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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Let me preface this thread by first saying, these pictures were not intended for this purpose, I just happened to take some pictures frequently enough to put this together. There are a few pictures 'missing' in the sequence. Use your imagination to fill in the blanks!

This picture was taken about 6 weeks after initial planting. The marselia has grown in very quickly, stem plants are growing in strong, but algae is rampant! I believe that atleast one pruning has already been done at the point this picture was taken. The bottoms were left in and the tops replanted to fill in empty spaces.


A few weeks later, algae is on its way out and the plants are growing in really well.


Heavy duty pruning is done. This pruning is done so that only 3-4 nodes are left above the substrate level. This is to encourage side shoots from each planted stem. A few tops were replanted, but most were discarded. Picture is missing. Imagine a BARE tank. With good ferts, plants bounce back quick.

A few weeks later...the plants are growing back with multiple shoots from each planted stem. However, they're all over the place when it comes to growth rates and sizes. Another pruning is in order - this time to give the plant groupings some shape and definition.


Several weeks later, taking into account growth rates of different plants, a severe pruning is done. This will be the final pruning before the 'money' shot. Growth resulting from this pruning will be lush, thick and the shapes will be well defined. Sean Murphy happened to drop by the day after this was done and I quote "What the #$#!! did you do in there!!!" I assured him I knew what I was doing here. Take note of the different heights and angles at which the plants were cut back. Tops were given away and not replanted - we want even growth rates (within each plant group) here - very important.


A few weeks later, the plants have grown back in. Things are looking NEAR optimal, though still not 100% perfect, however, this demonstrates some basic pruning techniques and the results thereof. Hope you get some insight from these pictures...
 

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Those are very helpful, thanks Ghazanfar!

In my tanks, one problem with this technique is that by the time my stems approach the tank top, the bottom portions look rather ratty, leafwise. I don't really see the bottoms of yours looking too badly here. Is this something you deal with, or is your lighting intense enough you don't have this problem?
 

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from the looks of it, he pruned OFF the bottoms. (almost) I'm assuming this encourages enough outward growth, and side-shoots and any previous leaf damage (from lower light under the tops, or algae spotting) would be completely hidden by the new growth. not to mention when he topped the plants the first few times, I'd assume he had the option of using those stems to hide some of the problem areas if indeed there were any.

or maybe he's a much better aquarist than I am and never sees algae (although his first posts reveal he is indeed human)

Nice "writeup" by the way, although I know that's not what the pics were meant to be. Still nice to see the trim technique even in a vague sense, and then see the results on a timeline like that.

Thanks :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Those are very helpful, thanks Ghazanfar!

In my tanks, one problem with this technique is that by the time my stems approach the tank top, the bottom portions look rather ratty, leafwise. I don't really see the bottoms of yours looking too badly here. Is this something you deal with, or is your lighting intense enough you don't have this problem?
The stems come back really thick - ratty bottoms I assure you are there - but you don't see them.
Each pruning is done at a slightly greater height than the previous one - that way you're pruning the side shoots, not the exact stem you planted. After 3-4 of those types of prunings, you'll get a nice thick bunch. Eventually,
you'll need to really hack it back to 'start over'. Some stems bounce back from this easily (rotalas) - others, not so much (stellatas).
 

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I really appreciate this thread, thank you. When you prune the stem plants are you replanting the cut off stems to thicken up the bunch or are you just relying on side shoots? I am so glad this topic was brought up, I wish there was more on this topic.
 

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This is great Ghaz! Thanks for posting it. I have made it a sticky it as I think this will help a lot of folks to actually see how to trim. I know after your talk at the meeting I have been doing this and am able to get a much larger grouping of plants.

As you said some things bounce back, some dont. The plants have to be very healthy to come back from such a massive prune as well.
 

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This is great Ghaz! Thanks for posting it. I have made it a sticky it as I think this will help a lot of folks to actually see how to trim. I know after your talk at the meeting I have been doing this and am able to get a much larger grouping of plants.

As you said some things bounce back, some dont. The plants have to be very healthy to come back from such a massive prune as well.
I was just about to say! This should be a Sticky:)

Well done for the community.

Regards, Orlando
 

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Great thread!!!

Thanks Ghazanfar.

It's shocking that algae would dare make an appearance in one of your setups.

I was astonished the first time I saw the guys at AquaForest in San Fran mutilate their giant display tank. They were mercilessly mowing it down to within an inch or two of the substrate.

I then went home and tried the same thing with excellent results.

Freeman said it best: "Plants love scissors!"

With taller aquariums it's important to not let the growth get too high before cutting it way back. If you do the lower portions will be too far gone to regenerate nice growth.

Thanks for sharing!
 

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With taller aquariums it's important to not let the growth get too high before cutting it way back. If you do the lower portions will be too far gone to regenerate nice growth.
An excellent point. This is part of the reason for sloping the substrate so much higher in the back of the tank.
 

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Great thread!!

Will the trimming technique and timing be the same if one is interested in preserving a good looking scape long term (as opposed to maximizing the appearance for the perfect shot)?
 

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Great thread!!

Will the trimming technique and timing be the same if one is interested in preserving a good looking scape long term (as opposed to maximizing the appearance for the perfect shot)?
No, the technique is the same for long-term scapes. I've topped the same group of Rotalas 15+ times before replanting them.
 

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Great post! This was VERY helpful to me as I am just now considering whether a good 'hacking' of my stems would help or hurt me. My stems are at a point where they need to be shaped, but I have let them get lanky at teh bottoms and bushy at the tops. Now I see that I should not be afraid to hack it off!

Off to get my scissors... :axe:

-Dave
 

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This would be a good site to list those stem plants and tanks conditiosn that might not be appropriate for "hacking" to get the stems to be bushy and still look nice. For example: Rotala macrandra. I typically hack off the tops many times but have noticed that eventually the bottoms develop a large mass of roots and have to be replaced with the tops. In the past, i have mostly had low amounts of nutrients in the water column and did not have rich substrates.

So, ...
(1) what are the stem plants that dont like hacking?
(2) are there certain tank conditions that are more appropriate for the hacking approach?
(3) can we prevent the lower stems from developing too many roots?

If there is interest, this should move to a separate thred. If so, add a link from this popular sticky.
--Neil
 

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No, the technique is the same for long-term scapes. I've topped the same group of Rotalas 15+ times before replanting them.
I might consider doing this with flourite added to the substrate when I do. that way I can yoink out the old plants, replace with new ones but mingle flourite or remove old substrate alltogether in spot areas. Think that would work? That would keep my happy bacterial alive in other spots and not cause a full cycle. Hmmmmmm
 

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I might consider doing this with flourite added to the substrate when I do. that way I can yoink out the old plants, replace with new ones but mingle flourite or remove old substrate alltogether in spot areas. Think that would work? That would keep my happy bacterial alive in other spots and not cause a full cycle. Hmmmmmm
I'm not sure I follow what you're asking? The method of trimming stems discussed in this thread doesn't involve uprooting any plants at all.
 

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This would be a good site to list those stem plants and tanks conditiosn that might not be appropriate for "hacking" to get the stems to be bushy and still look nice. For example: Rotala macrandra. I typically hack off the tops many times but have noticed that eventually the bottoms develop a large mass of roots and have to be replaced with the tops. In the past, i have mostly had low amounts of nutrients in the water column and did not have rich substrates.

So, ...
(1) what are the stem plants that dont like hacking?
(2) are there certain tank conditions that are more appropriate for the hacking approach?
(3) can we prevent the lower stems from developing too many roots?

If there is interest, this should move to a separate thred. If so, add a link from this popular sticky.
--Neil
There's not real way to avoid adventitious roots. Some plants will have them and others won't. A well planned aquascape always hides the lower portions of stem plants in the backround.

Rotalas are by far the easiest to hack back and let them regrow. It can also be done with Hygrophilas, Limnophilas, Ludwigias and several others.

Tonina fluviatilis is one that will not respond well to being hacked down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
(1) what are the stem plants that dont like hacking?
(2) are there certain tank conditions that are more appropriate for the hacking approach?
(3) can we prevent the lower stems from developing too many roots?
Aaron is right on the money with his answer there. Rotalas, hygros, ludwigias - basically any stem plant that produces side shoots readily can be hacked back. The more easily the plant produces side shoots, the better it will be suited for this type of pruning. That said - this type of pruning is usually used for scaping. Before you start scaping, you should always know how specific plants grow in your tank / conditions. Most folks already start off that way - experimenting with different plants - gaining experience growing them, pruning them etc. With that knowledge, you should be able to make a good decision weather to hack back or not.

Tank conditions more appropriate for the hacking approach - high growth stem plant tanks are best suited. You don't want that tank to look bare for more than a week or two - just ugly!

As for the lower stems producing roots - I haven't found a way to prevent that - not that I've tried - the bottoms don't usually pose a problem because they're always well hidden beneath or hidden behind the hardscape. If you're able to see the ratty bottoms, you're doing something wrong - either from the pruning perspective or the scaping perspective - or it may just be time to start that group of plants over again with fresh stems.
 

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The stems come back really thick - ratty bottoms I assure you are there - but you don't see them.
Each pruning is done at a slightly greater height than the previous one - that way you're pruning the side shoots, not the exact stem you planted. After 3-4 of those types of prunings, you'll get a nice thick bunch. Eventually,
you'll need to really hack it back to 'start over'. Some stems bounce back from this easily (rotalas) - others, not so much (stellatas).
Thanks for this thread. It's very informative. I am somewhat amazed/confused by this last statement. I understand what your saying but, when I look at the last px of the trim you did, I can't imagine that the 3 or 4 previous trims were actually shorter than this one, in all the plant sections! Some of them are so short now, that if they had been trimmed 3 or 4 times, how would there have been any left to grow out!??

By your statement 3 or 4 nodes left you are referring to leaf groupings along the stem, is that correct?

So as Neil brought up - what does one do with R. Macrandra? Do you just go ahead and trim not worrying about the massive root systems it gets? It does branch out some but not as much as some of the other stemmies.

The other thing I find, is that I end up with massive tops, fully branched, that become so heavy in proportion to the bottoms that they end up floating up. Perhaps I'm waiting too long to trim and therefore trimming up to high? All I know is the big tops can't be secured by the little bottoms.
 
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