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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Persistent Myths about Planted Ripariums

This thread is for the discussion of several ideas about planted ripariums that aren't really representative of how they work or the best ways to plan, assemble and maintain them. I plan to raise a nuber of points and then when there several I will start to maintain an index at that end of the thread. Please post here if you have any questions or additional observations.

This list summarizes the main components of riparium setups and how they are put together:

  1. Taller emergent semi-aquatic plants are plented in riparium Hanging Planters, which are hung close together on the rear pane of aquarium glass.
  2. Shorter riparium midground plants are plant are planted onto riparium Trellis Rafts, which are snapped into place on the Hanging Planters
  3. As the riparium plants grow their foliage covers up the foam and plastic planters to create a natural scene.
  4. Aquarium fish with underwater plants and/or underwater hardscape complete the display for an authentic recreation of the vegetated shoreline environment.

That is basically it. A really important idea to keep in mind about planted ripariums is that they are very simple systems. I have seen several cases where hobbyists had troubel growing their plants or making their setups look good because they were adding extra, unnecessary steps and components.

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Here's the first one...

Myth #1 - You can put any kind of plant into a riparium with good results.

Not true! The best kinds of plants to keep in ripariums are those that are adapted to grow in the natural shoreline environment. While the banks of rivers, lakes and streams often have abundant water, sunlight and nutrients, they pose special problems for growing plants. A very important limiting factor for plants growing in this kind of habitat is oxygen availability around their roots. The amount of oxygen dissolved in water is limited to begin with, and where there is substantial bacterial activity (as there often is in nutrient-rich muddy sediments) it is further deprived. Plants that are evolved grow in wet marginal areas can thrive in these sorts of oxygen-poort soil conditions, but most other plants will quickly suffer root death and perish if planted into a shoreline habitat, or a riparium planter.

Furthermore, plants that are evolved to grow in deserts, treetops, forests or vegetable gardens will also make a very poor representation of the riparian habitat. There are hundreds of fascinating and beautiful plants that can grow in the shoreline environment--most of the underwater plants that we keep in aquariums can also grow as marginal emergent--so it is a much better idea to select among these when planning a riparium layout. You will have much better results growing the plants and your setup will look much more like a real shoreline area in nature.
 

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Thank you, James. So--no emersed cucumbers?!? Geez....

I do have one nagging question: You have mentioned that these are not good systems for herps. Why not, if one uses a covered tank, and various perches? Why not any of the following (not necessarily with each other, of course:)

--Small pipids, e,g. Hymenochirus
--Reed frogs
--Theloderma sp.
--Bombina sp.
--Floating frogs
--Certain newts
--Dwarf sirens
--Water skinks

Etc?!?
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thank you, James. So--no emersed cucumbers?!? Geez....

I do have one nagging question: You have mentioned that these are not good systems for herps. Why not, if one uses a covered tank, and various perches? Why not any of the following (not necessarily with each other, of course:)

--Small pipids, e,g. Hymenochirus
--Reed frogs
--Theloderma sp.
--Bombina sp.
--Floating frogs
--Certain newts
--Dwarf sirens
--Water skinks

Etc?!?
I'll just treat this question with the next myth. You can keep amphibious animals in a riparium-type setup, but there are a few important caveats.

Myth #2 - Planted ripariums are perfect habitats for turtles, frogs, crabs and other amphibious animals.

You could maybe keep fully aquatic herps OK in a riparium, but anything that might climb would not be good for the riparium plants. Most of those plants that grow on the rafts have fine, thin stems and it is easy to knock them over. A lot of the best plants to put in the planters are similarly flimsy. Crypts can grow into really impressive emersed riparium specimens, but the stems are so soft that any animal larger than a small insect would just flatten them out.

There is not any real land area in a riparium, so there is no good place for herps to bask. One could include a shelf or flaoting island or something like that, but those feaures would just get in the way of the riparium planters. To get a good-looking planting it is usually necessary to fill most of that whole real rear pane of glass with planters + plants.

There so-o-o-o-o-o-o many different options to explore for fish stocking. You can make a really engaging display with some nice active fish to go with the riparium plants. It appears to me that some hobbyists get really stuck on the idea of keeping herps in a riparium because their own frame of reference is mainly with the vivarium setups used with dart frogs and other herps. I once had a discussion with somebody who insisted that I should put some dart frogs into a large open-top riparium filled with plants, and robust cichlids and livebearers; we were standing right in front of the aquarium. Dart frogs would have just drowned in that tank and the fish probably would have eaten their legs off. I thought that the setup looked nice just the way it was, but that guy could not shake that idea.

If you want to keep amphibious animals with plants, then something more like a regular paludarium setup with a built-up hardscape would be a better idea. However, as mentioned earlier a hybrid setup with the right riparium plants might also work OK for amphibious animals. I have pondered setting up the mangrove planting that I have going in a 65 for mudskippers, but I decided to use other fish instead. Most of the plants in there are are upright and sturdy, and it wouldn't be hard to make some good areas for the mudskippers to climb around by adding some more big manzanita stumps to the water. You could also probably make a nice hybrid setup for turtles if you were to forego the trellis raft and just select some really big and sturdy peace lilies in planters to put on one side of the tank, then position a floating basking platform on the other side. It might be hard to get a layout like that to look totally natural, but the plants would add some nice greenery and help to keep the water clean.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
An important point with using those planters is that they are intended to be covered up by foliage when the plants grow in. If you look at pictures of ripariums all fully developed you can't see the planters or the trellis rafts at all.
 
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