View Full Version : Bulb Plant Primer Part Two

01-06-2008, 10:17 PM
Barclaya must have shaded areas and is very demanding. It needs temps between 75 and 82 degrees, and a highly-enriched substrate equipped with a cable heater. Most failures occur when the sub-surface heater is absent. A difference of just a few degrees between the gravel and bulk water can spell doom for this plant. It needs plenty of space, soft water and bright light when it starts growing. High Oxygen levels can disintegrate it.
Is the plant worth the trouble? Only you can decide. It isn't cheap, and is rather touchy, but the Orchid Lily is without a doubt lovely. Long, slender wavy spear-like leaves can be green, reddish, olive, maroon and 20 inches long on the same plant when in health. They spread wide and look good in front of fine-leaved plants. Its large corn can produce a plant from each end. Properly cared for, Barclaya can be a spectacular display plant and is very long lived, as I've had specimens in my tanks for decades. Its flower is rarely displayed, but it does produce young plants from its corn. They need warmer water (about 84) and very bright light in shallow water to start. Only when they are five inches tall should they be moved to the display tank. Some may survive when left in the parent's tank.
Called Water Onions, the Crinums of West Africa and Asia are among the largest plants available to the planted tank enthusiast. Both species have long-tape like leaves a meter (39 inches) long, that trail across the surface, and both are very easy to grow.
First is C. natans of Africa. Its long, medium green, crinkled leaves sprout from its onion bulb-shaped corn. Its a beautiful plant, but a truly giant aquarium is needed to keep it, as its span is more than six feet in all directions. It needs bright light and a good substrate and very little else to grow into a showpiece. Herbivorous fish don't seem to like the taste of it, and usually leave it alone. Two leaf forms are available; the long, tape-like indented ones and a narrow, random, wire-like leave that grow in interesting curves and loops. Though it, too gets large, it takes more time to do so.
A giant among giants is C. thaianum of Thailand. Its dark green, inch wide tape-like leaves can reach nearly six feet, though if well established, truly long leaves can be carefully cut back. Be careful not to cut any part of the bulb. In time it can produce young versions of itself from the bulb.
Plant it and natans where the bulb is planted vertically about half-way down, where the upper half is in the water column.
Water Lilies are familiar to nearly everyone. Many have seen the giant Victoria Lilies in the Amazon on television that a grown man can stand on. There are a few species that are suitable for the planted aquarium of the Genii Nuphar, Nymphaea and Nymphoides. Lily bulbs may take a good deal of time to sprout (weeks to more than a month) and growth may start fairly slow, but will accelerate and all lily species save one will produce tons of leaves.
Called Spatterdock, Nuphar japonica of Japan has large, triangular leaves more than six inches long. Like most lily species, Spatterdock leaves will grow to the top, but high light and the removal of large or older leaves can keep it short. Japonica has strong stems that will withstand considerable buffering by fish. To my experience the plant does best in soft water. It propagates by side shoots from the rhizome (bulb), and shouldn't be kept over 77 degrees. It can be used in cold water tanks down to 64 degrees.
From Southeast Asia and Africa comes the Tiger Lotus; Nymphaea lotus. Speckled wavy roughly triangular leaves have colors of green and red-brown, though some exceptional specimens can be full reddish brown and look great in front of light green plants. The Tiger Lotus is easy to keep submerged under good light (3 or 4 wpg) with judicious trimming of large leaves attempting to stretch to the surface. If you like the look of floating lily leaves, the plant can be allowed to grow as it will, and its likely it will bloom when well established. It spreads via runners, and adult plants have wide and deep root systems, thus a deeper substrate is necessary between six and eight inches in its area.
Though occasional sold as the Tiger Lotus, Nymphaea stellata; the Red and Blue Water Lily of India has smaller light green spade-shaped leaves with pinkish-red undersides. The leaves reach under five inches and grows more compact (about a foot tall) than the Tiger Lotus, thus making it more suitable for smaller tanks. Bright light keeps the small green and pink leaves and compact size; in lesser light the leaves will get larger (8 inches), the pink and reds will be absent, and the plant is much more likely to race to the top looking for light. It likes temps in the mid-70's, but up to 80 does the plant no harm. Daughter plants come out of the rhizome on runners. A good substrate and good light is all this plant needs. Old plants seem to decline and die after a few years, but it procreates fairly freely, so replacements are easily had.
Though its root storage areas are above the gravel, the Banana Plant, so called for those tubers, hails from the Southern United States. Nymphoides aquatica should be left above the gravel were it will produce 'regular' roots to secure itself. The heart-shaped leaves on short stems reach a little more than four inches and are commonly green and red-brown. The Banana Plant survives best in very bright light and can reach eight inches tall in those conditions.
In such high light, algae will form on the tubers, and Otocinclus should be employed to remove it. Small plant lets can form from the root stocks, and given time, can become full-fledged plants. Adults have a limited live span, usual they decline and fail after a year. The Banana Plant likes its water between 68 and the mid-80's.
Thus, there are bulbs plants for nearly everyone; some that are ridiculously easy to grow and some that are very challenging to keep, but are worthwhile to try.
I hope this post encourages you to try the varied, lovely bulb plants.


PS: I'd like to thank gm72 for Pre-editing these posts for me. Dave

(The) Hobbyist Guide to the Natural Aquarium, Dr. Chris Andrews, Tetra Press, 1991.
Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants, Peter Hiscock, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 2003.
Exotic Aquarium Fishes, Dr. William T. Innes, Innes Pubishing Company, 15th Edition, 1953.

01-26-2009, 09:06 PM
very nice writeup makes me want to go get some bulbs