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Old 10-30-2019, 01:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Rooting pothos in substrate

Hello!

I've recently set up my first Walstad tank, and it's been very exciting so far! One problem I think I may run into is anaerobic substrate. My tank is the standard Aqueon 5.5 gallon, and I think for a tank so small, I may have made the substrate layer too thick (1inch soil, 1 - 1.5in peace river gravel).

I think I'll need to wait a bit longer to see for sure if it goes anaerobic. But in the meantime...

I have a pothos that's growing quite well, and it occurred to me that if I was able to root it in my substrate, it could help provide oxygen quite efficiently (since it has the aerial advantage). Has anyone had success with getting a pothos (or other kind of terrestrial plant) to root in their substrate? I've seen plenty of people just throw the pothos in and let the roots grow in the water, but would that be too much competition for the aquarium plants I currently have?
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

I've neverdeliberately tried to do this, but one time pothos in a tank did send roots down to the substrate. In this case the substrate was just a thin layer of gravel. The roots in the water were healthy, but the ones growing into the substrate rotted right at the surface of the gravel. Perhaps pothos can't tolerate the mildly anaerobic conditions under the gravel.

Try a true aquatic or emersed plant with strong roots, like a cryptocoryne.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

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The roots in the water were healthy, but the ones growing into the substrate rotted right at the surface of the gravel. Perhaps pothos can't tolerate the mildly anaerobic conditions under the gravel.
That's interesting. Maybe I'll test it out in a jar with some soil first and see how it goes.

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Try a true aquatic or emersed plant with strong roots, like a cryptocoryne.
I have planted the tank pretty densely so far. I will post a picture later, but I have some that should develop pretty good roots I think (vallisneria, cryptocoryne, a small sword called echinodorus parviflorus, and some others). Right now I'm just a bit paranoid that things will go badly, and wanted to get a jump start on the issue with the pothos. But if it won't root in the aquarium substrate, that probably won't be the way to go
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Old 10-30-2019, 07:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

The plants you already have should do what you want. If you want to do something else right away, poke the substrate with a chopstick or pencil every inch or so. This will release any trapped CO2 and help aerate the soil layer.
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Old 10-30-2019, 07:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

Here is the tank (apologies for lack of photography skills). Vallisneria is in the back middle, pearl grass in the back right (will this root well?), stem plants in the back left (Brazilian Pennywort and elodea. This corner worries me, as when I originally planted, I didn't realize these wouldn't root. May need to put another rooted plant there). Midground has the swords on the left and middle, crypt on the right, and a ludwigia repens in the middle-leftish (also not sure if this will develop extensive roots). Foreground is two types of dwarf hairgrass, Lilaeopsis mauritiana (micro sword), and dwarf baby tears. Floating plants are duckweed and Salvinia minima.

I realize now that I didn't plan the layout optimally for even distribution of roots. Hopefully things shape up well anyway I did start poking the substrate with a paperclip as well. Thanks for the advice!
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:54 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

Pretty tank! You've got a lot of nice plants. It may do fine without any tinkering. I think a Pothos houseplant would spoil the effect in such a small tank.

Poking the substrate is a good idea when first using an organic soil.

The gravel layer is thicker than it should be. If it were my tank, I would remove some of the gravel. You could do it surgically with a soup spoon just towards center where there are mainly small plants and open areas.
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Old 10-31-2019, 08:47 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

Thanks for the advice! I kinda tried scooping out some substrate as you suggested, but it was a bit awkward with how the plants are distributed, and I don't think I can remove much without redoing some of the aquascape. If the carpet plants in front continue not to grow (or get worse), I may pull them, remove some gravel, and replace them with something else. For now, I'll wait a bit longer and see how it goes (and continue poking the substrate).

After reading some other threads here, I'm toying with removing the driftwood as well. I like how it looks, but not enough to risk suffocating the soil. I pushed it down as far as I can, so hopefully there's not too much soil underneath. Again, I'll see how it goes for a while before doing anything drastic. The good news is the pearl grass and vallisneria seems to be doing well; lots of growth and new leaves. Next trip to the LFS I'll pick up some more rooting plants for that back left corner.
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Old 11-01-2019, 03:28 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

I like your patience, upbeat attitude and the fact that some plants are growing. Enjoy!
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Old 11-01-2019, 05:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

If you are careful, you can vacuum some gravel out with a siphon. The trick is to go slowly and hold the end of the siphon at just the right distance from the gravel surface.

About the driftwood, in the photo it looks like it just barely resting on the surface of the gravel, and does not seem to have a wide base. If so, this is good. Water circulation around the wood will help to prevent the substrate under it from becoming anaerobic.

I agree with Diana, it is a very nice looking tank!
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:02 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Rooting pothos in substrate

Thanks for the encouragement, it goes a long ways

I've been keeping up poking the gravel. Lots of bubbles come out - I assume that's mostly CO2? The pennywort and floating plants are seeing tremendous growth, and there are some new runners coming off the micro sword.

Pearl grass seems to have slowed a bit, but is still growing. The carpet plants are stagnant, besides the aforementioned micro sword. The larger leaves on the vallisneria keep melting. Maybe those were the old leaves grown emerged, and they didn't acclimate to the tank? There are still healthy younger leaves though.

My crypt and larger swords seem unchanged. They still look healthy, but haven't grown. Are these expected to take a while to get established? And interestingly, the elodea has stopped growing as well (I expected this to grow very fast). The ludwigia totally melted away, there's just one small stem left.

I also threw in some bulbs I got from petco, to hopefully fill in some of the blank spots. Although I've heard I may have limited success getting them to grow, depending on the quality.

Oh, and since the water parameters have been stable the last week or so, yesterday I added the tank's newest tenant!

Edit: Oh, and thanks for the tip about siphoning Michael. I'll give that a shot.
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