Anubias Nana ‘Petite’ Aquarium Plant Care Sheet

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Anubias nana ‘petite’, more formally known as Anubias barteri var. nana ‘petite’, might be one of the most in-demand species of freshwater aquarium plant currently available in the hobby. The small, richly-green leaves of this plant make it a favorite foreground addition for many aquascapers while its undemanding needs equally make it a favorite for beginners!

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this variety of Anubias and how to start growing one of them in your own aquarium!


Anubias nana ‘petite’, also known as Anubias barteri var. nana ‘petite’ and sometimes referred to as Anubias barteri var. nana ‘Bonsai’, is an epiphyte belonging to the Anubias genus. An epiphyte has the ability to grow on other plants and absorb the moisture and/or other water and nutrients around it without becoming parasitic or having any ill-effects on the other plant.

Despite going by Anubias nana ‘petite’, this plant is part of the Anubias barteri species. It should be noted that some hobbyists see Anubias barteri var. nana ‘Bonsai’ as a hybrid of several varieties of Anubias, though the difference between them is often negligible.


These West African plants are pretty easy to distinguish from other genera but can be difficult to tell apart if similar species are put next to each other. They can usually be identified by their dark green leaves with a lighter underside. These leaves are broad and shoot out from a rhizome.

Because of how dark and sturdy these robust leaves look, they can sometimes be mistaken as being fake or plastic. 

How big does Anubias nana ‘petite’ grow?

The main difference between Anubias nana ‘petite’ and other species of Anubias is its size. These plants are a variety of dwarf Anubias and only grow a few inches high (<2.0 inches, <5.1cm) with small leaves (0.6 inches long and 0.2 inches wide; 1.5 cm long and 0.5 cm wide).  

Does Anubias nana ‘petite’ flower?

All species of Anubias are Angiosperms; Angiosperms are flower-producing plants, although the flower might now always be visible without a magnifying glass or a microscope. 

Anubias nana ‘petite’ does flower, though this seems to be very rare in the aquarium setting. If you are lucky enough to have your plant flower, then you will notice a white or yellowish flower stalk emerge from a leaf-looking structure attached to the rhizome.

Anubias nana ‘petite’ tank requirements

In general, species of Anubias are a favorite for fish hobbyists because of their dark green colors, easy care requirements, and epiphyte characteristics. Anubias nana ‘petite’ is especially desired because of all that, plus its small size and foreground placement. The only major drawback of these plants is that they tend to grow very slowly, which can sometimes lead to algae growth. 


While most foreground aquarium plants require higher lighting, Anubias nana ‘petite’ is one of the few that actually does just fine under low to medium light. In fact, because these plants don’t grow very fast, high light can actually promote unwanted algae growth, which can suffocate new leaves and potential propagation. 

Algae on Anubias

Algae is especially likely to happen on Anubias as the leaves are thick and sturdy, which makes it easy for algae to latch on and grow if given excess light and low flow. Many hobbyists like to put their Anubias in a shaded portion of the fish tank, or even create sections with floating plants, like duckweed, to have more control over pockets of shade within the tank. 


Otherwise, Anubias nana ‘petite’ doesn’t need overly specific water parameters. They do best in water temperatures between 68-82° F (20.0-27.8° C), but can usually adapt to parameters slightly out of that range. pH should be relatively neutral between 6.5-7.5. 

These plants do not require carbon dioxide supplements and don’t need heavy fertilizer. However, fertilizer doesn’t seem to have any ill-effects on the growth and overall health of the plant. 

How to plant Anubias nana ‘petite’

Anubias nana ‘petite’ can be planted almost anywhere in the aquarium or terrarium as long as the other conditions are met. Because they are epiphytes, they have the ability to grow onto driftwood or rocks over time; you may need to initially superglue or use fishing line to tie down the plant to the surface until it starts to take grip by itself. 

If you want your Anubias nana ‘petite’ in the substrate, then it’s important to not bury the rhizome too deep as this will kill the plant. 

Why is your Anubias dying?

While these plants are labeled as a beginner species, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will thrive in your given tank conditions. First, make sure that your plant isn’t getting too much light and that there are no obvious signs of algae growth; too much light and algae can suffocate it and slowly cause it to die.

Second, check the leaves of the other plants. If there doesn’t seem to be any signs of yellowing or melting, consider when you introduced the plant into the tank; if it was within the last month, it is possible that the plant is still adjusting to your tank conditions. If the other plants are starting to turn yellow, then you could have a nutrient and/or carbon dioxide imbalance. 

Most often, you will want to look at phosphates, nitrates, and some trace elements, like iron and manganese. Too little of any of these nutrients can cause a deficiency, leading your plants to yellow; likewise, a lack of carbon dioxide could also be the cause of this, though Anubias can usually withstand environments with a low amount of available carbon dioxide. 

The number of nutrients you have in your system is directly correlated to your photoperiod. If you have a longer photoperiod, then you will usually need to dose more, more often; this is because your plant is photosynthesizing during daylight hours which requires nutrients to complete the process. If you find that you have a long photoperiod and yellowing plants, it could be that they don’t have the necessary nutrients to continue photosynthesis for that time period. In this case, it would be best to gradually decrease the photoperiod. 

Also, make sure that the rhizomes of your Anubias plants aren’t covered. If you have a sand substrate, it is possible for the water current to gradually push sand to cover the rhizome, which can lead to the plant dying over time. 

Propagating Anubias nana ‘petite’

By nature, Anubias nana ‘petite’ are slow growers that can make propagation appealing in order to get the most out of your plant. These plants can easily be propagated through rhizome division.

In order to do this, the plant should be mature enough to recover and give enough healthy leaves to the new daughter plants. With a clean, sterile scissor or blade, divide the rhizome while carefully avoiding the roots; each section of the rhizome should have at least 3 to 4 leaves in order for it to be able to grow. 

You may then move the daughter plants to a new area of the tank or attach them to the desired surface. Some hobbyists like to give extra supplements after propagation in order to help with healing. 

Other species

There are many species of Anubias that you are bound to come across in your freshwater aquarium travels. These species of plants are especially favored because of their low light and nutrient demands as well as their firm structure which can withstand being munched on by goldfish and African cichlids. Some of the most common species you’re bound to come across are Anubias heterophylla and other variations of Anubias barteri/Anubias nana.

Anubias heterophylla

Anubias heterophylla, sometimes called the Congo Anubias due to its natural range, is a large-leaf species. These plants can grow to an impressive size with leaves growing to over a foot (30.5 cm) long in ideal conditions. Because of this, they do best in the midground and background of the tank. 

Otherwise, this slow-grower will appreciate low to medium light and does not require CO2 or fertilizer, though, the growth rate may reflect the availability of nutrients. 

Anubias barteri/Anubias nana

Anubias Barteri

As mentioned before, Anubias nana (including Anubias nana ‘petite’) is actually part of the Anubias barteri species.

Anubias barteri is the parent species to the Anubias nana ‘petite’ variation; the main difference is that these plants grow much larger, sometimes reaching more than 5 inches (12.7 cm) in height. Their leaves are just as green and sturdy as the ‘petite’ variation but are more so used as midground and background plants. 

Anubias barteri grows just as slowly as Anubias nana ‘petite’ though and does best under the same low to medium light settings. Along with ‘petite’, other variations have also been introduced into the aquarium hobby, including ‘golden’, ‘snow white’, and ‘thick leaf’. 


Anubias is one of the most popular species of plant within the freshwater aquarium hobby. Unfortunately, they also tend to be the slowest-growers. As a result, their prices are usually above-average in comparison to other freshwater plants. However, Anubias nana ‘petite’ is a favorite among hobbyists looking to fill out the foregrounds of their tanks or to add some foliage to their driftwood or rocks.

If you have any questions about Anubias nana ‘petite’, other species of Anubias, or have had experience maintaining a low-tech freshwater planted tank, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 

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