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Buce Box (How to easily propagate Bucephalandra and other emersed plants)

Courtneybst

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5 Sep 2016
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Hey guys, after a little poke from @Wookii , I thought I'd share what I'm doing to propagate some of my emersed plants, particularly Bucephalandra. Full disclaimer; I was not the first to do this and there are many examples of people doing it online. It is also common place in large plant nurseries, but this is just a bit less fancy. Hopefully it helps at least one person!

Firstly, lets start with why you would do this in the first place;
  • It is suitable for almost any plant (except fully aquatic species like Vallisneria, blyxa etc).
  • If you don't currently have space or time to plant, you can put your plants in the Buce box until you are ready.
  • You can grow plants algae-free without the need for water changes or maintenance.
  • It is useful for keeping 'back ups' of plants in case your submerged ones fail.
Here's what you'll need;

Equipment
  • Transparent container that can be sealed - I used a plastic storage box with lid from IKEA, cost me a few £. You can go as a big or small as you like with this, there is no limit. Just make sure it is transparent so light can get through! SAMLA transparent, Box with lid, 39x28x14 cm/11 l - IKEA
  • Crushed lava rock (or anything similar)
  • Aqua soil (I used Tropica Soil)
  • Light (Full spectrum is ideal but any light that can grow plants will work - LED is better as it produces less heat which is important)
  • Drill
  • RO Water
Setup
  1. Place a layer of aqua soil into the container, about an inch thick is sufficient. Cover with a single layer of lava rock. It's actually good to leave some expose bits of soil so the roots can penetrate down. The lava rock is purely for adhesion.
  2. Fill with RO water to saturate up to the lava rock, but don't cover it with water. The lava rock should be half in and half out of the water.
  3. Drill some small air holes into the lid of your container - this is for airflow and to allow heat to dissipate.
  4. Fix your light unit above the container and set it to come on anywhere from 6-18 hours. I do 10 hours on my setup at 50% intensity (Chihiros C2 RGB)
  5. Place your plants on top of the lava rock and you're good to go!
Maintenance
  • Spraying - Some people spray daily with RO water, I just spray every few days and things are doing just fine.
  • Draining - Some will also drain the water in the bottom completely once a month. I have not needed to do this but if it's looking dirty or funky then change it out.
Tips
  • Heat - A great tip given to me by @Siddy is to run your lights during the night when the ambient temperatures are at their coolest. This does wonders to keep the internal container temperature down as too high temperatures can melt the plants!
  • Mould - Keep an eye out for mould growth and snip off any leaves that develop it. It won't always look as you'd expect, it might appear as red/brown hair or white whispy strings. If you're experiencing a lot of mould you should increase your ventilation with more holes. Overcrowding can also increase the likelihood of mould but I'm not one to talk, my boxes are crammed full and I don't have any mould but it's something to consider.
  • Stem Plants - If you're not growing any epiphytes, you can forgo the lava rock and just use the soil. It works just as well!
As I experiment with more and more plant groups, I'll keep an updated list of which plants worked for me in this setup. If you use this method and have success with any other plants please drop and comment and I'll add it to the list!

Successful Plant Species
  • Bucephalandra
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Aridarum
  • Moss
  • Liverwort
  • Rotala
  • Ludwigia
  • Staurogyne
  • Lindernia
  • Micranthemum Tweedei (Monte Carlo)
  • Utricularia Graminifolia
  • Microsorum
  • Anubias
  • Hydrocotyle
  • Eleocharis
  • Proserpinaca
  • Hygrophila
 

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Last edited:

Wookii

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after a little poke from @Wookii
:oops:

Brilliant stuff @Courtneybst , thanks for posting.

What are you adding in terms of fertilizer? Also what sort of growth rates are you getting - do you have any before/after pics after a period of time?

Also have you had to add any Springtails to deal with mould?

Great idea on growing the Coral Moss like this too, I hadn't considered that.

There has been some discussion recently on emersed growing for cuttings etc in this thread: Hobby aquarium plant grower using big grower methods

I've just recently stumped up for one for these X-Stream heated propagators - though now I'm wondering if I need the heater part given what you've said on running the lights at night to keep the heat down.

55-c17f-4704-9e7b-274cf2a3fe0a_510x@2x.progressive.jpg



And thanks to @Geoffrey Rea's testing, will combine with one of these to provide sufficient humidity/misting:

Amazon product

The mister might be worth looking at for your tubs, to reduce the need for manual spraying.
 

Courtneybst

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What are you adding in terms of fertilizer? Also what sort of growth rates are you getting - do you have any before/after pics after a period of time?
I'm not adding any fertiliser to this setup and I'm guessing any nutrients they get are coming from the aquasoil. I suspect over time I'll need to either add liquid fertiliser like I do with my terrarium/mini pond or you could even put some nutrition capsules in the substrate.

My photo taking is frequent but not quite dilligent enough for good before and after photos but I'll see what I can find and post them!
Also have you had to add any Springtails to deal with mould?
Oh yes, thanks for reminding me! I do occasionally add Springtails and I assume they are working. The numbers seem to dwindle over time and I suspect the water level isolates them a bit too much and maybe they're going hungry. I have a literal Springtail factory though so I'm never short. I'll add in how I farm them in the comments too.

There has been some discussion recently on emersed growing for cuttings etc in this thread: Hobby aquarium plant grower using big grower methods

I've just recently stumped up for one for these X-Stream heated propagators - though now I'm wondering if I need the heater part given what you've said on running the lights at night to keep the heat down.

55-c17f-4704-9e7b-274cf2a3fe0a_510x@2x.progressive.jpg



And thanks to @Geoffrey Rea's testing, will combine with one of these to provide sufficient humidity/misting:

Amazon product

The mister might be worth looking at for your tubs, to reduce the need for manual spraying.

I think the heater could be useful if you're growing in a very cold climate or in an outdoor greenhouse but room temperature plus the heat of your lights is more than enough for sure.

That's good idea about the mister! I hadn't thought about that. Anything to reduce maintenance is a plus from me.
 

Courtneybst

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Thanks @Wookii for reminding me about the springtails.

You can add springtails to help fight off mould. I assume they are working because I don't have any mould despite the overcrowding.

If you want to easily farm springtails, get yourself a starter culture from a generous friend or online.
  1. Put them into a plastic transparent food container with substrate.
  2. People seem to stress about the substrate needed and tout activated charcoal as being great but honestly springtails don't care - in my experience compost works better than charcoal. Saturate the soil well with water (tap water is fine) and keep it saturated at all times. Don't let water pool up as they can drown.
  3. Add in your spring tails and feed with a few raw rice grains. As the population grows, the frequency and quantity of rice you'll need to feed will increase. The rice grains form mould in humid conditions which is what the springtails feed on.
  4. Open occasionally to let some air in - you really don't have to do this often as their oxygen consumption is minimal. I open mine whenever I remember or it's time to feed.
You can pretty much keep them going like this indefinitely.
tempImageJsLLfT.jpg
tempImagewKHkYC.jpg
 

ScareCrow

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@Courtneybst thanks for writing this up. I was going to ask if you would mind recording the process after seeing your setup in George's video.
One thing I've struggled to find is a growth rate comparison. Obviously it's beneficial to grow plants emersed to increase stock, otherwise nurseries wouldn't bother. For plants like buce that often lose a lot of their emersed leaves and are slow to transition, do you as someone that wants the submersed form, notice a significant time saving between growing emersed then adapting the plants to submersed?
 

Courtneybst

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That's great @Courtneybst - is the added rice cooked or raw and how often do you need to add more, just when its gone?

Is there an easy way to harvest them without getting loads of substrate with them?
I add in raw rice, around 3-5 grains per container and the time depends on how active to colony is. In one of my boxes they need feeding maybe once every 10 days? The other two are much slower, going several weeks without needing more food.

In terms of the substrate, this is one of the reasons I prefer soil over charcoal. The soil compacts over time and so when you need to harvest them (tipping them out gently) the substrate doesn't fall out with it. I just angle it about 45 degrees downwards and either tap the container or blow on them and they'll hop out. The charcoal is a pain because it falls out into whatever you're trying to put them into.
@Courtneybst thanks for writing this up. I was going to ask if you would mind recording the process after seeing your setup in George's video.
One thing I've struggled to find is a growth rate comparison. Obviously it's beneficial to grow plants emersed to increase stock, otherwise nurseries wouldn't bother. For plants like buce that often lose a lot of their emersed leaves and are slow to transition, do you as someone that wants the submersed form, notice a significant time saving between growing emersed then adapting the plants to submersed?
No worries!

In terms of growth, I don't think growing emersed saves any time. In fact, I think the Bucephalandra in particular grows more slowly emersed compared to being submerged. This is my personal observation and others may disagree but I'm not the first to experience this. For me its more about convenience. There are some plants I'm just not ready to use yet (will be going into an IAPLC tank) and others that I want to propagate but not have to worry about algae and maintenance.

I've not actually experienced any loss of leaves transferring buce from emersed to submerged and vice versa. As long as they have adequate CO2 they should remain exactly as they are. Other plants that drastically change e.g. crypts, rotala etc I expect some melting and die off but never from buce.
 

ScareCrow

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In terms of growth, I don't think growing emersed saves any time. In fact, I think the Bucephalandra in particular grows more slowly emersed compared to being submerged.
I did wonder if this would be the case. I've seen a lot of nurseries growing buce in floating baskets and a few growing them emersed so wondered if there was any benefit with buce.

I've not actually experienced any loss of leaves transferring buce from emersed to submerged and vice versa.
Neither have I (that'll be it now!) but I've read a lot of people having the issue of melting leaves on new emersed grown buce. I thought I was just lucky and didn't want to waste time growing them emersed if I'd spend time regrowing leaves when transitioning them.
Thanks for the write up and reply, you've cleared up hours of indecision and internet searching :lol:
 

Deano3

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Brilliant write up @Courtneybst very interesting i may try this at some point when i have a bit more room maybe with a rare buce or anubias. Thanks mate 👍
 

Wookii

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I've only experienced extensive leaf loss on buce when they are exposed to excessive ammonia (e.g. with fresh aquasoil after a rescape) - it's why I only now plant a new set-up after a weeks dark start to flush out the ammonia. I learned this the hard way, and spent several weeks picking out 10+ buce leaves per day from the surface, following a rescape with fresh soil. I completely lost some of the smaller buce I had like Mini-coins etc - it was an expensive mistake.

As for emersed vs submerged, I'm surprised to hear that the growth rate isn't higher - I would have expected it to be given the free access to 400ppm CO2. Perhaps this is because your lighting is fairly low and you're not fertilizing @Courtneybst - or do you feel the growth rate would be slower emersed regardless?

The benefit of growth emersed is of course cost though - no injected CO2, no water changes, easier access to the plants - I imagine that's why the commercial aquarium plant growers grow emersed.
 

Courtneybst

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I've only experienced extensive leaf loss on buce when they are exposed to excessive ammonia (e.g. with fresh aquasoil after a rescape) - it's why I only now plant a new set-up after a weeks dark start to flush out the ammonia. I learned this the hard way, and spent several weeks picking out 10+ buce leaves per day from the surface, following a rescape with fresh soil. I completely lost some of the smaller buce I had like Mini-coins etc - it was an expensive mistake.
I'm doing a foreground rescape on the weekend with new soil that's been soaking in a bucket since September. Do you think I'll be ok using that without issue?

As for emersed vs submerged, I'm surprised to hear that the growth rate isn't higher - I would have expected it to be given the free access to 400ppm CO2. Perhaps this is because your lighting is fairly low and you're not fertilizing @Courtneybst - or do you feel the growth rate would be slower emersed regardless?
I suspect this could be the case. Im slightly reluctant to fertilise with a foliar spray as I don't want to burn the leaves. My thought would be to add some fertiliser to the wet soil? It's fully submerged in water so the nutrients should get around. Additionally, I've experienced that if you use a foliar spray e.g. DOOA mist on plants where you have open or standing water it seems to create protein film on the water.
 

ScareCrow

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You'd have a lot more options for ferts as there's no need to worry about fish health. I'd go with miracle grow slow release in the substrate (you can use it in aquariums as well) and / or a standard garden plant food, which will work out cheaper than aquarium stuff as it doesn't have 'aquarium' at the start.
 

Wookii

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I'm doing a foreground rescape on the weekend with new soil that's been soaking in a bucket since September. Do you think I'll be ok using that without issue?

What brand of soil is it? If you've been swapping out the water regularly you should be okay - it's difficult to test. If it were me I'd swap the water out in the bucket - leave it to stand for a couple of days and then test the water for ammonia - if more for the same of the livestock than the Buce.

I suspect this could be the case. Im slightly reluctant to fertilise with a foliar spray as I don't want to burn the leaves. My thought would be to add some fertiliser to the wet soil? It's fully submerged in water so the nutrients should get around. Additionally, I've experienced that if you use a foliar spray e.g. DOOA mist on plants where you have open or standing water it seems to create protein film on the water.

Yeah, my plan would be to just add an EI dose of ferts to the water as a starting point, rather than foliar spray. To distribute is around your lava rock substrate you could drain out the current water, mix the ferts with some new RO, and then refill?
 

Courtneybst

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What brand of soil is it? If you've been swapping out the water regularly you should be okay - it's difficult to test. If it were me I'd swap the water out in the bucket - leave it to stand for a couple of days and then test the water for ammonia - if more for the same of the livestock than the Buce.
Admittedly I haven't been changing out the water. Mainly because I filled up the bucket with soil (it's Tropica btw) and realised it was too heavy to lift and too low down to siphon off haha. But I've had floating plants in it the whole time so I'll test for ammonia now and see if I can drain some of it off.

I think that's a good idea re: the ferts.
 

Courtneybst

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You'd have a lot more options for ferts as there's no need to worry about fish health. I'd go with miracle grow slow release in the substrate (you can use it in aquariums as well) and / or a standard garden plant food, which will work out cheaper than aquarium stuff as it doesn't have 'aquarium' at the start.
Good to know! I've learnt something.
😁

I also have a lot of TNC Complete I'm barely using so I could start with that I guess until it runs out.
 

Wookii

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You'd have a lot more options for ferts as there's no need to worry about fish health. I'd go with miracle grow slow release in the substrate (you can use it in aquariums as well) and / or a standard garden plant food, which will work out cheaper than aquarium stuff as it doesn't have 'aquarium' at the start.

My only concern with using the Miracle Grow slow release balls is how much to add, too much and fetilizer burn might be a risk? I agree on the 'aquarium' branded ferts though, but hopefully we're all on DIY dry salts by now. I have about 20 years worth stacked up in the garage 😂
 

ScareCrow

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Good to know! I've learnt something.
😁

I also have a lot of TNC Complete I'm barely using so I could start with that I guess until it runs out.
I should say that I know very little about the different sources of nitrate, phosphate etc or the exact concentration we're 'supposed' to be aiming for. It's something I'm getting into in order to try and get the most colour and growth out of my buce. At the moment I'm just going by observing the plants. However, as there's no livestock in there you could push NH4NO3 for example higher than you could in an aquarium containing livestock.

My only concern with using the Miracle Grow slow release balls is how much to add, too much and fetilizer burn might be a risk?
Yeah there's definitely a risk. I think osmocote is the preferred DIY route tab option but I don't think we can get it in the UK anymore. I think osmocote had a different N or P or K source (see comment above about not knowing what I'm talking about) and so it didn't contain as much ammonia. As you say a lot of plant substrates release ammonia early on anyway so on first use I just do a water change and then forget about it. It's essentially the same stuff that's in the little dissolvable capsules that people split in half and then sprinkle on to the bottom of the tank in slow motion. I just aim for about the same amount as they use.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I've only experienced extensive leaf loss on buce when they are exposed to excessive ammonia
My guess is that this is a <"common response in Aroids">.
The nano was also fairly intact, again with very lush plant growth, but no obvious fish (just a few more juvenile Apistogramma) or plant deaths, with the exception of a large Anubias (species unknown) which again had totally melted. None of the tanks had noticeably more algae than when I left.........
This really is a zombie thread, but over seven years later I think I have the answer.

I recently had to strip this tank down, because it sprung a leak, and........
There was a tray with a number of different fertilisers on the work top, including some that might conceivably look like fish food to the uninitiated.
.....when I started scooping the sand out I found a number of empty little orange "controlled release" fertiliser prills, and there used to be a jar of these in the kitchen (for the house plants).
My only concern with using the Miracle Grow slow release balls is how much to add, too much and fetilizer burn might be a risk?
I'd go down the very "pale blue" route with Miracle Gro (or Solufeed 2: 1: 4) <"liquid feed">. From the Solufeed technical data sheet

Directions for use – Foliar feeding
.......... Plants are designed to take up nutrients through their roots but most nutrients can be absorbed through the leaves. Foliar feeding can give crops a valuable boost, particularly if the root system is not functioning well due to drought, disease/pest attack or other stress factor. Solufeed WSFs can be applied to plant foliage via a hand or knapsack sprayer or similar equipment. Prepare a 0.05 - 0.1% (0.5 - 1.0 gram per litre) solution and apply so as to coat the leaves and stems with a thin film of moisture with little or no run-off. Do not exceed a 1 gram per litre concentration.........

I think you would want an <"Orchid growing approach">.

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

Garuf

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Just to clarify, are you growing your mosses directly on lava stone or on top of aquasoil with lava underneath, it isn’t immediately obvious your method from the post.
 
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