pothos in aquarium

Pothos in Aquarium: Complete Care Guide

Are you thinking about adding a pothos plant to your aquarium? If so, you’re in for a treat!

This easy-to-care-for plant can make a big impact on your tank. Looking for all the details on how to keep pothos in aquariums? In this complete care guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about keeping pothos thriving in your aquarium. From water temperature to light requirements, we’ve got you covered. So read on and get ready to add some green to your tank!

Recommended Pothos in Aquarium Care Items:

What is a Pothos Plant?

Pothos plants (Epipremnum aureum) are tropical trailing, leafy, vining plants that can reach up to 40 feet in length in the wild. In proper conditions, they can reach a similar size indoors. It is nicknamed the “Devil’s Ivy” because of its hardy ability to grow and survive in most conditions. It can survive in very low-light conditions.

Pothos thrive in strong indirect sunlight with a temperature between 60 to 86 °F. Pothos can thrive in a variety of humidity levels so don’t stress on misting this plant, especially in an aquarium setting.

Pothos is a popular plant that many people use in their homes for its air-purifying properties. While pothos plants aren’t traditionally considered aquarium plants, they can provide your aquarium with oxygenation and help reduce nitrate levels. They’re pretty easy to keep healthy in aquariums which makes them a popular choice for adding greenery to your tank. Keep in mind that pothos plants grown in your aquarium will not flower.

Pothos plants have heart-shaped, dark green leaves with yellow or white variegation. The leaves can grow up to 12 inches long. The plant’s stems are thin and flexible, which allows them to trail or climb. Since pothos plants are a type of ivy, the vine will grow and it can drape over the sides of the aquarium.

Are Pothos Plants Toxic to Fish?

Some fishkeepers are concerned that pothos might be harmful to their aquarium inhabitants. Pothos can be harmful to cats and dogs so the logic extends that potentially the plant could also be harmful to fish.

Good news here – pothos plants are safe for your fish. They’re non-toxic and good for the environment, so they don’t pose any risks to fish. In reality, they even provide egg-laying fish with nesting sites and protect the eggs until they hatch.

Benefits of Pothos in An Aquarium

Pothos plants offer many benefits to an aquarium. They help remove nitrates from the water which can be harmful to fish and other aquatic creatures. Pothos also act as a natural filtration system, helping to keep the water clean and clear. In addition, pothos provides oxygenation for the water and helps reduce carbon dioxide. In addition, they add a lot of natural beauty to your tank!

Remove Nitrates

Pothos plants are great at absorbing nitrates from the water. Nitrates can be harmful to fish and other aquatic creatures so it’s important to keep levels low in your aquarium. Additionally, high nitrate levels can trigger algae issues, so by removing nitrate regularly, you can mitigate algae issues. Pothos will help to keep nitrate levels down, making it a healthier environment for your fish.

Combats Algae

Pothos can also help combat algae growth in your aquarium. Algae thrives in high nitrate environments so by removing nitrates from the water, you can also help reduce algae growth. In addition, pothos plants compete with algae for nutrients, so by adding pothos to your tank you can help keep algae growth under control.

Provides Natural Cover

Pothos plants can provide natural cover for fish. This can be beneficial for shy or timid fish who need a place to hide. In addition, pothos can help protect eggs and baby fish from predators. It’s a great addition to any tank!

Beautiful Aesthetics

Pothos plants add a lot of natural beauty to your aquarium. With their dark green leaves and variegated patterns, they’re a great way to add some color and interest to your tank. They can also drape over the sides of the aquarium, adding a touch of greenery.

Fish Safe and Fish Proof

Lots of fish will happily munch on anything you put in their tank. Cichlids (like Jewels, Oscars, Texas Cichlids, Jack Dempseys) are notorious for uprooting and eating aquatic plants with their voracious appetites. 

On top of that, cichlids are high-bioload fish that produce a lot of waste, which means your nitrate levels can rise quickly in these tanks. Goldfish are very similar in their waste production.

For these aquariums, pothos is an excellent choice. Pothos is a hardy plant species with very strong roots which the fish will typically leave alone. This means the plant will have a good shot at growing and establishing itself in your tank. If the fish nibble on it or take out a leaf or three, your pothos is likely to be unbothered.

It will also help remove lots of nitrates and keep your water parameters in balance. Your tank will be beautiful and your fish will thank you!

Drawbacks of Keeping Pothos in Aquarium

Although a pothos plant will have a lot of positive effects in your tank, there are some negative side effects to be aware of as you consider adding this species.

As the plant grows, it will consume more and more nutrients in your tank. Pothos is a fast grower and hardy plant so once it adapts to its aquatic conditions, it can choke out other aquatic species with its nutrient consumption. You will also likely need to add plant food regularly to your tank to keep everyone happy. However, if your pothos gets really big, it will likely kill some of the other plants.

Another potential issue is pothos plants’ thick, fast-growing roots. The roots can quickly take over the entire aquarium, meaning you will need to regularly prune the roots so that your tank isn’t overrun by pothos roots. Aquascaping tools can be of great help for this process.

How to Use Pothos in Aquariums

Pothos plants are a great addition to any aquarium. They provide many benefits to both fish and the environment. Here are some approaches on how to include pothos in your aquarium.

Can Pothos Grow Underwater?

No, pothos plants can’t grow fully underwater. They can grow partially submerged in water, but not fully submerged. They’re terrestrial plants, not aquatic plants, so the leaves can’t directly draw nutrients from the water. In order to survive, they need some of their vines with leaves hanging out of the water so they can go through the process of photosynthesis. If the leaves become fully submerged, they will shrivel up and die, putting the health of the plant at risk if this occurs with too many leaves.

How to Hang Pothos

Another way to incorporate pothos into your aquarium is to hang them from the lid of the tank. This allows the leaves to drape over the top of the tank and dip into the water, providing cover and hiding spots for fish while also providing the leaves plenty of opportunities to complete photosynthesis. It is important that the leaves of the plant are not fully submerged in the water.

This requires long roots on your plant though – long enough to reach the substrate. It requires long vines too – long enough to hang out of the tank. If you have fish in your tank that will not mess with the pothos (tetras, chili rasboras, etc.), you can leave the roots and stems in your tank until they anchor in. If you have cichlids who are notorious for uprooting plants, we suggest anchoring the plant from the beginning.

pothos roots in water

How to Put Pothos in an Aquarium Filter

Pothos plants can also be positioned in your aquarium filter, especially hang-on-back filters. This is an excellent way to include pothos in your tank especially if you have fish that prone to chomping on the plant. By placing the plant away from the fish in the filtration area, it is up and away from where your curious aquatic creatures can get to it.

Avoid placing the roots near the filter motor. If the roots of the plant grow into the motor, it can damage both the plant and filter. We recommend placing the pothos closer to the outflow of the filter than the inflow.

Pothos in Aquarium Sump

The sump is another potential option, depending on your setup. The first thing you should consider is the lighting for your plant. If your sump is fully contained (which is the vast majority of sumps) with no light, this will challenge your plant’s ability to grow. There also might not be enough airflow, which can cause molding issues and a stunted growth rate.

In looking through aquarium threads online, there are definitely successful reports of people growing pothos in their sump. It can be done with proper conditions. This means it could require a dedicated lighting system and creative ventilation options.

Additionally, unhealthy plants won’t be as effective at absorbing nitrates, which means you won’t get as much benefit from the plant. If you’re considering using your sump for your pothos, make sure you can support your pothos so it can flourish.

Pothos Submerged in an Aquarium

In order to use pothos as a rooted plant in your aquarium, let the roots grow out 4 to 5 inches in length, and then you can transfer the plant into your tank setup. You will want to anchor the roots in the substrate until they take hold. As an ivy, your pothos will grow and drape over the sides of the aquarium.

You can’t fully submerge your pothos in your aquarium and expect it to survive. It is not an aquatic plant and can’t complete photosynthesis underwater.

Can Pothos Survive in a Saltwater Aquarium?

No, pothos can’t survive in a saltwater aquarium. If the roots are placed in saltwater, they will quickly dehydrate as it absorbs too much salt. Pothos plants can tolerate a small amount of salt in the water but will perish under prolonged exposure to high amounts of salt.

Pothos in your Aquarium Turning Yellow

When you first add your pothos plant to your aquarium, the plant has to adapt to a completely new environment. This translates into a lot of quick change for the plant so you might see the roots die off and the leaves shrivel, turn yellow, and fall off.

Don’t be totally shocked if this occurs in your tank. As we mentioned before, the pothos is a super hardy variety of plants so the roots will likely regrow and the leaves will return as the plant adjusts to its environment.

Can You Cut Off Pothos Plant Roots?

If you have a pothos plant that is growing out of control, you can cut off the excess roots without harming the plant. Snip off the extra roots with a sharp pair of scissors or clippers. By doing this, you will help keep the plant from taking over your tank and also encourage new root growth.

Other Non-Aquatic Plants for Aquariums

Pothos isn’t the only non-aquatic plant that can adapt to aquarium life. Other plants you can grow in your aquarium include:

  • English Ivy
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • Spider Plant
  • Peppermint

Another fantastic plant for aquariums is English ivy. It isn’t as effective in cleaning the water as pothos, but it adds a really nice touch to any tank.

Lucky bamboo has the ability to absorb nutrients from the water and is useful for removing pollutants. The stem and roots of lucky bamboo can be completely immersed, while the leaves should remain above the waterline.

Another great non-aquatic plant that can be cultivated in aquariums is the spider plant. They will tolerate low-light conditions. Spider plants are also popular among terrarium enthusiasts and enjoy a humid environment.

Peppermint isn’t a popular aquarium plant, but it is one of the finest plants for nitrate reduction. They develop rapidly and may remove a lot of nitrates and other nutrients from the aquarium water. Furthermore, you can consume the plant, brew a tea from it, or use it in a refreshing drink, making it a very versatile option.


Have you added pothos plants to your aquarium? What benefits have you noticed? Do you have any special tips for keeping them healthy? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out our other plant guides (Java Moss, Java Fern, Amazon Sword, Anubias) for more information on how to create a thriving planted tank.

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