Flowering Aquarium Plants Part 2

(Unedited version)
Originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of
Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine

Last month we started to look at some of the plants that will easily bloom in your aquarium, often even surprising you with blossoms. This month will look at some other plants that will be happy to bloom for you with a little extra work.

Stemmed plants

Several of the stemmed plants are easy to get to bloom, the part that makes it a bit more interesting, and requires a little more planning, is because these plants want to stick their stems up above the water to do their flowering.

If you want to really see your aquarium stemmed plants flower you need to plan ahead. There are several options available, and which you choose can depend on what you want the set up to look like, what types of plants you would like to grow and flower, and even where you live.

Easy flowers

The easiest set up for some stemmed plants to flower in your aquarium only requires you to lower your water level a couple of inches. Some aquatic stemmed plants like Cabomba and Zosterella dubia will float at the top of the water and send their flowers just above the surface, similar to the Aponogetons and Sagittaria.

If you can find Zosterella dubia it can be a fun plant to grow for several reasons. First it's a North American native plant and a true aquatic so it grows very easily and very quickly. I believe this is the fastest growing plan in my fish room. I think it even beats the Vallisneria in terms of fast growth. It's very happy to grow without CO2, fertilizers or pretty much anything but water with some stems stuck in the gravel. And finally it seems to like to bloom all the time.

Zosterella is a grass-like plant. It's incredibly easy to grow and doesn't seem to have much problem with high or low temperatures, moderate to very high lighting, or tank temperature. It can grow well with or without additional additives in the gravel. I can even grow it outside in the hot Arizona summers and it survives out there throughout the winter too.

The stems grow incredibly quickly. Usually you will want to trim them very regularly. The tops are the most attractive parts and you'll usually want to replant them when you trim your plants. If you don't trim them regularly Zosterella will grow across the top of your tank, and then send out small yellow star like flowers with 6 thin petals. If you let your Zosterella go the stems can cover the whole top of your tank quickly and produce quite a few flowers over the top of your tank.

Several other plants that are true aquatics bloom this way, with small flowers not far from the surface of the water. Of course some are more difficult to get to bloom in the aquarium than others. Other plants that may bloom for you in this manner include Cabombas, and anacharis.

Bog Plants

Many of the stemmed plants we use in our aquarium are actually what I'll call bog plants. These plants like to have their roots and lower stem in the water and their foliage out and flowering mostly above the water. Naturally they like to grow on shores or boggy areas where there are often consistently low water levels. These plants also have the ability to grow under water and we encourage them to do so by keeping them trimmed, providing good lighting and sometimes CO2.

There are a couple ways to provide the space and light needed to grow your stemmed plants out of your tank so they can bloom. You can either remove any covering and raise the light, or use an extra tall tank and only fill it half way. There are advantages and disadvantageous to both systems.

Raise the Light

If you already have an existing tank set up and you want to include plants that can be grown out the top then you simply need to get a light that can be suspended above the tank. There are lights that can be purchased specifically for this purpose or some of the handy do-it-your-selfers can create their own set ups. In our local plant club I've seen some remarkable and beautiful home made set ups. There are even new aquariums on the market that are created specifically for this type of set-up.

Bacopa monniera

One of the plants that lends itself very well to this type of set up is Bacopa monniera. While other plants like to grow up out of the top of your tank This is a plant that truly loves to grow out of your tank and cascade in lovely falls down the sides where it will happily bloom regularly if not constantly. With taller plants growing out of the back the Bacopa trailing down the front can make an incredible looking contrast.

Bacopa is a great plant. It has interesting bright green leathery leaves. It grows easily and stems can rapidly reach the water surface. They will stand above the water for a short while but then fall down and if near the side of the tank can grow in cascades down it. Small white or violet tinted blooms form amongst the leaves. I had some of these in a tank on the top shelf in my fish room and I let it go for some time. Eventually the plant had grown in to the tank next to it and the 4 tanks below those 2, all the way to the floor.

People not only grow Bacopa monniera in there aquariums and ponds but it's also grown as a garden plant and used as an herbal medicine. It's found in many temperate areas throughout the world.

Raise the Aquarium

An extra tall aquarium is another option to encourage your stemmed plants to grow out of your tank and bloom. With an extra tall aquarium a wide range of options becomes available to you. A tall covered tank will allow you to be able to have more control over the level of humidity and temperature in the aquarium.

Most homes are kept in a temperature range that most plants could survive, the enclosed aquarium will help keep the temperature inside more consistent. If you use a heater in the water the air in the aquarium will benefit from it's warmth also. Humidity can be a factor in being able to grow some plants above your aquarium. If you live in a relatively humid area you may not have any issues at all. For those of us who live where it can be quite arid plants can have issues when they start growing above the water surface. With a tall enclosed aquarium you can keep the humidity in and plants drying out and dying after they break surface won't be an issue. Another advantage of humidity is it will discourage aphids, which, much to my dismay, I have found to be a problem in growing plants on the surface and above my own aquariums.

Another options with an enclosed tall tank is to build up the back of the tank and create a paludarium. Not only can you grow plants emergently from the aquarium but you then you can grow plants up the back wall. Some elaborate paludariums feature water falls and elaborate plantings above the tank as well as below. Even small ground cover plants like Glossostigma can be grown on these walls and may flower. With careful planning you can not only encourage your aquarium plants to bloom above the waters surface but you can plant other flowering plants above the water.

Hygrophila corymbosa

A lovely example of a stemmed plant that will flower while growing out of your aquarium is Hygrophila corymbosa. H. corymbosa is vary variable and has been sold under several names depending on the leaf structure. H. lacustris, siamensis, longifolius and stricta are all H. corymbosa. Basically if you have a large leaved Hygrophila it's most likely a corymbosa. Not only is this a larger plant in the aquarium but when it starts to grow out side the aquarium it can become the size of a shrub. Remember the leaves may change in shape dramatically from those grown under water. H. corymbosa produces many lovely small dark violet hanging flowers.

A Pretty Cheat

Another fun option for growing flowers out of your aquarium are peace lilies, Spathiphyllum species. These attractive flowering plants are often seen in florists and grocers. Peace lilies are also plants that like to live in damp surroundings. I have a peace lilies in a pots with the bottoms sitting in an aquarium. You can do this in several ways, by having a very low aquarium, or putting the pot on something in the aquarium to raise it or have it in a very tall pot. Some things I've used under potted plants to keep them with their bases in the aquarium water are inverted pots, large vases, and the tall novelty hex tanks. My peace lilies bloom regularly.

Flowering Under the Water

Anubias blooms are similar in appearance to the blooms of the peace lily. A garden of blooming Anubias under the water can be one of the most beautiful and dramatic aquarium set ups you may ever see. Anubias barteri are generally easy plants to grow and may bloom in your aquarium without going to the extra effort, but if you are interested in getting a mass display of blooming Anubias in your tank you have to provide them with optimal conditions.

To achieve a carpet of blooming Anubias you really need to go all out with CO2, fertilizers and lighting but the results can be truly stunning. I've seen such a tank in and it was inspiring. The aquarium was also set up in a shop with the newest and latest equipment. Certainly a challenge for the hobbyist who enjoys pushing their plants to optimal form and growth.

Try Some Flowers in Your Aquarium

There are many plants available for the hobbyist that would like to try a little flower gardening in their aquarium. With varying degrees in ease of set up and growth, hobbyists of all levels should be able to find a challenge in growing aquarium flowers.

Welcome to the Jungle | Into The Forest | The Creepy Crawlies | A Clearing in the Thicket | Algae Eaters for the Planted Aquarium
North American Natives | Why things go wrong Pt 1 | Why things go wrong Pt 2 (Algae) | Algae Eating Shrimp | Lo-Tech Tanks
Welcome to the Fish Room | The Stemmed Plants | Mosses | A Livebearer Biotope | Planted Tank Social | The Genus Hygrophila | Cyanobacteria
Easy Plants | What I Did Last Summer | Decorations in the Planted Tank | Botany-An Introduction to Plant Biology | Botany-Anatomy of a plant
Botany-How Plants Work | Easy Rosettes | Going High-Tech | Floating Plants | Dealing with Success | Bringing the Outside In | Vallisneria
Hair Algae | Flowering Aquarium Plants Part 1 | Flowering Aquarium Plants Part 2 | Liverworts in the Aquarium | Elements of Design
Planted Aquarium Maintenance | More Mosses | Invaders | Ferns in the Aquarium | Setting up a Planted Aquarium
Seaweeds of the Pacific Northwest | Proserpinaca | Hardware for the Planted Aquarium | Rotala | Neocaridina Shrimp | Lo-tech Tank Tips

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