Lucky bamboo in an aquarium

Have you ever seen those little vases with braided bamboo stems in the florist section of the supermarket and wondered if those partially submerged plants could survive in your aquarium? Despite the myths, they are safe for tanks with fish and invertebrates, so here are my tips on caring for lucky bamboo in aquariums.

What is lucky bamboo?

Lucky bamboo is a popular and common houseplant, but unlike many others, it is very easy to care for and does not need to be planted in the ground: it can survive in just a few inches of water! The ironic thing about Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is that it is not a true aquatic plant at all. It’s not even really a kind of bamboo. .

Difference between lucky bamboo and true bamboo

How is Lucky Bamboo different from real bamboos? True bamboo plants are relatives of the grass family, so they are basically cousins ​​to your grass and food plants like wheat, rice, and barley. There are more than 1,000 species of bamboo in the world, and they are fast-growing and sometimes even invasive outdoor plants.

Lucky Bamboo is native to Central Africa. Country of Cameroon and is a type of lily in bloom. In the wild, this plant grows under the canopy of tropical forests and can survive seasonal flooding and periods of drought. It is a hardy, hardy plant that is nearly impossible to accidentally kill. But can you put this bamboo in a fish tank?

How to grow lucky bamboo in an aquarium or fish tank

Lucky Bamboo is an ideal underwater plant for tanks of all sizes. It is flexible in its habits and very easy to care for. Let’s talk about how to use this plant in your aquatic environment.

type of water

Lucky bamboo is a freshwater plant and is not suitable for marine or brackish water aquariums. Their ideal water pH is 6.0 to 6.5, but they do well over a wider range.

They are not sensitive to water hardness. You may be able to use tap water for your bamboo aquarium, but it can also be problematic:

  • Chlorine in water can cause root stress, and prolonged exposure can slow plant growth or cause leaves to turn yellow.
    • While you can use preconditioned (chlorine-free) tap water in a bamboo tank, you’ll also need to check your local fluoride levels.
      • Fluoride is toxic to lucky bamboo, so if your tap water is fluoridated, you may need to use filtered or bottled water in your tank.

Depth of water and/or substrate

Does Lucky Bamboo need to be completely submerged in water or can the leaves be exposed to the air above your tank? You can sink the plant into a deep portrait-style tank or let the bamboo stems rise out of your fish tank; As long as the roots are submerged, your plant should thrive either way!

  • You will want to sink at least 2 to 3 inches from the root end of the bamboo stem under the water and make sure it is covered.
  • Lucky bamboo can also be planted up to 4 inches deep into its substrate to anchor it firmly in place.
    • It does best with coarse gravel or pebble-based options that ensure plenty of water circulation to the root system.
    • When planted in fine aquatic soils or sands, bamboo can suffer if the substrate compacts around the roots or develops hypoxic Dead Zones.
  • Unlike true bamboo plants, Lucky Bamboo does not tolerate dry roots. Your plant will die if it is planted in soil that is allowed to dry out or if water evaporates from the area around its roots.

lighting needs

Lucky Bamboo couldn’t be easier to grow, and is one of the easiest moderate light aquarium plants to care for. All you need is a few hours of bright, indirect light each day and your plant will do wonderfully. However, it is not a good option for tanks with LED lamps. The intense light causes the leaves to burn as they turn brown and die.


While you can certainly use an aquarium-safe liquid fertilizer in a bamboo tank or place tabs of fertilizer in the substrate they’re planted in, Lucky Bamboo is not a heavy feeder. You don’t have to add anything special to your tank to grow this little bamboo plant. Your fish waste will likely provide plenty of nutrients!

Carbon dioxide

Lucky bamboo uses carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by its fish and invertebrates as part of the photosynthesis process. Since it is not a fast growing plant, you do not need to use a CO2 diffuser in your tank to have beautiful water bamboo.

While I occasionally dose bamboo with a liquid carbon supplement, I have never bothered to use a diffuser in my bamboo tanks. As long as you have plenty of water circulation from an air stone or filtration system, these quiet plants are unlikely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies.

Benefits of Planting Lucky Bamboo in Your Tank

In addition to providing a unique and enchanting backdrop for your aquarium, Lucky Bamboo has other benefits. The roots create a home for good aquatic bacteria, and many fish enjoy nibbling on the root tips that grow from the stems. Plants also release oxygen and use the waste and CO2 produced by the inhabitants of your aquarium.

Myths About Lucky Bamboo in Aquariums

There are many myths about growing these plants in aquariums and a lot of misinformation on the internet about the dangers of using bamboo around fish or other aquatic pets. Let’s take a look at the things people frequently get wrong about Lucky Bamboo!

1. Lucky Bamboo releases toxins into your aquarium water

No, Lucky Bamboo does not release toxins into your tank water. But the myth is partially correct because planting true bamboo in an aquarium will cause these toxic spikes in ammonia. that can kill your fish:

  • True bamboo plants cannot grow if their roots are submerged
  • Its roots decompose underwater when the plant dies from suffocation.
  • This decomposition causes ammonia spikes that overwhelm your filter and poison your water, leading to the death of your fish.

2. You can’t fertilize lucky bamboo

I have no idea why this myth started, but you absolutely can fertilize your lucky bamboo with an aquarium-safe liquid fertilizer or use tablets in the substrate to feed your plants. It’s not usually necessary, as these plants don’t feed much, but if you add fertilizers for other plants, your bamboo will use them too.

3. Bamboo leaves must grow above the waterline

No, you can grow Lucky Bamboo completely underwater if you prefer. While these plants are usually sold with just the root end in water, the leaves will continue to grow if you submerge them in your aquarium.

4. You can grow lucky bamboo in your filter

Yes, you can grow Lucky Bamboo in your HOB filter. Instead of using replaceable filter media, some people fill the box with bio balls or gravel and place Lucky Bamboo roots in the filter compartment. Without the lid, the plant grows on top of the countertop and sits above the aquarium and light fixture.

I’m not a fan of this technique myself, as roots can’t absorb aquatic toxins as well as filter media. I also don’t like leaving my filter uncovered as it allows too much dust and hair to get into the water. But it’s true, some people grow Lucky Bamboo in their aquarium filters.

Water Bamboo Care FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the use of Lucky Bamboo in aquatic settings with other fish and invertebrates:

Q: How long can lucky bamboo survive in water?

A: Lucky Bamboo normally does well in water for about 1-3 years. After that, you may not see much new growth unless you transplant it into the ground. But it just depends. I have had a water planted bamboo plant for over 5 years and it is still going strong.

Q: How fast will my lucky bamboo grow?

A: Lucky Bamboo is not a fast growing species like unrelated true bamboo plants. The rate of growth will depend on the amount of light the plant receives each day. Under moderate but indirect light, it generally grows as fast as other houseplants. It grows more slowly when kept in low light conditions.

Q: Will my lucky bamboo give off oxygen?

A: Yes, Lucky Bamboo, like all plants, gives off oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis. Most of the oxygen is released from the leaves, so if your plant is totally underwater, it will produce oxygen that your fish and invertebrates can use.


Have you kept a bamboo plant with betta fish or shrimp in your aquarium? We would love to hear about your experiences with this beautiful and easy to grow species! Tell us all about your bamboo tank in the comments or share a photo with us on our social media pages! Lucky Bamboo is an excellent choice for aquascapers and makes a beautiful addition to almost any freshwater setting.

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