Plants belonging to the Anubias genus are well known in the world of aquascaping. You can typically find a number of varieties available for sale in big box pet stores and small, mom-and-pop aquarium shops the world over.
While you may have heard of Anubias barteri, this species can grow to monstrous proportions of 25 to 45 centimeters (or 10 to 18inches) or more. If you’ve got a tank that’s not large enough to accommodate this behemoth size, consider a smaller version.
With the same naturalizing appeal and color ranging from bright green to deep emerald, Anubias nana (also known as Anubias barteri var. nana, but not to be confused with the ‘petite’ variety) is a smaller, less imposing cousin.
It generally grows no more than five to 10 centimeters (or two to four inches) in height.
The small size, attractive color and shape, and easy care of Anubias nana make this cultivar the perfect choice for adding live greenery to your tank without sacrificing a lot of time to caretaking or space for fish and other plantings.
All About the Cultivar
|Quick Cultivar Facts|
|Scientific Name||Anubias barteri var. nana|
|Other Common Names||Dwarf Anubias, Anubias minima, Mini, Nana, Engler|
|Origin||Central and Western Africa|
|Height/Size||5 to 10 centimeters|
Does Anubias Nana Bloom?
Much like its larger counterparts, this variety is capable of producing flowers and will do so when it is in good health.
Their form is reminiscent of the Spathiphyllum genus known collectively as peace lilies, with a central spathe of pale yellow surrounded by a spadix that ranges in color from off-white to yellow.
In the wild, the natural habitat for specimens of this genus is that of riverbanks and marshes. In this environment, the blooms would breach the surface of the water.
You can position them in your tank for this to occur as well, which can be quite stunning, especially in an open-top aquarium; however, blooms will still open even if they’re submerged.
The flower stems can reach about 10 to 18 centimeters (or four to seven inches) in length.
After you notice the bud forming, it can take two to four weeks for the bloom to open, and it will generally continue to deepen in color for a few weeks afterward.
How Do I Differentiate This Variety from Other Species?
|Anubias Species Comparison|
|Species or Variety||Average Height||Features|
|Anubiasbarteri (‘Coffeefolia’)||25 to 45 centimeters or 10 to 18 inches||Soft green color; new leaves tinted red; mature leaves up to 40 centimeters or 15 inches in length; long stems|
|Anubiasbarteri var. nana||5 to 10 centimeters or 2 to 4 inches||Emerald green color; teardrop-shaped leaves up to 5 centimeters or 2 inches in length; short stems|
|Anubiasbarteri var. ‘Petite’||5 centimeters or 2 inches max||Green color; leaves max 1.5 centimeters or .5 inches in length; very short stems|
|Anubiasbarteri var. nana ‘Gold’||10 to 15 centimeters or 4 to 6 inches||Lime green to nearly yellow color; leaves up to 12 centimeters or 5 inches; mid-length stems|
Source of comparison data: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/nparksbuzz/issue-14-vol-3-2012/gardening/anubias–not-just-for-aquariums
Because there are approximately 22 Anubias plant varieties, it may seem a challenge to sort them out. However, it’s easier than it seems.
All of the species in this family are classified as perennials, and each grows from rhizomatous roots that may go dormant in water temperatures under about 70ﹾF or 21ﹾC.
During dormancy, the leaves may die back to the roots. When water temperatures once again begin to warm, the leaves typically begin to regrow.
Another similarity between species in this family is their tendency to self-propagate and spread without assistance.
The primary differences between them are:
You can identify A. nana by its’ compact size. Most varieties can reach eight inches, or 20 centimeters, or more, while this species generally attains a smaller height.
- Leaf Shape
Most types of Anubias have heart-shaped leaves with a notch at the base of the leaf where it connects to the stem or petiole. The ‘nana’variety has narrow, teardrop-shaped leaves with no notch.
Origin and Natural Habitat
This family is endemic of Africa, explicitly hailing from the tropical regions in western and central countries such as Nigeria, Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon. The genera name is derived from Anubis, the Egyptian God of the underworld.
They tend to spread along the shaded edge of bodies of water, protected from strong sunlight by the tree canopy above.
Because of this, they generally prefer somewhat filtered, lower light rather than harsh, direct lighting.
Interestingly, this genus is part of the Araceae family, also known as the yams.
Anubias nana was selectively bred specifically for aquarium use, forgoing the large size of its counterparts for a compact growth habit that fits better in a captive setting.
As with larger species, this variety produces multiple petioles, or stems, from a central rhizome. The leaves form at the end of each stem and are thin but relatively tough.
With maturity, this variety achieves a wider spread than its height. It can branch horizontally, and this low profile makes it an excellent choice for foreground and carpet plantings.
Anubias nana roots are pale green to white. It’s known as an epiphyte or a plant whose roots will reach and grasp to attach it to objects, such as driftwood or rock.
Pro Tip: For a striking presentation, use cotton thread to anchor the young plant in place on a piece of wood or stone. As the roots grow and wrap around the object, carefully remove the thread and allow the specimen to continue growing in place.
While growing, Anubias nana takes patience because it has a slow growth rate, it also spreads easily. Thankfully, this takes some time and can be managed with supervision.
Perfect for Almost Any Aquarium
Some aquatic plants look nice, but they can quickly become a source of frustration for a multitude of reasons. Luckily, caring for this variety is easy in almost every aquarium or paludarium. Let’s take a look at why that is.
Species such as water sprite and sword grass readily overgrow in ideal conditions. With moderate lighting, you may find your tank overloaded with new growth that chokes out other plantings and reduces the area for fish.
With A. nana, you can add natural, living beauty to your aquascape without fighting to keep this plant in check.
Many fish species prefer to have some hiding areas where they can feel protected, and this is important for their health as it reduces stress.
Bottom-dwellers will be able to stay hidden amongst the leaves and stems, and smaller species will duck under their dense leaves as they carpet the tank. The shelter offered by Anubias nana is especially preferred by betta fish.
Because this variety doesn’t need to be rooted in soil, it can be added to outcroppings, built into features, and blended perfectly into community plantings.
This versatility makes it ideal for creating a wild appearance, mimicking nature, or a more structured, minimal form. The possibilities are endless!
Most aquatic plants offer filtration, pulling in waste such as ammonia and nitrates from the water. This is true for A. nana as well, and in a dense carpet planting, it can easily make short work of freshening and oxygenating the environment for its tank mates.
No matter your skill level, this variety will be easy to maintain. Anubias nana doesn’t require CO2 infusions, nor does it normally need additional feeding or fertilizers other than what is circulated by the water column.
Expert Advice: Don’t bury the rhizomes of Anubias nana in soil or heavy substrate – they’ll be smothered and will rot. Leave them free to branch as much as possible.
Anubias Nana Care
Planting in an Aquarium
We’ve covered what it is and where it’s from, but how do you plant, grow, and care for Anubias nana? It’s easy!
This variety is so versatile that it can be used in almost any position in the tank, from foreground to background and anywhere in between. However, it’s important to note that it should not be planted directly under the aquarium’s lights if it is fully submerged.
Too much sunlight can easily cause the cuticle surrounding the leaves to begin accumulating a plume of algae, which spells trouble for this plant, and others in the tank, as algae spreads fast.
Please keep it in an area where taller plantings will filter and soften the lighting to prevent potential algae growth.
If you’re looking for a floating plant, you may want to rule this specimen out – the epiphytic roots prefer to cling to a structure and will continue to seek anchorage even from a floating position.
However, if you anchor them to a branch or other background structure near the water surface, they can create a canopy that is particularly beneficial for larger, bashful fish and bettas.
It’s possible to attach this variety to objects in the tank using glue, and you may frequently see this recommended.
Note: Any glue you intend to use in your aquarium should be safe, non-toxic, and thoroughly set before submerging it in the water.
Instead of burying the rhizomes in the substrate, add this plant to the aquarium by attaching it to or training the roots to grow around driftwood or stone. You can also add it to the substrate by lightly covering the roots, but not the rhizome, with lightweight material such as sand.
Young plant rhizomes can be inserted into a crevice in a branch or piece of wood to allow the roots to wrap freely as they grow.
Inside Information: If paludarium planting is what you have in mind, this plant is a perfect choice. It’s commonly chosen for submersed aquarium growing but prefers its leaves to be emersed above the water, where it enjoys humidity and light without the danger of algae growth.
How to Propagate Anubias Nana
There are many reasons why you may want to propagate this variety at home.
You might simply find that this variety is your favorite, and you’d like to have more in your tank, or you may be upgrading to a larger aquarium and need more to cover a wider area without spending a lot of money.
No matter the reason, you’ll find that propagation is exceedingly simple.
Rhizomes are similar in nature to bulbs; as they grow and produce roots and stems, they sometimes split to create offshoots.
These offshoots can be identified by their smaller leaves. When you observe the rhizome, you’ll see that there is a definite point where the larger parent rhizome has split to generate the smaller one.
Begin by removing the plant from the water. Next, use a sharp, sterile knife or scissors to cut the two apart, but be sure to leave roots and stems on both.
When cut free from the parent, the offshoot becomes independent and is ready to be relocated to a new planting site.
It’s also possible to allow the rhizomes to spread freely to fill areas without assistance. Healthy plants that are growing in good conditions will do so often and will only need to be trimmed to manage shape and size.
Pruning and Maintenance
As previously mentioned, pruning can be necessary to control overgrowth. This can be done by simply using a sharp set of scissors to snip off any overreaching leaves.
It’s best to remove less than one-third of the total leaves to avoid shock, which can be deadly, even for a hardy specimen such as this.
Herbivorous inhabitants of the tank may occasionally nibble the leaves. If this happens, you should remove the damaged foliage before it begins to rot.
Roots may also need to be trimmed back periodically as they can become quite dense and far-reaching. Trim the longest ones from the bottom up, but don’t remove more than about one-third total.
If it becomes necessary to remove overgrown offshoots, cut them off with sterile scissors or a knife and remove them from the tank. Do not discard them outdoors in or near waterways as they can become invasive outdoors.
It’s not necessary to fertilize this variety as it draws its nutritional needs from the water, especially in a community tank where fish waste and other dissolved nutrients are plentiful.
However, in a tank with more plants than fish, you may observe signs of nutrient deficiency such as yellowing or melting. Adding some all-in-one plant food to the water should perk them up. Dose according to package instructions.
Algae Growth on Leaves
Because of the large surface area of the leaves, algae development is one of the most common issues among this family.
If you catch it early on when the spots are small and few, you can often reach into the tank and brush them with your fingers. Usually, the algae will fall to the bottom and be consumed by bottom-feeders.
For heavier growth, remove the plant from the tank. Allow it to dry mostly and use a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide to clean the leaves. Once it has again dried, return it to the tank.
While it’s not known how widely spread this issue is in home aquaria, a disease caused by a fungal pathogen called Myrothecium roridum is known to affect both terrestrial and aquatic species, including those of the Anubias genus.
The fungal pathogen is, unfortunately, easily spread by water. Infections can appear as brown spots leading to an eventual die-off of foliage and crown and stem rot. White fungal outbreaks can be observed on the leaf surface in some instances as well.
Affected specimens should be removed from the water, treated with a fungicide such as Daconil 2787, and returned to the tank in a shaded location. It’s best to replace filter cartridges if you have an outbreak at home as spores can be harbored there and cause reinfection.
Quick fact: If you frequently notice algae growing on the leaves, reduce the amount of light the plant is exposed to. You can move it to a lower area to receive more shade or add taller plants that block some of the light out.
Even hardy species can suffer from ailments, and you may observe discoloration, rotting leaves, or a red tint to the roots. These are all signs of lacking nutrients.
Deficiencies are more common in newer, less established tanks. Epiphytes such as this variety will recover if offered plant food based on package directions.
Melting is a pervasive and frustrating problem among many aquatic species. You’ll note that the leaves lose opacity and begin to shred or seemingly dissolve as they rot away. It’s ubiquitous to see these signs when new plants are added to the tank.
Remove affected plants from the tank and quarantine them. Cutaway and dead or dying material and trim rhizomes, if necessary, until only healthy material remains. You can also dip the plant in hydrogen peroxide to kill harmful pathogens.
Be sure to take note of parameters in the tank, as the culprit can sometimes be an unstable environment. Glut and other types of treatments should be used sparingly for this variety.
|Quick Tank Facts|
|Minimum Size||5 – 10 Gallons|
|Water Temperature||70˚F to 82˚F|
|CO2 Need||Not Necessary|
|Water Hardness||2 – 6dKH|
|pH Level||6.5 to 7.5|
|Placement||Background, Foreground, Carpet|
Because this plant remains compact, it’s suitable for smaller tank sizes – but be sure to supervise any overgrowth.
A tank of at least five gallons is recommended. 10 gallons or larger is preferred.
As mentioned, rhizomes should not be buried in the heavy substrate. Sand or lightweight substrates work best, and only the roots should be lightly covered to anchor them in place.
Medium to low, moderate filtered lighting is preferred to avoid algae growth. Exposure of one to two watts per gallon of light is best for 10 to 12 hours per day.
While Anubias nana can thrive in a fairly wide range of water parameters, it has its comfort zone for ideal health.
Medium to low nitrate levels are preferred, but this plant does an excellent job filtering the water. Ammonia burn can occur, however, so be mindful to test the level in the tank if signs such as yellow or brown spots on leaves appear.
The water temperature should remain between 70 and 82˚F or 21 and 28 ˚C for optimum health.
There is a vast list of suitable tank mates for this variety as it’s a friendly tank mate for almost any freshwater fish or aquatic creature.
Some of the best of these includes:
- Betta fish
- Catfish of smaller types
- Cichlids of most types
- Cherry Barbs
- Gourami of most types
- Loaches of most types
- Plecostomus of smaller types
Pro Tip: Fish that tend to root through gravel, such as Oscars and goldfish, should not share a tank with this variety unless it has been anchored to a structure rather than growing in the substrate. Some types of snails can be destructive and should not be paired either.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Anubias Nana Rhizomes to Soften?
Unfortunately, one disease specific to this species is called Anubias rot. This may be caused by a bacteria or other pathogen that is difficult to identify until it’s too late.
The rhizome becomes mushy, discolored, and can take on a foul odor. There is no known treatment for this disease, so affected plants should be quarantined or discarded.
Are Anubias Nana Plants Good for Beginners?
This variety is one of the best for beginners, just starting with live planting and aquascaping. They have few issues, tolerate a wide array of conditions, and are very difficult to kill. They’re also inexpensive to buy and easy to propagate at home for more plants at no cost.
How Long Do Anubias Nana Flowers Take to Open?
This variety is a slow grower; buds can take several weeks to open. While they’ll still open underwater, exposure to the surface can help to speed up the blooming process.
Do Anubias Nana Need the Same Tank Space as Anubias Nana Petite?
No, they are two different varieties, with petite growing to even smaller proportions suitable for five-gallon or nano tanks.
Whether you’re new to aquascaping and live-planting, or you’re a seasoned veteran, Anubias nana is an excellent choice for creating a healthy, natural-looking environment for your aquatic species.
With a little planning, you can create a stunning focal point of lush greenery among branches and stones in a minimally planted tank or a dense carpet of life that fish and other species will enjoy for years.
If you have questions or would like to share your experiences in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!