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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Since emersed culture is so closely related to aquatic plants, but strangely so terribly neglected by most people who frequent this forum (just look at the low thread postings in the emersed culture forum!!!) I am making this guide to help anybody who has ever wanted to create their own emersed setup but didn't know where to begin.

First, why make an emersed setup at all?
Probably the best reason is to de-clutter our show tanks!! I'm sure everyone on this site has been through the infamous "collectoritis" stage at some point. By planting all those interesting and odd species in the emersed tub you can free up your existing tanks and really aquascape them properly.

Another great reason for making an emersed setup is to keep plants that we like but don't necessarily need at the moment in our scapes for future use. This saves time and money when it comes time to replant since we don't have to post wanted threads in the for sale section, pay shipping and handling or risk getting unwanted pests like algae, snails, diseases etc... Not to mention the emersed tub will produce prodigious amounts of plants so when it comes time to plant (or replant after a tank crash etc...) an entire scape all the plants are right there waiting. There is very little grow in time and conversion to submersed growth takes much less time since the plants are healthy and didn't sit in a dark box for three days in the mail.

Did I mention emersed tubs produce prodigious amounts of plants??? You will have enough plants to trim and sell on a weekly basis which can really add up and help fund more ambitious aquarium plans.

Care
Emersed setups need VERY little care. A simple light timer will take care of day and night rhythms so all you need to do is add water every 2-3 months when it evaporates.

Materials:
1 Plastic tub - $11 (from walmart or home depot)
4 plastic shoe boxes - $4 (from walmart or home depot)
1 light - $30-70 (from online, walmart, around the home, home depot, etc...)
1 light timer - $6 (from walmart or home depot)
1 piece of plexiglass (not necessary - depends if the plastic tub has a clear top) - $3 (home depot)
1 bag of top soil - $1-3 (from walmart or home depot)

The first step:
Take a thick nail and use fire to heat it up. Then poke the nail through the bottom of the small plastic shoe box many many times. You will want to do this so the soil that will later be placed inside the shoe box can soak up water from the main tub. It is critical to make holes in the bottom since this is the only way water can get to the soil. I advise against cutting holes since the plastic shoe boxes crack rather than cut. I used a blow torch since I had it conveniently lying around the house from another project (not to mention any excuse to use it ;)).



I used plastic shoe boxes of this make since they are cheap as heck and come with useful plastic lids that can be cut up and used for plant name tags.



The second step
Then you will want to put the four shoe boxes (with holes melted in the bottoms) into the larger tub in a way that they will fit.



The third step
Then you will want to add the top soil to the shoe boxes.



The fourth step
Since I have a plastic tub lid that is not see-through I had to cut a hole in it so the light can sit comfortably on top.



After the hole in the lid is cut this is what it should look like:



The fifth step
Add name tags so you don't forget what you planted!!! I thought I would rememeber what I had planted, but a few months down the line I opened one of my tubs and found that I couldn't remember what plants I had in there! The emersed growth is COMPLETELY different from submersed growth for most plants making an ID very difficult unless you are a seasoned emersed plant grower!



The sixth step
Plant your plants, write out name tags, add about 2 inches of water to the larger tub (you want the water level to be below the soil level by about 1-2 inches otherwise it will be too wet).



The last step
Close up the top and set your light timer for 12 hours a day. The tub is now ready for 3 months of maintenance free growth!!



Here is a picture of emersed grown hygrophilia polysperma 'sunset' after about two weeks of growth.

 

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Wonderful "How-To" Zapins! Thanks for sharing!

Yourset-up looks great. How deep is your tub? And have you had any issues with plants trying to outgrow the container?

-Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks I have often thought about doing this, but did not find enough info. On my way to buy all the stuff.
Good to hear wamblee2003! Let us know how it works out ;)

davemonkey - thanks :) the tub's height is roughly a foot and a few inches (maybe 2-3?). I used the plastic shoe boxes as a guide to what kind of larger tub to use. Since I wanted to fit 4 shoe boxes into the larger tub I had to find a tub wide enough. From what I found there are two particular tubs that will allow 4 shoe boxes to fit so finding them shouldn't be hard. I can post the names of each plastic bin if people are interested?

The plants do eventually grow and bump up against the ceiling, but I cut them before they reach it so its not usually a problem. Most of the plants I've grown seem to prefer getting bushy and staying small rather than making a jump straight to the light. Even the larger plants like Limnophila aromatica, Alternanthera reineckii, and Acisanthera sp tend to grow low.
 

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Hi Zapins

I was wondering how often you check on the plants after you've closed up the big container. I'm guessing it's sealed just about air tight? Secondly, would the plants grow any faster if you add any ferts to the water you use initially? Could you leave the container in the sun outside (assuming you have a clear lid)?

Kind regards,
Ryan
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It depends when I check on them. Sometimes I check them every day, because I'm checking for flowers, other times I don't check them for months at a time. They don't really need much care after they are set up.

The container isn't sealed super tightly, I just put the plastic lid back on, I didn't do any extra sealing on top of that. Plants need to exchange gases with the atmosphere or they will run out of O2 or CO2.

About fertilizing: the plants won't grow faster with more ferts added to the water. The black top soil contains more ferts than the plants could ever use. It will last for several years without running out of fertilizers. The only way to make the plants grow faster would be to increase the CO2 levels inside the container to roughly 2.5x the normal atmospheric concentrations but not higher, this might be a bit tricky though to control. Even doing this isn't necessary since natural concentrations in water of CO2 are roughly 3 ppm and in the air it is +350 ppm so the plants are definitely getting plenty of CO2.

You can leave the container outside, but you must be very careful that it doesn't overheat. Most aquatic plants can't handle more than 85 F without dying so direct sunlight all day + black topsoil absorbing all that heat and a container that acts as a greenhouse = hard to control temperatures. You might need to put the tub in a place where it gets indirect light for 95% of the day and maybe an hour of direct light in the morning or night. My friend grew HC in this way, so they get plenty of light.
 

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This is one great thread.
i will keep at least 1 stem for emersed growth when i get rarer plants, so that i have a little factory to better fill my tank, and to have some to spare in case they dont do too well at first.

I have done this before with Hydrocotyle Verticilliata and HC. Verticilliata did great, but HC kinda failed because i kept it outside, the tub didn't have good drainage and i didnt really pay much attention to it, so when it rained it would end up drowned for a while...

:clap2:
 

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This is a GREAT idea. At one time i had two emersed tubs going that i simply put soil and water into... but the plants never did all that well, and now im thinking it was because they were to wet and soggy. Using shoe box containers inside of a larger tub with just a few inches is brilliant! keeps things soaked on the bottom and just a but moist on top im guessing? Im looking forward to putting a new set up together now :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
This is a GREAT idea. At one time i had two emersed tubs going that i simply put soil and water into... but the plants never did all that well, and now im thinking it was because they were to wet and soggy. Using shoe box containers inside of a larger tub with just a few inches is brilliant! keeps things soaked on the bottom and just a but moist on top im guessing? Im looking forward to putting a new set up together now :)
Yup, exactly! Also, being inside a large container helps keep the humidity high enough to convert most plants from the very weak and susceptible submersed form to the emersed form without drying them out.

I'd love to see pictures of your new set up! Show us some before pics and then in a few weeks you could post the after pics! :)

I'll post an update of my setups when I get home later tonight so everyone can see some examples.

I've actually got about 67 different types of plants now in my tubs and fish tanks, though most of them are safely housed in the emersed tubs for future use.
 

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Awesome idea Zapins. Here is mine.



I just have some scraps in there to start, but it will be great as my collection grows and it gives me a place to grow out my cuttings.

I had a 55 gallon tank with a broken center brace that was just sitting empty that I used. I used a 48" single strip light with a T12 6700 bulb (do you think that will be enough light) that I already had. I didn't have a top so I cut up some old fish bags and taped them together. I laid them across the top of the tank. It isn't air tight, but the condensation on the glass tells me it is keeping the humidity up.

I'm excited.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Nice work!!! That will work just fine. You could add another light in time if you like, more light never hurts!

You might want to watch your humidity levels though since after the plants convert to emersed form excess humidity might cause them to rot. Rotting happens if the condensation drips onto the plant leaves continually. So perhaps with time you might want to remove some of the plastic on the top after the plants have converted.

Here are some of my current emersed tubs!







 
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