Growing Plants from the Top of Your Aquarium

HOB filter growing plants
Pothos Growing in a Modified AquaClear 110 with Hydroton

One enhancement I’ve started doing with my tanks is to add plants to the top of the aquarium. This can be done in a number of ways. One of the first methods I tried was to modify a HOB filter with a filter basket filled with Hydroton and grew Pothos in it. It worked for the Pothos, but the Hydroton quickly collected A LOT of gunk that was impossible to remove without tearing out all the Pothos, dumping the Hydroton into a bucket, and rinsing it forever.

More recently, I tried just drilling a small hole in the plastic back strip of the glass top and put Pothos in that so the roots were in the water but the plant could grow on the top of the tank. This worked well, but leaves started growing under the glass top which didn’t work out. This was probably just an issue with the exact placement/depth of the Pothos, not a failure of the concept. This did work for Monstera though, although it took a larger hole.

Growing emersed plants in aquariums
1 3/8″ Drill Bit Used to Cut the Holes for the Net Pots

My most recent method is to drill a larger hole and use a net pot with a little bit of Hydroton in the net pot. This has allowed me to grow all sorts of plants including Pothos, English ivy, Monstera, and more.

You have to find really small net pots though. I got mine on eBay and the inner diameter of the upper part is 3cm, for which a 1 3/8″ drill bit was perfect. As you can see from the pictures, the hole takes up almost all the space you will have between the glass and the trim of the tank.

You can grow almost any type of plant this way, so don’t worry about finding out which plants are best grown emerged. Any well-aerated tank will have enough oxygen for the plant roots. So use whatever houseplants you like and see how they do.

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