Aquascaping: Preparing Your Aquatic Plants
By Aldrin Taroy - @aquascapetoronto
Not sure how to prepare and plant the aquatic plants you’ve just ordered? Maybe I can help. I’ll share a few different examples of plants to give you an idea of the many ways you can plant them in your aquarium.
Before we start, here’s a very important side note about using a good substrate. For my personal scapes, I use the Tropica line: Aquarium Soil as the main base and top it off with Aquarium Soil Powder. If you want to create steep slopes from the back, the Powder type will help prevent the slopes from sliding down. It will also make planting easier because the finer soil will better trap the plants , ensuring they don’t float up to the water surface later on as you release your pincettes.
A proper, nutrient-rich substrate will set up your aquatic plants for longterm success. Tropica substrate doesn’t leak as much ammonia as other substrates on the market. But I still recommend that you do regular water changes in the first 2-3 weeks after flooding your tank. You can read about this in Aquascaping: A Guide for Beginners.
You’ll want to carefully open each Tropica 1-2 Grow tissue culture cup one at a time. Since each will have different media they’ve grown in. Some will have a jelly at the bottom, like Utricularia gramifolia, which is a bit harder to remove and wash off. Some will have a liquid medium, like Hygrophila ‘Aruaguaia’, which is easier to wash out. Just make sure to thoroughly wash the plants before you plant them in your tank.
For my shallow iwagumi, I decided to plant the foreground with Lilaeopsis brasiliensis. The foreground area I needed to cover was about 17 x 2 inches. To give you an idea of how efficient these Tropica 1-2 Grow tissue culture cups are, I only needed 1 1/2 cups to fill the entire foreground area.
I started by removing the plant from the 1-2 Grow cup and washing it thoroughly in water. Lilaeopsis brasiliensis is an easy foreground plant that I recommend for beginners. I find it can survive in different conditions as long as you have good substrate and adequate lighting. In a hi-tech setup with CO2 and bright light, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis will grow very fast. But here in my shallow tank, I’m not using CO2 and keep my lighting fairly low, so I expect it to grow moderately slowly.
Next, you’ll want to separate these smaller clumps into portions of about
2-3 runners so that you can plant them easily into the soil. Preparing and separating the small clumps of plants can be timeconsuming. But if you want to be cost-effective and efficient with planting, then it’s worth the patience.
Just make sure to play your favourite record in the background and enjoy this process. I would estimate that I made over 200 little planting portions from 1 tissue culture cup.
Now, let’s talk about how much I love Tropica potted plants! First, I find these pots to be very versatile. If you can, ask your local fish shop to order you your own “Personal Tropica Box” with the specific plants you want. Nothing beats receiving a box full of fresh plants that you chose! To give you an idea of how generous these Tropica potted plants are, here’s a photo of Ludwigia repens ‘Rubin’ with my cat, Arthur. I measured the stems to be about approximately 17 inches in length. I know, right?
To prepare these potted plants, you can give them an optional quick
rinse and remove them from the pot and their fibre. In this example of the Rotala rotundifolia, I’ve simply removed the fibre and trimmed off the bottom end. Remove the roots that have turned brown or not in a healthy state). Now it’s ready to be planted.
For taller stem plants like Rotala rotundifolia, Ludwigia repens ‘Rubin’ or Micranthemum umbrosum, you can divide them into 3-4 planting portions and plant them in the background of your aquarium.
I love to use Tropica potted plants for emersed setups as well. These potted plants are typically grown emersed in greenhouses, so it’s actually very easy for them to adapt to any kind of pond setup, such as the one seen in my shallow tank. The trick is to cut the stems at the right length so that the plant is mostly submerged, with the tops reaching the surface of
the water level. As the tops slowly emerge above the water level, make sure to mist them twice a day (once in the morning and once before you go to bed) and watch them grow!
[Arthur’s Tank YouTube Video]
A plant like Hydrocotyle tripartita sp.'Japan' is a bit trickier to prepare (I won’t lie, it can get a bit messy as well). This plant comes from Southeast Asia, where they often grow quite low in humid, marshy areas.
To prepare them for planting, I like to pinch out little portions and crumple them up to create a nice anchor at the bottom that will be easier to secure and plant using your pincettes. A tip if you’d like to grow a very low carpet of Hydrocotyle tripartita sp. ’Japan’: Trim the runners or bury any vertical growth into the substrate.
Next is one of my favourite categories of aquatic plants called epiphytes: Think Anubias, Bucephalandra and ferns. Most aquatic epiphyte plants are quite hardy. They are slow growers but add unique textures and rich, dark forest tones to your aquascape. It’s important not to bury them. Instead, I like to attach them to hardscape materials from (rocks, branches) or simply slip them between rock nooks. In this example, I’m using Bolbitis heudelotii (known as Congo Fern) and my plan is to divide them into thinner branch portions, tying their rhizomes (roots) onto the branch using fishing line. Over time, they’ll attach themselves to the branch directly. Ferns tend to dry out during the shipping process, so be sure to clean it up by removing the dry leaves. I highly recommend Jurijs Jutjajevs’ great pro tip video if you want to properly cultivate Bolbitis from the beginning.
Below you see how I’ve attached the Bolbitis to the driftwood. I can simply add this to my aquascape, which creates a very natural, forest-like element as well as shadows in specific areas of your tank.
Here is an example of how I used the different aquatic epiphytes in my ADA 60p tank, including the branch with Bolbitis heudelotii. In between rocks, I’ve added Bucephalandra and Microsorum pteropus ‘Trident’ to add texture and different shades of green to the scape.
Thank you for reading this article on “Aquascaping: Preparing Your Aquatic Plants”.
For aquarium plants and aquascaping products, please visit https://aquascaperoom.ca/ and follow their Instagram page @aquascaperoom_canada.
Visit the Tropica Aquarium Plants website to learn more about plant
categories and all Tropica products such as Tropica Aquarium Soil and
Tropica Plant Fertilizers.
You can follow me on Instagram: @aquascapetoronto for more aquascaping content.