Anubias Afzelii Care

Anubias Afzelii

Last updated on July 18th, 2022 at 01:05 am

Anubias afzelii, sometimes called the Congo sword plant, is one of the best-known Anubias species, thanks to its unique and attractive sword-shaped leaves. This hardy and popular aquarium plant aren’t just beautiful; it also has great staying power in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

Anubias afzelii, Anubias barteri var. nana, and Anubias barteri var. barteri are three popular species of anubias that grow well in aquariums and are relatively easy to maintain as long as you keep the water clean and stable. These are large plants, but like most aquarium plants, they can be pruned to make them smaller and more manageable if desired.

This plant is native to tropical regions in Africa and Asia. It can survive in a wide range of water conditions from hard alkaline to soft acidic waters. If you are lucky enough to have soft acidic water where you live, then these plants will probably adapt very well for you. Anubias can grow up to 35 cm high and 13 cm wide, which makes them an ideal candidate for planting on driftwood or rock formations on your tank’s substrate.

Origin and descriptions

Anubias Afzelii

Anubias afzelii was first described in 1842 by Thunberg as Nana afzelii, and it was moved to the genus Anubias in 1908 by H.E. Moore. This species of Anubias has a number of common names including Zebra Anubias, Black-blotched Anubias, Zebrina, and Skunk Wood Fern.

Anubias afzelii is a beautiful and easy-to-grow freshwater aquarium plant. Native to West Africa, Zaire, in particular, Anubias are a great addition to almost any freshwater tank. These plants originate from slow-moving waters (backwaters) with little current where they tend to be more compact in size. In captivity, they grow into medium-sized plants that can reach heights of 20-35 cm long and 13 cm wide.

They have long, narrow leaves; shaped very much like sword blades. They vary in color but are typically green or brown/greenish. Look out for newer varieties that have different colored leaves: red or yellow being among them.

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The most interesting characteristic of Anubias afzelii has to be its leaves bases which turn reddish as soon as you acclimate it to your tank’s water chemistry. This suggests that these plants may not do well if moved around too much!

Species profile

Anubias Afzelii

Anubias afzelii is a slow-growing plant that produces small leaves and will propagate via rhizome.

They belong to the order Alismatales and the family Araceae. They are native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Anubias species are grown in aquariums for their unique leaves. Their large leaves make them a good foreground plant that adds color to an aquarium as well as shade for other plants positioned behind it.

The most attractive feature of Anubias afzelii is its thick, leathery leaves. These provide them with some protection from light-intense environments. This species also tolerates many aquatic conditions, although it grows best in soft water with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5.

It will grow in hard water as well but may not perform as well because minerals can build up on its leaves. In addition to neutral pH levels, Anubias afzelii prefers consistently warm temperatures between 77 ̊F and 80 ̊F (25 ̊C–27 ̊C). It does poorly at higher temperatures for long periods of time.

Anubias afzelii size

Anubias afzelii can grow up to 8-15 inches (20-35 cm) in height and 5 inches (13 cm) wide.

Anubias afzelii aquarium size

The minimum recommended tank size for this plant species is 10 gallons (38 liters).


Anubias Afzelii

Anubias afzelii propagates easily from stem cuttings and rhizome division. Both ways work best under humid conditions in a mixture of peat and sand with a pH level of around 6-7. Simply clean off an area on the stem that has at least two or three healthy leaves and make sure to leave about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) between each leaf for new roots to form.

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Then, remove all but two or three leaves per cutting, dip your cutting into the rooting hormone, and place it into your propagation medium.

The final step is to place your cuttings somewhere warm—the top of your aquarium heater is usually perfect—and wait until they begin growing vigorously. It usually takes a few weeks before you’ll see any progress; it could take months for most species, so be patient!

Anubias afzelii care

Anubias Afzelii

Anubias are slow-growing plants and it can take some years for them to become established in your aquarium. You will have to be very patient. Fortunately, they do not require much attention once they have reached maturity.

Anubias should be planted with either their rhizome (the underground root structure) or roots attached to rocks or wood with some water movement and moderate light.  They like a pH between 6.0 – 7.0 and temperatures between 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Because these plants grow under water, you may choose to cover them with gravel at first but be careful that none is washed into the plant by overzealous gravel cleaners/fish tanks maintenance workers!

Light requirements

Anubias afzelii prefers low to moderate light. The leaves will be best colored in brighter light while maintaining a good shape and density. In lower lighting conditions, some leaf pruning will help maintain a healthy growth pattern and coloration. A pH between 5.5 and 7 is ideal for Anubias afzelii due to its preference for slightly acidic water. Water temperature should range from 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit while CO2 injection is recommended but not required with bright lighting levels.

Substrate/soil requirements

Anubias Afzelii

Anubias grows in a variety of substrate and soil conditions. For example, most species will grow very well attached to driftwood, rocks, or pieces of slate. Others may tolerate slightly acidic peat-based soils while some can even be cultivated in the sand. However, Anubias is not so flexible when it comes to lighting. Regardless of which species you choose to cultivate, you’ll need to make sure that its roots are shaded from direct sunlight which could burn them.

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A member of Anubias barteri var. barteri group along with other popular aquarium plants like Anubias barteri and Anubias nana, Anubias afzelii is also known as Dwarf Anubias and Bushman’s Pipe for its thick stem that often resembles a pipe. This slow-growing plant features slender green leaves up to 3 inches long and grows from one to two feet in height without floaters.

It produces rhizomes that are typically used to propagate other varieties of Anubias while new leaf growth will be produced at their base every so often. Like all species within its genus, Anubias afzelii requires bright light and CO2 supplementation while growing but prefers some shade upon reaching maturity.


Anubias afzelii will do better in a warmer tank. They can survive in temperatures between 10-30°C (50-86°F), but they grow best between 20-25°C (68-77°F). Additionally, they prefer a temperature range of 65-82% humidity. Never keep them lower than 70% or higher than 90%. Temperatures below 10°C (50°F) and above 30°C (86°F) are fatal for these plants.

I have lost one plant that was kept at 75°F when I used tap water without dechlorinating it and letting it slowly acclimate to its new conditions first. Make sure you monitor its condition if you plan on moving your plant from one tank to another, as there is always a slight chance for a shock if you move it too quickly. If your plant isn’t doing well, chances are that it doesn’t like its current living conditions.


Anubias afzelii requires higher humidity levels than other Anubias species. This can be accomplished by spraying leaves with water and by growing in a tank with a higher humidity level (around 80%). Anubias should never be allowed to dry out completely. An acceptable range is between 50% and 90%. It is not necessary to use an electric humidifier; doing so can increase your electricity bill.

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Plants will grow tall and spindly without enough light. To control growth and maintain a bushy shape, prune back new stems by at least half when they reach 10-15 cm in length. Plants should be spaced about 30cm apart. If grown emersed, plants can be cut back to just above a node on longer stems or to about 15cm above the substrate on shorter stems.

Growth rate

Anubias afzelii grows slowly but steadily, given appropriate conditions. Be sure to avoid prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50°F (10°C), which can cause poor coloration or leaf loss.

Anubias are not particularly adaptable plants and tend to do best in soft acidic water with moderate to strong lighting and a fairly rich substrate. Slow growth is often due to insufficient light and too-rich substrate; using CO2 supplementation can help counteract these effects.

USDA hardiness zones

They do best in hardiness zones 10 through 12.

Pests and diseases

Anubias afzelii is a sturdy plant and it may not seem to be bothered by pests and diseases. However, in high-nutrient water or with an insufficient amount of light, you might experience a variety of problems. For example, you might see spider mites eating your Anubias’ leaves. If that happens, use a freshwater solution (one teaspoon per quart) containing Seachem Flourish and place it on your fish tank plants daily until they recover.