Causes And Easy Treatments Of Anubias Melt And Rhizome Rot!

Anubias can suffer from issues like anubias melt due to environmental changes or nutrient problems with rhizome rot usually occurring due to bacterial or fungal infections.

Anubias is one of the more popular plants in the fish-keeping hobby with the plant commonly being recommended to beginners who are looking to keep live plants in their tank.

After recently deciding to add some epiphyte plants to two of my tanks, I did a little research and settled on anubias, java fern, bucephalandra, and bolbitis.

Unfortunately, I noticed that several of my anubias plants were having issues ranging from their leaves turning yellow to the plant starting to melt spurring me to do a little more research into the potential causes and treatments for anubias melt/rhizome rot.

It can be common for the leaves of anubias plants to melt when it is first added to a new aquarium due to anubias often being cultured in an emersed environment and it needed to adapt when submerged in your aquarium.

However, some of the issues I was having were clearly related to rhizome rot and not regular anubias melt making me want to investigate the issue to prevent it from happening to my other plants.

Anubias Melting Vs Rhizome Rot!

A Melting Anubias Plant
An Anubias Plant With Rhizome Rot That Is Melting

The terms anubias melt and rhizome rot are often used interchangeably but they are actually different conditions that share similar symptoms and causes.

Anubias melt is used to describe a condition where the leaves of your anubias plant weaken, change color, and break off from the rhizome but the rhizome remains solid and will sprout new leaves over the coming months.

Certain causes of anubias melt can advance to a stage where the rhizome rot develops and the plant starts to perish.

Rhizome rot is the term used to describe the condition where the actual rhizome of the anubias softens often resulting in the plant perishing over the course of a week or two.

An Anubias Plant With Rhizome Rot

The video clip above shows one of my anubias plants afflicted with rhizome rot and shows how effortlessly the leaves can be detached from the rhizome, with a jelly-like substance accompanying the leaves upon removal.

This specific anubias came from a tank with minimal water flow due to it using a small sponge filter, and this condition was enough for the water flow to detach some of the leaves from the plant.

Lifting the anubias out of its tank also resulted in several leaves separating from the rhizome and floating around in the water column of my tank.

A Melting Anubias With A Yellow Leaf
A Melting Anubias With A Yellow Leaf

The photograph above shows a melting anubias in one of my other tanks with one of its leaves turning yellow.

I have checked the rhizome of that particular plant and it is solid and looks healthy so I’m guessing the plant is simply shedding its emersed leaves to adjust to submerged life in an aquarium.

You can see that the majority of the leaves on this particular anubias are green and healthy and none of the leaves of the plant fell off when removing the plant from the tank for inspection.

What Causes Anubias To Start Melting?

An infographic going over common causes of anubias melting
Common Causes Of Anubias Melting

Here are the most common causes of anubias melt:

  • Transition Shock
  • A Buried Rhizome
  • Poor Water Quality
  • Inadequate Lighting
  • Over Fertilization
  • Temperature Fluctuations
  • Pest Infestation
  • Incorrect pH Levels
  • Diseases

Some of these causes are normally when adding anubias to your tank that has been grown emersed, and new leaves should begin to sprout from the rhizome within weeks.

Here’s an overview of each of these potential issues to help you determine whether they might be the reason your own anubias is melting.

Transition Shock

When Anubias is transferred from one environment to another, it can experience stress due to differences in water parameters, lighting, and other conditions.

This adjustment period can cause the plant to shed its older leaves or manifest signs of melting.

This is also common when transitioning an anubias plant from an emersed environment to a submerged environment.

With time and proper care, the plant will generally acclimate to the tank and produce new, healthy growth over a month or two.

Plants maintained in growing media made of Malang sand, and husk charcoal was able to meet their nutrient requirement compared to those grown in Rockwool and
gravel.

Research Gate – Journal of Physics Conference Series

A study in the Journal of Physics Conference Series found that the growing media used for anubias propagation also played an important roll in its development.

The experiment revealed that anubias cultivated in Malang sand exhibited a 216% increase in growth compared to those cultivated in rockwool.

A large portion of the anubias used in the aquarium keeping hobby is cultivated in rockwool suggesting that its nutrient absorption might be suboptimal, leading to poor development.

The high value of root length of Anubias grown in Malang
sand media shows that the plant has a high root absorption capacity.

Research Gate – Journal of Physics Conference Series

The study also suggests that Anubias is a far better root feeder than many people think so removing the anubias from the rockwool to feed from your tank’s water column may result in a drastic reduction in its nutrient intake and potentially cause the anubias to melt.

A Buried Rhizome

Rhizome and root locations of an anubias plant
Rhizome and Roots Pf An Anubias Plant

The rhizome of the Anubias is the thick, horizontal stem from which both the roots and leaves grow.

The rhizome of your anubias should not be buried within the substrate, as this can cause it to rot.

Instead, the rhizome should be lightly placed on the substrate or attached to hardscape elements like rocks or driftwood to keep it as healthy as possible.

The stolon (rhizome) must always be above the substrate in order to survive, otherwise it will rot and the plant dies.

Wikipedia

I have previously made the mistake of letting too much aquarium glue get onto the rhizome of my anubias plants when attaching them to rocks and driftwood with the plant melting and eventually rotting.

Try to apply your glue to the roots of your anubias when mounting it to your hardscape to prevent problems with growth in the future.

Several brands that cultivate anubias ship the plant with the rhizome and roots in rockwool and some people have speculated that leaving too much rockwool on the plant may also cause the rhizome to rot and the plant to melt.

Poor Water Quality

Testing Water Parameters
Testing Water Parameters

Extremely high levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate can be toxic to your anubias plant and may cause the plant to start melting.

If the issues with your tank’s water parameters are severe, your anubias could die within a week!

Here are my recommended water parameters for anubias.

Water Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Water FlowLow-High
pH6-7.5
KH3-8 KH
GH2-15 dGH
Ammonia<3 ppm
Nitrites<3 ppm
Nitrates< 20 ppm
LightingLow-Moderate
CO2Optional
Water Parameters For Most Types Of Anubias

Anubias is commonly added to new aquariums when cycling the tank due to its ability to utilize small amounts of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate for growth and help to maintain safe water parameters during the cycling process.

This is perfectly safe with a gradual increase of these nutrients but a rapid increase in ammonia can quickly cause problems for the plant.

Gradually increasing the ammonia levels in your tank can help reduce the risk of your anubias melting or having other problems.

Inadequate Lighting

Anubias is known to tolerate low light conditions but it still requires a certain amount of light to perform healthy levels of photosynthesis.

Prolonged exposure to insufficient lighting can weaken the plant quickly leading to the leaves changing color and the plant melting.

On the other hand, sudden changes or extremely intense lighting can also cause problems with the plant.

There is another environmental factor such as humidity and light intensity that has the possibility to affect the growth of Anubias plant.

Research Gate – Journal of Physics Conference Series

The study from the Journal of Physics Conference Series suggested that light intensity can also play a major role in the growth of anubias.

Offering your anubias suitable, consistent lighting conditions may be enough to help prevent your plant from having problems with anubias melt.

Fertilization

While nutrients are essential for plant growth, having too much or too little can be detrimental to your anubias plant and cause it to melt.

Under-fertilizing is common due to people not realizing that plants require a wide range of both macro and micronutrients to thrive with many popular products on the market being deficient in essential nutrients.

My Fertilizer Of Choice
My Fertilizer Of Choice

I use Tropica Premium Nutrition as my plant fertilizer of choice due to the pump system making it easy to correctly dose my tank with the formula containing all the micronutrients required for healthy plant growth.

Using a suitable plant fertilizer in your aquarium and sticking to the recommended dosing instructions should prevent this problem for most people.

Diseases

Fungal and bacterial infections can target weakened Anubias plants causing rapid decay or melting.

Providing clean water for your plant and avoiding physical damage can minimize these risks.

Quarantining new plants prior to adding them to your main tank can also help prevent the spread of diseases and further reduce the risk to your anubias.

Temperature Fluctuations

Anubias prefers stable water temperatures within the 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C) range. Rapid or frequent temperature swings can stress the plant, potentially leading to leaf loss and melting.

In relatively high temperatures, rooting process cannot be performed
properly.

Research Gate – Journal of Physics Conference Series

The study in the Journal of Physics Conference Series mentioned earlier also found that anubias plants growing in higher temperatures were unable to grow their roots correctly.

This suggests that adding your anubias to an aquarium wither higher temperatures may also cause a nutrient deficiency in the plant that may result in anubias melt.

Maintaining a consistent and suitable water temperature in your aquarium can decrease the risk of your anubias melting.

Pest Infestation

Certain pests, such as specific snails, dragonfly larvae, and damselflies, can feed on or harm Anubias leaves.

You can usually see these pests on your plant helping to confirm that this is the problem you are having in your tank.

Regular inspection of plants and prompt removal of pests can prevent extensive damage.

Incorrect pH Levels

Anubias generally thrives in a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 with a pH range outside of this being enough to stress the plant and potentially cause melting.

What Causes Rhizome Rot In Anubias Plants?

An Anubias Plant in my tank
An Anubias Plant In My Tank

There is no definitive cause of rhizome rot in anubias plants and there are several different theories out there with most people believing that there are three different types of rhizome rot that can affect most types of anubias.

The three types of rhizome rot are:

  • General Rot
  • Rhizome Rot
  • Black Rash

It is believed that all three of these are caused by a bacterial or fungal infection but no one knows for certain.

Here is a quick breakdown of these three types of rhizome rot in anubias plants.

General Rot

The stems of your anubias plant become transparent due to a depletion of chlorophyll, typically resulting in the plant’s demise within a week.

It is thought that spikes in ammonia can increase the vulnerability of the plant to general rot with this form of rhizome rot being infectious to other anubias in the tank as well as to various other types of rhizome plant.

Rhizome Rot

Rhizome rot can take two to three weeks for symptoms to show and by the time you realize something is wrong, it’s too late to rescue the plant.

The rhizome transforms into a jelly-like substance with color change also being common.

Leaves of your anubias appear healthy before detaching from the rhizome weeks after the suspected bacterial infection settles in.

This type of Rhizome Rot is contagious to other types of anubias in your tank with some people choosing to remove the infected anubias to reduce the risk to their other plants.

Black Rash

Believed to be a fungal infection that displays symptoms of small black marks on the leaf stalks of the anubias within days of the infection and the rhizome starts to rot after a week or two.

The symptoms of black rash are very similar to the symptoms of Thielaviopsis basicola and various types of Phytophthora fungus.

In severe infections Phytophthora invades the collar or stem base of the plant, causing a brown or black discoloration

Royal Horticultural Society

There is a single type of Thielaviopsis basicola and sixteen known types of Phytophthora fungus that can infect a wide range of plants.

They do tend to infect emersed plants so this infection may be present on your anubias when purchased and then transfered to your aquarium when you submerge it.

No chemical treatments are available to gardeners for the control of Phytophthora root rot.

Royal Horticultural Society

Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for Phytophthora fungus and Thielaviopsis basicola can be very difficult to treat.

How Do You Stop An Anubias From Melting?

The Roots Of A Melted Anubias Plant
The Roots Of A Melted Anubias Plant

Rescuing a melting anubias can be surprisingly straightforward, as you often receive ample warning that there is a problem, enabling you to address the underlying issue in your tank.

Remember, it can be normal for a healthy anubias plant to shed its leaves when initially transitioning from an emersed to a submerged state, and you usually don’t need to intervene to assist the plant.

If your anubias is melting due to one of the other potential reasons discussed earlier in the article, then you need to try and resolve the issue as quickly.

A Video About Nursing An Anubias Back To Full Health

The video above documents an anubias being nursed back to full health after melting and losing all of its leaves and roots.

The process can take months due to the slow growth rate of anubias but if the rhizome is intact and healthy they plant can end up making a full recovery.

How Do You Stop Rhizome Rot In Anubias?

A Video On Treating Rhizome Rot In Anubias

Treating rhizome rot is significantly more challenging compared to regular anubias melt, as the actual rhizome of the plant is essentially dying.

There are several individuals who have managed to rehabilitate anubias plagued by general rot and black rash while documenting their process online, but the success rate really is limited.

General rot requires you to remove the leaves of the anubias plant as soon as you noticed the lack of chlorophyll in the plants leaves and cut off any of the rhizome that is soggy or discolored.

Some people advice that you cut at least half an inch into the healthy rhizome to reduce the chances of the general rot spreading after the rhizome has been cut.

Black rash usually requires you to remove all leaves from the rhizome as soon as you notice the small black growths on the plant to try and prevent the condition from spreading to the rhizome.

Some people also recommend that you cut off the part of the rhizome closest to the leaves that had the black dots on them to further increase the chances of the anubias being able to make a recovery.

“Rhizome rot” gets a little confusing as it is the name of the condition as well as a specific type of rot in anubias plants but I have not been able to find anyone who has saved an anubias that seems to have the “rhizome rot” cause.

This seems to be due to the rhizome of the plant perishing before it starts to show any symptoms.

Is A Melting Anubias Dead?

A Melted Anubias Plant
An Anubias Plant Melting With Rhizome Rot

Many anubias plants that start melting can be rescued by correcting the cause of the melting and allowing the plant to remain in your tank for several months to recuperate.

Some people like to remove their melting anubias from their tank and keep it in a small plastic cup that acts as a quarantine tank for the plant during its recovery.

Implementing this can be a beneficial practice with your own anubias, as some problems can be contagious and can spread to other plants in your aquarium.

This also facilitates the use of certain chemical treatments if needed, as it ensures the rest of the inhabitants in your tank are not put at risk.

While some individuals manage to revive anubias plants suffering from actual rhizome rot, a large number of people deem the plant dead upon discovering the condition and subsequently remove it from their tanks.

You can try to remove the leaves and cut the rhizome of an anubias with rhizome rot and place it in a glass cup with water to see if you can nurse it back to health but the odds are definitely stacked against you.

A Video Going Over Rhizome Rot In Anubias

Is Anubias Rot Contagious?

Two Anubias Plants In My Aquarium
Two Anubias Plants In My Aquarium

The general rot and rhizome rot conditions in anubias plants are both considered to be contagious and can spread to other plants in their tanks with general rot being able to spread to other types of rhizome plants too.

Some people say that the black rash type of rhizome rot is not contagious during its early stages and shouldn’t cause problems in your tank provided you removed the anubias and all of the small black grows on its stems.

Final Thoughts

Anubias plants, popular in aquariums, often face challenges like anubias melt and rhizome rot.

While the former, typically a response to environmental changes, often allows for plant recovery, rhizome rot, likely due to bacterial or fungal infections, can be more detrimental.

By understanding and addressing the root causes, aquarists can promote the health of their anubias and enjoy their beauty for longer.