Aquascaping series: Glossostigma Foregrounds

By: dennis
September 1st, 2005
10:31 pm

Aquascaping series: Glossostigma Foregrounds

Aquascaping Journals Series: Part 1

Foregrounds: Marselia/Glossostigma

Photos and text:
Dennis Dietz

This section of the Aquascaping Journals Series will be discussing the planting of a typical foreground. There are many styles and techniques used in dealing with the foreground of planted aquariums. There are also many species of plants to choose from. For this demonstration though we will be focusing on the use of Marselia sp. or Glossostigma elantes, a foreground of glosso is shown in the photo above. To accomplish this task, you will need sharp scissors, pointy tweezers/forceps, a tray/ plate to hold you prepared plants and a suitable portion of the chosen plant species.

For the basics let us assume we have a suitable aquarium setup consisting of correct hardware and materials. The choice of substrates for the foreground should consist of any fine gravel. Many commercial products abound including Eco-Complete, Flourite, Onyx Sand and the ADA substrate systems however any sand type substrate will suffice. For the foreground of an aquarium, the substrate should have a minimum depth of 1-2inches (2.5-5cm). This will allow us to easily plant our chosen species and provide a suitable base for their roots.

For this demonstration I have chosen to use Marselia sp. which is similar to glosso in appearance and growth habits but much slower growing; thus easier to maintain. The substrate shown in the photo above is a base layer of Eco-Complete/Onyx mix, about 1-1.5 deep with a thinner cap of Black Beauty blasting grit on top. The Black Beauty adds some depth and weight to the Eco-Complete and gives the substrate a consistent dark color. Over time the 2 materials will mix together but no problems will come from this.

First we start by preparing our plants for planting. Notice that the Marselia sp., like glossostigma, spreads via runners and each plantlet has only one leaf per node. Glosso usually will have 2 leaves per node. Each node is capable of producing another runner, just like the grass in your yard. For fastest propagation, the runners of the Marselia should be cut into small portions consisting of 1-5 plantlets. Generally I use single plantlets but some prefer to use more. This is basically a matter of technique, both ways will yield the same result in the end.

Using sharp scissors cut the runners into individual plantlets, leaving the roots intact. Spread the trimmed plantlets on a tray/plate as you go but make sure they don't dry out. This is especially important with glosso as it will dry out very quickly. Marselia is a little more forgiving. Either way, simply mist the plants as necessary with aquarium water or cover with damp paper towels. Preparing the plants can be tedious so get a comfy seat and enjoy the meditative aspect of the process.

Next we need to plant the prepared specimens. Using good tweezers/forceps with a fairly sharp point (the pointier the better) grasp an individual plantlet by the roots or trimmed portion of runner. Try to have the stem of the plant grasped at 40-60 degree angle as pictured below.

Insert the plantlet straight down into the substrate making sure the rooted portion is fully covered. Generally one would leave only the rounded top portion of the leaf above the substrate. Slowly open the tweezers and pull them out toward you, in the direction they are pointed, gently wiggling them as you do so. This will help settle the substrate around the plant. The plantlet should stay in the substrate with very little disturbance of the surrounding area.

Continue planting individual plantlets in a 1/2-1 grid. The closer you plant initially, the faster the foreground will fill in. I prefer to plant left to right as I am right handed. Doing it this way will ensure the my insertion and removal of the tweezers will not disturb those already planted. One tends to pull a little substrate in the direction they plant. This holds true for planting most species, always work toward yourself and your dominate hand. Below is a section fully planted. The Marselia should fully cover the substrate in a month or less, depending on light and CO2 availability.

I hope you have enjoyed this section of the Aquascaping Journal Series, brought to you by APC. Check back soon for the next chapter in the Series! If there is a specific idea or technique you would like to see covered, please let us know

Join the Discussion!

21 comments on "Aquascaping series: Glossostigma Foregrounds"

  • mellowvision
    August 10, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    great article. people have been looking for this lately, so I decided to give it a bump

  • runwithit
    August 20, 2007 at 11:07 am

    this is the kind of stuff i need to be reading. i'm a complete newbie when it comes to planting. i need to read more articles like this explaining how to plant various types of plants... i.e. stem plants etc.

  • Goat
    May 17, 2008 at 7:20 pm


  • gravy9
    October 3, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Great article, Dennis. Just ran into this section and am finding it quite helpful and in right time too. I'm planning on planting Glosso in 2 weeks.


  • tranr
    May 26, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    What a wonderful article with great step-by-step explanations and photographs. This will definitely be useful for me this upcoming week or so as I prepare to plant some foreground plants that should arrive in the mail soon... Thank you so much for the informative article.

  • mudboots
    July 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Awesome! I'm planting a foreground of Marsilea this evening that just arrived and just happened to stumble upon this post. Just in time, because I was just going to start jamming it in with my fingers and was trying to figure out how to keep from blowing substrate all over the place in my El Natural setup.

  • oscarjamayaa
    December 19, 2009 at 10:53 pm


  • Northman
    June 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks dennis!

  • aaronts9
    February 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Hi dennis i've joined this forum specially for this article but for some reason i cant see the pictures included? any ideas? extreme beginner as you can see!

  • TarantulaGuy
    February 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    This is an older thread, odds are links to pics simply don't work anymore, so they don't show up. The information is still quite valid though!

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