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Greetings everyone!
Real green(!?!?) newbe here. This seems to be very exciting stuff, growing aquatic plants emersed. Beautiful results posted. Thank you!
I've never done this and I would greatly appreciate some wise counsel.
1. What substrate issues are there? Would top soil work for most plants? Extra Ferts? What about inert gravel if water the pots sat in were fertilized in the EI, Tom Barr fashion?
2. Would a tank set up with soil substrate and just enough water to reach the top of the soil, work. Exactly how high would the substrate need to be saturated to be optimal?
3. Why must the air be near 100% humidity? Must the leaves be damp all the time?
4. If a plant was in a pot of top soil, would the water be best to completely cover the roots, only be available to the lowest part of the roots or should the water cover the bottom few inches of the stem and leaves?
5. Lastly, is there a beginners DIY source you can point me to?
Thanks very much. I hope this isn't over the top in being AWOI ( absent without intelligence)
 

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+1 on this request! There aren't any stickies for emersed basics, and the increasing interest makes it more and more of a necessity. I'm just getting into it myself now so I'm in no position to contribute, so hopefully some vets can put in some much appreciated time to help out the community.
 

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I'm not any kind of authority on emersed culture, but I've had my share of emersed set-ups.

There are different set-ups for different types of plants, but I'll try to answer your questions in order the best I can and let others add their experiences and methods.

1 - Substrate can be aquarium substrate, potting soil, natural soil from a garden or yard (which you don't have to fertilize) or some mix that you come up with on your own. Depending on the plants you'll be keeping, 2 - 4" is a good start, deeper if you have large/heavily rooted plants. Amounts of ferts will depend on how much light and how heavily planted you go. Just watch for deficiencies and address them as they come.

2 - The soil can be as dry or wet as you want depending on what you are growing. Since most of the emersed set-ups we see on this forum are aquatic or wetland plants, the soil is kept fairly wet (saturated, but not quite where water is standing on the substrate surface...unless the plants you are growing like that...such as certain crypts).

3 - Humidity is also something that depends on the plants. You can keep it 100% humid while transitioning submersed to emersed, but gradually you can work toward the normal humidity that the plants would encounter in nature. For crypts, that's pretty humid, but for some local natives in the US, you can eventually work toward having completely open tops (just watch that soil moisture does not fluctuate too much).

4 - I'm not experienced much with pots in emersed culture. But unless you have 100% humidity, I would not leave any portion of the roots out of water.

5 - Not too sure. My first attempt (and a successful one at that) was just plop some mud into a tank about 4" deep, plant it heavily with various species and cover the tank to keep humidity high. Gradually I uncovered the whole thing and it was a great learning experience.

Just a note of personal observation, emersed plants can benefit from a great deal of light that would otherwise cause algae blooms in submersed tanks. A first attempt should involve easier plants or plants you already have on hand (to avoid potentially killing off some expensive plants). Species of Lindernia, Bacopa, Ludwigia, and most anything you can find growing in a ditch are good starters.

-Dave
 

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What Dave said is good advice.

I also want to add that the ideal situation for growing aquatic plants is to have the water level in the surrounding container at least 1.5 inches lower then the soil level. If your water level comes up to the surface of the soil (unless with plants that specifically need it like the crypts Dave mentioned) you will provide ideal conditions for a very aggressive fungus that kills the plants off. It looks like fine spiderwebs and it actually digests the plants while they are alive. This is particularly a problem with HC, but I've also see it with ludwigias and other plants.

Hygrophilias, Limnophilias and Polygonums also make great first emersed plants, they have strong emersed growth characteristics. I would stay away from plants like anubis since they take forever to convert and grow.

It would be nice if we had a formal guide on emersed setups, since they are a great way to keep extra plants on hand without cluttering up a display tank.

Also, the humidity must be near 100% when converting plants to emersed form because when plants are grown underwater they grow without a wax cuticle since this adaptation helps them absorb gasses and nutrients underwater. When you put a submersed plant with no wax cuticle into the open air it has no way to protect itself from drying out. New leaves will grow with a wax cuticle and will be better able to handle the dry air, which is why Wabi-Kusa setups can work.
 
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