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Cabomba is an aquatic plant frequently planted in aquaria for its attractive leaves and fast growth. The leaves are fan-shaped hence create an ornamental effect.
The species, which has two variants is also an efficient oxygenating plant.
Cabomba aquarium plant has gradually increased in popularity among freshwater aquarium owners and is now almost always available in any pet store. Though it retails under a couple of names which include green cabomba, fanwort or Brazilian fanwort.
The plant likes clean aquariums with clear gently moving water with a temperature range between 72°F and 82°F and a ph of 6.8 to 7.5. Cabomba plants will grow under medium to high light setting.
That being said, this article will cover everything there is to learn on growing cabomba plant in a fish tank, from planting, caring to propagation and lighting.
Cabomba Aquarium Plant Overview
Cabomba plant is a genus in the family Cabombaceae with divided leaves which grow submerged in the shape of a fan. For this reason, the plant is also called fanwort.
Fanwort is mostly used by hobbyists to spruce their fish tanks with its attractive-leaves and fast growth. The plant can easily grow up to an inch per day.
The leaves will either be green or reddish-purple depending with your variant. The green type being more popular and more readily available. It’s also one of the easiest aquarium plants to grow.
Ironically, red cabomba is, on the other hand, considered one of the hardest plants to care for in an aquarium.
Cabomba plants in a fish tank will at times develop white, oval-shaped petals that are usually about 0.7 inches across when fully grown. However, it’s sepals have two yellow ear-shaped nectaries at the base instead of the white like on petals.
This plant is also a stem plant hence mostly sold in bunches tied at the base with a tight rubber band to keep the stems together.
When buying a new fanwort plant from the pet store, make sure it has a couple of stems about 6 inches or more and the leaves should either be lime-green or reddish-purple. It should be bushy and plentiful as well.
Cabomba Plant Types
As I’ve mentioned, cabomba plants are either green-leaved or reddish-purple-leaved, with the green variant being more common and readily available.
Red cabomba is sometimes sold as purple fanwort or red fanwort, whereas the green is usually just called fanwort or cabomba fanwort.
Cabomba Caroliniana var. Caroliniana commonly known as green cabomba or Carolina cabomba is native to acidic lakes, ponds, and rivers in regions in South and North America.
It has feathery, lime-green, forked leaves which are divided into narrow segments and offer an interesting texture that contrasts well with other aquatic plants and driftwood in the fish tank.
Green cabomba grows densely thus is excellent when used to aquascape the background of your planted aquarium.
Cabomba Furcata (Nectric Furcata) also known as red cabomba is native to Central and South America and grows in dense mats in soft acidic water.
This variant of fanwort has feathery lime-green to deep- red forked leaves divided into narrow segments.
Red fanwort is best when planted in aquariums as a background plant, it will offer vibrant colors and interesting textures that add pop, and still, contrast well with other plants and driftwood.
Do Cabomba Need to be Planted?
Cabomba is quite hardy and versatile but must be grown fully submerged in water, mostly started in gravel, but also possible to float it in a fish tank.
In short, it’s not a must you plant your fanwort in a substrate, though it usually more attractive.
A floating cabomba plant will grow quicker and develop thicker bushes albeit the foliage on top blocking light from reaching the leaves on the lower parts of the stem.
Plus, be ready to do a little more trimming on your cabomba when fully developed should you decide to float it.
Another thing to note is that fanwort, especially the red variant, can be quite fussy and hence not the best choice for beginner aquarists with low-light, low-tech fish tanks.
Planting Cabomba in Substrate
Since new cabomba plants come in stems, to plant them in a substrate, you only need to place them an inch deep in your fish tank gravel.
However, you may want to plants the stems deeper than one inch in case they are not firm enough the first time.
Fanwort also get quite dense and bushy rapidly, so leave enough space between your stems to ensure proper spread on each plantlet without out-competing the other seedlings.
That said, though it’s imperative to bury young stems firmly, try not to pack them too tight because the heavy gravel cover will break the stems. Only secure them just enough in such a way the plant doesn’t float around.
Cabomba plants are best laced in the background especially in smaller fish tanks. In case you have enough stems to fill up more than one row, place the shorter stems in the front row and the taller stems in the back nearest to the back aquarium surface.
Though not as common, you can also use your cabomba plants to accentuate the middle of bigger tanks, while small fanwort stems are ideal for creating a chic facade coupled with driftwood or rocks.
One thing you will want to consider before placing your plants inside the tank is removing any loose leaves because they tend to float in the tank if they break off while already planted. Which creates unsightly debris and in other cases, may affect your water quality.
Floating Cabomba Plant
Same with other aquarium plants, floating fanwort in your fish tank is quite easy. You only need to get a healthy-stem from your local store and drop it in the tank, and it will float naturally close to the surface.
Because floating plants get more light, coupled with fanwort rapid growth, your stems will develop quite fast albeit needing more trimming when properly established.
Float cabomba plant when you need a quick screen plant in your tank, but note that aesthetics won’t be pleasing like a plant growing in the substrate.
Cabomba Aquarium Plant Care
Under optimal conditions, a cabomba plant can easily reach the size of an average aquarium within weeks and eventually cover the whole tank in months.
However, this will only happen with proper care which includes good lighting, dosing, and ideal water conditions.
Farwort thrive under medium to high light at about 2 to 3 watts per gallon with a full spectrum bulb (5000 to 7000k). However, red cabomba grow best under high light that is between 3 and 5 watts per gallon.
In case your aquarium has access to sunlight, the plants usually require about 8 to 12 hours of light.
A low-light produced by built-in bulbs on starter kits is not sufficient to grow fanwort and should be replaced. Otherwise, the plant will exhaust itself quickly and growth will slow down.
Moreover, it is imperative to trim the tops of a developing plant to allow enough light to penetrate the water and upper foliage down to the lowest leaves of the plants.
Should your plant be left untrimmed, the lower portion of each stalk will have insufficient lighting hence will gradually lose the foliage even when your bulbs are producing enough light.
Fertilizer and C02 Dosing
Liquid fertilization and a rich or regularly fertilized substrate is important because it enhances robust growth.
If nutrients are low in your aquarium, you will notice the plants start to produce darkened leaves that grow slowly with elongated interludes. Plus, in the case of poor water conditions or CO2 deficiency, cabomba plants shed leaves excessively.
That said, CO2 addition is not very necessary, but it is highly recommended for optimal growth.
An easy clue to look out for if you’re not sure whether the plant is getting adequate nutrients and CO2 is the leaves color. Healthy Red cabomba leaves will have an enhanced gold and pinkish hue and a rich lime-green color on green cabomba.
A unique challenge with fanwort is that it’s quite fussy about water conditions. The plant will only grow in a clean aquarium with clean gently moving water.
However, be careful not to plant cabomba in an aquarium with rapid water movement because the plant will move around and uproot from the substrate.
Cabomba Plant Propagation
Cabomba plant is propagated by cutting young branches from a mature plant and pressing the trimmed stems at least an inch into the substrate.
When making a cutting from the main plant, trim pieces that are 3 inches or more since the longer the stem, the faster it will establish.
Howbeit, starting new fanwort plants can be challenging and, at times, the stems won’t establish. Because of this, make sure your cuttings get a high amount of light up to the roots, plus plant them in a rich substrate.
Given the right conditions, your fanwort will grow quite rapidly, so be ready for frequent pruning. The trimming trick is to cut the stem gently making sure you don’t break the plant or uproot it from the substrate.
After pruning, you can either plant the cuttings or donate them to another aquarist through your local fish store or deliver them directly.
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Enjoy the hobby.