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Plant Options for Your Cichlid Aquarium

Blake B

Posted on June 30 2019

While having rocks in your cichlid aquarium is important, there’s also the question of plants. Aquarium plants will add verdant beauty and an aesthetic touch to your tank that both you and the cichlids will enjoy. It’s natural for humans to want to be surrounded by nature even indoors, and it’s safe to assume the same is true of cichlids. 

However, you may not be aware that cichlids are actually inclined to eat many plants you might normally keep in an aquarium. Many species of cichlids are herbivores, and while their diet normally consists of algae in the wild, they can find the aquarium plants you’ve invested in quite tasty, too. Luckily for you, there are some plants which cichlids will not eat, or which can survive it when they do, and so these are the ones you’ll want to choose for your cichlid tank. 


This is a somewhat grass-like, long-leafed plant which can be added to your aquarium substrate, and is extremely fast growing. This is it’s primary advantage for cichlid tanks, because even if your cichlids nibble at it a bit, it grows so fast that this will likely not be problematic. Just make sure you give it plenty of fertilization, in the substrate. 

Java Fern

This is a type of aquarium plant that clings to rocks, wood, and similar objects, using something called “holdfast” roots. It is more broad-leafed, and also hard-leafed, which means it’s easy to take care of, because it’s very rugged. However, you should only insert this plant in the aquarium after it has grown to some maturity, because when it is young and soft, it is still liable to predation by your cichlids. 


Another hard-leaf that is resistant to cichlid predation (when fully grown), this plants pear-shaped leaves make a nice addition to tanks, reminiscent of trees to some degree. These are among the easiest aquarium plants to care for, and will grow in substrate or on rocks or wood. Generally speaking, because cichlids tend to move the substrate about, such as when nesting, it’s advantageous to have plants that will grow on rocks or other decorative elements. 


This plant’s long, wavy-leafed tendrils are visually interesting, and also hard enough to resist cichlid chomping. The main consideration for them is that they need high levels of light in order to survive. However, as long as you can provide the light, they add a unique touch. 

Cryptocoryn (Water Trumpets)

These broad-leafed plants are hardy enough to resist cichlid nibbling, and also do well in the types of water African cichlids thrive in, hard and alkaline. They primarily live rooted in substrate, and do need good substrate fertilizers. 

Echinodorus (Amazon Swordplants)

Although this species is primarily recommended for South American cichlids, they can also work for African cichlids, too. It is a substrate-dweller with high nutrient needs, with targeted fertilization being most ideal. You may also need to weigh it down with something, until the roots take hold in the substrate. They are a bit softer than many of the other plants mentioned here, and so may get eaten by particularly aggressive cichlid chompers.

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