It’s been nearly seven weeks since the Bucephalandra caterina went into the Fireplace Aquarium as a replacement for the failed Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ so let’s check in and see how things have progressed…
Bucephalandra caterina submerged growth
Bucephalandra (or ‘Buce’) is a genus of several hundreds of species and poorly-defined sub-species originally found in Borneo. They are all epiphytes, so grow attached to other things rather than having roots buried in substrate, and have a reputation of being easy to care for, slow growing, and with a preference for low to moderate light levels. Bucephalandra caterina is one of the smallest commercially available varieties.
They were certainly easy to plant – I simply wedged them into convenient holes/crevasses in the hardscape and let them do their thing. You can also tie them down or even superglue them if you have to.
Bucephalandra submerged growth
I suspect that these are grown in the trade emersed, with feet wet but otherwise not submerged, which is typical for most aquarium plants. For many aquarium plants the submerged (underwater all the time) form can be quite different from the emersed form, but in the case of caterina they are reasonably similar. The submerged form leaves are a darker green colour and have a more pronounced texture arising from the small white spots that seem typical of Bucephalandra. Their reputation of being slow growers appears well-justified. New leaves arise brown and furled which then unfurl and transition to green as they open out. In terms of light levels, I have one plant in strong light, unshaded and 17 cm from the light offset by about 45 degrees; the other plant is towards the bottom about 40 cm from the light and at a more oblique angle. Both plants are doing well. There appears to be more growth from the top plant that gets more light but there is new growth from the bottom plant as well – if you look closely you can see four new leaves peeking out around an arm of the hardscape on the left. The leaves have lengthened up too. There are some concerns that as slow growers they can potentially get colonised by algae, but I haven’t seen any signs of that happening yet.
Bucephalandra caterina can fill out wonderfully
After 11 months’ growth in the Fireplace Aquarium, the Bucephalandra caterina has taken proud ownership of the top of the mountain. The picture was taken during a water change and shows how the caterina has spread from its anchor point between two spires to fill out across a width of 20 cm. Not bad for a small buce! I haven’t done anything to it other than to leave it alone. It’s getting to the point where I wonder whether I’ll need to trim it back eventually. By way of comparison, the caterina planted lower down the mountain further from the light and at a more obliquely illuminated angle has also done well but with a diameter of 13 cm is a little more than half the size of the more well-illuminated top version. These plants have had no issues at all with algae. I do notice periodic maintenance by the ottos, snails and amanos which seems able to do all that is necessarily to keep these buces looking great.
From time to time the caterina at the top of the mountain puts up an emersed flower spike featuring a single pretty white flower. The more submersed caterina at the bottom of the mountain hasn’t tried this, presumably because the plant has a way of telling whether it’s close to the water surface and pollinators are only usefully found above water.