Banana plant (Nymphoides aquatica) is often considered to be an easy to care for and a great choice for aquarium enthusiasts, especially, if they like exotic plants. Well, that’s not entirely accurate.
Nymphoides aquatic has relatively demanding water parameters, is not easy to propagate, and eventually loses its decorative qualities in terms of size and rhizome shape.
If you are considering adding Nymphoides aquatic to your tank, then you will definitely find this article helpful.
Quick Notes about Banana Plant
|Common Name||Banana plant|
|Other Names||Big floating heart, Dwarf water lilies, Banana lily, and Banana plant|
|Lighting||Moderate to High|
|Optimal pH||6.0 – 7.5|
|Optimal GH||1 – 8|
|Optimal Temperature||68 – 79°F (20 – 26°C)|
|Can Be Grown Emersed
|Placement in Tank
|Aquarium size||6 to 20 inches (15 – 50 cm)|
|Propagation||Cuttings, offset propagation, and seeds|
Etymology of Banana Plant
The term “Nymphoides” is derived from the Greek word “Νυμφἅς” (Nymphaia) and the Latin “Nymphaea”.
Nymphaia refers to a minor deity of Greek mythology. Nymphs are often associated with natural water sources. Nymphaea means “Water lily”.
The species name “Aquatica ”also reflects the plant’s aquatic nature.
Distribution of Banana Plant
Note: This plant has also been named by the State of Maryland as an endangered species.
Habitat of Banana Plant
Nymphoides aquatica is a freshwater aquatic plant that is typically found in still freshwater bodies, such as ponds, lakes, and marshes, or slow-moving streams and rivers.
In the wild, this plant generally grows in dense colonies which may result in the development of floating (but still rooted) mats.
Description of Banana Plant
- Plant size. The plant’s height is dependent on the depth of water surrounding it. Generally, it grows from 6 to 20 inches (15 – 50 cm) tall.
- Growth form. Nymphoides aquatica is a versatile plant that can be grown in different ways, including submersed, partially emergent, and free-floating forms.
- Color. Its leaves have dark green upper surfaces and purple corky undersides.
- Leaves. The plant has a submerged plagiotropic rhizome that produces 2 types of leaves. Large floating leaves (up to 4 inches or 10 cm) are ovate to reniform whereas submerged leaves are small and short-stemmed. Leaf texture may be smooth to deeply roughened (especially on the underside).
- Flowers. It produces white flowers with five smooth petals and a yellowish center.
- Bananas (Tubers). The plant has thick tubers that store nutrients, but these should not be confused with the roots. They are about 1 inch (2.5) long.
- Roots. Its roots grow from the stem of the plant. The roots are thin and white or light green in color, and they can grow downward towards the substrate.
For a detailed description of Nymphoides aquatica, you can refer to this scientific paper.
Tank Requirements and Water Parameters
The banana plant isn’t overly finicky, but it’s not as hardy as some people claim it to be!
Because of its growth potential, the recommended tank size for growing this plant is a minimum of 10 gallons (~40 L).
Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:
Temperature: Banana plant grows best in the temperature range of 68 to 79°F (20 – 26 °C). In natural conditions, this plant can tolerate temperatures ranging from 50–86°F (10 to 30°C), provided there are gradual changes.
pH: This plant prefers slightly acidic water in the range of 6.0 – 7.5 pH. Too alkaline water stunts its growth rate.
Note: The pH level of the water affects the plant nutrient uptake and therefore it is a significant factor for plant growth. Be sure to monitor the pH level regularly with an accurate pH testing kit.
Hardness: Soft water is required for this plant to grow comfortably. I need to repeat it again – soft water is important! It is highly recommended to provide hardness levels between 1 – 8 GH.
Keeping Nymphoides aquatic in alkaline and/or hard water can lead to the destruction (melting) of the plant.
Although Banana plants can grow in various lighting conditions, from low to bright light, their growth rate will be very slow in the low-tech tanks.
So, if you want to see how this plant grows at its full potential, you need to provide a lot of light (>40 PAR) and long photoperiod (>10 hours)!
This plant does not like high flow. In its natural habitat, this plant is not found in fast-flowing rivers or streams.
The Banana plant prefers to be rooted in nutrient-rich substrates.
This plant can grow even floating since it can extract nutrients from the water column. However, this is not its favorite way of feeding.
CO2 and Fertilization:
CO2: CO2 supplementation is optional. You certainly do not need it if you let this plant reach the surface.
Fertilization: The Banana plant requires moderate to high nutrient levels. If you do not have nutrient-rich substrate then using root tabs and regular dosing of liquid plant fertilizers (1-2 times a week) is required.
Note: If you keep shrimp in the tank with this plant, I would highly recommend reading my articles:
- CO2 in a Planted Tank Guide
- CO2 in a Shrimp Tank
- How Copper Affects Dwarf Shrimp
- Shrimp Safe Plant Fertilizers
The point is that a high level of CO2 and Copper (most fertilizers contain copper) is extremely dangerous to the shrimp.
Care and Maintenance of Banana Plant
Even under optimal conditions, this plant exhibits a slow to moderate growth rate.
It is considered an amphibious plant, capable of thriving both fully submerged in water and partially emerged.
To ensure the plant’s health, simply trim away older lower leaves. It’s advisable to prune long shoots to prevent the plant from shedding its aquatic leaves.
Keep in mind that the depth of the tank is also important since it also influences the light perception. So, even if you have strong lighting, in a deep tank, this plany may still not receive enough light.
Planting Banana Plant
In aquascaping, this plant can be used as a foreground and midground plant or it can easily serve as a focal point.
Avoid planting Nymphoides aquatic in one large clump. Instead, it is better to plant this plant with about 4 – 6 inches (10– 15 cm) between each one.
|Important: Do not bury these thick tubers (bananas). They are not roots! If you do that, they will rot and the plant will die.|
It is recommended to cut of first long stems. This will have a positive impact on the condition of the rosette.
Offset propagation. Nymphoides aquatica is capable of vegetative reproduction from plantlets produced in association with the inflorescences. Once the plant reaches the surface, it will start to develop roots below the leaf. Unfortunately, it is rather hard to get in home aquariums.
Fragmentation.On the internet, I have come across the advice that it’s enough to cut the stem (attached to the floating leaf) and let it float freely until roots appear, and then you can plant it.
However, the issue is that in most cases, the cut stem tends to rot faster before it develops roots.
Layering. Another suggestion is to press the stem into the substrate to encourage root growth.
However, this method can be quite tricky because, as some reports suggest, the plant needs to be partially submerged and have sufficient access to CO2 for this to be effective.
Note: In the wild, Nymphoides aquatic generally propagates by seeds.
Problems Associated With Growing Banana Plants
Melting: Unfortunately, the banana plant often does not last long in aquariums. Keeping it for over a year is already quite an accomplishment.
Banana rotting: Banana plant will melt if its tubers (bananas) are buried deep into the substrate.
Solution: Be careful during planting.
No bananas: The tubers (bananas) are not permanent. As mentioned earlier, their function is to store nutrients. After they have served their purpose of providing a boost to the plant’s growth, they dissolve. Generally, it happens after 3-6 months. Unfortunately, the plant won’t continue producing them in the future. Additionally, they will not develop if the plant has been propagated through offset propagation.
Propagation: It is really hard to propagate this plant in aquariums.
Solution: Do not have any. It seems like pure luck.
Relocation: The Banana plant does not like to be moved. The root system of this plant is pretty large. It is easy to even break its stem before pilling it out. Moreover, after relocation, this plant has a low survival rate.
Solution: You should be very careful or you will pull up a big part of your substrate.
Slow growth: This plant requires strong lighting, soft water, fertilization, and ideally CO2. Otherwise, it will grow very slowly.
Solution: Provide ideal water parameters.
Shadowing: Once the banana plant reaches the surface, it will produce emergent leaves that are significantly larger than the submerged ones. This will lead to increased shading in the aquarium.
Solution: Either cut off the stems or keep this plant with plants that do not require a lot of light.
- How to Spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Aquatic Plants
- Everything about Nitrates in Planted Tanks
- Phosphates in Freshwater Tanks
Benefits of Banana Plants
Aquascape: In aquariums, Eriocaulon cinereum is often used to visually define the boundaries between the foreground and midground.
Versatility: Willow hygro is one of the plants that can grow emersed and submersed. It can grow in low and high-tech tanks.
Prevents gas pockets: This plant has a well-developed root system that will help to break up anaerobic pockets in the substrate.
Note: Hydrogen sulfide pockets (H2S, the gas smells like rotten eggs) can be really dangerous to your fish or shrimp.
Hiding place for fish, fry, and shrimp: It will serve as a cover and hiding place for inverts and small fish.
Quarantine Banana Plant
Unless you are completely sure that Banana plant is safe, for example, it was grown in sterile/laboratory conditions (in vitro) and the in vitro pot is not damaged or opened, do not forget to quarantine and disinfect it first to avoid the risk of contamination and poisoning.
DO NOT introduce a new plant to your tank right after you bought it.
- The plant can have parasites, pests like snails, or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
- It may already contain residues of chemicals (pesticides) to remove parasites, snails, etc. These chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.
To find out more, read my articles:
Note: Banana plant can be sensitive to chemicals. So, be careful if you decide to disinfect it.
The Banana plant is used in the aquarium hobby to limited degrees for its attractive flowers, floating leaves, and, of course, the formations at the plant’s roots resemble clusters of bananas.
If you provide optimal care conditions, you shouldn’t encounter problems in keeping this plant. However, challenges are more likely to arise if you decide to propagate it. Additionally, the decorative features of this plant (bananas) completely disappear after a few months. It is not possible to keep them long-term.
Keep this in mind when choosing this plant for your aquarium.
- Richards, Jennifer H., Marlene Dow, and Tiffany Troxler. “Modeling Nymphoides architecture: A morphological analysis of Nymphoides aquatica (Menyanthaceae).” American Journal of Botany97, no. 11 (2010): 1761-1771.
- Wood, C. E. J. 1983 . The genera of Menyanthaceae in the southeastern United States. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 64 : 431 – 445 .
- Kaisar, MdImrul, Ripon Kumar Adhikary, Moon Dutta, and ShuvaBhowmik. “Diversity of Aquatic weeds at Noakhalisadar in Bangladesh.” American Journal of Scientific and Industrial Research7, no. 5 (2016): 117-128.
- Markovich, Ian J., Joseph W. Sigmon, and Lyn A. Gettys. “Floatinghearts: Nymphoides spp.: SS-AGR-469/AG465, 10/2022.” EDIS2022, no. 5 (2022).