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If you want a killer background aquarium plant with a ton of variety, you'll want to Apono-get on board with these guys (no, I'm not even slightly sorry for that pun). This post will give you info on the background/history of Aponogeton, as well as a care guide and a list of some awesome species to try out in your freshwater planted tank.
History/Background of Aponogeton
Aponogeton belongs to the Alismatids order of plants, so it's a cousin to plants like taro and snake lilies. In fact, some places use the plants' roots for food. There are currently ~56 species, and it's the only genus in its family. It's native to southern Asia and Africa, with several species found in the rivers of Madagascar, and is named for the Apono tribe of Gabon. You'll also see these guys called Betta Bulbs sometimes.
Aponogeton is actually a very old genus - we have fossils dated to over 80 million years ago!
Aponogeton Care Guide
Aponogeton is a fairly easy plant genus to care for, with some difficulty variation between species. Boivinianus and ulvaceus are on the easier side of the scale, while the more fragile-leaved species like the Laceplant require more work.
Temperature: ~72-82 F
pH: Versatile; typically will adjust as long as your pH isn't extreme. Typically slightly acidic to slightly basic.
Substrate: Likes a nutrient-rich substrate, so dirt and planted tank substrates are great options. But with some of the easier species, you could get away with less fancy substrate
Water movement: Most Aponogetons prefer some water movement given their natural habitats. It's not 100% critical, but we find they grow better with it.
Tank Inhabitants: For the species without thinner/lacey leaves, you can keep them with pretty much any fish/invertebrates. Boivinianus is actually one of the best background options for destructive fish like cichlids and goldfish. The thinner-leaf species like the Madagascar Laceleaf can be kept easily with any other fish but cichlids/goldfish - but you can give them a shot and take a risk if you'd like.
Keep in mind if you try to give the plants water movement like we discussed above, some longer-finned fish species may find more movement stressful. So be sure to find a good balance between what your fish and plants need.
Light: Low - High; at least 6 hours of light. The species with holes in their leaves have higher light demands than the ones with the thicker leaves.
CO2: Will grow faster/fuller with CO2 supplementation, but doesn't require it to get good results. They may flower more easily with CO2.
Fertilizers: For the thick-leaved species, fertilization needs are fairly low. If you have good tap water and a heavily stocked tank, you may not even need to use fertilizer. If not, occasional ferts will help your plants thrive. The more challenging species have higher nutrient demands, however. Be sure to provide ferts during active growth when your plants' needs are at their highest.
Propagation: As bulb plants, Aponogetons are incredibly easy to propagate if you want more. Some species will self propagate. You can also split bulbs and rhizomes fairly easily.
How/Where to Plant: Typically a background plant because of how tall it gets, but in a bigger/taller tank you could use it in the midground without issues, too. They grow quickly, so be prepared for that - if you don't have a lot of space, you should be ready to trim.
If you have bulbs, the thicker end should face the bottom of the tank. This can be hard to figure out sometimes, though, so if you can't tell which way to plant a bulb, plant it sideways - it'll grow. Don't plant bulbs super close together (keep at LEAST a few inches apart), because of how large the adult plants can get.
Common Issues: Aponogetons are generally problem-free, but there are some things you should be aware of when you're keeping them. One, they do tend to lose leaves during shipping, especially the thinner-leaved varieties. They'll grow back! Your plants also might go through an adjustment period to their new environment called melt, where the leaves will go transparent and die back before growing back after the plant has adjusted.
The other common occurrence that makes people panic is several species have a natural resting period. The plants die down for a few weeks, and then eventually come back. So if your plant's been going strong, you haven't changed anything in your setup, and it suddenly starts dying back, give it some time. It's could just be part of the life cycle.
Hit us up with questions and more blog ideas, and tank on!
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