Bacopa caroliniana grows everywhere – from soil to sandy aquariums, and there really isn’t a condition it won’t thrive in. You can use almost any substrate, lighting, or water parameters to grow it. It can be left floating and it’ll even survive brackish water conditions.
It does best in taller tanks because it grows so quickly, but you can grow it in shorter tanks – it just overtakes them much faster. Lemon bacopa works well for hiding equipment, creating territories for fish, or hiding spots for fry.
Like moneywort, Bacopa Caroliniana is technically a flowering herb and typically grows on land. It’s also called water hyssop, blue water hyssop, giant red bacopa, lemon bacopa, or giant red bacopa.
What you may not know, is that scientists are currently attempting to make this plant bioluminescent. The goal is to use bacopa, and other plants and trees, to create environmentally-friendly street lights that would reduce energy costs, improve air quality, and keep the streets safely lit at night.
But back to your aquarium. It makes a fantastic addition to almost any tank for any skill level, so if you’re thinking about grabbing some for your tank, here’s how to take care of it.
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Table of contents
Bacopa caroliniana vs bacopa monnieri
The main difference between these two species is the size of the leaves. The care requirements are about the same, they’re both equally easy to take care of, but they look slightly different.
Does Bacopa Caroliniana flower?
Yes, it does flower! Typically, it won’t flower in the aquarium, often even if the tops reach above the water, but it occasionally will. For the most part, it only consistently flowers if grown on land.
Is Bacopa Caroliniana invasive?
As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that any of the popular aquarium Bacopa species are invasive (yet.) though they all certainly have the potential to become invasive.
Distribution & Natural Habitat
Bacopa carolinana is native to several states in the US. You can find them in wetlands, marshes, ponds, and lakes. typically, you’ll find them in areas where the water is 3′ deep or less, but it’ll also grow completely out of the water around the shorelines.
It’s hardy in USDA zones 6a – 9b, but you may find it in 5 zones as well.
Size: 2’+ (61 cm)
Propagation: Side shoots, clippings
Fertilizer: Liquid, but substrate helps
Speed Of Growth: Rapid
Temperature: 58 – 90 F (14 – 32C)
Full transparency – I’ve managed to almost kill Bacopa Caroliniana several times and it always bounces back within a week. The biggest thing I’ve noticed with bc is that it doesn’t do well with floating plants blocking the light and it’s difficult to keep planted.
Without plant weights it floated on me pretty much constantly.
Bacopa caroliniana doesn’t need any special or high powered lights, but it does best when other plants aren’t blocking it. I would call it a moderate light plant. It does change colors and the stem structure based on the level of light it receives as well.
Under high light conditions, it turns pinkish to red/brown (hence the moniker “giant red bacopa.”) It’s leaves also grow in tighter clusters, making it bushy. Under lower light conditions, it turns bright green and the leaves grow farther apart.
It can certainly become leggy under incredibly low-light conditions, and it’ll take a lot of careful trimming and a few months to get it back to its bushy self, so I suggest over lighting before under.
Rating: 4.8 stars
Price: $150 – $210 *size dependent
Par: 45 at 24″
I love this light. It’s expensive, so prepare for a sticker shock, but it’s totally worth every penny of the price tag. It’s a fully customizable, automatic, and adjustable light that I can’t get enough of. Plus, it doesn’t have a remote, it’s controlled by your phone, so it fixes all the issues that the Finnex 24/7 had.
You know, like the remote not working six months after you bought it kind of thing.
Rating: 4.8 stars
Price: $35 – $73 *size dependent
Par: 60 at 24″
The second iteration of the stingray is much better than the first – which was still pretty great – and they kept the same super sleek design while pumping up the power. Not to mention it’s super affordable!
Rating: 4.7 stars
Price: $67 – $106 *size dependent
Par: 58 at 24″
My one issue – everyone’s issue, really – is that the remote gives out. If you don’t care about being able to control it, it’s a great light. If you’re excited about it being “fully” customizable (it’s not compared to the Fluval 3.0,) then this probably isn’t the light for you.
Fertilizers & Substrates
Bc doesn’t need any special substrates, fertilizers, or Co2 either. I did have more success planting it in a plant substrate than I did in sand, gravel, or pebbles, but it survived and grew no matter what I planted it in. So if you’re going for seriously dense growth, I’d recommend a planted substrate and some liquid fertilizers over sand.
It can also be grow floating, but it doesn’t look great and I don’t know that I’d recommend it.
If you opt for sand or another substrate without fertilizers in it, I would suggest buying a liquid fertilizer to add on a weekly basis. I have the best options for fertilizer substrate and liquid fertilizers below for you.
Recommended substrates & fertz
Rating: 4.5 stars
Price: $42.88 for 17lb
Price per lb: $2.43
The only bad reviews I found on this were against Fluval itself. There were a few people who had opened bags that were taped back up when they purchased this off Amazon from Fluval directly. Buyers from Chewy (linked above) didn’t have that issue. This one seems to be the – almost – undisputed winner among aquarium plant lovers.
Rating: 4.3 stars
Price: $20.99 for 20lb
Price per lb: $1.05
There are plenty – and I do mean plenty – of reports of ammonia spikes killing off shrimp and fish when this stuff is first put in. Given that you’ll need to replace this stuff yearly – or every two years max – this is something that I would stay away from. I’ve heard amazing, glowing reviews of this stuff though despite the mess and the potential spike. I would say just proceed with caution. And maybe keep some Prime handy.
Rating: 4.8 stars
Price: $26.99 for 7lb
Price per lb: $3.85
The Amazonia Light is supposedly easier to handle, cleaner, and less prone to ammonia spikes it’s original Amazonia counterpart. But, with all that said, everything I read says it’s just as good as the Fluval Stratum and it comes with a much heftier price tag. If you’re not married to ADA, I would suggest Fluval Stratum over ADA just based on the price.
Rating: 4.4 stars
This fertilizer is specifically for low-tech but heavily planted tanks. As with any fertilizer, a test kit and consistent monitoring for the first few weeks is essential.
Rating: 4.8 stars
Flourish has been around for quite some time, they’re trusted, reliable and – overall – it presents very few issues. Particularly for the low-tech and low-maintenance plants. More expensive and needy plants will likely need tinkering with dosing and additional supplements.
Rating: 4.7 stars
Excel is the liquid form of Co2 (well, kinda.) So if you’re struggling with getting the best and fastest growth from your plants, experimenting with liquid carbon is a much cheaper alternative to a full-blown Co2 kit.
Bacopa caroliniana is probably one of the most fuss-free plants that I can think of. Not only is the least fussy plant in terms of water parameters, lighting, soil, – or if it’s even in water at all – but it also comes in with very few and far between issues.
Melting is incredibly common in aquatic plants as most of them are grown above water. If you pluck off the dying parts of the plant before they start rotting, the new aquatic growth should appear soon enough, and it’ll do just fine.
While rapid plant growth is a great thing in most cases, it can also become a problem when it comes to regular upkeep on trimming, nutrients, and excess plant disposal. Since fast-growing plants usually present an issue for local waterways and most are considered to be invasive species, taking care to properly dispose of excess is incredibly important.
In addition, it’s quite possible that it can choke out your other plants by out-competing them for nutrients. This can, of course, be remedied by changing the water more frequently, adding more fertilizer to the water, or keeping up on trimming of the faster-growing plants. But, since trimming and disposal also comes with its own issues, this last option is probably the most time-consuming.
Lack Of Nutrients
Fast-growing plants can cause two – er, maybe three – major nutrient issues.
- They can choke out other plants by out-competing them for nutrients. Eventually, the plants that can’t compete will slowly die.
- They can soak up so many nutrients that they choke themselves out.
- They can out-compete your fish for the same nutrients in the water – especially fry.
You can fix this issue by doing more water changes to replace nutrients or you can add fertilizers to the water to similarly replace nutrients. Although, both methods will require some tinkering and fine-tuning to get right.
Bacopa Caroliniana Maintenance
Maintenance for Bacopa Caroliniana is basically nonexistent. You may have to replant it from time to time if it floats up and, at some point, you’re definitely going to want to trim it. But other than that, you can leave it alone.
If you want to get the best growth out of it, or if you’re going for a specific look, you’re going to want to dose fertilizers weekly (or with every water change) and be a little more attentive with the level of lights and pruning.
Disposing of unwanted Bacopa Caroliniana is probably the most challenging part. Preventing lemon bacopa from getting into local waterways – even if it’s native to where you live – is important for the balance of the local ecosystems. This is particularly true for those who live near wetlands.
You can bury lemon bacopa (even in your garden for nutrients like you can with hornwort,) add it to your compost heap, or use a bleach soak to kill it before throwing it away (or soak it long enough to dissolve it in bleach.)
If that all sounds like too much, you can throw it away in plastic bags to prevent it from getting into local water bodies – although, then you may be introducing more plastic waste into waterways and oceans.
Propagating Bacopa Carolinia
Once you let your lemon bacopa grow long enough, it’ll start sending off side shoots or pseudo runners where new stems will grow. If you’re antsy, or if it’s getting too tall for your tank, you can clip it where the new roots are starting to form on the stem and plant those clippings.
If no pieces on your stem have roots yet, don’t worry, you can still clip a piece off and leave the piece to float until roots develop. Once the roots have developed, you can plant it without fear of it rotting. If you try to plant it before any roots form, your new clipping will likely rot.
What About Fish?
I’m usually the first person to tell you not all fish do well with all plants… but since lemon bacopa does well in almost any environment, floating or not, low pH, high pH, any substrate, any temperature range, and most fish won’t eat it… there’s really not a fish I can think of that shouldn’t do just fine. Which is a rare thing, indeed!
Further Reading & Resources
IFAS – Lemon Bacopa
Nature Serve – Bacopa Caroliniana