Aquarium Plants

Dracaena braunii – Lucky bamboo in the aquarium

Putting lucky bamboo in aquariums is a topic that has been debated by aquarists for quite some time.

It’s possible? What conditions are the best? Can this plant bring any benefit to the tank?

These are all questions that have been kicked around, so we wanted to put together the definitive resource on using lucky bamboo in fish tanks. Covers everything you need to know!

plant overview

Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is a common houseplant often seen growing in small vases filled with water. It is also a beloved plant in the aquarium world that can add a unique Asian touch to your tank decor. However, lucky bamboo is not Asian at all!

Despite its Eastern influence, lucky bamboo originates from Cameroon in Central Africa. It is not the same as traditional bamboo. The tall, structural grass that most are familiar with does not grow in water at all. Lucky bamboo is a unique variety that is designed to withstand seasonal flooding and periods of drought.

There is much confusion regarding the efficiency and safety of lucky bamboo in aquariums. But it’s actually not very difficult to keep this beautiful plant healthy and thriving!

The benefits of having it in your tank

From an aesthetic standpoint, lucky bamboo is one of the most unique plants you can own! He is tall, thick and robust. This means that unlike other underwater plants, this one will not move with the natural flow of water. Stay stationary and create a fun network of paths for the fish to navigate.

Author’s Note: On top of all that, it provides a stunning backdrop that you can use to create a themed environment.

On a more practical level, lucky bamboo can improve the general conditions of the aquarium. Contrary to popular belief, this plant does not rot inside or poison the tank. It does the opposite!

As it grows, lucky bamboo extracts nitrates from the water and uses them as fuel to grow. As a result, your aquarium stays cleaner and healthier for its inhabitants. Additionally, the plant will help increase oxygen levels and provide a physical shelter for timid fish.


Lucky bamboo is actually a form of grass. It looks strikingly similar to traditional bamboo, growing in tall stands with visible nodules. The main difference with this particular cultivar is that it has fleshy stems with waxy tips. This trait makes the plant more tolerant of humid environments.

The plant sprouts many leaves from its sides. The color of the leaves is the same as that of the stems, varying from deep green to borderline yellow.

Generally, the base of the plant is straight and robust. You may notice little tendrils of roots sprouting from the bottom. Above, the plant can grow in all sorts of directions.

Author’s Note: Some aquascapists train the plant to take on a specific shape. You may see spirals, zigzags, or a more natural sporadic pattern.

size and growth rate

When you first buy this plant, they usually come in small shoots that are only a few inches tall. However, the lucky bamboo plant is capable of growing up to four feet tall or more!

Its mature height will depend entirely on where it grows and how much space it has. The same goes for the growth rate.

For the most part, lucky bamboo grows slowly, but you can speed up or slow down its rate of growth by adjusting environmental conditions. With lots of light and a decent amount of fertilizer, the sprouts will go through the roof! However, standard tank conditions tend to make their rate of development more modest and manageable.

Lucky Bamboo Care

Despite all the misinformation out there, lucky bamboo care is fairly easy. It comes from harsh African environments with constantly fluctuating conditions. If it can hold on there, it can flourish in a controlled aquarium!

Of course, the plant has its ideal conditions. Lucky bamboo is a unique plant, so meeting its needs is more important than ever.

tank size

In order to have stable water conditions, you need a tank that can hold at least five gallons. A five gallon aquarium is enough to support a small group of sprouts.

But if you want to take full advantage of the beauty of lucky bamboo, make it bigger! Larger aquariums will allow you to completely submerge the plant or continue its growth above the surface of the water.

water parameters

Interestingly, lucky bamboo is not a true aquatic plant. However, it can grow well both partially and fully submerged. Therefore, it is very important to know what the ideal water conditions are.

Fortunately, this plant is well suited to most tank setups. In fact, it is so flexible that most aquarists focus more on their fish’s preferred parameters than on the plant’s. As long as you stick to the following, you’ll be fine.

  • Water temperature: 59°F to 80°F
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 6.5
  • Water hardness: 0 to 8 dGH (soft water)

Author’s Note: Make sure you have a good water testing kit for your aquarium to easily monitor these parameters.

Turning on

Lucky bamboo does best in low to moderate lighting.

Author’s Note: In its natural habitat, lucky bamboo has to deal with diffuse light. It grows under broad-leaved plants that cast a shadow on it.

A little more exposure can speed up your growth rate. However, too much will cause serious problems. Excessive light will burn the leaves and cause massive discoloration everywhere.

Like most plants, a typical day and night lighting cycle is preferred.

Lucky bamboo can grow well near a window with natural sunlight. If you choose to use artificial light, set a timer to ensure you have low exposure for 10 to 12 hours a day.


You can plant lucky bamboo with or without substrate. The best option for you will depend entirely on the inhabitants of your tank.

Technically speaking, this plant does not need any substrate to continue growing. All they need is two to three inches of water.

But if you plan to keep the plant with fish and invertebrates, that’s a whole different story! In aquariums full of life, the substrate materials will keep the roots protected and safe.

The ideal substrate is coarse gravel or loose pebbles. You can use nutrient-rich aquatic soils, but those materials can easily compact around the roots and create dead growth zones.

Loose substrate promotes proper water flow around the roots.

Author’s Note: It is best to bury lucky bamboo deeply. Most agree that you need about four inches of substrate material to really anchor the plant.

how to plant it

As mentioned above, there are two ways to grow lucky bamboo. You can submerge it partially or totally.

There is no right or wrong method.

With partial immersion, you have a little more wiggle room. The goal here is to keep the leaves and top growth out of the water. To do this, choose a mature specimen with ample length. Then bury about four inches into the substrate and fill the tank to about an inch below the lowest set of leaves.

If you want to submerge the entire plant, you may need to be a little more vigilant about creating a conducive growing environment. The stem and leaves will work well under water. But you need to make sure the plant gets all the nutrients it needs.

When submerged, lucky bamboo prefers high levels of oxygen and moderate to high carbon dioxide. You can address the oxygen problem with air bladders or by shaking your filter more vigorously. For carbon dioxide, you can try liquid dosing or CO2 canisters.

Trimming and pruning

The amount of trimming you do to your lucky bamboo is completely optional.

This plant does not spread horizontally, making it easy to manage. The only problem you may have is vertical growth.

Thanks to the slower growth rate, you may only need to prune the plant once or twice a year. To remove unwanted growth, cut just above one of the defined nodes. The nodes are the rings that separate the individual sections of bamboo.

tank mates

The best thing about lucky bamboo is its wide compatibility with fish and invertebrates. This plant is hardy!

Unlike pure aquatic plants, lucky bamboo has a very low risk of being damaged when bitten. Your fish may try to chew on the stems, but most won’t make a dent! The only problem is with burrowing fish which have been known to uproot plants. But even then, you can avoid the problem by burying the base of the bamboo deep.

Lucky bamboo is a good choice for most fish and inverts. Not only is he tough enough to withstand any unruly behavior, but his wide growth parameters give him a lot of flexibility in choosing tank mates.

Some lucky bamboo tank mates worth trying include:

Because it can partially submerge lucky bamboo, it’s also a favorite for nurseries. Works well with frogs, turtles, and more!


As your lucky bamboo matures, it will continue to produce suckers. They appear at the various nodes and can obtain about half the circumference of the primary stem. Those suckers make excellent propagated plants.

Before you cut them, make sure your plant is healthy. Also, give the shoot time to develop multiple leaf joints. All spreads must have at least one joint, but more joints are preferred.

Author’s note: It’s also best to give the branch time to grow long. Remember, this plant prefers to be submerged in several inches of water. They do not tolerate dry roots. Giving the plant some time to grow will make it easier to anchor in a new home.

When the sprout is ready, clip back the leaves to expose the growth joint at the node. Then use sharp scissors to cut the sprout cleanly. Do not cut it or leave jagged edges. Rough cuts only make it harder for the original plant to spread and heal.

To establish a new plant with propagation, put them in water. If possible, root them in the same tank as the original plant. The branch is already used to the conditions, thus eliminating the risk of transplant shock.

Anchor the cutting in the substrate as you did with the original plant. Over time, it should develop its own root system. Check it periodically to make sure the base isn’t rotting.


As you can see, putting lucky bamboo in aquariums is something you shouldn’t be afraid to try. It can be a great inclusion if you have the right conditions and creatures in the tank!

Let us know if there is anything else about this plant that you would like to learn. We are more than happy to answer your questions directly!

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