selenicereus anthonyanus vs epiphyllum anguliger; fishbone cactus aerial roots; zig zag cactus aerial roots

Selenicereus Anthonyanus Vs Epiphyllum Anguliger – Everything To Know About Fishbone Cactus

Have you ever seen a fishbone cactus or a rik rak cactus? A single leaf of the cactus looks like a fishbone. That’s why this species of cacti was named fishbone cactus. Some call it zig-zag cactus but that’s just a slang pseudonym. There is a problem in this regard though.

Fishbone cactus is not one specific plant. There are two major species of cacti and both of them are known as fishbone cactus. Taking one type as the other person tends to make mistakes in taking care of them. Thus, the cactus dies.

That’s why in this Selenicereus Anthonyanus vs Epiphyllum Anguliger comparison, we will show you ways how you can identify the cactus you have at home. It’s important to know the differences and the characteristics. Otherwise, you might end up doing something that agitates the plant if it dies.

Why Do I Have To Know This?

Most people find it hand to differentiate between Selenicereus Anthonyanus vs Epiphyllum Anguliger. For starters, these two are the most commonly kept cactus among so many cacti in the world. That’s because fishbone cactus flowers are really pretty. And the irony here is that these are the two species that people often get confused about.

You can check the forums, you are not the only one out there trying to figure out whether it’s a Selenicereus Anthonyanus or is it a Epiphyllum Anguliger? People are asking this question around so that they can determine which is which. I was trying the same thing too.

But, as painful as it may sound, I couldn’t find one article that was helpful enough to show me the differences between Selenicereus Anthonyanus vs Epiphyllum Anguliger. So, I did my own research from Cactus Typology books, journals, and research papers keeping both types of cactus at hand and finally I’m ready to draw a fine line between the two types of cactus. Let’s start with a table.



S. Anthonyanus

E. Anguliger



Cream with pink brackets

White flowers with brown/ yellow shade


15-17 centimeters wide and 10-12 centimeters long

20 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide







Small and black

Small and dark


Length (Mature Plant)

1m, flat stems

30cm, flat stems



Sandy soil with enough drainage

Loose and light soil


in 1 Week

1/2 times in high temperature

1 times in high temperature

in 1 Week

3/4 times in low temperature




Usual Growth

Slow growth


Usual Growth

Usual growth

These are the key differences at a glance. These key features are enough to understand the differences. Let’s talk about the plants individually in detail. You’ll be able to identify them clearly.

Selenicereus Anthonyanus

fishbone cactus aerial roots; zig zag cactus aerial roots; rik rak cactus

Selenicereus Anthonyanus or formerly known as Cryptocereus anthonyanus, is a fishbone cactus that people keep indoors for beautifying their homes. It is also known as the queen of the night because of its nocturnal flowers.

This plant is perennial but not necessarily they are always within the plant. The usual growth factor is that when a new stem comes across, the older ones slowly turn from green to yellow to brown and eventually dry out to die.

It has very beautiful flowers. The flowers are one of the reasons why people keep S. Anthonyanus at home.

Where to keep

This plant can be kept indoors and outdoors but there’s a little catch. This is the type of plant that requires a lot of bright light but cannot withstand the sun directly. That means, you keep it indoors or outdoors, it should be somewhere there is a lot of light but also a partial shade over the plant.

For outdoor use, it should be planted near a tree that its stems can climb. The tree will work as a shade for the cacti and also will give it space to climb.
For indoors it should be kept high above the ground in a position where there is good light intensity but the sun directly doesn’t shine on the plant.

What type of soil it needs

As you can keep it both indoors and outdoors, let’s talk about what sort of soil it should be planted in.

Indoors: The usual soil type is pumice or gravel with about 30 to 40% peat. The thickness of the soil shouldn’t be less than 3mm.

Outdoors: Assuming you can’t create a separate soil in the garden or your
backyard, you need sandy soil that has great drainage. If you don’t have
such soil outside you can always create a place to plant following the
indoors method of creating soil.

How to plant?

The good thing about S. Anthonyanus is that you can plant it using seeds and stems. So, the planting part is pretty easy and there is no catch. But fishbone cactus new growth can very well depend on the plantation. Let us show you both ways of planting.

Planting seeds: Take a pot with holes and fill it with the soil type that is given above. Water the soil and place the seeds onto the soil. Keep it in a place where there is a lot of heat but no direct sunlight. During this time, we have to keep it in check because every time the soil dries, we’d have to pour water. It is expected to see results from 7 to 10 days.

Planting stems: Cut a stem from the existing tree and dry it for a week or so. Take a pot, fill it with soil and water constantly so that the soil contains sufficient moisture in Summer or other weather. After the stem dries, plant it in the middle of the pot and keep it a bit deep so that the root can grow. Results are expected within 12 to 17 days.

How to water the plant?

This is where everyone makes mistakes. So, carefully follow the suggestions of watering. During hot weather when the temperature is around 25 degrees or more, watering once or two times a week is enough. The idea is to keep the soil moisturized.

During the winter season when the temperature goes as low as 15 degrees or so, keeping the soil moisture intact becomes a challenge. These plants are nocturnal pollinators, so keep the soil as much as moisturized as you can during the day. Otherwise, the stems might start rotting which is a sign of the plant dying.

Epiphyllum Anguliger

Epiphyllum Anguliger is an Epiphytic cacti that originates from Mexico. Some people often confuse themselves with this one and orchid cactus. But the difference is quite noticeable. This rick rack cactus contains aerial roots.

On the other hand, an elegant plant like orchid cactus does not contain any aerial roots. This is indeed an indoor house plant that you can keep at home. Some people prefer other cacti like white Zygocactus, or Red Zygocactus. It’s hard to pick one plant to grow.


Where to keep

You can keep this Epiphytic cacti at home or outdoors. It’s your call. But there are some limitations though. The thing is these are not dessert cactus that stay in the sun and nothing happens to them. This plant requires a lot of heat but cannot be directly under sunlight.
For indoors, it has to be kept in a room where there is a lot of light but make sure it doesn’t get direct sunlight.

For outdoors, you can keep it in a shaded place. Again, make sure there’s no direct heat. During winter, you can keep it outside for a long time without taking care of it.

What type of soil it needs

You can keep this both indoors and outdoors. Let’s find out what sort of soil this plant needs.

Indoors: The soil needs to be well-drained and loose. Take some river sand, tree bark, perlite, etc. and make the mixture. You can plant the tree there. Remember, the pot should have holes.

Outdoors: For outdoors, you need light and loose soil. The soil needs to have the ability to absorb water. Loose soils aren’t really fertile, but to plant this tree the soil needs to be fertile.

How to plant?

Epiphyllum Anguliger can be planted using seeds and stems. But you already know that seed planting takes more time and is risky. So, most people prefer planting stems. Let’s find out how you can plant using cutting stems.

Planting seeds: It’s really easy. All you have to do is prep the soil and plant the stem. Expected result is within two weeks.

Planting stems: The usual system to follow is to water the plant twice a week during Summer. You should store some rainwater when you can. Rainwater does good for the plants growth.

If you have planted the plant outdoors, during winter season if there is no frost, you can let the plant be for a few weeks. Nothing will happen to it.


Now let’s answer a few frequently asked questions.

1. Does it grow better indoors or outdoors?

This depends on how well you are taking care of the plant. Definitely keeping indoors has shown better results.

2. How much sun does it like?

Fishbone cactus likes heat but does not have the capacity to withstand direct sunlight. So, keep it in a place where there is enough heat but no direct sunlight.

3. How often should it be watered?

Fishbone cactus usually require watering once or twice each week. But during dry weather you need to water it making sure that the soil stays moisturized.

4. When does the Fishbone Cactus bloom and can you force it to?

Fishbone cactus flowers don’t really bloom when we keep them indoors. Proper fertilization and proper nutrients can ensure flower blooming. Usually, less light is the reason why flowers don’t bloom. Make sure the plant gets enough light as well.

Before You Go

I believe that the above guide on Selenicereus Anthonyanus Vs Epiphyllum Anguliger has helped you differentiate between the two plants. This way, you will give the right care to each to ensure it thrives. 

Want more cactus varieties? No worries: read my next article on two more beautiful types: Lophophora Diffusa Vs Williamsii

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Robert Silver

Robert Silver is a writer, speaker and certified master gardener who has been sharing his landscaping experiences through personal blogs. Taking it to the next level, Robert Silver has come up with this to shine a light on new planters and experts, discussing plants, landscape projects and much more. He has published numerous research articles on horticulture that have helped many people attain fruitful outcomes.