Caring For Plants
The first and most basic needs of a plant are sufficient amounts of light, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Nutrients like iron, copper, zinc etc are also required in trace amounts. As described earlier, these can be provided through the use of various fertilizers and additives. There are certain things besides these that will be beneficial to plants.
Thinning and pruning of plants is very important for them to grow well. Many aquatic plants will flourish if proper conditions are provided. The taller plants will grow right out of your aquarium. They will also become too thick and block sunlight, and take up too many nutrients. After pruning, many plant species can be replanted since the cut-off parts are capable of growing into a new plant. In some of the leafy plants, like Swords, older and bigger leaves will need to be removed to provide sufficient light for the younger ones. Some plants that have floating leaves also need their leaves removed. These will otherwise block the sunlight from the lower leaves as well as from other plants. After several pruning sessions, you will sometimes find that the branches are becoming too dense. Such plants can be thinned by removing the older branches.
Here are some tips for basic aquatic plant care:
- Be careful when you select your plants. For your first aquarium, it is advisable to go for the popular varieties that are easily available.
- Young plants that are in good condition have greater chances of survival.
- Be very thorough while planting your plants. Enough spacing and anchorage are important.
- Plants should be groomed before you put them into the water.
- Before planting, any dying roots should be removed. Otherwise, they will rot in the substrate. Decaying or dying roots will appear dark brown and limp, while the healthy roots will be rigid and pale.
- Remove any yellowing or sickly leaves on your plant before you put it in. The plant will ultimately shed these leaves anyway and they can pollute the water and consume oxygen.
- Protect the leaves of your plants from unnecessary damage. Snails and plant eating fish should be kept to a minimum.
- If you intend to put in tubers, then position them at an angle, so that the growing tips of the plants will be exposed to water.
- Once your stem plants reach the surface, cut them and replant the cuttings. They will soon grow a new root system. This will also give the younger leaves enough sunshine.
- Some plants like the Java Fern and the Java Moss will do better if they are attached to rocks, rather than planted into the substrate.
Plants are good indicators of nutrient deficiency in your aquarium. One way to keep your planted aquarium running smoothly is to measure the nutrient level in your water by analyzing plant growth. In aquariums with low growth, plants do not show many deficiencies because the nutrients present are quite sufficient for them. In high growth aquariums where you have lots of plants and where you are using Carbon Dioxide injections, plants are growing so fast that nutrients may get depleted. In such an aquarium, it will typically be the fastest growing plants that show the first symptoms of deficiency.
The first thing you must ascertain while looking for nutrient deficiency is to see whether the symptoms are showing up in the older leaves or in the younger, fresher leaves. This will help you narrow down the nutrient causing the problem. "Mobile" nutrients are those that the plant can re-claim from the older leaves and use while producing younger leaves. So, deficiency in these nutrients will usually show up in the older leaves. Mobile nutrients include Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc. The immobile nutrients do not move, and their deficiency therefore usually shows up in the younger leaves. Examples of immobile nutrients are Copper, Iron, Calcium and Sulfur.
Though analyzing nutrient deficiency using leaf changes is not an exact science, here are some symptoms and causes that will help you. Deficiency in Iron usually causes the leaves to become brittle and pale. If the older leaves show pinholes that gradually enlarge, it may be a Potassium deficiency. Twisted and bent or cupped leaves with yellowish to very pale edges are an indication of calcium deficiency. Withered edges and dead leaf tips show a deficiency in Copper.
Though the aforementioned list is not very exhaustive, you will find that this provides a general guideline to check for nutrient deficiency. With time and experience, you will find your plants speaking to you about the ecosystem within the aquarium. Moreover, if you take them seriously, plants will flourish and thrive in your aquarium. Your fish will benefit a lot from this too.
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