How do mangroves grow?


Red Mangrove

Rhizophora mangle

Red Mangroves! only 6.88
Ideal for those that want plants growing OUT of their Aquariums, Betta Vases, HOB’s, or w a sump-system to create your natural freshwater refugium filter! If you have a hang-on back filter, you can remove the lid and install avg 6 to 10 plants right into the flow chamber! Mangroves roots serve as nurseries for many fish & invertebrates when planted directly into an aquarium while filtering the water naturally!

Rhizophora mangle is known as the red mangrove and is distributed in estuarine ecosystems throughout the tropics. Its viviparous “seeds” in actuality are called propagules and become fully mature plants before dropping off the parent tree. These are dispersed by water until eventually embedding in the shallows.

Very few plants can survive in saltwater but the Red Mangrove is one of them that does excellent! Red Mangroves can remove a large amount of Nitrates in your refugium, as well as chemical contaminants.

Red Mangroves don’t go sexual or respire like macro algae will. They present less risk to your systems pH balance, and have become popular with many aquarists, both in freshwater and in marine systems. With proper trimming the plant can spend years in your refugium, sump, or aquarium. Larger plants will need an open top to continue to grow. Many hobbyists and zoological designers are beginning to add Red Mangroves to their display tanks as they want to mimic nature as closely as possible while providing a habitat for their fish who will spend a large portion of time swimming in and out of the tree’s roots. The Dwarf Planaxis Snail, the Cerith Snail and many others love Mangroves and will quickly burrow around the tree’s root system.

Use in Freshwater habitats, Saltwater Aquarium systems, Aquaponics systems, Pond Bog shorelines, Sumps, Waterfall basins and more!

You are buying real living growing plants usually 8 to 12 inches tall, these are not seeds like other competitors.

Min purchase 6 for this incredible low price!

5 Red Mangroves

Very few true plants can survive in saltwater. The Red Mangrove is one of them. Red Mangroves can remove a large amount of Nitrate in your refugium, as well as chemical contaminants that come from your water or hands.

Because they do not “go sexual or respire” like macro algae, they present less risk to your systems pH balance, and have become popular recently with many aquarists. With proper trimming the plant can spend years in your refugium, larger plants will need an open top to grow out of. Many people are beginning to add the Red Mangrove to their display tank, as they want to mimic nature as closely as possible, while providing a habitat for their fish who will spend a large portion of time swimming in and out of the tree’s roots. The Dwarf Planaxis Snail and the Cerith Snail love Mangroves, and will quickly burrow around the tree’s root system. The three make an excellent combination in a refugium.

In this order you will be receiving 5 Red Mangrove Propagules. They are each roughly 5-8 inches tall. However, seeds can differ from those average sizes.

1. The growth tip, (the very top of the green portion of the seed), must be above the water line. They can be placed in a shallow fuge, sump or nano. If you don’t use one of these, push the propagule half way through a piece of Styrofoam, until green half is fully through the top portion of the Styrofoam, and the red portion is hanging underneath the Styrofoam. Alternatively, you can bunch the mangroves together with rubber bands, and add a stick, or similarly shaped object to go lengthwise across the opening in the hood of your tank to hold the mangroves out of the water. We bunch them and place them in front of the heater to cover it up, and make the tank look more natural.

2. Add light strong enough to grow macroalgae, or a grow light. You can get these at home depot.

3. Heat. Mangroves like warm temperatures, try to keep them in a room that is at regularly 70 degrees or warmer for best results.

4. Misting. Even though red mangroves exclude the majority of the salt in the water, they should be regularly misted to prevent salt buildup.

By .

You may buy mangrove plants here.

If you were lucky enough to visit the beaches of South Florida in October-November, than you were more than likely puzzled by the little husks 15-20 cm in length floating in the ocean. These, are seeds of Red Mangrove trees which can be found throughout the Florida. I have them growing in aquarium with the mudskippers, proving to be a very good filter for the water. Mangroves may be used to filter the organic from fresh water and from salt water fish tanks. If you are bugged with algae, then mangroves are an excellent way to fight them. I have not changed the water in my aquarium with mudskippers for over a year and half, I just add some water over to replace the one that has already evaporated. Nitrates and phosphates are almost at zero.

What are the mangroves

It is said that the word mangrove has originated from the Spanish word mangue (distorted), and English word grove. There is somewhere close to 50 types of these mangrove trees… They are used to growing in salty soil, which is periodically drowned by a tide.

Mangroves are the trees that you will find the most throughout the coastline of South Florida, where they have not been cut down of course. It is illegal now to cut down mangrove trees so you can also find them in in the Florida Keys, which are the continuation of the mainland, you can only find the islands that you can get to by car on a map, but altogether there is about 200 most of which are preserves.

Besides the Red (Rhizophora mangle), you can also find these throughout Florida: black (Avicennia germinans) and white ( Laguncularia racemosa).

On the picture you can see the grove of the red mangroves.

The water in these parts of the mangrove forest is quite murky, because of tannin, which is emitted when organic material decomposes in the water.

Red mangroves are sometimes called “walking” trees. Because their massive root system is slowly moving towards the water taking up more and more territory as it progresses. The roots grow from the main stock towards the soil through the thickness of the water. The tree is able to set itself on thin “legs”, and afterwards create soil, trapping and saving organic sediment (many islands were formed this way).

The roots of the tree provide shelter for many organisms such as fish and various invertebrates. One of the most fascinating are mudskippers, which can be seen eating a piece of shrimp on the picture.

These groves can be almost impassible to any animal or man, but to some birds, they make up a great place for a home. A few miles off the coast, towering mangrove groves can be seen, where birds such as pelicans and herons nest.

Where the water washes over the roots of mangroves the water itself is very clean, that is because the roots of the tree absorb the organic material from the water. In these groves you can find many invertebrate which in their turn form a reef.

Red Mangroves trees are viviparous,meaning the seeds mature while they are still on the tree, and only afterwards do they fall in to the water. For the seed to reach its full level of maturity, it needs to spend about a month in the water. During this time, the seed collects the water in its lower portion of the body and floats vertically, with the bud facing skyward, and roots facing down. These seeds will be floating in the salt water for months until they are washed on the shore. One of the conditions needed for the seed to start growing, is absence of disturbances. This is the way nature makes sure that the plant will grow in good conditions. This seed will spend almost a year securing itself in the soil before becoming a young tree.

Red mangroves have the ability to replace sodium ions, which are present in salt water, with magnesium ions. If you have a salt water tank, it is recommended to look after the level of magnesium present in your aquarium, the plants can consume it quite fast. When level of magnesium ions is low, mangrove couldn’t replace sodium ions. The plants during that time are in condition of stress, the leaves become yellow and rough. In my aquarium with mudskippers, where the water is somewhere in between salt and fresh (brackish), I regularly add magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) which can be found in a drug store. If you grow mangroves in freshwater you don’t have worry about anything.

On the picture you can see a maturing seedling that still hasn’t fallen off the tree.

Black mangroves can be distinguished by a system of roots that stick out of the water like pencils, covering the surface in a carpet like formation. These roots contain sponge-like structure and allow gaseous exchange to take place. The seeds of this black mangrove are considerably smaller than that of the red mangrove, which allows the current to carry them further in to the rising-falling tide area of the swamp. Strong currents push the seeds in to thick swamp mud where the seeds shed off their “skin” and cast roots. That is why they are mostly found on high ground, even though I have seen them together with the red mangroves, like on the picture to the left.

The seeds of white mangroves are similar to the black mangroves’ and grow on highland areas. White mangroves are unique because they can get rid of salt through their leaves.

Usually aquariums contain red mangroves, that is who most of the information below will be about them. I guess the other species are grown the same way.

Where to find them

Those who live near me, it is very easy, you can collect them yourself and grow them on your own. But first I’d suggest you to familiarize yourself with the laws, for example – in Florida it is illegal to dig mangrove trees out (Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act, 1996), in Hawaii – no one cares. There is quite a lot of “farms” that grow mangroves and send them in the mail. That is the way I have bought my first mangroves – by mail.

If you want to buy mangroves – check out our online store – Top Tropicals

What to do upon receiving the seeds

You can receive the “seedling” in various forms:

1. Without roots or leaves, only with a bud up at the top (this is the way I had gotten my first mangroves)

2. With roots just beginning to grow, but without leaves

3. With small roots and growing leaves

4. With roots and leaves

It is most likely that you will get yours in the first, or second stage. Nothing to be afraid of, you will only need to spend more effort acclimatizing your seedling, and the results will follow a few months later.

On the picture to the left – I am trying to grow mangroves from seeds on my balcony in a pot. The right plant already has some leaves showing.

The seeds which you had bought have not seen the light for quite some time, so you should gradually “walk” the plant out of the condition of stress. Please find out to what kind of water was the seed adjusted to (fresh or salt). If your aquarium that the mangrove is going to live in has different water than what the plant is used to, than you must slowly acclimatize it to the water type you have, throughout two weeks

Put the plant in to a moist atmosphere, for example, in to a hothouse, or just enclose the pot in a plastic bag, in which you will gradually make holes, to “teach’ the mangrove the atmosphere it will be inhabiting. Usually mangroves prefer high humidity (no less than 60%), and high temperature – about 25 degrees Celsius. In an aquarium you will have somewhat similar habitat. If, however, you are growing them in pots, you will have to worry about the humidity.

Do not cascade the light, fertilizer, etc. do it gradually, and in a few weeks you will notice how from a bud a few little leaves are peaking out.

How to grow a Mangrove

Because Mangroves require a lot of space above the water, it is recommended to plant them in an open aquarium. The space that I have in my aquarium is about 20 cm, which is enough for the plant. Of course you must trim the plant, because one mangrove can easily fill up the whole room.

It is often seen that people grow mangroves in separate aquariums to filter out the water for the main one. In this case plant them before the protein-skimmer, of course only if you use one, so that mangroves can get all the nutrition they will need.

There are various planting methods:

1. In to substrate (the thickness of substrate should be 3-5cm) – this is the way I have it in my aquarium where the level of the water doesn’t exceed a couple of centiliters.

2. In to a bag from filter media, where the gravel is poured. The bag afterwards is fastened to the wall of the aquarium or on to a floating piece of foam. This method is easiest for the “trimming” of the roots.

3. Planting the seeds in to pieces of foam – the seeds are planted in a way that the roots are still in the water.

4. Other methods

In any case, to not let the top green part of the plant be submerged underwater. At the age of a year, or a year and a half, the trees let out air roots. But this doesn’t always happen. My mangroves do not have them. In this case it is noticed that the root system of the plant is more “massive” and stronger, maybe if the plant doesn’t need the air roots, it won’t have any. I noticed that my mangroves have massive root system when I had been planting other plants in my aquarium. Keep this in mind when you add “neighbors” to mangroves. I have not seen any information on any other plants coexisting with mangroves, because it is most likely that they are kept in a salt water aquarium, where the choice of vegetation is not that big. But it is more likely that the mangroves can starve it’s neighbors.

Mangrove grow quite slowly, which is one of its good abilities, or otherwise they would fill up the whole room pretty quickly. Because the roots of the mangroves are more useful to the aquarium than the leaves, it is recommended to regularly trim it. But if your goal is to grow a giant tree, than you don’t have to do that. But they do not seem very appealing to the eye in any way, orchids are much more interesting!

When the plant is fairly small, it shouldn’t be bothered. Later on you can pinch off the top leaving a couple of leaves, after that the plant will let off some side branches.

The tree is not very picky when it comes to lighting. I have a compact luminescent lamp above the aquarium with the power of 35W. It is written that a small incandescence lamp close to the plant should be enough. But keep a look out so that the plant won’t burn itself on the lamp.

The nutrients that the mangroves need it gets from the water, I sometimes fertilize them with a microelements mixture in the water. Thiel says that the usage of iron accelerates the growth and acclimatization of the plant, but I have not noticed a great difference.

Above it was stated how important that the level of magnesium must be kept under control, if you are growing them in salt water.

All together mangroves are not that hard of a plant to grow.

What are the benefits of growing mangroves

Besides the exotic feeling, they are a great filter for the water, absorb the organic material, phosphates, nitrates etc. from the water.

In a salt water tank, with the volume of 55 gal (about 200 liters), 8 mangroves with small roots were added to the habitat. Obviously the nitrates in the duration of the day were “eaten” almost completely.

(William Horst from Eastern PA Reef Club’s Newsletter articles )

A. Thiel has conducted a special research. Three aquariums with the volume of about 22 gal (about 80 liters) and three aquariums with mangroves. Each aquarium had aproximately 20lb ( somewhere around 10 kg) “live rocks”. In each one of those aquariums sat an ordinary yellow tang. Every one of them had the same protein skimmer.

Obviously magroves work very effectively in removing nitrates-phosphates, which are the main cause of the algae problems

I have not conducted any measurements myself. At first, my aquarium with the muddskippers had murky water and everything was covered with long algae (similar to Black Beard algae). Everything had a look of a swamp, which, by the way, didn’t disturb the mudskippers. Than, as the mangroves grew, the water started to turn clean, the algae has decreased in numbers. Later on, after the addition of some more mangroves, the water became very clean, and the algi dissapeared, the only thing that was left is the green substance that cover the pieces of wood which are out of the water.

Eventually I have stopped changing water in the aquarium, just adding some to replace the evaporated one. Nitrates and phosphates – almost at zero.

How many mangroves are needed to reach the desired effect? Different authors recommend different numbers – usually one tree per 10-20 liters. Young trees may be used in large numbers. But afterwards when they grow bigger, you should remove some, or otherwise they will not have enough organic material. Or you can provide extra organics in water.

The thing you must always remember when growing mangroves (or anything else related to aquarium) is patience. The results will be only in a couple of months, and they will be.

Make sure to check pictures of our another brakish tank with fiddler crabs.

We grow mangrove in our outside pond and even as “lucky mangrove” – stones, water and fertilizer.

You may buy mangrove plants here.

Article by James C. Li
Effects of Ammonium, Phosphate and Salinity on Growth and Nutrient Content of Seedlings of Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
.pdf file, 392 Kb

Growing Mangrove Trees: How To Grow A Mangrove With Seed

Mangroves are among the most recognizable of American trees. You’ve probably seen photos of mangrove trees growing on stilt-like roots in swamps or wetlands in the South. Still, you’ll find out some amazing new things if you involve yourself in mangrove seed propagation. If you’re interested in growing mangrove trees, read on for tips on germination of mangrove seeds.

Growing Mangrove Trees at Home

You’ll find mangrove trees in the wild in shallow, brackish waters of the southern United States. They also grow in riverbeds and wetlands. You can start growing mangrove trees in your backyard if you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9-12. If you want an impressive potted plant, consider growing mangroves from seed in containers at home.

You’ll have to pick between three different types of mangroves:

  • Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
  • Black mangrove (Avicennia germinans)
  • White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa)

All three grow well as container plants.

Germination of Mangrove Seeds


you want to start growing mangroves from seeds, you’ll find that mangroves have one of the most unique reproductive systems in the natural world. Mangroves are like mammals in that they bring forth live young. That is, most flowering plants produce dormant resting seeds. The seeds fall to the ground and, after a time, start to germinate.

Mangroves do not proceed in this manner when it comes to mangrove seed propagation. Instead, these unusual trees start growing mangroves from seeds while the seeds are still attached to the parent. The tree can hold onto seedlings until they grow almost a foot long, a process called viviparity.

What happens next in the germination of mangrove seeds? The seedlings may drop off the tree, float in the water the parent tree is growing in, and finally settle and root in mud. Alternatively, they can be picked from the parent tree and planted.

How to Grow a Mangrove with Seed

Note: Before you take mangrove seeds or seedlings from the wild, be sure that you have the legal right to do so. If you don’t know, ask.

If you want to start growing mangroves from seeds, first soak the seeds for 24 hours in tapwater. After that, fill a container without drain holes with a mixture of one part sand to one part potting soil.

Fill the pot with sea water or rain water to one inch above the surface of the soil. Then press a seed into the center of the pot. Position the seed ½ inch below the soil surface.

You can water mangrove seedlings with freshwater. But once a week, water them with salt water. Ideally, get your salt water from the sea. If this is not practical, mix up two teaspoons of salt in a quart of water. Keep the soil wet at all time while the plant is growing.

Mangrove planting has become hugely popular. The majority of planting efforts are however failing. A more effective approach is to create the right conditions for mangroves to grow back naturally. Mangroves restored in this way generally survive and function better. This publication aims to contribute to best practice by exploring the question that everyone involved in mangrove restoration should ask: ‘To plant or not to plant?’

Key messages:

  • The world needs mangroves, but in many parts of the world they have been lost or degraded, along with their valuable services like coastal protection or fisheries enhancement. Restoration is necessary in many places.
  • Mangrove planting is hugely popular, but the majority of planting efforts fail to restore functional mangrove forests and we can learn from these experiences.
    Successful restoration results in the establishment of a sizeable, diverse, functional and self-sustaining mangrove forest that offers benefits for nature and people.
  • When the enabling biophysical and socioeconomic conditions are put back in place applying Ecological Mangrove Restoration principles, nature will do the rest. When that happens, species to site matching is optimal, resulting in better survival, faster growth, and a more diverse and resilient mangrove forest.
  • In some cases, planting can assist or enrich the natural regeneration process. However, planting in non-mangrove habitat and areas showing natural mangrove recruitment needs to be avoided.

We are pleased to say that we have secured support for this project from two of our long-standing donors, the Turing Foundation and the Waterloo Foundation. However, we are still looking for partners to support this work. If you would like to find out more, please contact Femke Tonneijck at .

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plant?

Restorasi mangrove: menanam atau tidak menanam? (Bahasa Indonesia)

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plant? (Burmese)

Restauración de manglares: ¿sembrar o no sembrar?

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plant? (Thai)

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plant? (Vietnamese)

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plant? (Khmer)

Mangrove Restoration: to plant or not to plan (Malay)

Mangrove restoration: to plant or not to plan (Filipino)

Feature Article: Mangroves In Reef Aquaria

Several years ago reef enthusiasts started to take a fancy to mangroves. To my knowledge this was something “made in the USA,” because Julian Sprung was the one who got it started, which was not surprising for someone who lives in Miami Beach, Florida. He planted a mangrove in his 15 gallon reef tank, and to everyone’s surprise – maybe even to his own surprise – it started to grow wonderfully and still does to this day. This was copied by many reefkeepers, and after Julian had published an article about mangroves in a German aquarium magazine, even German reefkeepers got keen to plant those little trees into their tank.

Growing mangroves enables one to decorate a tank to look like a fringing reef that surrounds an island, as seen from the ocean. In fact, this is what I tried to do with my 1500 gallon tank with the help of 40 mangroves. A viewer that sits in front of the tank faces the “wall” of a “fringing reef,” and if he looks over the water surface, he can see a “beach area” behind it, planted with mangroves. When standing behind the tank, one feels like a giant looking at a little mangrove forest over the beach area into the coral reef. Sometimes you can even see corals and other sessile inverts growing on the submerged parts of the mangrove’s trunks. I remember a Pavona venosa fully surrounding one of my mangroves, covering the complete submerged trunk – a little unusual because Pavona cannot be considered a typical coral genus growing in the mangrove area. But, in fact, those mangroves growing near the lagoonal area where their roots are permanently submerged even during ebb tide often have lots of sponges, mussels and even corals growing on them. Pocillopora damicornis grows in this area, and occasionally we can also find corals typical for a lagoon. If we plant mangroves in our aquaria and we want to create a coral community that has some similarity to the low and submerged parts of a natural mangrove zone, we can use Catalaphyllia, Goniopora, Pachyseris, Leptoseris, Herpolitha, Euphyllia, and many others. Even small polyped scleractinians like Porites, Montipora, Pavona, Pocillopora and even some Acropora species can occasionally be found there, aside from zoanthid polyps, disc anemones and soft corals like Sarcophyton or Sinularia.

What Is The Advantage Of Having Mangroves In A Reef Tank?

Mangroves take the nutrients necessary for their growth from the aquarium water. This means that we have a means of exporting phosphates and nitrates. Macro algae do the same, but they easily set those nutrients free when they are eaten by fish or die and dissolve. With mangroves this is different, at least if the aquarist succeeds in preventing the mangrove leaves from falling into the water and dissolving there. While many mangrove species export excess salt by depositing it on the surface of their leaves for the rain to wash away, some mangrove species deposit excess salt inside of their oldest leaves, which then will turn yellow and drop down. This is a natural process, but in the reef tank we just have to make sure that the leaves will not dissolve in the aquarium water and release nutrients back into the aquarium water.

But, on the other hand, regarding the nutrient export capacity of some mangrove plants living on the upper zone of our reef tank, we should not expect miracles. They are slow-growing plants, and their nutrient uptake is limited. To say it clearly: if we have the problem of exporting phosphates and/or nitrates from our tank, due to over-feeding, insufficient foam fractionation, etc, we will certainly not be able to solve it by planting mangroves. Having mangroves in the tank just helps to make the man-made biotope a little more natural, in function and appearance. If we try to create something we call a “mini reef,” we should take every opportunity to employ natural mechanisms. Even though their functional contribution to the system is relatively small, it makes our “mini reef” a bit more natural.

For Which Types Of Reef Tanks Are Mangroves Suitable?

Of course, a tank where we want to plant mangroves needs to be open on the top, so the plants have space to grow. Theoretically, we can also cut an opening into the light hood of a closed tank, but from an aesthetically point of view this can hardly be satisfying, at least if one tries to copy a natural beach area. The most fascinating thing with mangroves in a reef tank is – at least to my opinion – the view from the top in front of the tank on the little “coral reef” that extends from the “deep ocean” to the “shallow lagoonal area,” ending in the mangrove-populated “coastal zone.” With a light hood this does not work.

Another type of tank for mangroves is a special mangrove-aquarium. This can even be done with a filter tank and is very simple. Julian Sprung has a tank of this type connected to his “famous” little reef tank. All you have to do is to take a few mangroves that root on some porous lime rocks, place it in the center of this tank and surround it with some corals typical of the lagoonal zone. A weak water current is sufficient for the mangroves (but obviously you should also ask the corals for their opinion). This mangrove tank can be connected to your main reef tank, for example by placing it a little higher and pumping a small amount of water from the reef tank into the mangrove tank, so it will flow back into the reef tank via gravity. With the help of a timer you can even add a second pump which will pump at certain intervals and transport more water into the mangrove tank, resulting in a higher water level. By doing so you will imitate the natural high and ebb tides. If you create the decoration of your mangrove tank in a way that lets some areas fall dry during ebb tide, you can even add animal life typical for this mangrove zone, a fascinating thing.

Mangrove Propagules Or Mangrove Seeds?

Mangrove species have developed different strategies for propagating. Those species growing on the more elevated areas near the land which falls dry during ebb tide develop propagules instead of seeds, e. g. Bruguiera- and Rhizophora-species (mostly R. mangle ). A propagule is a sprouting young plant that looks a bit like a candle. When it falls down from the mangrove tree at ebb tide, it can bore itself deeply into the muddy ground. This helps to prevent it from being washed away when the sea water returns during high tide. One must know that once those mangrove propagules have been washed away from the shore area reaching the open sea, the chances of their survival by finding another shoreline of an island is very limited and the long term survival of those propagules would be very questionable, though they can survive even three months floating around. Other mangrove species inhabiting other areas of the shoreline develop other strategies of propagation and form seeds, mostly in the size of a hazelnut.

The propagules as well as the seeds can be used in a reef tank. The seeds grow into a plant with a thin stem that can perfectly adjust its growth form to the light conditions on top of the aquarium, but they seem to be a bit more sensitive if the halide lamps emit too much heat. Propagules seem to be hardier, but they are also larger and in a very small reef tank they might look unsuitably large, while a mangrove plant that has grown from a seed may have a more natural tree-shape, giving the scene a more natural appearance. A few years ago I was able to get mangrove propagules and seeds from Florida and the Philippines. In my experience it was much more difficult to keep the seeds in place. Even when it was securely fixed between the rocks, some fish came nibbling around on the seeds. In contrast to this, propagules can easily be put between some lime rocks. In my case, the propagules and seeds grew nicely during the first few weeks, but then about one half of the mangroves grown from seeds died. This may have been caused by planting them too near to the 1000 watt halide lamps, which emit a lot of heat. All in all, the survival rate has been much better among the mangroves grown from propagules, though today I still have some mangroves grown from seeds.

Planting Mangroves In A Tank Is Simple

Under natural conditions, mangroves do not only root in mud, but also in lime rock. Consequently, we can offer them some porous lime rocks placed in the upper area of the tank. The simplest way is if you push the propagules between two or three porous rocks, allowing their roots to grow into the pores. If the propagule already has developed fine roots when you get it, you can also lay those roots around a porous lime rock and carefully fix it with a rubber band, waiting for the roots to hold tightly to the rock This way it is easy to change the plant’s location at a later time, though this should be avoided as far as possible because the plants strongly adjust to their environment, especially to the illumination.

But a single mangrove has little similarity to a mangrove forest. If you want to have a “real mangrove forest,” you may need to employ a different way of fixing the plant in the water. For this purpose, I have embedded the propagules into rock wool and placed the whole thing in a small grid basket formed of plastic commonly used for freshwater aquarium plants. The roots grow through the rock wool and the holes in the basket, holding the plant tight. This basket makes it easy to connect several mangroves to each other by using nylon cable ties. That way I have created groups of mangroves that stabilize each other in their position.

If you want to create a “beach zone” with fine white sand and mangroves on top of your tank, you can go one step further and connect those plastic baskets to a perforated plastic sheet (PVC or acrylic). This sheet with mangroves then gets placed in the upper area of your tank, where you can cover it with coral sand, coarse grain size on the bottom of the sheet, and covered with fine white coral sand.

Illuminating Mangroves

The simplest illumination for the mangroves is the light emitted at the side of a halide lamp. But you need to make sure that the plants don’t grow directly under the lamps because of the strong heat emitted there. Also, the plants would shade corals when growing directly under the lamps. The stronger your halide lamp, the greater the distance you need to plant the mangrove from it. But, if necessary, you can cut the plant in shape at a later time when it grows branches too near to the lamp. Also the color temperature of the lamps is of importance for the mangroves. The best light for mangroves is, of course, a daylight lamp at 6,000 Kelvin, since they are land plants. With a lamp of 10,000 Kelvin it may also be possible to grow mangroves, but a 20,000 Kelvin lamp will probably make it harder to satisfy the physiological needs of mangrove plants (though I have not tried it).

Mangroves And Daylight

If the aquarium is placed under a window, we can also use the natural daylight to grow mangroves. In this case, we can even illuminate the tank with fluorescent tube lamps, even with a closed lamp hood having a hole for the mangrove. An alternative to the natural daylight or the halide lamp would be a special plant lamp hanging on top of the mangrove. That helps placing the lamp a greater distance from the mangrove, and also permits putting it right on top of the plant, resulting in a more natural looking growth form.

Maintaining Mangrove Plants

Mangrove plants don’t need much care. The most frequently traded mangroves are Rhizophora mangle, which exports salt by producing a thin layer of salt crystals on top of their leaves. This should be washed away daily – or at least two to three times per week – by spraying fresh water on top of the mangroves. We use distilled water for this purpose. Be very careful when spraying water on to the mangroves on top of the aquarium if there are lamps and electrical outlets! That is about all you have to do other than cutting some branches occasionally or even the growth tip of the plant if it comes too near to the lamp.

A view on the mangrove zone of the authors’ 1500 gallon reef tank with a “floating coral nursery”. Photo: Daniel Knop

Occasional cleaning of the mangroves from salt is helpful. Photo: Daniel Knop

Sometimes mangroves in aquaria even develop the typical roots. Photo: Stefan Albat, Germany

The mangrove grown out of a seed (center bottom) develops a different and probably more interesting growth form than the specimen grown out of propagules seen at the back. Photo: Daniel Knop

Nylon cable ties help to connect mangroves that are placed individually in plastic grid baskets. Photo: Daniel Knop

When mangroves propagules are placed in plastic grid baskets it is easy to attach it to a perforated sheet with the help of nylon cable ties. Diagram: Daniel Knop

It is best to buy mangrove propagules when they have a protection for the roots and some green, healthy leafes. Photo: Daniel Knop

Zonation Of A Natural Mangrove Forest

The zonation of a natural mangrove forest starts with very salt-resistenrt species of the genus Sonneratia (1) on the sea side that are capable of tolerating a permanent submersion of their roots. Moving more near to the shore at the upper end of the intertidal zone we mostly find Rhizophora species (3), which is the most commonly offered mangrove species in the aquarium trade. Here they are submersed only for a limited period of time. Species of the genus Bruguiera (4) have more sensitive roots that are not capable of living unter the rough conditions we find in the intertidal zone. Therefore they mostly grow over the intertidal zone in the mud collecting here.

Tipps For Buying And Keeping Mangroves:

  • Prefer propagules instead of seeds, if available

  • Try to get the species Rhizophora mangle, because it is very hardy and adjustable

  • Buy a propagule with some roots and some leafes

  • Make sure that the roots are not hurt. It is best if the roots have grown into rock wool, covered by a pot.

  • Chose a propagule with healthy green leafes. yellow or dried leafes can be something natural, but as well it can be a sign of transport damage.

  • Some mangrove species – especially Bruguiera sp., react very sensitive to infections with molds fungi, which sometimes develop in the humid conditions near an open aquarium. Try to avoid the development of molds on the walls and ceiling if you want to keep mangroves.


Web Links:

There are some excellent hyperlinks to mangrove biology available on the web, the first (especially) and the third are excellent resources. The fourth gives the three species of mangrove found in South Eastern US. Craig Bingman, Science editor.

DIY Mangrove Tree

Written by Angelo Garcia

Ever wanted to get one of those neat looking tree decors for your hermit crabs, but didn’t want to shell out tons of cash? Well, here’s a much more affordable way to make your own decor and still make it look really nice (not to mention, realistic!) I wanted something to look like it came from a brackish marsh, rather than something that looks like a forest, and I’m happy to say, that it turned out pretty well! This was the look I was trying to go for:

Photo courtesy of

What you need:
T-Rex Bio-vine or Exo Tera Jungle Vine
Plastic/silk plants

extra water/food dishes

All of these things can be found at Petco and Petsmart:

Photos courtesy of

First, I took out the bio-vine (mine was made by T-Rex), and twisted the entire vine into 4 smaller vines, three of those twisted vines will act as “legs” or the “trunk/roots” while the remaining twisted vine will act as a branch/trunk.
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat – TRex Bio Vine
Then I got my silk plants, and disassembled the leaves from their plastic holders. (I bought the Exo-Terra Silk Abutilon Jungle Plant, because it was on sale, and they looked really nice. But please, feel free to use any kind of plastic/silk plants that you already have laying around that you use for your hermits!)
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat – Silk Plant
Now, the fun part! In order to attach the leaves onto the vine, you kinda have to “untwist/unwind” the vine so that it creates a small slit/hole that’s small enough for the base of the leaves to fit into, once you have the base of the leaves positioned, just re-twist the vine and it should pinch the base of the leaves in place, leaving them in nice and tight.
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat – Silk Plant
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat – Silk Plant
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat
Then, just keep adding more of the leaves anywhere you’d like (but if you’re like me, and you really want to make it look realistic, I’ve limited myself to putting the leaves towards the top portion of the vines, but don’t let that stop you from making whatever you’d like to make it look! You could even add even more leaves to make it look thicker, which works very nice as a hidey spot for your hermit crabs!)
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat
Congratulations! You’ve made your very own decor that your hermit crabs will love! The best part of it, is that it’s very VERY versatile! Your hermit crabs will enjoy climbing all over it, using it as a hidey, eating parts of the vine, and hanging upside down on the vines! The best part about it, is its flexibility. Since the twisted vines can be shaped into practically anything, you can make it fit anywhere in your crabitat, you could also place a water/food dish underneath it to give it that extra “pizazz”! Add moss in the dish and it’ll be a really fun moss pit, or use it as a shell shop! They work great for corner dishes as well, please refer to the pictures below 🙂 . . . oh and I apologize in advance for not using a real dish/corner dish in my pictures, I didn’t want to disturb my hermit crabs by getting their water dishes, so I had to make one out of paper (just pretend it’s a real dish! Hehe!!)
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat

DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat
They’re really fun to make, and the possibilities are endless! Make more than just one of these, and you can “connect” them into a series of trees, There’s about 4 jungle vines in there, which is why it looks more like a jungle gym for my hermits. The best part about this project, is that your hermit crabs will love it! Here’s what it looks like in my crabitat.
DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat

DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat DIY Mangrove tree for hermit crab crabitat

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