Erik's Anubias Rescue Experiment


In preparing for four days entertaining Luis Navarro for GSAS, I did some extensive cleaning of tanks that had been overtaken with horrible algae over the last few years, not the least of which were several Anubias specimens. I decided I would try and "rescue" these plants by clearing out some of the algae. How? By growing them emersed for a while. This can be very effective with certain plants, especially ferns and Anubias. In nature, these plants spend at least part of the year (if not most of it) out of water to begin with! The algae simply dries out and can be rubbed off, while the plant grows quite vigorously, often more so than when submerged.

Initial configuration: The Plastic tub (March 2008)

I purchased a plastic tub with clear lid, just the right size to fit on top of a 55-gallon aquarium. The aquarium wasn't doing so hot (in fact some of the Anubias came out of the tank itself), so I didn't mind cutting the light to the tank for a bit. In these shots, the lid is off, but you can see it and the shop light in the lower right corner of the photo.

Water was pumped from the tank into the bin via a Mini-Jet submersible attached to a PVC contraption. Many holes were drilled in the bottom of the bin, allowing water to simply drip back into the tank. With the lid on, a shop light retrofitted with T-8 bulbs was placed simply on top of the bin and tank. This was one major downside of the arrangement -- half the tank was in complete darkness, while the other half was significantly attenuated.

The substrate was unwittingly donated by Susan Welenofsky of GSAS in the forum of a Turface sample. I initially packed it with the sorriest of the sorry Anubias nana and other species from the fishroom.


During the spring and summer, I mostly left the bin alone, though I did attempt to dose it with Excel as part of an overall scheme to reduce the algae in the tank below. I also sold off some of the better specimens, and rotated other "sorry" ones in.

May 1

May 23

June 1, about a week after spraying with Excel. Clearly not a good idea!

August 2. The plants are recovering quite well even after losing the leaves to the Excel.

"Permanent" installation

I learned a bunch of things from the prototype: First, and most importantly, the ability of the bin to drain was variable, due to the holes getting clogged with substrate and debris. So the permanent emerser would have to have a better drainage system. Second, I didn't want to block the tank forever -- I had plans on turning the main tank into a nursery.

So my solution was to build two acrylic boxes that sit behind the tank on a separate stand. I anchored the stand to the wall. The shop light formerly used to light the main tank was moved on top of the emerse boxes, while a new 55Wx2 fixture was constructed for the main tank. I bought three Rio pumps to get the water into the boxes from the main tank, and set up an overflow drain back to the tank from the boxes. Inside the boxes, there is a slanted piece of acrylic with slots cut along the bottom. It creates an open channel for the water to drain off the substrate and into the return.

Notice that all the plants are now thriving -- all ready to sell at the club plant auction. They are also providing all the filtration for the aquarium (though not very well...but that's another story).

In addition to the Anubias, I've got a little Bolbitis, and as of Ghazanfar's visit, a nice new Cryptocoryne. The next adventure begins!

- 1/22/09