What exactly are in vitro plants? Why are in vitro aquarium plants are becoming a popular site in many local fish stores worldwide. They make a great alternative to traditionally cultivated plants typically sold in baskets filled with mineral wool. Why are sellers and aquascapers finding In-vitro plants more appealing? What is their phenomenon? These aquarium plants facilitate sellers’ work and encourage buyers with their advantages. Although, for many people, purchasing aquarium plants grown in a laboratory sounds quite odd. However, In vitro technology began to be used for commercial plant production in the second half of the 20th century. Are you part of the vitro culture?

In Vitro culture (latin: in glass), as it is also known, has existed for many decades and developed from the need to propagate robust, healthy plants when creating new varieties in ornamental plant production.

The plant cells, of which all plants consist off, have a substantial regenerative potential. In theory, an entire plant can be grown from a tiny cell. Placing a sterile piece of the plant (devoid of bacteria, fungi, and viruses) into the gel, we can obtain a few to several dozen new shoots.

We cannot achieve without in vitro propagation. The nutritional gel, or nutrient medium, is a blend of macro-and microelements, plant growth regulators, agar, and other substances create an artificial environment which includes all the same elements found in these plants natural environment which are necessary to grow young plants. Certain plants require a specific nutrient gel for it to grow successfully. While this can be a long process, the results speak for themselves. After a month, several dozen little disease free plants are ready for planting directly into the aquarium—all plants produced with a single plant tissue culture. The finished product – lots of micro propagated plants aquarium, all genetically exact copies of the parent plant. We must choose plants that are the healthiest and should no sign of disease. It is important that we only select the best plant specimens are selected for in vitro reproduction to ensure the health of the newly produced plants. They must be healthy plants characterized by solid growth and disease resilience. This way, rapid multiplication of a single plant is possible.

Benefits for stores

Straight away, in-vitro aquarium plants win in terms of packaging. Each newly grown plant is inside a plastic tub containing clear nutrient medium gel. These tubs are easy to ship and, for maximum shelf life, can be placed in a cooler in the shop. They do not require removal from water or bags like traditional plants. These plants are straightforward to store and display for your local fish shop. With some advice, you can keep them for up to several weeks without losing quality! The most important thing is temperature, which is directly related to the plant’s metabolism. Even though they are in a plastic cup and growth is all but paused, they continue to function as expected, including respiration and excretion of secondary metabolites into the medium. This gel, in high concentration, leads to the browning of the leaves. If stored at low temperatures, the plant metabolism is much slower and excretes metabolites into the nutrient medium more slowly, allowing for longer shelf life. The optimal temperature is 18-20 ° C. While in their tub, in-vitro plants still require a source of light to photosynthesize.

In a traditional cascade aquarium plant display in a shop, some plant species we regard as challenging to grow would perish. Delicate plants would “spoil” very quickly due to insufficient fertilization, CO2 application, and too little lighting. No matter how fragile they are, gel-form plant species are just as easy to store! Furthermore, species with highly opposite requirements in an in vitro aquarium sit side-by-side on the same shelf. 

The tub must remain sealed and the in vitro conditions must be maintained until adding the plant to the aquarium. If the nutrient medium comes in contact with is allowed to enter the tub, along with bacteria and fungi, they will start using the gel’s nutrients for their growth. Plant cells divide much slower than fungi and bacteria, resulting in a poor plant and mouldy gel. 

Aquarium plants grown in a nutrient medium gel, don’t require water. They are also free from any algae spores or insect larvae.. Thanks to the sterile conditions they are grown in, algae cannot appear on them until you put them in the aquarium. In such situations, the plant shelf life is much longer. No different to any other dry goods product in the shop.

Plants grown in baskets stored in the traditional “cascade” manner are costly, not to mention they take up a lot of time, ensuring they are healthy and presentable. This method also requires a significant amount of electricity (lighting, aquarium filtration), plus the increased water requirements and time for the regular service work when cleaning the display tanks. The plants sit closely together often; in such conditions, the light access to the plants’ lower parts is limited. Plants begin to lose leaves which is unappealing to customers. 

Transparent packaging of in vitro plants allows the buyer to evaluate the quality and make the right choices for their next aquascape. The customer cannot see a specific specimen in the case of plants in a basket. They instead have to ask for assistance. Although the plants in the baskets are labelled, the description is usually on the back. The customer cannot read information about the plant’s requirements from the label without asking the seller. The packaging of in vitro plants contains the necessary information, which significantly facilitates the aquarist’s decision-making process. Additionally, the degree of difficulty is displayed clearly in different colours.

The costs associated with storing in-vitro plants are limited only to electricity consumption for lighting. They eliminate the costs of water consumption and the time it takes to care for traditional plants. Not to mention the process of picking and packing for customers. In-vitro plants almost sell themselves.

Customer benefits

Micropropagated plants like In-vitro plants are plants not reserved for only the advanced aquarists. Anybody can use them, no matter how experienced you are with planted tanks. Today, we have a vast range of plants offered by producers. In addition to the more demanding species, you can find even the most robust of aquatic plants on offer. There is a plant to suit everyone. Each plant is small, allowing for a wider variety to be displayed. The lack of pest snails, algae or other undesirable organisms is a massive advantage that anybody can appreciate. Not to mention, in vitro plants have a higher pest resistance compared to non vitro plants grown traditionally.

Many aquascapers prefer in-vitro plants because of their quick and easy preparation methods. Remove them from the container, rinse away the nutrient medium gel under running water, and the plants are ready for planting. Then, using tweezers, place the small plants into the substrate. Preparing potted plants involves removing them from wool or foam packed tightly around the root. It would seem that nothing is complicated about this, but it is almost impossible to avoid damaging the root system while removing the mineral wool. This procedure can be detrimental to some plant species with delicate roots. For example, the species of the genus Cryptocoryne requires a lot of time, thanks to its intricate root network. 

Furthermore, gel plants form leaves very similar to that of an underwater plant. By doing this, acclimatization becomes much more manageable. There is no transition period with these plants. This means no leaf loss when the plants are placed fully under water. (see this blog for more on plant transitions)

With a plant sold in small root baskets, the aquascaper has to plant them quickly or temperarily store them in a seperate aquarium until they are ready to plant fully. Gathering all the items for a new setup can sometimes be time-consuming, especially if there are no appropriate storage conditions. The need to remain underwater can present problems. If stored for too long, the health of the plant can begin to fail. However, you can store in-vitro plants on a desk, a shelf under a lamp, or a windowsill, allowing plenty of time to gather everything required.

Benefits for the environment

The traditional aquarium production route grows the plants in the greenhouse and into mineral wool baskets. They remain in the greenhouse until they are acclimated and ready. Once ready, they are shipped to the aquarium store and eventually into our aquariums. Plants from in vitro cultures are well-nourished and prepared for rapid growth in greenhouse conditions. The plants go from the greenhouse to wholesalers, aquarium stores, and aquariums. When choosing plants in the gel, we choose plants from the first link in the production chain leading to the consumer. Hence such an excellent price for a considerable amount of superior quality seedlings. One cup can contain even over a thousand seedlings! These are not all the advantages. In addition to the absence of parasites, fish diseases, algae spores, and snail eggs, compared to greenhouse cultivation, vitro aquarium plants require less water . Less than 100 ml of water per month is enough to obtain several dozen to several hundred in vitro cultivated plants! Greenhouse cultivation occupies vast areas and consumes lots of water.

In a vitro plant laboratory, plant production takes place using multi-level racks, which saves enormous amounts of space. The more cultivation levels, the more land is preserved. Thanks to maintaining sterility in production, all the elements administered to plants are absorbed only by them. The absence of microorganisms, algae, or pests in greenhouse crops provides the ideal environment for micropropagated plants. Moreover, in the laboratory, there is no need for spraying, which is necessary for growing plants in baskets. Many organisms in the aquarium, especially shrimp, are susceptible to this type of chemistry. When using traditionally plants grown in greenhouses, the whole plant must be rinsed under running water before placing them in the aquarium. In the case of plants grown via the in vitro methods, there is no such need, once the nutrient gel has been removed, they can be placed in the tank immediately.

To sum up, let’s show the advantages of in-vitro plants:

Store Benefits include:

– Extended shelf life

– Minimal storage costs

– Less space required in store

– Less plant loss

– Maintenance free

– Maintain high quality and health.

– Can be displayed anywhere in the shop. 

Aquascaper benefits:

– More plant for your money

– No hitchhikers or algae

– Simple to plant

– Faster growth

– No transitional period

– Instant growth

– Can be stored longer before use.

In vitro plants are undoubtedly a perfect option for minimal maintenance in stores and sterile conditions. Business owners will already know why selling these aquarium plants makes a lot of sense. We encourage every aquarist to give In-vitro plants a go and enjoy the benefits of pest free aquascaping.

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