Egeria Densa Recovering

Last water change seems to have helped Egeria densa (in the title image). The plant is recovering and has two healthy offshoots which are growing rapidly. Other egeria densas are, say, half-healthy. Some of their leaves are rotting away, but the bigger part of them is still green and alive.

Helanthium probably had no brown algae. I could easily wipe it off with my finger. One of the plant guys in the aquarium shop told me that if I can wipe it of with the finger easily, it’s probably just some dirt. The plant looks much cleaner now:

Helanthium quadricostatus (day 12)
Helanthium quadricostatus (day 12)

Ceratophyllum demersum is as happy as ever, growing steadily.

Ceratophyllum demersum (day 12)
Ceratophyllum demersum (day 12)

Hygrophila polysperma is now more than twice the size it was when I planted it. It’s slowly getting into shape to look like one.

Hygrophila polysperma (day 12)
Hygrophila polysperma (day 12)

The Dwarf Hairgrass I have is not an eleocharis pusilla (as I first thought) but an acicularis. The longer kind of it. It’s grown some shoots long shoots. I will leave it grow wildly for couple more weeks before I cut it.

Eleocharis acicularis (day 12)
Eleocharis acicularis (day 12)

Hemianthus micranthemoides is growing higher, but not wider. They say you have to cut it often to make it grow to dense patches. I didn’t want to cut it just yet, but may start doing so later this week.

Hemianthus micranthemoides (day 12)
Hemianthus micranthemoides (day 12)

I did not get a good shot of my rotala indica today, but all of them are growing really well, with many new offshoots. Maybe I’ll show it later this week.

Front side of the aquarium

Trimming and Brown Algae (Day 7)

Ceratophylum demersum has forked many times and has grown so high that it bent under the water surface. I cut off the larger branches and planted them on their own and I shortened the others by about 50 cm total length. I pulled them out of the soil, cut off the lower piece and planted it again so that the top remains intact. That’s what Foo the Flowerhorn did and that’s what the folks at the aquarium shop told me is normal to do if you want to keep the nice looks of plants.

Above you see the photo of the front of the tank, side and back follow

View of the short side of the aquarium
View of the short side of the aquarium
Back side of the aquarium
Back side of the aquarium

I did not trim any other plants. The dwarf hair grass has some new shoots but it’s hard to see on a photo. A couple of days ago I saw some fluffy dust-like particles on the leaves of the plants. First I thought it’s something which was floating in the water and now settled on down on the sand and leaves. It turns out that it’s Brown Algae. I had suspected that it could be algae, but wasn’t sure before I read about the various types of them.

Brown algae on the leaves of Helanthium quadricostatus a.k.a. H. bolivianum
Brown algae on the leaves of Helanthium quadricostatus a.k.a. H. bolivianum

Getting brown algae is typical for newly established tanks which are not in balance yet, I read. They occur when there are too many nutrients in the water. Plants can’t use them all, so brown algae have a feast. What helps to lower the amount of nutrients is frequent water changes. I only changed 30% water today, so I’ll change more every day or every other day from now on until I see the brown algae gone.

I also should measure the amount of nitrates in the water. To get rid of brown algae I should have less than 20 ppm of nitrates. A quick and imprecise stripe test is telling me that I have got only around 10 ppm of nitrates, but I’ll do a more precise test soon.

Day 5:  Plant growth

Plants are happily growing. I wish I had posted some photos or videos but since I had a busy weekend doing other housekeeping stuff, I postpone this. I have some pretty plans for the future, though, as far as media is concerned.

The temperature in the tank is stable at 25 °C. Without any heater. The room temperature is lower, but I think the LED light is warming it up 2–3 °C.  There is no trace of algae yet which is both good and bad. It’s good because more CO2 is available for plant growth, but it’s bad because I can’t buy shrimp yet. They’d have nothing to eat.

Some plants forking and saplings growing. About 1 cm of water has evaporated. I have filled a bucket of water for tomorrow’s fill-up. I just let it stand for 24 hours to lower its chlorine content.

Day 4:  Clear Water

Just after a day the flowers managed to clean the water quite a bit. I could not get my eyes off it. Some were releasing tiny bubbles. That must must be oxygen. Good sign!

Here is some of the species in the aquarium:

Hemianthus micranthemoides
Hemianthus micranthemoides
Hygrophila polysperma
Hygrophila polysperma
Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia
Egeria densa
Egeria densa

 

Eleocharis pusilla
Eleocharis pusilla
Ceratophylum demersum, Helanthium Quadricostatus?, Rotala rotundifolia
background: Ceratophylum demersum, foreground: Helanthium Quadricostatus?, with violet tip: Rotala rotundifolia,

No water, no life. No blue, no green. — Sylvia Earle

 

Day 3: Planting

 

Today was planting day. I underestimated the amount of time needed for this, especially when this was the first time planting for me, without any prior experience. Nothing is as easy as it seems. For the lack of time I just put the plants in rather randomly and haphazardly, which I don’t feel much happy about. I wish I had thought it through a bit better. I also found the plant preparing and planting procedure quite strenuous. Hence just a short single-photo post. I’ll try to post more updates this weekend, including a plant list. Let’s hope they all will grow well.

Sleeping and water are lifesavers – that’s true beauty right there. — Sofia Boutella

 

Day 1: Setting up

Yesterday have filled the buckets with water and waited until today for chlorine to dissipate. Walstad suggests to put 1.5″ of soil and 1.5″ of gravel in the tank. A hobbyist with a Walstad aquarium in a forum set up her tank with pond soil, so I followed her example. The pond soil I got does not contain chemical fertilisers and has pieces of clay in it. Walstad says about clay:

Clay has 10,000 times more surface area than sand, which gives clay a much greater capacity to bind plant nutrients than sand. Thus, only clay and humus, not sand or silt, contribute significantly to a soil’s cation-binding capacity.

Soil binding of cation keeps substrate nutrients from entering water. Indeed, soil particles can even pull nutrients like copper out of the overlying water.

Pond soil
Pond soil

I did not even have to sieve out any wood pieces as Foo the Flowerhorn did, because the pond soil contained very few of them—and by sieving I would remove all the valuable clay globlets.

After 1.5″ of pond soil were in the aquarium, I sprayed it with water, watching how it gets moist, wet, and ultimately started building puddles of water. It took a while to spray about 3 litres of water on it, but it was fun to watch.

Spil sprayed wet
Soil sprayed with water until little puddles appear

Within minutes the soil started releasing bubbles and sink to about 1″.

Soil releasing bubbles

The gravel came next. Walstad suggests 1.5″ thick and Foo the Flowerhorn reports that the soil substrate eventually rise into the gravel, so while 1.5″ may seem too much at first, it should turn out just the right amount. The gravel cap compresses the soil a bit.

Soil compressed by the 1.5 inch gravel cap
Soil compressed by the 1.5 inch gravel cap

Then came the big moment. First water. Like the First Light moment for a telescope, First Water for an aquarium is a one-in-a-lifetime occasion. It feels like imbuing it with life. Of course none of it is apparent yet, but I imagined all the tiny microbes and micro-organisms in the soil awaking from their deep sleep and already staring their work.

Aquarium 1 hour after filling up
Aquarium 1 hour after filling up

Now I want to give it two days rest. I may poke around in the gravel cap a bit tomorrow to release the bubbles like Foo did, then let is rest for yet another day.

A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us. — Lucy Larcom

How it started

The drive to start an aquarium came suddenly. My parents were planning to have one several years ago but then they decided otherwise. Although I found their idea of having an aquarium exciting I did not long for one when they backed out of it.

Many years later, I was keeping a coriander plant in a pot on my balcony and I was looking for an irrigation system which would water it for about ten days for I was going on a 4000 km road trip to Estonia and back. The local hardware store was selling such gadget in their garden department where they had aquariums on display. That’s where I got excited again and remembered that we almost had one at home.

One random event on my visit of Tallinn contributed—though subconsciously—to my decision to have an aquarium myself. One day I stumbled upon Tallinn Botanical Garden. I like to visit botanical gardens, no matter where I go. I cancelled the rest of the day’s original plans and spent many blissful hours there. It is by far the most magnificent botanical garden I have ever seen. I was especially moved by their exhibition of mosses, lichens, and bark mushrooms.

Moss Exhibition in Tallinn Botanical Garden
Moss Exhibition in Tallinn Botanical Garden

Later I walked through a bog study trail adjacent to the botanical garden eagerly reading the brochure about this peat land I got at the entrance to the botanical garden. I instantly fell in love with mires, bogs, and fens. Especially the Estonian ones.

Samples of peat
Samples of peat

When I got home, all leaves of my coriander plant were eaten by aphids. Except for a few dry ones. The irrigation gadget did not really work. The potting soil was almost completely dry. I’m not sure whether the plant will ever recover. The aphids are staying put. They are munching on every little sprout of a new leaf.

Coriander eaten by aphids
Coriander eaten by aphids

I started reading about aquaristics. I found a good store about half an hour drive from where I live. I was getting familiar with the contemporary technology used in aquariums. While browsing a forum, I found out about paludariums. Now I wanted a paludarium instead. It reminded me of the bog at the botanical garden.

The spotless and clean high-tech aquarium the big companies are promoting suddenly lost its appeal for me—although it was what originally got me interested. While looking for my personal take on aquariums I found that they can also be maintained without expensive devices, barring lighting. The youtube user Foo the Flowerhorn has one such wonderful aquarium going on.

Later I found other people on the forum who are friends—even experts—of the low-tech aquarium. I like to call it a Walstad aquarium, named after Diana Walstad who published a seminal work on its ecology, where she also explains how to establish and maintain them. It’s almost a scientific read, but an enlightening one.

That’s how I found the kind of aquarium (or paludarium) I want. My first attempts with it may fail, but I will keep trying and share my experiences here with you.

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. — Loren Eiseley