The Book of the Aquarium/Part 2/Chapter 4

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As already stated, the green weeds are most suitable, the red next so, but of the brown and olive sorts there are very few that can be kept in a state of health for any length of time. There are only two plants suitable for the commencement of the experiment, and these are Ulva latissima, the common sea lettuce, and Enteromorpha compressa, a delicate grass-like algæ, of a very cheerful green. Of these Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Hall have always plenty on hand, ready cleaned and prepared for immediate submersion. Artificial water soon acquires the properties of natural sea water under the influence of these plants, which grow rapidly, and disseminate their spores throughout the tank, at the same time giving abundance of oxygen for the support of animal life.

When a few weeks have elapsed Chondrus crispus, better known as “Carrageen moss,” may be added, it is a free grower found in plenty on the ledges at extreme low-water mark. The green weeds Codium tomentosum, Cladophora arcta, and rupestris, and Bryopsis plumosa may be considered safe stock when the water has been in use a month or two, but the growth of the more delicate of the Rhodosperms must not be attempted in artificial water for at least three or four months.

The best weeds of the latter class are Phyllophora rubens, Corallina officinals, and Iridæa edulis. In collecting, no doubt the Dulse, Delesseria alata, and sanguinea, with, perhaps, some of the Polysiphoniæ will be considered valuable prizes, but they will not succeed in any but experienced hands, for whom this work is not written.

Dasya, Chylocladia, Nitophyllum, Griffithsia, Rhodymenia, and Ptilota will all contribute specimens as time goes on, and opportunity affords for obtaining them. But not one of these lovely weeds of the red class are fit for ordinary aquarian tactics, they are the “florists’ flowers” of the aquarian world, and refuse to be domesticated by any but adepts. The exquisitely delicate Griffithsia setacea is perhaps the only one of the above that may be safely used in a well-seasoned tank of artificial water; the other genera seem to be still more delicately constituted and to require their own native element in a state of great purity.

Once more I urge the beginner to be content with Ulva and Enteromorpha at starting, with half-a-dozen plants of each of these, a large and pleasing variety of animal life may be preserved, and in the case of disaster of any kind, these are the most readily restored to health by a little timely and judicious management.

All coarse and dark coloured weeds, however tempting at first sight, are to be avoided. The sprawling tangles that one steps over in traversing the boulders and the slimy masses of sea-weed, everywhere cast upon the coast, are quite unfit, however fine the specimens, or strong the desire to possess them. Neither must much value be attached to any weed cast up by the surge. The only trustworthy specimens are those chipped from the rock in situ and brought away without being detached from their natural basis.