Growing Pothos in Aquariums: An In-Depth Guide

Pothos are more commonly known as houseplants. They’re quite hardy and often recommended for those who aren’t blessed with the proverbial green thumb.

Yet, did you know that you can also use them in freshwater aquariums and fish tanks? Adding the vigorous, hearty Pothos in aquariums gives it a natural, pleasing appearance.

There are many more benefits to adding this leafy foliage to your aquarium. Keep reading to find out more.

What Are Pothos?

Pothos, Epipremnum aureum, is typically native to Southeast Asia. These deep green plants can reach up to 40 feet long with leaves that can get as big as 12 inches wide.

One of their unique abilities is that they can extend like ivy. Hang up some fishing line, thread, or suction hangers, and watch them climb!

Since they’re so difficult to kill, pothos plants are sometimes referred to as devil’s ivy. You can practically neglect them for several weeks. Somehow, they’ll manage to keep going strong.

They may show signs of droopiness, but it won’t last long. Once you water them and wipe their leaves clean, they’ll be good as new.

Also, Pothos plants aren’t greatly affected by lighting conditions. They don’t need bright lights or direct sunlight. Even when placed in dark corners, they’ll turn in the direction of the nearest light source.

They do well in both humid and dry environments. The only thing they ask is that their roots stay moist, which means the soil should only be damp to the touch.

When growing Pothos, be careful not to overwater the soil or the plant itself in pots that don’t have drainage holes. They’ll quickly develop root rot, which will end up destroying the whole plant.

checking roots of pothos

How to Add Pothos in Aquariums

Pothos make great aquarium plants. That being said, you should avoid submerging their leaves in the water. If you do, they’ll wither away, dry up, and die.

The good news is that adding pothos to your aquarium is easy. Although, first, you need to decide on a couple of things.

Firstly, are you going to add the entire plant or just a cutting? And secondly, are you going to leave it floating in the aquarium or fix the roots in the substrate?

Floating Pothos

  1. Buy a pothos plant from local garden centers, retail stores, or online.
  2. Remove the whole plant from the soil and add it to the aquarium.
  3. You can also take cuttings from the mother plant and add that to the aquarium.
  4. Either way, you’ll notice white roots beginning to sprout from the stem into the water.
  5. To secure the plant, you can use suction cups or an overflow box in the back of the tank.

Attach to Substrate

One of the benefits of planting Pothos in an aquarium substrate is that it holds it all together. This is partly due to the plant’s root system, which is both sturdy and fast-growing.

Moreover, it promotes several processes that take place in the substrate. As a result, you get a healthier, more vibrant bottom layer in the aquarium.

If you do decide to go with a rooted pothos plant, here are a few pointers to help you get started.

  • Make sure the roots are four to five inches long.
  • Secure the Pothos in place with suction cups and a layer of pebbles on the substrate.
  • Bits of the substrate may continue to float before finally settling down.
  • Always keep the leaves above water level at all times.
  • Give your plants a few weeks to get used to their new surroundings.

Benefits of Growing Pothos in Aquariums

Let’s talk about some of the advantages of adding Pothos to your aquarium.

Adds Aesthetic Appeal

Pothos look great wherever you put them. Yet, there’s something extra special about them when they’re growing in aquariums; they seem to add a touch of appeal and charm.

These reliable plants are particularly attractive when added to aquariums with no lids. You can even hang a fishing line on the wall and let the Pothos work their magic.

Before you know it, you’ll have a fascinating wall cover, as well as an efficient cover for your tank.

Cleans Up Nitrates

Fish waste, aka ammonia, is converted into nitrates with the help of bacteria in the tank filter. These toxic nitrogen compounds are a hazard to fish health. They must be regularly removed from the aquarium water.

In natural environments, plants do the job of filtering the water. So, it makes sense that adding pothos in aquariums can eliminate these wastes from the water.

In addition, reducing levels of nitrates will keep algae growth to a minimum. Algae increases when the number of nitrates in the water increases. Since Pothos gets rid of nitrates, this allows the aquarium to be less suitable for algae growth.

Gives Off Oxygen

Plants are great at oxygenation: the process of producing oxygen. It comes naturally to them as part of their food-making process, otherwise known as photosynthesis.

How does this help your aquarium? Well, fish use up oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. After a while, there will be more carbon dioxide than there is oxygen and the fish may start to suffer.

This is where Pothos plants come in to save the day. They use up all the carbon dioxide to make food for themselves. Then, as a by-product, they release oxygen back into the aquarium.

Provides Shade

When the leaves are just starting to unroll and open up, they can be quite small. However, as they mature, the leaves grow, which makes them great at providing the aquarium with a nice shade.

aesthetic photo of the shade of a plant held by a hand

Also, they can extend over the aquarium opening like vines. If the roots are floating inside the tank, they’ll begin to stretch out until they reach the tank exterior.

Caters to Small Fish

Small fish are great at finding hiding spots. So, when you add a Pothos plant with roots extending every which way, you provide them with a jungle of endless possibilities.

Now that it’s set up itself as an aquarium plant, the Pothos will start to grow in any and every direction it can.

Under the water, small fish will take advantage of their newly created jungle. They’ll flit in and out amid the stringy roots.

Are your fish spawning eggs? Then, let the Pothos do the hard work and provide them with a variety of safe places where they can lay their eggs. Not only that, but the plant will protect them until they’re ready to hatch.

Easy to Propagate

This is a benefit of Pothos in general, whether you’re using it in an aquarium or not. Still, it’s nice knowing that with one healthy mother plant, you can continue growing new plants for many years.

Before propagating, check that the mother plant has a strong, well-established root system. Then, with a pair of sharp scissors or hand pruners, slice the stem at an angle of about 1/8th-inch below one of the nodes.

You can place the cutting directly into the aquarium water. Another option is to place it in any type of container filled with water. Then, wait a week or two until new roots start sprouting.

Disadvantages of Growing Pothos in Aquariums

The benefits of growing Pothos far outweigh the drawbacks, but we have to mention them just the same.

Robust Root System

The one major problem you’ll have with Pothos is their root systems growing extremely fast. Once their root systems feel safe, they’ll start expanding and extending like crazy.

As the roots grow, their need for nutrients increases. This leaves your fish and other aquarium plants starving for nourishment.

On the one hand, you’ll have a vibrant, healthy Pothos plant with a strong root system. Then, on the other hand, you’ll have everything else dying of nutrient deficiency.

To help avoid this, trim the roots every couple of months. It’ll prevent them from taking over the entire aquarium. Plus, you’ll have a nice-looking tank you can be proud of.

Toxic to Humans and Pets

It’s recommended you keep Pothos plants away from pets and small children. Their leaves contain a toxic chemical called calcium oxalate crystals.

child watching television surrounded by pothos

If a pet or child bites into the leaves, it can cause digestive problems. Some cases have even reported discomfort in the respiratory system.

Luckily, Pothos is safe for fish and other aquatic inhabitants. They do well with other aquarium plants. So, there’s no need to worry about your fishies or turtles getting sick.

The Takeaway

Pothos plants are the most suitable for any condition. They’re extremely forgiving and extremely difficult to kill. That makes them the perfect houseplant for people with green and brown thumbs.

Including pothos in aquariums is all about adding a natural, elegant look to your tank. Another advantage is that they do a splendid job of balancing out water parameters. So, what you get is a pretty-looking plant that works hard to keep you, the fish, and other plants happy.