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 species look great in an 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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Because of their recent introduction into the aquatic hobby, species of the Bucephalandra genus do not tend to have common names. Since 1858, more than 30 species have been described.
Species of Bucephalandra are rheophytic aquatic plants, meaning they can survive in extreme conditions where most other plants and organisms cannot. Many species of this plant can naturally be found in the tropical rainforests of 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 waterline). When the rainy season rolls around, they are flooded and continue growing submersed.
This means that you can plant Bucephalandra in your aquariums and terrariums!
Bucephalandra comes in many variations, with varying leaf shapes, sizes, and thicknesses and can be spotted growing in and out of the water. The tops of the leaves tend to be glossy, with colors ranging between blue and green while the bottoms of these leaves feature identifiable white, red, or yellow spots. Another way to distinguish this plant is by looking at its creeping root system.
These aquatic plants can reach a full size of 10 inches (25 cm), though this is unlikely as they have been shown to display slow growth. Like flowering plants, they may also bloom white or pink flowers from time to time.
To plant your new Bucephalandra in your tank, you’ll need rocks, driftwood, or a large-grained substrate type. Because they are rheophytes, they use a strong root system to anchor themselves in high water flow and aren’t very well adapted to growing in soil. Instead, their roots are very effective at anchoring onto 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.
If you prefer undemanding aquarium plants, you’re in luck here: Bucephalandra species don’t require much to survive.
- Light. The amount of light recommended 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 a 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 tank, you can expect some of the leaves to melt. Don’t panic: unless rot occurs, your Bucephalandra should bounce back soon enough with new leaves.
- Changing conditions. Even if your Bucephalandra hasn’t been switched from emersed to submersed, it can still react badly to changing water conditions or light intensities. This plant doesn’t like sudden swings in temperature or water values and will drop some or even almost all of its leaves when this happens. It may also take some time for your plant to acclimate to your lighting; changes from low to high lighting or vice versa may make it lose its leaves for the first few weeks. Again, do not panic. As long as everything else is in order, new leaves 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 isn’t as orderly as it could be; names might not always be accurate. Some of the more popular varieties, like Bucephalandra sp. “Green Wavy,” are relatively cheap while others can go for crazy prices!
If you’re looking to buy Bucephalandra, you can try your local fish store, but they might carry a very limited range or none at all. The Internet is usually a better option and there are tons of sellers out there. For example, you can easily order your new Bucephalandra through Amazon here!
Bucephalandra is a great up and coming plant that can be added to either your fish tank or your terrarium! The variation in leaves between species gives lots of options while their low care requirements make them perfect for any already existing tank or future stocking list.
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!