PlantedTanks’ Tony Newsom-Virr responds to some frequently asked questions about growing Bulb Aquarium Plants in aquariums.
Which Bulb Aquarium Plants are the best for your aquarium?
Because there are so many options, it’s truly a matter of personal taste. However, you don’t want to make the wrong choice, so follow the advice of one successful merchant.
Which aquarium plants are classified as bulb plants?
The following are some of the more popular kinds to think about:
Aponogeton boivinianus, Aponogeton capuroni, Aponogeton henkelianus, Aponogeton madagascarensis, Aponogeton natans, Aponogeton stachysporus and Aponogeton ulvaceus.
There’s also Barclaya longifolia, Crinum natans, Crinum thaianum, Nuphar japonica ‘Spatterdock,’ Nymphaea rubra, Nymphaea stellata, Nymphaea ‘Tiger lotus green,’ Nymphaea ‘Tiger lotus red’ and Barclaya longifolia ‘Red form.’
What aquarium conditions do bulb plants require?
Each plant has its own set of perfect circumstances. The Aponogeton identified below, on the other hand, will generally survive in water with a pH of 6.5-7.5.
The exceptions include A. Caproni, which requires a pH of 5.8 to 6.5, Nuphar japonica, which requires 5.5-7.3, and most Nymphaea, which requires 6.2-7.2.
Tropical species require temperatures of 22-28°C/72-82°F, though Spatterdock may tolerate temperatures as low as 18°C/64°F.
Nuphar lutea, N. japonica’s cousin, thrives well in UK canals, implying that it will survive in colder waters! A canal about 100m/110′ from my shop in Selby, North Yorkshire, is strewn with Nymphaea and Nuphar lilies.
Which species is the best choice for the beginner?
Aponogeton, such as the A. ulvaceus depicted above, are simple to grow, but you should be prepared. They grow at an astonishing rate, with one boivinianus reaching 2.4m/8′ in three months after arriving at the shop.
Nymphaea ‘Tiger Lotus’ is the best easy-to-grow tank specimen.
You can obviously choose between green and red, but every now and then you get an oddity to enjoy, and we received a wonderful pink one!
Because Bulb Aquarium Plants arrive pre-loaded with nutrients for the upcoming growing season, you only need to plant the bulb three-quarters deep into the substrate.
Do I have to prune them — and if so how?
This is a personal preference that is influenced by the sort of plant you have.
Pull ragged and overly long leaves back to the bulb on Aponogeton and Barclays and cut them off close to the bulb — the closer the better, so the stalk left behind does not rot and damage the bulb.
Crinums don’t need to be pruned, but if you do, pull them back to the bulb and peel them like an onion!
You determine when and whether Nymphaea and Nuphar should be trimmed. The plants will shoot their leaves to the surface of the water, creating shade in your aquarium.
Trim leaves that are too tall for your aquarium if you want a tight compact ball of color beneath the surface.
Cut the stem as near to the bulb as possible. This will prevent rot from developing, and your plant will eventually shrink in size while still producing a large number of leaves.
I was told you need to rest bulb plants. What does this term actually mean?
Purists argue that the plants should be rested because water levels vary seasonally where they grow in the wild. The bulbs are devoid of water during the dry season, the leaves die, and they wait for the rainy season to re-grow.
This is really difficult to achieve in an aquarium. Your plants will thrive all year if there is always water available. However, this means that you must properly feed the plants since they will quickly run out of nutrients and die as a result.
Remove the bulb from the tank and cut any leaves to allow it to rest. Place it in a wet polythene bag and store it somewhere dry and cool for about six months of the year.
If we deliver the plant to you within the growing season, it will be in full bloom. This is why, during the year, numerous bulb aquarium plants become unavailable.
Should I buy bulb plants as bulbs, bulbs with leaves, adult plants, or just leaves?
A bulb is preferable since it can produce multiple plants at once.
It is up to you to decide whether to buy a bulb or a bulb with leaves. We don’t sell bulb aquarium plants that don’t have leaves; instead, we import them without leaves and grow them here. You’ll be able to tell whether the bulb is alive or dead this way.
Some of my bulbs have never sprouted. How do I know if they are dead?
You’ll know if an Aponogeton bulb has rot if you smell it! It stinks up your entire room, as well as the water.
Some bulbs, on the other hand, simply fatigue due to a lack of rest. These float, are lightweight and can be squeezed. They aren’t particularly solid, but a good new one should be firm, black, and sink slowly.
Any bulb that exudes pus when squeezed should be discarded.
In the aquarium, where should they be placed?
Aponogetons are usually background plants, with the exception of Madagascarensis, which I would position in the middle. Nymphaea would be considered midground, but N. micranthra is so little that it is clearly a foreground plant. Crinums, like the one depicted above, is also found in the mid to background.
Will any bulb aquarium plants flower?
Yes. Aponogetons come in a variety of colors, including pink, white, purples, and blues. They feature lovely flowers that float on top of the water on a high stem. Although many Nymphaea flowers bloom at night, we often overlook them. The Barclaya blossom is beautiful, but you must remove it before it sets seed, or else the bulb will die!
Orchid lily in the spotlight
The Orchid Lily (Barclaya longifolia) comes in two colors: red and green, with a reddish hue on the underside of the leaf in both cases.
It’s easy to grow, but due to a scarcity of supplies in the UK until lately, it hasn’t been seen in many tanks. The leaves can grow to be 81cm/32″ long and have a wavy pattern along the edges, but the green form is smaller than the red.
In full sun or light shade, the plant prefers soft acidic water. The water requires movement, but not a torrent, and it can be found in New Guinea’s slack waters and throughout Southeast Asia. The red form, in particular, demands medium to intense lighting in the aquarium, but the green form will survive and maintain its colors in either.
Water must be between 22 and 32 degrees Celsius/72 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH of acid to neutral and be soft, as this plant will not thrive in hard water. To get the most out of this specimen, you’ll need RO units or peat filtration.
The food is stored in the corms of Barclaya longifolia, which are bulbous-based plants. It prefers a nutrient-rich substrate, preferably clay-based, but will thrive on gravel or sand if surrounded by a bed of clay-based nutrients.
Planting is a straightforward process. Half-insert the corm into the substrate and half-outsert it, placing it on its side.
Water column feeding is also essential, at the very least with trace components. Although it grows better with pressurized gas systems, CO2 is not required.
Because this plant, like crypt melt, suffers from the melt, don’t move it once it’s been planted unless absolutely necessary. Don’t get discouraged if the plant melts when you first get it, which is usually due to prolonged transit. It will go dormant for a while but will come back strong, as it is noted for its rapid wild growth.
In the right circumstances, this can quickly take over a whole tank. However, don’t pot this plant because it will severely injure the corm due to the lack of growing room.
The corm can generate one or more plants, and propagation is simple and spreads by natural division. To store its food, each plant will grow a new tuber or corm. It’s also possible to grow it from seed.
It only flowers after it reaches maturity, and the seeds are easily harvested when the water temperature reaches 30°C/86°F. It’s a gorgeous crimson showstopper, especially when surrounded by a little carpet of greenery.
This is a huge plant that requires plenty of room to flourish. The leaves will stop growing during flowering times, and the plant will go into hibernation for a few months after seed production.
At this point, resist the urge to move the corm because it may be damaged. The new growth would be stunted as a result.
Instead, allow it to re-grow and wait for a magnificent plant to emerge.