What Plants Can I Pair With Plant-Eating Fish?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Your planted tank sure looks good… good enough to eat! If you don’t want fish eating all of the plants in your aquarium, we’ve put together a few tips to keep nibbles at a minimum.

You’ve put in the work and the time, and now your planted tank is thriving. The last thing you want to do is have all your hard work be destroyed by hungry fish. Many freshwater aquarium fish are omnivorous, eating a variety of foods, but some are herbivorous – this means that they feed primarily on plant matter. If you stock your planted tank with plant-eating fish, it’s like letting a kid loose in a candy store!

Plant-Eating Fish to Avoid

If you plan to cultivate a thriving planted tank, you need to be very careful about what kind of fish you use to stock your tank. Certain fish are more likely to feed on aquarium plants than others, and these are the species you want to avoid. Examples include the following:

  • Rainbowfish: This type of fish is named for its bright colors that have the potential to change with the reflection of light. There are many different rainbowfish species and most of them are herbivorous. This species does best in groups of six or more and a school of rainbowfish can do heavy damage to a planted tank in a short period of time.

Related: What are the Most Difficult Aquatic Plants to Grow?

  • Silver Dollars: These fish are named for their silver coloration and round shape. Silver dollars grow up to 6 inches long and they have fierce appetites for plant foods. These fish do well in community tanks and they are hardy.
  • Monos: These fish look similar to silver dollars, although they grow a little bit larger. Like silver dollars, monos love to eat live plants so you need to be sure to feed them plenty of algae flakes and fresh vegetables.
  • Buenos Aires Tetras: While many tetras will nibble on plants now and then, the Buenos Aires tetra is known for being a voracious plant-eater. These fish will eat almost any kind of plant available except for Java ferns.

Related: Top 3 Substrates to Use in Planted Aquariums

Plants for Herbivorous Fish

If you decide to keep plant-eating species of fish in your planted tank, you’ll have a challenge on your hands. It’s not that it can’t be done successfully, but you do need to be mindful when choosing your tank inhabitants. Here’s a list of some of the best plants to use in planted tanks inhabited by herbivorous species of fish:

  • Hygrophila: This is a genus of aquatic plants that are common and easy to find in pet stores and online. Hygrophila plants are one of the fastest growing plants for planted tanks and the leaves soften as the stems grow longer, making them very edible for fish.
  • Water Sprite: This plant grows quickly so it will replenish itself at the same rate (or faster) than your fish can eat it. This plant grows on the surface of the water so, the stronger the light, the faster it will grow.
  • Duck Weed: This type of plant produces small round leaves that float on the surface of the water. Duck weed has the potential to grow quickly, especially in strong lighting, and it is a popular food option for herbivorous species of fish.
  • Cabomba: This type of aquatic plant grows quickly in strong lighting which makes it a great choice for planted tanks. This plant produces leaves that form whorls on the stems and it is very soft and edible for aquarium fish.

In addition to choosing fast-growing species of plant for your planted tank, you should also make sure that you are feeding your fish enough. If your fish are properly fed, they will be less likely to feed on your aquarium plants. Feed your herbivorous fish spirulina flakes as well as blanched zucchini and other fresh vegetables.

Cultivating a planted tank is no easy matter, especially if you stock your tank with plant-eating species of fish. If you are careful and do your homework ahead of time, however, you will find that it is possible to keep plants and herbivorous fish in the same tank.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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