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Growing Anubias (Anubias barteri)

October 25, 2015
anubias barteri

Anubias is one of the most popular aquarium plant species and a favorite for many beginners and more experienced aquarists. It doesn’t require any special care, grows well in low-light aquariums and has large, broad leaves that are appreciated by fish that prefer some extra hiding places. As an added bonus, it also comes in a dwarf version!

Keep reading for more information about Anubias care and how to grow it in your own planted aquarium.

Planting

Min tank size N/A
Care Easy
Location Mid-/background
Temperature 71.5-83 °F/22-28 °C
pH 6-8

Anubias is a great plant choice for setups without substrate. Like Java fern and contrary to most regular aquarium plants it absorbs nutrients through its leaves, and actually does better when the rhizome and roots are left exposed instead of buried. To keep your Anubias in place, just tie it to some driftwood or a porous rock type. This step by step guide explains how to do so if you’ve never grown either of these plants. Anubias has very strong roots and should fully attach to its surface within a few weeks. After a while, you may actually find it quite difficult to separate it.

If you don’t want to buy a separate piece of wood/rock or attach the plant yourself, you can also find pre-attached Anubias here.

Care & tankmates

As mentioned earlier, Anubias doesn’t require special care. It can thrive in a wide range of water values and although it will appreciate extras like Co2 and fertilizers, these are not necessary at all.

  • When it comes to lighting, it’s actually best to avoid anything too strong, which can cause yellowing or algae growth. This means Anubias is a great choice for first time plant keepers, low-tech aquariums and setups with dark water or lots of floating plants that subdue the light.
  • After planting your Anubias, there isn’t much else you need to do: just remove any dead leaves and prune where necessary. It will usually grow very slowly, but you should see new leaves appearing every few weeks. If you’re lucky, you may even find a little white flower growing above the surface after a while, as pictured on the right.
  • If you don’t want to go through the hassle of waiting for these flowers and harvesting the seeds to propagate the plant, you can divide the rhizome once it has grown large enough. Both pieces should continue growing if they’re healthy and you can re-plant, sell or give away one of them.
  • Because Anubias is such a hardy plant, it should be able to tolerate a salinity (salt grade) up to at least around 1.005. This makes it a great choice for low-end brackish aquarium setups for fish that prefer brackish water!
  • When it comes to tankmates, Anubias is a very forgiving plant. Almost any fish and invertebrate should work: the broad leaves provide a great hiding place for shy fish and algae eating snails and shrimp will gladly graze on any algae growth that may occur. Even herbivorous fish like goldfish and cichlids that will usually gladly devour any plant matter shouldn’t pose any problems, as they seem to dislike the hardness of the leaves and tend to almost always leave it alone.

Problems with Anubias

Although you shouldn’t have much trouble growing Anubias, there are some commonly occuring problems with this plant you may run into. As mentioned before, it doesn’t appreciate very strong lighting. If too many leaves seem to be dying, yellowing or constantly getting covered in algae, try moving your Anubias to the shade of another plant or adding some floaters (if your other plants don’t mind subdued lighting).

If the entire plant seems to be dying off in the first few days or weeks after buying, you may have gotten an Anubias that was grown emersed (=above the water surface). Many aquarium plants can be grown both under water and above the surface in swamp-like conditions, but when you switch them from emersed to submersed they may temporarily have some trouble adapting and shed a lot of leaves. Luckily, this problem should usually fix itself! After the initial melt, new leaves should eventually start appearing.

Buying Anubias

Finding Anubias in your local pet- or aquarium store usually shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and you may also come across local aquarists who are willing to trade it for another plant, give it away for shipping cost or sell it for a low price. Anubias barteri and its dwarf cousin Anubias barteri “nana” are the most common varieties. Other types include Anubias coffeefolia (creeping growth), hastifolia (arrowhead shaped leaves), congensis (very tall) and frazeri (elongated leaves).

You can also buy the more popular Anubias varieties as well as more “obscure” ones online!


If you have any more questions about growing and caring for Anubias or if you want to share your own experiences with this plant, be sure to leave a comment below! 

Cover photo: Anubias barteri var nana.jpg


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15 Comments

  • Reply Garrett April 8, 2017 at 5:36 am

    I would like to add that this is one of the toughest plants you can get. I keep apple snails (P. maculata) and they cheerfully chew away at everything from java fern to tree bark, but the anubias remained relatively untouched. Once the snails got larger, however, they were able to stomach the tough leaves, and would mow down any tender new growth immediately, so I have temporarily moved it to a different aquarium to grow out a bit. This plant does grow slowly, but steadily!

    • Reply Mari April 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Agreed. I used this in my goldfish tank because they destroy everything else and it always survived!

  • Reply Cami February 1, 2017 at 4:32 am

    I just got my 1st Anubias plant today. I am so happy I found your blog Mari. I will follow and hope mine grows correctly.

    Thanks for being here 🙂

    • Reply Mari February 1, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Good luck! Should turn out just fine 🙂

  • Reply thijmen October 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    i’m working on a riparium, and i plan to gro many plants emersed, Anubias barteri sounds fun but how big does it grow emersed, is the size the same as submersed? bigger? smaller?

    • Reply Mari October 28, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      I have no experience with growing it emersed, but I think it should at least be the same size!

  • Reply Elena April 30, 2016 at 2:50 am

    Hi! I ordered an anubias nana online and when I received it, all the leaves were rotted/ melted. I rinsed it with water and am left with only roots, which dont look so great but some are still green closer to where there were leaves. They are also quite small. Can they recover from this? Or will they just finish rotting if i place them in water? Right now i placed them in water with a little bit of liquid fertilizer (with potassium & iron for freshwater plant)

    • Reply Mari April 30, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Oh dear, sorry to hear you didn’t receive the plant in great condition, I hate when that happens. I’m not 100% sure, but I THINK that if the rhizome is still intact they can still recover. Try tying it to some lava rock or a coarse wood type and leaving them alone for a bit while resuming your regular aquarium maintenance and plant feeding schedule. If the actual rhizome is rotting then the chances of it surviving are unfortunately a lot more limited.

      Good luck!

      • Reply Elena April 30, 2016 at 4:36 pm

        Thanks! Not much hope but i’ll try anyways 🙂

  • Reply Gregg Martin March 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I love this plant but in my low light tank it is SLOW growing indeed. It still can get algae growth as well. One developed a rhizome rot that destroyed 3/4 of the plant. Yet, I find them tough once established and recommend them highly especially if you are trying plants for the first time. I also love this blog, well done!

    Gregg

  • Reply Gregg Martin March 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I agree about the blog, well done! My anubias of A nana. and one not ID are SLOW growing indeed. Even in my low light tank they do get a lot of algae growth as well. One also had a rhizome rot away by 3/4. That may have been it not acclimating to my water. I do though recommend this plant, especially to those seeking to rid themselves of plastic.

    Gregg

  • Reply Stephen Campbell March 10, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I got a Anubias nana last week and left it to float in my tank for 3 days, when i was due to do a W.C i took it out and all the leaves fell off and the Rhizone felt abit squidgy! Today ive just bought a Anubias Barteri var Barteri and attached it to some bogwood on an angle so the leaves are facing horizontally, the roots and in the cracks in the wood. Ive already noticed the leaves are going abit pale in places. Is this normal, and have i planted it correctly. Many thanks.

    • Reply Mari March 12, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Sorry to hear you’re not having much success with Anubias! It does sound like you planted it correctly, if there was any issue you wouldn’t see the leaves pale as quickly. I would definitely give it some more time!

  • Reply Brent October 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I like your blog, you have very intelligent things to say about most of this stuff, not generic basic information, it’s pretty much all well informed educated content. Good Work.

    • Reply Mari October 25, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      Glad you like it! 🙂

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