How to Prevent Cryptocoryne Melt
Written by: Tammy (@aquarist_tl) and Team Buce Plant
Have you ever noticed the leaves of your Cryptocoryne plant turning brown/yellow before it becomes completely translucent? That is what’s known as “Crypt melt.” It is when the leaves of the aquatic plant start dying and decaying while underwater. This is a very common occurrence among almost all species of Cryptocoryne in the aquarium hobby, so if this happens to you, keep on reading for answers to:
Don't Get Discouraged!
Although the seemingly healthy Crypcocoryne leaves you see when you first receive the plant might melt away, be patient! Smaller, thinner, submersed leaves will begin to replace what was lost. If you see your crypts begin to melt after planting, as long as it has healthy roots and you do not move it once planted, you should see new growth within a few weeks. Once you see new leaf growth, make sure to provide the crypt with enough lighting and nutrients to continue building submersed-grown leaves.
- Tip: Buce Plant recommends always planting Cryptocoryne in a quality plant substrate like UNS Controsoil! Crypts are root feeders and will thrive in a nutrient-rich substrate. If you're set on planting in sand or gravel, the addition of root tabs for your crypts is recommended.
Why Do Crypts Melt?
Here are the main reasons for why Crypts melt:
1. Transitioning Period
Most of the live aquarium plants that we buy from stores or online retailers are sold to us in their emersed form, meaning they were grown out of water. The reason they are grown above water is because the live plant farms that they come from have an easier time growing them this way.
There are many benefits to growing these aquatic plants emersed, a few of them being: (1) faster plant growth, (2) less algae problems to combat, and a (3) higher rate of survival when being shipped.
Once we take an emersed-grown aquatic plant and put it underwater, it has to transition into its submerged form. Since the emersed-grown leaves are not adapted for life under the water, they will slowly begin to die off. This is when the "melting" occurs. The old leaves slowly decompose underwater, while new submerged-grown leaves should grow to replace them over time.
- Remember: Even if leaves melt away shortly after planting, submersed leaves will begin to replace what was lost. If you see that your new Cryptocoryne melting, do not give up and throw it away in the trash. Give your plant some time to bounce back first!
2. Changes in Their Environment
While the Cryptocoryne plant species are known for being relatively easy to care for, they are actually quite sensitive to changes in their environment. For example, if you move a Crypt that had been settled in one place for a while into a new spot in the tank, it will most likely melt as it adjusts to its new placement.
Variations in water parameters can also trigger Crypts to melt. If a water change or two is missed and nitrates shoot up, the leaves of the Crypts could start to die off. This is why it is very important to keep a regular maintenance schedule with routine water changes! Major changes in water chemistry can be detrimental to this plant. Even adjustments to the lighting or too high of an increase in temperature may set them off. Consistency is key to keeping these plants healthy and happy!
Many aquatic plants are fragile, so unfortunately, it's common for them to be damaged during shipping or in the aquarium by the tank’s inhabitants. Once a part of a plant is severely damaged, it loses its ability to receive nutrients to that segment, causing it to melt.
Although Cryptocoryne is considered a "low tech" plant, be cautious. If a Crypt does not have the necessary conditions to grow, it could slowly begin to die. All plants need light and nutrients to survive. Without the proper amount of these essentials, they will not do well in their environment.
How to Prevent Cryptocoryne Melt
Now that we know the major reasons for Crypt melt, we can use this knowledge to avoid/overcome it.
1. Trim Emersed-Grown or Damaged Leaves
One common technique to prevent Crypt melt is to cut off all the emersed-grown leaves and any heavily injured leaves, even if that leaves you with no leaves at all. By doing this, you would not have to deal with the leaves rotting in the tank and adding nitrates into the water, which could in turn into algae problems.
Also, it is said that removing the leaves helps the plant focus all of its efforts into generating new ones instead of splitting some of it in trying to help repair dying leaves. If this method seems too risky to you, you can also just snip off each leaf whenever you see it begin to brown/yellow.
- Note: You can do this with almost all Cryptocoryne species except Cryptocoryne Parva! Please do not cut the leaves off of this plant, as it usually does not melt like other species and may not bounce back like they would.
2. Provide an Ideal Environment
While most Cryptocoryne only require low light and few amounts of nutrients compared to other plants, it’s good to play on the safe side and provide these root-feeders with a planted-tank substrate like Controsoil. Substrates like Controsoil are designed to keep plants thriving by supplying them with all of the necessary nutrients required for them to do well in aquariums.
Although unnecessary, the addition of CO2 in the aquarium will help the melting Crypts bounce back faster! Crypts are known for being slow growers, so CO2 will help with those that want to see lush growth as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that Crypts do not like being moved, so be wary when choosing the aquarium’s inhabitants. Fish that are known for digging holes and unearthing plants like Goldfish or Eartheater cichlids could be catastrophic to Crypt plants. In the case that you do have fish that like to dig up the plants, you can place hardscape around the Crypts to try to prevent any of the fish from digging in those areas. Freshwater shrimp, on the other hand are great additions to any tanks with Crypts.
On the same note, remember to use caution when performing maintenance around the Crypts. Try to avoid going too deep when gravel vacuuming where the roots of the Cryptocoryne plants are.
Consistency plays a major role in the health of Cryptocoryne. The amount of fish food that is fed, how frequent water changes are performed, how long the light is on, etc. can all affect a Crypt’s health. Maintaining good water quality will help tremendously, so try and stay on a regular weekly schedule for maintenance. If adding fertilizer, make sure to add the same amount as you normally do. Lighting for a planted tank in general should be consistent, and should turn on/off at about the same time every day.
Hopefully the idea of “Crypt melt” does not scare anyone away from planting them into their tanks. Crypts are low demanding plants that come in so many beautiful and unique variations! They are an excellent choice for planted tanks, and will look amazing once they’ve grown into their environment. Crypts should be good to go once they have established themselves into the aquarium and are kept under consistent and ideal conditions.
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