Care Guide for Bucephalandra – A Colorful Alternative to Anubias
When it comes to beginner-friendly aquarium plants, most people think of anubias or java fern. Bucephalandra, however, is an alternative. This beautiful plant is unique and iridescent, can withstand low light, and is great for nano aquariums. However, they tend to cost more than anubias and are very slow growing compared to other aquatic plants. Keep reading to learn all about the beautiful bucephalandra.
What is Bucephalandra, exactly?
Bucephalandra (or “buce” for short) is a genus of rheophyte plants that grows along the banks of fast-moving streams in Borneo. They are emersed (or above) in the dry season, and submerged (or below) during the wet season. Many bumble plants have long, wavy leaves. However, some varieties are rounder, have thinner edges or have straight edges. Some varieties have red, purple, or blue tints. You may be able to see small white dots and a iridescent sheen on some species. If your buce is flourishing, it might even produce a pink or white flower for you to enjoy.
Bucephalandra “Green Wavy”
What types of buce are there? There are more than 30 species currently identified. However, there are many common names for these species, such as green wavy and brown, blue, brown pearl, mini coin or dark skeleton King, Godzilla, deep purple, and Godzilla. (Note: To help prevent overharvesting in the wild, we at Aquarium Co-Op only sell farm-raised bucephalandra on our website.)
Why is bucephalandra so expensive? They are relatively new to the aquarium hobby and therefore are in high demand among fishkeepers. Plus, they are very slow growing compared to other species. The price of these species will likely drop as plant farms increase their stock.
What size can bucephalandra grow? Some species creep horizontally, reaching 2-4 inches (5-10cm) high. Others grow straight up to 7-10cm (18-25cm). Different types of buce have leaves ranging from 0.5-4 inches (1-10 cm) long. Most aquascapers enjoy using bucephalandra in the foreground or middle of the aquarium, or they attach them to hardscape.
Are bucephalandras difficult to grow? Because they are tolerant to low light and do not require a lot fertilizer or CO2 injection, they can also grow without substrate. However, they can grow slow and may be susceptible to algae growth. Our buce prefer to be grown in the shaded areas of our aquariums. We use algae eaters to keep their leaves clear.
Buce is available in many colors, including green, purple and red.
How to Plant Bucephalandra
Like anubias and java fern, buce plants have a rhizome, which is like a thick stem or trunk that sprouts both leaves and roots. Rhizome plants are great because they don’t need to be planted in soil. It is easy to attach them to your decor with super glue gel or sewing thread. Be careful not smother the rhizome with too much glue or else it may suffer. You can read more about super glue for attaching plants.
The key to putting the plant in the ground is to ensure that the rhizome does not get covered. First, push the plant deeply into the sand or gravel so the roots and rhizome are buried. Then gently pull the plant upwards until the rhizome is completely exposed but the roots are still in the substrate.
The final option is to place the bucephalandra into a plastic basket filled with rock wool. Feed the plant by inserting a root tab into the rock wool so that it reaches the roots. Then drop the whole pot into an Easy Planter decoration, which makes the buce look like it is growing out of a rock. The planter allows you to easily move the buce whenever you desire and keeps fish from digging up your plants.
Why are my bucephalandra leaves melting? Many plant farms grow their plants emersed. This means that if your new buce becomes suddenly submerged in water, some of its leaves could melt to adjust to the new environment. The rhizome is where nutrients are stored, so don’t throw it out. As long as the rhizome looks healthy, leave it in the aquarium and it will start to grow new shoots that form into leaves and roots. For more information on melting plants, see our full article.
Bucephalandra growing emersed in the wild
Similar to anubias, java fern, and broom plants, they can withstand a range of temperatures (70-82degF/21-28degC) with a pH of 6-8. Although they can grow in low- to medium light, algae problems may occur due to their slow growth. While adding CO2 gas is not necessary, it can help to speed up growth. Because of their native habitat in fast-moving rivers, bucephalandra have developed very strong roots, so they will do well in fish tanks with high flow once established.
Do bucephalandra require fertilizer? They, like most rhizome plant species, get most of their nutrients from water. Easy Green would be a good all-in-one liquid fertilizer.
Can bucephalandra survive without water? It is possible for bucephalandra to grow from water. They can be grown together with moss to keep their roots moist.
Wine-red Caridina shrimp in a forest
How to Propagate Bucephalandra
The wild buce produce flowers that rise above the water, which attracts pollinators. Fruits that are fertilized successfully will drop seeds into the water and then spread to different locations. In an aquarium setting, the easiest way to propagate buce is by cutting the rhizome into two pieces with a pair of clean, sharp scissors. Look for natural bends within the rhizome to determine if the plant has formed separate clumps of leaves. Attach the new piece of wood to a rock or other driftwood, and it will continue to grow as a second plant.
Buce flowers that are grown underwater are beautiful, but they do not produce any seeds
Bucephalandra is a rare and beautiful plant that you should consider if you’ve never had it before. These plants are attractive to both novice and experienced aquascapers. Check out our selection of buce plants to order your own today.