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Aquarium Banana Plant Care Guide

Aquarium Banana Plant Care Guide

Banana plants are a common choice for many aquariums. Due to their unusual shape, they’re often used as specimen plants or fillers. 

Banana plants are easy to grow and interesting to look at in aquariums. They prefer warm, calm, acidic waters and have a moderate growth rate that can be controlled using different light levels. These versatile plants can be floating or planted in freshwater tanks

This post covers everything you need to know about caring for banana plants. Keep reading to find out if this plant is right for your aquarium.

What Is a Banana Plant?

A banana plant (scientific name Nymphoides aquatica) is an aquatic plant native to the U.S. Found mostly in Florida, it lives in calm, slow-moving waters in the southeastern coastal states from Texas to Maryland. It does well in cold and tropical tanks and can be grown as a rooted or floating plant.

Banana Plant Appearance

The banana plant got this name from its thick, nutrient-storing tubers resembling a bunch of unripened bananas. These aren’t to be confused with the thin white or light-green roots that grow downward from the stem below. 

Leaf coloration varies based on lighting conditions. High light produces green and reddish-purple leaves, while low light produces light green and yellow. Multiple leaves grow and remain underwater.

Long stems shoot up toward the surface and develop heart-shaped leaves resembling lily pads that sit on top of the water. In optimal conditions, this dioecious plant also produces small white flowers that arise from below these lily pad leaves. 

Banana Plant Size & Growth

A healthy, well-cared-for banana plant in an aquarium can grow up to 14 inches (35.6 cm) tall and 18 inches (45.7 cm) wide. The plant can grow even taller if given enough space, especially if living outdoors. 

Under moderate light levels, banana plants grow a new leaf, new roots, and new runners every couple of weeks. They require minimal light to grow, but growth is stunted. The more light provided, the faster and taller they grow

Some aquarists stunt the plant’s growth by lowering water temperature and lighting to simulate winter conditions. 

Tank Setup

A banana plant can tolerate a slightly broader range of water conditions than other freshwater aquarium plants

Tank Size & Placement

Banana plants can grow well in almost any size aquarium. Still, the recommended minimum tank size is 10 gallons

Typically, banana plants are used as foreground or floating plants, yet they’re also suitable in the midground. Some aquarists have even successfully kept them as background plants in 5-gallon nano tanks.

Water Temperature & pH

A banana plant can live comfortably in water temperatures between 68°F (20°C) and 82°F (27.8°C). It tolerates as low as 50°F (10°C), but its growth is stunted. 

It does best in slightly acidic waters but is fine with pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 7.5.

Water Flow

Banana plants prefer a calm current. Fast water flow will push the floating leaves around the tank, potentially leading to damage depending on the layout of the tank. 

A low-rate filter best replicates the slow-moving rivers, ponds, and creeks where these plants grow naturally.


Banana plants don’t need carbon dioxide injections. Still, they won’t be harmed by a little extra in the water if any other aquarium life requires it. 

However, to encourage optimal growth, your banana plants will appreciate a liquid fertilizer and a root tab placed underneath them every 3-4 months. 


Banana plants grow well in low and high-lighting conditions but do best in brighter environments

The growth rate is slower in low light, and the plant grows dark green leaves that often stay submerged. Medium to high light produces a light-green coloration and ensures the heart-shaped “lilies” grow on the surface.


Banana plants aren’t picky about substrate and can take root in sand, gravel, or soil. Dark-colored substrates provide a nice contrast against the green tubers. 

Banana plants can anchor roots to large rocks, driftwood, and other decorations if preferred.

Banana Plant Benefits

Adding a banana plant to your aquarium will:

  • Add interest to your aquarium with its unusual appearance.
  • Help maintain healthy water conditions by removing nitrite, nitrates, and ammonia created by fish or invertebrates. 
  • Provide shelter for creatures that are sensitive to the tank’s lighting conditions.
  • Provide betta fish with resting places.
  • Allow for adequate visual health checks without handling due to its simple growth style.
  • Deters most species from eating it since the leaves are so thick.

How To Care for Banana Plants

Caring for banana plants is relatively straightforward. These plants are resilient and thrive for long durations under optimal conditions. Care requirements vary slightly depending on your tank’s needs or whether you prefer it planted or floating. 

How To Plant Banana Plants 

To plant banana plants, bury the roots in gravel, sand, or soil substrates. Ensure tubers are buried no more than ¼ inch (6.35 mm), fully exposing them if possible. If buried too deep, tubers eventually rot and fall away, leading to the death of the plant. 

Alternatively, you can leave banana plants to float, tie them to a rock or decor, or use aquarium glue to anchor them down. 

Do Banana Plants Need Root Tabs?

Banana plants need root tabs if planted in gravel or sand substrates but not in soil. Typically, these plants receive enough nutrients from soil substrates. Floating banana plants work harder to grow and require a liquid fertilizer to stay healthy. 

Should a Banana Plant Be Floating or Planted? 

A banana plant should be planted if placed in a tank with high water flow or if it sinks. With low-flow tanks, a banana plant can be left to float or planted to suit your preference or the tank’s needs. Eventually, floating plants develop roots that will anchor to the substrate. 

Banana Plant Pruning

Depending on your tank’s conditions, a banana plant can quickly grow to take over your tank. Numerous lily pad leaves grow, covering the surface and preventing light from reaching the water. 

Thankfully, this is easily corrected or prevented by pruning the plant. Simply cut the runner to remove the lily and stem. These clippings can be used to grow a new banana plant if desired.

Banana Plant Propagation & Care

One perk of owning a banana plant is you can grow more! It’s easily propagated by clipping a mature lily pad leaf, leaving at least 4 inches (10cm) remaining, and placing it in the tank until roots form. 

New roots and potentially a few leaves will begin to grow within a few weeks. Plant the new roots in a substrate. For the best chance of success, grow propagated plants under medium to high lighting in calm water, regularly providing liquid fertilizer. 

How To Clean Banana Plant

Whenever you notice visible build-ups of algae, dirt, or other debris, spot-clean your banana plant by gently rubbing the stems, leaves, and tubers. Your aquarium’s filter will do the rest.  

For thick algae or pest removal, clean your banana plant like any other freshwater plant by quarantining or briefly soaking it in a solution of bleach, vinegar, or aquarium salt. 

Common Issues & Prevention 

Other than producing numerous lily pads (which is easily addressed by pruning), aquarists commonly experience the following issues with banana plants: 

  • The plant gets eaten: Plecos and snails are notorious for munching on banana plants. Nothing can be done about this other than not keeping banana plants in tanks with these creatures. Be wary if you have either in your aquarium.  
  • Tubers fall off: Planted banana plants might shed their tubers, presumably because the roots receive enough nutrition from the water and substrate, removing the need to store excess nutrients. If the plant otherwise looks healthy, there’s no need to worry or react. 
  • Roots become invasive: Banana plants develop wide-ranging roots that can spread throughout the substrate and disrupt the roots of other plants. To help prevent this, plant them in a semi-secluded area. Or, place large rocks and other decors nearby pressed into the substrate to “block” roots from passing.  
  • Leaves change color: Banana plant leaves change to yellow or brown when the plant isn’t receiving enough nutrients. Check the roots for signs of rot to see if this is the cause. If the roots appear healthy, add root tabs or liquid fertilizer to supply more nutrients to the plant.

Banana Plant Tank Mates

Banana plants cohabitate well with a mix of slow and fast-growing plants.

Some good tank mates include:

Avoid overcrowding the tank, as plants will compete for lighting and nutrients. 

Is Banana Plant The Right Plant For Your Tank?

A banana plant is the right plant for your tank if you desire a unique specimen plant requiring minimal care. This plant may not be suitable for densely planted tanks, as its roots can be invasive. Also, banana plants in tanks with snails or plecos will likely be eaten. 

What To Look For When Buying Banana Plants 

Finding a healthy banana plant is crucial to ensure it grows well and avoid bringing bacteria or other pathogens into your aquarium. 

Look for the following when buying banana plants:

  • Leaves: Healthy leaves will be free from cracks, holes, and other damage around the edges. Individual leaf colors may range between light and dark green based on age.  
  • Tubers: Healthy clusters will have numerous green, thick tubers without cuts or cracks. 
  • Stems and roots: Healthy plants will be free from visible algae. Check the plant’s stems, roots, and leaves for any signs of algae growth.

Also, this plant has many common names and may be sold as any of the following:

  • Aquatic Banana Plant
  • Aquarium Banana Plant
  • Freshwater Banana Plant
  • Underwater Banana Plant
  • Banana Lilly
  • Big Floating Heart
  • Brain Plant
  • Fairy Water Lily

Banana Plant FAQs

Do Fish Like To Eat Banana Plants?

Plecos or Plecostomus catfish like to eat banana plants, as do many species of snails. In general, banana plant leaves are too thick for many creatures, and you can safely house them with a variety of freshwater creatures without fear of them being eaten. 

Will a Damaged Banana Plant Leaf Repair Itself?

A damaged banana plant leaf will not repair itself. Leaves with cracks or holes should be removed to ensure sustained plant health. If you buy a new banana plant with a damaged leaf or two, it may still be okay if plenty of healthy leaves remain after removing the damaged leaves. 

Why Are The Tubers Falling Off My Banana Plant?

Tubers fall off a banana plant due to rot or if the plant has adequate nutrition. Tubers store excess nutrition to provide the plant when the soil and water lack nutrients. Unhealthy tubers fall off, leading to the plant’s death. Conversely, if the plant is healthy, the unneeded tubers are shed. 

Wrapping Up

The Banana Plant (Nymphoides aquatica) is a fantastic addition to any aquarium. With its vibrant green leaves and unique banana-like appearance, it adds a touch of exotic beauty to the tank.

Not only is it visually appealing, but it is also easy to care for, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced aquarists. Its versatility allows it to be placed in various positions within the tank, whether as a foreground, floating, or midground.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...