In the world of Aqua scaping, one of the most common ways to “duplicate” an existing plant is by manually replanting a cutting of one’s existing plant. There are, however, a number of ways in which aquarium plants can choose to spread and reproduce naturally. Much like their terrestrial counterparts, aquatic plants reproduce asexually, by creating a genetic copy of themself to be distributed throughout their habitat. Often, the nature of aquarium plants reproduction can be confusing or even alarming to Aqua scaping beginners. Contrary to these fears, reproduction naturally is a sign of a happy healthy plant and can help to fill out your Aqua scape display.
Here is five of the most common ways an aquatic plant might reproduce.
Turions are one of the methods that a plant might use to survive over winter and reproduce on a delay. A turion is a buried or nearly buried submerged node attached to roots. These roots and sealed node will help the plant to open and reproduce once the water above it has unfrozen. While this is not an issue indoor tanks will experience, pond owners can be certain that their plants will return in the spring without replanting. Turions typically appear at the end of a plants life cycle and will appear as a skeletal, stem like remnant attached firmly to the substrate. These reproducing nodes have numerous qualities which make them hardy, and resistant to many different events such as frost, drought, and even lengthy winters.
Stolons, commonly called runners, are a form of asexual reproduction in which root-like growths emerge from the stem or rhizome of a plant. Runners are how many plants reproduce, both terrestrial and aquatic. Stolons can be easily identified by their pattern of growth, and appearance. Unlike a rhizome, a stolon is not part of the main plant. Stolons can typically be identified by their horizontal growth, near or just below the surface of a substrate. Pictured above is a very common aquarium plant which reproduces via runners. Spotting a runner is cause for excitement, the growth of a stolon is typically a sign that a plant is in good health and has an abundance of nutrients and energy to put towards creating another plant! Next time you see a strange root, growing in an unusual direction, check to see if your plant reproduces using stolons.
Many new aquarium keepers gravitate towards java ferns, a popular and beautiful aquatic plant, but are alarmed to find after some weeks that small brown spots have begun to appear on the undersides of their leaves. These small brown spots are commonly mistaken for bugs, or a disease which will damage your tanks inhabitants. Spores are completely harmless, and if propagated properly, will yield brand new plants. Another plant which commonly reproduces using spores is moss, which is why most aquarium keepers will place them in small groupings as they are excellent in filling in their surroundings. Only the experienced aquarium keeper may be able to properly germinate these spores, however in the beginner tank these are no reason to fear and are a sign of a healthy and thriving tank!
Flowering and Seeds
Flowering is a common method of reproduction for terrestrial plants however, there are some aquatic plants which utilize a similar technique. The water lily, a plant which is a staple in any pond, creates some of the most colorful and striking flowers of any aquatic plant. These rhizomatous plants are capable of being pollinated, for sexual reproduction, or during specific parts of the flowering season, are a “perfect flower” meaning they contain both sexual organs for reproduction, and therefore are able to reproduce asexually. Another notable flowering aquatic plant is the water lotus, which produce an equally beautiful pond flower.
Lastly, I will be explaining the process of fragmentation, and how this is an effective form of reproduction for an aquatic plant. While parts of the main plant will not be lost as the name suggests, it will create offsets, which we can think about as baby clones of the main plant. These offsets will grow a root structure, rhizome if possible, and begin to send out leaves as a fully developed plant. It can often be hard to determine whether a plant has created offsets because there are no specific external indicators. When rearranging or removing a plant an aquarium hobbyist may find that their plant is falling apart. This is likely because there was more than one plant living very close to one another. Pictured above is a Cryptocoryne, a beautiful foreground plant which if given proper nutrients, will create multiple offsets in short periods of time.
These are just a few of the way in which aquatic plants are able to reproduce. There are exceptions to all of these methods within every species and family of aquatic plant, each specialized for a specific biological niche. I hope that this post inspires you to learn more about these wonderful plants. Thank you for reading!