In a previous article, I discussed what the difference was between submersed and emersed growth. Now, I’ll show you how to set up your own emersed growth pots so you can experiment on your own. I’ve been growing HC, dwarf hairgrass, and moss emersed without problems. Stem plants probably won’t do so well using this method, as they are much harder to convert. For quickly growing pre-made carpets though, this method can’t be beat.
First, you’ll need a shallow container. I use plastic Rubbermaid shoe-boxes available at most big stores like Target or Wal-Mart. They are the perfect size, since you’ll want to cover your container with plastic wrap. Larger containers will also work, but may be harder to cover and keep sealed. Fill the container with about 1 inch deep of regular potting soil. Pour water in until the soil is just submerged but thoroughly wet. Then, take your plants and just put them gently in the soil. Once you have all of your plants planted, use plastic wrap to cover the container. You’ll want a tight seal so the moisture doesn’t evaporate. It might be necessary to use some tape to keep the plastic wrap from coming off. This will create a nice humid environment for your plants to transition to emersed growth so they don’t dry out.
Once you have your container all set up, you can either put it in a sunny window or underneath some full-spectrum lighting. I chose to put it under a strip of lights (see above). Each week, just lift the plastic wrap up and using a spray-mister, mist the plants to replenish any lost water. Lifting up the plastic also allows new air to enter, replenishing any CO2 the plants have used. No fertilization is necessary, since all nutrients should be present in the potting soil.
Once your carpet has grown in, just gently lift the plants out of the potting soil, rinse them off to remove any extra soil in the roots, and plant them in your aquarium. It might be best to stick with one type of plant per container, since I tried HC, hairgrass, and moss all in one and they all grew together (see above). It makes it a bit difficult to separate, but very cool looking!
This method should work well for all mosses, most grasses, and most other carpet plants, like Hemianthus callitrichoides and Glossostigma elatinoides. Mosses in particular have very different emersed structures and can be quite cool looking. It’s almost tempted me to start a palaudarium! Good luck.