Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cryptocoryne sp. 'Kota Tinggi'

I had the good fortune to be able to visit the remaining habitat of this dwindling population of cryptocoryne species which is located in the midst of an oil palm plantation in Kota Tinggi in Malay Peninsula.

The habitat is a say less than 5m x 5m sandy mud pool (legs can easily sink in up to calf level) with water maybe about 10cm high and pH 6 to 6.5 (I thought it would be much more acidic but I was wrong!).

Apart from fighting against extinction due to human activities (i.e. redevelopment which would include land fill and cutting down of oil palm trees, etc), it also has to struggle to strike a delicate balance with other aquatic / semi aquatic plants to share the limited space within the mud pool.
Below are some photographs showing the "more emersed" leaves, the matured spathe, a wilting spathe as well as the beauty of its submersed leaves.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

3 hrs cycling trip around Siam Reap

Welcome to Siam Reap! And would you like to have some deep fried fully coloured croaking gourami and 2-spots gourami for dinner to go with your porridge?

I had an opportunity to sneak out for a last minute cycling trip around Siam Reap city of Cambodia on Christmas Eve afternoon before heading back to Singapore in the same evening. Below is a temple (I presumed) that I passed by while I was cycling out of the city to the forest and suburb areas.
This is the first big water body I passed by, it is a pond filled with water lilies with its edges lined with thick layers of Cabomba look-alike plant, beautifully combined with the reflections of the white clouds and blue sky above!
Cycling on, I reached a small open flooded field in the midst of the forest where children were searching for things in the water. Great, this was just what I was looking for too! I hopped off my bicycle, headed down to the edge of the field and peeped into their pots...... beautifully coloured croaking gourami, 2-spots gourami, possibly some Cyprinidae sp. (sorry I am not really into fish), freshwater shrimp and crab and a climbing perch look-alike fish. I asked them if these were for eating and they nodded their heads...... hmmmm...... The best way which I could think how these tropical fishes could be cooked is to season them and deep fry them until they are crispy to eat as snacks or with porridge, anyone want to try??? Hahaha.
I moved on and cycled along a small polluted dirt irrigation canal across a village and some padi field areas. My main aim was looking for cryptocorynes but the closest I got to was some yam look-alike plants...... sigh......
The padi fields were more interesting and beautiful. There were many different types of flowering aquatic plants found among their irrigation canals. I also tried scooping for some fishes using my 500ml mineral water bottle. I saw some beautiful smaller (about 2cm in length) red-tailed rasbora sp. but just did not have the right tools with me...... Suddenly I thought I saw this eel look-alike fish swimming along the surface of the water and I managed to scoop it out...... leech!!!! This prompted me to get out of the padi-field immediately, I hate leeches!
It was soon time to make a u-turn and head back to my hotel and just in time, I cycled to a location where a buffalo was blocking my path and menacingly staring at me. I passed by a provision shop along my way back, bought a USD$1 packet of biscuits as an item for barter trade with someones dinner......
I stopped by the location again where the children were collecting fishes. A little boy was playing with a frog which he caught. And there was a new entries in the dinner menu, a channa sp and a big black water beetle which I did not photograph. I tried to find some healthy croaking gourami specimens from the pot but they were all dead. Some of the children immediately went into the water to collect some fresh specimens for me as well as some clearer water for me to fill up my mineral water bottle. Almost immediately after doing these, I started to hear a few of them softly mumbling "1 dollar...... 1 dollar...... 1 dollar......". Sigh...... I passed them the packet of biscuits which I bought earlier, bid them farewell and headed back to my hotel.

I had not time and guts to fully explore the forest which I passed by not just during my 1/2 day cycling trip but also during my trip to the Angkor Wat temples via tuk-tuk. Due to fears stepping on landmines and losing my limbs, I could only take some photographs along the edges of these forests. There was a huge black water pond in the forest filled with tadpoles of different species and a Siam Reap river flowing across the forested areas which I thought warranted more exploration for cryptocorynes!

Will I ever have a chance to visit these places again for further exploration?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Caterpillars of C. sp. "Lingga Island'

3 days after receiving a few C. sp. 'Lingga' from my friend, I discovered a caterpillar nesting on one of the C. sp. 'Lingga'leaves and quickly removed the entire leaf and placed it in a glass jar.

My guess was that the caterpillar was introduced together with the C. sp. 'Lingga' but I had no idea how it escaped my view when I was washing the plants before potting them. A few days later I found another similar caterpillar in a pot of C. sp. 'Lingga' and removed it and placed it in the glass jar too. Maybe they were hiding in a curled new leaf , an unopened spathe, an unripe seed pod, a curled bottom section of the leaf petiole and therefore were not detected? Or maybe there were just eggs then or were introduced through the substrate instead and not via the plant???

Anyway, the caterpillars went into hibernation mode and one week later, I found a small moth (about 1.5cm wing span only) flying about in the glass jar. The next moth was found a week later.

I asked around on the internet and was advised that it is a micro moth belonging to the family Crambidae, subfamily Spilomelinae. And there is a whole host of species looking roughly like this, mostly in the genus Omiodes (special thanks to Green Baron of GCS forum for the ID).

If the caterpillars were really transported back into my tank from 'Lingga Island' via the plants collected, they possibly could have been found in the natural habitat of C. sp/ 'Lingga', the caterpillars relying on their leaves for food and shelter while the moth helping to pollinate their flowers......

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mr Aqua PLPNT'S Laterite-Ball

I have read on many other cryptocoryne collectors' blogs that they add laterite as part of their potting mix for cultivating emersed cryptocorynes and therefore have been trying to obtain some locally in Singapore. After many months of searching, I finally managed to purchase some product from a local fish shop (LFS) which claimed to be manufactured from all natural laterite.

I broke open a hard ball of laterite using a screw driver and this was how it looked like inside. It basically is just soil (clay?) mixed with what seemed to me to be broken sea shells......

I added this laterite stuff into some pots of cryptocorynes which I currently have and will observe if there are any marked improvement......

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ocean Free Super Pro-Peat Granules

I bought another peat related product recently: Ocean Free Super Pro-Peat Granules. As usual, I tested the pH and the result as expected was between 4 to 4.5. Click here to view the summary. I quite like this product as the granules are rather small, similar to the various type of aquarium soils we usually use as substrate for growing cryptocorynes emersed and thus, are easy to mix with such soils.