top of page

Buce - a short introduction

Bucephalandra picture collage

BUCE = Bucephalandra what is it about these plants, that is causing such a hype.

My love and experience with these beauties started many years ago when I wanted rare plants for my aquarium shop and none of the importers at that time wanted to import it so I could buy it from their lists. At that stage Buce was not available in South Africa and the knowledge on them was limited. But if you know me, I am a sucker for a challenge and I took this as a sign that I should take a chance. So I took the risk and went ahead and imported the first shipment. This shipment landed great and from that day onwards I was hooked on these Jewels.


Bucephalandra is such an easy and beautiful aquarium plant that’s perfect for all types of hobbyists and aquariums from very basic low tech planted aquariums and nano aquascapes up to very high tech systems.

Yes Buce are


  2. so Beautiful that I cannot think of a plant that can compete

  3. extremely versatile and can grow in nearly every part of a good planted aquarium

  4. Slow growing and that is a good thing because if you are killing it, it will happens slow as well and you have time to rectify your mistake


Buce are easy! So why do some hobbyists fail to keep them healthy / happy / alive?

In my personal opinion there are mainly 2 reasons

1.            Planting

2.            Water quality

Planting Buce is a very important aspect, it might even be the only important aspect AND THIS IS WHERE A LOT OF HOBBYISTS FAIL!


The rhizome is the thick stem/root that run between the roots and the leaves. If you bury the rhizome you are exposing it to infections and damage by the substrate, eventually leading to total rot.

Rather attach the rhizome to a hard substrate like a rock, wood or other aquarium décor (not the heater) where they can grow like they do in nature.

But because they are not in a substrate it is essential to regularly add a good quality fertiliser to the water for them to take up their nutritional needs.


Water quality – This is important for all plants not only Buce. Buce just ask that you regularly do a water change (NOT a top up = That is NOT a water change!!!), add a good quality water fertiliser and ensure sufficient water movement.

TIP - What is the difference between a water change and a top up –

•             When you replace evaporated water = TOP UP = you don’t remove any build-up of toxins, waist, etc. and by allowing these build-ups you make life difficult for plants like Buce that are used to pristine fresh water all the time.

•             When you physically remove aquarium water (preferably with a gravel syphon – if you don’t have special plant substrate) you are removing these impurity’s and replace them with fresh clean water

Water movement is essential to wash away any debris and excess wax build-up on the leaves. This enable the plant to photosynthesise and essentially grow faster and healthier.

Side note on water movement – When we receive new Buce we put them in tubs till they are sold and although we do a 100% water change every week, the growth of these clumps are less than 50% when compared with clumps that receive water movement, with the same parameters. Sadly it is just not practically viable for me, otherwise all Buce would have been kept in constantly flowing water canals.


Buce originate in Borneo where they are found on rocks in streams that can vary from slow flowing to very strong current after good rainfall. They tend to grow emersed (out of water) in areas that are constantly very wet and totally submerged during the wet season.

We receive these plants in emersed form because of 2 main reasons.

  1. A plant that grow in emersed form, travel much better and chances of die-off is limited.

  2. ALL plants that can grow both emersed and submerged, grow better when emersed because they have better access to light and CO2 especially.


There are so many common names and each farm regularly “invent” their own name, making the names confusing and easily indistinguishable from each other. Then there are also the human factor, because when dealing with so many different variety’s you can easily swap plants. Furthermore I have received clumps with 2 or more variety’s mixed together, look at the clumps on our website (WYSIWYG) and you will find a lost soul somewhere. So I do not trust variety names that much. This does not deter from their beauty, it is just something to take into consideration.


Buce growth difference between emersed and submerged is one of my favourite talking points on this species. Buce have the unique distinction that it get “sick” when the leaves develop submerged. BUT NO it is NOT SICK. The white-spots on the leaves are one of the 3 attractions to Buce for me. Why they develop these whit spots on their leaves are not known to me but I find it extremely attractive. The 2 other attractions to me is the leave colours and their growth preferences.


Buce leaves colours can vary from bright green, purple, red, blue to black depending on the species / variety. Then you get different shapes depending on the species, this can vary from round to extremely elongated and have smooth edges up to very wrinkly. I love to see the development of these colours in a variety over a few of months. But you might even get different colours of the same plant in different aquariums. This is not a exact science as each variety may react differently, but a general rule of thumb for me was that buce that are under strong light tend to have larger and darker leaves while smaller and lighter leaves tend to form under low tech aquariums. (THEN while I edited this article I realised that the last pictures I took of Buce that I received 4 months ago, contradict this statement. Leave size was still as per my statement BUT the colours did not follow my statement? Thus proving me wrong – why this happen might be the different LED’s I used, the new green room it was kept in, the new fertiliser I was using or another reason I could not even think of now BUT this make it even more exciting)


Now how to receive, prep and plant Buce.

This can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it. Allow me to first explain what we do when we receive Buce and then what I do if I plant Buce in an aquarium.

When we receive Buce they have been in a bag with minimal water for anything from 2 to 10 days, yes that long. So not only are they a bit dehydrated, but if there was any bacterial or fungal infection in or on the plant, this infection would have had time to grow.

Therefore we have multiple steps before the portions are divided and packed in our green room.

Step 1

Visual inspection – we are looking for visible problems and remove these

Step 2

We dip the plant in our anti-bacterial / anti-fungal medication, so that while the plant hydrate it also absorb this mix to fight off future internal infections. We have tested this extensively in aquariums and found that a good rinse is sufficient for fish, but suggest shrimp guys to quarantine the plants for a few days first

Step 3

Then we wash the plants to remove any debris and dead roots.

Step 4

We remove old roots that will be in the way when we pack and ship the plant

Step 5

we rinse the plants again

Step 6

Final visual inspection – because my staff are not Buce experts and just to be extra safe, I do this step and the next step myself.

Step 7

Portioning the plants into clumps

Step 8

Placing the clumps in tubs,

Add water premixed with a good quality plant food

Close and store


When you receive the Buce you can know with confidence that your plant was treated with respect and cleaned to the extent that no contaminants are present, but there are still excess roots and some leaves might have been damaged during all the handling, but this is no problem and I will gladly explain the steps I take when I plant Buce and recommend you follow these steps as well.

Tools needed are running water, 2 bowls with aquarium water, small scissors, NEW sharp blade (scalpel), towel paper and super glue gel

Step 1

Rinse the plant under slow running water for a few seconds, while removing any dead material and inspecting the rhizome for dead parts. Tip – the rhizome would not be soft and squishy, this sometimes happen at the oldest part of the rhizome and need to be removed with a very sharp and clean blade

Step 2

Inspecting the plant for any damaged leaves I don’t want to keep by removing it with the scissors, I cut the leave stem as close to the rhizome as I safely can. Then place it in bowl 1

Step 3

Decide where I am going to place the plant and what roots I need to remove from the plant to ensure a good looking placement and get the rhizome as close to the “substrate/decor” as possible

Step 4

Take the plant and shake it a bit in the bowl then I proceed to remove all the roots that I don’t need to attach the Buce to the position I decided to place it. TIP = I leave about 3mm of the root still attached to the rhizome, this way I ensure I don’t damage the rhizome.

Step 5

I rinse the plant in bowl 2 to ensure I don’t have any debris attached to any part of the plant and all lose roots are removed

Step 6

I remove the décor I am going to attach the Buce to and dab it dry with the paper towel. Then I take the plants and dry it with the paper towel as well. TIP= I use a fresh piece of towel every time, this ensue that I don’t contaminated the surface of this plant from a previously cleaned plant.

Step 7

I place the plant and then add superglue GEL between the plant and the aquascaping and hold it in place for a few seconds. Making sure I don’t get my finger stuck as well.

TIP = I use GEL because it is easier to control and I don’t make a mess everywhere – the GEL will not damage the rhizome

Step 8

Place the décor back in its place and repeat step 1 to 7 till you are finished


This is just a short version of the book I can write on Buce. But that is a project for the future ;)

bottom of page