Bucephalandra: Thorough Care Guide for Beginners

Some plants are the perfect match for beginner aquarists. When you are just starting, a hardy plant can be a great addition to your aquarium. The Bucephalandra is a fantastic option when you are taking your first steps. 

The Bucephalandra is a freshwater plant from Borneo. This captivating plant can endure many a condition, making it perfect for beginner aquarists. This plant has a slow growth rate and is easy to propagate and care for.

Having the correct information is paramount for the effective care of the bucephalandra. Moreover, you will want to go the extra mile to give the best care to your plants. Keep reading to learn all the insights, tips, and tricks of caring for bucephalandra!

What is bucephalandra?

Bucephalandra is the name given to a variety of species with different leaf shapes, colors, and sizes. All of the subcategories of this plant share one characteristic; they are hardy plants. The bucephalandra is a slow-growing plant with few care requirements.

The leaves of this bushy plant grow together in bundles. Their color can vary from dark greens to brighter tones of green and yellow. Some species may even show blue and purple colors. The leaves of the bucephalandra can be oval, straight, wavy, short, and long, depending on the species. 

As seen in the picture above, the leaves can present white spots. These spots are one of the trademarks of the bucephalandra. They appear as a result of the photosynthesis process. 

This plant can grow from 2 to 60cm tall, and its leaves range from 3 to 5cm long. The species you have will determine the color, size, and shape of the plant. Isn’t it appealing to have so much variety within the same plant? I’d say yes!

Here you have some general information about the bucephalandra:

Criteria 
Common nameBucephalandra
Latin nameBucephalandra
Country of originBorneo
DifficultyEasy
Lighting requirementsLow to high
Temperature22 – 28 degrees Celsius
pH5 – 8 
GHSoft to hard
KHSoft to hard
Fertilization needsLiquid fertilizer
Growth speedSlow
CO2 requiredNo
Tank placementFore – midground

Thanks to these forgiving conditions, the bucephalandra is perfect for beginners. 

Natural habitat

The bucephalandra was discovered around 1858 in the shores and rivers of Borneo, the third biggest island in the world. From then onwards, new species have been found around the same area. This plant is predominant in Asia. 

This hardy plant can survive both under and above the water. In the rainy season, streams and rivers tend to cover the plant. Being submerged, however, poses no inconvenience for the bucephalandra, which adapts perfectly to the new environment. 

The bucephalandra thrives and teems in rivers, streams, shores, and riverbanks with rapid currents. The tropical habitat that first housed this plant allowed it to become one of the most resistant freshwater species.

Tank Size, Water Parameters, and Lighting Requirements

The bucephalandra can thrive in almost any tank condition without problems. Most tank sizes and water parameters will provide a proper environment for this genus to grow. The lighting requirements of this plant are also forgiving, ranging from low to high. 

Tank Size

This hardy plant can do well in virtually any tank size. You might want to consider a bigger tank depending on the species you own. In general, a 10-gallon tank would provide enough room for any subspecies of bucephalandra. For smaller varieties, a 5-gallon tank would do the trick. 

Water parameters

The bucephalandra can profit from almost any condition it is put under. All of the varieties of this plant can adapt to the environment of an aquarium without problems. The bucephalandra can live in places few other species can, so there is no reason for that not to be the case in your tank. 

Regarding temperature, this plant favors temperatures ranging from 22 to 28 degrees Celsius. pH should not cause problems either, as long as the water is neither too acidic nor too basic. Keep your pH balanced around 5 – 8, and your bucephalandra will grow healthy.

The bucephalandra will be okay with both soft and hard water. However, this genus might prefer softer conditions. A GH starting in 5 will be ideal. Yet, if you go above that, your plant will thrive too. 

Don’t forget that the natural habitat of this plant involves movement. A steady current will be of great help for the development of this plant. If you can provide the movement with powerheads and an external filter, you will recreate the ideal conditions for this variety.

Apart from the many water parameters this plant allows, it can also thrive outside of the water. This characteristic makes the plant ideal not only for aquariums but also for terrariums. 

If you are just starting on this hobby, going for the bucephalandra is a decision you won’t regret. This plant can brighten up your ecosystem and your tank without causing much hassle. 

Lighting

The lighting requirements of this species can vary a lot depending on what you want to do with it. If you want your bucephalandra to sit in your aquarium looking healthy and complementing your tank, then low lighting will be enough. 

Under low light, the bucephalandra will grow slowly but surely, and there will be little to no coloration on its leaves. Low light will ensure the steady growth rate of the plant, allowing it to be healthy in your tank.

For faster growth rates and more intense coloration, high to medium light will be needed. Under high lighting, the leaves of this plant can develop more intense colors and grow faster. However, this requires paying more attention to its conditions.

If you are in for a challenge, let yourself be surprised by the marvelous colors the plant can develop with intense lighting. Just make sure your tank is pristine to eliminate any possibility of growing algae in your bucephalandra. 

Whether under low or high lighting, the bucephalandra can prosper in your aquarium. 

CO2 and fertilization for bucephalandra

Although the bucephalandra could flourish without CO2 and fertilization, there is no denying that adding them would immensely improve the growth of the plant. CO2 and fertilization will positively impact the growth rate. 

Adding CO2 and liquid fertilizer to the bucephalandra will also add a shiny look to the leaves and help with coloration. It is more likely to have bright colors in the plant by adding these components to its care.

Remember that CO2 can be harmful to your shrimp. If you have shrimp in your tank, you might want to take it slow with the CO2. That way, you won’t harm any of your species. 

Interested in awesome plants for your shrimp? You can check this fantastic article I wrote about the topic! And yes, bucephalandra is among them!

Balancing your CO2, fertilization, and lighting parameters will ensure the perfect conditions in your aquarium. Be careful with this, and remember to adjust lighting if you decide to add any of these components.

Propagation and trimming

Due to the slow growth of the bucephalandra, trimming is not so much of a problem as it is with other fast-growing species. This easy-to-care plant doesn’t cause problems with root control, as the roots will not go overboard nor over propagate in your tank. 

The bucephalandra doesn’t propagate through budding or seeds like many other hardy species. Instead, this plant propagates through rhizomes. New plants can grow when the rhizomes reach at least 4cm.

A rhizome is an underground stem of a plant. The bucephalandra can develop these stems with leaves either underground or just above the substrate. These rhizomes create a completely new plant on their own. 

The rhizomes can attach to almost any surface under optimal conditions. Be careful not to separate them too soon from the original plant, as it is crucial to allow their growth next to the main plant for long enough. That way, they will thrive once separated. 

You will want to secure the rhizomes onto rock or wood instead of planting them on the substrate. You can do that by using tape or adhesive. From there, the new leaves will spring off. If you want to have the new plant on the substrate, make sure that the rhizome is not buried. 

Remember that the bucephalandra is a slow-growing plant. Don’t expect results overnight. Instead, be patient and provide the best possible conditions for its development. 

Although trimming is not a big concern, separating the clumps might be. Once the plant starts growing and developing, it will form clumps due to the growing baby plants near it. If the clumps are too dense, they could cause problems to the bucephalandra. 

Dense clumps could result in unwanted algae growth and an even slower growth rate. Separating the clumps and moving baby plants away will help better the conditions of the bucephalandra. 

The bucephalandra will not be too demanding, but it will surely be highly beneficial for your environment. Don’t be afraid of including some beautiful subspecies of bucephalandra in your tank! You will be thrilled with their variety and beauty. 

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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