MAINTAINING A PLANTED AQUARIUM

 

Maintenance of marine planted aquarium is a necessary chore for long term success. Like most aquaria, if the aquarium is neglected the inhabitants will likely suffer and various micro algae will soon invade, turning a beautiful aquascape into a container of pea soup. Unlike coral dominated reef aquaria, marine plants produce large amounts of organic material, which in turn can form large deposits of nutrient rich substrate or detritus. While some amount of organic material can be beneficial in storing nutrients and even necessary in sea grass aquaria, the accumulation will almost certainly feed unwanted growth of nuisance micro algae. As mentioned previously, water changes are the single most important measure to maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem. Depending on the size of the aquarium, a weekly water change of about 25% is enough to continually maintain a planted aquarium. In large systems with high evaporation rates, biweekly water changes are normally just as effective.

Caulerpa TaxifoliaCleaning sediment and organic material from the aquarium substrate is a controversial subject for some aquarists. It can be done by natural means or by manual removal. It is not recommended to disturb the sand bed too much, as the sediment released can cover the plants, rocks and other inhabitants. There are many beneficial invertebrates that can be added to a marine planted aquarium to aid in the cleaning and removal of organic material. An important aspect is to not overstock, as the "clean-up crew" will become counterproductive, often preying on each other. Various worms, copepods, amphipods, sea cucumbers, reef safe hermit crabs and snails will provide a natural way of keeping the substrate aerated, healthy and clean.

Many aquarists employ a small pump to create "miniature storms" within the tank so that the mechanical filter can extract most of the floating particles and also provide food for some invertebrates. This can be helpful in some aquariums, but densely planted aquariums often will suffer as the sediment completely covers the plants. Gently vacuuming the top layer of a the substrate is popular with freshwater planted aquarists, and can be done with care in marine planted tanks. This does not work very well with fine sand substrates however, and can remove beneficial fauna from the tank.

Valonia Sp.Besides maintaining the overall water quality, most of the maintenance in a planted aquarium is concentrated on the plants themselves. In a healthy environment, most marine plants will grow at a very fast rate. If left unattended, they will reach a critical biomass and slowly die or outcompete another species for available light and nutrients.

Caulerpa are among the fastest growing macro algae and will need regular pruning and control. Fish may be employed to do the task, but will often devour entire colonies in a short time. Simply removing plant material is the best method of control. With Caulerpa, simply divide the colony into even parts by pinching the rhizome between your fingers or by using surgical style scissors. Most species will form a ball of mucus at the rhizome and/or secrete a small amount of organic chemical, but this will heal quickly.

Red macro algae grow much slower than green, but several species such as Botryocladia and Halymenia can overgrow an aquarium. Red algae can be cut or torn at any location without harming the plant. If a holdfast is present, growth should be removed from the top portion, as this attachment takes time to develop. Regular trimming of clear or old growth is recommended as some larger species will reach a critical biomass as nutrients are exhausted in the aquarium. Some species will release a chemical when cut, but the effect on other species is minimal.

For the most part, brown macro algae are very slow growing and need very little maintenance. Sargassum can grow quite large and may need to be trimmed occasionally to allow light to reach the bottom of the aquarium and other species.

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The Case For Caulerpa