Tales from the Crypts
by Heidy Rubin

Welcome to the first tale from the Brisbane Plant Study Group. We held our first meeting on Friday the 22nd November 2002 at the home of myself and husband Alan. There were seven people in attendance on the night and several more expressing an interest. After a bit of socialising and having a look at our fish tanks, we finally settled down for some plant discussion.

To start off the meeting, I suggested going around the room and having everyone tell a little bit about themselves. Of course, I was nominated as the first one to speak. I indicated that myself and Alan had a long way to go in learning the scientific names for the plants, but we both were keen to learn more about them. I was also interested in what type of substrate everyone in the group was using, since it had been difficult to locate "laterite".

The discussion then turned to the defining of laterite and what the benefit was of a substrate in growing plants. Bruce Hansen offered the suggestion that not all reddish coloured soil was laterite, but rather had a high iron concentration, which causes the red colouring. Alan added that he read online that laterite is a type of volcanic soil. Bruce also mentioned that the original thought of using laterite because of its high iron content was not the latest reasoning behind its effectiveness. It was more to do with the buffering and binding of the nutrients, and then releasing them slowly that made it a very good substrate to use.

Michael Cocks wanted to know if there was any benefit to adding gypsum to clay to increase the nutrient level in the substrate. Bruce piped in and added that Flourite is the additive of choice for substrates in the U.S. (at least for the moment). It seems that there are many additives that people choose to add to their substrates, but whether or not it helps the growth is up in the air.

Several people in the group made recommendations on different substrates that they have used and found to be successful at growing plants. They were potting soil, compost (only if the organic material had completely disappeared, as this would cause problems in the tank), and worm castings.

Michael had recently visited a plant farm that uses pvc piping and tanks on graduated levels (to allow the water to run down through each of the tanks) for growing plants. They were growing mostly swords and cutting plants. However, he didn't notice any crypts being grown. The group thought this might be a good place to take a field trip to, so Michael will get the details and pass them on.

Michael's first tank growing plants used a cymbidium orchid potting soil mixed with gravel, and a layer of gravel on top to hold the orchid mix down. Occasionally he would have a few pieces of the orchid mix floating to the top, which he would simply remove. He said the plants did well. Alan was concerned that the acidic substrate (orchid potting soil is usually acidic) would raise the acidic level of the tank. The group advised that it does, but not enough to cause problems. If a problem did arise, it would be easily remedied with more frequent water changes. Michael now uses laterite in some tanks, potting soil in some, and a mixture of laterite and potting soil in others. He finds no difference in the plant growth.

Michael also had some "show and tell" for the evening. He brought along some bladderwort (Utricularia sp.) for identifying and recommendations for eradicating it from his tanks. He brought enough to share with the group, but everyone graciously declined. Unfortunately there is no solution for getting rid of it. It only takes a very small piece to become a nuisance. It can also live in the gravel and is therefore very hard to eliminate from a tank without completely stripping the tank down. Barry Meiklejohn added a positive note that it isn't detrimental to the fish, in fact honey blue eyes like to breed in it. It was suggested that it might not be favourable to cold temperatures or soluable copper. So for now, Michael will continue weeding it from his tanks and throwing it in the pond outside for the ducks to eat.

Bruce was reminded of a bladderwort with a small purple flower that Barry and himself saw in Elizabeth Springs. The Springs also brought back another memory of himself sinking in a bog. Barry had been further away moving their truck in closer and when he turned around he notice that Bruce had disappeared. As he approached the Springs, he could see a hat waving in the air, and then Bruce below the hat sunk in the bog. After making sure the camera was out of harms way, he managed to pull himself free and onto more solid ground.

Next we heard from Peter Surmon, who has kept fish and plants for the past 30 years or so. He started out keeping and breeding killies. He doesn't have much set up at the moment as he is getting ready to move house. He will be setting up tanks at the next house, but only a few since the heating costs will be a bit dearer in NSW. His favourite plants are crypts, swords, and Bolbitis. Bruce and Peter agreed that there was nothing better than a good piece of Bolbitis.

Bruce mentioned seeing Anubias sp. grown outside on beds of gravel and lava rock. The person growing it used a misting room to keep it moist. This would be a great way to grow it because you wouldn't have to worry with water changes in aquarium tanks, snails, bladderwort, or other pests.

Barry Meiklejohn was next up and he is also moving soon. He will be staying in the Brisbane area, but needs more space for the children (well, actually for the fish tanks). He has a few fish ponds outside at the moment that have bladderwort in them. His pond with Honey Blue Eyes has Triglochin plants in the tank and both fish and plants are doing well. There is also lots of different varieties of Eel Grass and Nymphoides in the ponds. Onepond has Blue Rush with some Glossostigma, but the Blue Rush is taking over. It was mentioned that Glossostigma does well with peat around the base of the plant, a finer substrate, CO2, and lots of light. Makes a very nice carpet if you give it the right environment. Barry also has a blue-eye tank with some Micranthemum, the only tank where it would grow. He brought along a very nice laminated picture of a plant for identification. Peter and Bruce identified the plant as Echinodorus osiris. It was quite the lovely specimen. Barry also mentioned that he recently received a discount at a local aquarium shop because he was wearing his ANGFA t-shirt. The owner of the shop was very enthusiastic and excited by the fact that Barry was a member of ANGFA. What a nice gesture.

Bruce Hansen then took us back to his first fish-keeping days. He got into fish-keeping when he was about 8-10 years old. His father was a "bird man", but his mom was into fish. It was a bit unusual for women to be in fishkeeping, as this was a time when the aquarium and terrarium societies didn't allow women (because they would spoil the men's night away from the Mrs.). His mom started with a tank of live-bearers on the front verandah. The tank also included some swords, and narrow Vallisneria. She would grow them in glass dishes with garden soil as a substrate. Bruce also mentioned seeing Honey Blue Eyes for the first time at Frank Lewis' house when he was 14 years old. Frank told him that they were Australian killifish. Bruce then took us on to his high school days when he made his petrol money by breeding and selling corydoras, danios, and gouramis. Those were the days.

That about wrapped up our first meeting. With such a good turn out, and several other people indicating an interest in the group, we have scheduled the second meeting for Friday the 24th January 2003. The meeting will be held at our house, located at 4 Harold Street, Virginia and will begin around 8:00 PM. If you need directions or have any questions, please feel free to contact us via email at bpsg2002@hotmail.com or via mobile on 0403 790 701. It is also requested that you bring a dish, as supper is provided after the meeting.