St. Ouen phrag still blooming

My Phragmepedium ‘St. Ouen’ is still blooming. I include a couple of pictures with this post.

Phragmepedium 'St. Ouen' bloom

Phragmepedium 'St. Ouen' bloom

The plant is still in its original pot. Planting this specimen in a riparium planter and sticking it in the water might just kill it outright. I want to enjoy the flowers for a while longer before taking that step.

Phragmepedium 'St. Ouen' bloom

Phragmepedium 'St. Ouen' bloom


February 13, 2009 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

Orchids in a Fishtank?

(blog posts for this project begin with a retroactive entry)

2 January 2009

This post will begin my account of attempts to grow orchids with the riparium planting system. This series of experiments might yield some useful, intriguing results, or it might be a total bust.

Today I acquired an orchid that might grow well as a semi-aquatic. I purchased the hybrid Phragmepedium, ‘St. Ouen’, at Orchids Garden Centre in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Since it is a hybrid clone, optimal growing conditions might be more difficult to predict for this plant than for a true species. However, the species Phragmipedium besseae was apparently among the parental plants that were crossed to eventually produce ‘St. Ouen’. P. besseae is one of several Phragmipedium that are described as growing in saturated soil along the edges of streams.

The plant has a single pretty bloom today. It resembles P. besseae, but has white and pink coloration instead of the brilliant scarlet red of that plant.

February 13, 2009 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

black mangrove propagules!

(blog posts for this project begin with a retroactive entry)

20 January 2009

This bag is filled with black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) propagules that a fish breeder in Texas shipped to me in exchange for some livebearers. Black mangroves produce propagules via cryptovivipary, a process through which the seed sprouts and begins to grow while still attached to the mother plant. Many other mangrove tree species use this same strategy. The reasons for the predominance of cryptovivipary among mangroves are not fully understood, but may have to do with the harsh seashore conditions in which mangroves grow: perhaps the large propagules are better able than small seeds to withstand salty water, intense sun and buffeting waves. In some mangrove species the propagules are covered with buoyant husks and may float long distances before settling and sprouting.

black mangrove propagules

black mangrove propagules

Black mangrove occurs in costal areas in the tropical Atlantic, including the east coasts of Central America and South America, the Caribbean and Africa’s west coast. In the US it is found in Florida, Texas and Louisiana. Black mangrove is physiologically adapted to purge salt through leaf glands, so it can grow in saltwater to brackish conditions where few other plants can survive. The muddy substrates in mangrove areas are also rich in nutrients and organic matter. In response to the highly anoxic (oxygen-starved) conditions that develop under these circumstances, black mangrove roots grow upright pneumatophores, pencil-like structures that emerge from the mud and bear numerous oxygen-conducting pores. Small black mangrove pneumatophores are visible beneath mature plants in the picture below.

<em>Avicennia germinans</em> mature plants, image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey, South Florida Information Access (SOFIA)

Avicennia germinans mature plants, image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey, South Florida Information Access (SOFIA)

Of the three mangrove tree species that occur in the United States, red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) apparently tolerates the saltiest conditions and can grow well in full seawater. Black mangrove and white mangrove (Languncularia racemosa) generally grow at higher intertidal zone locations in somewhat fresher water.

Red mangrove is already a popular plant for aquariums with brackish water fish and as an element in reef aquarium refugiums. Black mangrove and white mangrove have seen little use in marine tanks and these species might poorly tolerate full-time exposure to saltwater. The author’s searches also produced no accounts of their use in freshwater aquariums. This experience with A. germinans is a test and might reveal an interesting new plant for riparium displays.

black mangrove propagule in planter

black mangrove in planter

Most of the propagules went into shallow trays filled with water and saturated gravel. I planted more than thirty in hanging planters. The hobbyist who sent me the box of propagules indicated that they sprout best when lying on the substrate surface. His experiences also suggested that unlike red mangrove, A. germinans tolerates pruning well. Since wild mangroves usually grow in full sun, it will be interesting to see how black mangrove performs under fluorescent T5 lighting.

February 12, 2009 at 2:56 am Leave a comment

South America biotope riparium

(blog posts for this project will begin with a couple of retroactive entries)

3 January 2009


The following list summarizes basic specifications for the display. Product manufactuers are provided in parentheses:

  • 65 gallon tall rectangular aquarium (All Glass Aquarium)
  • 3ft Tek-Light™ T5 light fixture (Sunlight Supply®, Inc)
  • Fluval 205 canister filter (Hagen)
  • 75 Watt submersible heater (Eheim)

With the idea of having an open-topped display and  the visual appeal of a rimless tank I removed the heavy plastic top frame with which the aquarium was manufactured*. The tank is filled with water to roughly 40% of its total depth.

As you can see, the planted aquascape could use quite a bit more work. However, the aquarium ecosystem is cycled and has apparently completed the normal sequence of algae blooms that occur in newly planted tanks. I have also established a fertilization regime for the plants and other routine maintenance procedures. The existing plants and fish appear to be healthy. 

Here is a partial list of plant species/varieties currently in the display:

  • Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’
  • Alternanthera sp.
  • Bacopa sp.
  • Colocasia affinis ‘Fallax’
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Bronze’ (?)
  • Echinodorus sp.
  • Hemigraphis repanda
  • Nymphoides sp.
  • Spathiphyllum sp.
  • Echinodorus sp.

Obviously, a few of these plants will need to go in the interest of creating a semi-authentic biotope. I will also switch out a few fish—note the bright red Puntius barb in the foreground—for species more representative of South American waters.

I will add updates as the aquascape develops

February 11, 2009 at 6:51 pm Leave a comment

Hydrophyte’s Blog Sprouts

Hi all,

This is the very beginning of my new blog about aquatic plants. Here we’ll discuss aquarium gardening, aquatic ecology and other topics of interest to plant+fish freaks like me. Most of my posts will treat my current obsession, freshwater planted ripariums.

Like a pretty planted aquarium, a good blog requires careful attention and regular maintenance. I will do my best to fill these pages with fresh and useful information. Please bear with me while I establish a routine and find my way around the WordPress authoring interface.



February 11, 2009 at 6:17 am Leave a comment

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