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Pothos In Aquariums: All You Need To Know

Pothos In Aquariums: All You Need To Know

Adding shade to your aquarium will make your fish very happy! And one sure way to go about this is to add the pothos plant into your fish tank. Not only does it provide much-needed shade, but also provides food and other benefits.

What is a Pothos Plant?

The pothos plant is a trailing, leafy vine that grows up to 40 feet in the wild, and almost the same length indoors. The plant has numerous amusing common names such as hunter’s robe, ivy arum and taro vine, but possibly its most curious name is devil’s ivy.

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Many people have a pothos plant in their homes because of its ability to purify toxic air. It has also become a staple in most aquariums, because not only is it extremely beneficial but it is also very easy to propagate.

So, why are hobbyists including this plant in their aquariums? Let’s find out.

Why should you add a pothos plant to your aquarium?

Remove nitrates

Most hobbyists use a pothos plant (Link to Amazon) to purify the tank water. Like all plants, it absorbs nitrates and uses them as a source of nutrients – the difference is that the rate at which it absorbs the nutrients is much higher than with other plants. In fact, you will probably see a 20-40 ppm nitrates fluctuation.

When the level of nitrates in the tank gets too high – a situation known as nitrates shock or poisoning – the fish can show a variety of symptoms, such as listlessness and loss of appetite and eventually they might even die. To mitigate this, add a pothos plant into the aquarium.

Provides shade

Numerous types of fish require shade in order to thrive. They include, but are not limited to, betta fish, severums and angelfish. The shade helps mimic the natural environment of the fish.

Eliminates algae

Algae is a common phenomenon in most fish tanks. While minimal algae growth is normal and healthy, too much of it is unsightly and can become harmful to your fish and plants. Algae growth is as a result of high nitrite levels, too much waste in the water and a few other factors.

Luckily, adding pothos plants to the aquarium. addresses this cheaply and naturally. Pothos plants use nitrites, which are a staple for algae growth. As such, algae will lack vital nutrients and eventually die off.


When the pothos plant is planted underwater, it helps aerate the water column. How? During photosynthesis, the plant uses carbon dioxide released by the fish and in return oxygenates the fish tank. Furthermore, oxygen is a crucial factor when it comes to fish survival and virility.

Although the pothos plants release carbon dioxide during the night, the Co2 released is far less than the amount they consume. Therefore, let no one tell you that this plant can be dangerous to your fish.

Reconstruction of natural habitat

Most freshwater fish find their a natural habitats in rivers and rice paddies. Having plants in the tank that mimic this environment is really important for fish survival – and what better way to achieve this, than planting a pothos plant in the aquarium?

Although generally your fish will love it, you should still carry out research, to find out which fish are compatible with the plant.

Provide hiding spots for fish and fry

Some fish species are more territorial than others, and some become overly aggressive towards their tank mates. As such, it is crucial for you to provide the fish with spots where they can hide or rest. When pothos plants are hung in the aquarium, they produce numerous roots that grow rapidly.

These roots provide fry and fish with much-needed spots for taking cover. When planted in the aquarium, the pothos plant also provides ideal areas where the fish can breed and lay eggs. In fact, the wide pothos plant leaves are just the thing for a convenient resting spot.

Holding substrate in place

The devil’s ivy (to use its most interesting name!) has a robust root system, which holds the substrate in place, meaning it is less likely to get disturbed by aggressive fish buddies or filter outflow. It also facilitates the anaerobic and aesthetics processes that happen in the substrate.

Adds an aesthetic touch to your aquarium

As mentioned earlier, pothos plants are trailing, leafy vines. As such, they tend to have numerous branches that grow up to about 40 feet. So how can you make them look nice? Just trail the branches along the edges of the fish tank. It’s that simple!

Which varieties of pothos plant can you hang in your aquarium?

The Pothos plant comes in a variety of leaf colors, that can add beauty to your aquarium. Let’s find out which varieties are common.

Cebu Blue pothos

This pothos variety does not show variegation on its leaves. The leaves are arrow-shaped and primarily blue-green in color. However, the plant can achieve broad leaves if kept in optimum conditions for any length of time.

Pearls and Jade pothos

Unlike the Cebu blue, this variety has green leaves variegated with silvery-gray and white. It is appealing to the eye and the variegation is apparent on the edges rather than the middle.

Manjula pothos

This variety is patented by the University of Florida. It has heart-shaped leaves that are variegated with shades of light green, white, silver and cream, especially around the middle. However, the leaves are different since some will have large green patches, while others will appear splashed.

Neon pothos

If you desire a plant with bright leaves, then this should be your pick. The Neon pothos features heart-shaped leaves that are primarily golden yellow in color. Young neon pothos plants are brighter than older ones as the color naturally deepens as the plant ages.

Golden pothos

This is the most common among hobbyists. It features green heart-shaped leaves and has creamy gold splashes. The leaves of this plant grow very large, providing ample shade in the aquarium. In fact, the leaves can get up to 12 inches wide if kept under optimal conditions.

How to propagate pothos plants for an aquarium?

You can get pothos in two different ways; by taking a cutting from an established plant, or by buying it while it is still young. Let’s look at how you can grow it using cuttings.

Get the right tools

You will need some readily available tools – namely sharp scissors and a glass of water. There is no need for a pot, since we are not planting it in the soil.

Make individual cuttings out of the stems

Once you have your tools, take cuttings from individual stems, making sure to cut at an angle, and preferably to the left of the leaf stem. Leave a small piece of the vine attached to the bottom of the leaf stem. On the other side of the leaf stem, you will see a small bump. This is called the node and it is where the roots will form.

Place the cuttings in water

After you have taken your desired number of cuttings, it’s time to place them in dechlorinated water. You can put them in a small container, or you can hang them on the back filter of your aquarium. If you choose a container, place it in a bright spot where the leaves will get enough light. You will also need to change the water in the container several times, since oxygen dissolves in standing water.

As a side note, a plant cutting that has been started in soil will have a hard time switching to water as its growing medium. As such, ensure that all the cuttings you want to add to the aquarium were started in water.

Transfer the cuttings to the aquarium

Once roots have formed, you can transfer your cuttings to the aquarium, where they will gradually grow.

How long does it take for roots to form?

Cut in the right proportion, it will take about 15 to 20 days for the roots to form. Longer cuttings take longer to form roots than short ones. Why? Because the cutting will require more moisture to keep the leaves replenished. Also, it will take an extra 2 months for the plant to fully mature.

What are the best conditions for a pothos plant?

Although the pothos plant is easy to care for and propagate, it requires a certain range of conditions for it to thrive. So, what are the optimum conditions for this fish keepers’ friend? Let’s find out.


Pothos should not be planted in aquariums with direct sunlight. Although the plant can tolerate low to moderate indoor light, a highly variegated pothos might lose its colors if kept under low light. Therefore, it’s best to choose a spot with moderate indoor light.


Pothos plants thrive in temperatures between 12°C and 30°C, but for optimum growth, keep them in a temperature between 25°C and 30°C, as they are tropical plants.


The aquarium water ought to be rich in nitrates for the plant to grow. This is the primary nutrient that the plant utilizes, other than ammonia. If your fish are not producing enough of it, you can supplement the water with liquid fertilizer.

Are there any problems associated with growing Pothos in aquariums?

Algae build up

While pothos plants are used to reduce nitrates levels, resulting in less algae, sometimes there may be a build-up of algae on its roots. Why? This is because of the aquarium’s exposure to direct sunlight. Therefore, place the fish tank in a position where there’s no direct sunlight.

Yellow leaves

This condition occurs when the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, or the nitrate levels in the tank are low. How can you address this? Keep the aquarium and the plant away from direct sunlight, and if your fish are not producing enough nitrates, fertilize it after a month or so.

Side note, pothos plants are ideal in a community tank housing numerous goldfish, because these fish produce excess waste which converts into high nitrate levels.

Stunted leaf and root growth

As mentioned earlier, pothos plants have large leaves and large roots. If you realize that the leaves and roots are not growing to the optimal size, then there are low nitrates in the water and high or low light conditions.

To correct this, keep the fish tank in moderate indoor light, and fertilize it once in a while. Alternatively, you can opt for fish that produce excess waste (such as goldfish).

Final cut

Well, having a pothos plant in your aquarium is a sure way to keep the fish tank lively and clean. The plant helps to absorb nitrates which are poisonous when in large quantities. The plant also helps mimic a natural environment that will keep your fish happy.

So, why not go to your nearest pet store and ask for some pothos plants? Before transferring your new plants into your aquarium, ensure you wash out any soil.

Related Questions

How long can a pothos plant live in an aquarium?

Pothos vines can live up to 10 years, if kept under the right conditions and away from life-shortening insects, fungi and bacteria.

What should I do if I grow pothos fully submerged in water?

Although this is not recommended, you can plant it in water – but only for a short period since it will eventually die. Therefore, look for signs of rotting leaves and immediately remove it from the aquarium if you find evidence of decay.

Is pothos toxic to aquarium fish?

No, not at all. Fish do not nip on the pothos roots. As such, there’s no need to worry. However, if a fish (such as goldfish) does nibble on it, it can lead to unpleasant allergies and the fry can succumb to gastro problems.

Can pothos plants grow fully submerged in the aquarium?

No, the plant will eventually die. And this will add nitrates in the water instead of reducing the levels. As such, ensure only the roots are in the water.

You can spread the vines outside the opening of the aquarium, just to keep the leaves away from the tank. Side note, some curious fish such as goldfish might eventually feed on the leaves, which can lead to disastrous complications.

Is pothos poisonous to turtles?

No, it is not. While it is poisonous to cats, dogs, and people, this plant does not have substantial effects on reptiles such as turtles.

However, you should not let the turtles nibble on the leaves of the pothos plant. This is primarily because it affects the gut, as mentioned earlier.

Eddy Maddox

Sunday 27th of September 2020

I just put one in my tank with the roots in a plastic cup with holes in it for the water.the goldfish were nibbling on them so I tried to protect.the bottom got broke so I cut it off and put it back in I hope it grows roots back.

Esther Ibsen

Sunday 26th of April 2020

One word of caution when using Pothos plants is that they can have a potentially detrimental effect on a planted aquarium. This is because the Pothos plants is extremely good at absorbing nutrients from the water. In most circumstances, this is a benefit as it helps to balance your aquarium and prevent excess algae growth. When it comes to other plants, however, this can lead to them being starved of nutrients, so it is important to do careful research is you choose to incorporate Pothos plants into a planted tank.

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