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Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2008 3:25 pm
by Crazygar
Plants and Lake Tanganyika
by Gary A.MacDonald

Now, I know you guys and gals are purists in every sense in setting your tanks according to how it would be in nature and in Lake Tanganyika. But you are missing one element -- Plants. Yes, Greens. Not salad, not your lawn, but bonafide Aquatic Plants that exist and coexist with some of the Cichlids you like to keep. Arguing that its not going to be an Amano Masterpiece, but green belongs.

To date, there are 81 species of Aquatic and Marginal/Bog plants living in and around Lake Tanganyika. I've compiled a list of some of them and will break it down to "ALL PLANTS" which are found (more to follow, as I read some parts have yet to be "discovered") in and around the Lake.

"COMMMERICALLY AVAILABLE" are the ones that you can go down to most chain store Fish Stores or Mom & Pop operations to purchase them for your tanks. Plants will produce some excellent spots for fry to hide and micro fauna to feed your fry for their first few days. Not only that, it makes it look more natural.

By no means am I a Cichlid expert, but wish to "debunk" the myth that plants have no place with Tanganyikan Cichlids. Most that live closer to the shore will encounter foilage more than you think.

Chara brachypus
Chara brachypus var. tanganyikae
Chara zeylanica
Nitella mucronata
Cladophora crispata
Cladophora inconspicua
Riccia fluitans
Ricciocarpus natans
Equisetum ramosissimum
Ceratopteris cornuta
Azolla nilotica
Azolla pinnata var. africana
Marsilea coromandelina
Marsilea diffusa
Marsilea minuta
Burnatia enneandra
Limnophyton obtusifolium
Pistia stratiotes
Commelina nodiflora
Cyperus alopecuroides
Cyperus alternifolius
Cyperus articulatus
Cyperus haspan
Cyperus laevigatus
Cyperus latifolius
Cyperus maculatus
Cyperus papyrus
Cyperus richardii var. angustior Steudel
Fimbristylis complanata
Fimbristylis exilis
Fuirena glomerata
Fuirena pachyrrhiza
Kyllinga buchananii
Pycreus mundtii
Hydrilla verticillata (L. f.)
Ottellia lancifolia
Ottelia scabra
Ottelia ulvifolia
Vallisneria aethiopica
Lemna paucicostata
Spirodela polyrhiza
Najas horrida
Najas marina subsp. armata Linnaeus
Echinochloa crus-pavonis
Echinochloa pyramidalis
Echinochloa nubica
Hemarthria natans
Leersia hexandra
Oryza barthii
Phragmites mauritianus
Vossia cuspidata
Potamogeton filiformis
Potamogeton pectinatus
Potamogeton schweinfurthii
Hygrophyla auriculata
Ageratum conyzoides
Conyza stricta
Erlangea vernonioides
Ethulia conyzoides
Gnaphalium luteo-album
Senecio abyssinicum
Spilanthes acmella
Ceratophyllum demersum
FMyriophyllum spicatum
Utricularia exoleta
Utricularia inflexa
Utricularia stellaris
Nymphaea Calliantha
Nymphaea capensis
Nymphaea coerulea
Nymphaea lotus forma
Nymphaea mildbroedii
Nymphaea ovalifolia
Ludwigia stolonifera
Polygonum senegalense
Polygonum setosolum
Polygonum pulchrum
Trapa natans var. bispinosa Linnaeus
Phyla nodiflora


The Algae(s) are an important group and should be included in this document. They provide not only food to most Cichlids but provide hiding spots for fry and as a food source of microfauna in which fry will eat most willingly. Since the prolific growth of Algae, its always replenishing its size and quantity in the ecosystem.

Chara brachypus Muskwort. Often referred to as Stonewort or Muskgrass
They look quite similar to many underwater plants, they are actually algae. Chara spp. are green or gray-green colored algae that grow completely submersed in shallow (4 cm) to deep (20 m) water. They can vary greatly in size, ranging from 5 cm to 1 m in length. The main "stem" of Chara spp. bear whorls of branchlets, clustered at regularly spaced joints. When growing in hard water, Chara spp. sometimes become coated with lime, giving them a rough gritty feel. These algae are identifiable by their strong skunk-like or garlic odor, especially evident when crushed. Spores carried by water and waterfowl. "Plant" fragments can easily develop new growths. Fresh to brackish water, inland and coastal, in both shallow and deep water. Some species found in alkaline lakes and slow-moving streams. Chara spp. will often grow in deeper water than vascular aquatic plants.

Chara brachypus var. tanganyikae. Same as above except this is species is endemic to Lake Tanganyika. More adapted to the pH and hardness of the water of this ecosystem. Obviously, other than having it hand picked from Lake Tanganyika itself, not all available through normal "Commerical" routes.

Chara zeylanica. Same as the original Chara brachypus but oval-shaped with corona; round antheridium under oogonium, both orange in color. Reproduced vegetatively and sexually.

Nitella mucronata Often referred to as Pointed Stonewort. Classified as a Microalgae. This is a moderately robust species, slightly more slender and lighter green in colour than typical forms of smooth stonewort Nitella flexilis. The final segment of the branchlets is made up of between 2 and 3 cells, one large and the others much smaller, making a mucronate or tapered top. (In smooth stonewort N. flexilis the final segment of the branchlets is single-celled although a mucronate tip is sometimes produced from cell-wall material.) The variety gracillima J. Groves & Bullock-Webster, with more tapered three-celled final segments, has many similarities to slender stonewort N. gracilis, but this is a much more slender species, with filamentous stems less than 0.75 mm wide.

Cladophora crispate. Often referred to as Water Flannel. A floating mass formed in pools by the entangled filaments creating a dense blanket or Flannel. Branching; terminal cells never form rhizoid; attached substrates by a single cell. Generally has the ability to attach itself to many objects using its structures as a anchor. Also called Blanket Weed. Often found in low movement with plenty of sunlight.

Cladophora inconspicua. Slight differences in shape at a cellular level but similar in behaviour and form as Cladophora crispate.

Marginal/Bog Plants

Whats a waterfront without vegetation? Bordering the edges of Lake Tanganyika are a wide and diverse collection of Marginal/Bog plants. Reeds, Grasses and a wild assortment of Flowering Plants provide safe havens for fry and a great gathering ground for food with the insects it obviously would attract.

Equisetum ramosissimum. A member of the Horsetail family. Often referred to Branched Scouringrush. Found in presently in Florida and Louisiana as well. Marginal bog plant that requires wet to moist ground to grow properally. Roots can be submerged but most of the plant should be still exposed to the Air.

Marsilea coromandelina. Plants aquatic or amphibious, forming diffuse or dense colonies. Roots arising at nodes, sometimes also on internodes. Leaves dedciduous in temperate regions, heteromorphic, floating leaves averaging larger than land leaves. Petiole filiform, stiffly erect or procumbent in land leaves, lax in floating leaves. Blade palmately divided into 4 pinnae. Pinnae cuneate or obdeltate, pulvinate at base, frequently with numerous red or brown streaks abaxially in floating leaves. Sporocarps borne on branched or unbranched stalks at or near bases of petioles, aboveground (except in Marsilea ancylopoda ), attached laterally to stalk apex (attached portion called raphe), tip of stalk often protruding as bump or tooth (proximal tooth), some species also with tooth distal to stalk apex (distal tooth) ; sporocarps densely to sparsely hairy, less so with age, dehiscing into 2 valves.

Marsilea diffusa. See description above. Hard to tell the difference without viewing at a Cellular level with a Microscope.

Marsilea minuta. See description above. Hard to tell the difference without viewing at a Cellular level with a Microscope.

Burnatia enneandra. Petioles up to 40 cm. long, usually about 30 cm. Leaf-blade acute, very variable in shape, from ovate with rounded base, to linear-lanceolate with decurrent base, e.g. from 13 =7 cm. to 16 4 cm. and 14 1 cm.; nerves 5 or 7, the median up to 1.5 mm. wide on the lower surface. Male inflorescence (15–)20(–30) cm., of 1–5 whorls of branches; female inflorescence shorter; lowest bracts 1–5 cm. long; bracts and sepals whitish, sometimes tinged violet. Male flowers: bracts 1.5–2.5 mm. long; pedicels 3–10 mm. long; sepals erect, ovate, 2–3 mm. long; petals smaller, delicate, persistent, about 1 mm. long; stamens with filaments 1.5 mm. long; anthers 1 mm. long; abortive carpels oblong, compressed, 1–1.5 mm. long. Female flowers: bracts 1 mm. long; sepals ovate, spreading, 1.5 mm. long; petals, if present, 3, minute and scale-like, found only on very robust specimens; carpels obovoid, compressed; achenes 8–20, usually about 12, 1.5(–2.5) mm. long, flanges almost circular.

Limnophyton obtusifolium. Annual, erect, 60-90 cm tall herb. Leaves broadly ovate, sagittate, with spreading, acute triangular lobes, 15-30 cm long, pellucid-punctate, obtuse or emarginate at the apex; petiole 30-80 cm long, triangular, spongy. Peduncle as long as the petioles, triangular. Flowers 5-10 in each whorl, c. 1 cm across; pedicels 2.5-5 cm long, reflexed and thickened in fruit; bracts triangular-lanceolate, 1.5-2.5 cm long, c. 1 cm broad, bracteoles minute. Sepals ovate-elliptic, 4-6 mm long, 2-3.5 mm broad, obtuse, green. Petals delicate, obovate-elliptic, larger than the sepals. Stamens with c. 3 mm long, basally flattened and thickened filaments; anthers oblong. Achenes obovate, minutely stipitate, 4-6 (-8) mm long, 3-4 mm broad, reticulately ribbed, shortly beaked. Semi-emersed state.

True Aquatic Plants

A Lake without vegetation!? Not this place. While the plants listed here are not the most "exotic"none the less, they are a part of the system and should be accepted as such. Aquatic Plants serve many purposes. From nutrient sinks, providing O2, cover, food, microfauna and a major part of the ecosystem.

Azolla nilotica. Found floating, Azolla (whole genus) is often referred to as Mosquito Fern, Duckweed Fern, Fairy Moss and Water Fern. Needs shallow, stagnant water, high light and temperature for proper growth. Always found around shorelines where water movement is minimal. While this species in not commericially available, it does a bear strong resemblance to Azolla carolina.

Azolla pinnata var. Africana. Similar to Azooa nilotica but leaves are more “Fern Like” and are usually brown. Great for fixing Nitrogren problems which can help combat Cyanobacteria.

Riccia fluitans. Often to referred to as Crystalwort. This plant is generally found floating in the environment of Lake Tanganyika but I would expect it would be found also attached to pieces of wood or things sticking up from the shoreline. Needs lots of light to grow. Definitely great for diffusing light and providing hiding spaces for fry. Easier to come by through fellow Planted Tank Hobbyists. Commercially Available

Riccocarpius natans An aquatic liverwort. The lobed, dorsi-ventrally flattened thallus (nonvascular plant body) floats on the surface of quiet streams and ponds. It resembles a Heart Shaped Duckweed (Lemma minor)

Ceratopteris cornuta. If there was ever a tougher plant in the world, this would be it. Found Globally, Ceratopteris spp are tough as nails. Can handle a pH of 5 all the way to 8. Found in just about any environment (wet) imaginable. Can be planted in the background or left floating. Very commonly found in the Planted Tank Hobby. Pinnate leaves, and Green colour really make this stick out. Commercially Available

Pistia stratiotes. Often referred to as Water Lettuce or Tropical Duckweed. Water lettuce is a free floating herbaceous plant. The leaves are gray-green in color, have parallel veins, and occur in a rosette. The inconspicuous flowers are clustered near the stalk. The fruit is a many-seeded green berry. Water lettuce invades lakes, ponds, and slow moving streams in tropical, subtropical, and warmer temperate regions. High vegetative reproduction allows water lettuce to form dense floating mats of vegetation. Severe infestations block light to the water ecosystem, reduce oxygen levels, increase siltation, reduce suitable fish spawning habitat, and restrict water flow and boating traffic. Widely distributed throughout the world’s tropical areas. The plant was identified in the United States as early as the late 1700s. Commerically Available

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:42 pm
by 24Tropheus
The prob comes not from Iding plants from lake tang but fitting the plant to the type of tank. As many of us keep cichlids from areas where plants are rare and water quality too pure or moving to keep them alive easily (eg precipitous rocky coast) a list of Tang plants is not of huge use unless the plants that can live in these conditions is shown.

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2010 10:31 am
by freshfish
Good point.

Some of the floating plants towards the bottom of this list would work in several settings...

It's really a matter of goals/priorities, and which factors are most important to any given hobbyist.

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:31 pm
by Crazygar
True 24Tropheus, but the intent is to "debunk" some of the purists that plants have a place within the Rift Lake Systems. It would be obvious that Cichlids will munch on them as well, so now they are serving as a food source as well.


Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:20 am
by azmishz
I really like this subject. Could you tell me more …

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:57 am
by KDodds
Actually, there are more common Tanganyikan cichlids that WON'T munch on plants than those that will. Leleupi, Brichardi, Trets, Fronts, all are "plant safe" in that respect. Digging is another issue entirely. There are several "tried and true" plants that can be utilized in Tang setups that are readily available (although maybe not native). Bolbitis, Java Fern, Vals, some Crypts, and my personal fave, Anubias spp. With Tangs, you have to worry more about water chemistry than anything else. A true Tang tank will have a pH upwards of 8.6 all of the way to 9.0. This is extraordinarily hard on most readily available aquarium plants. Of, and FWIW, some of the "marginals" listed will NOT do well more than "ankles deep", making them not at all useful for typical aquariums.

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:45 pm
by Crazygar
Totally agree Kdodds, while most are specific types of algae, most are marginal as stated already. The water drops deep quick, therefore any type of organism that requires Photosynthesis is pretty much doomed unless closer to the surface or in the shallows.

Just though it would be an interesting little endeavor and my inner geek approves.


Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:19 pm
by KDodds
Yeah, that's the thing... you can plant Tang tanks, but for a lot of purists, they're just not going to agree, or like, the results. Like Malawi, most of the plant life, what there is of it, is restricted to shorlines and margins. It would be, I think, extraordinarily difficult to do a Tang biotope, simply because the plants and fish aren't readily available. Well, maybe SOME of the fish are available, but most are restricted to larger mom and pop LFSs or those that specialize. Plants... phew... good luck. How about a more comprehensive list of non-natives that are more readily available and will survive the pH and hardness, as well as the digging. Tips on planting with diggers present would also be cool. I'm thinking a layer of eggcrate, if that's not been done already.

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 9:38 am
by Dutchman
I'm glad to have access to this information. Not that I can make much use of it at the moment, but - maybe one day - I may be able to get hold of some of these plants.

Re: Plants and Lake Tanganyika [Work In Progress]

PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:09 am
by Crazygar
This was originally designed to show that plants do have a place with certain setups, but as stated, only those setups that would be marginal or shallower waters than the deep areas of the Lake. Also, since most Rift Lake Cichlids would be more than happy to munch of these plants, one must take care with the type of plants used for the setup.

This is more for reference than anything, but glad people find it useful.