The age old question by bonsai enthusiasts and fish tank enthusiasts alike, can bonsai trees live underwater?
Simply put, no, bonsai trees can’t live underwater. Bonsai trees, like normal trees, breathe through the stomata in their leaves, meaning they cannot breathe underwater and will soon die.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s few things I would rather have in my tank than a stunning bonsai tree but unfortunately it’s simply not possible. Growing a bonsai with roots semi submerged is possible but having the whole tree living underwater would kill the bonsai relatively fast.
Whilst there are rumours that it’s possible to keep bonsai trees alive underwater, it’s said that you’ll need to be constantly changing the water and adding nutrients to keep the bonsai alive. Even then, it’s said that the majority of underwater bonsai trees will die due to the roots being flooded, the same way that would cause the bonsai to die in soil.
There are some species of trees like Mangrove that can actually tolerate being semi submerged in water but even still, they aren’t healthy being full submerged for a long period of time.
Is There Any Substitutes For Underwater Bonsai Trees?
Absolutely! There isn’t really any way to actually grow a bonsai tree underwater because the bonsai is just going to die within a few days, but you can still have the desired look from a fake bonsai tree.
As suggested on Bettafish
forums, the best port of call would be to find some driftwood or the stump of a dead bonsai. Aim to use something that already looks like the shape of bonsai you’re looking to create as styling a dead tree isn’t going to go too smoothly.
Once you have your ‘fake tree’, add moss to the top and shape it to create a sort of tree, as shown in the picture.
It might not be what you were looking for but realistically unless you want to spend a lot of money and time trying, it’s your only option as bonsai trees don’t live underwater and stay alive.
If anyone seems to successfully keep an underwater bonsai tree alive for more than a few weeks I’ll make sure to update this post with a link and tutorials etc, but for the mean time, we’re going to have to fake it!
Why Can’t Bonsai Trees Live Underwater?
Bonsai trees are genetically identical to a normal tree, only small due to having the roots constricted in a tiny pot and being continuously pruned. Normal trees have stomata in their leaves, which is, in easy terms, how they breathe. Being that bonsai and a normal tree are genetically indifferent, this too is how a bonsai would breathe. This leaves both trees unable to breathe at all underwater, meaning they will die very fast.
When roots are fully submerged for a long time in water, they are very susceptible to ‘root rot’, a disease that effects plants or trees in extremely wet areas. When a bonsai has root rot, you can try aggressive pruning of the roots but depending on the condition and health, it could be fatal to your tree. Yet another reason why it’s sadly impossible to grow a bonsai tree underwater.
Pruning A Bonsai Underwater
When people think about having a bonsai tree underwater, they normally gloss over the fact that bonsai trees only look so pristine and well formed due to the constant pruning that goes into them. Unless being left to grow out for something like a sacrificial branch, bonsai trees are usually lightly pruned every week or so in the growing seasons if on display. Whilst this isn’t actually a problem, it would definitely something to think about if you don’t have too much time on your hands – this is why I would lean more towards the implementation of a ‘fake’ underwater bonsai instead.