FREE Moss for the Aquarium-from your lawn

Moss is useful as a place for fish to spawn, fry to hide, shrimp to search for food, provide shade from bright aquarium lights and absorb nitrates and other pollutants from the water. It also gives the tank a more natural look.













Moss can also be expensive and hard to find at certain times of year. Many people are under the mistaken idea that we must buy moss from a pet store, supplier or another aquarist to put in our tank. There is an alternative!

Why not use what you have in your yard?

Last year, I did an experiment. I researched local mosses in my area (Nanaimo, BC) to see which ones lived in or near water. Spear moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) was a likely candidate especially since I found it first growing thickly at the edge of and immersed under water of a seasonal ditch a blocks from my house.

Identification
Here is a photo from page 471 Pojar and MacKinnon Plants of Coastal British Columbia . It is a field guide I used often when I was a professional heritage interpreter.  














Spear moss likes wet areas. It also happens to be a common moss found in in lawns globally. So I started there. We do not use any chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on our lawn so the moss I collect is safe to put in our tanks.















Here is a close up with some grass stems mixed in. 








It's appearance varies a bit depending on the time of year (light levels), but the identifying features are the same. The pointy spear-like ends (with no branching), triangular scales along the stem and irregular branching lower down are key to look for. It is also a yellow-green color. Most other mosses are darker green. 

The worst that can happen if you identify it wrong is that it with slowly disappear in your tank over time.









I collected a couple clumps. Then I brought them in and rinsed them under running water to remove organic debris (grass, leaves, pollen heads etc) and sand.


I let them sit for a few days and repeated the rinsing and sitting to remove any tiny bugs (springtails etc).

Lighting Needs
I tried several different lighting setups and found they grow well directly under regular 40W CFB (compact flourescent bulb) as long as the water was no deeper than about 16 inches. For this reason if you have a long tank (like my 15 gal that is 24 inches long), then a second light is needed at the other end if you want the moss to grow all across the tank. If you have a brighter light or a proper grow bulb, it will do better in deeper water. 

Here it is growing thick enough that my guppies have to swim around the clumps, rather than through them. The duckweed on the surface blocks some of the light to the moss.


With lower light levels they do get stringy and thinner but may still be useful, depending of what you need them for. At really low light levels, such as at the other end of the tank, they disappear over time.

Fertilizer
They do best with high levels of fertilizer. In my tanks, the only fertilizer the moss receives is the poop from my snails and guppies. They absorb the nitrates from these and thrive. I do not use CO2 in my tanks. The moss also does well in cold water and heated tanks.












Here is a video clip of the whole tank. I will soon be removing some of the moss to give the guppies more room to swim in. 




How's that for free? No transportation needed!

Here is a link from a German plant company that I found as I was researching this post. Apparently, I am an international thinker! LOL! They verify its use as an aquarium plant.





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