How to Grow and Decorate with Cabomba
 Aqualand's inside scoop on Cabomba caroliniana

 

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 Cabomba Factoids

Origin

Brazil -- now all over North and South America

Temperature

Nearly immaterial
Lighting Medium to high

Threats

African cichlids, apple snails, medications, and koi

Size

Easily grows to three feet.  Larger in the wild.

Foods

Fish wastes (including carbon dioxide) and fertilizer
Oxygenator Grows very fast and gives off much oxygen

Water

Nearly immaterial
Substrate Flexible but I prefer a b-b size natural gravel
Caution Highly invasive weed.  Hardy to Zone 5.

LA
Single stems of cabomba looks pretty good.

Best Substrate:  In the wild cabomba takes over shallow bodies of water with a silt bottom.  It will root and flourish in nearly any type of substrate except maybe marbles.

LA
Multiple stems look even better.

Prologue:  Illegal in many states and some countries, this attractive aquarium plant has long been an aquarist favorite.  The very traits that make it an invasive pest also make it an easy to grow aquarium plant.

LA
Purple cabomba on the left.  Regular cabomba on the right.

Introduction:  We (aquarists) call it cabomba.  Others call it Brazilian fanwort (wort is an old word for plant), Brazilian waterpest, or just an invasive weed.  So why grow it?  Cabomba looks pretty good.  There's two versions:  Green cabomba, Cabomba caroliniana, which is the easiest to grow and purple (or red) cabomba, Cabomba pulcherrimma, which is harder to grow and probably the reason some aquarists consider cabomba very difficult or even impossible to grow.

LA
Cabomba looks best when planted in patches.  It also makes a good baby saver.

How to Plant Cabomba:  Plant each cabomba stem at least two inches from its neighbors.  This gives it room to "fan out."  Put shorter stems in front for a natural look.  Avoid planting in rows of equal height stems.  Or use it behind rocks or wood to
"frame" your focal point.  Keep it out of dark corners.  Cabomba loves the light.

LA
Cabomba quickly grew to the top of this 20H.  Note the numerous roots.

LA
Even more roots here.

LA
Stem portions below the bottom node will rot off.


Cabomba Grows Fast:  Adding more light, fertilizer, and carbon dioxide makes cabomba grow as much as an inch per day.  Ditto if you put it in an outdoor pond.  It efficiently absorbs the nutrients it needs thru its fan-like leaves as well as its relatively weak roots.  Under average aquarium conditions, you can expect an inch or two of growth per week.

Water Cleaner:  Cabomba grows fast because it feeds on fish wastes:  carbon dioxide, nitrogenous, and phosphate waste products.

LA
Cabomba makes an instant "filler plant."

LA
Cabomba makes an excellent background plant.

LA
Vary the length of your cabomba stems for a more natural look.

LA
Cabomba makes fish feel at home.

LA
Cabomba makes an excellent egg-laying site for egg scatterers.

LA
Baby livebearers (in this case mollies) like to hide in the fronds.

Cabomba Provides Security:  Danios couldn't care less.  However, many of the shyer aquarium residents feel and act more natural in a forest of cabomba.  Livebearer fry find places to hide in its fan-like fronds as well as tiny animalcules to snack on.  Egg scatterers also find it an excellent egg laying medium.  And some adult fish like to snack on the fronds.

LA
Mix with other plants for variety.

LA
Mix in some other plat types.

Avoid Mono-Culture:  Mix in other plant species to pep up your aquascaping.  Other shades of green as well as contrasting colors and leaf shapes make your cabomba show better.

LA And it grows well floating.

Too Lazy to Plant?  Unplanted stems grow faster because they're nearer the light source.  They're not as attractive this way, but the fish don't seem to mind.  In fact, livebearer fry would especially appreciate a layer of cabomba at the surface.

LA
Broken pieces will grow into new plants.

Save Your Broken Pieces?  Top swimmers feel less like bailing when they have plants in their strata.  Pieces that break off like this and grow into new plants are what make Cabomba such an invasive species in some bodies of water.


LA
Cabomba also blooms.

LA
Mostly cabomba.

LA
Cabomba plus driftwood.

LA
Cabomba plus drftwood plus Java fern.

LA
Just planted, August 16, 2014.

Cabomba Likes Ponds:  In full sun in an outdoor pond, cabomba grows like a weed.  It even produces a yellow floweret.  It makes a great oxygenator IF there are no goldfish or koi in the pond.  It grows so thick in lakes that it interferes with boating and swimming.  That's why cabomba is illegal in many states.  Do not toss your unwanted cabomba in a nearby lake.  Some states want you to dry it out and burn it if you decide to dispose of your cabomba.  LA 

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