A utilitarian plant that makes your aquarium work better
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Introduction: You need no gravel or substrate to grow Crystalwort successfully. Since it floats, it rarely touches your substrate. Like duckweed and watersprite, crystalwort grows like a carpet of weeds in some tanks and will not grow in others.
Origins: Crystalwort grows all over the world under all types of water conditions. You often get the stuff accidentally -- clinging to a plant you actually wanted. When you want crystalwort, you usually have difficulty finding it commercially. Also called riccia (pronounced however you wish), crystalwort has lately surged in popularity due to its use by Amano-san (one great aquatic gardener and photographer). He did not discover it, he improved it. He turned this tiny, humble floating wort (plant) into an extremely flexible aquascaping element.
Fertilizers: Amano-san uses fertilizers, CO2 injection, and high light to achieve unbelievable aquascapes in huge tanks. You can do the same thing in 10-gallon tanks. But remember that fertilizing your lawn means you need to mow more often. Ditto crystalwort. Slow growth is not necessarily bad.
Suggestions: First, push your riccia down to let your duckweed float free. Net out that pesky duckweed or it will grow into a total light screen. Second, if you want faster growth, fluff up your riccia to let more light get to it. The more light it gets, the faster it grows. Third, make sure you also remove any plant eaters. Fourth, experiment with the stuff.
Ready to Experiment? Grab a good duckweed-free handful of your riccia -- preferably a thick enough layer that it holds together. Get some very light fishing line. We recommend Trilene XL (extra limp) because we make it here in Iowa. Then round up some pre-sunk bogwood (Bogwood DIY) or rocks.
Make a Slip Knot: With a sharp knife, make a slit in the bottom of your wood. Wrap your mat around the wood. Slip your slipknot over the top of your wood then start wrapping the Trilene around and around and around ... When you get to the bottom, pull your Trilene thru the slit and snip it off. You may want to wrap your entire mat in both directions.
Moss Rocks: You can do the same technique with rocks -- except for making the slit. Then you stack them to create the look you prefer. If you add fertilizer, CO2, and high light, be prepared to spend a lot of time mowing your lawn.
More Cleanup: You also gotta rake your yard. (Scissors work better than lawnmowers.) Net out your crystalwort trimmings and all the little pieces that come loose daily. If you let them escape, they will carpet your tank top and shade the plants you want to grow.
Ban Plecos: Regular plecos will knock your crystalwort carpets loose the first night. If you need algae eaters, use the algae-eating shrimp also invented by Amano-san. They pick little bits loose but usually just the loose ones. Cherry-red shrimp also work. Otocinclus might work.
Last Word: Experiment with your crystalwort. LA.
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