Fish That Eat Plants – Which Plant Eating Fish Should You Avoid

Fish In An Aquarium
(Image credit: fotografieMG)

Growing plants with aquarium fish is rewarding and watching the fish swimming peacefully in and out of the foliage is always entertaining. However, if you aren’t careful, you might end up with plant-eating fish that make short work of the beautiful foliage. Some fish gently nibble on the leaves, while others quickly uproot or devour entire plants. Keep reading for tips on avoiding fish that eat plants.

Bad Fish for Aquarium Plants

If you want to combine plants and fish, research carefully to determine what aquarium fish to avoid. You may want to skip the following fish that eat plants if it’s foliage you’d like to enjoy too:

  • Silver dollars (Metynnis argenteus) are big, silvery fish native to South America. They are definitely herbivores with giant appetites. They devour entire plants in nothing flat. Silver dollars are a favorite aquarium fish, but they don’t mix well with plants.
  • Buenas Aires tetras (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi) are beautiful little fish but, unlike most tetras, they are bad fish for aquarium plants. Buenas Aires tetras have hefty appetites and will power through nearly any type of aquatic plant.
  • Clown loach (Chromobotia macracanthus), native to Indonesia, are beautiful aquarium fish, but as they grow, they plow up plants and chew holes in leaves. However, some plants with tough leaves, such as java fern, may survive.
  • Dwarf gouramis (Trichogaster lalius) are relatively docile little fish and they usually do fine once aquarium plants have developed mature root systems. However, they may uproot immature plants.
  • Cichlids (Cichlidae spp.) are a large and diverse species but they are generally bad fish for aquarium plants. In general, cichlids are rambunctious fish that enjoy uprooting and eating plants. 

Growing Plants with Aquarium Fish

Be careful not to overpopulate your aquarium. The more plant-eating fish you have in the tank, the more plants they will eat. You may be able to divert plant-eating fish from your plants. For instance, try feeding them carefully washed lettuce or small chunks of peeled cucumbers. Remove the food after a few minutes if the fish aren’t interested.

Some aquatic plants grow fast and replenish themselves so quickly that they may survive in a tank with fish that eat plants. Fast-growing aquarium plants include cabomba, water sprite, egeria, and myriophyllum.

Other plants, such as java fern, aren’t bothered by most fish. Similarly, although anubias is a slow-growing plant, fish generally pass by the tough leaves. Fish enjoy nibbling on rotala and hygrophila, but they usually won’t devour entire plants.

Experiment. In time, you’ll find out which aquarium fish to avoid with your aquarium plants.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.