Cabomba Caroliniana: Ultimate Care Guide

Often sold as Green Cabomba, Carolina Fanwort, or just Fanwort, Cabomba Caroliniana is a popular aquarium plant native to South America. Fast growing and hard to kill, it’s classified as an invasive species in many parts of the world. Its bushy growth makes it a great choice for a background plant in heavily aquascaped tanks. Unfortunately, many hobbyists find Cabomba Caroliniana doesn’t grow as well as they would like in home aquariums. The reason for this is its high light and nutrient needs. Most aquariums don’t have enough light or CO2 concentration to let this plant grow to its full potential. What looks like bunch of thick green foliage in pictures often ends up looking off-color and scrawny after a few weeks in many tanks. This plant does best in high tech tank setups with hobbyists who don’t mind frequent trimmings. Good growing conditions will show why this plant is a pest species in some countries: without frequent attention it’s capable of taking over tanks with thick, floating growth which can block out light to lower plants. With the right attention this can be a great aquarium plant with excellent growth patterns and vivid coloration.

Cabomba Caroliniana Care

Although Cabomba Caroliniana is an invasive species in many parts of the world, in an aquarium it needs special care for best growth. Bright lighting with fertilization and CO2 injection are needed for ideal growth. Without these elements, Cabomba Caroliniana will survive but it won’t thrive. Beginners like this plant because it’s easy to care for, but without extra attention it will never reach its full potential. If you’re willing to invest in learning how to get the most from this popular aquarium plant you’ll be rewarded with thick and beautifully green clusters of foliage. We’ve put together this guide to show you everything needed to get the most from this popular, but often neglected aquarium plant.

Cabomba Caroliniana
Cabomba Caroliniana

Are Cabomba Caroliniana easy to care for in an aquarium?

Cabomba Caroliniana will easily survive in many tank environments, but will need much support to achieve its full potential. Because of this it isn’t the best plant for beginners and is more suited to experienced aquarium hobbyists. Proper care will involve extra attention to lighting and fertilization. CO2 injection is often needed as well.

Cabomba Caroliniana Lighting Requirement

Cabomba Caroliniana is a light loving plant which needs between 10 to 12 hours a day of bright light. This amount of light is needed for thick growth and bright green coloration. Trying to grow this plant in low light will result in a more spread out growth pattern and dull color. Allowing it to grow as a floating plant is an alternative: Floating horizontally close to a light source can let this plant grow well without long periods of intense light. It’s important to plan for algae growth when growing this plant in high light conditions. Bright light will help Cabomba Caroliniana grow thick and green, but it will also encourage algae growth. CO2 injection can help decrease algae growth but adds complications to tank maintenance. Adding algae-eating species such as the Amano Shrimp will also help keep algae in check.


Cabomba Caroliniana does best in water temperatures between 68° and 82° F.

Water pH

Cabomba Caroliniana prefers slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.0 to 7.5. Growth and health of this plant will be slower if acidity is outside of this range. Common substrates for planted tanks will buffer acidity and can help prevent water from becoming too alkaline. Avoid any substrate which includes crushed coral or aragonite sand as these will dissolve over time, increasing alkalinity and water hardness.

Growth Rate

Cabomba Caroliniana is classified as an invasive species in many areas, and is capable of fast growth with proper lighting and fertilization. Growth rate will be faster or slower depending on care. Floating, with normal lighting and no fertilization, this plant will grow slowly. With 12 hours a day of bright light, fertilization, and CO2 injection, Cabomba Caroliniana will grow quickly. If tuning your aquarium setup for fast growth be prepared for frequent trimming and removal of excess growth. This is a species which can rapidly take over tanks when grown in ideal conditions.

Cabomba Caroliniana
Cabomba Caroliniana

Growth Height

In nature, Cabomba Caroliniana can grow up to 6 feet tall. When grown in an aquarium this plant will need frequent trimming. Because it can go tall quickly, Cabomba Caroliniana is capable of blocking out light for other aquarium plants and its own lower foliage. If your goal is short, bushy growth, prepare for frequent trimming and even replanting. The most common trimming method is cutting the growing tops. Doing this frequently can help you achieve a short and thick growth pattern. If the tops grow too much, you may find that trimming them leaves lower sections with thinner growth which doesn’t look as attractive. If lower sections grow too thin, with most of the thicker growth on the top portions, you can simply remove the lower section and replant only the trimmed top portions. This plant roots easily in substrate and trimmed upper portions can easily replace a bottom section which has grown too thin and sparse.

Cabomba Caroliniana Co2 Requirement

Cabomba Caroliniana is a plant which needs added CO2 injection for best growth. While it’s possible to grow Cabomba Caroliniana in low tech tanks, especially when floated, the growth rate will be slower and foliage won’t have a bright green color. CO2 injection is a key to getting this plant to grow fast, thick, and green. Another reason for CO2 injections is to reduce algae growth from this plants high light requirement. 12 hours a day of bright light will make algae grow just as well as Cabomba Caroliniana. Added CO2, along with algae eating tank inhabitants, can help to keep algae growth to a minimum while giving this plant the resources it needs to grow well.

If you decide to use CO2 injection, you’ll need to be careful: too much CO2 will displace oxygen and can suffocate your fish or other tank inhabitants. It’s important to watch water CO2 concentrations with a CO2 drop checker or electronic sensor. Drop checkers are cheap and easy to use but still need manual CO2 adjustment. Some electronic devices are available which can oversee CO2 concentration and adjust as needed. Unfortunately, these devices are expensive and subject to failure. Keep in mind that by increasing CO2 concentration you’ll also increase acidity. Adding too much can not only suffocate fish, but can also drive water pH too low for this plant and other tank inhabitants.

Cabomba Caroliniana Propagation

Cabomba Caroliniana is easy to propagate from cuttings. Even trimmed portions of this plant can be replanted easily. This plant propagates so easily that it can be a challenge to prevent it from taking over tanks!

How to Propagate Cabomba Caroliniana

To propagate Cabomba Caroliniana simply cut off at least a few inches of a growing top and replant in substrate. Be careful not to snap the brittle stems when cutting or replanting as this can prevent rooting and growth. While stems can be placed directly in substrate you might need to attach plant weights to the stem bottoms before planting. This can be necessary in tanks with large fish which may dislodge new cuttings. Any dislodged cutting will float to the water’s surface. Floating cuttings will often grow without soil, but this may not be what you intend.

When rooting cuttings you’ll still want high light and CO2 injection but fertilization may be necessary. Cabomba Caroliniana benefits from a balanced liquid fertilizer, and this is especially true when rooting new cuttings. Read all instructions and use caution to prevent adding too much fertilizer to your tank.

Can you grow Cabomba Caroliniana from seeds?

Cabomba Caroliniana can grow from seeds but is mostly grown from cuttings. Seeds are difficult to locate and aren’t as reliable as cuttings. If you are planning to add this plant to your aquarium then cuttings are the best choice.

Where can I find Cabomba Caroliniana for sale?

Cabomba Caroliniana is a popular aquarium plant which is easily available from most local fish stores and online suppliers. Often sold in bunches, it’s a cheap plant and can be bought for less than $8 USD in most cases. This plant is often sold for use in ponds, but it’s best to buy from sources that supply the aquarium hobbyist market.

Are Cabomba Caroliniana invasive?

Cabomba Caroliniana is listed as an invasive species in many parts of the world where it isn’t native. This includes parts of the U.S., Australia, and the E.U.

Cabomba Caroliniana vs Cabomba Aquatica

Cabomba Caroliniana looks similar to Cabomba Aquatica, but the latter has thicker stems and a slightly different growth pattern. Both species are capable of fast growth and do best in bright light and nutrient rich water. Both plants have similar care needs, and deciding on one over the other comes down to personal preference.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *