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Anubias Nana: The Ultimate Guide To Caring, Planting And Propagation

If you’ve been researching plants that you should grow in your freshwater aquarium, you’ve likely encountered a whole host of unique (and perhaps oddly named!) plants from which you can choose.

Yet none of them is unique (nor as interestingly named!) as the Anubias nana. This short, stocky plant produces vibrant green leaves that render it a gorgeous addition to any aquarium. It can help to keep the water in your fish tank both tidy, well-maintained, and oxygenated, and provide valuable habitat for your hiding or breeding fish.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the choices there are out there for plants you can grow in your tank. Instead, select the plants that will work best for your existing setup, and consider the Anubias nana as the next addition to your tank environment.

Don’t know where to start? Consider this guide to growing the Anubias nana to help you get going.

Anubias Nana 4


What Is Anubias Nana?

Anubias Nana 2
Photo by Peter Kemmer

This plant is  a great choice for beginners, as it is hardy and does not need much attention. This plant can bounce back from most basic mistakes, and it can survive in most environments. There is very little that you need to do to maintain this plant – perhaps just a quick trim every now and then. Easy to care for, you can start with tiny pieces of plants and then gradually introduce and grow this plant anywhere in your tank  -you can even add it to another tank, if you have one!

Known scientifically as Anubias barteri var. Nana, this freshwater plant is a subspecies of Anubias barteri and hails from the Araceae family. There are many common names given to Anubias nana, but you will usually see it referred to in this manner. You might also hear it called dwarf Anubias.

This plant is most common in Asia, although it can also be found in areas of Africa, such as in countries like Nigeria and Cameroon. A hardy and adaptable plant, you can keep your Anubias nana in a number of conditions. It can be fully submerged or only partially submerged, meaning you can use it in a full aquarium or even in a paludarium.

Anubias nana forms a short, dense mat, and is a great choice for blanketing the substrate of your tank. It provides an excellent habitat of fish that prefer to hang out at the lower levels of the tank, such as catfish and loaches. You don’t have to worry about your Anubias nana plant taking up valuable real estate in upper portions of the tank.

Anubias nana propagates easily, meaning you can easily add color and health benefits to your tank. This plant can control nitrate levels and remove other pollutants in your tank. It can oxygenate the water, helping to keep your fish healthier while at the same time reducing your overall workload.

When you purchase your Anubias nana plant, know that there is another variety with which the Anubias nana is often confused. This other plant is the Anubias nana petite, and it is a much tinier version of the Anubias nana that grows to just a few centimeters in height.

What Does Anubias Nana Look Like?

Anubias Nana 3
Photo by Peter Kemmer

Anubias nana is a sturdy plant that can hold its own against the aggression or activity of your fish. It produces a thick, deep green stem that is quite thick, and grows to six to eight inches in height. The size of your Anubias nana plant will, of course, depend on the conditions in your tank.

Because this plant is so short, it tends to only cover the bottom portions of your aquarium or paludarium. To plant it, you must place each stem into a small amount of substrate and not allow them to float atop the surface. Leaves of this plant are a deep green hue and tend to branch away from the step. This creates a teardrop appearance that you may have already seen in some of the houseplants in your own home.

Each leaf is slender, but covered in a narrow cuticle that helps to strengthen and fortify the plant. Every now and then, your Anubias nana plant might produce a white flower. These plants are more likely to flower when they are planted in paludariums, in which most plants are only partially covered by water, but you may also notice them flowering while they are fully submerged as well. This is quite a spectacle to behold and can certainly make your aquarium a new talking point within your home!

Flowers only last for a couple of months, but you can paint a gorgeous display of color by planting multiple Anubias nana plants together. The plants that are healthiest will display the most gorgeous colors.

This plant also has thick white roots. These help keep the stems in one place, moving through the layers of substrate as the plant grows. You don’t have to completely bury the roots of your Anubias nana plant. Alternatively, you can secure them to the tops of rocks or driftwood and allow the roots to wrap around those structures, too.

How Do I Select An Anubias Nana Plant?

The easiest way to reduce your workload when caring for an Anubias nana plant is to take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and only purchase a plant that you know will be healthy. Take care in selecting your Anubias nana plant, paying attention to colors, leaves, and damage.

Color is the easiest way to determine whether an Anubias nana plant is healthy. These plants should be a dark green shade, so if you see a plant that is pale green or has patches of yellow or brown, this is a dead giveaway that the plant is not doing so well.

Similarly, the leaves of the plants should be heavy and have a resilient stem. Avoid purchasing any plants that are dropping or wilting, and particularly those that don’t seem able to support their own weight.

General damage to the plants should also be avoided. Any rips in the leaves can invite disease and inhibit photosynthesis and growth. These plants are more likely to die when you place them in your tank, which will waste both your time and money.

That being said, you can find health Anubias nana plants in just about any aquarium store. This plant is relatively inexpensive, with good, high-quality plants starting at less than $5 apiece. Since they reproduce and produce new plants, you likely won’t need more than a few Anubias nana plants in your tank to create quite the display, either. Anubias nana is sold either on its own or attached to rocks or bogwood, giving you options when it comes to transplanting it, too.

What Tank Requirements Does The Anubias Nana Plant Have?

This plant is relatively easy to care for, but you do need to make sure you provide it with a healthy environment in which it can thrive. When it is growing in the wild, Anubias nana is usually found along river banks. It grows either fully or partially submerged in the shallow water. This allows it to have access to lots of light for photosynthesis.

You should include a soft, muddy substrate. This will allow the roots to penetrate easily through it, as well as to absorb necessary nutrients. Water should be kept warm and somewhat acidic. You can use a heater to maintain high temperatures. Those between 72- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit are ideal. pH should be kept between 6 and 7.5, while hardness should be maintained between 3 and 8.

Use a fine-grained substrate, like sand. This will allow the roots to penetrate for added stability and nutrient absorption, and the soft substrate will also be less likely to harm the delicate roots of the plant.

You do not need to use any specific kind of lighting for you tank – you can use a standard aquarium light. However, you do need to ensure that the natural or artificial light you provide is actually getting to the leaves. You may want to avoid any floating plants or other structures that can shade the Anubias nana plant.

There is no minimum tank size for Anubias nana plants – they can thrive in tanks of all sizes. However, it is generally recommended that you keep them in a tank that is around 10 gallons or so.

How Do I Care For An Anubias Nana Plant?

Anubias nana grown relatively slowly, at least compared to other aquarium plants. You may need to trim the stems of your plants from time to time. You will also need to work to keep the tank clean, which is something you are likely already doing if you have other inhabitants of your freshwater tank.

Pollutants can be toxic to an Anubias nana plant, and while the plant works hard to remove a lot of the pollutants and toxins in the water, consistently changing the water (at least every other week) will help keep conditions stable. Don’t rely on your plants to do all of your cleaning for you!  You will need to keep the tank clean to control the levels of nitrates in your tank.

An added benefit of keeping your tank clean is that it will make the water clearer. This will allow more light to penetrate through it to reach your Anubias nana plant, allowing for photosynthesis and nutrient absorption.

If it seems as though your Anubias nana plant is not growing, or is not growing quickly enough, it could be that there are not enough nutrients in the water. You can add a nutrient supplement or a nutrient-rich substrate. However, be careful when adding these, as you don’t want to harm the health of your fish. In addition, some additions can cause an influx of algal growth.

Carbon dioxide can also be added to the tank. This is absorbed and synthesized during the process of photosynthesis and is necessary for the growth of your Anubias nana. While your plant will take in the carbon dioxide that is released from your fish as they respire, it may need a bit more for its functioning. However, be careful about adding carbon dioxide. As with the addition of nutrient supplements, too much carbon dioxide can sully your tank and harm your fish.

How Do I Plant Anubias Nana?

As a planted species, Anubias nana won’t do well if you try to grow it as a floating plant. It needs to be either attached to the rocks or decoration sin your tank, or planted directly in the substrate. You can be creative with this – Anubias nana will add color and new dimensions to your tank, and will also give a habitat to your fish. Consider where your fish tend to congregate when deciding where to plant it.

Try not to plant your Anubias nana in a shaded area, however, as they need plenty of access to light in order to survive. Try to allow for plenty of space between the plants – ideally, two to three inches apart. Planting multiple plants in one section of the tank will reduce nutrients absorption and make it more likely that one or both of your plants will die.

If you choose to plant your Anubias nana on driftwood, you can do so with the use of clear fishing line. Simply place the plant onto a piece of driftwood, then use the line to secure the plant. Don’t worry about burying the roots – this is actually ill-advised, as it can cause them to rot if they are fully buried. Once the plant has developed roots that attach to the surface of the driftwood (or to the rocks, if you so choose), you can remove the fishing line and leave it alone.

Can I Propagate Anubias Nana?

Anubias nana is very easy to propagate, as it does so via the process of rhizome division. When stems break off and fall to the bottom of your tank, they will then develop into their own plant.  You can take cutting from plants, and then place them somewhere else in the substrate. Within just a few days, they will start producing roots. Just make sure that a cutting has at least three leaves so that it can conduct photosynthesis for growth. Try not to remove more than a third of the plant at a time, as this can produce a shock to its system.

There are no special conditions you need to provide in your tank to encourage new growth. Instead, make sure the water is clean and well-lit. You can add additional nutrients or carbon dioxide to speed up the process, but don’t add too many. As mentioned earlier, they can harm the other inhabitants of your tank.

What Are The Best Tank Mates For Anubias Nana?

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Photo by Quihong

Anubias Nana does well with most other aquarium plants, as long as you don’t plant them too densely. Consider using water sprite in the middle column of your tank, or add hornwort as a floating plant. Just make sure you aren’t overcrowding or shading the tank too much with floating plants.

There are very few freshwater fish that cannot be kept with Anubias nana. The best spices to add are those that hang out on the lower levels of the tank. Consider catfish and loaches. You want to avoid fish who will eat the leaves of this plant, like goldfish. While the plant can handle some damage, you want to reduce it as much as possible. This will make it more difficult for your plant to grow and to thrive within your tank.

Do your research before adding Anubias nana to a tank that already has fish in it, and likewise before adding new fish to a tank that has Anubias nana planted in it. Consider species like cherry barbs, cichlids, guppies, tetras, danios, gouramis, loaches, and catfish when you are deciding on fish species for your Anubias nana tank. Invertebrates like shrimp and snails can also usually be kept with Anubias nana, as can animals like frogs and turtles if you are keeping your Anubias nana in a paludarium.

Should I Grow Anubias Nana In My Aquarium?

If you are looking for a plant that will add a splash of verdant color and life to your tank, you should consider growing the Anubias nana plant. Though subtle in appearance, this plant will add a new dimension to your freshwater aquarium.

Because it can be kept with many species of fish, and has limited requirements in terms of care, feeding, and propagation, this plant is one that you must consider as you are creating a planted take.

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