Whether you’re trying to spice up a boring fish tank, add some additional feng shui, or just add more aquatic plant life to your home, growing lucky bamboo in an aquarium can be a great fit for any passionate fish keeper.
In this article...
Growing lucky bamboo in aquarium setups can make for a great introduction to most aquatic plants and is a good place to start for the intrepid aquarist compared to the complicated needs of other plants.
If you’ve ever considered adding lucky bamboo to your fish tanks, read on for my recommendations, tips, and tricks!
- Lucky bamboo is not a true aquatic plant but can thrive in aquariums, distinguishing it from true bamboo, which cannot survive when fully submerged in water.
- Health issues in lucky bamboo can be caused by imbalances in compounds like nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
- Lucky bamboo has a limited lifespan of 1-5 years on average and can grow 4-12 inches per year.
What is Lucky Bamboo?
Known alternatively as Dracaena sanderiana, the plant lucky bamboo originates in its natural habitat of the warm waters of Cameroon in Central Africa. This bamboo variety is specially adapted to withstand seasonal flooding and droughts.
These upright plants can grow even while being fully submerged, but are in fact not actually a true aquatic plant themselves.
FUN FACTLucky bamboo are actually members of the Asparagacea family, meaning that they’re more closely related to the asparagus on your dinner table than to the typical towering bamboo plant you may see dominating many tropical forests!
Similar to other bamboo plants, lucky bamboo utilizes CO2 in the atmosphere (or dissolved in water, if completely submerged) to fuel the process of photosynthesis and obtain the components it needs to grow.
Over time, lucky bamboo has come to be known in many cultures for its beauty and fascinating growth patterns.
The intricate interweaving of the growing bamboo is not only pleasant to the human eye, but can provide interesting pathways for your fish and other tank mates to traverse while swimming through the tank.
Lucky Bamboo vs True Bamboo
True bamboo (family Bambusoideae) differs widely from lucky bamboo and is in fact a totally different species! The true bamboo or real bamboo plant cannot survive being fully submerged, as their root system will begin to rot. The lucky bamboo, on the other hand, can not only tolerate but thrive in these conditions.
NOTEPartially submerge lucky bamboo and it will continue to grow, while true bamboo plants will quickly become waterlogged and turn yellow as the entire plant dies.
Additional differences can be seen in how the plants grow throughout their lives. Real bamboo can grow upwards of 70 feet tall and possesses a hard, woody exterior along with requiring soil.
Lucky bamboo, on the other hand, grows from a few feet to several inches tall and can live its entire life as partially submerged plants or completely underwater, along with having a more flesh-like appearance.
Can Lucky Bamboo Go In A Fish Tank?
Lucky bamboo can absolutely make a great fit for your fish tank! Provided that the conditions required by your fish and the lucky bamboo match up, they can make for an excellent, low-input tank mate for many species such as betta fish.
In fact, adding aquarium plants such as lucky bamboo can help better simulate the natural environment from which many tropical fish originate, especially for species like betta fish.
Can Lucky Bamboo Thrive In Water?
Unlike authentic bamboo, lucky bamboo can thrive in aquarium water. While not true underwater plants themselves, these plants make for a great addition to many tropical aquariums and are easy to care for.
How To Grow Lucky Bamboo in an Aquarium or Fishbowl
While fairly simple to care for, there are some factors to take into consideration when establishing your bamboo aquarium. These are living beings after all, and require their own set of inputs and care to live their best lives.
Lucky bamboo is a fairly adaptable plant which can thrive in a variety of fish tank water conditions. That being said, it generally prefers temperatures in the range of 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and a pH level of between 6.0 and 6.5.
NOTEWhen trying to determine the conditions in your fish tank, an aquarium test kit can be a great resource. Regular testing along with weekly water changes can be a great way to ensure there is enough oxygen and not too many nitrogen compounds dissolved in your water and promote the long term health of your fish and plants.
Also remember that while they are indeed adapted to live in water, this bamboo species can tolerate fresh water only. Attempting to place them in salt water will quickly lead to dead bamboo!
Considering that these plants cannot tolerate dry roots, aquarium owners should aim to cover them with just a few inches (2-3, depending on the size of your plant) of water.
That being said, assuming that you are placing your bamboo in an aquarium set up means that there is a lot of room to work with here!
Don’t be afraid to let your plants grow upwards! If the bamboo sticks up and out of the tank, exposing the lucky bamboo leaves, so much the better.
While substrate is not necessarily required to keep bamboo in your aquarium, it can help. Unlike terrestrial bamboo, this species does not require soil and can live with its roots fully submerged.
However, burrowing fish such as cory catfish and certain shrimps love to dig into the substrate and may accidentally uproot plants.
To keep your lucky bamboo safe, a layer of coarse gravel and soil or sand around 4″ can stop this from happening and provide additional surface area for nitrogen fixing beneficial bacteria to grow.
Lucky bamboo does best with moderate lighting. In their natural environment, they receive medium lighting as the bright light of the sun is typically blocked by broad-leafed plants from above.
NOTEAs with many plants, lucky bamboo does best with a regular day and night cycle. A good way to ensure that this happens in your aquarium is to use an automated timer hooked up to your lighting system to create a consistent 10-12 hours of darkness.
While ample light can cause the bamboo to grow at a slightly faster rate, too much light can lead to burnt leaves and dying lucky bamboo.
While not necessary to ensure proper growth, if you decide to fertilize lucky bamboo, I recommend looking at an aquarium safe liquid fertilizer. In general the fish waste naturally occurring in your tank should provide plenty of nitrogen to grow lucky bamboo.
Be sure to follow any printed directions carefully. Too much fertilizer can create an excess of nitrogen which can cause serious problems such as ammonia shock for your fish.
Using air stones or an air pump can be a great way to introduce extra oxygen to your tank. If you notice that the water lucky bamboo in your tank lives in is still or has bits of sediment floating in it, it may be time to introduce some extra water movement.
NOTEStill tanks come with the added drawback of rapidly accumulating waste and nitrogen, which can be harmful for both fish and plants in your tank.
Lucky bamboo does well with medium to high carbon dioxide levels. If after testing you notice that this level is too low to grow bamboo properly, you can try dosing your tank with liquid CO2 or additional CO2 canisters attached to a CO2 regulator going to the tank.
Lucky Bamboo Health Problems
As with any plant in your care, lucky bamboo can run into its share of health complications and disease. While not all are immediately fatal, spotting and responding early to signs and symptoms can help the lucky bamboo survive or prevent it from dying.
Signs and Symptoms
- Seeing brown spots
- Yellow coloration to the stalk or leaves
- Small leaves
- Stunted growth
Treating Health Problems for Your Bamboo
Most of the previously mentioned problems are caused by an imbalance of necessary compounds such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide in the water.
Testing your water will let you know what you need more or less of, and you can add aeration or CO2 from there to compensate.
If you notice that the roots are rotting, you may need to consider removing the top of the plant above where the rot starts and regrowing. This is commonly caused by fungal infection and is detectable by an odor and the appearance of fraying or off-coloration to the roots.
Can Lucky Bamboo Live In Water Forever?
Unfortunately as with all other aquarium plant species your lucky bamboo does have a limited lifespan. Provided pure water and kept out of direct sunlight it can live upwards of a decade or more, but the average time is around one to five years for most.
How Fast Will My Lucky Bamboo Grow?
On average, you lucky bamboo will grow from 4-12 inches per year. If provided with plenty of light, fertilizer, and carbon dioxide they can grow a maximum of 19 inches over the course of a few months, but in a fully aquatic setting this is unlikely.
How To Place a Lucky Bamboo Plant In An Aquarium?
There are two primary methods aquarium keepers can use when planting lucky bamboo in aquarium set ups.
The first is to fully submerge, and the second is to partially submerge the plant. While both methods are equally manageable, they come with slightly different considerations for long term care.
With partially submerged bamboo, you will want to place it into the substrate a few inches deep to ensure that the plant is secured. At that point, you can fill your tank up until a few inches below the leaves begin to appear on the plant.
The benefit here is that the bamboo will be able to draw in atmospheric carbon dioxide on its own, along with receiving direct light.
Following the same first steps, you’ll attach your plant to the substrate and then fill until the plant is covered. At this point you are good to go, but you’ll want to ensure that the plant is receiving the proper amount of oxygen and nitrogen that it requires through the water.
NOTETesting the water will let you know if you need to aerate or add CO2 directly over time.
For additional info about growing lucky bamboo in aquariums, watch this video.
Do Lucky Bamboo Need to Grow Above the Waterline?
It does not! As previously mentioned, while not a true aquatic plant, lucky bamboo survives just fine while completely submerged. As long as they are able to get enough light and carbon dioxide, lucky bamboo does just fine underwater.
Do Lucky Bamboo Excrete Toxic Stuff
Lucky bamboo is not at all toxic. Even if your fish happens to ingest some of the stalks or bamboo leaves, provided they are able to sufficiently digest it they will be just fine.
That being said, make sure that what you are planting is actually lucky bamboo and not an alternative before placing it in your aquarium.
Throughout today’s article we’ve looked at some of the keys to creating a successful bamboo tank.
If you decide to grow lucky bamboo in your aquarium, it does have its requirements when it comes to water parameters, temperature, and lighting, but it can be a great first plant to attempt with a tropical setup.
Apart from being beautiful on its own, your fish will thank you for the extra oxygen they can provide to your tank.
Feel Free to Share
I hope you’ve enjoyed the information in today’s post and that it has helped you introduce lucky bamboo to your aquarium. Feel free to share this with any other fish fanatics that you may know!
(1) “2013-01-20 18.59.56” by Geek2Nurse is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0