Bolbitis heudelotii
African Fern


Background History

Bolbitis heudelotii is found growing naturally submerged on sandy riverbeds throughout tropical Africa, specifically Ethiopia and South Africa. It grows similarly to Java Fern, and is very light tolerant; doing well in various lighting conditions. 

Bolbitis heudelotii is often referred as African Water Fern or Congo Fern.

Growth Characteristics

Bolbitis heudelotii is a moderately easily plant to grow. The plant produces beautiful translucent green fronds (leaves) from a rhizome.  The plant can span 6-8 inches (15-25 cm) wide and each leaf as tall as 6-16 inches (14-40).  In lower lighting conditions, the leaves will have slower growth, and become a dark green.  In higher light and carbon dioxide injected conditions, the leaves will develop into a translucent vibrant green.   It does well in both non fertilized or fertilized conditions, and in slightly softer water conditions.  

Bolbitis heudelotii is susceptible to Black Beard Algae, so ensure that lighting and carbon dioxide is balanced. This plant also perfers to be positioned near an current or water flow.

Similarly to Java Fern, the rhizome on the Bolbitis heudelotii should not be buried underneath the substrate.  Attach the rhizome to driftwood or rock using thread or fishing line.  Within a short time, the plant will become attached and send small anchoring roots down through the driftwood or into the substrate.

Propagation is through splitting the rhizome into halves.

Aquascaping Application

Bolbitis heudelotii is best suited in the midground area of the aquarium.  The slow growth of the plant allows the aquascaper to keep this in that particular section without having to place it in the background where the beautiful translucent leaves would otherwise be hidden.

Bolbitis heudelotii is perfect for slower growing, low light and low maintenance aquariums that contain Java Fern, mosses, crypt, and Anubias species. 

Trim larger leaves of the plant by removing the frond from the base of the rhizome.  This will help keep the plant looking manageable, and proportional to the aquascape.

Plant Profile
Scientific Name: Bolbitis heudelotii
Common Name: African Fern
Difficulty: Very Easy
CO2 Requirements: Very Low
Lighting Requirements: Low
Plant Arrangement: Midground
Growth Rate: Slow
Family: Lomariopsidaceae
Genus: Bolbitis
Origin: West Africa
Plant Type: Bulb
Water Hardness: Soft (GH = 4-8 dH)