If you have an aquarium and are looking to spruce it up with a real plant then you might have considered a pothos, but can you put pothos plants in an aquarium?
Pothos plants are great additions to most aquariums, as long as the aquarium uses freshwater and the fish inside mix well with plants. Adding pothos to aquariums can help to reduce algae, maintain nutrient levels and give your fish somewhere to explore for a very low cost.
If you’re on the fence about adding pothos to your aquarium then hopefully some of the points below will make your decision a little easier.
What Are Pothos Plants?
Pothos are often called Devil’s Ivy or by the botanical name Epipremnum aureum.
They’re one of the most common houseplants and have a lot of variations, although you will probably be most familiar with golden pothos. Pothos are well-loved for a few reasons:
- Easy To Grow – Pothos are known for being incredibly easy to grow. Even if the conditions aren’t ideal – temperature between 70°F and 90°F and humidity around 60% – your pothos will still survive just fine.
- Cheap – Most pothos varieties are cheap, but more on this later.
- Aesthetics – If you like the look of vining plants that give a jungle-like feel to your space then look no further than the pothos.
After owning a golden pothos for well over a year now I can say that it’s by far one of the easiest plants to own.
Do Pothos Grow Underwater?
A common misconception when it comes to adding pothos plants to aquariums is that they can grow entirely underwater, but this is not the case.
The leaves of the pothos must remain above water or they will rot and die, while the root system must be entirely in the water to absorb the necessary nutrients from the water for the plant to grow.
Benefits Of Pothos Plants In Aquariums
So, pothos are great houseplants, but how does this translate to aquariums, and can they even grow in water?
Aquariums tend to be packed full of nutrients, mainly from fish poop which has a healthy amount of the three main nutrients that pothos need to survive- those being nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Most aquariums are fertilized quite often with fish-friendly products as well which also boosts the nutrient content further.
I know from my own experience of propagating golden pothos in regular tap water just how easy it is to get a pothos growing in water, and in an aquarium, it would be that much easier.
As long as you can provide some bright and indirect light for your pothos it should have no problems growing quite quickly in your aquarium.
Pothos will filter some of the nitrates found in aquariums that are produced as an end product of the nitrogen cycle.
They do this at a very fast rate as they are not fully submerged and can grow very quickly. This also has the added benefit of lowering the amount of algae growth in your aquarium.
Pothos plants are super cheap, especially if you opt for a common variation such as golden pothos.
You can typically purchase a cutting for a few dollars, and that’s all you’ll need to propagate it. I’ll explain the steps for this later in the article, as this is the crucial step for having success with pothos in your aquarium.
One of the struggles of owning an aquarium is making sure that it is exciting for the fish that live inside. You can spend a fortune on accessories to make your aquarium look professionally designed, but in my opinion, nothing beats a real plant thriving in the tank.
This also provides a lot of enrichment for the fish inside, as they can swim in and out of the roots just as they would in the wild.
How To Add Pothos Plants To Aquariums
Adding pothos to an aquarium is very similar to propagating in water.
If you follow the steps below you’ll have no problems getting your pothos to grow in no time.
Selecting A Cutting
It’s better to start with a cutting than a whole plant as it will give it time to adapt to growing in water.
If you take a pothos that has been growing in soil and try to place it into the water you’ll find that it will struggle. When selecting a cutting, make sure you cut just below the node
The secret to getting your pothos to propagate quickly in water is to make sure you cut either side of the node and submerge so that the node and a small amount of petiole are covered.
In an aquarium, it can be difficult to get this right. I would recommend using some tape to secure the top of the pothos just above the water level so that the leaves and part of the stem are out of the water.
Once in place, your pothos will begin to propagate quickly and will eventually reach a stage where it will continue to grow as long as the conditions are (somewhat) optimal.
Pothos require a few things to grow in an aquarium.
Secondly, humidity needs to be quite high and ideally somewhere around 60% or higher. Luckily, the humidity right above the water will be quite high anyway so this shouldn’t be something to worry about.
Aside from those two, make sure your aquarium gets quite a lot of bright and indirect sunlight. Pothos will grow fine in lower light conditions, but for optimal growth, plenty of indirect light works best.
Aquarium water tends to have plenty of nutrients, but you can always add a fish-friendly fertilizer to boost the nutrient content if you aren’t seeing the growth that you would expect.
Pothos maintenance is quite simple, and in an aquarium setting the only thing you have to worry about is root growth taking up too much space.
You can be quite aggressive when pruning pothos roots – and stems, for that matter – but it’s better to do this in small chunks.
Things To Consider
Before you jump straight into adding a pothos to your aquarium there are a couple of things to consider to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
Do Your Fish Eat Plants?
Some fish rely on plants as a source of food or supplement to their diet. This is common behavior in the wild and something that is seen across a variety of popular fish, including:
- Goldfish – One of the most popular types of fish to keep, goldfish are omnivores that will feast on plants to supplement their diet.
- Silver Dollars
Pothos roots do tend to be difficult for fish to eat, however, but they do contain calcium oxalate crystals (one of the reasons why they are toxic to cats). So, in the unlikely event that your fish eats part of the root system, it can lead to an unpleasant reaction that can be harmful.
To avoid this, you can consider placing your pothos in the filter compartment of the aquarium. This is an easy way to separate the plant from any fish that may attempt to eat it, but you’ll need to prune the roots carefully to ensure they don’t get stuck in the filter itself.
Type Of Water
Pothos will only grow in a freshwater environment, as salt water is too harsh and doesn’t provide the right amount of nutrients.
Considering that pothos is native to the jungles of southeastern Asia this makes perfect sense.
Pothos In Aquarium Turning Yellow?
Pothos can turn yellow for a variety of reasons, and it is usually not a sign of a pothos dying but rather that the conditions are not ideal.
Any of the reasons below can cause the yellowing of pothos leaves:
- Not enough sunlight
- Nutrient deficiency
- Too much direct sunlight
- Root rot/bacterial infection
If you can rule out sunlight as the issue (pothos should have plenty of bright, indirect sunlight) then try adding fertilizer to your water.
Otherwise, your pothos could have some kind of bacterial infection like root rot in which case you should remove it from the aquarium or trim the infected roots as soon as possible.
Can You Treat All Varieties The Same?
The main difference between varieties of pothos and their individual care is how much sunlight they need.
Varieties with lots of variegation require more light as only the green parts of the leaves contain chlorophyll for photosynthesis. Other varieties, such as neon pothos, require less sunlight as they contain no variegation.
Pothos plants make great additions to aquariums and provide a lot of benefits to the ecosystem.
If you decide to add one to your aquarium be sure to follow the steps and advice laid out in this article for the best results.