink or rise in order to position themselves to receive plenty of light to carry out photosynthesis is interesting. In Japan, these algae balls are commonly found in lake Akan (locally called as 'Marimo'), and has been declared as "Special Japanese Natural Treasure". Research is presently underway to define the parameters in which to successfully cultivate this under aquarium conditions.

They must be kept in strongly lit areas otherwise they will start to die.

Non-flowering Aquarium Plants


The introduction of Riccia fluitans by Takashi Amano in his exuberant aquascapes as a ground cover stirred a lot of interest in this plant in the fresh water planted aquarium hobby. Even though this plant has a strong tendency to float, it can be kept submerged by tying it to a rock. Another genus, Pellia endivifolia, is also gaining popularity as a good aquarium plant. Both plants are thallose liverworts.


Family pellia pelliaceae

A thallose liverwort from South East Asia. In its natural habitat, the growth is restricted to moist areas.

The dichotomously branched thallus is dark green in colour, often brittle and many times bigger than that of Riccia fluitans. Rhizoids (root like organs) are conspicuous and arranged in a row on the lower side of the thallus.

Like Riccia species, it should be tied to a rock or driftwood to promote submerged growth. It prefers water with carbonate hardness (dKH) between 5-7 for its fast growth.

Pellia endiviifolta pH: 6-7.3 4 22-26 ^ soft-medium hard —

S. E- Asia Thallose liverwort Propagated from fragmentation of thallus

Filamentous Liverwort

Riccia fluitans pH: 5.5-7.5 i 20-30

^ soft-hard # f ■ Cosmopolitan Thallosc liverwort Propagated by fragmentation of thallus

This genus is found widespread through out the world. There are more than 180 specics belonging to this genus with some growing on wetlands, while others are amphibious or purely aquatic. R. fluitans is the species cultivated in aquariums. The green thallus without any distinction between stems, leaf and root is bright green in colour and dichotomously branched (fork like). Another form, dark green in colour often emerges from the thallus of the normal one is a non floating type and not so attractive. Some hobbyists claim that it is a new species, while others claim it is a mutant. Even though the normal Riccia has a strong tendency to float along the water surfacc, it can be grown submersed by attaching them to stones and woodwork in the aquarium where they soon form green carpets under favorable conditions.

Riccia species Dwarf'

pH: 6.2-7 i 23-28 soft-medium hard mm

Thallosc liverwort Propagated by fragmentation of thallus

This dwarf form of Riccia is a small thallosc liverwort with rosette like habit. As it is obtained from a local aquarium shop, its origin is not known. Riccia huebenrriana, an endangered species in UK, also displays rosette like growth, but each rosette measures about 1.8cm in diameter. This plant can be grown with great case in the aquarium. When it is tied to rocks, it can spread in rosettes. This rosette like habit makes this species more attractive than the normal one, R. fluitans.

Non-flowering Aquarium Plants Mosses

Vesicularia dubyana is a popular aquatic moss and its maintenance is rather easy. Recently many closedly allied ones (may be different varieties of the same species) have proven to be good aquarium plants. However their proper identification is yet to be done.

Another popular species is Fontinalis antipyretica (Willow Moss). This species is a temperate plant and its cultivation in tropical climate is often found to be difficult.

Christinas Moss 'South America'

PH: 6-7.5 122-28 ^ soft-hard 3 South America Epiphytic moss f M Propagated from fragmented shoots

This species can produce lateral branches in a regular fashion so as to give the appearance of Christmas tree foliage. It is often referred

This species can produce lateral branches in a regular fashion so as to give the appearance of Christmas tree foliage. It is often referred

Epiphytic Moss

vesicularia hypnaceae


Vesicularia dubyana pH: 6-7.5 | 22-28 ^ soft-hard 4

Epiphytic moss f ■ Propagated from fragmented shoots

Family vesicularia hypnaceae

Even though around 135 species in this genus only a few species can adapt to underwater life. All these species originate from the warmer parts of the world. V. dubyana, commonly known as Java moss, is popular among hobbyists. In its original habitat, South East Asia, it is usually found attached to fallen tree trunks and rock in humid and moist areas. The irregularly branched stems bear small emerald green leaves in two rows. They arc about 2mm long. An undemanding species, which will soon form tangled masses of intensively branched stems in the aquarium after a period of acclimatisation.

Vesicularia species pH: 6-7.5 i 20-28 ^ soft-hard _ 3

Epiphytic moss J Propagated from fragmented shoots

The leaves of this plant are slightly bigger than that of Vesicularia dubyana and its plant body is slightly broader than that of Vesicularia dubyana. It can easily grow on driftwood and rock in almost upright fashion.

Non-flowering Aquarium Plants

Ferns & Fern's Allies

Ferns have its representatives in the water world. Some ferns can adapt well to submerged growth while a few are floating type, such as Azolla and Salvinia. In this section, only those ferns including one of its allies (Isoetis vellata) that can adapt to underwater life are mentioned. The floating ones are described under the section "Floating Plants".

Bolbitis Hydrophylla

Bolbitis heteroclita ft^WP250 ftfWP331 £^W0250

Tropical Asia Epiphytic fern with rhizome • ^ Propagated from eyes of rhizome.

y lomariopsidaceae

Approximately 85 species are ascribed to this genus from Africa and Asia. B.fluvitalis and B. heudelotii from tropical Africa and B. heteroclita and B. hydrophylla from tropical Asia are recongised as the A known aquatic species.

B. heudelotii in submerged conditions develops attrac-civc semi transparent green leaves with deeply serrated edges. A less popular species, B. heteroclita has tripinate leaves, which become very crinkled when grown underwater.

The creeping rhizome of this plant does not like anaerobic conditions and it should not be buried. It thrives best when attached to a stone or driftwood. They are shade loving plants and therefore should not be kept in an aquarium where they can be exposed to high light intensity.

Emerge Bolbitis Heudelotii

Bolbitis betidelotii ft^\XT056 ft^WP667 pH: 6-7.2 £ 22-27 soft-medium hard 3

West Africa Epiphytic tern with rhizome ■ JB Propagated from eyes of rhizome.

ceratopteris pteridaceae

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The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The word aquarium originates from the ancient Latin language, aqua meaning water and the suffix rium meaning place or building. Aquariums are beautiful and look good anywhere! Home aquariums are becoming more and more popular, it is a hobby that many people are flocking too and fish shops are on the rise. Fish are generally easy to keep although do they need quite a bit of attention. Puppies and kittens were the typical pet but now fish are becoming more and more frequent in house holds. In recent years fish shops have noticed a great increase in the rise of people wanting to purchase aquariums and fish, the boom has been great for local shops as the fish industry hasnt been such a great industry before now.

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  • maria papst
    How to attached java moss with drift wood?
    8 years ago
  • aziza
    How is filamentous branched algae formed?
    2 years ago
  • Otho Goodchild
    How to grow filamentous algae?
    10 months ago

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