Anubias species are some of the most popular freshwater plants and are favored by many beginners and more experienced aquarium keepers. These easy plants don’t require any special care; they grow well in low light, and have large, broad green leaves that are greatly appreciated by shy fish. As an added bonus, there is also a dwarf species for smaller tanks!
Keep reading for more information about Anubias care and how to grow it in your own planted aquarium.
Anubias is a genus of freshwater plant containing several other species and varieties. It was named after the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Anubis, in 1857 when it was found growing in shaded areas. Species are often determined by inflorescence, or by how the flowers are arranged on the main axis of the plant.
Anubias is a lush green flowering plant that grows in the tropical climates of central and western Africa. It is a semi-aquatic plant that can either grow fully submerged underwater or partially submerged. Anubias is usually found in rivers, streams, and marshes, with the fine-grained substrate that allows it to firmly attach its roots. The temperature of the water matches the tropical climate with pH being slightly acidic.
Anubias is a strong plant with vibrant green leaves that often cover the substrate floor. Their potential size depends on the type of species, but it is safe to assume that it can and will fill out all areas of your tank if water conditions are right and if left free to grow; however, these plants are known to be especially slow growers, so just keep an eye out for any signs of propagation and be prepared to trim back some leaves!
Most species of Anubias can be recognized by their tear-drop shaped leaves, but they are most easily identifiable when their flowers are in bloom; these flowers tend to be small and creamed-colored, and will stay in bloom for two or three months! What’s even more fascinating is the fact that your plant can have flowers while it’s submerged underwater and when it’s not!
Often times, you will see Anubias tied to rocks or pieces of driftwood; their roots will wrap around anything they can to anchor themselves in place. However, they can also be planted directly into the substrate, giving lots of versatility as to where your new Anubias can go in your tank! We will discuss planting further in the next section, but these are the most common Anubias barteri plants you’re bound to come across in your local aquarium store:
- Anubias barteri var. barteri: comes from West Africa and will thrive in a broad range of water and light conditions. Slightly larger than Anubis bateri var. nana, Anubias barteri var. barteri will grow to about 25-45 cm (10-17 inches). Like other Anubias, this variation has a slow growth rate but is more likely to experience upwards growth rather than outwards growth.
- Anubias barteri var. nana: also comes from West Africa, more specifically Cameroon, and is considered the dwarf Anubias. This easy plant is the smallest in the Anubias genus, only reaching a maximum size of about 5 inches (13 cm). Because of their small size, these plants are often planted towards the foreground of the tank with little demand for light. However, Anubias barteri var. nana still has a very slow growth rate.
Both plants will do just as well with fish and invertebrates in your tank as other Anubias species and don’t require any special care. You can tell them apart mainly by the difference in leaf and stem size, but if it’s hard to tell, the petiole (the stalk that attaches the leaf to the main stem) of Anubias barteri var. barteri will also be much longer than that of Anubias barteri var. nana.
Anubias are great aquarium plants that bring lots of vibrant green shades and colorings to a tank without substrate as well. Like Java fern, it absorbs nutrients through its roots and actually does better when the rhizome areas and roots are left exposed instead of buried; sometimes a root can begin to rot if not planted correctly.
To keep your Anubias in place, just tie it to some driftwood or porous rocks by its root system. 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 be fully attached to the surface you’ve given it within a few weeks. After a while, you may actually find it quite difficult to separate the plant from the base!
If you don’t want to buy additional pieces of wood or rocks for your tank–or even go through the trouble of attaching the plant yourself–you can also find pre-attached Anubias here.
Anubias care & tankmates
As mentioned earlier, Anubias doesn’t require special care; this plant can thrive in a wide range of water conditions, lighting intensities, and while it may appreciate supplements 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 could eventually lead to yellowing or algae growth. This means Anubias is a great choice for first-time plant keepers with a low-tech aquarium that has dark water or lots of floating plants that subdue the light. If algae does start to grow on the leaves, gently remove it or add a cleanup crew, and adjust your lighting.
- After planting your Anubias, there isn’t much else you need to do: just remove any dead leaves and prune where necessary in your tank. While growth is slow, you should see new leaves appearing every few weeks. If you’re lucky, you may even find the little white flower growing 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 for propagation, you can divide the rhizome once it has grown large enough. Both pieces should continue growing if they’re healthy and you can keep them and re-plant, sell them, or give away them away.
- 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 plant 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 or 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 occurring problems with this plant that you may run into with your tank. As mentioned before, it greatly favors low lighting, so don’t be tempted to give it too much!
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 introducing it to your tank, you may have gotten an Anubias that was grown emersed (above the water surface). Many aquarium plants can be grown both underwater 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 will usually fix itself within your tank system! After the initial melt, new leaves should eventually start appearing.
Anubias nana ‘Bonsai’ is an extremely small cultivar of Anubias.
Finding Anubias plants in your local fish- or aquarium store is usually very easy; you may also come across local aquarists who are willing to trade it for another plant, give it away for free (or for just the shipping cost), or sell it for a very low price. Anubias barteri var. barteri and its dwarf cousin Anubias barteri var. nana are the most common varieties to see in display tanks and a good introduction to this species.
Other types include Anubias coffeefolia (creeping growth), A. hastifolia (arrowhead shaped leaves), A. congensis (very tall) and A. frazeri (elongated leaves).
You can also buy the 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!