Sunday, 3 February 2013
Hemianthus Callitrichoides (HC) - Dry Start Method
There have been numerous online guides by many other aquascapers over the years and i owe my success to all of them. In return, i'd like to thank the aquascaping community by sharing my experience using this method too, it has indeed been a very interesting journey. :)
Here are the tank specs:
Tank Size: 45cm x 30cm x 24cm (High Clarity / Low Iron Glass)
Substrate: ADA Aqua Soil New Amazonia (Powder Type)
Temperature: 27-28 °C
Lighting: Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-15 (45cm)
Light Duration: 14 hours
Flora: Hemianthus Callitrichoides
The Hemianthus Callitrichoides were purchased from a local aquarium shop and they are packaged in "mats" secured to stainless steel mesh. I washed them well and let them sit in a plastic tub under shallow water for a few days to quarantine for a while under light (managed to find and remove some worms and snails in the process), then i proceeded to separate them into small bunches to prepare for planting.
I first filled the tank with ADA Aqua Soil New Amazonia (Powder Type), creating a gentle slope from front (2cm height) to back (6cm height). Some rocks of various sizes and shapes were arranged in the soil too.
The soil was sprayed with water until it was visibly moist (but not submerged), i took care not to allow any puddles or pools of water to form. The small bunches of Hemianthus Callitrichoides were then planted into the soil with tweezers, spaced out evenly from each other.
The large empty circle space on the right side is meant for a bogwood/driftwood feature that i'm planning to introduce in after the DSM. :)
Here is a front "landscaped" view of the initial planting.
I am using the Up Aqua Z-Series Pro LED Z-15 for my lighting. I've had good experience using it to grow other plants, so it was my first choice for this project. The light duration will be 14 hours daily throughout the DSM. Since the plants are not submerged, there is no issue with algae or lack of Co2, so they can focus on growing fast with long and intensive light durations.
For the next few weeks, the plants will be hydrated by a spray bottle. They will be misted a few times daily to keep the soil moist. I only use de-chlorinated water (no additional fertilizers).
The tank is not covered or sealed at all as the local ambient humidity in Singapore is high enough... it'll basically be like cultivating a mini garden within a glass tank.
So far, i have been misting the soil a few times daily, just enough to prevent it from drying out, taking extra care not to over-saturate the soil.
Growth is slow but steady, with some minor browning on some of the plants, this slower initial growth phase is likely attributed to the weaker ones dying out while the stronger ones work at establishing their roots.
I maintain them by manually removing the brown or dead plants with tweezers and trimming the odd leaves that grow vertically, hopefully this helps to encourage horizontal growth.
Good progress! The roots have started to establish and they are now spreading very fast, the plants are growing into a dense carpet and the development can be seen on a day to day basis.
Here is a front "landscaped" view of the growth after 4 weeks.
From the side of the tank, the roots of the plants can be seen anchoring into the soil substrate.
And i also discovered that the soil has inhabitants too... earthworms!
They probably hitchhiked on the Hemianthus Callitrichoides but were too tiny for me to spot earlier on, now they have prospered in the rich soil and plants. At any one time, i could count 4-5 worms from the side of the tank, so there are probably dozens more hidden in the soil too.
I don't view the earthworms as pests though... after all, this is technically a mini garden, and every successful garden usually has lots of earthworms, they eat dead plant matter and process them into worm castings which make great fertilizer for the soil, and they burrow through the soil which helps aerate and allow water to flow though better. So i considered them as little helpers in my DSM project. :)
But i also encountered un-welcomed guests too... mold!
Luckily i didn't encounter that much mold issues amongst my plants though, only a few scattered spots over the weeks, which i promptly removed with tweezers, so it was just a minor annoyance.
The plant growth has been progressing rapidly and i could already see them start to connect together to create a nice carpet!
Noticed the roots are growing even deeper into the soil and anchoring well.
At this point, i decided that the plants have established their roots sufficiently in the soil and the tank is ready to be flooded.
With the Hemianthus Callitrichoides rooted firmly in the soil, there was very minimal clouding when i filled the tank with water (the photo above was taken right after the tank was filled) and the slope stayed intact too.
The establishment of a strong root system is indeed one of the main keys to getting healthy and sustained submerged growth from these type of plants.
Hope this journal is helpful for those looking at using DSM to create their own HC carpets too! :)