How to Grow Anubius Nana in A Fish Tank

By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise

Best Way to Grow Anubius Nana in Your Aquarium

Anubias nana is a staple in the aquarium hobby and more so among planted-fish-tank owners. The plant is tough and will thrive in virtually any tank as long as there are no plant-eating fish.

Anubias nana, also called dwarf anubias is generally a small plant growing only 3.2 inches wide and a height of 4.7 inches.

It will grow partially or fully submerged as long as rhizomes are left above the substrate or attached to rock or driftwood. Anubias nana is also considerably hardy and will grow under a range of lighting conditions.

Plus it’s easy to start even by new aquarists.

Plant your anubias in a tropical freshwater aquarium with temperature anywhere between 72°F and 82°F. The species also prefer soft to moderately hard water and an almost neutral ph of 6 to 7.5.

You can use a variety of tank sizes, but ideally, plant it in at least a 10-gallon fish tank.

Anubias barteri is propagated by dividing rhizomes or by side shoots which will develop into thick short stems with dark-green leaves. However, it’s slow growing, so continually trim your plant and maintain proper tank conditions.

That said, in this article, you’ll learn how to plant and care for anubias nana, plus proper tank setup, propagation and more.

Anubias Nana Overview

Anubias nana, precisely referred to as Anubias Barteri var. nana or Anubias nana Engler is a short-stemmed dark green leaved aquatic plant that is also the smallest and most compact of the anubias species.

This dwarf species is native to South Eastern Nigeria and Cameroon in West and Central Africa though it’s now distributed across the globe available throughout Europe, Asia, and USA.

In the wild, anubias nana is found in shallow streams, rivers and mashes mostly along muddy banks.

This plant is by far one of the hardiest low tech, low light aquarium plant species that is also quite versatile due to its tiny size. The thick stems and wide elliptically shape leaves make it suitable for use as a mid-ground plant in small tanks and a foreground plant in bigger fish tanks.

Apart from aquascaping, you can use anubias nana to improve water quality and provide hiding spots for small fish and fry.

Newly propagated anubias nana plants will gradually produce stems and leaves from a central root (rhizome) and establish into a robust plant.

Mature anubias plants will withstand rough fish and live in your tank for years.

How to Plant Anubias Nana

Anubias nana grows in a freshwater aquarium as a planted species as opposed to a floating plant.

It should be planted in the substrate or attached to decoration to anchor its stocky stems, fibrous roots, and broad leaves.

Because new plants are weak, they’ll gradually grow to wrap around surfaces and objects, so you’ll need sturdy anchor items. Use rough rocks and driftwood as your first options.

To attach your anubias nana, tie the roots around your aquarium rock or driftwood using a thread or fishline and leave the plant tied until it is well anchored. Only remove the thread when the plants have established roots that will hold on to the rocks even after the threads are removed.

Alternatively, use cotton threads that will degrade over time instead of lines made of plastic and other non-biodegradable material which you will have to remove manually.

When planting in a substrate, use 2 to 3 inches of gravel or sand or go with a well-constituted DIY substrate. Some aquarists even use two layers of substrate. A nutritious layer below and a second layer to hold the one below and to support the plant plus improve the tank aesthetics.

Your anubias nana will generally develop intricate root systems that will help it take up nutrients below the substrate.

However, most aquarist mistakenly buries the roots completely which slows the development since new buds start from the central roots; which in this case will be covered in gravel. Therefore, when starting anubias nana in a substrate, leave the rhizomes above the substrate for new growth to thrive.

In smaller tanks, plant you’re anubias nana in the middle of your tank. The broad leaves and sturdy stems will make for a good transition plant between the carpet plant like Java moss upfront and bigger background plants.

Nonetheless, plant anubias as a foreground plant in bigger tanks but make sure you properly trim and groom it such that its moderate height doesn’t surpass and obscure other plants behind.

Overall, anubias nana will grow fairly slow taking several years to reach full size. Ironically, whereas more light and CO2 fertilizer dosing will create magic with species like Java moss and water sprite, it may not do much to change the speed at which anubias grow, but you’ll definitely have a healthier plant.

How Do You Care for Anubias Nana

As I had mentioned in the overview, anubias nana is native to the tropical regions of Africa hence the plant do best in tropical freshwater aquariums which best replicate equatorial rivers and streams conditions.

The plant also loves shallow water on river banks where the roots are left partially in the ground even when the whole plant is fully in water.

By and large, dwarf anubias is very easy to maintain as its notorious for its hardness and effortless maintenance.

Tank and Water Condition

Anubias nana can tolerate just about any type of water hardness and ph level. However, it tends to do best in soft water with a ph of 6.0 to 7.5.

The ideal temperature range for this plant is 72°F to 82°F, which best replicates its native tropical environment.

Though dwarf nana is not easily bruised, like all plants, proper maintenance of your fish tank is imperative including tank size consideration and water quality.

Also, make sure the fish you keep are compatible with anubias nana which could mean avoiding fish and inverts that nibble broad-leaf aquatic plants, but anubias will handle most of them anyway.

If you have a heavily planted aquarium, the nutrient available for your plants may not be sufficient, therefore, occasionally add fertilizer and C02 supplements to help the plants stay lush and healthy.

You may want to consider using nutrients rich substrate as well, only be careful not to add excess nutrients rest you help excess bacteria sprout that may be bad for your plants.

Anubius Nana Lighting

Anubius nana will grow in just about any type of lighting, but the leaves grow more quickly and densely under high light.

However, the plant is considered a slow grower compared to other species so you may not notice any exceptional differences like you would with other plants like water wisteria.

Dwarf anubias will grow even when grown under low-light from fixtures that come in starter 10-gallon kits.

However, try not to overexpose your fish tank to light because this will help green algae to thrive. Use reasonably bright light bulbs, plus only leave(see how long you should keep your aquarium light on) aquarium lights on for more than 12 hours.


Dont worry if you have to trim your dwarf anubias plant. This especially when you’ve planted it in the front part of your aquarium.

Simply put, anubias nana store most nutrients in the roots and will continue to thrive even when a substantial amount of leaves are clipped. The foliage will gradually grow back greener and broader given the right conditions.

Anubias Nana Tankmates (Compatibility)

Dwarf nana is safe to keep with fish, shrimp, and snails. It will mostly resist most herbivore fish as its thick leather-like leaves are almost indestructible.

Bottom dwelling fish and inverts are particularly thrilled with anubias nana plants in the tank. Loaches and catfish enjoy since they can hide amongst the leaves while shrimp can eat algae growing on different parts of the plant.

However, clumsy fish may destroy delicate leaves as they look for food or chase each other between the foliage. Also, goldfish are particularly infamous nibblers, so though dwarf anubias is hardy, they may cause substantial damage.

Some good tankmates include loaches, gouramis, cherry barbs, guppies, tetras, mollies, danios, bettas, Amano shrimp, ghost shrimp, and mystery snails.

Anubias nana can also be kept with pretty much any aquarium plant as long as you don’t plant them too densely. The companion plants will depend on how you plan to use anubias nana, whether as a mid or foreground plant.

Anubias Nana Propagation

Dwarf anubias reproduce naturally by developing small buds-like structure from the central root also called rhizomes.

If you need to start a new plant in the substrate, simply cut one bud that is fairly developed with a few grown or unfolding leaves using a sharp object.

Place the cutting in your substrate and allow it to access light for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. It should start to produce roots in a short while and before long be quite sturdy.

You will want to keep enough leaves on the cutting to allow the plant to photosynthesis, but you don’t have to alter your tank to accommodate the new plant, the only thing you could do is add fertilizer and CO2.

Once the plant starts to develop new foliage, remove a few of the new tips occasionally to encourage your plant to first grow laterally before increasing in height.

Enjoy your planted aquarium.

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