How to Plant Anubias in Aquarium?

Anubias plants are great for keeping the water in your aquarium clean and oxygenated.

They control nitrogen levels and remove pollutants.

Anubias growing without being tied to some feature of your aquascape, growing from the substrate at the bottom of the tank look best at the front of the aquarium.

If you are going to attach them to driftwood or some other ornamental feature of your aquarium, they look better more toward the middle of the tank.

However, not every spot in the front or middle of your aquarium will give you good growth.

This slow-growing, short plant with dark green leaves is an attractive addition to your aquarium, but it won’t grow fast enough that it takes over.

However, where you place anubias in your aquarium makes a big difference in how fast they grow, and whether they attract algae.

In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about planting anubias in a fish tank, starting with where not to grow anubias.

How to Plant Anubias in Aquarium?

The most important thing to know about planting anubias is to avoid covering the rhizome.

This is the large fleshy “root” from which stems emerge and grow upward and rootlets extend downward to anchor the plant and extract nutrients from your aquarium substrate.

In tropical Africa, where anubias grow in the wild, they keep their rhizomes above the mud at the bottom of the shallow ponds where they live to prevent decay.

Like all green plants, anubias need light for photosynthesis. You should not plant anubias beneath other plants.

One of the best uses of anubias is giving cover to fish like catfish and loaches. They use anubias as a buffer between them and more aggressive fish you may keep in their tank.

Planting anubias in sand or a fine-gravel substrate gives them the anchor they need without restricting the free flow of water over the rhizome.

You can plant anubias across as much of the bottom of the tank as you would like as long as you can plant them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart in all directions.

If you plant them any closer, some of the plants will die to naturally thin out the planting.

How do you avoid burying the rhizome when you are planting anubias at the bottom of the tank? Press the whole rhizome and attached roots into the substrate. Then gently pull up on the plant until the rhizome is exposed but the roots are left in sand or gravel.

Can you have Anubias as Floating Plants in Aquarium?

What if you decide to ignore our earlier advice and let your anubias float in the tank?

You can let anubias just float in the tank, but they tend to drift around until they get caught in another plant.

This probably isn’t a look you want.

Anubias aren’t your best choice for floating plants. Exposure to warm, moist air can make them vulnerable to fungal diseases.

If you want a plant that floats on top of the water in your aquarium that won’t be devoured by your fish, and won’t get any fungal diseases, consider getting hornworts.

Anubias are best for planting in permanent locations that you choose as part of your design for a beautiful aquarium.

If you do let your anubias float in the tank, you should protect them from strong currents with a lily pipe, which redirects the flow of water coming out of your filtration system throughout the tank.

We also have one other precaution before planting any anubias at all.

Anubias Don’t Work Well with Fish That Like to Nibble

Even though Goldfish won’t eat your anubias, they will nibble at them and damage their leaves.

Red Eye Tetras, Flame Tetras, and Cories also like to bite at anubias leaves.

Sometimes Tetras will leave anubias alone, but it’s best for aquariums stocked with Guppies, Yoyo Loaches, Zebra Loaches, Corydoras, Dwarf Gourami, Cherry Barbs, and Cichlids.

You may be able to use a few anubias in a tank even with fish that like to nibble, but you should not plant so many anubias that losing them all would make the aquarium unattractive.

Now let’s consider the different depths at which you can plant anubias.

Use Anubias to Add Interest to the Lower Levels of Your Aquarium

You can grow anubias at any depth in an ordinary home aquarium, but they work best in the lower half the tank.

You can use hornwort for contrasting color and texture at the top of the tank and water sprite to add interest to the driftwood where you are growing anubias in the middle depths of your tank.

Planting Anubias on Driftwood

Another popular way to plant anubias for aquascaping is to tie them to driftwood.

You can tie them to the wood with clear fishing line, or with sturdy cotton thread. Just place the plant wherever you would like on the driftwood (assuming the wood is in strong light) and secure it with the fishing line or string.

When you tie anubias to driftwood, don’t bury the roots in substrate. If you do, they will rot.

You can tie both the stem and the roots to the driftwood when you first put the plants in the tank.

The roots will eventually grow around the driftwood to anchor the plant in place.

Once the roots have grown enough to hold the plant in place, you can remove the fishing line or cotton string you used to secure the plant in place. This process usually takes two or three months.

Once You Get Anubias Established, They Are Easy to Propagate

Once you get your anubias started, you won’t have to keep going back to the aquarium supply store for more.

Anubias sometimes flower, and you can grow them from seed, but the main way anubias reproduce is vegetatively.

That means that when a stem or a piece of rhizome is separated from the main plant, the clone can start growing on its own.

Here’s how can divide anubias to grow more plants:

Use a pair of sterilized scissors to take cuttings from established plants. Each cutting should have at least three leaves.

Anchor these cuttings with fishing line or cotton string to a piece of driftwood that doesn’t already have plants growing on it, or loosely place the cutting in the substrate in the bottom of the tank. (You won’t be burying a rhizome, so there is nothing that will rot.)

Cuttings begin producing roots in just a few days.

Don’t cut off more than one-third of a mature anubias plant to make a cutting. It also needs three leaves or more to survive.

Frequently Asked Questions About Anubias

Q. Where can I buy anubias?

A. It’s easy to find the most common variety of anubias, Anubias nana, in pet shops and aquarium supply shops.

Be sure you know whether you are getting Anubias nana or a strain of the plant known as “petite.”

The petite plant works best as cover in the bottom of small aquariums. There is also a species of anubias known as Anubias barteri that has especially strong roots. It’s a plant for the bottom of the aquarium.

You will find anubias sold bare root from the bottom of an aquarium in the pet supply store.

There are also anubias growing in little pots, and sometimes you can find pieces of driftwood, lava rocks, suction cups, or other decorations with anubias already growing on them.

Q. What should I look for when I am buying anubias?

A. Buy plants that have healthy roots, and a thick rhizome, and lush, green leaves.

Avoid plants that have leaves with holes in them, or leaves that are broken and cracked. Never buy an anubias plant that is covered with algae.

It’s especially important to avoid anubias with yellow leaves. They may have infections with root-eating nematodes that will attack all the plants in your aquarium if you bring them home.

You should also be careful to inspect your plants for snails, removing any snails or slugs before you put the plants in your aquarium.

Q, What are the best water conditions for growing anubias?

A. Anubias grow well at temperatures between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (22 and 27 degrees Celsius) and in water with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.

They prefer slightly acidic water. Water hardness usually isn’t a factor, but if leaves start turning yellow even though the plants are getting ample light, you should test to see if the water is too hard (solids more than 120 mg/dl).

Q. How do I measure water hardness?

A. There are both digital display test pens and color-coded test strips you can dip in the water. Both kinds of test devices should cost less than US $10.

Q. Do anubias need supplemental carbon dioxide (CO2)?

A. Anubias nana won’t need extra carbon dioxide in any tank. As long as your fish are healthy and active, they will produce enough carbon dioxide for larger plants.

Q. Are there different kinds of anubias for different places in the aquarium?

A. Anubias nana looks good at the front of the tank.

Anubias coffeefolia is attractive either at the front of the tank or in the middle of the tank, offsetting features you want to be seen first.

Anubias coffeefolia will stay small even when it is fully grown. Larger stores may have anubias with round leaves or long leaves. You can use them to add interest to your aquarium design.

Q. Do I need to fertilize my anubias plants?

A. Anubias can get all the nutrition they need from the waste your fish release into the tank.

Adding plant fertilizer directly to the water can encourage more algae growth than anubias growth, but using a substrate that includes a slow-release fertilizer to line the bottom of the tank is OK.

These products are usually listed as “planted aquarium substrate.”

Q. I had to leave my anubias plants in open air when I was cleaning my aquarium, and now they are turning yellow and losing leaves. Some leaves are disintegrating unevenly along the skeleton and falling off. Will they come back, or should I replace them?

A. Anubias plants in the wild often have some leaves exposed to warm, humid air all the time.

Anubias growers let their plants stick up above the water line so they will grow faster and can send them to stores faster.

The problem for home aquarium keepers is that the plants get used to being underwater all the time and go into shock when they are left out in bright light and dry air for more than about half an hour.

If the rhizome (root) of your anubias plants is intact, and you replant it above the substrate in the bottom of the tank, most of the existing leaves will fall off, but new leaves will slowly start to appear.

A healthy rhizome may produce more than the usual one leaf per month.

Q. Can anubias be grown as permanent floating plants?

A. Anubias will tend to ball up on the side of your aquarium rather than floating on top of the surface.

They will eventually send down a root to anchor them to something in the tank unless you tie them down to driftwood or some water feature first.

Letting anubias float is a great way to deal with surplus plants. Just be aware that these plants will be exposed to more light, so they are more likely to grow algae.

Q. Which fish are most compatible with anubias?

A. If you have fish that eat algae like Neon Blue Gobies, Bristlenose Plecos, Siamese Algae Eaters, Chinese Algae Eaters, or Otocinclus Catfish (Otos) in your aquarium with them, they will keep algae under control without damaging your plants.

Anubias also do well with fish that swim in schools like Harlequin Rasboras and Cherry Barbs.

Q. Are there any fish that always damage anubias?

A. Oscars and Silver Dollars can tear up anubias. You can use anubias in an Oscar tank if you attach the plants to landscape features rather than the soil at the bottom of the aquarium.

Q. What are “bonsai” anubias?

A. These are Anubias nana petites, which max out at a height of about 2 inches (5 cm).

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