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Working Out the Causes of Leaf Damage

I have an 80-gallon tank housing two medium severums, one medium blood parrot, one blue flash, one small Santaperca jurupari and one marbled headstander.

By Scott Hieber

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Q. I have an 80-gallon aquarium housing two medium severums, one medium blood parrot, one blue flash, one small Santaperca jurupari and one marbled headstander. Desiring a planted aquarium, I chose live aquatic plants that were recommended as being unappealing to herbivorous species (such as cichlids and headstanders), including crinum bulbs (tall and dwarf) and Anubias. There is driftwood, as well. Each morning the Anubias appear shredded or chewed on. I am using Eco-Complete substrate and Seachem supplemental products. Furthermore, I feed the fish veggie-based foods (frozen and flakes) to avert this behavior. The pH is neutral. Ammonia and nitrites are at zero, and nitrates are at 20 ppm. I’m using actinic and daylight compact lamps. Any suggestions?
Andrew Payne
Marietta, GA

A. Given that you describe the Anubias as appearing freshly shredded each morning as opposed to chronically pale or rotting, I think it’s a fair guess that one or more of your aquarium fish are eating or at least teething on the live aquatic plants. Anubias is a genus of aquatic plants with very tough leaves that few herbivores will bother. However, they are not immune from the more aggressive aquatic plant biters.

If this damage is frequent and severe, your best recourse is to separate the plants from the culprits. You have several good candidates as potential guilty parties. Assuming that the damage only happens at night, try watching the aquarium at night with the room dimly lit, just enough to see the fish. If the problem happens during the day, just keep your eyes open. If the teething is vigorous, the aquarium fish should show their behavior before too long.

Otherwise, if you cannot identify the biters, you have two more choices. The drastic one is removing the Anubias. The other is to suppose that the plant is not a food source but merely in the wrong place. It’s possible that one or more of your pet fish are simply trying to rearrange the furniture. If you move the aquatic plant to another location in the aquarium, it might be left alone.

If, however, the damage is mild and occasional, you might simply learn to live with it and periodically prune the badly damaged leaves. I had rosy barbs (Barbus conchonius) in one of my aquariums, and I would occasionally see a bite taken out of one or more Anubias leaves. There were plenty of other softer aquatic plants in the aquarium, but the B. conchonius seemed to feel a need to chomp on an Anubias leaf. Perhaps to them it was more a teething exercise than a food source. If that was the case, the bitten material would probably be spit out. It was a few months before I actually saw a pet fish take a bite, and for some time I suspected the rainbowfish in the aquarium, which are known to try a bite of almost anything. In the end, I discovered the Barbus conchonius did indeed spit out the bites they took from the Anubias. The damage was so small and infrequent that I did nothing about it; but if it had been more severe, I would have separated the rosies from the Anubias.

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