July 2011 meeting

Friday, August 5th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

The July 2011 GWAPA meeting was hosted by Cristy Keister in Laurel, MD on July 30. Because the ACA convention conflicted with GWAPA’s usual 4th Saturday meeting date, the meeting was held on the 5th Saturday. The meeting was very well attended, with at least 20 people in attendance. The topic was “Trimming Aquatic Plants by Ghazanfar ‘mow em down’ Ghori.”

Ghazanfar opened with some announcements. The GWAPA table at the ACA convention generated a lot of interest; we hope to see some new members as a result. Instead of a regular meeting next month, we will be having tank tours. Only people in Northern Virginia have volunteered so far. More information about the tours will be forthcoming, and those planning to attend will be asked to RSVP.

Ghazanfar’s original plan was to do a presentation and a demo, but he decided that Cristy’s supposedly “overgrown” tank was “too nice to trim.”

Trimming is the most important aspect of aquascaping. It’s not enough to be able to grow healthy plants; trimming is essential for creating and maintaining an aquascape. Trimming “shapes the scape,” creates denser growth, and creates depth. Trimming can create shadows, lines for the eye to follow, and create perspective.

Long armed scissors are “almost a must.” Moss scissors (small scissors that spring open) and wave scissors (very good for trimming foreground) can also be helpful. In discussing tools Ghazanfar made an admittedly “shameless plug” for the sets of tools the club is currently selling for $20. Those in the club who have used these tools say that they are of good quality, at an excellent price.

Different kinds of plants require different methods of trimming. Methods for trimming foreground plants, rosette plants, stems, ferns, and mosses were explained.

Foreground plants will take over or grow over themselves and shade themselves if not properly trimmed and maintained. To trim plants such as glosso or marselia, use scissors to clip them at or below the desired height. The plants recover quickly, and a tight growth pattern is created. Hairgrass can be pruned almost to the ground, and this can be done whenever it “gets ratty.” Rather than trimming it all to the same height, it can be cut on an angle towards the front. Methods for keeping hairgrass somewhat contained were discussed, such as using clear plastic strips set vertically into the substrate as barriers (suggested by Dave). A sand foreground obviously needs no trimming, but does need maintenance. Siphon out old sand periodically and replace with fresh sand.

Rosette plants include plants such as cryptocorynes, echinodorus, vallisneria, and sagittaria. With a healthy patch of crypts, all the leaves can be removed, and the resulting growth will be more compact. Eventually, the patch will still need to be ripped out and divided. There is “almost no way” to prune echinodorus. Old leaves can be cut back to the substrate, but this can only do so much to keep echinordorus in bounds.
Taking scissors to vallisneria and sagittaria is not recommended. Cut leaves will not regrow, but will disintegrate. The only good options for keeping these plants controlled are to rip out and replant, or remove selected mother or daughter plants.

Stem plants include the popular rotalas, ludwigias, hygrophilas, etc. Most can be simply hacked back, and most respond quite well to this treatment. Some can be shaped much like a hedge. Most will send out 2-3 shoots from each cut end. The first pruning should be about 2 inches above the substrate line. Successive prunings will be a little higher each time. It’s important to only prune plants that are healthy. It can also be helpful to grow a plant for awhile, and get to know its growth habits before deciding how best to trim. Some of the needle leafed rotalas, for example, do not respond well to being cut back, and may not reliably send out multiple shoots when trimmed. It may be better to uproot the plants, trim from the bottom, and replant the tops. Eriocaulon setaceum also needs to be treated this way.

Java fern and bolbitis can be allowed to take over and go wild for awhile, then have all the leaves cut back and any excess rhizome trimmed off. Nice dense growth of all new leaves will result. Anubias can be treated the same way as ferns, but it will not grow back as quickly. It may be better to remove the older, algae covered leaves, and to snip the growing tip. Nicking the rhizome will encourage branching.

Ghazanfar says he used to recommend using scissors to trim mosses, but not anymore. Little bits end up everywhere and can become a real problem. It’s important not to let moss get out of control. Periodically rip out chunks, and leave small bits to grow along wood or rock. It can be helpful to keep a slow siphon going when doing this, to easily remove any stray pieces.

Because different plants rebound at different rates, it’s important to keep a log as to when plants were pruned, and how long they took to reach perfection. Once you have this information, you can pick a future date for a photo shoot, then count back and trim accordingly.

Ghazanfar shared some pictures of his 90P from a few years ago to illustrate his trimming methods and timeline. The picture taken after his “first major hack” showed that he cut the stems in front much shorter than those in back –stems were trimmed at a very steep angle from front to back.

Plants sold in the mini auction included Rotala hippuris, Ludwigia arcuatia, Eriocaulon setaceum, Hygrophila sp. ‘red tiger’, Myriophyllum mattogrossense ‘green’, “GWAPA hairgrass”, Najas roraima, Hygrophila pinnatifida, and many more. One interesting item perhaps not seen before at a GWAPA auction was Ludwigia ‘tornado’ (a “mutated inclinata from Cuba” according to Cavan), a small portion of which went for $20.