There are few plants that captivate aquarists like Bucephalandra seems to. This slow grower is available in many different types, each with its own leaf shape, size and color. All look great in the aquarium, require similar care and can be grown by anyone with knowledge of their requirements (and a bit of patience).
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Bucephalandra care and growing Bucephalandra in your own aquarium!
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Bucephalandra natural habitat
Bucephalandra plants can naturally be found in Borneo. Here, they grow in a way that’s similar to Anubias: on rocks and driftwood in streams and rivers. During the dry season the water level drops and the plants grow emersed (above the water line). When the rainy season rolls around they are flooded and continue growing submersed.
This means that in your home you can plant Bucephalandra in your aquariums and terrariums!
To plant Bucephalandra in your aquarium, you’ll need rocks, driftwood or a large grained substrate type. After all, this is naturally a rheophyte, meaning it uses its strong root system to anchor itself in the intense water flow and isn’t very well adapted to growing in soil. Instead, its roots are very effective at anchoring it on any surface they encounter. The more porous the better: I prefer to plant my Bucephalandra on lava rock.
To attach your Buce, simply make sure it doesn’t fall off before the roots are able to take hold. A rubber band, some super glue or fishing wire should work well to secure the plant. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it takes hold! After just a few weeks you’ll have to give the plant quite a tug to remove it from its anchor point.
Bucephalandra care requirements
If you prefer undemanding plants you’re in luck here: Bucephalandra doesn’t need much to survive.
- Light. The amount of light you need for this plant depends mostly on what you want to do with it. If it’s just for decorative purposes, low light will work just fine. It will grow very slowly and you won’t see very intense coloration, but it will still do well. If you want quicker growth and better coloration you’ll need medium to high light.
- Nutrients. As with light, you won’t need to dose nutrients or Co2 if you’re not looking to grow massive clumps of Bucephalandra quickly. However, this plant does love Co2 and appreciates nutrient dosing, so if you have the opportunity to set up a system for this you’ll definitely see better results.
- Propagation. The more, the merrier. Especially with expensive plants like these! Propagating Bucephalandra is pretty easy, as new plants will form by themselves along the rhizome. Just cut and re-attach plantlets to rock or driftwood to create a whole new plant. Fresh growth should appear soon (depending on your light, Co2 and nutrients). Not seeing any plantlets yet? Try waiting a little bit longer and/or tweaking your care to encourage lusher growth.
Problems with Bucephalandra
Although Bucephalandra is relatively easy to grow, there are a few common problems that you might run into.
- Emersed vs submersed. The most common issue with Buces is that they might not always be cultivated in water. If you take an emersed plant and place it in your aquarium you can expect quite a bit of leaf melt. Don’t panic: unless rot occurs your Bucephalandra should bounce back soon enough.
- Changing conditions. Even if your Bucephalandra isn’t switched from emersed to submersed it can still react badly to changing water conditions. This plant doesn’t like sudden swings in temperature or water values and will drop some of even almost all of its leaves when this happens. Again, do not panic. As long as everything else is in order, it should regrow eventually.
- Stretching, disappointing coloration. If a Bucephalandra isn’t growing as you’d like it to, re-check the amount of light you’re providing. A stretchy (etiolated) plant can be an indication that things are just not bright enough to keep it happy. Low-light conditions can also influence your Buce’s color, which can be quite disappointing as its coloration is one of the reasons aquarists love this plant so much.
Bucephalandra is a relatively new addition to the aquarium hobby but it has become pretty widely available in the last few years. Keep in mind that there are many different types out there and taxonomy is a mess; names might not always be accurate. Some of the more popular varieties, like “Wavy Green” are relatively cheap. Others can go for crazy prices!
If you’re looking to buy Bucephalandra you can try your local aquarium store, but they might carry a very limited range or even no Buces at all. The Internet is usually a better option and there are tons of sellers out there. For example, you can easily order Bucephalandra through Amazon here!
If you have any more questions about growing Bucephalandra or want to share your own experiences with this fascinating aquarium plant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!