How to Protect Aquarium Plants from Fish?

Many aquarium keepers prefer to keep live plants in their fish aquariums.

After all, aquarium plants help beautify the aquariums and provide great cover for your fish.

However, a planted aquarium often has one huge drawback – fish tend to munch on aquarium plants!

So, let’s look at how you can protect your aquarium plants from your fish.

How to Protect Aquarium Plants from Fish

If you are looking for a quick fix to this dilemma, then there’s just one quick and surefire way to protect your aquarium plants from fish—simply separate your aquarium plants from the plant-eating fish.

However, this tactic will definitely ruin the aesthetic of your aquarium.

If your heart is set on keeping a combined tank, then you need a more effective solution.

Let’s look at some effective and quick ways in which you can protect your aquarium plants from fish.

Stock Your Aquarium with Carnivorous Fish Only

If you really want a fish aquarium with both fish and live plants in it, then the one way you can protect your plants from fish is to fill your aquarium with meat-eating fish only.

There are a lot of freshwater meat-eating fish species that you can keep in your aquarium.

These species usually love to devour small freshwater snails and shrimp.

Here are a few carnivorous fish species that you can keep in your plant-hosting aquarium:

  • Oscar Fish
  • Black Ghost Knife fish
  • Betta Fish

You can easily find all of these fish species in your local pet stores. They are also pretty easy to care for and they will leave your aquarium plants alone.

You can even introduce some omnivores in your aquarium.

Some omnivorous fish, such as the Rosy Red Minnows, will also leave your big aquarium plants alone since these fish prefer to chew on only the smallest of aquarium plants and plant matter.

Choose Fish Species That Will Avoid Your Plants

Fill your aquarium with small fish species that won’t devour your aquarium plants. Small fish species likely to avoid your plants include Barbs, Livebearers, Danios, Guppies, Platies, and most Tetras.

Bottom feeders such as Corydoras, Catfish, and Gobies are also safe for planted tanks.

Some larger fish species, such as Rainbow Fish, Gouramis, Killifish, and Discus Fish, will also do well in a planted aquarium.

All of these fish species are perfect for housing in your planted aquarium since they will leave your plants alone.

Avoid Fish Species That Devour Aquarium Plants

Some fish species are notoriously known for devouring and entirely uprooting live aquarium plants.

The last thing you want to do is to fill your aquarium with species that will demolish your plants.

So, it’s best if you avoid filling your planted aquarium with the following plant-devouring fish species:

Silver Dollar Fish

Silver Dollar Fish is a popular fish species that is pretty easy to care for. However, it ranks high amongst the worst freshwater fish species when it comes to devouring plants.

Silver Dollar Fish can grow up to about 6 inches in size, so they can devour large amounts of plants in a short time period.

In fact, this fish species has the remarkable potential to decimate an entire aquarium full of live plants in less than a week’s time!

Buenos Aires Tetras

Buenos Aires Tetras, unlike other Tetras, are the absolute worst fish species to keep in a planted aquarium.

These Tetras are ravenous eaters – they eat significantly more than most Tetra fish.

Though Buenos Aires Tetras are small in size— they grow only about 2 ½ inches long – they can wreak complete havoc in your planted aquarium.

They have a prominent tendency to devour any and all live aquarium plants, except for the Java Fern.


Monos look eerily similar to Silver Dollar Fish with just one exception – they grow quite a few inches larger than the other fish.

This fish species primarily survive on vegetable and plant matter in its natural habitat.

So, Monos are highly likely to munch on your live aquarium plants if you don’t provide them with a sufficient vegetable diet.


Scats are fish species that thrive in brackish water.

Although they are highly likely to devour live plants in your aquarium, many aquatic plant species do not thrive in brackish water conditions.

The ones that do will definitely be eaten by Scats!


Goldfish are a fish species that need ample aquarium space to thrive. Not only do they grow quite large in size, but they also need high levels of dissolved oxygen to survive in your aquarium.

This is why Goldfish will likely devour and feed on any live plants that you place in an aquarium with them.

So, if you want to place Goldfish and live plants in the same aquarium, then keep plants that grow significantly quickly so that their roots aren’t devoured by your Goldfish.

Leporinus Genus of Fishes

The Leporinus fish genus can grow at a quick pace. Also, all Leporinus fish have a tendency to decimate planted tanks.

So, don’t make the mistake of adding these fish to your tanks as with their size and large appetites for live plants, they will definitely destroy your planted aquarium.


Another fish species to avoid placing in a planted aquarium is the Pleco.

While juvenile Plecos are a great addition to community tanks, as they mature and grow big in size, they can become a bit too aggressive.

This is when they might also develop a habit of devouring live plants.

Oscars and Cichlids

Oscars and Cichlids are two large fish species that do not eat live plants. However, they have a pattern of digging around in an aquarium’s substrate.

This digging pattern is potentially damaging for delicate aquarium plants.

Cichlids and Oscars could very well uproot your delicate aquarium plants, so avoid adding them to your planted aquariums.

Increase the Amount of Algae-Based Food in Your Fish’s Diet

If you want to fill your aquarium with herbivorous fish species and don’t want to separate them from your plants, then a solid tip is to increase the amount of algae-based foods and vegetables in their diet.

Feed your fish lots of vegetables and keep them satiated so that they don’t munch on your aquarium plants.

Lots of omnivorous and herbivorous fish love to chew on a large variety of vegetables.

Ideal and safe vegetables that you can feed your freshwater aquarium fish include the following:

  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli florets
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Leafy Greens
  • Cucumber
  • Shelled Peas

Tropical fish species prefer algae and seaweed to common household vegetables.

So, it’s better to feed them store-bought seaweed than fresh veggies. If you want to feed them terrestrial vegetables, then do so in moderation.

Grow Aquarium Plants that Fish Don’t Eat

A solid tip to protect your aquarium plants from fish is to grow only those live plants in your aquarium that fish don’t like to feed on.

Most fish species don’t like to munch on Java Fern due to its tough leaves, so, that automatically makes it an ideal choice for aquarium owners.

The same goes for Anubias and Java Moss. Experiment with different live plants and see which ones your fish leave alone.

Minimize the Number of Fish in Your Aquarium

The more fish you have in your aquarium, the more your plants are going to get eaten by them.

So, the best thing for you to do to protect your plants is to minimize the number of fish in your aquarium.

This step won’t entirely protect your plants, but it will definitely lessen the intensity and damage inflicted by the fish.

Plant Fast-Growing Plants in Your Aquarium

Another way to protect your plants from fish is to only place fast-growing live plants in your aquarium.

Slow-growing plants will not be able to establish themselves in your aquarium with plant-eating fish.

Your fish will likely devour them before they take root in your aquarium.

Fast-growing plants, on the other hand, will not only establish themselves quickly in your aquarium but will also grow much quicker than the pace at which the fish will eat them.

While this step won’t entirely protect your plants from fish, it will help them to stay rooted in your aquarium.

Cabomba, Water Sprite, Hygrophila, and Duckweed are all excellent fast-growing aquarium plant species.

While these steps will not entirely save your plants from plant-eating fish, they will prevent entire plants from being devoured by your fish.

This is the best compromise that you need to accept if you want an aquarium with both live plants and plant-eating fish.

Select Your Fish Before You Select your Plants

The best way to protect your aquarium plants from fish is to select the fish you want to place in your aquarium before the plants.

Knowing the fish you want to keep will allow you to select the plants that are naturally found in that particular species’ native habitat.

The more the aquarium environment resembles the native habitat of your fish, the higher are the chances that your fish will stay happy and eat their food rather than moodily munch on your aquarium plants.

Further Tips for Protecting and Maintaining Your Aquarium’s Plants

Here are some additional tips to help you keep your aquarium plants alive and thriving:

  • Always ensure that your chosen plant is compatible with or will be able to adjust to the environment of your aquarium.
  • In aquariums that house Cichlids, protect your plants by adding only floating plants that don’t need to be rooted in your aquarium’s substrate. Two great floating aquarium plants are Duckweed and Hornwort.
  • Another great tip is to root your aquarium plants in pieces of driftwood. This will allow them to have a firm foundation and prevent fish from nibbling at their roots.

In Conclusion

Aquarium plants and fish can coexist happily, provided you take certain measures to protect your plants from plant-devouring fish.

Use the steps and tips mentioned above to make sure that your aquarium plants stay safe and protected from the fish housed in your aquarium.

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