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Many people know of pothos as a hardy houseplant, but its also popular among fishkeepers for use in sumps, overflows, hang on back filters, refugiums, and aquariums. Adding a pothos plant to your aquarium is a good way to reduce nitrates and give it a more natural look.

Buy Pothos on Amazon

Fish waste (ammonia) is transformed into nitrates by the bacteria in your filter. Nitrates are harmful to fish and need to be removed from the aquarium, typically through water changes. In nature, plants perform this function by absorbing nitrates. While a single pothos plant will not absorb enough waste for you to skip any water changes, it will help to reduce these excess nutrients.

Pothos Growing up PVC
Pothos vine Growing up PVC

How to add Pothos to Your Aquarium

You can find pothos (in the US) for sale at most local garden centers, any store that carries houseplants, or on Amazon. Once you've purchased a plant, you can either add the whole plant to your aquarium - after removing it from the soil - or take cuttings from it. One healthy mother plant can produce dozens of cuttings. I have been taking cuttings from the plant shown below for several years. The vines eventually grow back after being cut.

Pothos Plant
Pothos Plant

Pothos is also known as devil's ivy because it is so difficult to kill. The stem can be cut and inserted directly into water. After a few days, white roots will sprout from the stem and grow down into the water. This works even in a glass of tap water, but pothos plants grow much quicker in an aquarium where they have access to lots of nutrients.

Pothos does not require much light to grow, so you don't need to have a light shining directly on it unless you have it under a cabinet or in some other very dark location. The leaves will turn to face any nearby light sources as the plant gets established.

Pothos growing behind matten filter
Pothos growing behind matten filter

I secured the plant pictured above using a suction cup with a clip for airline tubing. This is a good way to hold the vine in place inside your aquarium. You can also insert a stem into a hang on back filter, an overflow or breeder box, or build your own DIY container to hold pothos plants.

Pothos roots in overflow box
Pothos roots in overflow box
Pothos roots in overflow box
Pothos roots in overflow box

More Info on Pothos in Aquariums

There are lots of examples on YouTube of how people are using Pothos in their aquariums. I recommend starting with the one below from Aquarium Co-op.

Odin Aquatics isn't affiliated with any YouTube channels

hardscaped 90 gallon
hardscaped 90 gallon

hardscaped 90 gallon
hardscaped 90 gallon

This 90 gallon aquarium has been in the works for a couple months now between other fish room projects. I posted about the sump I built for it last week as well as how I drilled the overflow. I finally have the background, substrate and hardscape in place and I'm getting ready to add fish.

The 3d background in this aquarium is from YourFishStuff. Its a thick silicone material that is coated in crushed rock, so it has a realistic texture and real depth to it. I cut it to fit around my overflow box, and it is held in place by the substrate and a couple of clips at the top of the tank. I'm really impressed with this background and very glad I went for it instead of painting the back of the aquarium black like I usually would. YourFishStuff sells these in a variety of standard tank sizes and the price is very competitive, especially for the quality of the product.

Hardscape in place

The sand substrate is Caribsea Super Naturals Sunset Gold. I got both the substrate and the spider wood on amazon. My first choice is always to support local aquarium stores but none in my area carried this particular sand or large pieces of spider wood.

marked down aquarium plants

I scored some nice big anubias and an El Nino Fern at a 75% discount. I covered how I find cheap aquarium plants in a little more detail in this post. I used super glue gel to attach the anubias to a piece of spider wood. Eventually I plan to have this tank heavily planted, so I'll add more plants over time.

Spider wood with anubias
Spider wood with anubias

The rock I used is 40 lbs of landscaping river rock that I got at Home Depot for $12. Its a little more colorful than I had envisioned but once it grows some algae and the tank is densely planted it should look more natural.

river rock
river rock

I'll post further updates on this aquarium when it's fully planted and stocked with fish. If you want to see more of my fish room on a regular basis follow me on Instagram.


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My local PetSmart frequently marks down their aquatic plants when they begin to "die". Typically, these plants have one or more moldy brown leaves on them. But that doesn't always mean a plant is dead.

I have scored several great anubias plants at 50% off - like the anubias congensis plant below:

anubias marked for quick sale
anubias marked for quick sale

Selecting "Damaged" Plants

The PetsMart I go to uses large yellow labels to mark these plants down. The last time I stopped in, they had three different packages of anubias priced at 50%. Two of them looked a little too far gone, but one was still in great shape.

When these plants are on the shelf in the store, it can be hard to tell what kind of shape they are in. I try to look through the top of the package and see if I can tell how many undamaged leaves there are. Sometimes there is only one rotten leaf, while other plants might have rotten brown spots on all of their leaves. I look for plants that still have at least 2 healthy green leaves.

In the case of this anubias, I could see that it had several dead leaves but also several green ones. I knew it would be pretty easy to clean up.

anubias right out of packaging
anubias right out of packaging

Cleaning Up Store Bought Plants

The first thing I do after opening the package is rinse the plant off in the sink and remove all the dead leaves. Plants from chain stores come packaged with their roots in a gel, so you want to clean all of that stuff off with tap water.

It was at this point I realized this particular anubias was actually two separate rhyzomes, each with about 3 healthy leaves. The regular price on this size plant is $4.99. I got it for $2.69 after tax. Since it ended up being two plants, I paid about $1.34 per plant.

anubias after rinse
anubias after rinse

After I remove dead growth and rinse off the gel, I bleach dip all new plants before they go into one of my aquariums. To do this I add some bleach (estimate a 1:20 solution) to a container of water. I soak new plants in the bleach solution for 5 minutes, then drop them into a bucket of water with a few milliliters of dechlorinator and let them sit another 5 minutes.

The bleach kills snails and algae, and other hitch hikers that might be riding on plants. After the rinse, plants are good to go into an aquarium. I do this with plants I get from other hobbyists and online as well. It only takes a few cells of an aggressive thread algae to multiply in a high nutrient environment and wreck a planted tank. I have had to tear down tanks and throw out plants because they got filled with algae that I couldn't get rid of.

The Result

new anubias added to tank
new anubias added to tank

Above is one of the new anubias congensis rhyzomes in my planted tank. It's already shooting off a new leaf, so it should grow out well.