Cichlids are a popular type of fish that can be found in Africa and South America, but also in other parts of the world. This larger fish variety looks beautiful in any type of aquarium. However, if you have a planted aquarium, these fish can pose some issues for your plants.
Really, you want to get the right information about your fish and any plants you plan on putting in your aquarium. Most cichlids are herbivores that prefer eating algae and nutrient-rich plants. Therefore, you need to be careful when you put your fish in with any type of greenery.
Also, cichlids can be ridiculously aggressive towards plants. They like to redecorate their tank, so the plants you put in need to be strong. Most of the times, adding plants to a cichlid type is a gamble, but if you choose the right plants you can increase the odds. These are my recommendations:
- Red Tiger Lotus
- Java Fern
These plants are the perfect match for your pet fish, and they will be able to cohabitate with cichlids more easily. It isn’t easy building up a planted tank, especially with fish that like to eat live plants. Hopefully, though, in this article, I can help you figure out which plants are right for your cichlids!
What Makes An Aquarium Plant Suitable For Cichlids?
As I mentioned before, there are a large variety of cichlids for you to choose from. Regardless of which cichlid fish you choose, it can be difficult setting up a stable planted aquarium with this breed. Again, cichlids are not the best-suited fish for a planted aquarium.
If you’re looking for more plants that are suitable for beginners, check out this post on my site.
Primarily, this has to do with their behavior and feeding habits. Cichlids, especially large ones, see plants as food. And with larger cichlids, it can be more complicated to find plants that fit within the parameters of a cichlids tank requirements.
Smaller cichlids, also known as dwarf cichlids, are a little less demanding in a planted tank. But you still need very specific plants placed in your tank. In short, the plants placed in any cichlid tank need to be extremely hardy and they need to fit within the water parameters of cichlids.
In other words, aquarium plants that can withstand higher temperatures, handle harder Ph, and are hard to eat through are ideal for your fish. Furthermore, plants that don’t need substrate are also preferable.
Large cichlids like to uproot plants. But if you have flora that can be anchored down or float in the water column, it will be much easier to maintain a planted tank with cichlids.
Now let’s dive in!
Anubias plants are the first aquarium plants I will be introducing today. There are many varieties of anubias that range in color, size, and even leaf shape. So, you can easily find a plant that fits with the aesthetic of your tank!
The large leaves of the anubias are tough and hard to eat through. Their hardness makes it especially difficult for cichlids to shred through this plant. So, I highly recommend getting this type of plant breed for your cichlid aquarium.
In addition, the Anubis is not difficult to take care of. It thrives in moderate levels of light and higher water temperatures. And it can even fit in with large cichlid breeds. Check out this page to learn more about the desired temperature of cichlids.
You can also plant this type of species in many ways, as well. From using driftwood to other heavy objects you can root down the Anubias. You can also put the anubias in a substrate, but make sure to bury the roots minimally. If you put the roots too deep into the substrate this plant will die.
Cichlids could uproot this plant, so anchoring it down might be a more preferable way to plant the anubias, though.
2. Red Tiger Lotus
Red tiger lotus is the next cichlid tank plant I will be introducing. The red tiger lotus, like the cichlid, is native to the African continent. So, it will withstand the same water conditions as your fish which is a plus.
This plant prefers limited lighting, though, and should never be buried deeply in your substrate. However, it does need a substrate to grow. So, I would only recommend putting this plant in with dwarf cichlids. Larger cichlids species might uproot this plant and inhibit its growth.
Besides this issue, though, the red tiger lotus is a great plant to grow in a planted aquarium. It has a deep red color that is distinct from other plants. And, it is not difficult to care for.
Echinodorus, also known as the amazon sword, is suited for a larger variety of cichlids. Like the anubias it can go in tanks with bigger cichlids breeds. And, this type of plant is extremely hardy! The leaves of this plant grow back quickly and are not overly soft.
Also, make sure to check whether your cichlids can live together. Oscars and african cichlids for example do not go together. More about that can be found here. Cichlids and tetra’s usually also do not work, but can work with the proper precautions. More about that here.
Even if your cichlid fish tries to mess with this plant, Amazon swords are very difficult to kill. Their high regeneration rates and their root system is strong enough to keep them anchored in your tank.
Amazon sword plants can be placed in high water temperatures with cichlids, as well. The Ph range for this plant is wide, too. So, your flora won’t have trouble adapting to your fish tank conditions.
Echinodorus do need to be rooted down into a substrate. However, you can deeply plant this species and even use rocks to weight down your plant.
Just make sure to use fertilizer for this plant. It gets most of its nutrients through its root system. And give the amazon sword moderate to high levels of light. Anywhere from 10-12 hours of light will help this plant thrive.
4. Java Fern
Java fern is another popular plant that is well suited for your cichlid aquarium. Java fern does not require substrate and can cling to rocks, driftwood, and other objects. This plant also has strong leaves that are not as likely to be broken down by your fish.
Still, you want to get a more mature java fern, as younger java ferns tend to have softer leaves. This will prevent the java from getting damaged by cichlid in your tank.
On the whole, though, this is a great plant pick for cichlid fish. Java fern is pretty low maintenance. You can choose what type of light you expose this plant too, as it is not picky with light requirements. It also lives in a wide range of temperatures and Ph levels.
Cryptocoryne is another hard to kill tank plant. It tolerates high Ph levels and will be able to stay in the same tank as your fish. But, like the amazon sword, the crypt needs to be fed through its substrate.
I recommend rooting this plant deeply, and feeding it fertilizer, as well. This way your plant can grow a strong root system and stay safe in your tank. If you want, you can let your crypt establish itself in the tank after you cycle it.
You can do this with your other plants too. This will help your plants stay sturdier and stronger before your fish enters the environment.
Crypts typically like warmer temperatures, as well. And, they need low levels of light. Never over light your tank if you have crypts, though. This could lead to damage to your plant. Overall, this plant is not hard to care for. But, there’s a chance your pet could eat this slow-growing flora, especially if you have a large cichlid. But if you keep your pets well-fed, and introduce them to your plants when they are young, this is less likely to occur.
If you are looking for a hardy aquarium plant, bucephalandra is an ideal choice. This flora is similar to cryptocoryne and anubias plants. In particular, you will have similar care requirements for this plant type.
And, like the anubias, bucephalandra can be placed on hard surfaces like rocks and driftwood. So, you won’t have to worry about your fish uprooting this plant.
Rocks are especially recommended for the bucephalandra. But driftwood works fine.
Just give it low levels of light and adequate amounts of nutrition through the water column.
Bucephalandra is a great plant for beginners and poses very few issues for cichlid owners. It’s a short plant that doesn’t grow overly large. However, bucephalandra grows well in all kinds of water conditions!
The final plant on this list of best aquarium plants for cichlids is the vallisneria. Vallisneria is a fast-growing plant that can combat your cichlid’s appetite.
The leaves of this plant aren’t as hard as some of the other options I listed. Still, the vallisneria easily makes up for this deficiency with its regenerative qualities! The tall and thick leaves of the vallisneria will grow faster than your fish can eat.
So, you’ll want to provide this plant with plenty of nutrition this way it continues to grow heartily in your tank. However, if you provide vallisneria with the right condition it will fill your aquarium and make for a nice jungle look in your tank.
Tip: can cichlids live alone in an aquarium? I’ve written about the answer here.
This plant is on the tall side, though. Make sure your tank is large enough and tall enough to accommodate this species. And, don’t go overkill on lighting. Vallisneria doesn’t require much light to grow. In fact, I would recommend giving the vallisneria low levels of illumination.
You need to bury this plant, as well. But rock and driftwood can be used to weigh down your plant and keep it properly anchored!
How to Set up A Planted Aquarium With Cichlids
Setting up your cichlid planted aquarium will require some specialized knowledge, as well. Cichlids have specific water requirements that need to be followed. Especially if they are from a larger variety or from the African continent.
In this section of the post, I’ll do my best to explain how you can set up a planted aquarium for your cichlids. A lot of aquarium owners complain about putting together a tank with this breed and other plants. But, it is not impossible to set up a nice planted aquarium for your pets!
Just stick to my advice and you will have a great looking planted tank with this breed! In particular, you want to have water parameters with a higher temperature and a higher ph. This way your cichlid fish stays healthy!
Step by Step Guide For Setting up A Planted Tank With Cichlids:
1. Prepare An Appropriately Sized Tank
In terms of tanks, you want to prepare a tank that is the correct size for your fish. And, as you plan to add plants to your aquarium, you need to consider their space needs, as well. For small cichlids with only a few plants, you could get away with getting a twenty-gallon tank.
However, if you plan on having a lushly planted tank, or plan on having more fish in your tank, the size of your prepared aquarium needs to be larger. In addition, with larger breeds of cichlids, you will definitely need a bigger tank.
At least a minimum of thirty gallons is recommended for larger fish. But a larger tank size is definitely preferred for planted tanks with multiple cichlids. Seventy-five gallons is an ideal size really.
Once you have your tank, you can begin preparing the tank for your pets and fish. Clean out the tank with clean water, but refrain from using any cleaning supplies. Cloth and water should be sufficient.
And you want to make sure that the tank is secured and placed in a good location. It should not be near any direct sources of light or heat. And the tank should be put on a sturdy surface that can hold the weight of your tank with water and all your tank equipment.
2. Gather up Your Tank Equipment
Next, you should begin gathering up your tank equipment. Filters, heaters, and lighting should be purchased. You will need top-notch tank devices to keep your water in ideal condition. Cichlids need specific water parameters after all.
So, a tank heater is crucial to keeping your tank in the right temperature range. What kind of tank heater you need will depend on the size of your tank. But I would also suggest getting a thermometer so you can keep track of the heat in your tank and make sure your device is running properly!
A good lighting system will also be crucial for your plants, as well. Regardless of which plant species you get, they will need to be exposed to some form of light. Light requirements differ between plants.
So look back to the previous sections or do research to see what the light needs are for your plant. This way you can get the right kind of lighting system.
Filters are another crucial component of any tank setup. A filter will ensure that your plants and pets will stay in a clean and toxin-free environment.
Filters should have all three stages of filtration. Biological filtering is especially important, as you need beneficial bacteria to neutralize any ammonia or waste in your tank. So make sure you consider this as you buy your tank devices.
All in all, though, make sure to get high-quality and reliable equipment for your tank. This way your tank setup and maintenance are seamless.
3. Put In Your Plants
Once your tank equipment is put in place, you can begin placing your plants in your aquarium. The substrate can be situated at the bottom of your tank. But if you are not burying your plants in substrate make sure to have driftwood and rocks for your plants to root themselves on.
Spread your plants out and make sure they are in a location that allows them to grow freely without obstructions. You can also put in any additional decorations during this time.
Once your plants are secured, you can start filling your tank in with your prepared water. The water should be treated, clean, and at room temperature. Slowly pour in the water and try not to disrupt the substrate and your plants.
Turn on your tank devices as well so the water can be heated to the right temperature for your plants.
4. Cycle The Aquarium
Cycling your aquarium is important, as well. Your plants and pet fish will do better if your tank is fully cycled. Some people choose to cycle their tank with their fish, but I advise against doing this if you want your fish to live a long life. Take your time letting the nitrogen cycle complete itself. Then you can put your fish in the tank.
5. Add Your Fish
After the cycling is complete, you can put your fish in your planted tank. Watch how your fish interact with the environment and other fish during this time. But, there shouldn’t be too many issues as long as you have properly cycled your tank and put in some compatible plants and fish.
6. Fertilize Your Tank Plant
On a final note, I would recommend putting liquid fertilizer into your planted aquarium. Some people choose not to follow this step. However, if you want a thriving planted tank you need to regularly dose your plants with nutrients!