Pothos Plant in Aquariums – 5 Benefits & Growing Tips

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Pothos is an easy to grow houseplant, which can thrive in a wide range of conditions. Pothos plants are also good air purifiers, because they can remove harmful chemicals from indoor air.

They can be grown in both soil and water. For this reason, many aquariusts decorate their aquariums and terrariums with pothos plants.

5 Benefits of Pothos in Aquariums

Keeping pothos plants in aquariums come with lots of benefits. In this article, I will teach you how to grow pothos in your aquarium and what are the advantages of using this plant in your fish tank.

– Remove Nitrates

Nitrate is the end product of the nitrogen cycle, which happens in every healthy aquarium ecosystem.

Nitrates can be removed with partial water changes. Nitrates can also be removed with aquarium plants. Aquarium plants will absorb nitrates and other nutrients from the water through their leaves and roots in order to grow.

Pothos plans are also capable of removing nitrates from the water column. The difference between pothos and aquatic plants is the rate of absorbing the nitrates.

Because the leaves of the pothos plants grow above water, and only its roots are in the water, it can grow at a much faster phase, being able to remove much more nutrients from the aquarium water.

So, if you want to lower nitrates in your aquarium, pothos is a great choice for you.

– Combat Algae

Aquarium algae are a nuisance if you ask me. Algae are a sign of a nutrient deficiency, too much light or high nitrate levels in your aquarium.

Algae will outcompete your aquatic plants and will make them suffer. You can reduce algae growth by using a CO2 system, setting the lights on a timer, reduce feeding of your fish, using RO water and using a pothos plant.

Because pothos plants are so efficient in removing nitrates and other nutrients from the water, they will greatly reduce the algae growth.

Over a longer period of time, pothos plants can completely eliminate algae from your fish tank.

– Provides Cover

Pothos plant has a fast growing rate. First, it will grow its roots and once they are established, will start growing its leaves as well.

Pothos plant can grow a very strong and thick root system, which is an ideal cover for fish as well fry. I keep pothos plants in my guppy breeding tanks and often female guppies hide in the roots to drop their fry.

Pothos roots are also great to break the line of sight in the tank, so fish can easily take cover between the roots.

– Looks Awesome

There is no doubt about, that pothos plant looks stunning, not only in a pot, but also in aquariums. It gives a more natural look to any aquarium.

I like to use pothos plants in aquariums, which are not covered with a lid or in hang on back filters.

If the light conditions are good, you can even run the pothos plant on the wall. Just attach a transparent fishing line to the ceiling and let the plant do its job. In a few months, you will have a jungle corner above your fish tank.

– Omnivore Fish Proof

There are many omnivore fish, which will eat anything you put in their tank. African cichlids for example, will eat most of the aquatic plants.

On top of that, African cichlids produce a lot of waste and therefore nitrates level will rise quickly. The same is true for goldfish.

For these types of aquariums, pothos is the best choice. Because pothos grows very strong roots, the fish won’t bother eating the roots, so the plant can develop very well.

It will help removing lots of nitrates and will make your fish tank look awesome.

How to Grow Pothos in Aquariums?

As I mentioned above, pothos can grow in a wide range of conditions. It can grow in low light level, but thrives in strong indirect sunlight. Pothos prefer a temperature between 60 to 86 °F (15 to 30 °C).

Humidity is not an issue for pothos, will well grow in very humid as well dry environments, important is to keep its roots moist all the time.

Pothos plant will grow in water, but will not grow very well under water.

Here are the steps you should follow if you want to grow pothos in your aquarium:

  • Take a few cuttings of a pothos plant and place the cuttings into dechlorinated water in a small container
  • Place the container in indirect sunlight and let the cuttings develop roots
  • Once the roots are about 4-5 inches, you can transfer the plants into your aquarium
  • Anchor the plants, so only their roots and part of the stem are in the water, and don’t allow the leaves to be underwater
  • Provide them artificial light, so they can further develop their roots and grow more leaves

It will take about 3-4 weeks, until the plant is established, so don’t worry if your pothos doesn’t start growing instantly.

Once the plant is established, light conditions are good, there are plenty of nutrients available in the water, it will grow like crazy.

If you are propagating pothos from stems, it is important to root the plant in a separate container, before putting it into your aquarium. Will explain the reason below.

Is Pothos Plant Toxic?

Yes, the pothos is a poisonous plant, so you should keep away from your pets from chewing its leaves and stem.

The plant contains a high concentration of calcium oxalates, which can cause strong irritation in the mucous membranes.

Is Pothos Safe for Aquariums?

Although pothos plants are toxic, you can use it safely in your aquarium. There are few things to consider, though.

You shouldn’t place the cuttings of the pothos plant directly into your tank. First, you should root the cuttings in water, in a separate container.

Let the plant heal, where you made the cutting, so it will not leach any toxins into the aquarium water.

Once the cuttings are healed and have roots, you can transfer the pothos cuttings into your aquarium.

This way, you can avoid poisoning your fish or shrimp.

Can You Grow Pothos Plant Underwater?

Pothos will grow underwater as well, but the growth rate will slow down significantly due to lack of CO2 and oxygen, which is available in the air. Also, its leaves won’t develop so well, will stay small and rounded.

I wouldn’t put pothos plant under water, because this will take away all the benefits I’ve mentioned above.

It won’t help remove the nitrates, algae will grow on its leaves, and overall, it will make your tank ugly, due to its deformed underwater grown leaves.

Can You Cut Off Pothos Plant Roots?

Yes, you can and you should cut off the roots of the pothos plans, otherwise it will take over your whole aquarium.

But just don’t cut off all the roots, because the plant will have a hard time getting the necessary nutrients, especially, when the plant becomes very long.

Drawbacks of Keeping Pothos in Aquarium

Although pothos plans have lots of benefits in your aquarium, there are few things to consider that are negative.

As mentioned above, as pothos plant grows, it will such up more and more nutriens. At some points, when their roosts become too large, it will be able to remove all the nutrients from the water, leaving your aquatic plants in starvation.

So, keep in mind that if you keep pothos plant in your tank, many aquatic plants will die due to nutrient deficiency.

Another problem can be caused by the thick, fast growing roots. The roots of pothos grow really quickly and can take over the whole aquarium. You will need to cut the roots frequently, in order to keep the looks of your fish tank esthetically pleasing.

Other Non-Aquatic Plants for Aquariums

Besides pothos, you can keep other non-aquatic plants in your fish tank. Here is a quick list of plants you can grow in your aquarium:

  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lily
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • Spider Plant
  • Peppermint

English ivy is another great plant you can grow in aquariums. It is also very effective in removing nitrates from the water column. It is not as efficient in cleaning the water as pothos, but is a great addition to any aquarium.

Peace lilies are very popular in terrariums. They grow very well in humid environments, and they can also grow with the roots fully submerged in water.

Placing peace lily in an aquarium might be challenging, but it is not impossible. I usually attach the plant to a drift wood, leaving the leaves above the water and letting the roots go udnerwater.

Lucky bamboo is a slow growing plant, but can help remove nutrients from the water. Most aquarists will plant lucky bamboo in the substrate having its stem and roots completely  submerged, while leaving the leaves above the water level.

Spider plant is another great non-aquatic plant, which can be grown in aquariums. Spider plants are also used in terrariums and love the humid environment. Just like with peace lilies, it is more difficult to place it into your fish tank.

Not many aquarists grow peppermint in their aquariums, but actually they are one of the best plants for nitrate removal. They grow very fast and can remove a lot of nitrates and other nutrients from the water. On top of that, you can consume the plant, make a tea or use it in a refreshing beverage.

The challenge with growing peppermint in aquarium is the placement. For this, you will need to setup an overhang filter with clay pebbles, and place the peppermint stems in it.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, growing pothos in your aquarium has lots of benefits, but it can also cause a few problems. Considering all the factors, I believe, it is worth growing pothos in fish tanks.

Have you ever tried growing pothos or other non-aquatic plant in your aquarium? I would really love to hear your opinion and experience below in the comment section. 

Author Image Fabian
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.
Questions and Answers

Hey Fabian thank you for sharing your expertise about pothos. My aquarium store had it so l have it in my tank and was just surfing for some info. My question is when l thin out the roots via cutting won’t l release the toxins you mentioned in this article ? Thanks in advance for your response.

    I’m not sure if the roots contain toxins or not. If you want to be safe, remove the plant from the aquarium for a few days after trimming the roots.

      How do start peppermint in the aquarium? Can ypu just clean the dirt off and put right in. Or do you need to cut it and let it root first?

        You can use already rooted mint in your aquarium, or you can root the mint in the aquarium. If you use already rooted mint, make sure you wash off all the dirt first. If you want to root the mint in the tank, just cut off 3-5 inch long stem, leave 4-6 leaves on the top of the stem, and place the bottom section of the stem in the water. The mint will root in a few days, depending on the light conditions and temperature.

Lynn Wright February 3, 2021 Reply

Thank you so much for this article. I have been using Pothas plants in my aquarium for years. Apparently I made some mistakes in putting the cut plants directly into my aquarium causing me to lose fish from time to time especially those who spend their time in the upper part of the tank.

Yolande Kirton April 4, 2021 Reply

Thanks for all the info. I’m new at this. You made it very simple and understandable. Quick question will this work in an unfiltered beta fish tank and do I feed fish as regular?? Thank You🌞

    Pothos plants are great for unfiltered tanks. You should feed your fish regularly, just make sure you do water changes too. The plant itself will not get rid of all the toxins that will build up in the tank, but with water changes you can make a pretty good ecosystem even without a filter.

when trimming the pothus’ growth after it has been in the tank, will i need to leave the plant put for a couple days for healing before placing it back into the aquarium?

    You can put the plants right away in the tank after you make the cuttings. I do this way all the time.

Can I just take out a complete plant from the pot and place it over my aquarium?

    Yes, you can use a pothos plant from a pot, that already has roots, just make sure you wash the roots thoroughly to get rid of all dirt.

pamela S pollock October 6, 2021 Reply

I need a cool way to attach the pothos to aquarium! Any ideas? Rooting cuttings now.They have some roots already

    Jon Lesher November 3, 2021 Reply

    I’ve had some luck using leftover suction cup hooks from other pieces of aquarium equipment (heater, spray bar, etc). Now I’m just waiting for more leaves and vine length to grow, so I can start directing them to grow around the top of the tank and the sides. I may use some fishing line to help attach them more securely on the larger hooks.
    This isn’t particularly “cool” though 🙂
    Good luck!

    I’ve seen people use suction cups, and for smaller cuttings, the fish feeder thingies.

    Rhonda Wuerch November 16, 2021 Reply

    Thread and suction cups . Just gently tie them to the circle part of the suction cup with Polyester thread

Hi Fabian,

I know this article is a couple of years old, but I appreciate you writing it and putting the information out there. I have used pothos ivy in just about all of my betta tanks before, and this year I am seeing something strange on some of the roots in one of my tanks – the pothos roots are getting a kind of white, fuzzy fungus. I’ve had the same issue on driftwood sometimes, and it was nothing to worry about, but haven’t seen it on pothos roots until now. I don’t know if I shouldl remove the pothos and rinse the roots or leave it, as it *might* be a beneficial type of bacteria. What do you think? Have you ever seen anything like that before with pothos roots?

    Hello Corina!
    That fuzzy fungus is the result of food leftovers, decaying plant matter, dead snails or fish. You should remove the fungus from the roots, as it is not beneficial to the aquarium. Also, check the water parameters, and make sure you do a 20-30% water change. Change the water on a weekly basis. Also reduce feeding your fish. Feed your fish once every other day.
    I hope this helps!

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