Can You Put A Bamboo Plant In A Fish Tank?

The answer to this question is in the affirmative. Yes, you can put a bamboo plant in a fish tank. However, before you rush to do it, you should know that if the bamboo plant you intend to plant in your fish tank is the true bamboo plant, you are courting a disaster. This is because the true bamboo plant is a toxic non-aquatic plant. 

The right bamboo plant that you can put in your fish tank is the lucky bamboo plant. This is because it is a nontoxic aquatic plant that doesn’t negatively affect tank inhabitants. 

So the answer to the question “Can you put a bamboo plant in a fish tank?” is yes but only if the bamboo plant is the nontoxic lucky bamboo plant since the true bamboo plant is toxic to fish. 

The Differences between the True Bamboo Plant and the Lucky Bamboo Plant

The most common bamboo plant in the world is the true/ real bamboo plant. It can grow very tall and it has very many uses. For example, it can be used as animal feed, as scaffolding, as herbal medicine, and as a building material. While the true bamboo plant has very many uses, putting it in a fish tank is not advisable. This is mainly because of two reasons. 

First, it grows very big and tall. Therefore, putting it in a fish tank does not make sense. Second, it is toxic to fish. It is toxic in the sense that parts of it decay while it is growing releasing ammonia into aquarium water. While low ammonia levels do not affect fish, as the chemical accumulates in water with time it becomes toxic and harmful to fish.

In contrast, the lucky bamboo plant is less common than the true bamboo plant. However, while it does look like the true bamboo plant it is different in the sense that it is more suited for fish tanks. This is because it is not toxic to fish. Unlike the true bamboo plant, parts of the lucky bamboo plant do not decay and release ammonia into water. Therefore, it does not negatively affect fish. 

So the bamboo plant you can put in your fish tank is the lucky bamboo plant. However, as I have in the paragraph above, it looks like the true bamboo plant. Therefore, you should be careful not to confuse the two especially if you are a newbie aquarium hobbyist. Otherwise, you could end up accidentally planting the toxic true bamboo version despite knowing it is toxic.

How to Plant the Lucky Bamboo Plant Correctly

The lucky bamboo plant is not toxic to fish. You can, therefore, plant it in your aquarium. However, while it is not toxic, if you plant it incorrectly it will negatively affect your fish. 

The correct way to plant the lucky bamboo is a topic of hot debate. Nonetheless, experienced aquarium hobbyists agree that the correct way to plant the lucky bamboo plant is to immerse it in such a way that its leaves remain above the water surface. This is because the leaves of the lucky bamboo plant start to rot when they are submerged below the water surface. And as they rot, the plant itself starts to decay releasing ammonia into the water. And as you probably know, ammonia is toxic to fish.

In other words, what I am trying to say is that if you plant a lucky bamboo plant incorrectly, it will be toxic to your fish just like the true bamboo plant. However, if you plant it correctly with its leaves not submerged, it won’t negatively affect your fish.

How to Make Lucky Bamboo Plants Thrive in Your Fish Tank

Below are the things you need to think about to make your lucky bamboo plants thrive:

1. The Water

You can grow lucky bamboo plants in water alone. However, to make sure your lucky bamboo plants thrive, you need to make sure the water you are growing them in is very fresh. If the water is not very fresh or clean, the leaves of your lucky bamboo plants will yellow and die. The best waters for propagating lucky bamboo plants are distilled water, conditioned water, and filtered rainwater.

2. The Lighting

The lucky bamboo plant, like all other green plants, requires light to grow and thrive. You must, therefore, buy and maintain a proper light over your tank to propagate the growth of your lucky bamboo plants.

As you are probably aware, fish do not like too much light. Therefore, you need to find a balance between propagating your bamboo plants and ensuring your fish are not stressed by too much light. 

And while you may be tempted to expose your bamboo plants to direct sunlight, you should not do it because direct sunlight ‘burns’ the leaves of lucky bamboo plants and makes them useless. It is also not safe for fish.

3. Fertilizer

Some people add fertilizer to their fish tanks to make their lucky bamboo plants thrive. This is absolutely not necessary because fish waste products such as ammonia and nitrites naturally fertilize lucky bamboo plants and make them thrive. There is absolutely no need to add chemical fertilizers that could potentially be harmful to your fish. 

Moreover, the main benefit of having plants in your tank is to have them consume and reduce the concentration of toxic ammonia and nitrites in the water. Adding fertilizer reduces their capacity to do this.

4. Carbon dioxide

The lucky bamboo plant, like other green plants, requires carbon dioxide to survive and thrive. Without carbon dioxide, your lucky bamboo plants will not be able to synthesize nutrients via photosynthesis and, therefore, they will not survive. 

Your lucky bamboo plants will get carbon dioxide from your fish and from the atmosphere. This oxygen is enough for them to survive. However, if you want them to thrive you should consider using products such as Seachem Flourish to make sure your lucky bamboo plants get enough oxygen. 

5. Substrate

As mentioned earlier, lucky bamboo plants can grow in water alone. However, if you want to make sure your lucky bamboo plants really thrive and really grow well without getting disturbed, you should plant them deep in a substrate.

This is because by planting them deep in a substrate, you protect their roots from becoming a snack or a plaything for your fish. 

The recommended minimum substrate thickness for planting lucky bamboo plants is 4 inches.

6. Air pump

Lucky bamboo plants need oxygen. Many people think plants do not require oxygen to survive. However, they do need oxygen for respiration and energy. Most tanks usually do not have a lot of dissolved oxygen in the water. This is why aquarists buy air pumps to aerate them and get more atmospheric oxygen to dissolve into them.

Therefore, before putting a bamboo plant in your aquarium, you should buy an air pump if you do not have one or buy a more powerful one if your current one is not very powerful. Because only an air pump will supply enough oxygen to both your fish and your plants.

As you can see, there are several things you need to think about and potentially change to make sure your lucky bamboo plants thrive.

The Benefits of Having Lucky Bamboo Plants in a Fish Tank

There are two main benefits of having lucky bamboo plants in a fish tank.

The first benefit is filtration. Lucky bamboo plants, like other water plants, help with filtration. They help filter water and keep tanks clean and healthy for fish. How do they filter water? They do it by absorbing ammonia and nitrites, chemicals that are released by fish into water as waste. They absorb the chemicals because they need them for nitrogen, which is important for their growth.

By absorbing ammonia and nitrites, lucky bamboo plants prevent their accumulation in water. And we all know the accumulation of ammonia and nitrites can make water toxic for fish. So lucky bamboo plants play a very important role in eliminating (filtering) chemicals that can make water harmful for fish.

The second benefit is beauty. Lucky bamboo plants, like other aquatic plants, make fish tanks look more beautiful and attractive. So if you want your tank to be more fascinating to look at, you should go ahead and put lucky bamboos in it. 

Having lucky bamboo plants in your tank will also make it look homey and attractive for your fish friend. 

However, you should remember that you can only get the benefits above by getting the right bamboo plant species (the lucky bamboo plant) and planting it right. If you get the wrong bamboo plant or if you get the right bamboo plant and plant it incorrectly, you will end up with toxic levels of ammonia in your tank. 

Lucky Bamboo Plants FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are lucky bamboo plants dangerous for bettas?

No, they are not. Lucky bamboo plants are not dangerous for bettas. This is because they are fish-friendly aquatic plants. As long as you plant them without putting their leaves underwater, they will grow just like any other aquarium plants and they will not negatively affect your bettas.

Lucky bamboo plants can only be dangerous for bettas if you grow them with their leaves underwater as their leaves tend to rot and decay when underwater. And the rotting and decaying usually release ammonia into water making it harmful for fish. 

Can a yellowing lucky bamboo plant be saved?

A yellowing lucky bamboo plat is a dying lucky bamboo plant. However, any yellowing lucky bamboo plant can be saved. You just need to identify the problem with the plant and correct it. Normally, a lucky bamboo plant will start yellowing when it is exposed to too much light, many chemicals (fertilizers), high temperature, or disease. 

To stop the yellowing, you simply need to investigate its cause and stop it. For instance, if you investigate and find the problem is too much light, you should reduce the light and you will start seeing changes. 

Do I still need to change my tank water frequently if I have bamboo plants?

Yes, you do. You may think that you do not need to change your tank water frequently since you have lucky bamboo plants that absorb ammonia and nitrites for their nitrogen. However, while the plants do absorb ammonia and nitrites, other chemicals and wastes may accumulate in your tank water if you do not change it frequently.

Therefore, regardless of the presence of aquatic plants, you should change a portion of your tank water at least once every two weeks. 

Do bamboos secrete toxic stuff in water?

No, they do not. Bamboos do not secrete toxic stuff in water. However, real bamboo does decay in freshwater releasing ammonia in the process. Lucky bamboo also decays in water releasing ammonia if its leaves are submerged. 

Can I use dried real bamboo in my tank as decoration?

Yes, you can. You can use dried real bamboo as decoration in your tank, as long as you boil it first for about thirty minutes. Boiling it first will kill any pathogens or dormant mold on it.

Final Word

Remember, real bamboo and lucky bamboo look very similar. Do not confuse the two because the former is toxic and the latter is the suitable one for fish tanks. Moreover, when planting lucky bamboo, you should make sure the leaves are not submerged. Otherwise, it will also be toxic to your fish. You will only enjoy the aesthetic and filtration benefits of bamboo by picking the right species and planting it correctly.