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Cabomba Aquarium Plant (Green Fanwort): Care, Growing & Propagation

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By Lindsey Stanton


I’ve found a new plant for my goldfish tanks…. And I’m in love.

It’s not very well-known and doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. Pet stores don’t usually have it in stock (and when they do it gets bought up fast). I actually learned about this beautiful and useful plant from a very old book on goldfish. It was the authors’ favorite plant and I knew I had to try it out.

So, I got some for my 29-gallon Veiltail tank. Now, I’m planting it in my other tanks too!

Here’s what I’ve learned about it and my experience keeping it so far!

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Cabomba is the Bomba: Species Overview

Cabomba green fanworth
Cabomba (Image Credit: Piotr Kuczynski, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The name is kinda funny. It’s pronounced “cah-bomb-uh.” (Also known as Cabomba caroliniana, Carolina Fanwort or just Fanwort.) It is quite possibly one of the most beautiful aquarium plants.

The best part? It’s a FANTASTIC beginner plant. Feathery leaves are bright green, red or purple depending on the color variety you get. The plant is dense, lush and bushy while maintaining a soft look and feel. Leaves are silky and a bit shiny underwater, sometimes with a lavender or red hue even on Green Cabomba.

The Cabomba plant is typically sold as loose stems, which then develop root systems if cared for correctly. Like Hornwort, it is considered an invasive species.

The leaves are much broader and fluffier than Hornwort though, and it doesn’t tolerate as cold of temperatures. When it’s REALLY happy, it will produce beautiful little light pink flowers!

Where to Buy

This plant can be hard to find in pet stores, especially the big box pet stores. I get my Green Cabomba online from this seller and highly recommend them. You get a large amount for a fantastic price with fast shipping.

The plants I got even had flowers on them!

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The 7 Tips for Caring for Cabomba

1. Light

Cabomba does well in medium to high light. It has reportedly done pretty well in lower light, but it really seems to thrive when it gets more. A good strong full spectrum LED will make this plant take off.

A color temperature above 6000K is ideal. More lighting will make it grow bushier and less “stringy.”

Cabomba green fanworth
Cabomba aquatica (Image Credit: Ityadi22, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

2. Substrate

Cabomba can do quite well in plain gravel or sand, if there is enough nutrients in the water column. A great way to ensure it gets enough nutrients is to plant it in a glass jar of soil capped with 1/2″ of gravel or sand.

This is an affordable (and nifty) method for nourishing plants in a bare-bottom environment. Sand that contains nutrients (such as Flourite sand) will really make this plant take off.

3. Water Temperature

It’s pretty flexible when it comes to temperature. A range between 72-82 degrees F is recommended.

Some keep it just fine at as low as 68 degrees F.

4. pH

This plant prefers a pH between 6.5-7.5. It’s a pretty adaptable plant, it just needs time to adjust.

5. Tank Size

This plant is ideal for tanks that are 5 gallons in size and up as it can grow quite a bit. (It is easy to prune and replant it though.)

6. Pruning & Propagation

As a stem plant, Cabomba is very easy to prune and propagate. Simply pinch the stem with your fingernail where you want to snip the plant, then replant the snipped plant.

You can grow a jungle with this method!

7. Planting Tips

Cabomba CAN be left floating… But it’s recommended to weigh it down. This allows it to throw out its roots and get established in your tank, as well as start absorbing nutrients from the substrate. Plus, it looks better!

Getting it to stay in the substrate is not (usually) difficult. You can use tweezers to poke it into the substrate pretty easily about an inch.

I also like using lead weights to hold it down in a bare-bottom tank, as it tends to want to float until it roots out.

Dangers to Cabomba

Like most aquatic plants, algae or brown diatoms can pose a threat to this plant. So can mulm accumulation on the fine plant leaves. Both of these can suffocate it.

Some fluffier aquarium plants can act like “feather dusters” if they are placed near an area of higher water flow or near the intake of a filter. This is not good and can kill the plant. For that reason, it is recommended to keep the tank as algae-free as possible and position the plant away from currents.

Having little baby snails or algae eating shrimp such as Amano shrimp can be invaluable to protecting it. Not enough light can cause this plant to not look as nice either.

And of course, nutrient deficiencies can cause issues as well, though the good news is Cabomba is a relatively undemanding plant in terms of both light and nutrients.

cabomba green fanworth
Cabomba (Image Credit: Piotr Kuczynski, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The 6 Reasons Why It Is Ideal for Goldfish

1. Goldfish won’t eat it (in my experience)

My experience: I have kept this with jumbo fancy goldfish and slim-bodied fish alike and no goldfish has touched it.

It may be the leaves are too tough or needle-like, but for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to appeal to them.

This is awesome because it’s hard to find pretty plants that won’t become a goldfish salad.

2. Flexible to grow

Cabomba is one of the easiest aquarium plants to grow. It is adaptable to a variety of conditions and isn’t a very demanding plant.

It’s flexibility makes it a good option for anyone looking to start up a planted tank.

3. Perfect for spawning fish & catching eggs

Seriously, this plant is the PERFECT spawning medium for goldfish (and other breeding fish). Sticky goldfish eggs will be protected in the leaves of this plant. And even some fry can find shelter from larger hungry fish.

You can easily remove the plant from the tank to hatch the eggs if needed.

4. Grows quickly

In the right conditions, this plant can explode.  You will find yourself often having to trim the long stems and replant, which leads to a bushy forest background!

You can start new planted tanks with the clippings or sell them for side money online or to your local fish store.

5. Offers lots of shelter

This plant offers more shelter than most other aquarium plants. It helps to protect outdoor fish from predators.

Indoor fish also appreciate the hides.

6. Purifies Water

Cabomba is an excellent water purifier and can be used in a variety of tanks to help keep the water safe for our pet fish.

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Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a beautiful, goldfish-friendly plant that doesn’t need a lot of fuss, Cabomba could be a great choice for your tank.

What about you? Have you ever kept this plant?

Got any tips or questions? If so, I’d love to hear it from you below!

Featured Image Credit: glenn001, Shutterstock

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