Aquarium Plant Propagation

The production or propagation of aquarium plants has come a long way in the past few years. Now that there are much larger producers of aquarium plants all over the world and it is recognized as a powerful and growing industry more work, money and time has been invested into its growth with very interesting and important developments.

Three Types of Propagation

  1. Vegetative propagation is when the plant is propagated by using part of the plant itself either a stem cutting or bulb or other part of the plant that a new plant is grown from. This is the most widely used method and normally the easiest and cheapest. Most of the stem plants like Nomaphilla, Limnophylla, Alternanthera, Rotala etc. are propagated this way.
  2. Sexual or seed propagation is when a new plant is grown from a seed or spore that the parent plants have produced. This is the traditional means of propagation. Plants like Samolus and Cyperus species propagate easily this way.
  3. Micropropagation or Tissue culture is when plants are propagated in a sterile environment using just part of the plant like the meristematic region or the undifferentiated prothallus of a fern. Plants are generally grown in Clear plastic or glass containers under controlled lighting and temperature. Normally a sterile jelly like medium is used (agar or similar) that has nutrients and sometimes antibiotics, hormones etc. to control the plants growth. Once the plants have reached a suitable size they are taken out of the container and hardened in greenhouse conditions. Most Anubias species are produced this way.

Vegetative and Sexual Propagation

The first two means of propagation are well known and most widely used in the aquarium plant trade, they are cheap and fairly successful with most plants. They do however have drawbacks. Both require stock or mother plants to collect the propagation material from whether it is seed or cuttings or other parts of the plant. This takes up allot of space which could be used for plants that will become salable. There is also the risk of diseases which can be carried from the stock plants to the salable or visa versa. The time factor can with some species like the slower growing Anubias can be a problem slowing down production.

Micropropagation or Tissue Culture

Micropropagation is being more widely used in the production of Aquarium plants and is very much a part of the ornamental plant industry where large numbers of pot plants and flowers are produced.

Micropropagation seems to be the answer to allot of propagation problems for aquarium plants. This means of propagation allows a large turnover of plants in a very short time with very little space and ensures healthy disease free plants that generally give a better looking plant once it has reached salable size. It may also help with preservation of the wild plants that are collected for propagation material.

The problems are that it is a specialist type of production and a lot of experimentation is needed. Setup costs are generally high too, making the end products or plants expensive. However it is being used by the large producers and promises to play a bigger role in the growing future of aquarium plants.

Anubias barteri flowering
Microsorium plants grown from spores (prothalli)
Alternanthera wine sessilis producing seed
Young Cryptocorynes grown in tissue culture

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