This turned in to a bit of a ramble by someone who is certainly not a plant
or chicklett specialist. Non-plant people, be forwarned. ;)
Some species of Vallisneria show up in a few Rift Lake photos in sand zones
and gravelly transition zones. Many of the popular aquarium fishes are rock
dwellers and the Val beds don't get mentioned much except maybe as shallow
water fry nurseries. If you have a large tank and open water fishes, plant
giant val in the back and patches of several of the other types on the sides
of the tank. There are even attractive color varieties I believe.
Two other hard water popular aquarium plants are Najas and hornwort. The
Najas seen usually in the Chicago area (and probably Milwaukee) - sort of up
your way Ty - seems to be Najas guadalupensis, by it's name a warm water
plant but a reasonably good fry shelter. There are several species of Najas,
including at least one from the southern US (N. conferta, maybe
guadalupensis way south). Naturally don't dump excess guadalupensis in any
water way. :)
Some strains of hornwort, a.k.a. coontail, or Ceratophyllum are even found
in very hard waters indeed. The late (and lamented) Al Castro found hornwort
in Death Valley streams! They measure hardness there in part per thousands,
not ppm. I've noticed different "strains" in shops. Some seem more
"comfortable" in warm water and may have warm water antecidents.
All those aquarium plants are fast growers if kept under lights on timers.
I can't think of the number of hornwort "weed bass" I reeled in as a kid in
Wisconsin and Illinois. An easy way to collect.
I would recommend soaking collected plants for 15 minutes in a gallon of
water in which a tablespoon of alum has been previously dissolved. Then
rinse, rinse, rinse....
While waiting for someone else to answer your question I pulled out a new
acquisition which I guess is very big among the aquatic gardening crowd -
the English translation of Aquarium Plants by Christel Kasselmann. It may
well replace Rataj as a standard reference for many hobbyists.
Pricey - I was lucky enough to visit Mike Schadle's book table and purchase
it about about $20 below list - it does seem to include more plants than the
older works and a couple of exciting and "new" ones - to me anyway. (Why
else would a killinut visit a livebearer guru at a Chicago area cichlid club
swap meet other than to buy books?)
I just noticed that Kasselmann has a section on biotopes and she lists
plants found in various parts of Lake Malawi and Tanganyika. I'm sure you
are aware of how big those bodies of water are and she notes that some of
the plants are only found in certain areas or infrequently.
A quick list drawn from her book would include:
water lettuce, Pista stratiotes
Val spiralis var. denseserrulata
hornwort, Ceratophyllum demersum
Potamogeton pectinatus and P. schweinfurthii
Najas horrida (There's a name which recommends it!)
Najas marina subsp. armata
Reeds of some sort
Interesting, when one considers the numbers of endemic fishes from those
waterforms, is Kasselmann's assertion that there are no aquatic plants
endemic to those two African Great Lakes. They all tend to be found in
relatively shallow and sheltered zones. Where there is serious surf, algae
manages on the rocks, but that is about it.
I wonder if you Wisconsin guys could find local analogues of many of those
plants. Invite this maladroit to tag along on one of your summer collecting
rambles and I'll bring the plant books. ;)
I hope this is useful and not too long. Maybe do a google image search
pasting in the above names.
All the best,
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