Do you wonder if adding pothos in aquarium set-ups is safe?
The answer is yes, growing pothos in your tank will not harm your fish.
In this complete plant guide for incorporating pothos into your aquarium, I discuss what pothos is, the benefits of adding it to your tank, and the best way to care for it, so the plant and your fish thrive.
I even point out ways to avoid some common issues, so you can feel confident introducing this hearty and versatile plant to your aquarium!
What is a Pothos Plant?
The pothos plant has thick leaves with a waxy texture in vibrant shades of green. Some species offer variegated colors, but they all grow long, trailing vines.
The pothos plant is a contender for the title of the easiest plant to grow, which makes it a trendy plant for homes and offices.
The most common nickname for the pothos plant is the “devil’s ivy.”
The use of pathos in an aquarium is gaining traction for the same reasons people love it as a houseplant; attractive foliage and minimal maintenance.
Each variety of pothos is unique in color and leaf shape. Combining different varieties in your tank increases visual interest.
To find a color combination that highlights the appearance of your fish tank, check out these varieties of pothos:
The Benefits of Pothos in Aquarium
Next, I detail the benefits pothos can bring to your aquarium.
Fish thrive in a well-oxygenated tank.
Planting pothos into aquarium substrate aerates the water as it uses up the carbon dioxide (Co2)the fish expel and then releases oxygen back into the water.
The myth about pothos being dangerous for aquariums because they expel Co2 during nighttime hours is mistaken.
While pathos does release Co2 overnight as part of the natural respiration process, the amount it generates is minimal when you compare it to the amount it consumes from the water during the day.
Reduces algae growth
Algae will grow in aquariums when the level of nitrites and other waste get too high.
Large amounts of algae are ugly and lead to a dangerous depletion of tank nutrients the fish need to survive.
The introduction of pothos to a tank will keep the nitrates that algae bloom on at a low level, so the environment is inhospitable for continual growth.
Creates cover and shade
Fish have an instinct to hide out, either to rest, avoid predators, or to escape bright light.
Adding pothos plants to an aquarium provides plenty of shade, and the stems and root system give fish a place to hide. If fish are breeding, pothos is also ideal for harboring eggs and fry until they mature.
Filters and purifies
Pothos plants help purify the tank water because they absorb more nitrates than other plants and leave fresh oxygen behind.
Fish that appear sluggish and won’t eat may be suffering from “nitrate shock” where the levels are too high. Fish will die if you don’t take care of the issue immediately.
The best part about using pothos in aquariums is that they can clean the tank enough to extend the days between water changes, which saves you time and aggravation.
Helps stabilize the substrate
Once pothos plants establish in your tank, the root system spreads in fine tendrils that grip onto the substrate and keep it in place.
A solid substrate keeps cloudiness and soil or gravel disruption low, since foraging fish or actively flowing filters have a hard time kicking it up.
How to Add Pothos to Your Aquarium
1. Get your plant. You can get pothos by taking a cutting of a plant you or a friend already own or buying it from a plant seller. Once you have a plant, wash away any dirt from the root system. Cuttings can be set right into the tank as long as the small nubs on the stem can reach under the water.
2. Understand pothos placement. It’s vital to note that pothos isn’t like most aquarium plants you place in the substrate and grow underwater. Pothos leaves need exposure to light and air for the plant to survive, so they must remain above the surface of the tank water.
3. Install in the tank. Many enthusiasts, like the one in this short video, place pothos cuttings in their filter, where the plant has support until the roots grow longer.
This step is not necessary if you devise a way to keep the pothos, roots down, in the top of your tank without them floating away.
To accomplish this is, gather several plant stems use some plastic-coated wire to wrap around the stems, and hook over the tank edge to keep them secure. The lid of the tank can also prop them in place.
4. Don’t submerge the entire plant. You could plant pothos at the bottom of your aquarium, but the plant will die, rot, and release nitrates and debris into the water, so only add them to your fish tank in a responsible manner.
Pothos stems may grow into the tank with roots that reach and spread through the substrate. If the stems appear healthy, don’t be afraid to let it be.
5. Decorate with the foliage. Once the roots or buds are underwater, drape the leafy part of the plant over the edge. As the pothos vines grow, you can trail them along the top edge of your aquarium, which increases shade for your fish.
Pothos and fish tanks go hand-in-hand because they both do best without exposure to direct sunlight. Even low light is fine for most pothos plants, but expect some of the variegated varieties to lose some of their colors under such conditions.
Pothos are tropical plants that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but do best in rooms between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
The aquarium water temperature should be fine for healthy pothos root growth, especially if the water provides plenty of nutrients like ammonia and nitrites from fish waste. Tanks with few or no fish (plant aquariums) may suffer from lack of natural nutrients in the water, so use a liquid fertilizer made for fish tanks.
Avoiding Common Problems Adding Pothos to a Fish Tank
Next, I address three common problems that can occur with putting pothos in aquariums, with handy tips to fix the issues quickly.
If your pothos has yellow leaves, it means the plant is either receiving too much sunlight, the plant is too low in the water, or there aren’t enough nutrients in the tank, especially nitrates, that the plant needs to thrive.
- Move the plant (and aquarium) out of any direct sunlight
- Lift stems so leaves never tough the surface of the water
- Add more fish (goldfish are ideal) or supplement the water with plant fertilizer
Poor root growth and wilting leaves
To support the large leaves and thick root system of pothos plants, they need ample amounts of nutrients daily.
The wrong amount of sunlight (too much or little) can also affect pothos, but typically it’s the lack of food that stunts plant growth the most.
- Add more fish to create more natural waste, or remove excess pathos plants until the tank balances out
- Fertilize the water to increase nutrient availability
- Move the plant so it get a bit more or less sunlight
Algae build-up on stems and roots
Algae likes to form a thin layer around the pothos stems and roots now and again. Maybe the algae are hanging out, fighting the roots for the nitrates, but it’s more likely the tank is getting too much direct sunlight.
- Move the aquarium out of any direct sunlight
Propagating or purchasing a pothos plant for your aquarium is a great way to improve the quality of life inside your tank for both fish and plants.
Caring for pothos is low-maintenance, so take advantage of the benefits this hearty plant provides by using this guide to select and create an incredible environment with pothos in aquarium.
See for yourself the improvement pothos brings to the quality of your tank water and the health of your fish!