With its iconic split leaves and tropical vibe, the Monstera plant has become an increasingly popular houseplant over the last few years. As Monsteras make their way into more homes, aquarium hobbyists have started noticing this plant’s potential for use in aquarium tanks.
Placing a Monstera plant in an aquarium can add a dramatic visual element while also potentially benefiting the aquatic environment. However, as with any unconventional aquarium decor idea, there are important factors to consider before taking the plunge.
This comprehensive guide will explore the ins and outs of incorporating Monstera plants into home aquariums. It will answer common questions about compatibility, placement, care requirements, etc. By the end, you’ll know to decide if adding a Monstera to your tank is a creative way to enhance your underwater world or an idea best left on dry land.
Is it Possible to Put Monstera in a Fish Tank?
The first question that comes to mind when considering adding a Monstera plant to an aquarium is: can it be done? Let’s take a look at the feasibility and precautions involved.
The Feasibility Factor
The short answer is yes, it is possible to incorporate a Monstera plant into a home fish tank setup. Monsteras have vining stems and aerial roots that take readily to humid environments, making them suitable candidates for aquatic life. Their ability to grow in water makes them a practical option.
However, feasibility depends largely on the type of aquarium you have and the fish species living in it. Small nano tanks would likely not accommodate a Monstera well. Larger planted aquarium setups of 10+ gallons are better suited for these statement plants.
You must also ensure the water conditions and inhabitants will not negatively impact the plant. For example, African cichlids who like to dig up plants would quickly uproot a Monstera. Start by considering if your tank parameters and fish behavior can welcome a Monstera before moving forward.
While Monsteras can technically submerge, that is not the ideal setup. It is better to position them partially in water with ample humidity rather than fully underwater constantly.
The biggest precaution is avoiding fully submerging the soil and roots from a potted Monstera. This muddy substrate can leach nutrients into the water, alter pH, and introduce harmful bacteria. To safely add a Monstera, it must be bare root or soil free.
Providing ample space between the leaves and water surface is also crucial to prevent rotting. Consider your tank size and height when selecting your Monstera variety. Slow growing compact types are best for shorter tanks.
Growing Monstera in Water: The Basics
A Monstera plant in an aquarium must be transitioned from soil to a water environment. Here is what you need to know about growing these tropicals in water.
Is it OK to Grow Monstera in Water?
Monstera plants can adapt and grow in just water quite well. They can live completely submerged as fully aquatic plants. Their native tropical climates and epiphytic growing habits lend themselves to thriving in high humidity and wet feet.
You may come across conflicting advice warning against growing Monsteras in water long term. However, many hobbyists have great success keeping them this way for years. The keys are providing plenty of light, nutrition, water movement, and space for ample air circulation around the leaves. With a few adjustments from normal care, Monsteras can thrive hydroponically.
Soil vs Water
Should you take a Monstera growing in soil and transfer it to water? It is possible but takes careful preparation.
A Monstera growing in soil needs a transition period to shift to water only culture. The soil clinging to the roots must be gently washed to prevent muddying the tank water. Any damaged roots should be trimmed.
Starting with a small younger plant or cutting with less established roots makes the switch easier. Another option is propagating a Monstera in water from the start. This avoids any shock or root damage that repotting can cause.
Overall, soil grown Monsteras can adapt to water life but need a cautious cleaning of the root system first. For easier transitions, start with new cuttings rooting in water.
Houseplants in Fish Tanks: What You Need to Know
While it is one thing for a plant to grow in water, introducing it into an established aquarium brings additional concerns.
Not all houseplants are suitable for placing in aquarium setups. Plants like Monstera with aquarium-safe qualities do best:
- Fast growing roots
- Tolerates high humidity
- Leaves safely above water
- Low light varieties
Other factors to evaluate are the plant’s toxicity and growth rate. Any houseplant in a tank must be fish, invertebrate, and reef safe. Slower growing varieties are also preferred to keep maintenance needs lower.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Introducing a Monstera or other houseplant into a tank has both advantages and disadvantages to weigh.
On the plus side, benefits include:
- Unique aesthetic – Monsteras provide visual drama and the look of an emergent plant.
- Surface coverage – They help block light from entering open tops and lower evaporation.
- Oxygenation – Emergent leaves and roots release oxygen into the water.
- Nutrient absorption – Plants utilize excess nutrients like nitrates in the water.
However, there are also a few potential drawbacks:
- Root overgrowth – Monstera roots can potentially take over a small tank if not managed.
- Foliage crowding – Large leaves can block light penetration and cover too much surface area.
- Difficult maintenance – Pruning and cleaning plants in a filled tank is tricky.
- Leaching – Plant debris can leach tannins and alter water chemistry.
Consider both benefits and risks before finding the right balance for your aquarium.
Placement of Monstera in Water
Where and how you situate the Monstera in the tank is important for the health of both the plant and aquarium inhabitants.
Where to Put Your Monstera
The ideal placement for a Monstera plant depends on your tank size and setup:
- Partial submersion – Use suction cups to attach the plant to a wall or decor with its roots and lower stem in the water.
- Hanging – Suspend from the rim so the leaves and upper stem sit above water.
- Rooted in decor – Place in a sturdy tank decoration like driftwood with roots submerged below the waterline.
- Free floating – Let the roots float freely while supporting the upper portion above water.
Avoid fully submerging the leaves or crown of the plant. The leaves and upper stem need air exposure. Focus on keeping at least a few inches above the water line.
Monstera in Water Turning Yellow
If you notice your Monstera’s leaves turning yellow in an aquarium, something is wrong with its environment.
Potential causes of yellowing include:
- Insufficient light from being shaded by tank decor or crowded leaves
- Lack of nutrition from fish waste, fertilizer, or nutrient-poor sediment
- Overly cold water temperatures below 65°F
- Root rot from stagnant water flow around the stems
- Poor water quality and parameters
Address any husbandry issues and improve lighting, nutrients, water flow, and parameters. Trim off any heavily yellowed leaves to help it recover.
Longevity of Monstera in Water
A few key care factors must be met for the Monstera to thrive long term in an aquarium environment.
How Long Can Monstera Live in Water?
When provided with adequate care, Monsteras can live and grow completely in water indefinitely with no problems. They are not temporary or short term aquatic plants that need to go back in soil.
The keys to longevity are:
- Sufficient nutrients from fish waste, sediment, or added fertilizers
- Water movement and surface agitation for oxygenation
- Proper temperature between 70-80°F
- Adequate light reaching the leaves
- Pruning of old leaves and roots as needed
Given the right conditions, Monsteras can live and grow fully submerged or partly in water for many years.
While Monsteras are not heavy root feeders, they require some nutrients and fertilization to thrive in an aquarium long term.
With potted plants, soil provides nutrients but aquarium setups rely on other sources:
- Fish waste – Breakdown of fish waste, uneaten food, etc provides macros and micros.
- Added fertilizers – Use aquarium-safe liquids or root tabs for supplemental nutrition.
- Nutrient-rich substrate – Soil-free mixes like Eco-Complete provide minerals.
Combine several nutrient sources like fish stocking, root tabs, and the occasional fertilizer dose for best results. This provides a well-rounded diet for lush, vigorous growth.
Types of Monstera Suitable for Aquariums
While all Monstera species can work in aquariums, some varieties are better suited. Here are the best types to consider:
Monstera Adansonii and Deliciosa
The most common Monstera houseplants are also good choices for aquariums:
- Monstera Adansonii – This species’ compact vines and smaller leaves adapt well to tanks. They remain more manageable than other Monsteras.
- Monstera Deliciosa – The classic split leaf plant. Look for young or dwarf cultivars since full grown Deliciosa can overtake tanks.
Both adapt readily to humid environments and grow quickly in water. They come in green or variegated forms.
Beyond the common Adansonii and Deliciosa, there are rarer Monstera cultivars to consider:
- Monstera Obliqua – Its trailing stems work well hanging into tanks. This rare find has intricate leaf holes and patterns.
- Monstera Dubia – Called shrimp plant, this has smaller divided leaves. It stays compact enough for nano tanks.
- Monstera Standleyana – The velvety leaves on this one can add unique texture and pattern to a tank.
Watch for these intriguing Monsteras to take your aquarium to the next level. But also beware of their higher costs.
Monstera Albo in Aquariums
One popular varietal to highlight is the Monstera Albo. This has white variegated leaves that can bring a stunning pop of color. However, it comes with a few extra considerations:
- Grows slower than green varieties
- It needs very bright light to maintain variegation
- Can be prone to scorching and discoloration under high humidity and moisture
- Variegation may diminish or revert underwater
With extra care in lighting and positioning, the Albo Monstera can still make a eye catching aquarium plant. Just go into it knowing it has higher demands.
Planting and Propagation Techniques
Once you select the right Monstera for your tank, it’s time to get it planted. Here are some tips on planting and propagating Monsteras for aquarium use.
How to Plant Monstera in Aquarium
You can incorporate a Monstera into an aquarium using two primary methods:
Root cuttings in substrate:
- Take multiple 6 inch stem cuttings with a few leaves
- Remove lower leaves and dip cut end in rooting hormone
- Plant cuttings partially submerged in substrate like aquarium soil, moss, lava rock, etc.
Attach to decor with aerial roots:
- Select established plant with large mature aerial roots
- Gently wash roots and acclimate plant out of soil
- Use fishing line or super glue gel to attach roots and base to decor
Submerging the main plant crown and leaves should be avoided. Focus on keeping the upper portion out of water.
Propagate Monstera in Aquarium
Starting new Monsteras right in the tank via propagation can work well. The constantly humid, warm, and well lit environment gives them a head start on rooting and new growth.
To propagate Monsteras in a tank, try these methods using mature plants:
- Take stem tip cuttings of a few nodes and leaves
- Remove lower leaves and place directly in substrate
- Or, suspend cuttings in water to root before planting
- Once rooted, the new plants can be positioned as desired in the aquascape
With propagation, you can add Monsteras specifically shaped and sized to integrate into your aquarium design.
Common Challenges and Solutions
While Monsteras have potential in aquariums, they can present challenges. Be prepared for these possible issues:
Monstera Roots in Aquarium
The fast growing aerial roots are part of what makes Monsteras suitable for aquatic life. But left unchecked, the roots can become unruly and take over a tank.
To control rampant Monstera roots:
- Start with younger/smaller plants
- Trim back and thin out roots during maintenance
- Propagate new plants as old ones outgrow the space
- Use rocks, mesh, or other barriers to limit rooting areas
Stay vigilant in pruning roots before they can spread too far.
Monstera in Freshwater Aquarium
While Monsteras can technically go in either freshwater or saltwater tanks, they are better suited for freshwater setups. Saltwater introduces more challenges:
- Salt buildup on leaves needing frequent rinsing
- More precautions needed about leaf drop contaminating water
- Higher humidity increases fungal and bacterial risks
- Stability of water parameters can be harder with saltwater
Monsteras tend to fare better in the more forgiving conditions of freshwater aquariums. At least while getting started and learning their needs in an aquarium habitat.
Other Potential Issues
Be alert for other possible problems like:
- Leaves yellowing from poor water quality or lack of nutrients
- Leaf burn under intense lighting
- Stems rotting from stagnant water flow
- Leaves emerging above water drying out
Adapt care as needed by improving tank conditions, light levels, circulation, humidity, and fertilization to prevent issues.
Monstera and Fish: A Symbiotic Relationship?
Can keeping a Monstera and fish together provide mutual benefits for the aquarium ecosystem?
Is Monstera Toxic to Fish?
Monstera plants are fortunately non-toxic to fish, invertebrates like shrimp, and reef corals. Both the leaves and roots are safe for aquarium life, making them compatible choices.
However, fallen plant debris like leaves or stems can foul water as they decay. Be diligent about removing dead plant matter to keep water safely clean. Overall though, Monsteras present low toxicity risks.
Benefits to Fish
Beyond looking beautiful, Monstera plants can improve aquarium conditions and provide positive benefits for fish:
- Areas of dappled shade for fish to take cover and feel secure
- Surface coverage helps diffuse bright lighting that can stress fish
- Roots, stems, and leaves create additional surface area for healthy biofilms to grow beneficial bacteria
- Uptake of nitrogen compounds like nitrates reduces fish waste accumulation
- Oxygen released into the water from the emergent leaves
- The plant’s beauty helps stimulate fish activity and natural behaviors
Think of Monsteras as more than just decorative but functional living improvements for a tank and its fishy residents.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Monstera plants can make stunning additions to home aquarium setups. Their tropical look certainly stands out against most traditional aquarium plants. However, incorporating these popular houseplants does require special considerations.
Providing adequate warm, humid conditions, nutrition, water flow, and partial air exposure are key to success. Routine trimming of leaves and roots will also be needed to keep their growth in check.
While challenging at times, the visual rewards of a thriving Monstera integrated into an aquascape design can be well worth the extra effort. Plan carefully and be prepared to adapt their care in an aquatic environment.
A Monstera plant and aquarium fish can form a beautiful symbiotic partnership when properly introduced and maintained. This unique pairing can take your underwater garden to the next level.