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 is a unique alternative. This plant is very suitable for nano-aquariums because of its unusual and iridescent leaves. It also thrives in low lighting. They are slower growing than other aquatic plants and tend to be more expensive than anubias. Continue reading to discover more about the bucephalandra.
What is Bucephalandra?
Bucephalandra, or “buce”, is a genus rheophyte plant that grows along the banks and streams of Borneo’s fast-moving rivers. They grow emersed (or above water) during the dry season and submersed (or below water) during the rainy 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. Some species may have tiny white dots on their leaves. Others also have an iridescent sheen which changes with the light. 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. Aquarium Co-Op sells only farm-raised bucephalandra to help stop overharvesting in wild.
Why is bucephalandra so expensive? They are relatively new to the aquarium hobby and therefore are in high demand among fishkeepers. Additionally, they grow slower than other species. As plant farms gradually increase their stock, the price will hopefully decrease over time.
How tall can bucephalandra reach? Some species climb horizontally and grow to 2-4 inches (5-10cm), whereas others grow vertically to reach 7-10cm (18-25cm). There are many types of buce, with leaves that range from 0.5-4 inches (1-10cm) in length. Aquascapers love to use bucephalandra as a background or middle-ground feature in their aquariums. They also attach them to hardscape.
Can bucephalandra be difficult to grow? They can survive in low light, don’t need much fertilizer, or CO2 injections, and can grow with no substrate. They can grow slowly and are susceptible to algae growth. To keep their leaves clean, we like to place our buce in the shaded area of our aquariums.
Buce comes in many colors like green, purple, red, and blue
How to Plant Bucephalandra
Similar to anubias and Java ferns, buce plants also have a “rhizome”, which is a thick, branched stem or trunk that grows both roots and leaves. The great thing about rhizome plants is that they do not need to be planted in substrate. You can easily wedge them between a crack in a rock or more firmly attach them to decor using sewing thread or super glue gel. The rhizome should not be ensconced in too much glue. 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. Push the plant into the gravel or sand until the roots and the rhizome are fully buried. Next, gently pull the plant up until the rhizome and roots are exposed.
The final option is to place the bucephalandra into a plastic basket filled with rock wool. Insert a root tab in the rock wool to feed the plant. 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 is my bucephalandra melting? Most plant farms grow their plants emersed, so when your new buce is suddenly submerged underwater, some of the leaves may melt while it adjusts to its new environment. You should not discard the rhizome as nutrients are mostly stored in it. 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. Our full article contains more information on melting plants.
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. While they can be grown in low to moderate lighting, their slow growth may make them more susceptible to algae problems. While it is not required, adding CO2 gas can help 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.
Does bucephalandra use fertilizer? Most rhizome plants get their nutrients from the water column. Easy Green is an all-in one liquid fertilizer that would work well for them.
Can bucephalandra survive without water? It is possible for bucephalandra to grow from water. You can also grow them together with moss to help keep their roots moist at all times.
Wine-red Caridina shrimp in a forest
How to Propagate Bucephalandra
In the wild, buce usually produce flowers above the water that have special odors to attracts pollinators. The fruit that is successfully fertilized will have seeds that drop into water and then spread to other areas. 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 to a rock, or driftwood. It will continue growing as a second one.
Buce flowers are beautiful underwater but don’t produce seeds
Bucephalandra can be a great addition to your planted aquarium if you haven’t tried it before. These plants are attractive to both novice and experienced aquascapers. Check out our selection of buce plants to order your own today.