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 lovely plant has unusual, iridescent leaves, does well in low lighting, and is perfect 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. Buce plants often have oblong leaves with wavy edges, but some types are more circular in shape, skinner in width, 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 thriving, it may even produce a white or pink flower for your enjoyment.
Bucephalandra “Green Wavy”
What kinds of buce exist? At the moment, more than 30 species are known. But, there are hundreds of common names on the market, including green wavy (brown), brownie blue, black pearl and mini coin), dark skeleton-king, Godzilla and deep purple. 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. They are also slower growing than 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). There are many types of buce, with leaves that range from 0.5-4 inches (1-10cm) in length. Most aquascapers enjoy using bucephalandra in the foreground or middle of the aquarium, or they 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. 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 can be purchased in many colors such as 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. You should not glue the rhizome too heavily. Otherwise, it could become damaged. See our article on super glue used to attach plants for more information.
If you decide to plant the plant, make sure that the rhizome remains exposed. To ensure that the roots and rhizome of the plant are well buried, you need to push it into the gravel or sand. Gently pull the plant upwards so that the rhizome remains exposed, but the roots remain in the substrate.
Finally, you have the option of leaving the bucephalandra in the plastic basket with rock wool. Feed the plant by inserting a root tab into the rock wool so that it reaches the roots. Drop the entire pot into the Easy Planter decoration. This will make the buce appear like it’s growing from 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 melted? Plant farms tend to emerse their plants, so if your new buce suddenly becomes submerged, some leaves might melt as it adjusts to the new environment. You should not discard the rhizome as nutrients are mostly stored in it. If the rhizome is healthy, you can leave it in your aquarium. It will grow new shoots and eventually become roots. For more information on melting plants, see our full article.
Bucephalandra growing emersed 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. Although they can grow in low- to medium light, algae problems may occur due to their slow growth. Although it is not necessary to add CO2 gas, it can speed up their 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 be grown without water? Absolutely. You can add them to a terrarium or paludarium with lots of water and high humidity. To keep their roots moist, you can grow them with moss.
Wine-red Caridina shrimp in a forest
How to Propagate Bucephalandra
Buce often grows flowers in the wild that are higher than the water and have special odors that attract 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 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.