Archive for October, 2008

September-October 2008 GHAC Newsletter

Posted in Club Activities with tags , on October 26, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

Greater Houston Aquarium Club (GHAC) is a new and upcoming aquarium club in the Houston (metro and suburban). GHAC is less than a year old but has been widely accepted by aquarium keepers through out Houston and the surrounding suburbs. This is clearly visible through the great turnout at their meetings and parties. The success can be attributed to some dedicated members who have put in a lot of time and effort to make this club active and efficient. Over the period of last six months they have had some great presentations and tours in co-ordination with NASH. GHAC is headed by their President Mr. Raul Turner and Vice-president Mr. Tim Bell.

Last week Tim asked my permission to use a couple of my articles from Aquamusing in their September-October 2008 GHAC Newsletter. I gladly permitted Tim to use my write ups on Hisonotus leucofrenatus and Hydrocotyle verticillata. These went in the “Fish of the Month” and “Plant of the Month” section of the newsletter. I am attaching a copy of the newsletter here:


GHAC official website: Greater Houston Aquarium Club

Rotala macrandra

Posted in Plant Profiles with tags , on October 20, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

Rotala macrandra is a plant which has been long been considered by aquatic plant enthusiast to be the most beautiful red plant you could add to your aquascape, but it is also considered one of the more difficult plant to keep. The delicate red wavy leaves of this plant can add a strong focal point to an aquascape. The red leaves help in drawing attention into the aquascape , while the beautiful wavy leaves helps to give a soft impression to the aquascape when used with other delicate looking plants.

R.macrandra can be used as a background plant in medium to large aquariums. When provided the right conditions for growth the stems tend to grow fast towards the light and then form floating leaves along the surface. These top leaves are always redder than the leaves lower down the stem. Rotala macrandra originates from India. This plant needs a lot of light to show its beautiful red color supplemented with good CO2 and a proper fertilization regime. Over the years a lot of people have speculated what causes the plant to turn red. The oldest and the most widely believed claim recommends adding enough chelated iron combined with good lighting to bring out the best in this plant. Some people have claimed that limiting the NO3, while maintaining relatively high levels of P would produce large, deep red leaves. Iron and micro-nutrient dosing will also need to be sufficient. I cannot confirm the validity of the above claims as I never measure the water parameters in my tank but in my experience taking care of major factors like light, fertile substrate and CO2 should solve 80% of the problems associated with cultivating this plant.

R. macrandra is available through a lot of online plant dealers and is also regularly available at most LFS. In my opinion there is a small trick when selecting R.macrandra stems. When selecting R.macrandra stems always select a bunch in which stems show some inter nodal roots. My observation has lead me to believe that when we select stems which do not have inter-nodal roots , the stem rot off faster than the plant can form new roots. R.macrandra has a tendency to lose leaves on the lower part of the stem like other stem plants as time progresses. Proper placement of mid-ground plants should help to cover this unsightly section of the plant. R.macrandra can be propagated by cutting the tops of the stem and replanting them in place of the old ones or you could just leave the cut sections of the stem in place which will develop new shoots. Consistent trimming can produce beautiful bushy look. R. macrandra has been widely used in both Nature Aquarium and Dutch aquascapes for a long time.R macrandra can be a great addition to any aquascape but is certainly not a plant for novice.

NASH-DFWAPC San Marcos Collection Trip

Posted in Collection Trips with tags , on October 14, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

In May, 2008 NASH (Nature Aquarium Society of Houston) and DFWAPC (Dallas- Ft. Worth Aquatic Plant Club) arranged a collection trip to San Marcos River, San Marcos, Texas. NASH was represented by Kevin, Thanh, Rick, his wife Melissa, myself and my better half Preetam. DFWAPC was represented by their president Nikolay and his wife. We started the drive from Houston to San Marcos at 5 am after meeting up Kevin and Than at Houston Aquarium Warehouse. Kevin was driving which was a good thing as both I and Thanh had slept just a few hours the night before. We arrived in San Marcos around 8:30 Am and met up with Nikolay and Casey Williams our guide from Texas State University.

San Marcos Springs Ecosystem is the second largest in Texas and along with the Comal Ecosystem has the greatest known diversity of organisms in an aquatic ecosystem in southwestern United States. The source of these springs is the Edwards Aquifers. There are quiet a few organisms that are endemic to these spring systems. This biological uniqueness is limited to first 4 miles of the San Marcos River and the Spring Lake. This ecosystem has a temperature of 72 degree F all year round. The water is extremely clear with visibility up to 20 feet underwater. This unique freshwater habitat is a home to several threatened and endangered species. These threatened and endangered species are not supposed to be collected for any reason, unless one has a permit from Texas Park and Wildlife Department and U.S Park and Wildlife Department.

Entering the protected area of the Aquarena Spring Lake through the Wetland Boardwalk the first aquatic plant we spotted was Hydrocotyle verticillata and Cabomba caroliniana. The water here was about 12” deep with a layer of organic sediments at the bottom. The banks of the lake were lined with Elephant Ears which is an introduced plant to this ecosystem. This specie has been considered responsible for displacing the now endangered San Marcos Gambusia (Gambusia goergei). As we proceeded on the boardwalk we startled some thing big in the water below by our movement. Peering down the sides of the boardwalk I was excited to see a large black shape about1.5 feet large dash towards the bank. My excitement soon faded as I realized it was large Tilapia. Tilapias were introduced in the Spring Lake to combat another introduced specie Hydrilla verticillata. The tilapias did not eat the hydrilla but established themselves in this ecosystem. Today both the Tilapia sp. and Hydrilla sp. are rampant in Spring Lake and have contributed to the destruction of the native species of plant and fish. This was the breeding season for tilapias and we spotted a large number of males which had dug round nests about 3feet across all over the shallows. We could spot large stands of Myriophyllum spicatum and Ludwigia repens growing here. Two other introduced wetland plants that have become a huge problem here are Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth) and Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce). Moving on we saw a lot of gambusia and flagfish. We could not exactly ID them as we were not supposed to catch anything here.

The day was turning out to be perfect for a collection trip. The temperature was staying around 78 degree F all morning. At about 10:30 am we proceeded to book our seats on the glass bottom boat. The water in this part of the lake looked turquoise blue like a coral reef. Huge strands of Cabomba caroliniana and Vallisneria americana created a beautiful underwater maze as colonies of soft coral would create on a coral reef. The glass bottom boat ride showed us how amazingly clear the water was even at 20 feet with lush green growth of aquatic plants even at the bottom of the lake. We also encountered specie of Fissiden in the eastern part of the lake. While waiting for our boat ride we found Hygrophila polysperma, Ceratopteris thalictroides, Cabomba caroliniana and Riccia fluitans growing in a quiet corner of the lake. The H. polysperma was some of the reddest I had ever seen. From the top this part of the lake looked like a nice aquascaped tank compleate with large Astyanax mexicanus (Mexican tetra) swimming in and out of the foliage. Most of the unique organisms found in this lake are bottom dwellers. We got a chance to check out some of these at the small aquarium maintained near the lake. The fountain darters (Etheostoma fonticola) were really interesting. These fish would have made a beautiful addition to a nano aquarium had they been not endangered.

Our next stop was going to be downstream from the lake on the San Marcos River. Here Casey showed us stands of Texas Wild Rice growing in the swift current of San Marcos River. Texas Wild Rice is another native species which is endangered due to destruction of its habitat. The water current in this part of the river was pretty swift, but we could still spot large patches of H. verticillata growing very close to the river bottom. As we proceeded further down the rivers bank we were amazed by the lush growth of Potamogeton illinoensis and H. polysperma covering the entire width of the river. We could not spot the river bottom for quiet some time after that. Here H. polysperma was growing both emersed as well as under water. We could also spot some C. thalictroides growing emersed along the bank.

Our last stop was going to be the spot where Kevin had seen some Cryptocoryne beckettii growing in shaded pools in the past. We were disappointed to find that spot closed to public due to some construction activity along that part of the river. It is alleged that C. beckettii was introduced here due to dumping by aquarists. We started our journey back to Houston from here. This was a well planned trip and all of us enjoyed our uneventful drive back.

Some more picture here:


Posted in Aqua Design Amano with tags , , on October 11, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

ECA stands for Efficient Complex Acids. ADA claims it contains natural organic acids and iron in liquid form which is easier for aquatic plants to absorb. The organic acids in ECA help to enhance bacterial activity and improve the overall condition of aquatic plants. ECA contains iron in a form which does not easily combine with other ions making it easily available for plants. The actual ingredients of ECA are not disclosed by ADA.

I decided to try out ECA when I started seeing almost white colorless leaves in new growth in plants like R. rotundifolia and R.wallichii. I tried supplementing with another brand of liquid chelated iron, but it was not helping. It improved the color of the stems a little but I still had colorless new leaves which on R.rotundifolia had started turning transparent. I brought the 50 ml drip feed dispenser of ADA ECA and started dosing as directed on the package. Within a span of one week I could see a lot of improvement in the fast growing stems. The color had started to return, but was still not where I thought it should be. So I decided to up the dosing. I have never used any kind of testing kits and I dose all the fertilizers for the tank observing the plants. The growth and color are very good indicators of an aquatic plant’s health. After a couple of weeks the R. rotundifolia’s tops had turn beautiful pink and the R.wallichii had turned deep red and pink. I have been using ECA in all my tanks since then. ADA recommends use of ECA with caution as it is highly concentrated and overdosing can cause water discoloration as well as algae.

ADA recommends 2 drops of ECA per 5 liters of water. But this can be changed depending on type of plants you have and the amount of whitening on the new bud. I guess the trick is to understand your plant requirements and modify the dosing as needed. I generally add it right in front of the filter outflow as ECA is heavier than water and the drops tend to settle where they are dropped if the water flow is not enough. This prevents even distribution of the supplement through out the tank. When using ECA regularly it is recommended to change atleast 1/3 rd tank water every week. Excess accumulation of iron in an aquarium can hurt plants.

In my experience the best results can be obtained from ECA by using it along with Brighty K and Green Brighty Step Series. The opinions of people who have used ECA have been mixed. I have seen quiet a few beautiful tanks where it has been used so I will stick with what I believe is a good product when used in an educated way.

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Posted in Plant Profiles with tags , on October 3, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Hydrocotyle verticillata even tough a common marsh plant through out the southern states of North America is not as establish in the planted tank hobby as the other member of the genus Hydrocotyle leucocephala. This probably is attributed to the difficulty of growing this specie underwater. H.verticillata is commonly known as the Whorled Pennywort or Sheild Pennywort. Hydrocotyle verticillata can be found growing all year round throughout Texas wherever there is moist to wet soil. There are a few people I know who ordered this plant from online dealers later to find out this plant growing like weed in there own backyard. I have found large groups of this plant growing in quiet a few place around my house. Even though considered as a perennial plant this plant suffers quiet a bit in the Texan summer. I have found that during summer only group of plants in well shaded locations survive. H.verticillata can be found growing submersed in large groups in fast flowing water of San Marcos River all year around. The water temperature of this river stays around 72 °F all year.

H.verticillata growing on the bank of San Marcos River.

H. verticillata is considered a moderately difficult plant to grow submersed. It requires a lot of light supplemented with good carbon dioxide addition and regular fertilization. Lack of nitrogen will cause quick yellowing of the older leaves. It also likes soft and slightly acidic water. I have been growing this plant both emersed and submersed. H.verticillata is a fast growing weed when grown on land in sunlight as well as when grown emersed under lights. But its rate of growth significantly differs when grown underwater. It grows painstakingly slow. The stem of this plant grows along the substrate with 1-2 leaves growing upright at each node. The height of leaf stalk in an aquarium is decided by the amount of light. I had this plant growing under 65w of light in a 10 gallon aquarium. The maximum height to which it got was 1-1.5”. In low light tanks the leaf stalks try to reach out towards the light and hence can have long stalks. When I first started with this plant I planted it in two different tanks one with Aquasoil Amazonia II and one with just plain river sand. The few nodes which I planted in Amzonia II sent out new leaves within a couple of weeks of planting, but the ones in river plant took a lot longer than that. This makes me believe that it appreciates a nutritious substrate. This plant can also be grown as a floating plant. If grown as a floating plant it will appreciate a lot of nutrients in the water column. This plant has small white flowers growing in tight group on the tip of the stalk.

I haven’t seen H.verticillata been used by a lot of aquascapers in their aquascapes. This probably is due to the unique leaf shape which makes it difficult to incorporate in a scape. Mr. Takashi Amano has used this plant in quiet a few of his earlier scapes as a foreground plant. The most memorable use of this plant was in his scape called “Grace of Angles” from AquaJournal Vol.18 (December 1995). A picture of this scape pops in my mind every time I see this plant. H.verticillata’s unique leaf shape and easy availability prompted me to use it in “Boraras Dream”. It was placed in this scape on the extreme left corner to draw attention of the viewer to that corner while adding interest to that shaded section. In a small aquascaped tank H. verticillata can be used as accent plant to draw attention to its unusual leaf shape. In larger tanks it can be used as the main foreground plant. I belive a lot of aquascapers will appreciate the slow growth of this plant underwater. It does not get unruly like Glossostigma elatinoides or Echinodorus tenellus. If you can satisfy all its need H.verticillata can be a great addition to any aquascape.