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African Water Fern
(Bolbitis heudelotii)
Quick Care Facts:Care Level: Easy
Lighting: Low
Placement: Midground to Background
Maximum Size: 22"
Water Conditions: 74-84° F, pH 6.0-8.5, KH 5-15
Propagation: Rhizome Division
Coloration: Green
Supplements: Iron, Potassium, Trace Elements, Substrate Fertilizer
Origin: Africa
Family: Lomariopsidaceae
Native Habitat and Species Information
The African Water Fern, sometimes referred to as the Congo Fern, is a true aquatic plant species that can be found submerged in various lakes, rivers, and streams of tropical South Africa. Its elegant leaves can range from bright to dark green in color and provide an attractive contrast to other aquarium plants.
African Water Ferns are considered to be a slow-growing species, but once it's acclimated and has been established for a few months, its rate of growth can increase dramatically (which can also be enhanced by stronger lighting). The African Water Fern is easy to care for and can thrive in low light conditions; making it a great choice for beginners.
Aquarium Care
The African Water Fern will fair well with a low-light intensity of 1 watt per gallon from full spectrum (5000-7000K) bulbs, but can also handle medium to high intensity (and may grow more quickly). Although this species has no special nutrient or CO2 requirements, a nutrient-rich substrate, vitamin supplementation, and mild CO2 injection would greatly increase its rate of growth.
A well established African Water Fern can make an ideal focus point in an aquarium or multiple specimens can be used in the background or rear corners of the aquarium to provide contrast with other species and additional shelter for tank inhabitants. The rhizome of this species should not be buried in the substrate, but should be utilized in a method similar to Java Fern and various Anubias species; simply attach the rhizome to a piece of driftwood or rock using some thread or fishing line and the plant will eventually become attached by small anchoring roots in the driftwood, rock, or substrate.
This species is great for slightly soft, acidic water as well as the slightly harder, more alkaline conditions associated with African cichlid environments. The African Water fern also appreciates being located in an area of the aquarium with a current or decent amount of water movement.
Propagation Information
Propagation of the African Water Fern is relatively easy and is done by dividing the plant at the rhizome (root) with very sharp, sterilized scissors and placing the "new" specimen in the desired location. The new plants obtained from propagation make excellent, bright green accent plants, while the larger, more mature specimens will take on a dark green coloration.
For maintenance the leaves can be pruned by clipping the frond at the base of the rhizome, which will keep the plant in check as well as proportional to the desired aquascape of the aquarium.
Additional Photos