7 Benefits Of Using Pothos In Aquariums – Care Guide & More

Can I put pothos in my fish tank? Yes, you can. It's an inexpensive and low-maintenance way of boosting your tank's biological filtration.
Pothos in aquarium

What Is Pothos?

Pothos / Epipremnum aureum
Pothos / Epipremnum aureum
  • Name / Scientific Name: Pothos / Epipremnum aureum
  • Size: Up to 40 feet
  • Temperature: 70°-80°F / 21°-26°C
  • pH: 6.1-6.8
  • Light Requirement: Low
  • Toxicity: Not toxic to fish / Mildly toxic to turtles
  • Note: Pothos is toxic to dogs and cats, so make sure it’s out of reach.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), also known as Devil’s ivy, is a highly durable houseplant that can grow vines up to 40 feet in length. It’s super hardy, low maintenance, and doesn’t need a lot of light.

Using pothos in aquariums is a great way to reduce harmful toxins from your tank water so you’ll spend less time performing water changes.

It’s a great choice for high waste-producing fish like goldfish and cichlids.

Can Pothos Plants Live In Water?

Yes, pothos can live in water. It will thrive in a freshwater aquarium.

If you have a saltwater aquarium, pothos isn’t a viable option for you. The salt in the water will dehydrate and kill the plant.

Can Pothos Be Fully Submerged?

No, it can’t. Although it’s a hardy plant, only the roots should be submerged in water.

You need to keep the leaves out of the water or they will start to decay and release toxins into your tank water and screw up your nitrogen cycle.

Is Pothos Safe For Aquariums?

That depends if you have fish or a turtle in your aquarium.

Is Pothos Toxic To Aquarium Fish?

I’ve never heard any reports of pothos being toxic to fish, nor have I ever lost a fish due to having a pothos plant in the tank.

However, it is toxic to other household pets like cats and dogs.

Is Pothos Poisonous To Turtles?

The terms ‘poisonous’ and ‘toxic’ are often thought of as being fatal.

There are actually varying degrees of toxicity from mild skin irritation to death.

Ingesting pothos may cause your turtle burning, pain, and/or swelling due to it containing oxalates, but it certainly won’t be fatal.

There are many other better options for a turtle tank that I have listed in my best plants for turtle tank post.

Gardening Know How has an in-depth list of Plants Toxic To Turtles on their website.

The University of California also has a list of toxic plants which gives each plant’s toxicity level.

Benefits Of Pothos In Aquarium

Benefits Of Pothos In An Aquarium
Pothos Plant In An Aquarium – Photo Courtesy Of AnonyManx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pothos benefits your fish tank in several ways.

1. Boosts Filtration

Pothos does a great job of boosting your tank’s filtration by removing harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrate from the water.

2. Algae Control

Low nitrate levels = no algae growth.

If you do have algae growth in your tank, pothos is a great option for combating it as the plant absorbs the nutrients from the water that algae thrive on.

You could also add some algae eating fish, as long as your tank’s nitrogen cycle can handle the extra bio load.

3. Water Aeration

Pothos also absorbs carbon dioxide from the water and releases fresh oxygen back into it.

Oxygenated water = happy fish.

A possible sign of low oxygen levels in your tank water is fish laying at the bottom of the tank.

4. Provides Hiding Places

Even though most fish are sociable, they still need some time out from each other too.

A pothos plant’s root system will provide places for fish to go and chill out.

It also breaks up the line of sight which will cut down on potential tank mate aggression.

5. Replicates Natural Habitat

The best way of keeping an aquatic pet happy is to replicate its natural wild environment.

Adding plants to your tank will do just that.

6. Looks Good

I have a preference for planted tanks as they’re aesthetically pleasing and take less cleaning, which is always a bonus.

As you’ll be keeping the pothos plant’s long leafy vines out of the water, you can leave them to drape naturally or make a feature out of them.

7. Inexpensive

Lastly, a pothos plant isn’t going to break the bank.

How To Use Pothos In Aquarium

You’ve 2 choices when it comes to using pothos in your aquarium.

1. Buy A Ready Potted Plant

Without a doubt, my preferred option for using pothos in an aquarium is buying a ready-potted plant.

You’ll actually be getting several smaller plants in a single pot that are ready to add to your tank because the root systems will already be well established.

All you have to do is remove the plastic pot, thoroughly rinse the dirt off the roots, and carefully separate each individual plant and its root system.

Make sure you rinse every last speck of dirt off the plant roots so you don’t risk introducing anything that will screw up your water chemistry.

Oh, just one more thing, (yeah, I’m a Columbo fan!) if you have a garden hose, do this outside in your yard.

It’s quite a messy job, and let’s just say my wife wasn’t amused when I get mud all over our kitchen!!

2. Take A Cutting And Propagate It

Pothos Propagating In A Jar Of Water
Pothos Propagating In A Jar Of Water

This is a slower method of using pothos, but it will still work and is very simple to do, even if you’re not green-fingered.

You can take a cutting of a pothos vine, put it in your HOB filter or some other container of water, and wait for it to start growing roots.

You’re looking at over a week for this to begin, which is why I prefer the ready-potted plant method, I’m not very patient!

Do not be tempted to add any fresh cuttings of pothos to your fish tank until it’s started sprouting roots. A freshly cut vine will release toxins into the water that are harmful to your fish.

How To Hang Pothos In Aquarium

I find it best to use suction cups to hang pothos in my aquariums.

You can either keep the roots trimmed, or you can let them grow and plant them into the substrate once they’re long enough.

How Do You Plant A Pothos In An Aquarium

Once your pothos roots are long enough to reach the bottom of the tank, you can attach them to a rock, driftwood, or any other decor item at the bottom of your tank.

I recommend using an aquarium-safe adhesive such as Seachem Flourish Glue.

Seachem Flourish Glue

Burying the rock into the substrate slightly should ensure the roots will expand into the substrate themselves.

Pothos In Aquarium Filter

This a great option if you have plant-destroying fish.

Put pothos in the filter media compartment of a HOB filter so the roots don’t grow into the motor unit and jam it up.

How to use pothos in aquarium filter

Best Conditions For Pothos In An Aquarium

To keep your pothos thriving in your aquarium, you should be aiming for the following.


The ideal water temperature for pothos is 70°-80°F / 21°-26°C.


You need to place pothos in a tank that is in a well-lit area that doesn’t get direct sunlight.

You can use aquarium lights of course, but make sure they are full spectrum lights.

Water Nutrients

Your aquarium needs to produce a lot of nitrates as this is the primary nutrient, as well as ammonia, that pothos feeds on.

If not, you can always add some liquid fertilizer to your tank water.


If you need to add liquid fertilizer to keep your pothos growing, I highly recommend Seachem Flourish Nitrogen.

Seachem Flourish Nitrogen is formulated to be a safe way of adding ammonia and nitrate to your aquarium for plants to feed on without harming your fish.

Common Problems & Solutions For Pothos In A Fish Tank

I’ve heard about a couple of problems with using pothos aquariums, but they can be easily resolved.

Pothos In Aquarium Turning Yellow

Pothos turning yellow in an aquarium is down to either too much direct light or not getting enough nutrients.

If it’s too much light you’ll need to block the amount of light coming in somehow or move your aquarium to another location.

If it’s not enough nutrients, try adding some Seachem Flourish Nitrogen to your tank water.

Pothos Destroyed My Aquarium

I know a few people who have added pothos to an established planted tank and all of a sudden the other plants started to die off.

That happened because the pothos had removed nutrients from the water that the other plants needed to feed on.

Just like you can have too many fish in a tank and screw up the nitrogen cycle, you can have too many plants that absorb more nutrients than your water provides them with.

If you’ve already got an established planted tank and you add pothos to it, you need to add liquid fertilizer to your tank to keep all of your plants well nourished.

Closing Thoughts On Pothos In Aquarium

So there you go, everything you needed to know about using pothos in aquariums.

To quickly recap, it’s an inexpensive and low-maintenance way of boosting your fish tank filtration, keeping algae under control, aerating your tank water, replicating fish’s natural environment, and is aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the aquascaping section for more guides on making your aquarium look its best.

Picture of Paul


Hey, fellow fish enthusiast 👋! I'm Paul and I've been an aquarium addict since I won my first goldfish at the fair many years ago. Let me share with you the knowledge that I've gained along the way (and avoid the mistakes I've made!), so you too can create an underwater paradise for your aquatic friends.