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Anacharis easily ranks as the number one aquarium plant -- outselling all other species.
What's in a Name? Most aquarium hobbyists, wholesalers, and retailers refer to this popular plant as anacharis. Many fish keepers just call it "sea weeds" or "bunch plants." They use it in their aquaria and ponds. School teachers (especially third-grade teachers) always ask for "elodea." They feed it to their crayfish. College and university biology instructors ask for that "thin leaved plant that shows how photosynthesis works." They use it to teach their first-year biology students how to use a microscope. At Aqualand we're multi-lingual but usually we just call it anacharis.
Origin. Anacharis evidently grows all over North America (including Canada and Iowa) and South America. The anacharis we get mostly comes out of Florida fish farms via Chicago. You can find it in Banner strip mine pits just down the road from Des Moines. Unfortunately, our state requires more SCUBA certification red tape than I want to deal with anymore (even tho there's a rich carpet of anacharis in the biggest pit), so we ship ours in.
Interesting Behavior. You'll probably never see it in your aquarium, but anacharis moves up and down in the water depending upon water temperature and light. In your tank you may see tiny bubbles of oxygen escaping from your anacharis leaves. In the wild, this product of photosynthesis causes anacharis to float (unless well rooted) on warm, sunny days and sink on cool, cloudy days. Down below the first thermocline in Banner Pits, anacharis stays on the bottom and remains fairly short.
Remove that Tourniquet. Triage for anacharis requires you to surgically remove that rubber band and strip of lead. The strips make the bunches easier to sell but will make the strands rot off right where they cut off their circulation. Then we recommend planting each strand in the gravel about two inches apart. We are flexible on the number of inches.
Versatile Plant. Floating anacharis grows fastest. It's closer to the light. In my first two-gallon flat goldfish bowl, one strand would grow to three feet in the light from the east window. Growing like this, anacharis makes an ideal baby haven for new livebearer fry. They can hide in the jungle and dine at leisure on the animacules or aufwuchs growing between and on the leaves. Ditto for egg-scattering egglayers.
Water Cleaner. Anacharis eats fish wastes -- carbon dioxide, nitrogenous, and phosphate wastes. You can do fewer water changes, however, fewer water changes also slow the growth of anacharis. How do you "cycle" a goldfish bowl? Throw in a bunch of anacharis. Three to four bunches work wonders in a new 10-gallon tank.
Green Side Up. Although anacharis eventually grows roots, it takes in most of its food directly thru its leaves. This makes anacharis an excellent algae competitor. It will do its best to starve out algae (and other higher plants) which makes it a noxious weed in the eyes of many states and some countries. Remember Babbington's curse? So, you're not supposed to toss your excess anacharis in your local waterways.
Worth Pondering. Pond keepers use anacharis as an aerating plant as well as an algae competitor. Remember the photosynthesis kicking out the oxygen bubbles? In a shallow pond in the sun, anacharis will usually double in size in two to three weeks -- right up to the day you add your koi.
Equipment Hider. Most anacharis probably gets tossed "as is" in front of the under gravel filter tube or heater to hide it. This method takes about two seconds and makes your tank look better with very little effort.
Vary the Heights. Break up your bunches. Put the tall strands in back and the short ones in front. These have only been planted about two seconds, but in two days or so they'll look much more natural.
Home, Sweet Home. Angels and other fishes quickly learn to work their way thru the strands of anacharis. Most fish feel more secure in planted aquaria. A nice stand of anacharis strands makes your fish feel more at home. Anacharis is a definite piscatorial de-stressor.
Frame Your Center Piece. This piece of bogwood looks even better when framed with anacharis. The fast-growing anacharis will have to be trimmed or removed as time and a half passes. The slow-growing (and lighter green) anubias will take a good year to colonize this wood. Anacharis makes an instant filler while your pricier plants get firmly established. The anubias (and that bit of java fern) require much less light than the anacharis. Plants with varied shades of green look good when used in combination.
Keeps Growing. Your anacharis grows taller fast -- easily to the top of your tank. It will then arch up over the top and tend to shade the lower plants. The anubias and java fern will do just fine. You may need to add fertilizer to maintain your fast-growing anacharis. Also, you can pinch off the top half foot and grow extra plants.
African Cichlids Love Anacharis. In the Rift Lakes, African cichlids eat algae and the aufwuchs that dwell in and amongst the filaments. In our tanks, they prey on anacharis in much the same manner. Anacharis makes an excellent African fish food supplement -- as well as an excellent vacation food while you're in Vegas looking for more African cichlids.
Apples Love Anacharis. After our African cichlids defoliate anacharis right down to the bones, we throw the remains into a tank of apple snails. Apple snails are voracious devourers of anacharis (and other aquatic plants) -- so voracious that they cannot be shipped legally across state lines.
Culture Infusoria. Most newly hatched egglayer fry will not eat powdered foods. They want live food that twitches. Paramecia fill the bill. Bacteria break down aquatic plants and multiply exponentially. Infusoria (mostly paramecia) eat the bacteria. The fry eat the infusoria for their first week or two. You want to culture infusoria outside of your rearing tank. You can speed up the breakdown process by adding snails. Or chop up the anacharis into bits with a pair of scissors. Tip: Removing the lead strips makes the shredding process easier.
Anacharis Threats. We just mentioned African cichlids and apple snails. Other anacharis eaters include koi (big time), uarus (also big time), sometimes plecos, and crayfish/yabbies. Medications -- copper and anti-biotics -- plus any dyes or floating plants that cut off the light will also adversely affect anacharis. Oddly enough anacharis can crowd itself out. You may need to add some fertilizer over and above your fish wastes.
Last Words. Water changes definitely perk up anacharis (and your fish). LA
Chris Hamerla, Rhinelander, WI, December 30,
A: Many moons ago I was in Madison to judge a fish show and jog across that lake in the middle of town. And not a soul mentioned this to me. Is this fairly recent? I saw six-foot cabomba in Alabama so I assumed it was a warm water plant. I know anacharis grows everywhere (including Iowa) so I assumed it was ubiquitous. Luckily, our Fish and Game Dept. brought in carp and they keep it fairly well controlled. And somehow the big-head carp and grass carp are also in the water now. Triploids are supposed to be sterile but ... Anyway, to make a short story shorter, I'll add your comments to my anacharis and cabomba pages. Thanks. LA
Matthew Hargadon, March 4, 2013
Hello Aqualand people,
I was just cleaning my tank when I noticed that my anacharis has flowered. I attached some photos of the flower and thought you may want one of these for your website. In my 13 years of fish keeping I have never seen anacharis flower and have only read about it. But when it grew within the stringy algae mass that I also had floating in my tank, low and behold I got a flower.
If you have no use for the photo, that's fine, I just thought I would send it your way just in case.
A: Thanks. Anacharis grows wild in lots of Iowa water, however, I've never seen it flower. I'm adding your pic to my anacharis page. LA
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