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Plants purify the water for my fish breeding setup, so they HAVE to be good growers. Today, I compiled a list of plants that I have been using in my guppy tanks for last 6 months and that are growing well. Bacopa caroliniana, Water Sprite, Amazon Swordplant, Vallisneria spiralis, Sagittaria graminae, Sagittaria subulata, Frogbit, Hornwort, Duckweed, and Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). I did include some slow-growers (Anubias nana and a couple Cryptocoryne), but they are strictly supplemental.

Lately, I have noticed way too many hobbyists starting tanks with a whole bunch of poor growers (many Cryptocoryne, etc).

In the old days (20th Century), you didn't have many plant species to choose from. You didn't have CO2 injection, so generally everyone had good growers. Now the market is flooded with poor growers--plants that don't grow well unless they get artificial fertilizers and CO2 injection. These plants are not efficient at extracting CO2 and nutrients from the water or-like many stem plants-they can't use bicarbonates as an alternate carbon source.

My other gripe is that people are setting up tanks with soil but without good-growing, rooted plants. There's absolutely no point in using soil, if you only plant poor growers or ones (stem plants) that don't have a decent root system.

This is all a sad outgrowth of aquascapers using plants for artistic purposes and/or plant connoisseurs looking for the "latest fad species." Beginning hobbyists have to wade through the confusion to find plants that will do well in an NPT.

Attached are pictures of four of my fish-breeding tanks filled with good growers. I've stuck all the rooted plants in pots with soil so I can catch the fish more easily. I depend on plants to keep my fish healthy. That way, I can stuff the fish full of food and not have to worry about changing water every day.

APCer's feel free to add to this list!
 

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I couldn't agree more. There are many articles describing how to grow this and that with CO2, heavy fertilization etc., but next to nothing about low maintenance natural tanks. I learned a bit by trial and error method and recently also great bunch from your book (I'm still puzzled why it isn't promoted as a mandatory must read for all beginners - and very often should be read also by "experienced" hobbyists). And when I see those extremely brightly lit tanks with no shade and full of stressed neon tetras.. Form over function, I guess.

My favorite fast grower is Hygrophila polysperma - it can get nice red color even in low tech tank. From root feeders it would be Echinodorus ozelot, not extremely fast growing though.. :) Some of my cryptocorynes could be probably considered as a medium fast growers too, at least once established (becketii, wendtii).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks. I agree that Cryptocoryne wendtii does pretty good once it gets established and comfortable. Indeed, it tends to take over!
 

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This is a great discussion. If you don't have plenty of healthy, vigorous plants a Walstad won't work.

I'm not fond of most stem plants, but there are a few that develop good root systems for me, H. polysperma, H. corymbosa angustifolia, and Proserpinaca palustris. The root system of H. c. angustifolia rivals that of Amazon sword plants, and all of these species will produce emersed growth that gives them the aerial advantage.

The common Cyptocoryne species all grow well for me, but not fast enough to be the only plants in new tanks. The small Nymphaea species are slow starters, but once they get going the root systems are phenomenal. You can keep them in submerged form by pruning floating leaves, or you can let these develop. With floating leaves they effectively shade the tank if the light is too strong, and some will actually flower. My N. micrantha has been blooming for several months in a 75 gallon tank.
 

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True, when I was a kid having my first fish tank, I could grow plant with a few hours of natural sunlight by the window. I had never seen or knew what bba were and the only algae I had to deal with is gda on the glass which I scraped off with a razor blade weekly. But the plants available at that time were limited to super easy plants like Val’s, water sprite, wisteria, sword and Hornwort. There were no Anubias, fern, crypt, Buce, and hundreds of fancy stem plants available in the old days.
 

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True, when I was a kid having my first fish tank, I could grow plant with a few hours of natural sunlight by the window. I had never seen or knew what bba were and the only algae I had to deal with is gda on the glass which I scraped off with a razor blade weekly. But the plants available at that time were limited to super easy plants like Val's, water sprite, wisteria, sword and Hornwort. There were no Anubias, fern, crypt, Buce, and hundreds of fancy stem plants available in the old days.
When I was a kid I was pretty much unable to grow plants. None of my tanks had a substrate, only gravel. Unfortunately back then this was the trend here. It took a while for me to figure out what NPT is. Since then growing plants algae free is not an issue. I must admit I mostly stick to more "traditional", old-school species.
 

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When I was a kid I was pretty much unable to grow plants. None of my tanks had a substrate, only gravel. Unfortunately back then this was the trend here. It took a while for me to figure out what NPT is. Since then growing plants algae free is not an issue. I must admit I mostly stick to more "traditional", old-school species.
Depending on your age, you and I could be in different era when we were kid. I was talking about the 60s when I was a kid. The universal filter was UGF at my time and I could grow plants with gravel, not substrate if the definition meant soil. It worked for me because my first tank was next to a window that got morning sun, and the mulch built up underneath the UGF plate was a rich nutrient source. I did WC by breaking down the system every 6 months. Later when my tank was moved away from the window, I couldn't grow plants with artificial light. I retrospect, it's striking that I could grow plants without algae except gda on the glass. Now that I have modern equipment and knowledge, I am battling with various algae I didn't even know their names before.

There was no nature aquarium or Dutch style aquarium at that time, and it was quite common for serious aquarists to grow specimen plants in pots. I don't think co2 was discovered until the 90s by Amano, which opened up a floodgate of many carpet plants, mosses, ferns, Anubias and numerous stem plants then couldn't be grown before. Amano nature aquarium is not new, but innovation of ancient idea by bringing Japanese garden and landscape bonsai into glass box with the help of co2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The small Nymphaea species are slow starters, but once they get going the root systems are phenomenal. You can keep them in submerged form by pruning floating leaves, or you can let these develop. With floating leaves they effectively shade the tank if the light is too strong, and some will actually flower. My N. micrantha has been blooming for several months in a 75 gallon tank.
I had forgotten about the Red Lotus. They are truly beautiful plants and do grow well.
 

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I have a few Aponogeton boivinianus that are growing fantastic in my Walstaad style tanks. I love their textured look and they grow quickly.

I also agree about the Lilly plants (red lotus.) Those grow like crazy!

I have some Ozelot swords that grow very well.

I have red root floaters on the surface and those are doing quite nicely. I don't have much surface agitation, which I hear can prevent the red root floaters from growing.
 

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There was no nature aquarium or Dutch style aquarium at that time, and it was quite common for serious aquarists to grow specimen plants in pots. I don't think co2 was discovered until the 90s by Amano <snip>
Well, Dutch style planted aquaria were already known in Europe at that time (well-planted aquaria with less tweaking for optical effects were much more common though); supplemental CO2 was already being widely utilized during the 1970s by waterplant enthusiasts and gaining widespread popularity in the aquarium community during the 1980s; Amano's ""nature"" style arrived at the scene much later.
 

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I know this thread is old, but I just discovered it and figured it might be as revealing to others as myself. I see some things I did wrong in setting up mine ( bought the book after). I always thought it was hit or miss in what I could and couldn’t grow, but I see there’s science behind it.
 

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Maybe this older thread can get going again. I might add Rotala Rodundifolia (I think that's what I have). I know this is considered a stem plant. But it roots and spreads really well. Mine shoot out horizontal stems that hug the top of the substrate. They look just like the vertical stems, not roots or rhizomes. Then the horizontal stems shoot down roots into the ground, and vertical stems from there. Lots of rooting from the original stems. Probably a result of good, fertile substrate.
 

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I don't know how Diana does it, but I do it just like you would for a typical Walstad tank: An inch of soil and an inch of cap, more or less.
 

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How do you arrange the soil layers in the pots? Do you add gravel to the bottom of the pot so the top 2 inches can be 1" soil and 1" gravel cap?
On her website, Ms. Walstad's article on small scale guppy breeding has some info about potted plants (https://dianawalstad.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/small-scale-breeding-aug2020.pdf):

For potting plants, I only use a clay garden soil. (Potting and organic soils can become severely anaerobic when confined in a pot.) I cover the soil with a little aquarium gravel.
 

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I just ordered a pile of Bacopa caroliniana for my new dirt tanks. I made the mistake she talks about by not planting easy/fast plants or enough of the few I did plant. Except guppy grass, which I’m growing successfully for the first time ever.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
On her website, Ms. Walstad's article on small scale guppy breeding has some info about potted plants (https://dianawalstad.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/small-scale-breeding-aug2020.pdf):
Also, make sure that the pot isn't too big for the plant. You don't need that much soil. Another thing I've been doing is to not fill the pot. Leave the pot rim be about 1/2" above the gravel cover. That way, the pot collects fish droppings and debris that feed the plant. Otherwise, I had to keep repotting the plants in fresh soil.
 

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Thank for the information on clay soil. I just can't find it at any of the bigbox stores or anywhere else. I googled "clay garden soil" and simply "clay soil". Lots of results, but nothing for sale in bags. Perhaps I am using the wrong word search?
 

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I don't think garden centers sell clay-based soil. I dug mine out of the yard. Piedmont clay specific to this Southeastern region of USA. See if you can just dig up some fertile topsoil from a yard. Do not use subsoils!

If no topsoil available, organic potting soils will work, but you have to be more careful (i.e., small plant = small pot). Mineralizing the soil beforehand might be a good idea. That way, it will be less anaerobic and more compacted when you put it into a pot. Crypts like organic soils, so I pot them in raw potting soil (plus a pinch of bone meal fertilizer) with no problems.

This is where you just have to gain experience on your own. For those who like to experiment, here is a golden opportunity! :) Buy two plants and pot them differently.
 
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