Anubias: Taxonomy, Care, and Propagation

Welcome to the world of Anubias, a fascinating genus of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants that are highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the taxonomy, care, and propagation methods of these unique plants. Get ready to explore what makes Anubias stand out and learn how to grow and maintain them in your own aquarium.


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What is Anubias?

Anubias is a genus of aquatic and semi-aquatic flowering plants that belongs to the family Araceae. They are primarily native to tropical regions of West Africa and are characterized by their slow growth, hardy nature, and broad, leathery leaves. They can be found along rivers, streams, and in marshy habitats under forest canopies.

Anubias plants can be easily identified by their rhizomes, which are horizontal stems from which both the roots and the leaves emerge. The leaves of Anubias plants are typically broad and oval, with a deep green color and a tough texture that makes them resistant to certain plant-eating fish in an aquarium setting.

  • Anubias plants usually have a creeping growth habit, with their rhizomes extending across surfaces and periodically giving rise to new leaves.
  • The flowers of Anubias plants are enclosed in a modified leaf called a spathe, which emerges on a long stalk from the rhizome.

An important thing to remember about Anubias plants is that they can be grown either fully submerged or partially submerged in water. In their natural habitats, they can be found growing both above and below water, making them a versatile choice for adding a touch of green to various aquatic environments.

This unique adaptability is partially due to their ability to grow on rocks and other hard surfaces, attaching their roots securely while still receiving ample moisture and nutrients to thrive.

Where Does Anubias Fit in the Plant Taxonomy?

Anubias plants belong to the Araceae family, which includes around 3,700 species of various plants. This family, also known as the arum family, is significant for its highly distinct flowering structures and aquatic environment adaptability.

Araceae plants are categorized into two groups: Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons. Anubias plants are monocots, which means that they possess a single embryonic leaf or cotyledon. This characteristic differentiates them from dicots, which have two cotyledons.

Anubias derives its name from its genus, which is Anubias. There are around 8 to 10 recognized species within this genus. The genus Anubias is included in the subfamily Aroideae, a subgroup of Araceae, and can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of West Africa and Central Africa.

  • Anubias plants are part of the Araceae family (arum family).
  • They are monocots within this family.
  • Anubias is the genus and includes around 8 to 10 recognized species.
  • The genus Anubias belongs to the subfamily Aroideae.
  • Found in tropical and subtropical regions of West Africa and Central Africa.

What are the Natural Habitats of Anubias?

Anubias plants are native to Africa, where they can be found thriving in diverse aquatic and semi-aquatic environments. Specifically, they are found in countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, and even all the way down to the Congo.

These plants enjoy shaded areas with dappled light and often grow on the banks of rivers, streams, and wetlands. In these natural habitats, they are typically found:

  • Attached to rocks or driftwood
  • Growing in or at the edges of swamps and marshes
  • In shallow, slow-moving waters
  • Along riverbanks and creek beds

Anubias plants can adapt to a range of water conditions, including both soft and hard water as well as acidic and alkaline environments. Some species can even grow immersed, partially submerged, or fully submerged, showing their diversity in water level preferences. Ideal temperatures for these plants are between 72 to 82°F (22 to 28°C).

This ability to withstand variable water conditions has made Anubias plant popular among aquarium hobbyists since they do not require careful maintenance like other plants.

In the wild, they survive in relatively low light conditions, receiving filtered sunlight under the shade of trees and other larger plants. However, they can still grow under medium to high light levels, but slower growth is better to prevent algae growth on their leaves.

Anubias plants are highly adaptable, able to survive in various water conditions and light levels. Their natural habitats in Africa have contributed to their ability to thrive in different environments and adapt to a wide range of aquarium settings, making them a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

What are the Morphological Characteristics of Anubias?

Anubias plants exhibit distinctive morphological features that make them easily recognizable and a favorite among aquatic plant enthusiasts. Some key characteristics of Anubias include:

  • Leaves: Anubias plants have dark green, thick leaves with leathery textures that can handle a variety of conditions. The leaves grow alternately along the stems in many species, and they come in various shapes, including heart-shaped, lanceolate, and oblong, depending on the species.
  • Rhizome: Anubias plants have a horizontal and thick rhizome from which the roots, leaves, and stems emerge. The rhizome helps the plant anchor itself to rocks, driftwood, or other surfaces in its natural habitat. Do not bury the rhizome, as it may rot and damage the plant.
  • Roots: The roots of Anubias are long and thread-like, growing from the rhizome. They attach to different surfaces and aid in nutrient absorption.
  • Flowers: Anubias can produce flowers even when submerged in water, which is a unique and interesting feature of these plants. The flowers are small, white or yellowish, and enclosed in a spathe (a modified leaf) with a spadix (a spike) inside.
  • Size: The size of Anubias plants varies depending on the species. Some species like Anubias nana are small and suitable for nano or small aquariums, whereas others like Anubias barteri have larger leaves and require more space to grow.

By understanding these morphological characteristics, you are better equipped to identify different Anubias species and appreciate their beauty in your aquarium or aquatic setup.

How Do Anubias Plants Grow?

Anubias plants exhibit a unique growth pattern, with their roots and rhizomes being the vital components of their growth system. The rhizome is a horizontal stem found either above the ground or just under the substrate, from which the leaves, roots, and new shoots sprout.

  • Roots: Anubias plants have strong and robust roots that anchor them to various surfaces, enabling them to thrive in diverse environments.
  • Rhizomes: These are the heart of the plant, playing a crucial role in producing new leaves and roots, which in turn contribute to the overall growth of the plant.

Anubias plants have the ability to grow both submerged and emersed (partially submerged). For underwater growth, Anubias is often attached to rocks, driftwood, or other aquarium decorations; whereas, when grown emersed, the plant can be potted in soil or placed in gardens along the water’s edge.

Here are the primary factors that influence Anubias growth:

  1. Light: Anubias plants are low-light species, making them perfect for shaded or low light areas in your aquarium or garden. Excess light can lead to algae growth on their leaves.
  2. Water: Anubias require clean and well-oxygenated water, with a recommended temperature range of 72-82°F (22-28°C) and a pH range of 6.0-7.5.
  3. Nutrients: While Anubias plants can survive in nutrient-poor environments, their growth can be enhanced by providing essential nutrients, such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, using aquatic fertilizers or root tabs.

The growth rate in Anubias is generally slow, taking several months to fully develop. Patience is key in caring for this unique aquatic plant.

Anubias plants are popular in the aquarium hobby because of their tolerance to a wide range of water conditions and their ability to thrive under low light. These plants require minimal maintenance, making them perfect for beginners in the aquatic plant hobby.

Some reasons why Anubias is popular in the aquarium hobby include:

  • Hardiness and adaptability: Anubias plants can withstand a variety of water parameters, including pH and temperature, making them suitable for most aquarium setups. This hardiness also allows them to grow well in both freshwater and brackish tanks.
  • Low light requirements: Anubias plants do not require high-intensity lighting to grow, which means they can do well in aquariums with low to medium light levels. This makes them an excellent choice for aquarists with limited budgets or those who prefer ambient lighting.
  • Slow growth: Due to their slow growth rate, Anubias plants are less likely to overgrow the aquarium, reducing the need for constant pruning. This makes them an excellent low-maintenance option for the aquarium hobby.
  • Appealing aesthetics: Anubias plants have attractive dark green leaves that contrast well against lighter colored substrates or driftwood, adding a beautiful aesthetic element to any aquarium.
  • Compatibility with fish and invertebrates: Anubias plants provide excellent shelter for fish and invertebrates in the aquarium, and their tough leaves are unpalatable to most herbivorous fish, reducing the chances of damage to the plant.

Anubias plants are popular in the aquarium hobby due to their hardiness, low light requirements, slow growth rate, attractive appearance, and compatibility with various aquatic species. Their ease of care and ability to thrive in a wide range of conditions make them an excellent choice for both experienced and beginner aquarists.

What are Some Common Species of Anubias?

Anubias is a diverse genus with over 20 species, many of which are popular amongst aquarium hobbyists and aquatic plant enthusiasts. In this section, we will discuss some of the most common species of Anubias that you might come across or consider adding to your aquarium.

  • Anubias barteri: This species is native to West Africa and is well-known for its thick, broad leaves and slow growth rate. It comes in various forms, such as ‘Anubias barteri var. nana’, which is a smaller version, ideal for nano tanks or as a foreground plant.
  • Anubias nana ‘Petite’: A petite and highly sought-after variant of Anubias nana, this plant features tiny, delicate leaves, making it perfect for small aquariums, aquascapes or as an accent to larger plants.
  • Anubias afzelii: This species is characterized by its long, slender leaves and a slightly faster growth rate compared to other Anubias. Native to West Africa, it is an excellent choice for midground or background plantings where it provides contrast with smaller, compact species.
  • Anubias congensis: Known for its distinct, arrow-shaped leaves, Anubias congensis creates visual interest and provides excellent cover for aquatic life. This species is best placed in the midground of your aquarium, where its unique shape can truly be admired.
  • Anubias hastifolia: Boasting large, spear-shaped leaves, Anubias hastifolia is an attention-grabbing addition to any planted aquarium. Its tall, sturdy growth makes it ideal as a background plant or focal point in larger tanks.

These are just a few examples of the numerous Anubias species available. Each species has its own unique characteristics, making them suitable for various tank sizes and aquascaping styles. No matter which species you choose, Anubias plants are guaranteed to make a remarkable and rewarding addition to your aquatic ecosystem.

How is Anubias Propagated?

Anubias propagation is relatively easy, requiring minimal effort from your end. There are two main methods to propagate Anubias plants: rhizome division and cutting.

When propagating through rhizome division, follow these steps:

  • Choose a healthy, mature plant with a good number of leaves and a well-developed rhizome.
  • Carefully remove the plant from its location in the aquarium or container, being cautious not to damage the roots.
  • With a sterilized, sharp blade, make a clean cut directly through the middle of the rhizome, ensuring that both sections have an equal amount of leaves and roots.
  • Replant the two new Anubias plants, ensuring that the rhizomes are sitting just above the substrate.

Another method of Anubias propagation is through cutting, which involves these steps:

  • Identify a healthy Anubias plant with a runner that has several leaves and well-developed roots.
  • Use a sterilized, sharp pair of scissors to snip the runner from the main plant, leaving a few inches of the runner attached to both the main plant and the cutting.
  • Attach the cutting to driftwood, rocks, or other suitable objects using fishing line, cotton thread, or superglue gel.
  • Place the cutting in the aquarium and watch it grow into a new, independent plant over time.

Anubias propagation can be achieved through either rhizome division or cutting. Whichever method you choose, you’ll soon have multiple Anubias plants to add to your aquatic environment or share with fellow aquarium enthusiasts.

What are the Health and Maintenance Requirements of Anubias?

To ensure your Anubias plants thrive and maintain their health, you need to provide them with proper care. Let’s dive into some specific maintenance requirements for optimal Anubias growth:

  • Lighting: Anubias plants can tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions, but it’s recommended to provide low to moderate light. Too much light can lead to the growth of algae on their leaves.
  • Substrate: Anubias can be attached to various surfaces, like driftwood or rocks, but it’s important not to bury the rhizome; this can cause rot. If you want to grow them in the substrate, ensure it’s nutrient-rich and well-aerated.
  • Water Parameters: Anubias can adapt to diverse water parameters, but ideally, aim for a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5, a temperature between 72°F and 82°F, and a moderate hardness level (3 to 8 dH).
  • Fertilization: While this plant can grow without additional fertilization, occasional supplementation with liquid fertilizers that are rich in iron and other trace elements can be beneficial.

Here are some tips on how to monitor and maintain the health of your Anubias plants:

  • Regularly inspect the plant for signs of disease, such as yellowing leaves or black spots. Trim off any affected areas immediately to prevent the disease from spreading.
  • Keep the aquarium clean and maintain proper water parameters. Perform regular water changes and filtration maintenance to ensure optimal water quality for your Anubias plants.
  • Properly aquascape the tank to allow enough space for the Anubias to grow without competition from more aggressive plants.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your Anubias plants remain healthy and provide a stunning addition to your aquarium environment.

What Makes Anubias a Unique Plant?

Anubias plants are truly unique, not just because of their attractive appearance, but also due to various qualities that set them apart from other aquatic plants. Let’s explore some of the special traits that make these plants stand out:

  • Low-light tolerance: One of the main reasons behind Anubias’ popularity is their ability to thrive in low-light conditions. This makes them an excellent choice for beginners as well as seasoned aquarists looking to diversify their plant collection with minimal lighting interventions.
  • Slow growth: Anubias plants are slow growers, which might be considered a disadvantage for some hobbyists, but it’s also a positive trait. Slow growth means less maintenance and a reduced likelihood of overgrowth issues, giving you more time to enjoy their beauty without constantly pruning and trimming.
  • Broad leaves: Anubias’ large, broad leaves provide a fantastic hiding spot and resting place for small fish and invertebrates, improving the overall quality of life for your aquarium’s inhabitants.
  • Rhizome growth: The unique growth habit of Anubias is characterized by a horizontal rhizome, a stem-like structure that grows along the substrate or rocks, from which the leaves emerge. This rhizome growth helps in easy propagation and allows for creative aquascaping options.
  • Versatile and hardy: Anubias plants adapt well to various water parameters, making them suitable for a wide range of aquarium setups. They are also resilient and less likely to be affected by common plant diseases, contributing to a healthy planted aquarium.

Anubias stands out as a unique plant with its low-light tolerance, slow growth, broad leaves, rhizome growth habit, and versatile nature, making it an excellent addition to any aquarium.


Anubias is an incredibly unique and resilient plant that is popular among aquarium hobbyists for its diverse taxonomy and straightforward care. Propagating Anubias plants is also an easy process that makes them beloved by many. We hope you found this article informative and helpful, and we’d love to hear about your experiences with Anubias in the comments below!

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