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Do Cichlids Eat Plants? (Cichlids Feeding Behaviour)

Yes, cichlids eat plants. Most of the cichlids are omnivores or herbivores. So, they like to eat both plant matter and animal matter. In the wild, a cichlid’s diet usually consists of live plants and algae. Thus, they will eat most of the aquarium plants that you keep in your aquarium. Here, the main thing is cichlids do not tend to be friendly with most of the live plants. As a result, they tend to nibble on plants, and some cichlids like to dig. This behavior destroys the uproot plants in the aquarium. Therefore, you should avoid the two types of plants to keep with cichlids. These are:

  • Plants that have a weak root system
  • Plants that are known as the snacks of the cichlids 
cichlids eat

What Cichlids Don’t Eat Plants?

Some cichlids do not tend to eat plants. Most of the time, these cichlids are carnivores. Because they do not like to eat plants. They only prefer to eat animals. Let’s see what these cichlid verities that do not eat plants are. 

  • Haplochromis
  • Nimbochromis
  • Copidochromis 
  • Dwarf tanganyikan cichlids

These cichlids accept small live fish, including small cichlids, crustaceans, blood worms, etc. 

cichlids eat

What Plants Do Cichlids Like To Eat?

Generally, cichlids eat most of the aquarium plants. Among those plants, cichlids like to eat or nibble below mention aquatic plants. 


Duckweed is known as Lemoideae, Water lentils, or Water lenses. This plant belongs to the family Araceae. The remarkable thing is wild duckweed provides food and habitats to many animals, including fish. Some cichlid verities like peacock cichlids eat duckweeds enthusiastically. 

Amazon sword plants 

Amazon sword is a popular and common freshwater aquarium plant. Also, you can recognize it from its scientific name, Echinodorus amazonicus. Further, the amazon sword has rhizomes and numerous lance-shaped leaves with sharply pointed tips. These leaves are dark green. But you cannot plant an amazon sword in your cichlid tank. Because they more like to enjoy eating and damaging this plant. 


Anacharis aquarium plants are also good food for both herbivores and omnivores cichlids in your aquarium. However, you can also call this plant Brazilian waterweed, Elodea, or Waterweed. You can recognize this plant due to its appearance because this aquarium plant has numerous vibrant green leaves and green stems. Also, the roots of this live plant are fine, short, and white. And these roots are growing from the base of the stems. 


Do Cichlids Eat Algae Wafers?

Yes. Cichlids love to eat algae wafers. But before providing algae wafers to your cichlids, you should consider whether the variety of cichlids you rear is herbivorous or not. Because mostly herbivorous cichlids like to eat algae wafers. Typically herbivores cichlids need a large number of plants in their diet. So, if you have this kind of cichlids, you can provide algae wafers to them. Because these algae wafers include all required amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. In addition to that, algae wafers help to enhance cichlids’ vibrant colors too. The only thing that you should do is, provide algae wafers to your cichlids twice a day

algae waffers

What Do Cichlids Eat?

There are different varieties of cichlids in the aquarium industry. Further, these cichlids can belong to three main categories due to their appetite. These are:

  • Herbivore cichlids that like to eat only plants matters
  • The second category is carnivores. This type of cichlid only accepts animal matters or meaty foods. 
  • Thirdly you can distinguish omnivorous from cichlids. These cichlids eat both animal matter and plant matter. 

So, when you feed your cichlids, you should be aware of their appetite.  Therefore, you can select below foods listed for your cichlids based on their preference. 

Types of foods 

Prepared dry fish flakes, pellets, and granules 

This food type is common for many food species, including cichlids. Generally, these foods are not much expensive. But when you buy them, you should ensure that this dry food is fortified with omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C. Because omega 3 fatty acids add energy to your fish and help the growth of cichlids. On the other hand, vitamin C also promotes good health. Further cichlids flakes, and pellets come with color enhancers. These color enhancers bring out the vibrant natural color of your cichlids. 

Algae wafers/ disc

Algae wafers are the best food for your herbivore and omnivores cichlids. Also, it is better if you can purchase the algae wafers formulated with spirulina. Spirulina is a food supplement that consists of excellent nutrients and healing qualities. For instance, spirulina contains high protein, Beta carotene, B-12, minerals, and essential fatty acids. 

Frozen shrimps, worms, ground beef hearts, etc.

These are good sources of protein. As well, you can provide multivitamins from these foods to your cichlids. Further, these foods support to boost the aids of the digestive system and immune system of fish. 

Fresh foods or live foods 

You can feed your cichlids with live foods. However, live foods are a bit expensive and provide more benefits. As an example, these foods give a significant amount of protein to your growing cichlids. But it would be best if you fed cichlids with live foods only once or twice a week. Also, before you provide live foods, make sure these are clean. Because fresh foods are rich in foreign substances. 


In addition to these food types, you can provide vegetables for your cichlids. Zucchini, boiled carrots, cucumber, peas, lettuce, and spinach are some of the vegetables hosted by cichlids. 


You also have some fruit options that you can use to feed your cichlids. These are strawberries, grapes, and blueberries

Special Note: Additionally, here I mention the list of some other cichlid foods that are specially prepared for cichlids. You can easily purchase them from the market.

  • Tetra Tetracichlids Balanced Diet Flakes Foods for Cichlids
  • Omega One Super Color Cichlids Pellets Small Sinking 
  • Hikari Cichlid Gold Floating Pellets
  • New Life Spectrum Cichlids Formula 1 Mm Sinking Freshwater Pet Food
  • Aqueon Cichlid Food Pellets 
  • Tetracichlid Cichlid Crisps Advanced Clear Water Formula
  • API Fish Food Pellets 
  • Northfin Bug Bites Pellets for Cichlids
  • Royal Pet Suppliers Inc Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flakes Fish Food  
fish food

Cichlids Feeding Frequency

You can feed your cichlids 2 or 3 times per day. Further, you should offer a food amount that your cichlids can finish within 2 or 3 minutes. Also, do not let them overfeed. Because it can cause badly to your cichlid’s health. 

Can You Have Live Plants With Cichlids?

Yes. You can keep live plants with cichlids. But, it is challenging to keep live plants with cichlids. Because they tend to eat or nibble on live plants. Also, they like to dig substrates. This behavior causes damage to the root system of live plants, and then eventually, they will die. But some live plants can tolerate the predications of cichlids. So, you can keep the below listed live plants with cichlids in the same aquarium. 


This is a flowering aquarium plant. Especially, Anubias can thrive in the water parameters of cichlids. Also, the leaves of this plant are very thick, and cichlids do not much prefer the taste of these leaves. Because of that, Anubis can thrive in cichlid tanks. 

Java fern 

You can keep Java fern as a floating plant in a cichlid tank. Because of this, it helps to prevent the uprooting behavior of cichlids. Similarly, cichlids do not like the taste of java ferns. So, this causes to reduce the nibbling. 


Also, you can keep hornworts with cichlids. Because cichlids do not enjoy the taste of this plant. Also, if you rear this as a floating plant, cichlids can not uproot it. Further, this plant can thrive in the water parameters of cichlids. 

Green Cabomba 

The green combo is also called Fanwort, Brazilian fanwort, or Cabomba Carolina. You can keep this live aquatic plant as a floating plant in a cichlid tank. So, they cannot harm them. Similarly, cichlids do not prefer to consume this plant due to their taste. 

Java moss 

This popular aquarium plant does not need any substrate to live. You can attach them to anything like rock or driftwood in your tank. So, cichlids can not uproot them. As well, cichlids do not tend to eat this plant. 

Jungle vallisneria spiralis 

You can keep this plant too. Vallisneria is a fast-growing plant. So, this live plant faces the predations of cichlids successfully by using a quick-growing technique. In addition to these plants, you can keep Echinodorus, cryptocorynes, and crinum with cichlids in the same tank. Generally, there are different varieties in the aquarium industry. So, before you select live plants with cichlids, you should gain more knowledge of the particular plants and cichlid varieties that live in your tank. 

Do Cichlids Eat Floating Plants?

Yes. Some variety of cichlids tends to eat floating live plants. As an example, peacock cichlids more like to eat duckweeds. So, if cichlids like the taste of particular floating plants, they will tend to feed them.

Do Cichlids Like Fake Plants?

Cichlids do not consider whether the plant is real or fake. Thus, they uproot fake plants too. But like live plants, cichlids can not damage or kill fake plants. 

Will Cichlids Eat Veggies?

Yes. Cichlids love to eat veggies. But veggies only eat herbivores and omnivores cichlids. So, you have below veggie options to add to the balanced diets of your cichlids. 

  • Zucchini
  • Boiled carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

Before you put veggies into the tank, you should cut them into tiny pieces. Then it fits the fish’s mouth size and allows it to feed easily.  



There is a large number of cichlid varieties in the fish world. They can be herbivores, omnivores or carnivores. So, initially, when you decide to rear a cichlid variety, you should have enough knowledge about their diet. As well, if you wish to create a planted aquarium with cichlids, you should be highly concerned about cichlids’ behavior toward the particular plants. 

Credit to : QuebecCichlides

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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.