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?
Bucephalandra, or “buce”, is a genus rheophyte plant that grows along the banks and streams of Borneo’s fast-moving rivers. They can be found emersed (or above the water) during dry seasons and submerged (or beneath the water) during rainy seasons. Many bumble plants have long, wavy leaves. However, some varieties are rounder, have thinner edges or have straight edges. The foliage greatly varies from light to dark greens, and certain varieties come with red, purple, or bluish 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 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 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. They are also slower growing than other species. As plant farms gradually increase their stock, the price will hopefully decrease over time.
How big do bucephalandra get? Some species grow by creeping horizontally and stay around 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) tall, whereas species that grow upright may reach 7-10 inches (18-25 cm). There are many types of buce, with leaves that range from 0.5-4 inches (1-10cm) in length. Aquascapers like to place bucephalandra in front of or in the middle of their aquarium, or attach them directly 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. 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
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. It is easy to attach them to your decor with super glue gel or sewing thread. 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. Push the plant into the gravel or sand until the roots and the rhizome are fully buried. Then gently pull the plant upwards until the rhizome is completely exposed but the roots are still in the substrate.
You also have the option to leave the bucephalandra with the rock wool in the plastic container. 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. Nutrients are primarily stored in the rhizome, so do not throw it away. 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.
Bucephalandras growing 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.
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. 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. You should look for natural bends in your rhizome where the plant is beginning to form separate clumps. Attach the new piece to a rock, or driftwood. It will continue growing as a second one.
Buce flowers grown underwater are beautiful but do not produce seeds
If you have never kept bucephalandra before, save up your money to get this rare jewel for your planted aquarium. Both novice and experienced aquascapers will find them attractive due to their elegant appearance. You can order your buce plant today from our extensive selection.