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ANUBIAS – the seriously underappreciated aquarium plant!!!

Why do I love Anubias. To answer this I can use the history of an aquarium in my house.

I have a low maintenance Bleeding Heart aquarium that is a very deep 3 foot (700mm) that I planted a variety of low maintenance plants in. All went well for a year or 2 and then the lights failed and because lights was set to come on during the day while I was at work (BIG mistake) I only noticed this too late for some plants. But the Anubias did not die, they just stopped growing.

I thought that I had time on my side as the plants already died, I only got back to this aquarium 6 months later. This is where my love relationship started, THE ANUBIAS SURVIVED!!!

3 years later the Anubias are still growing in this aquarium without addition of any plant food in any way. Notice the Anubias is attached to wood and don’t touch the inert substrate.

So you have to go out of your way to kill Anubias J

Anubias can survive and some even thrive and flower under water forever. Anubias is also very heat and water parameter resistant and therefore a nice edition to Discus aquariums. On top of that fish don’t usually predate on the leaf’s or rhizome, enabling cichlid keepers to have a planted aquarium as well. If that is not enough, Anubias love to grow on aquarium décor and accessories, making them great addition to aquariums that are bare bottom or house fish that love to dig.

MYTH – All anubias is terrestrial plants and will not survive for long in your aquarium. FALSE – nearly all the species and varieties available on the market will thrive for years and years in your aquarium.

Anubias species interbreed extremely easy and every breeder tend to have their own hybrids on their farm and use a name they think might suit their hybrid the best. So please understand that some of the species specific information might not represent your plant 100% but it will definitely be very close.

MYTH – Anubias grown emersed (out of water) will lose all their leaves or even might die if you submerge them directly after you bought them IE you must introduce them slowly to their new environment FALSE – Anubias will not lose any leaves due to you planting them directly into your aquarium. They are not like most other aquarium plants that have 2 different leave forms between being submerged or emersed. Their leaves just continue growing.

Now let’s look at this genus in more detail:

What is the care and needs of Anubias?


– Obviously this is the most important factor, due to the fact that you want them to grow and thrive in your aquarium.

If you ensure your water is good for fish with good filtration and regular water changes, then Anubias is not fussy regarding your aquariums water parameters.

But the ideal water parameters for Anubias is:

· pH – 6.5 to 7.5 – This make them truly easy and indulgent to your waters pH

· KH – Water hardness. This can be from soft 3dKH to hard 7gKH, I used tap water here in Pretoria and Anubias thrive in it.

· TEMPERATURE – I have kept Anubias very successfully with discus at high temperatures – IE up to 34°C and also on the other side of the spectrum, I kept Anubias over winter in aquariums that went as low as 16°C. They did not form new leaves under these low temperatures but they did not lose any leaves either.


They would appreciate moderate addition of liquid fertilizers, but if you stock fish they can actually grow without fertilizers, albeit much slower.

Addition of CO2 is not needed at all, but like all plants they will appreciate it

BUT excessive ORGANIC material with over feeding of nutrients, can lead to holes in the leafs. If your leaf form is arrow shaped and my articles suggest that the rhizome been buried, then I would recommend CO2 for optimum health.


As you must have realised by now, light can be very low. But a recommended light level is 0.5 to 0.66 Watts of T8 lighting per liter of water (translated to moderate lighting) If you give them too much light you will start to develop problems with algae on their leaves. If you lighting is too intense for them, then you can move them to spots underneath overhanging plants and those inevitable dark (lighting) spots that develop.

BUT and this is important, they hate high lightening conditions. You will notice leaf deformation if lighting is too intense.

MYTH – Anubias stop growing in aquariums or grow very slow. FALSE – Anubias do grow slower than normal stem plants, but under good conditions they can reward you with a new leave every 2 weeks. In my book that is not to shabby at all.


Anubias is an epiphyte (plant that don’t need to be planted in substrate) and therefore will prefer to be attaching to décor. Use cotton thread as it dissolve naturally after a while.

You can plant the roots in substrate but ensure that the rhizome is NOT BURIED as this can easily lead to rot.

Anubias come in a massive variety of sizes and leave shapes, this allow you to decorate your aquarium with anubias anywhere you like to use them. This is basically from the front (tiny foreground varieties) to varieties that can actually grow out of your aquarium up to 50cm. THERE IS AN ANUBIAS FOR ANY NEED you might have for it.


The great news is Anubias does not go through an emersed to submerged stage IE. They don’t throw of their old leafs for new leafs when submerged in your aquarium, the existing leafs adjust to the new environment. But as with all golden moments there must be a thorn somewhere and Anubias thorn is GROWTH, Anubias is a slow grower but if you give it a good environment you can expect a new leaf every 2 to 3 week.

Myth – Anubias need special substrate or are extremely picky about their environment. FALSEnot at all they are actually one of the easiest aquarium plants on the market.

Varieties/species that need SPECIAL CARE

All of the general varieties and species available in South Africa are easy and great additions to your aquarium, especially if it is part of the A. barteri or nana groups (90% if generally available plants). Then there are the species that need special attention and these are normally marketed towards specialists. I found a good general identification for a hobbyist visiting their local aquarium shop is to look at the leave shape. From Round to elongated leaf shapes are normally very safe. Leaves that are arrow shaped IE have extra lobs/ears next to the stem, must rather be researched firsts before you buy them.

Planting TIPS

· Don’t cover the rhizome with your soil

· Good at growing on rock, wood and other aquarium décor

· Use super glue or cotton strings to attach the roots to the décor giving the plant time to grow onto the décor by itself.


If your Anubias suddenly loose leaves or the growth tip start to rot, you need to investigate anything that might have drastically changed. This is surely an indication of something “going south” fast and all your aquarium inhabitants will share the fate of the anubias soon if you don’t act fast.

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