Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

For anyhow who enjoys aquariums and fish I want to recommend the pothos vine as a no effort aquarium plant. I think we’ve all been there, standing in the pet store, dreaming of an underwater garden for our fine gilled friends. Sadly most aquarium plants are ridiculously overpriced, even at garden store rates, a thimble of aquatic moss for $5.00, give me a break!

Now for anyone who hasn’t grown an Epipremnum (Pothos Vine, Devil’s Ivy) This is a great plant for everyone. They’re virtually impossible to kill, grow in full sun, to full shade, and need relatively little care. What makes them even greater is how easy they are to propagate. Cut off any piece of vine with a growing tip, bury in good soil or in this case place it in an aquarium and it will grow roots within a matter of weeks.

Betta fish swimming happily amongst pathos vine roots

Although I’ve heard rumors that this plant is poisonous to people, cats and dogs, my fish seem not be bothered. The verdict online is pretty 50/50 on this one so I say try it at your own risk. I will on the other hand let you know that I’ve had pothos vines (2 different varieties) in my aquariums for over a year now and haven’t seen even the slightest sign of sickness in my little fishies. It was as simple as cutting a piece off the main plant, washing it well in the sink to remove any possible pesticides/dust and dropping it in my fish tank. Within a couple weeks you’ll begin to see water roots, and in months the vine will most likely be thriving. Occasionally a leaf might fall off and begin to rot, remove it from the water and carry on with your life. My plants live almost completely submerged and in time grow out of the tank entirely by their own.

Large Established root system of my aquarium pothos vine (1 year old from cutting)

Benefits to plants in a fish tank.

Aeration – Plants create a lot more air then an air stone or filtration system, think of where your fish originate in the wild. Air comes from plants!

Filtration – As the fish produce waste deadly chemicals can sometimes build up in your aquarium and begin to poison your fish. With a planted aquarium your plants will use your fish’s waste as a natural fertilizer and help clean the water.

Homes and Protection – By making your tank a lot more like their natural environment fish are less stress and in turn much healthier. Last year my white cloud minnows used my pothos vine as a hatchery for breeding and a month later the popular jumped by 300%.

Lounging in the pothosMy fire bellied newts love to lounge in the pothos vine, which mimic a bit of a lily pad effect for them to sit on right underneath the water.

18 Responses to Pothos Vine – Easy Aquarium Plant

  • Rebecca says:

    I had a 20 gallon tank without filtration for a while. It had lost of plants and less fish. I did not feed the fish. I want a small pond now. Pot hose and Arrowhead are easy aquarium plants. They suck up nitrates.

  • Mike says:

    I keep an 11″ Oscar cichlid in a 75 gallon tank, so I change over 40 gallons/week to keep nitrate levels low. Terrestrial plants consume nitrate so I decided to build a terrestrial plant filter (7 gallons) to help keep nitrates low. I experiemented with many different plants (all houseplants, all planted with roots submerged and leaves above the water). I tried ‘Pothos’ (Epipremnum aureum), ‘Arrowhead Plant’ (Syngonium podophyllum not Sagittaria latifolia aka ‘broad-leaf arrowhead), ‘Peace Lilly’ (Spathiphyllum spp.), ‘Spider Plant’ (Chlorophytum comosum), ‘Basket Plant’ (Callisia fragrans), Philodendron cordatum, Trandescatia zebrena, ‘Lucky bamboo’ (Dracaena sanderiana), ‘Teenager or Watermelon plant’ (Pilea cadierei) and others. Pothos, especially the dark green-leaf variety, is the fastest growing with Arrowhead coming in a close second. All the others grow well with roots submerged in water but at a slower pace. Root aeration is very important.

  • Rodrigo says:

    Just wanted to add my experience here. I have had pothos on my aquarium for over a year now and I really love it. The way I do is that I use cutting from my mother plant and leave just the tip of the cutting in the water and the remaining hanging in the back. The cuts will create roots that will give a nice look to the aquarium and the planting hanging in the back works as a background. Double win !!!! I do cut the roots every now and then cause they do get huuuuuuge. Plus it is the roots of this plant that will consume all the excessive nutrients in this plant while the leaves need to stay outside in order for them to easily absorb CO2

  • CJ says:

    Thanks! Had forgotten that Pothos could be used this way. My betta is having a blast exploring the new addition to his tank.

  • Wow i had no idea the pothos plants were usable for such a thing. You could easily grow this plant indoors and then just add to the tank when it is growing!

  • Diana Emons says:

    Just wanted to stop by again and give you a follow up to the post I made in January of this year. Here it March 10th and the Pothos cuttings are going strong. No adverse effects have been noted either with the cuttings, the tank or fish with the exception that the floating cuttings at one point extended roots up the intake tube for the filter. A quick reach in and a tuck into a crevice of the log decor has kept this from happening again. Nitrites and Nitrates are down to zero where they should be and I’ve not had to introduce any new chemicals to the tank to combat rising Nitrates, Nitrites or Ammonia. Since the tank has no growing substrate these are strictly floaters with fast growing root systems. Not a single dead leaf, colors of the leaves enhance the beauty of the tank. Again let me say thank you for your article now my next project will be to introduce a diy CO2 system to the tank and begin cycling a new 55 gallon tank. Ahh the joys of being a fishy parent never cease!

  • Matt l says:

    I have a 150 gal terrium/ aquarium combination with African cichlids and some exotic plecos. As all of these will at least nibble on plants having plants in my aquarium are a challenge but the only exception is devil’s ivy. I have 450 lbs of lace rock in there along the back wall, and incorporated the power filters ( I have 2) with the rock work to make waterfalls. About 100 gals is water and 50gals is open air space. I planted the devil’s ivy inbetween spaces in the rocks at top (land), and have noticed the vine even grows over the water off the rocks and almost floats. I needed plants in there as part of my filtration strategy which is a mix of physical and biological filtration, and the plants as the nitrate filter, and help make it look lush and green. This plant worked wonderfully. My challenges is the very high humidity, ph of 8.2, and fish that are omnivores, and aggressive. They did take a few nibbles out if one leaf when I first added it but never tried again. Never found a fish that looked like it was poisoned so can’t be too bad for them but probally unpleasant enough to be a deterrent against nibbling. The plant is great. And grows very VERY fast. Maybe 1/4 of an inch every night. I am considering putting tree frogs up top eventually. The bottom has crushed coral as buffer and as the gravel. The water portion is setup as a reef with realistic fake corals.

  • Diana Emons says:

    A few months ago I read the article on this site and some other sites as well. I have been fearful of buying live plants for my 35 gallon freshwater aquarium due to snails and other pests that would possibly infest my fishy home. I did however have a golden pothos that was over growing it’s planter and after reading the posts here I took some cuttings, rooted them in water taken from the aquarium. This morning after checking the cuttings found they had some pretty hefty roots so decided it was safe to toss them into the aquarium. My fish appear to be enjoying the newly found cover floating at the top of their tank. I will over the next week be checking the nitrate levels and making notes as to changes. But from everything I’ve read and studied I think this may just work to my advantage. Thanks for a great idea!

  • patrick says:

    Wait a minute..is this a common house plant? because I think I have one in the house..i grows so easy..its taking over lol..my mom loves It and she wraps in around the banister on the stairs..is out growing that too lol..is this it? wow I wanna use it in my aquarium

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    I think it’s safe to say, yes, they make great aquarium plants. I’ve had mine in my aquarium for over a year with little maintenance and no dead fish. Just take a cutting from your plant and plop it in, it’ll do the rest.

  • Kaia says:

    Can pothos be used in my tank? I have a 36 gallon tank with 3 assorted goldfish, a pictus catfish, one betta, a ropefish and a bala shark. I had a planted tank before but most plants died in a tank transfer.

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    I have two pieces in my 10 g tank and so far no problems. They’re over 2 ft long. Occasionally a leaf dies and it should be removed or it will rot. Best to keep the growing tips above water but it doesn’t matter much, the plant adjusts itself as necessary.

  • aquadude says:

    Can you completely submerge your Pothos or do the leaves have to be out of the water. How many Pothos would be enough to impact water ?

  • Rochelle says:

    I just put a cutting of my Pothos into my aquarium as I saw that it would not harm my Swordtail, Mickey Mouse/ Orange Platy tank. I have a ton of baby Swordtails and wanted to create a nice place for everyone. Thanks for the site and the info on what to do with my overgrown Pothos!

  • Andrew says:

    I think it’s only poisonous if eaten so no problem for a Betta (Yours is about the same colour as one I had back in University).

    Best bet for cheap aquarium plants is to find a local aquarium society and attend the meetings – there will almost always be plants at the auction from cuttings people take while trimming their plants or find someone on a local aquarium society forum who can get you a mix of plants cheap.

    I used to have a lot more aquarium plants but one of my fish in my big tank now will eat or uproot almost anything I try to plant, which can be a bit of a problem.

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.