One Way to Grow Bolbitis   

Aqualand info on growing African Water Fern 

 
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LA 
Starter chunk of bolbitis rhizone -- an obvious fern -- plus my foot.

Origin.  Bolbitis originally came from Africa (how’s that for non-specific?) where it seems to be widespread.  You’re not likely to find it in your local fish store, because:

 ·    Bolbitis is often not available,

 ·    Bolbitis is hard to display,

 ·    Bolbitis grows slowly, and

 ·    Bolbitis can be costly.

Usually Unavailable.  Retailers wont find bolbitis on very many price lists.  Most wholesalers offer it only sporadically, because most dealers have little idea how to grow or show this good looking fern.

LA
If you stick your rhizome into your substrate, it will rot off like this.

Hard to Display.  Stick it in the gravel (green side up) and watch it grow.  nnng.  Wrong answer.  Youll rot your rhizome.  You have to attach bolbitis (until it figures out how to attach itself).  This means you wont see your dealer tossing dozens of bolbitis in an aquarium like anacharis.  And wholesalers cant ship attached bolbitis starters because the shipping process pretty much unattaches them.

LA
Once attached to wood, bolbitis grows nicely.  Year-old specimen.

Grows Slowly.  I never did totally absorb that class on Polypodiopsida, but I do know that ferns grow best when you plant them on the north side of your house.  They cant handle full sun.  It “burns them out.”  So I usually shade them with duckweed.  With slow growing bolbitis, high light grows algae very rapidly.  Algae is a highly competitive plant some see as a worse curse than burn out.  Putting bolbitis in low light situations causes them to grow slowly.  You could be looking at a one-year project to grow a nice bolbitis.  Or, in some cases, a two-year project.

LA
Bolbitis takes nearly forever to attach to hard rocks.

Not Cheap.  Starter plugs (if you can find them) are reasonably priced but unimpressive.  With all these problems built in, its no wonder a nicely attached bolbitis specimen costs so much.

LA
Bolbitis firmly attached to the top of a clay flower pot.

Set Aside Program.  Since some of us resist forking out the bucks for a carbon dioxide injector, we need to start our bolbitis plugs then set them aside to grow for a while -- a very long while.  A good water flow seems to encourage them to grow faster.  Well experiment this year with putting them at the edge of a spillway -- an environment they reputedly thrive in where they originated from.

LA
Bolbitis formerly attached to that ugly clay flower pot.  We'll make it into "plugs."

 
Bolbitis rubber banded to hard wood, rough rock, soft wood.

Bolbitis Plugs.  If you find an attached bolbitis plug for sale, dont tear it off and try to attach it to to something else.  Just put the plug on your driftwood and let the rhizome gradually grow onto your wood.  As you might suspect, this can take a little time.  Once again, were not talking hornwort growth rates here.

LA
Bolbitis looks (and grows) best when attached to an appropriate base.

Fish Threats.  Forget plecos.  Those destructive behemoths would destroy your whole project overnight.  Consider otocinclus, if you need an algae eater -- or algae-eating shrimp.  Keep out all large fish -- especially cichlids (African or American, except kribensis and rams)  Exclude goldfish, and of course, koi.  Put silver dollars on your verboten list also.  They probably don’t like bolbitis, but theyd eat it before they realized they dont like it.  Ditto tinfoil barbs --  in other words, keep out all the usual suspects.

LA
When you get right down to it, bolbitis attachments aren't all that strong.

Handle with Care.  Even though bolbitis attachments probably help them resist being swept away by the current, the attachments can be fragile.  They easily pulled off that clay pot.  Their attachment to rocks are firmer.  Bolbitis attaches best to softer woods.  Some of the wood in my original plugs could not even be sawed with a hack saw.  Some of those sinkable bog woods are either ebony or a very close relative.  Pre-sunk cedar seems to work easier.

LA
Bolbitis firmly attached to this piece of wood.

Last Word.  Perhaps we can agree that bolbitis is not for everyone.  You gotta really like these plants to put up with the extra work.  However, their slow-growing trait can also be one of their biggest advantages.  You CO2-injectors will get faster results.  We like bolbitis.  And as we say down on the farm:  What’s time to a hog?  LA.

Bolbitis II under construction.

© 2004, © 2005  LA Productions

3600 Sixth Avenue

Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues

Des Moines, IA 50313

515 283-0300

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