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Do African Cichlids Eat Aquatic Plants? 5 Things to Consider

There are many herbivorous and omnivorous African cichlids that are going to eat aquatic plants. In fact, this is often the main problem with them.

Beginner fish keepers tend to decorate their aquarium with various different plants only to find them uprooted or in pieces afterwards.

That’s right, if they don’t uproot it, they are going to eat it. There are very few plants that can survive in an African cichlid tank but at least there are a handful to choose from.

You need to buy the ones that have incredibly strong roots or make sure it tastes so bad that your cichlids won’t touch it.

We are going to talk about various plants you can keep in an African cichlid aquarium and the plant eating habits of different cichlids. If you are struggling with finding the ideal plant and need help, then keep on reading!

Plants You Can Keep in African Cichlids Tank

The three plants that fish keepers can truly rely on for an African cichlid tank are Anubias, Vallisneria and Java Fern. These all have hard leaves and incredibly bad taste for the cichlids that make it hard for them to consume it.

If you are looking for some plants that can survive despite the tendencies of these aggressive fish, then you can’t go wrong with these three.

Of course, your African cichlids are going to try to nip on them, yet they are quickly going to give up.

Although the Anubias is not exactly from the lakes that African cichlids are from, it can easily adapt to the water conditions. Vallisneria is the most tropical one here, while the Java Fern is a popular plant from the east.

Your cichlids are simply not going to be able to deal with the thick leaves of the Anubias. When it comes to the Java Fern, your fishes are not going to like the taste for sure. The only questionable one here is the Vallisneria, which has to be planted in the substrate.

Although its roots are rather strong, there are still some larger cichlids that can uproot them. Nevertheless, its long leaves are beautiful.

How to Secure Aquatic Plants in Your Tank?

The best way to secure plants is to grab a fishing line and fix it to some bigger rocks. African cichlids tend to move small rocks and dig the substrate a lot. They are pretty chaotic, which is why they usually uproot a lot of plants in the tank.

Therefore, securing your plants to bigger rocks is an outstanding idea. This can work with the Anubias and the Java Fern without any issues.

The Vallisneria, however, has to be planted in the substrate. If your want your plants to be super secure, then it is certainly a better idea to choose the Java Fern or the Anubias.

Those have no problems with their roots being attached to a rock. In general, the abovementioned plants are rather enduring and they don’t have specific requirements.

Do African Cichlids Eat Duckweed?

Duckweed is a healthy and nutritious plant for your African cichlids. It contains lots of proteins and Vitamin B12 as well. Many fish species love to eat Duckweed in general.

You can supplement the diet of your cichlids by either planting one in your tank or just feeding it to them from a separate source.

Herbivorous and omnivorous cichlids go crazy when they see this plant. This is also why it is not going to survive for long in your tank, but at least your precious pets will be well-fed.

Cichlids that Don’t Eat Aquarium Plants

Since there are carnivorous African cichlids, those are great examples. They are definitely not going to eat any of your plants. If you plan to keep omnivores or herbivores, however, then there is going to be a problem in most cases.

Fortunately, there are exceptions in those categories too. One of them is a bottom dweller called Auloncara, which flourishes in beautiful blue and yellow colors. They mostly search the substrate for food and live on a protein-rich diet.

Their diet has to be supplemented with spirulina or omnivorous flakes or pellets. They don’t really care about eating plants. There is also a blue predator called Buccochromis or Stripeback Hap which is a predator, leaving plants completely out of the question.

The third one that is not going to eat plants whatsoever is the Caprichromis. This species prefers to eat the eggs or fry of other fish. All three of these species originate from Lake Malawi.

Do Shell Dweller Cichlids Eat Plants?

The diet of shell dweller cichlids is completely meat-based, as they are all carnivorous species.

They are from Lake Tanganyika and every one of them is so small that it can occupy a snail shell. These species would be deadly if they were a bit bigger, as they can be extremely aggressive.

Once you put your finger in the water, there is a high chance they are going to beat it. They use shells not only for shelter but for breeding as well. They are going to bite everything that moves except plant. They have no interest in those.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, keeping plants in the same tank with African cichlids can be quite problematic. But not if you have read this article!

We have introduced you three different plants that you can keep in your cichlid aquarium without any issue. Also, all of them are beautiful and easy to take care of.

The plant eating habits of African cichlids can vary. It really depends on their diet, as carnivores are certainly not going to eat them. Because of the energetic and territorial behavior of these species, they tend to uproot plants from the substrate.

We have shared a solution to that problem, too. Or, you can just pick those fish species that don’t care about plants whatsoever. The Auloncara, Buccochromis and Caprichromis are all very interesting fish to keep at home!

avatar I’m Julia, and I used to work in a fish store for over 5 years. On this blog I help beginners care for their cichlids and share my experience and research on various fishkeeping related topics.

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