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Growing Swordplants

Algae-eaters may destroy swordplants in your planted aquarium.

By Scott Hieber

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Q. I currently have a 75- gallon freshwater aquarium with freshwater fish and aquatic plants. Most of my plants have done well, with the exception of sword plants. Any freshly planted sword plant or new growth will, within a matter of days, begin to lose color, except for the edge of the leaves and stems. The leaf will eventually disintegrate leaving a "lacy" yellow/brown fragment of the leaf. New growth does continue to emerge from the center only to have the same thing happen.

One of the individuals at my local aquarium store suggested that because I have two plecos and a few algae- eaters in the aquarium that the algae-eaters are destroying the sword plants. I'm having difficulty with that explanation, though the algae-eaters do spend time on the plants.

I do like sword plants and would like to have more success with them. I currently have both a dwarf and a taller variety (12 inches) of sword plant in the planted aquarium.
John Staschak
Youngstown, NY

A. Various species of plecos (genus Loricaridae) will graze on the algae trying to grow on leaves, and some will even gnaw on the plants. In the former case, too much grazing can wear down the leaves. In the latter case, leaf damage is inevitable. It depends on the type, number and size of Loricaridae you have.

"Algae-eaters," if they are Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, are effective at removing some types of algae when they are young, but when mature, they tend to prefer the slime coat on other fish, and can become unhelpful and unfriendly tenants in a community aquarium. More likely than the Gyrinocheilus, the Loricaridae are hurting your sword plants. If no other fast-growing aquatic plants in your aquarium are suffering, it is worth trying to remove the Loricaridae from the aquarium.

Lack of nutrients can also cause sword plant leaves to deteriorate rapidly as they start to grow.

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