African Water Fern: Bolbitis Heudelotii

African Water Fern (Bolbitis heudelotii ) is an awesome and very popular decorative aquarium plants due to its uniquely textured green foliage and growth form which make an attractive feature to your aquarium. It belongs to the family Polypodiaceae under order Polypodiales of class Polypodiopsida. Bolbitis heudelotii was first described by Alston in 1934. The species ‘heudelotii’ was named after a French explorer Jean-Pierre Heudelot who collected plants during the period from 1828 to 1837 in Guinea and Senegal.

You might also read: Dwarf Baby Tears Caresheet

Systematic Position

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum:Tracheophyta 
  • Class: Polypodiopsida 
  • Order: Polypodiales 
  • Family: Polypodiaceae 
  • Genus: Bolbitis  
  • Species: Bolbitis heudelotii

Distribution and Habitat

It is found in the tropical regions of Asia and Africa. In nature, it grows in submerged condition of fast flowing rivers, streams and lakes where sandy or rocky bottoms are available.

Common Names

It has several common names such as Bolbitis, African fern, Congo fern, African water fern, creeping fern, water fern etc.

Quick Bolbitis Heudelotii Facts

  • Scientific name: Bolbitis heudelotii
  • Origin: Africa
  • Placement: Mid-ground, Foreground and Background
  • Propagation: By cutting from the rhizome
  • Length of leaves: 15-40 cm
  • Width of leaves: 15–25 cm
  • Water pH: 5.0-7.0
  • Water Hardness: 4-12 dGH
  • Water temperature: 20-28 0C (68-82.4 0F)
  • Lighting need: Low
  • Growth rate: Slow

Physical Description

African Water Fern (Bolbitis heudelotii) is a very popular plant among the pet fish keepers as a mid ground specimen in tropical freshwater aquarium. It is a slow growing plant but under favorable condition it grows throughout the year.  It looks very exciting and can be an ornament of any aquarium.  

African Water Fern
African Water Fern

It can grow in any volume of aquarium with poor lighting condition on large stones or rock. This plant has a creeping rhizome with up to 10 mm in diameter.  It has transparent and dark green leaves which can grow 15–40 cm long and 15–25 cm broad with proper care.

In the creeping rhizome, the leaves grow opposite direction towards each other. If you keep this gorgeous plant in aquarium which creates a natural looks, provide natural shelter for your aquarium inhabitants and purify the water by absorbing excess nitrate nutrients. To make your aquarium beautiful and more attractive you should plant it between pale green and red plants in the middle position of the aquarium.

Proper Housing and Care Facts

This gorgeous plant does well with temperature of 20-28 0C (68-82.4 0F).  The growth of the plant slows noticeably when the water temperature drops to 20 ° C. The plant does not tolerate hard water at all. In this case, hardness should be 4-12 dGH. Bolbitis needs suitable water parameters with a pH of 5.0-7.0.

It is advisable to regularly change the water using water test kits to keep your aquarium environment healthy. This plant also prefers strong aerated water with broad range of lighting. In this case, you should use fluorescent and incandescent lamps.  The suitable light intensity for your plant should be 2-3 watts per gallon of water. Under the low level of lighting conditions, the leaves of the plant become a dark green while in strong light the leaves grow into a transparent exciting green color.

Scattered natural light is very useful for this plant but it must be protected from direct sunlight to prevent over growth of blue-green algae. The light day must be at least 12 hours. For optimum growth, you should provide mineral fertilizers, vitamin and CO2 injection regularly in small doses. In this case, you can add complex mineral fertilizers (1-2 gm per 100 liters of water) with essential trace elements weekly basis.

The leaves turn more brownish in high iron content water. To make your plant fresh and appropriate shape, you should remove the dried fronds and prune the plant by cutting the fronds. This type of plant is suitable for African cichlid and other aquarium fish.

Propagation / Reproduction

African Water Fern (Bolbitis heudelotii ) can propagate in aquarium condition if proper care is taken. Propagation is done by dividing the rhizome. In this case, rhizome should be divided into several parts so that each part contains at least three strong leaves and a growth point.

Separate parts of the plant should be pressed to the bottom with a pebble. Following a few days, each part produce new plants. Nutrient rich substances should be provided in aquarium during proper propagation to keep the plant in flourishing condition. Spore reproduction does not occur in aquarium conditions.

Also Read: Orchid Lily: Barclaya Longifolia


African Water Fern is a beautiful and popular aquarium plant among the pet fish keepers due to its gorgeous greenish coloration and toughness. It makes your aquarium more attractive for any aquarium hobbyist. This type of plant is now available in local pet shops and online vendor with sensible cost. We recommend you to purchase this gorgeous pant to make your aquarium environment like in a natural.

Leave a Comment