Wendt's Bronze Crypt
Cryptocoryne wendtii is a true aquatic plant that in the wild lives in shaded clear streams where it remains submerged year-round. It thrives in low to moderate aquarium lighting, though it is not adverse to more light. Because the streams it lives in are low in dissolved nutrients, it lives well when rooted into a substrate of aquarium gravel, getting what it needs from the droppings of fish or amphibians.
An undergravel filter biologically transforms fish or amphibian droppings into plant-nutrients, & Wendt's Crypt will need no other fertilizer. It might well spread more quickly in a substrate mixed with a little peat, but a tank well stocked with fish or amphibians will produce its own loamy ingredients to work their way into the soil, which is entirely sufficient.
Ours is planted in the foreground of a fifteen gallon guppy tank. The creature captured in the photo is not a fish, however. It looks like an eel, but is an entirely aquatic amphibian, a Slender Dwarf Siren, native of the American south. It used to be very secretive & nocturnal, always hiding under a sunken piece of wood, but is lately quite active in the day to make sure it gets its share of live or live-frozen food. It has no hind legs, & its forelimbs are exceedingly tiny. It is innocuous to the guppies even though so much larger than they are; it is even a skittish of their approaches.
Wendt's crypt has numerous varieties that originated in different regions of its natural range. Many forms are cultivated for tropical fish hobbyists. Some have green leaves, others red, brown, or bronze. Some are tall plants for the back of the aquarium, others short for the foreground. Some have fat roundish leaves, most have long narrow leaves; some with smooth others with ruffled leaves.
Our variety is called 'Tropica' & it is one of the shortest, a veritable dwarf. 'Tropica' is bronze-leafed, with a textured leaf surface like hammered metal.
Though the leaves of 'Tropica' can reach five inches of length (less than one inch wide), they tend to fan downward in a rosette that is only a couple inches above the substrate, so it is truly a foreground miniature.
This native of Sri Lanka produces a vigorous amount of roots that explore gravel substrate for nutrients, helping to keep a balanced contained eco-system, & helping to keep the gravel clean. The roots of many Cryptocoryne species are susceptible to "crypt root rot" & difficult to establish, but C. wendtii is hardy & resistant to rot.
It will produce root-runners from which spring new plants so that over time it will form a pleasing carpet of crypts. The runners can be clipped & young plants removed to plant in other aquariums. If it's terribly happy it will even flower, producing an unusual upright flame-shaped spathe from the center of the upright, usually green & brown, enwrapping a yellow spathe.
The species is named for Albert Wendt (1887-1958), whose portrait is included on this page. He was a German tropical fish hobbyist with a special fondness for crypts.
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