Growing and Caring for Anubias Barteri Var. Nana

Anubias barteri var. nana

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Common Names: Anubias nana, Dwarf Anubias, Nana
Scientific Name: Anubias barteri var. nana
Synonym: Anubias nana
Family: Araceae
Origin: Cameroon, West Africa
Height: 2-6 inches (5-15 cm)
Width: 3-5 inches (8-13 cm)
Growth Rate: Slow
Placement: Foreground or Midground
Lighting Needs: Low to Moderate
Temperature: 72 - 82°F (22-28°C)
pH: 6.0-7.5
Hardness: 3-10 dGH
Difficulty: Easy

Origin and Distribution

Originating from western regions of Africa, the Anubias species were first described in 1857. Over the years, a number of species have been recognized, causing the nomenclature to be in flux for quite some time. However, the current nomenclature has been stable for several decades and stands at eight recognized species. In addition to the recognized species, there are also five varieties of Anubias barteri, which is the primary species used in aquariums.
Anubias barteri has five recognized cultivated varieties, including A. barteri var. angustifolia, A. barteri var. barteri, A. barteri var. caladiifolia, A. barteri var. glabra, and A. barteri var. nana. In addition to the A. barteri varieties, the other Anubias species are A. afzelii, A. gigantea, A. gilletii, A. gracilis, A. hastifolia, A. heterophyllai, and A. pynaertii. The genus Anubias is part of the family of flowering plants known as the Araceae, which includes the popular houseplant Philodendron.

In nature, Anubias species are found in wet, forested areas, generally along the banks of waterways. These shady locations gave rise to the name given to this genus which was named after the god of the afterlife, Anubis. Today, Anubias are cultivated across the world for use in aquariums and paludariums.


Nana is the smallest of the Anubias barteri species, reaching a height of 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) with thick leaves that grow up to 2 ½ inches (6 cm) long and a little over 1 inch (3 cm) across. Diagonal lines run from the center vein to the outer edge of the bright green oval leaves. The underside of the leaf is a lighter green than the top and the veins are clearly visible. Almost indestructible, individual leaves can last for years.

Occasionally this plant will flower; this may occur when it is either fully submerged or partially above the water line, such as in a paludarium. The flower looks like a creamy white spadix, similar to a calla lily. Like the leaves, the flowers will last a long time, often several months.

Like all Anubias species, Anubias barteri var. nana is an extremely hardy plant which makes it popular for aquarium use as well as in paludariums. The leaves are thick, dark green and quite tough, almost to the point of feeling like leather. This makes them ideal for aquariums with species of fish that are known to nibble on or uproot plants. Even active Cichlids and plant-loving Silver Dollars aren’t able to destroy this plant.


Anubias barteri var. nana is so attractive that it is often used as a centerpiece. They can be used as a mid-ground plant or foreground plant and are often attached to driftwood or rocks. Place them in shaded areas because they actually prefer subdued lighting; this will keep them from growing algae which can be a problem when placed in brightly light areas.

When placing Nanas, don't bury the rhizome beneath the substrate, as it will rot and die off. Use cotton thread or light fishing line when attaching to rocks or bogwood, and tie it loosely to avoid damaging the plant. The plant will creep horizontally in a single direction, growing quite slowly. Small fish will find this plant makes great a hiding place.


In general, Nana prefers moderate to low lighting conditions. If placed under high lighting conditions, the leaves will grow faster, but they'll be more compact and susceptible to algae growth, particularly beard algae. In these situations, algae-eating fish such as Siamese Algae Eaters (SAE) or Otocinlus will help pre-emptively deal with algae growth. Fertilization is not necessary, nor is the use of CO2, however, additional CO2 will promote faster growth.

Place the rhizome and roots on top of the gravel or loosely attached to rocks or driftwood. To trim Anubias barteri var. nana, use a sharp knife or scissors and cut a section of rhizome that contains at least a couple of leaves. You can use the trimmed portion to start a new plant.


All Anubias species are notoriously slow growers, with the leaves coming forth from a rhizome. Nana is no exception, often only producing one leaf in a month. Mature rhizomes can be cut from the parent plant and either divided along the dormant buds, or the entire rhizome can be placed in water and divided once small plantlets have formed.

It is also possible to cultivate Anubias from seeds. Contrary to previous thought, this plant does respond to the use of CO2 and additional lighting and grows faster with it than without. However, take care when using highlighting conditions, as the additional light can promote algae growth on the leaves which is hard to combat.