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Converting aquatic plants for Wabikusa use

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In this article, you will find out about converting water plants into their emersed form of growth (growth above water).

If you are not interested in experimenting with conversion of plants, we offer a range of already converted plants in your shop here.

To introduce this article, it is necessary to mention that most aquatic plants can grow above the water level, some even thriving much more in that form rather than the submersed one. You can read more about suitable plant species here. With the rising and lowering of water levels in rivers, ponds, lakes, etc., in nature, plants which are in the shallow sections of these waters are forced to adapt to two different kinds of conditions. One is under water - the submersed form, and the other is above water - the emersed form. Sometimes, we can even come across plants which grow in both modes at once - partly under, partly above water. What this tells us, is that these plants have adapted to be able to change their form and mode of growth, which allows us to convert them for use in Wabikusa.

Now, let’s explain some basic methods of converting plants to their emersed form.

What will we need?

A shallow container
A nutrient-rich clay-based substrate (like ADA Amazonia)
A transparent, air-tight cover for the container
A light or a bright spot in your apartment (we recommend using a light)
Water plants

In-Vitro Plants

Perhaps the easiest option is using in-vitro plants. These plants, which have been grown in laboratories in sterile conditions, can adapt to their emersed mode of growth very well, while at the same time ensuring that the plant won’t come with annoying pests or even disease. The process is simple:

We take the plants out of their plastic cup and we rinse off the nutrient-rich gel.

Then, we plant it into the Dirt Ballsin small batches. (A detailed planting guide can be found here)

We then keep the Dirt Ball in high humidity until the plants fully convert to their emersed state and grow into their regular size. Then, we can slowly lower humidity in the container (e.g. by slowly opening the lid of the container over a few days). After the lid has been removed completely, the plant should be ready to grow above water without any trouble.

The plant grows above water level by itself
This way is reliable and simple. We cover the bottom of a container with a few centimeters of nutrient-rich substrate (e.g. ADA Amazonia) and we cover it with water so that the water level is a few centimeters above the substrate (your particular water column height depends mainly on the plants you’re using - just enough water to cover them completely). After planting the substrate with water plants we wish to convert, we place the container under a light source (LED lighting is optimal, sunlight may cause the inside of the container to overheat). Then, we wait for the plants to grow above the water level.

We recommend covering the container with a transparent lid (or cling film) in order to prevent excessive evaporation. When the emersed parts of the plants reach a size that would be comfortable to work with/plant, we can cut them and plant them into our Wabikusa layout.

The plant converts in high humidity

Similar to the first way mentioned above, we fill the container with a few centimeters of nutrient-rich substrate. We then cover it with water only to the point where the water level reaches the height of the substrate, so as not to have any water above the line of the substrate. Having done that, we plant water plants into the substrate and we cover the container with an air-tight lid, so that the humidity in it is kept as high as possible. At this point, we can place a light over the container, or place it in a place with bright sunlight (we again recommend using a light, there’s a risk of the container overheating in direct sunlight). We mist the plants with water once a day and let the air inside of the container exchange for fresh air to prevent mold growth (when it comes to mold growth, regular misting with DOOA Wabi-Kusa Mist can prevent not only that, but it also repels pests - you can get it here).

Once the plant has been fully converted to its emersed form, we trim the part of the stem which we aim to use in our emersed project. It is necessary to mention that this method proved to be less successful than the one mentioned above, on the upside, it can be faster. Some plants will lose their submersed leaves during this process, therefore a plant’s leaves melting do not necessarily have to indicate a plant’s death. The key to success, as we’ve mentioned before, is mainly patience.

In conclusion
To conclude this article, it is necessary to mention that, as with all these processes, none of the above-mentioned procedures has a guaranteed 100% success rate. Despite the chance of success being high, plant die-off (sometimes seemingly without reason) still occurs. This is a natural part of the whole process. Whichever method you choose, remember, it is necessary to do these things slowly and with a great deal of patience. We wish you lots of success with plant conversion and Wabikusa!

© OPAquatics 2022 (Autor: Pavel Ottl)