How to Use Pothos as a Natural Aquarium Filter
One of the reasons we love aquarium plants so much is because of their ability to absorb toxic nitrogen compounds (produced by fish waste) from the water, but what if you own fish or aquatic pets that are natural-born plant killers? Pothos plants are the best choice for your aquarium. While pothos won’t mechanically filter out particles from your tank water, they’re great at reducing nitrate levels (and algae growth) so that you don’t have to do as many water changes to keep your fish happy and healthy. Keep reading to learn more about nature’s miracle gift to fish keepers.
What is Pothos?
Pothos (Epipremnum ausreum), a houseplant very well-liked, has been given the nickname “devils ivy” for its extreme hardiness. It’s very difficult to kill and will survive even in very low light, nearly dark conditions. You often see pothos used not only in aquariums, but also in hydroponic systems and bioactive terrariums. The only caveat is that it is toxic to cats and dogs if ingested, but we have not found any reports of aquarium fish having problems with this plant.
Pothos is a great natural filtration alternative for aquariums with plant-eating fish, like uaru cichlids.
How to Use Pothos in Aquariums
You can easily find pothos on the cheap at your local hardware store or plant nursery. You don’t have to buy large pothos plants, as they grow quickly in aquariums that have high bioloads. The smallest pot cost $4, and we were able to divide it into six to ten plantslets.
You can start small if you have a tight budget. A single pothos leaf borrowed from a friend will allow you to plant roots in water. However, for faster growth, we prefer to use a little plantlet that already has some established roots. Make sure to thoroughly wash off all the dirt and fertilizer on the roots so that it won’t adversely affect your aquarium’s water chemistry.
Separate your pothos into plantlets with 2-4 leaves each. Wash the roots thoroughly to get rid of any fertilizer.
Keep plant-eating fish safe by placing the pothos in a hang on-back filter. Set it in an area that is far away from the filter’s motor compartment so that the roots won’t grow into the impeller and clog it up. If the fish isn’t aggressive to the pothos, the roots can be placed directly in the tank. The plant’s leaves will grow out of the water. The aquarium lid should hold the plant in place so that it won’t fall in.
Remove the lid on the hang-on-back filter, and “plant” the pothos in a filter media compartment as far away from the motor as possible. Trim the roots in the future if needed.
Eventually, the pothos will grow into a long vine, which you can guide to climb up the wall or along some shelving. Your fish will love the jungle created by its long, stringy roots. If they get too dense, you can trim them. A stem or leaf can be easily removed and transplanted into other tanks. With its amazing ability to keep nitrate levels and algae growth down, pothos might be the best filtration you can buy for less than $5!
Pothos plants not only provide excellent biological filtration for your aquarium, but they also grow into a beautiful vine outside of the tank and provide long roots for fish to swim around and hide in.
Download our infographic to learn how often your aquarium needs water changes. It will guide you step by step through the entire process.