Tales from the Crypts
by Bruce Hansen

Seven contributors to the discussion arrived at various intervals at the home of Bruce Hansen, due to the absence overseas of Heidy and Alan. One new face turned up, in the person of Kerryn , who had grown aquatic plants for many years in North Queensland and who enriched the quality of the group discussion with anecdotes, experiences and observations. Barry rejoined the group after an absence enforced by moving house earlier in the year.

The start of the meeting was delayed by a lengthy phone call from Lance Smith in Townsville, who is one of the most experienced aquatic plant growers in the country. He advised on the slow progress of his eventual move, mainly because of the encroachment of ever denser development around his property. He was also concerned about the recent availability of a supply of Aponogeton bullosus to the aquarium trade by one of the wholesalers. Apparently the wholesaler was assured by the supplier that the plants had been grown in cultivation and were not wild-collected as this is a protected plant. When Lance examined the bulbs it was obvious that these were from plants that were many seasons mature and most unlikely (if not impossible) to have been cultivated from seed by the supplier. This plant is already endangered by over-collecting and habitat degradation and an incident like this can only be deplored. The hobby and the industry can do without unscrupulous operators who only look at the dollars to the detriment of all other aspects.

The main topic of discussion was the visit the previous weekend by ANGFA(Q) to Pisces Enterprises? holdings at Brookfield on the Sunday morning. We were most grateful to Ed Fraser, his son Andrew and other members of the family and staff for taking the time and trouble to show us around their extensive property. Apparently Pisces may be the 5th largest aquatic nursery in the world and is easily the largest in this country. The 7 different water sources are linked by pumps, dams and reticulation to become one large biofilter to maintain water quality and clarity. The use of CO2 to maintain supply pH at 6.8 is a significant aspect as is a system of substrate poly-pipe warm water coils for heating. Most plants are either grown under mist in "glasshouses" or in ponds under glass. Substrate is fine sand enriched with rotted manure and in winter lights are needed for some aquatics to lengthen daylight length.

We were surprised to learn how many species and varieties are multiplied by tissue culture before being on-grown for eventual sale - this included not only slow growers like Bolbitis and Anubias but also some of the "bunch" plants like Didyplis and Mayaca. Most ponds contained livebearing fish such as guppies for insect pest control. Another feature was the large number of misted plants affixed to pieces of mangrove root and lava rock for sale to the aquarium trade at value-added prices. A considerable trade apparently results from the cultivation under mist of such "doubtful" aquarium plants as purple waffle and aluminium plant.

Pisces also produces most of the commercial supply of live foods such as mealworms and crickets for the pet trade in Australia and although quarantine factors excluded us from this area, all our questions were willingly and authoritatively answered. Many thousands of packs leave their premises each week for dispatch all over the country. They also have a special shed devoted to the culture of aquarium snails - especially red ramshorns and of course mystery snails. Some of the floor tanks also were full of hermit crabs which come from licensed collectors in the north and are sold on.

The most impressive plants in the place were their mature Madagascar laceplants, which were most impressive and their rare and unusual "broodstock" plants. I will just mention a few from memory that impressed me - various uncommon members of the swordplant family (Echinodorus), several beautiful Aponogetons including A. rigidifolius and a glorious red form of A. crispus, Otelia ulvaefolia, Cryptocoryne "rosaenervis", a very attractive "brown spatterdock" and the list goes on and on.

If you missed the trip, make sure you go next time the club is able to arrange a visit!!

After this, the group discussed Barry's plans for his garden pond and "artificial creekbed" drains as well as my plans for the 5x3 I have just pulled down to set up and replant. We then had some discussion on the use of plenums and subgravel spaces for the addition of nutrients (as practiced by Dave Wilson in Darwin) which I intend to try in this tank. This was followed by supper and a "cuppa".

Remember the aquatic plant study group meets every 4th Friday evening - usually at Heidy's place and all are welcome. You don't have to be a member of any club, it is very informal and all you need to bring is a plate for supper, some questions (or answers) and perhaps something for "show and tell".

The Brisbane Plant Study Group (BPSG) meetings are held on the 4th Friday of every month and begin around 8PM. If you need directions or have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email at bpsg2002@hotmail.com or via mobile on 0403 790 701. For the latest information, please visit our website at http://bpsg.frell.org