"Dwarf" Water Lettuce
  Inside scoop from Aqualand on a different aquarium plant

 
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Introduction.  We stumbled across these plants accidentally.  Adam, one of our much more than regular customers, cleaned the excess plants out of one of his aquariums.  He brought in these as well as some val and some sag.  We'd never seen these before, so we left them on our fish-bagging counter in a green tub.  The counter was very well lit with those 32 watt very bright All-Glass bulbs made in Germany.   LA

LA
Very much resembles water lettuce except in size.  Very fast grower in full sun.

One Week Later.  Our unknown plants seemed to grow thicker and started crowding each other.  After pondering these guys (unintentional pun, believe it or not), we decided they had to be a dwarfed form of water lettuce.  In the past, we'd never seen water lettuce survive under aquarium lights.  However, this was before the advent of those high lumen All-Glass bulbs.  In any event, we moved them into our front window where they enjoyed the morning sun.

LA
Same plants in larger quarters

Checking the Effects of Sunlight.  We doubled their water surface and gave them the morning sun.  We're checking to see if these little guys are a different variety altogether or just the regular water lettuce dwarfed by insufficient illumination.

LA
Under aquarium fluorescent light, leaves stay small and roots grow very long.

In the Meantime.  We looked at the root systems on these guys.  Prodigious.  Just like the roots on regular water lettuce.  A tank covered with these plants would provide excellent baby livebearer cover.  The surface of these roots would also harbor numerous tiny animacules that would fatten up the livebearer fry.

LA
Obviously a great remover of soluble fish wastes.

LA

Removes Nitrogenous Wastes.  Roots like these suck nitrogen and other digested fish wastes out of the water.  They help purify the water.  This means they will need water changes and/or fertilizers to prevent them from consuming all the nutrients and burning themselves out.  Adam solved this particular problem by reducing their population.  He brought in this large quantity of floating plants for us to try to figure out.

LA
Fast-growing roots make a great baby saver.

LA
Typical example compared to thumbnail.  Note new daughter plant on the right.

Reproduces Like Water Lettuce.  If you've grown water lettuce, you know they reproduce by sending out little "runners" that generate "daughter plants."

LA
Next example -- daughter plant developing second leaf.

LA
Example 3 -- You can see the roots developing on the daughter plant.

They Grow Lots of Runners.  If each plant throws three runners which develop daughter plants and each daughter plant throws three plants ...  You can see where these little guys reproduce exponentially.

LA

LA
Even the little guys start throwing daughter cells.

LA
Three daughters on this one.

LA
Lots of little babies here.

LA
Tiny hairs cover each leaf and help it repel water.  They appear to shine when submerged.

Why They Float.  The leaves obviously have air cells in them.  However, their leaves are also covered with tiny hairs that repel water.  You don't need to "plant" them green side up.  They right themselves if you just toss them in the water.  Ditto, if you pour a bucket of water into their container.

LA
Leaves start standing up when crowded.

LA
Makes a nice contrast to other plants.

LA
1.5-inch festivums looking for snacks in the roots.

LA
Two plants that were in a tank of barbs.

Root Eaters.  The above plants were floating in a tank containing rosy barbs and spotted barbs.  I've watched the spotted barbs out eat oscars.  They stripped the roots from these guys in two days.  No prob.  We moved the plants to another tank.  They'll probably re-grow their roots.  Aurulius barbs, Odessa barbs, goldfish, and most African cichlids also enjoy devouring the roots.

LA
Same plant three days later -- well on its way to recovery.

Plant Eaters.  We put a dozen or so dwarf water lettuce in our 29-gallon turtle tank.  We couldn't get turtles for several weeks so we used our well lit turtle tank to grow a few more plants.  Then someone traded in two western painted turtles -- well known plant eaters as adults.  They made short work of the dwarf water lettuce.

LA
Overcrowded dwarf water lettuce starts looking like this.

Overcrowding Results in Chlorosis.  As mentioned earlier, dwarf water lettuce reproduces exponentially.  In unfertilized containers (like a growing flat in strong light), it sucks all the nutrients out of the water.  First the leaves turn a pale green.  This condition is correctable by moving the plants to new surroundings.  If you ignore them, their leaves will turn yellow.  The yellow leaves die and so will the plant.  Remove any pale leaves and move the plants before they die.  Chlorosis is unlikely in an aquarium with fish in it. 

LA
Upside-down dwarf water lettuce gets very confused.

Green Side Down.  If one of your dwarf water lettuce plants accidentally gets turned upside-down, it tries to right itself (like water sprite).  The daughter plant makes it, but the original plant deteriorates under water.  This is the only upside-down example out of 150 or so plants.

LA
Small fish enjoy wending their way thru the roots.

LA
The roots make an ideal lurking site for butterfly fish.  His weird fins blend right in.

LA

LA

 Last Words.  Looks like another aquatic plant has entered the aquarium decor arena.  Attractive, easy to raise, and economical.  If you're looking for a surface plant that also reduces the excess light that encourages algae growth, you'll appreciate dwarf water lettuce even more.  LA

LA
 

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