In the Aquarium and Pond
I collected my Chara and have been growing it in aquariums
and ponds for quite a few years. It seems to like intense light,
as it gets stringy under lower light levels. If it’s not kept
controlled, it can start to cover the top of the aquarium and
get rather dense. It won’t grow out of the tank, but it will
produce a thick mat just below the surface of the water. Chara
has been very easy for me to propagate vegetatively as long as
there are a few good nodes of the whorled branches.
I’ve had the best luck with Chara in a tank where it’s
the dominant plant. In aquariums with many other plants,
it seems to quickly get lost in the tangle and fades away.
The tank I have that is predominantly Chara right now is a
20-gallon long that has about two-thirds of its back covered
with Chara, and the other third with a stand of Bacopa. The
fish are a school of the goodeids Zoogoneticus tequila.
I’ve grown more Chara outside in my ponds than I have
in the house. It does quite well under shade cloth, which
partially protects it from the Arizona sun. I’ve had it growing
in both tubs and kiddie pools. In a pool I have right now, it
covers a good third of the south side of the pool. The fish
enjoy it and spend a good deal of time hiding in it. In the
winter it’s so warm that fish and plants stay out year-round.
The Chara does fade back during those months, as do most
of the plants, but it’s one of the first things to start growing
back again in the summer. I do have hard water and have at
times noticed plants both inside and outside will get the lime
deposits on them.
Though stoneworts have not been commonly used in
aquariums recently, they do have a past as aquarium plants.
The oldest book in my aquarium collection was published in
the late 1800s, which has a section on using stoneworts in the
aquarium. This book, titled Freshwater Aquaria (L. Upcott Gill,
1890) recommends Chara and Nitella for aquariums “which
contain only very small animals.” The plants were “too fragile
to be placed within the reach of large fish.”
Further into the section, author Reverend Gregory C.
Bateman writes that the plants “do not require much light for
their development, growing far better when placed at some
distance from the window than when cultivated in close
proximity to it.” He also indicated that they should be sunk
with a small stone and would quickly fill the aquarium. His
experiences with the lighting may indicate that different
species have different requirements. Since these plants haven’t
been grown a great deal in the aquarium, there’s still a lot left
to learn about them in that capacity.
Growing Charales is an opportunity to try something that
not many aquarists have grown, but they can still be easy
enough for beginning to advanced plant growers. Though most
may not be the showiest plants, they are not unattractive, and
some of the less well-known species may be quite interesting.
I’ve seen some photos of species from the genus Tolypella that
look unique and very beautiful. With enough interest, perhaps
some of these and other Charales will eventually come into the
“Stop that noise up there or
I’m calling the landlord!”