by Robert Paul Hudson
If you are new to aquarium plants, you may have stumbled upon an internet forum somewhere and read people referring to various people, web sites, and terminology that you do not have a clue as to what they are talking about! Here I will tell you about much of what people are referring to.
For discussion forum web sites dedicated solely to aquarium plants, one site has grown to reign supreme: Planted Tank.net. It started in 02 or 03 with a small group of people and now has the largest collection of posts, photographs, and articles, and the highest daily traffic of any forum dedicated to plants, and larger than many freshwater or reef forums. It appeals to a wide range of hobbyists of different ages and skill sets. While other such forums as Aquatic Plant Central and Plant Geeks have been steadily declining, Planted Tank just keeps getting bigger and bigger making everyone feel welcome.
Aquascaping world is an internet discussion forum and internet magazine dedicated to the art of planted aquariums and those interested in advanced aquascaping. It was started by John Nguyen who was the former Administrator at Aquatic Plant Central.com and always had a strong interest in aquascaping. While APC showcased aquascaping fairly well while John was there, he wanted to bring the spotlight on aquascaping to a whole new level way beyond what APC was doing. He connected with many talented aquascapers in Europe and Asia and created a tight knit international community of aquascapers. Most of the high ranking aquascapers in competitions worldwide are a part of the community John created or have shown their work in the community. Despite differences in language, customs, and politics people treat each other with respect and admiration because of common interest in the hobby. The site is visually and graphically stunning.
The Aquatic Gardeners Association
The “AGA” is an international organization of hobbyists interested in aquatic plants for aquariums. Although it appears to include pond keeping , it has always had very very very little emphasis on pond keeping. The group started in the early 1990s out of a gathering of people from the Usernet newsgroups, the Compuserve aquaria forum, and an email listserv called the Aquatic Plant Digest. Newsgroups for all practical purposes have disappeared, Compuserv is gone, and while technically the APD is still around, it has very little participation today. Back in the 90s though it was hopping! Founding members from the 90s include Dorothy Reimer, Diana Walstad, George Booth, Karen Randall, (who wrote a monthly column in Aquarium Fish Magazine during the 90s), Erik Olson, founder of “thekrib” web site, to name a few.
In the year 2000, the AGA sponsored its first Aquascaping Showcase contest which gave its yearly conventions more of a draw. The contest was structured to be similar in fashion to what was known at the time about the long running regional and national Dutch competitions. The attempt was to go beyond a simple photograph contest and consider various elements of the entrants overall aquarium set up, longevity, and ecco-balance. I remember there was some debate behind the scenes about the judging criteria, but eventually it was hammered out to what it is today. The best of show winner for the first year was a Dutch inspired aquascape by Frode Roe of Norway, but every year since the contest has been dominated by the Japanese “Amano” influence aquascaping style. Every year interest and participation in the contest has grown, although it has attracted much more international participation than American. Other than the yearly showcase contest and convention, the groups most notable success in my opinion has been its help either directly or by inspiration in creating local aquarium plant clubs in the USA and perhaps elsewhere during the 2000s. Before that time general aquarium clubs and societies had their own plant study groups, but interest in some regions grew enough to support independent plant clubs thanks in part to the AGA. To become a member of the AGA basically amounts to subscribing to their newsletter/magazine which is in full color and features articles writing by leading members and experts.
The Barr Report
The Barr report is a digital newsletter and online discussion forum centered around plant guru Tom Barr, an aquatic plant biologist, who was a part of the early days of the internet aquatic plant community of the 1990s, but broke out making a name for himself during the 2000s with his own methodologies for growing aquarium plants…most notable the “Estimated Index” or “EI” fertilizer method. His forum requires a paid subscription for full access, but has much of the forum open to any visitor. He teamed up with Greg Watson who takes care of all the “web stuff” for the site. Greg was known to hobbyists for selling the raw chemicals used in the EI fertilizer regime and later writing an EI dosing guide booklet. The site has a fairly small, (compared to the MEGA sites like plantedtank.net) but loyal following and delves into the more technical aspects of the hobby. Tom was also the last columnist for the Planted Tank column in FAMA magazine before it folded. Tom has hosted his own “plantfest” excursions where he takes people out in the Florida swamps to see both native and introduced aquatic plants growing wild.
Walstad method- El Natural- natural planted tank…
Author Diana Walstad wrote and published a book in the 1990s called Ecology of the Planted Aquarium. In this book she describes a method of growing plants in the aquarium that involves the use of soil, no added C02, low to moderate overhead light, and few water changes. She describes her method as “NPTs”- natural planted tanks. In 2003 I ran a discussion forum called the All Wet Thumb that was connected to aquabotanic.com, and I asked Diana to join my forum and host a sub forum on low tech planted aquariums. I named the forum “el natural” as a play on words for a stripped down plant tank. People started using the name to describe NPTs and when I shut the forum down, had the posts archived on Aquatic Plant Central.com and arranged for her to continue her forum on APC, the name “el natural” continued and is still there today and being used by people who read her book! Her book still has a significant following and she has recently been published in both Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine and Aquarium Fish International magazine.
This is a term coined by Sean Murphy of the Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association back in 2008 where top soil is used that has been treated with minerals, clay, and dolomite and exposed to oxygen before adding to the aquarium. This process introduces soil bacteria that will break down organics and minerals to a more readily available form that plants can use easier and quicker, giving the soil a headstart in the aquarium with less chance of an algae outbreak since the organics are not releasing ammonia or nitrate at high levels as would ordinarily happen when using soil in the aquarium. There are directions for this on the GWAPA web site.
The biggest complaint I have heard from people using this is that it is a lot of work to set up, is still “messy” and requires some trial and error to find the right combination of everything.
I will add more to this list later. If you have something you would like to see added to this list, shoot me a message via the contact form.