Most aquarium hobbyists, both beginners and experts are quite familiar with the Anubias because of its popularity in the fish-keeping hobby. This plant is very attractive, notable for its lush durable green leaves and strong root structure. Anubias are hardy, undemanding and can serve as a foreground, midground or background plant.
Anubias is perfect for all in the fish-keeping hobby. In this article, we will enlighten you on what there is to know about the Anubias and how to care for it successfully.
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Quick Notes about Anubias
|Lighting||Low to medium|
|Optimal pH||6.0 – 8.0|
|Optimal GH||2 – 15|
|Optimal Temperature||22 – 28C (72 – 82F)|
|Placement in Tank
||Mostly foreground / midground.
|Height||Depends on the type
from 5 to 100 cm (2 – 40 inches)
|CO2||Not needed – Low|
|Propagation||Cutting the Rhizome|
Origin of Anubias
Anubias is native to tropical Western Africa, it is a genus of aquatic and semi-aquatic flowering plants in the family- Araceae.
Interesting fact: The genus name is derived from the name of the Egyptian god of afterlife – Anubis. Its scientific classification goes thus:
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Clade: Tracheophytes e
- Clade: Angiosperms
- Order: Alismatales
- Family: Araceae
- Subfamily: Aroideae
- Tribe: Anubiadeae
- Genus: Anubias
Habitat of Anubias
One can easily spot this plant throughout sections of Western Africa. Anubias is most frequent in narrow zones along the western tropical African coast but can be found as far as Bamako in Mali or in Central Zaire. It grows in flowing water bodies (rivers and streams) and shady parts of marshes in tropical Africa.
Anubias bacteri is the most widely distributed species, reaching from Guinea to Congo while Anubias afzelii, Anubias Gigantea and Anubias Gracilis are restricted to the northern part of West Tropical Africa, and other species occur further to the south.
Anubias can grow partially submersed and fully submersed. Like most coastal plants, the Anubias can grow above water.
The flexibility shown by this plant makes it ideal for aquarium use. Anubias grows faster when emersed, you will notice their leaves growing larger and thicker. This plant can also be cultivated in terrariums, it thrives under moist and humid conditions which is typical of an enclosed container.
Description of Anubias
The Anubias plant has the following characteristics (varies according to the species):
- A thick, dark green stem.
- The plant’s height is about 7 inches.
- Flowers that has a whitish/creamish appearance.
- Thick and broad / wide and pointy / elongated or heart-shaped / arrow-shaped or triangular leaf structure.
- Possession of white roots that anchors the plant.
- Coarse & leathery leaves, veiny (has lines running from the centre to the edges).
- Trailing rootstock (rhizome).
Varieties of Anubias
As we said earlier, Anubias is a genus of aquatic and semi-aquatic flowering plants. It has many varieties but we will be discussing some notable ones in this section:
From its name, we can deduce that this is a very large variety. The growth of the Gigantea is slow and requires medium lighting to grow and thrive successfully. This species is from West Africa and best suited as a background plant in the aquarium tank because of its tall height (up to 1 meter – 40 inches).
Also from West Africa, this Anubias species is a slow grower and requires low light. It has an average height and can be placed in the tank as a midground or background plant. This variety possesses a wavy leaf and very dark coloration. The leaves resembles that of the coffee plant hence the name “Coffeefolia”.
A quick glance at the Anubias Congenis will make you notice its lush green color and more elongated shape of the leaf. It is considered as a midground or foreground plant because of its medium height of up to 15 cm (6 inches). Lighting requirement is low and growth in this variety is slow.
Often considered as a midground or background plant, this variety is undisputably one of the largest and needs medium lighting to grow optimally. The Anubias Barteri grows well partially and fully submersed, it is known to tolerate a range of lighting conditions. Propagation of this species is by dividing the rhizome or separating side shoots.
This variety is a slow-grower and needs little lighting. It is the smallest variety of the genus- Anubias. It should be used as a foreground plant in the tank because of its small size.
We mentioned in the description section that some varieties has triangular leaf structure and the Gracilis is a good example. This variety grows up to 20 – 30 cm (8 – 12 inches) in height and should be considered as midground or background plant. Just like most of the varieties, it grows slowly and will do just fine with low – moderate lighting.
Anubias Frazeri is a hybrid, grown from the combination of species: Anubias Barteri and Anubias Congenis. Best suited for midground placement, this hybrid species thrives under low to moderate lighting conditions. It possesses deep green pointed leaves, growth is slow and steady.
As the name suggests, the Anubias Longifolia is long and can reach 25 cm (10 inches) in height thereby making it best suited as a midground or foreground plant in the aquarium. It has elongated leaves like the Congenis, however it requires moderate lighting and its growth is equally slow.
This variety comes from tropics of West Africa, it is used for decorations in the foreground because of its unique small size. Needs low lighting and growth is slow.
Anubias Nana “Marina”:
This is a sub-variety from the species ‘Anubias Nana’. It has reduced dimensions and a size of 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches), thus it is meant for aesthetical purposes on the foreground of the aquarium. This variety dreads strong lighting, its growth is very slow and will thrive when placed in shades areas.
Anubias Nana “Petite”:
The smallest Anubias you can find in the market. Light requirement for this species varies from low- slightly high, and it is easy to care for. To grow the Anubias Petite, you just have to attach it to rock or driftwood. Planting this species in a substrate is not advisable, unless you ensure that the rhizome is above the substrate to prevent it from rotting.
Anubias Nana “Round Leaf”:
From its name one can deduce that this variety has a round leaf shape. It has a small structure, maximum of 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches) in height and suitable for foreground placement in the tank. Its growth is slow and this variety requires minimal lighting to survive.
Water Parameters / Tank Requirements
This plant does well when certain water parameters and requirements are maintained in the tank. Anubias are generally known to be slow growers, therefore you have to make it a priority to ensure that lighting, nutrient supplementation, pH and water hardness are well maintained for its proper growth and sustainability.
These aforementioned conditions can affect its growth rate significantly, so it should be adequately met.
Although some varieties of the Anubias plant are small, the minimum tank size should be 10 gallons. Note that some varieties are very large as well, in this case you should consider 20 gallons or more to adequately accommodate the plant because it can take up a lot of space and make the tank stuffy for other inhabitants.
Now, let’s have a rundown of all the necessary tank requirements/ water parameters:
Temperature, pH and Hardness:
Using a good thermometer, ensure that the temperature is close to 72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C), this temperature range is ideal for the Anubias as they will thrive best.
Maintain a pH of 6.0 – 8.0, any value drastically above this range might be detrimental to the health of the plant. You can measure this with a pH testing kit, it is inexpensive and obtainable at pet stores that sell aquarium equipment.
Anubias can tolerate quite a wide range of water hardness levels. However, 2-15 dGH ( general hardness) and 3-8 KH (carbon hardness) is best suited for the Anubias.
Lighting is another essential requirement for proper growth and survival of this plant. Anubias exhibits a slow growth rate, and it has been observed that intense lighting conditions makes it grow faster sometimes at the expense of algae formation.
Different varieties of the Anubias require different lighting conditions, some require low while others require medium lighting. Which ever is the case, T5 or T8 bulbs can be utilised and you should strive to provide 2 to 3 watts per gallon. We would strictly advise moderate – low lighting conditions for the Anubias as it is more healthy and won’t harm the plant.
Anubias are undemanding tank plants, they can thrive successfully with or without fertilization. Though many hobbyists argue that if the Anubias plant is not showing signs of deficiency then it shouldn’t need fertilizer application.
Most plants are known to respond positively to fertilizer application and CO2 supplementation, you can use liquid fertilizer from trusted brands for this purpose.
You should dose plants with liquid fertilizer which consists of iron and manganese to minimise and possibly prevent the appearance of yellow spots on the leaves.
Planting & Propagation of Anubias
The major propagative means of the Anubias is through the rhizome. The rhizome can be planted on a nutrient-rich substrate, make sure you don’t bury it under the substrate. The actual roots can safely be in the substrate.
Another option is to attach the split rhizome to hard surfaces (lava rock, driftwood) and bind it with a dark thread, fishing line or super glue before placing it into the tank.
I would recommend using a quality (Cyanoacrylate) super glue (link to check the price on Amazon) for this because it’s easier and holds it in place firmly.
However, it is also possible to use fine fishing line, or polyester thread, plastic cable ties/zip tie to hold the plant onto the decor, gently enough not to harm the plant but firmly enough that Anubias cannot escape and go floating off around the tank.
Follow these steps:
- Get a potted Anubias plant with minimal height of 3”, super glue and aquarium rocks.
- Gently remove the plant from the pot.
- Clean the roots with your hands gently and dry them with a soft cloth.
- Locate the rhizome (between the leaves and the roots).
- Spread a thin layer of glue on the rock, enough to contain the length of the rhizome.
- Press the plant’s rhizome and root together on the glued part of the rock.
- Hold it firmly for 2 minutes.
- When it’s dry and attached, place it in the tank.
Anubias and Tankmates
Anubias is compatible with most fish and tank inhabitants like shrimp and snail. In fact, this plant is considered to be one of the best plants for the dwarf shrimp tank. Read more about it in my article “Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank”.
It possesses coarse and leather-like leaves which makes it difficult to be consumed by fish like large cichlids and other herbivorous fish species. This plant can also be kept with goldfish, tetras etc. You won’t have to worry about fish nibbling on the leaves, they dislike the hardness of the leaves and are likely to ignore it.
Regarding snails, you can keep Anubias with certain varieties of snails that will not eat it. For example, Ramshorn snails, Nerite snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails, Japanese trapdoor snails, Mystery snails, etc.
Difficulties and Problems associated with Anubias
These are the problems you can have with the Anubias plant in your tank:
Algae formation and growth takes place when there is presence of too much light or nutrients in the tank water. The growth of Algae can be detrimental to the health of aquatic plants with no exception of the Anubias, it chokes them and competes with it for resources.
To control this significantly, there should be a decrease in the intensity of light provided. Secondly, avoid too much fertilizer application or overfeeding as this may pollute the water and result in algae growth. Lastly, performing regular water changes will help to reduce algae growth in the tank.
The Anubias is a slow-growing plant, known to shoot just 1-2 leaves in about 3 weeks or more. Without prior knowledge of this scenario, a new fish keeper may be worried and frustrated when this happens. Bear in mind that growing the Anubias requires you to be extremely patient because this plant takes off late and doesn’t grow fast like most aquatic plants.
External fertilization and controlled light intensity can help boost the growth rate of this plant species.
Anubias rhizome rotting:
It will be better to pull the rhizome up (take the plant out of the tank) and check every inch of the rhizome for the rot signs. In cases, it is brownish or mushy in texture – it is rotting. Cut off every trace of rotten tissue. Be sure to cut until you are into clean, fresh green, hard tissue. Even a trace of rot left behind can continue to affect the rhizome.
This is a common problem encountered by Anubias species, often caused by strong lighting. When this happens, try to move the plant to shady areas in the tank or add some floaters to subdue the light. Dosing the plant with supplements containing iron will help to combat this.
Emersed to submersed:
A situation whereby the plant appears to be dying off sometime after buying. Anubias grown above the water surface may find it difficult to adapt to life in submersed form. Don’t worry much when this occurs, the plant will lose its leaves at this stage but after a while it will grow new ones.
Note: With Anubias, this adaptation can go on from a few weeks to months.
Benefits of Anubias in Aqiariums
- Anubias is an undemanding plant, which makes it a good option for beginners.
- It provides shade or cover for fish or shrimp and also serves as a hiding place for them.
- Anubias plant beautifies the aquarium with its attractive green leaves and structure.
- Helps in oxygenating the water column.
- Provides an additional surface area for beneficial bacteria.
Getting some Anubias for your aquarium is quite easy. The plant is available in most local pet and aquarium stores at cheap prices. If you fancy online shopping, varieties like the Anubias Barteri and the dwarf species- Anubias Nana can be purchased from at Amazon, prices ranging from $5-$20.
When buying the Anubias, ensure that you look out for signs like: healthy green color (absence of yellow or brown spots), strong root structure, complete leaves (absence of rips and holes). Avoid damaged specimens at all cost, they will not grow well if planted in the tank.
Do not forget to quarantine any new plants before putting them into your tank!
- They can have parasites, pests like snails or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
- They can be treated with chemicals (pesticide) to remove parasites, snails, etc. However, these chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp and other invertebrates.
To find out more, read my articles:
The Anubias is the perfect choice for hobbyists. Beginners would completely love this plant; it is a great choice for a low light tanks and requires minimal care. Just make sure to obtain a healthy potted species and you are good to go.
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