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Newbie asking questions about floating plant health (red root floaters and water lettuce)


j_rider
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I was looking to add some floating plants to my tank a little while ago and came across some red root floaters being sold by a local hobbyist. When going to pick them up I was offered as a freebie a few (what I was told are) water lettuce, which I accepted with zero knowledge (really interesting long roots on these). 

Both were put into my 20L shallow tank (5-6 weeks old, first planted freshwater tank). Red root floaters (RRF) placed inside a ring of airline tubing to keep them roughly in place and help them not be adversely affected by the surface movement from my HOB. Water lettuce just float free (though haven't really moved from much thus far). 

 I arranged the RRF so that they are all floating and not stuck under one another – have been told and read that RRF like low surface movement and need to remain upright with their leaves above/on water to thrive. Mine look essentially the same, to my newbie eye, in colour and health as when I added them 10 days ago or so, other than what I assume is some new growth (new leaves sticking up out of the water) and the occasional separated leaf. They are not being tumbled or visually affected by the light surface water movement. HOWEVER, many of the floaters have leaves that are not sitting on top of the water, but slightly under it. I have tried removing some of them temporarily from the airline ring and floating by themselves > they sit the same way, so I have don't think the issue is them getting stuck against or under neighbouring RRF. 

Pic of my floating plants as of this morning below. Questions: 

- Does this look normal for how RRF are supposed to sit in the water? 

- Can I just carefully pull apart some of the larger "clumps" (bigger clumps seem to be the worst cuplrits for having submerged leaves) and, if so, is there anything I should be aware of before doing so? 

- The floating plants are blocking a fair amount of light from the plants below. Considering moving some of them into another container for a while, as the plants below are still in the early stages of establishing themselves. Is this a good idea and, if so, other than water and a light on the container, do I need to have anything else for the health of the floaters? 

Thanks for any wisdom or experience shared. 

 

20240611_102641.jpg

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On 6/10/2024 at 9:12 PM, j_rider said:

Questions: 

 

- Does this look normal for how RRF are supposed to sit in the water?

Yeah, it's not unheard of. Here's a quick snap of the surface of Mrs. Goldfish's tank:

20240611_150855.jpg.ef07214c400787ad4014054838b966a4.jpg

You can see that some of the leaves in the center there that are sort of pushed under. I'm not sure I'd call it normal, because it does seem to kill the leaf over time, but it happens often enough, and seems to be related to clumping. Which brings us to:

On 6/10/2024 at 9:12 PM, j_rider said:

- Can I just carefully pull apart some of the larger "clumps" (bigger clumps seem to be the worst cuplrits for having submerged leaves) and, if so, is there anything I should be aware of before doing so?

Yes, can pull them apart. They seem to come apart with pretty minimal force, and I'll break up and rearrange clumps as necessary, and I'll also break them up when removing some from the tanks. As for what you'd need to know, I'd say just be gentle until you get a feel for it. And if any of the leaves/clumps seem like they're not going to recover, you're probably right, so just toss them and let new leaves regrow. Which brings us to:

On 6/10/2024 at 9:12 PM, j_rider said:

- The floating plants are blocking a fair amount of light from the plants below. Considering moving some of them into another container for a while, as the plants below are still in the early stages of establishing themselves. Is this a good idea and, if so, other than water and a light on the container, do I need to have anything else for the health of the floaters?

Yes, once they get going, red root floaters will grow quite quickly and will take over the whole surface area of the water if allowed to (or it will die entirely; I've never had any result in the middle!). So from time to time you'll need to thin them out to allow light penetration.

As to how much and how often, that will depend on, among other things, the growth and health of the submerged plants below. In the early stages, soaking up excess nutrients and shading out some of the light might actually be helpful, especially if your other plants are converting from emersed growth. So you'll have to just observe and adjust.

And lastly, floaters don't seem to need much more than light and water. Fertilizer makes them grow faster, of course, and surface turbulence and wet leaf tops harms them, but otherwise they're pretty simple.

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Those are a bit overcrowded & the darker leaves underneath will quickly die. It would be best to just snip those parts off & discard. 

While RRF don't like getting splashed, a bit of current won't hurt them.  Mine are constantly on the move in big lazy circles & i just tossed about 10x that amount out of my 100ga. Moving like that also unshades the lower plants & creates a beautiful dappled effect below. 

They will suck up plenty of nitrate, so you might want to monitor that until you find the balance. In my particular case, any more over 1/6th of the surface area starts to starve the tank unless i increase fert dosage. They would cover the whole tank in a month if allowed. 

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Thanks so much @Rube_Goldfish and @Beach Cruiser for taking the time to reply in such detail.

The info you shared has made me much more comfortable in knowing what to do and expect.

I setup another small tank with just water and a light this morning. Have removed RRF with submerged leaves one at a time, splitting them into smaller clumps and testing if they then float. If not, moved across to the new tank for now. Will keep an eye on them for a few days and if I see signs of leaf die off I will discard them.

Have also moved across all the water lettuce for now to the new tank to see whether their shading of the alternanthera reineckii mini at the back of my tank is making a positive/negative difference to their conversion/growth (planted from tissue culture pot 2 weeks or so ago).

Thanks again for the wisdom and experience shared.

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On 6/11/2024 at 8:17 PM, j_rider said:

Thanks so much @Rube_Goldfish and @Beach Cruiser for taking the time to reply in such detail.

The info you shared has made me much more comfortable in knowing what to do and expect.

I setup another small tank with just water and a light this morning. Have removed RRF with submerged leaves one at a time, splitting them into smaller clumps and testing if they then float. If not, moved across to the new tank for now. Will keep an eye on them for a few days and if I see signs of leaf die off I will discard them.

Have also moved across all the water lettuce for now to the new tank to see whether their shading of the alternanthera reineckii mini at the back of my tank is making a positive/negative difference to their conversion/growth (planted from tissue culture pot 2 weeks or so ago).

Thanks again for the wisdom and experience shared.

That sounds like a good plan and a good hedge. With a little luck, both tanks will end up overrun and you'll be trading floating plants with your LFS or fishkeeping friends.

Edited to add: I've found, by the way, that red root floater in tanks with low nitrates and good lighting turn red, and if the nitrates and light are both high, the leaves stay green but I get flowers (which you can see in the photo I posted above). So you might get different results in your two tanks.

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