Anubias, Java Fern and Buce are attractive slow-growing plants, often praised for their hardy leaves and relative ease of care.
They flourish in a variety of water types and are tolerant of most lighting levels, growing happily even in very low light. Their slow growth speed makes their demand for nutrients low, requiring very little care for beautiful results. The tough leaves are also less likely to be eaten by herbivorous livestock, making them suitable for aquariums where other more delicate plants might be destroyed.
The sheer variety of anubias and buce species, subspecies and variants only adds to their popularity.
Not So Tough
While true that these plants are generally tough on the outside and easy to care for, they are still susceptible to algae and deficiencies, and can sometimes appear to die suddenly for no perceptible reason!
The slow growth and firm leaves of anubias, buce and java fern invites algae, as they provide a stable surface not only for the algae to grow on but for detritus to settle. Detritus on the leaves releases nutrients that algae loves. As the amount of detritus and algae on leaves increases, less light is received by the leaves and photosynthesis slows. Plant growth is impacted, the plant gets stressed – leading to even more algae.
Sometimes anubias or java fern seem to suddenly die off, even though they looked healthy right up until the last minute.
Because these plants have such a hardy exterior, they often don’t show signs of stress until it’s too late – they’ve been dying on the inside for a long time and eventually can’t go on.
This is often caused by photosynthesis being significantly impacted, whether that’s by algae or detritus on leaves or reduced lighting (from being shaded or a change in lighting/photoperiod). Another primary cause is a change in fertilisation or water change schedule.
Because the plants grow and adapt slowly to these changing conditions, the effects won’t be seen until long after the changes have been made. The “delayed response” means your java fern/anubias may have been dying slowly for a long time, and eventually reaches a point where the exterior of the plant is affected, causing the typical “melt”.
While true that melting is most commonly caused by a change in conditions, java fern and anubias can also be damaged by a disease affecting their rhizome and root systems. The rhizome, roots or both start to rot away, eventually destroying the entire plant.
Keeping slow-growers healthy
To keep your plants as healthy as possible, there are a few things you can do.
A regular maintenance schedule goes a long way. This includes siphoning of detritus and gentle brushing of leaves to remove accumulated waste along with regular water changes. Ensuring aquarium water flow is adequate will also reduce the amount of detritus settling.
Otherwise healthy leaves that have been affected by algae can be treated with LCA Carbon Plus or LCA Triple B. Leaves that are too damaged should be removed entirely as they won’t recover.
Revise your lighting or plant placement to improve their photosynthesis, or reduce lighting intensity if your leaves are getting too much. Slow growers don’t need much to be happy, and too much light will invite algae, especially GSA.
If you suspect disease is affecting your plants rather than improper care, you can confirm it with a quick visual inspection. Keep an eye on the rhizomes – if they appear to bulge uncharacteristically, or are discoloured (white/brown) or soft (think of a carrot that’s been left in the fridge too long), there’s a good chance disease is taking hold. Trim off any affected portions of rhizome and discard. Observe the rhizome over a few weeks for any further signs of damage and remove as necessary.
If the roots are diseased, roots or their tips will become discoloured (brown/white/yellow/translucent) while the rest of the plant appears mostly normal. As the disease progresses, the rest of the plant will be affected as well, showing typical signs of plant stress as it becomes unable to absorb nutrients. Again, remove and discard as much affected plant material as possible.
Remember, slow growing plants are also slow to show signs of change – make adjustments and observe for changes in appearance and new growth.
From The LCA Team
Every Solution For Your Aquarium
Green water appears as just that – your aquarium water becomes bright green and opaque. It’s not at all harmful to your livestock (in fact, they may appreciate it!) but it does look unsightly and can affect plant growth due to its ability to block light.
It commonly appears in tanks that are still establishing, but will also appear when there is too much light coupled with excess organics from waste and overfeeding. Warm temperatures will also encourage green water in combination with these other factors.
If your tank is still in the process of cycling or has only recently been set up, rather than treating, it might simply be a case of waiting for the aquarium system to stabilise.
If the tank is more mature, you may need to reduce your light period, or raise your light so it is not as intense. Maintain a regular maintenance schedule of siphoning detritus and changing water on a weekly basis to ensure nutrient and organic levels don’t get too high.
Performing a 3-5 day complete blackout can be effective in treating green water, especially when combined with use of a UV steriliser. The base causes should also be treated as green water can quickly return.
Planted aquariums can be a beautiful addition to your home, but the plants require regular maintenance to keep them looking their best.
The thing about aquatic plants is that you can’t prune them continuously and expect new shoots. Aquatic plant species are always in the process of shedding old growth to put energy into new shoots and leaves. If you trim the top of your stem plants to keep them short, eventually those old stems might not provide any new growth as they will be too far-gone to do much of anything.
What you should be doing every time you trim tall stems is completely discard the lower portion, and replant the healthy top you’ve just trimmed off. Because it is healthy and adapted to your tank conditions already, it will quickly sprout new roots and begin growing.
With that said, there are some species such as Rotala rotundifolia that tolerate trimming and will still put out new shoots from older stems even after a few trims. However, the bottom stems will still deteriorate eventually and will need to be discarded. It’s easier to trim and replant tops than keep track of which old stems need to go next.
It makes sense to discard old stem sections that have been shaded by the growth above. They won’t look as nice as the freshly trimmed tops and won’t bounce back as well.
By providing plants with an enriched substrate or root tabs and regular water column fertilisation, plants will grow healthy for longer, and bounce back faster from the mechanical stress of being trimmed.
When you’re pumping CO2 and fertilising heavily, trimming and replanting of stem tops will be a regular requirement. Low-tech tanks will require much less frequent trimming.
It’s important to remember that most aquatic plants do not renew old or damaged leaves. They will always put their energy into new growth, absorbing old and damaged leaves to do so.
Fast growing plants and stem species in particular will happily discard old growth that is underperforming, whether it’s shaded, deteriorating, or otherwise damaged. This is because they are generally able to quickly create new growth that will provide better energy conversion.
With regular fertilisation, the breakdown of older leaves will be slowed, and the overall appearance of leaves will be improved as they receive the nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Older leaves on slow growing plants such as anubias may even revitalise if nutrition is improved, as these slow growers need their leaves to perform for longer periods of time.
Damaged or deteriorating plant growth in general should be discarded to reduce the chance of algae appearing, as it loves the nutrients leaking from these leaves.
You’ve put in some plants, and after a while they have finally settled in to your tank and are starting to grow. It’s comforting to see and a great indication you are on the right track. Now, rather than leaving the plant alone, the best thing you can do for it is to trim off the healthy top section, discard the old lower stem (with roots) and replant the top. Those old sections of the plant that were grown in different conditions won’t improve and will only hinder the plant. Not only that, the new section of growth is going to look a lot nicer and will be completely adapted to the conditions in your tank.
From The LCA Team
Every Solution For Your Aquarium
Staghorn algae grows in individual, short branching strands that appear greyish-green in colour. Their branching formation looks a bit like antlers. Staghorn algae usually grows along leaf edges but can appear on hardscape as well.
It’s usually caused by high levels of ammonia and excess organics, and will favour stressed, unhealthy or old plant growth. Low levels of pressurised CO2 will also encourage Staghorn algae to grow.
If your tank is still cycling, your ammonia levels will be high - this can’t be avoided without disrupting the process. Wait for your filter to establish its beneficial bacteria and observe the algae to see if it subsides on its own.
If you have an established aquarium, start by cleaning your filter if you haven’t done so recently. Siphon any detritus from your substrate and perform a 50% water change (this should be done weekly).
Plants and leaves can be misted with hydrogen peroxide or the whole tank can be treated easily with products such as LCA Carbon Plus or Triple B. Spot dosing or full tank treatment will help slow the spread of Staghorn, or weaken the algae so it can be more easily removed by hand or algae eating livestock.
You can also completely remove any affected growth completely to stop the algae from getting a foothold. Healthy, unaffected plant growth can be replanted.
If you’re using pressurised CO2, consider if you are injecting the correct amount into your system and adjust if necessary.