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State's Curse is ... Actually several states consider water lettuce a
curse and have made it illegal. Of course, making something illegal
rarely gets rid of it. It grows so thick (1,000 rosettes per square
meter in Florida) that it impedes navigation. It competes with and
crowds out native plants. Water lettuce also carpets some waters so
thickly it prevents oxygen from getting into the water.
In Iowa. Water lettuce grows just as fast in Iowa. However, along about November the green in water lettuce goes away and water lettuce becomes a royal mess. You need a wire rake to get it out of your pond. During warm weather, however, this plant grows fast and looks good.
Prepping Your Water Lettuce. When you get your starter plants, you want to pull off (carefully) all the damaged and old (yellow) leaves. If you rip them off to energetically, you will also remove their roots at the same time. They will recover, but grow slowly.
Planting. Green side up. Just toss them in the water. If your water lettuce has a good root system, just toss them in the water. Otherwise, you need to devise a system that will prop them up.
Baby Your New Plants. Most starter water lettuce plants were grown under partial shade (in slat houses), so you probably want to give them protection from full sun for a week or two. Full sun will not kill them but it can bleach tender young leaves. If you get some plants that come from full sun, you can skip this step.
Full Sun or Shade. Water lettuce grows faster in full sun. Their rosettes stay tighter and in my opinion look better when grown in partial shade. Either way, water lettuce provides good cover for your pond. It shades algae and competes with it (very effectively) for nutrients. Some goldfish and koi develop a taste for their roots. They prefer fish food. Water lettuce does provide variety in their diet and may be one reason outdoor fish develop brighter reds.
Multiplication. Water lettuce grows tiny daughter plants off to the side. You might not spot these at first. I had to pull this one out so you could see it. You will soon notice a network of smaller water lettuce surrounding your starter plants. They also reproduce by seeds that come from some nearly invisible flowers. Our short season probably keeps them from multiplying this way.
Much like water hyacinth, water lettuce starts out slow -- particularly
during cool spring days. Warm sun makes it grow like
gangbusters. Any weather approaching frost destroys it. Once
it dies, rake it out of your pond before it rots. LA.
Tom Giammarco, Jeonju, South Korea, January 23, 2007
Hi -- I discovered your website several months ago and I have enjoyed browsing through all the useful information you provide. It is wonderful to read aquarium articles written by knowledgable people who obviously care about the fish they are raising.
I just wanted to provide you with a little information about a plant you have listed under 'Pond Plants'--Water Lettuce. I have been growing water lettuce in my aquariums for about three years now and have had tremendous success with it.
I bought three of them at a garden shop (where they were being sold as
pond plants) and put them in my aquarium despite reading several books
that warned it fairs poorly indoors. Those three plants multiplied
quickly with long runners (like strawberry plants have) and soon filled
the top of the aquarium. Individual plants live about a year but there
are always more ready to replace them. Their long roots and the cups
formed by the leaves form a safe haven for baby fish. The largest plants
reach about 4 or 5 inches across and the roots can get to about 8 inches
(but more often half that length)
Even though the leaves cover the entire surface of the water and overlap
each other, they are translucent and do not prevent light from reaching
the bottom of the tank. Green alga is able to grow on the rocks below.
The water lettuce in my tanks receive about 14-16 hours/day of artificial
light (minimal direct sunlight). They flower often (with dull, fuzzy green
flowers) but there have not been any seeds that I am aware of--probably
because there is nothing in my house to pollinate them (hopefully). The
plants however are temperature sensitive preferring warm water.
Plants grown in the aquarium do not need a lot of space at the top of the
water. The ones grown outdoors maintained their lettuce-head shape, but
the plants reared in my aquariums do not need more than a couple of
inches--the lay flatter on the water surface.
A: This is the day for excellent reports. I've never had anywhere near success with water lettuce in my tanks. I shall try them again when they come in season. The 32 watt bulbs put out by All-Glass recently emit way more light than what we considered "standard" not that long ago. Water lettuce may be the cure for the "algaefication" problems we see these days. I'm adding your report to my Water Lettuce page. LA
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