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Banana Plant – An Unusual Aquarium Plant for Beginners

Have you ever seen this bizarre plant at your local pet store that looks like it’s growing a bunch of baby bananas? Say hello to the aquatic banana plant, also known as the banana lily or Nymphoides aquatica. This species is native to slow-moving waters in the southeastern United States and is quite popular as a beginner-friendly, low light plant.

banana plant in planted aquarium

Nymphoides aquatica with banana-like tubers

How to Plant Your Banana Plant

Introducing a new banana lily to your fish tank is very simple. First, make sure your aquarium has at least two inches of substrate, such as aquarium gravel or sand. Then, select an area in the tank that has good lighting and gentle water flow. At six inches tall, this species can be used as a foreground or midground plant, or even as a background plant for a 5-gallon nano tank. 

The key is to not suffocate the tubers or banana-shaped roots, which are used for nutrient storage. Just rest the plant’s tubers on top of the substrate, or plant the tubers about a quarter of an inch into the substrate. If the plant tries to float away, use some rocks or even plant weights to keep it down. If the plant still refuses to stay put, don’t worry – it will eventually send down long roots to attach itself to the ground.

roots of an aquarium banana plant

Roots of an aquarium banana plant

How to Care for a Banana Plant

Banana plants are very hardy and easy to care for, with a moderate growth rate that won’t get out of control. They prefer tropical temperatures between 68 to 82°F and can survive in low to high light conditions. (Of course, the more light you give it, the faster it’ll grow.) No carbon dioxide (CO2) injection is needed, but your banana lily will definitely appreciate a good all-in-one liquid fertilizer and a root tab inserted right underneath the plant every three to four months.

Once the banana plant becomes well-established in your aquarium, it will start sending long shoots toward the surface. These shoots will grow into heart-shaped leaves that look like lily pads and even little white flowers in some cases. Just be careful that the floating leaves don’t block out all the light from the other plants, so prune them if needed.

Also, sometimes the banana lily’s tubers will melt away and disappear after planting. There are several theories as to why this happens – like maybe the plant doesn’t need the tubers anymore if it’s getting enough nutrients from the roots. Bottom line: if your plant looks healthy and is still growing, there’s no cause for concern.

aquarium banana plant with cherry shrimp

Aquarium banana plant with cherry shrimp

How to Grow More Banana Plants

Have you gone bananas for banana plants? Fortunately, it’s very easy to propagate them and make more! Simply cut off one of the leaves and let it float around in your tank. Eventually, new roots and some small leaves will start to appear, which you can then plant back into the substrate.

Hopefully, this quick care guide has given you a good starting point for growing your very first banana lily

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