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 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. Continue reading for more information about bucephalandra.
What is Bucephalandra?
Bucephalandra (or “buce” for short) is a genus of rheophyte plants that grows along the banks of fast-moving streams in Borneo. They can be found emersed (or above the water) during dry seasons and submerged (or beneath the water) during rainy seasons. Some varieties of buce plants have oblong leaves that have wavy edges. Others have more circular shapes, are skinnier, or have straighter edges. There are many varieties of foliage, with some having red, purple or bluish tints. Up close, you may notice some species have small white dots on the leaves, as well as an iridescent sheen that changes in the light. If your buce is thriving, it may even produce a white or pink flower for your enjoyment.
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 does not sell wild-raised bucephalandra. This is to prevent overharvesting.
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 steadily increase their stock, the prices will hopefully drop over time.
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. Aquascapers love to use bucephalandra as a background or middle-ground feature in their aquariums. They also 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. That being said, they tend to grow very slowly and can be prone 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 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. Rhizome plants are great because they don’t need to be planted in soil. They can be inserted between cracks in rocks or firmly attached to decorations using 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.
If you do wish to put the plant in the ground, the key is to make sure the rhizome is not covered up. To ensure that the roots and rhizome of the plant are well buried, you need to push it into the gravel or sand. Next, gently pull the plant up until the rhizome and roots are exposed.
You also have the option to leave the bucephalandra with the rock wool in the plastic container. 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. Nutrients are primarily stored in the rhizome, so do not throw it away. Keep the rhizome in good health and you will see new shoots. These will turn into roots and leaves. For more information on melting plants, see our full article.
Bucephalandra grows in the wild
The care requirements for a Buce plant are similar to those of anubias or java fern. They can tolerate temperatures between 70-82degF (22-248degC) as well as pH levels from 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. To keep their roots moist, you can grow them with moss.
Wine Red Caridina Shrimp on a Forest of Buce
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. If you have an aquarium, it is easiest to propagate buce by cutting the rhizome down into two pieces using a pair of sharp scissors. Try to find natural bends in the rhizome, where the plant has begun to form separate clumps of foliage. 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 can be a great addition to your planted aquarium if you haven’t tried it before. They have an elegant beauty that is irresistible to both beginners and experienced aquascapers. Check out our selection of buce plants to order your own today.