NANFA-- moss confusion (forwarded)

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 20 Aug 2001 14:01:01 -0400

Chris, could you please post this to the NANFA list?
Here's some background. There's been a recent discussion
in the Aquatic Plants Digest list over the scientific name
of a particular type of aquatic moss that some of us
recently obtained from a generous aquarist in Singapore.
(For a picture, please look at

James Purchase has volunteered to undertake an
excellent project to culture and identify the different
aquatic mosses that are in the hobby, and he is seeking
samples. He specifically asked that this message be
posted to the NANFA list. If anyone on the NANFA
list has aquatic moss samples (except regular store-
bought Java Fern) to contribute, please contact James.


Moss Confusion

To: <>
Subject: Moss Confusion
From: "James Purchase" <>
Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2001 08:57:04 -0400

As most of you know, there are a number of aquatic mosses available within
the hobby - most of the plant books written for the hobby and the
commercial nurseries which sell the plants identify them as either
Fontinalis antipyretica (Willow Moss) or Vesicularia dubyana (Java Moss). I
have seen catalogues for some nurseries based in South East Asia which also
list others, usually unidentified, and I've been told by a local plant guru
who works within the trade that even Tropica occasionally has one or two
unidentified species available (these aren't on their web site). I'm
sure that there are hobbyists all over the place who may be growing others,
some identified, others unknown, from a variety of sources both commercial
and some possibly locally collected.

Loh Kwek Leong and a few other very generous hobbyists in Singapore are
doing a wonderful job to help distribute another beautiful aquatic moss
within the hobby - the Christmas Moss. The more the merrier! While moss
might not be everyone's favorite plant, it certainly has its place andits
uses in our tanks and the more different types we have to grow, the more
options we have.

While it certainly isn't necessary to know the scientific name of any
plant in your tank in order to enjoy and grow it, it does help to increase
our knowledge of the amazing world we live in if we do and it can help in
communications between hobbyists in different parts of the world if we
can be reasonably assured that we are talking about the same species or not
when we discuss different ones.

I have been scouring the internet and various university libraries searching
for identity "keys" for different mosses to see if I could figure it out
for myself to no avail. To positively identify many mosses you need to know
where it was collected, a good "key" and access to a microscope because
the many of the things which separate the species are very small features.

During my search, I came across a bryologist (thats a botanist who has
special interest in mosses and liverworts), and I pointed him to the
excellent photographs the Loh Kwek Leong has posted on his web site of
his "Christmas Moss". I was hoping that an "ID" could be made from the
photographs. Here is part of what I was told:

"Yes, there is a common aquatic moss sold in the aquaria shop in SE Asia
which is not Fontinalis nor Vesicularia. In
fact, in the aquaria in SEA, the many populations of Vesicularia sold in the
local market belong to two species. The sellers and the aquarium keepers
are not bothered with the correct scientific name."

"Now, back to your enquiry about this SE ASian moss that has a featherly
growth pattern.. Your photo of this moss in your url is too distant that
accurate identification of the moss is impossible."

All is not lost however, as the bryologist did tell me that he would be
willing to identify dried samples of moss, if I was to send them to him
at his lab.

With the cooperation of other hobbyists (that's you.....) I would like
to try and determine, and obtain positive "ID's" for as _many_ of the
DIFFERENT aquatic mosses that we may have in our tanks as possible. Since
mosses really don't require much space, I have the aquarium space and the
facilities to grow and keep separate a large number of different samples. I
would like to grow them both emersed (in high humidity environments) and
submersed in aquaria and take a variety of photographs (ranging from
life size to 10X life size) of the various mosses in as many stages of
growth as possible and then post these to the web.With the help of the
bryologist, I will attempt to have each different moss positively identified
as to its scientific name.

With luck, and your help, it might also be possible to get more of these
different mosses into wider distribution within the hobby - if I can grow
them and identify them, it should be possible to then distribute known
strains to all who care to own them.

That's were your help comes in - I'm going to need small portions of live
moss to culture. I am most interested in obtaining samples of aquatic
mosses where the aquarist has at least some idea of where it came from,
whether it was collected in the wild or came from one of the established
aquatic plant nurseries. The name (both common and/or scientific name) it
was sold as would also help (it could tell us how accurate the seller was in
their identification) but is not absolutely necessary. I'm _not_
particularly interested in getting multiple samples of generic Java Moss
(although I'd love to get a few which were known to have come from Tropica
as well as anything grown and sold by Dennerle and/or Oriental and/or
Florida Aquatic Nursery).

So, if you have an aquatic moss growing in your aquariums which you
think might be "different", or you live in a climate where there might be
local aquatic mosses which could thrive in a tropical aquarium environment,
and would like to get involved in this - please get in touch with me
privately [ - use "Moss Confusion" as the subject header
of your e-mail message]. I won't need much of a sample, just enough that
will fit into a small ziplock plastic bag and fit securely into an envelope
and go through the mail.

I am especially interested in aquatic mosses that originate or might have
originated in tropical areas - Central and South America, Australia,
South East Asia, India, Africa, etc. but there might also be interesting
aquatic mosses growing in the warmer parts of the U.S. which might be

If anyone is a subscriber to the list for North American Native Fishes,
I'd appreciate it if you could "cut and paste" this message into there as
well - moss seems to be popular with the folks on that list. [That goes to
any other lists and/or forums were hobbyists might congregate as well.]

I don't see this as being a short term project - it will take a while to

collect the samples, get them growing well and have the ID confirmed,
but at least its a start......


James Purchase

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