Planting Anubias in Aquarium – The Complete Guide

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Most Anubias species are short, compact, and have small, rounded leaves. These little green plants give your aquarium a natural appearance while improving water quality. Anubias species are also low-maintenance and beginner-friendly.  They’re perfect for anyone keeping a soft water aquarium.

If you’ve never had Anubias plants before, keep reading. In this article, I’ll go over all the relevant information, including how to plant Anubias, the best type of soil, how to improve the growth rate of your plants, and much more!

How To Plant Anubias in a Fish Tank?

Anubias is among the most forgiving aquarium plants. You don’t need to be an expert gardener to get this plant to “stick”. You also don’t need special soil, as long as the substrate is lightweight and not compacted. Furthermore, this plant is also versatile. You can plant it in multiple ways, virtually all over the aquarium. Here are some of the most common ways to add Anubias to your tank:

Planting the Roots in Gravel

This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when planting— fixing the roots in the substrate. You can do this as you would for any other plant:

  • Find a spot in the aquarium where you want to plant the Anubias. This plant doesn’t grow very tall, so you can plant it everywhere, including in the foreground.
  • Dig a small hole with your hand, just deep enough to submerge the roots.
  • Put the Anubias in place and cover the roots with the substrate; be careful not to cover the stem.
  • If planting multiple Anubias, leave at least two inches of space between them. Planting more Anubias too close together will deplete the soil and lead to stunted growth.

I recommend choosing a lightweight substrate. Anubias plants have soft roots. They need an appropriate substrate to grow and fix themselves in the soil. Gravel is best because the large grain size makes it airy and easy for the roots to traverse.

Tying the Plant to Decorations

The second and arguably cooler option is putting the Anubias on taller surfaces. You can tie it to decorations in the tank, especially natural ones like driftwood. That’s right! Anubias don’t need to be fixed into the soil. You get to use it in unique ways, taking the aquascaping experience even further!

All you have to do is tie the roots to your desired decorations in the tank. Place the plant on the decoration and use a fishing line or any thin, soft thread to fix it in place. Don’t pull the string too hard though. You don’t want to cut through the stems or roots by accident!

The plant will keep growing around the driftwood and the roots will “learn” to cling to the surface. You can remove the threads after a couple of weeks or once the plant has properly fixed itself on the decoration.

Leaving the Plant Floating

Finally, you can just let the Anubias float. This plant gets nutrients directly from the water column. As long as the roots are submerged, the plant should be fine. But beware! Even though this is a viable option, it’s not the best for Anubias. There are a few reasons why.

  • Anubias are lightweight and will drift and shift around.

Your plants might end up completely submerged if the water current is too strong. If left floating, the surface agitation will move the plant around until it becomes a tangled mess. Multiple Anubias might get caught together, or caught in other plants.

This kind of beats the purpose of adding plants to improve the look of your tank. To counteract this issue, you might have to reduce the filter flow or install a lily pipe.

  • Anubias are prone to fungal growth.

This plant does best in the mid to low levels of the tank. When exposed to high temperatures, such as those near the surface, it tends to develop unsightly white or brown fungus. If you don’t have fish or high-light plants in the tank, you can turn down the light intensity to keep the surface temperature in check.

  • Anubias leaves can burn easily.

Anubias has soft leaves. This plant also has low to moderate light requirements. It’s simply not naturally adapted to strong direct exposure to light. Letting the Anubias float right under the light bulbs can damage the leaves and cause brown spots and holes.

If you can, you should move the light fixture further away from the aquarium. This will decrease the likelihood of burnt leaves. You can also reduce light exposure to fewer hours per day. But this won’t be an option if you have light-hungry plants in the tank.

Do Anubias Plants Need Soil?

Anubias plants don’t need soil to grow or thrive. More specifically, they don’t need to be anchored in the soil. That’s the beauty of this species. By the way, many newbie aquarists accidentally kill their first Anubias through improper planting. So, it’s safer to just anchor this plant to decorations in the tank. The roots will absorb nutrients straight from the water— no substrate needed!

But here’s a catch— having good-quality soil in the tank is still a good idea. A nutrient-rich soil will slowly leech its minerals into the water. That’s how floating plants get nutrients. The root tabs you bury into the substrate also produce a similar effect. And since we’re talking about soil and planting, here’s one important detail to remember—

Never Cover Anubias Stem Under Substrate!

When planting Anubias in gravel, you want to leave the rhizome (horizontal stem) above the soil. When buried, the rhizome will suffocate and rot. This is the most common mistake people make when planting Anubias. Sadly, once the rhizome has started rotting, the plant is likely to die.

A healthy rhizome should be deep green, firm, and have a regular texture. A sick or rotting rhizome will appear discolored (pale, yellow, brown, or black). It will also be soft and mushy to the touch and have an irregular shape. Once it starts decomposing, the plant might give off an unpleasant smell.

How to Make Anubias Grow Faster?

Anubias are slow-growing plants. Most species will sprout new leaves every 4 or 5 weeks. But there are a few things you can do to speed up the growth rate:

  • Establish optimal water parameters. For most Anubias species, this includes 72-82°F temperature, 6.0-7.5 pH, and 3-8 dGH.
  • Offer moderate light exposure. Too much or too little light can stunt growth. Too much light leads to algae growth.
  • Add liquid CO2 and fertilizer. Anubias can be healthy without extra nutrition. But added CO2 and minerals will encourage better growth.
  • Trim the long, stringy roots. These consume energy without actually fueling the plant. By trimming excessive growth, you let the rest of the plant use up more nutrients to grow.
  • Split them up. You can start splitting your Anubias once each rhizome section has at least 5-6 leaves. Simply section the rhizome to propagate the plant. Smaller Anubias will require fewer nutrients, and thus grow faster.
  • If planted, keep at least two inches of distance between plants. By spreading the plants further apart, you prevent tangled roots. The plants are less likely to compete for nutrient uptake.

Conclusion

Anubias are small and non-demanding plants. You can add them to your aquarium in many different ways. Planting them in a lightweight or airy substrate like gravel works well. Just remember to keep the rhizome above the ground. Otherwise, the plant will rot and die.

Another great method is fixing them onto decorations like driftwood. The plant’s roots will grow around the object, keeping the Anubias in place. This plant can also live free-floating. Just know that strong lights might cause mold or leaf burn.

Once established, Anubias are easy to grow and propagate. They have similar needs to other plants. Moderate light exposure, CO2, fertilizers, and occasional root trimming will keep the plant healthy. Propagation is as easy as sectioning the rhizome and placing new bulbs in different locations of the tank.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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