How to Stop Angelfish From Eating Plants? (5 Easy Tricks)

Seeing angelfish nibbling on plants isn’t a scarce view. I personally witnessed that phenomenon in my aquarium for years. Sometimes their intentions were innocent, and it seemed like they were cleaning the algae upon the leaves. However, there were times they destroyed my vegetation entirely. That was when I started looking for ways to stop the angelfish from eating my plants.

Stopping angelfish from eating plants involves these steps:

  1. Adjust their diet by adding vegetables to their meals (zucchini, leafy greens, broccoli florets, etc.).
  2. Feed your angelfish three times a day and keep the portions sufficient.
  3. Pick plants that grow quickly, such as Hygrophila, Cabomba, and Duckweed.
  4. Avoid overcrowding your tank to minimize competition over food.
  5. Use fake plants to decorate your aquarium.

These steps should stop angelfish from eating your plants. However, keep in mind that sometimes they show interest in your vegetation for different purposes. As we move forward, I will go into those cases in greater detail.

How to Keep Angelfish From Eating Plants?

As you will see later on, there are quite a few reasons why angelfish could be eating your plants. However, for now, let’s focus on the steps you should take to stop this from happening. 

Some people will encourage you to separate your angels from the plants by placing them in a tank without foliage. However, that could be a mistake:

  • First of all, angelfish need plants. As was mentioned above, their natural habitat has plenty of plants. Undoubtedly, you should replicate those conditions in an aquarium. It would be unfair to your angels to withhold from them such a crucial aspect of their natural environment.
  • Plants make angelfish feel safe. They are accustomed to swimming through the foliage to either hide from predators or to find privacy, especially if their tank is in an area that has a lot of human traffic. Professionals in the industry are always encouraging fish owners to use plants to help angelfish that have failed to eat correctly or fertilize their eggs because of stress.
  • Plants provide attractive breeding platforms for angelfish. They can lay their eggs on the leaves of your plants, using this same cover to hide their eggs and fry from tank mates that want to eat them.

So, as you can see, plants are too crucial to angelfish for you to remove them entirely. If it was a question of filling your community tank with fish of varying types, you could protect your plants by merely stocking carnivorous fish that have no interest in vegetation. 

But that option doesn’t exist with angelfish. They are all omnivorous. As such, you must find a way to stop them from eating your plants without transporting them to a bare tank. The following tips could help you in this endeavor:

1. Adjust Their Diet

This is where I recommend you start. If your angels are eating your plants because of a vegetable deficiency in their meals, change their diet. Add some vegetables to their meals. This includes zucchini, leafy greens, and broccoli florets, to mention but a few. 

However, keep in mind that changing your angel’s diet can make your situation worse. That may happen when your angel started eating the plants in its tank due to deficiencies in its meals. Then, by increasing the volume of vegetables in its menu, you might inadvertently train it to continue eating your plants (as a way of forcing you to feed it).

This is a rare occurrence, but it is worth noting. Don’t reinforce this behavior by feeding your fish every time you notice that it is nibbling on your plants. Stick to your typical meal schedule. Just add plenty of vegetables to each meal.

2. Change Their Meal Portions

Sometimes, the makeup of your angel’s meal isn’t the problem. Sometimes, angelfish eat plants because you are not feeding them enough food. In such situations, you should consider increasing the size of the individual meals. I’ve previously discussed that angelfish require you to feed them 3 to 4 times a day. 

However, the portions’ volume may change, depending on the amount of fish you have in your aquarium. Therefore, I highly suggest that you read this article I wrote. I mentioned there one of the most straightforward techniques to determine how much you should actually feed you angels.

3. Choose The Plant Species Wisely

If you understand the importance of keeping plants in your angelfish tank and you have no interest in extinguishing your angel’s penchant for eating plants, get plant species that grow quickly. This includes Hygrophila, Cabomba, and Duckweed. 

Species of this kind will grow faster than your fish can eat them. This will ensure that any portion your angels devour is replaced in due time. Plants that grow slowly will be eaten faster than they can establish themselves. So they serve no purpose in a tank whose angels have a taste for plants. 

If fast-growing plants are not your cup of tea, find plants that angels are less likely to eat. The amazon sword plant is pretty popular. It grows with such vigor that you have to trim it to prevent it from taking over your tank.[1] It also boasts long leaves that angelfish can use for spawning. 

The same goes for water sprite. It grows to an impressive 13 inches in height, providing narrow, leafy stems whose thick walls offer angelfish privacy and security. This makes the water sprite valuable to your angels. Plants like Anubias are too harsh for your angels to digest, and they taste quite horrible.[2] Either way, your fish will leave them alone.

In a different article, I spoke about whether or not angelfish eat plants. You may find that article even more useful since I provided there a list of eight unique species that the little ones aren’t likely to consume.

4. Avoid Overcrowding

Don’t overstock your tank. The more fish you have in the aquarium, the more crowded the conditions will become. That dramatically increases the chances of your angels eating your plants. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t necessarily take out the angels.

Angelfish are better kept in groups of five to six. That helps them establish hierarchy and spares their energy by swimming in shoals. Instead, I recommend that you put away other kinds of fish. That will lower the competition over food and probably improve the plant-eating issue. 

5. Use Fake plants

This is probably the best solution to your problem. If your angelfish require planted tanks, but they keep eating your plants, insert artificial plants. Your fish won’t care because they can still swim through and hide behind them. 

However, fake plants are not as beneficial as live plants. They can’t eliminate waste, improve oxygen levels, or debilitate the growth of algae. Still, those are easier to maintain. They are not vulnerable to diseases, and neither do they require trimming. If angelfish keep eating your plants, fake plants might be your only hope.

Why do Angelfish Eat Plants?

Angelfish in the wild are usually found in the flooded forests of South America. Their natural environment is filled with foliage. Their flat, smooth bodies are designed to blend in with the plants in their immediate vicinity. 

This is among the reasons why you should fill their tanks with the appropriate amount of vegetation. But fish and plants have a complicated relationship. Certain species cannot live in planted tanks. Silver dollar fish, for instance, can consume massive quantities of plant matter over a relatively short period.[3]

Buenos Aires Tetras are the same. Their bodies are tiny, but they have a taste for vegetation, one that will drive them to wreak havoc on the plants in your tank. Monos can’t be blamed for manifesting similar behavior. They eat plants for food in the wild. As such, you can expect them to do the same thing to the plants in your tank. 

Along with scats and goldfish,[4] keeping plant-eating fish in the same tank as an angelfish is going to create problems. Angelfish require planted tanks to thrive. However, the plants in your aquarium are going to become difficult, if not impossible, to maintain once you add Monos, silver dollar fish, and the like.

Some people think that this problem is only present if you have a community tank that houses multiple species of fish. They believe that their plants will remain intact if their tank is filled with angelfish and nothing else. But this isn’t true. 

Angelfish are omnivorous. They eat both animal and plant life. In other words, they are more than capable of consuming plants. Of course, this isn’t a habit for which angelfish are known. They need the foliage for different purposes, and it does not benefit them to eat the plants you’ve added.

But it can happen. Why? Well, the factors driving an angelfish to eat the plants in its tank tend to vary. They include:

1. Merely Experimentation

First of all, there is nothing extraordinary about angelfish nibbling on plants. In fact, this isn’t a problem that should concern you. Besides leaving a few noticeable marks on the leaves, such behavior won’t actually destroy your plants.

Don’t conclude that your fish have become a menace simply because they have taken a few nibbles here and there. You see this a lot in young angelfish. They are always trying new things. Don’t be so shocked to find them eating some of your pants. This will probably only happen once or twice before they lose interest. 

Can this behavior persist in young angels? Yes, it can. And this is where you should show concern. If your angels bite the plants in their first months, it may become a habit. At this point, I suggest that you take the plants off. After a while, you may introduce them once again and see if your angelfish’s behavior changed.

2. They Are Bored

Like all living creatures, angelfish are not immune to boredom. And like all living creatures, boredom tends to encourage misbehavior in angelfish. If you have only one angelfish in a tank, consider giving it suitable companions that will keep it distracted.

Though, this solution doesn’t always deliver the positive results people expect. If your old fish has developed a habit of eating your plants, it can just as easily pass this habit on to the new fish, exacerbating your problems. 

3. Lack of Food

As I mentioned earlier, angelfish are omnivores. That means they need both meat and vegetables in their diet. If you keep feeding them meals that are rich in meat but devoid of plants, they will eat the foliage in their tank as a way of compensating for this deficiency. 

But, as was mentioned above, young fish will eat plants out of curiosity. Don’t assume that they are hungry simply because they keep nibbling at the foliage. As anyone that rears angelfish will tell you, it is never a good idea to overfeed fish. 

By trying to overcompensate for their perceived hunger, you could harm the health of your young angels in the long run. Unfortunately, angelfish don’t reject food. If you keep feeding them, they will keep eating.

4. The Particular Case of Algae

If your angelfish have an affinity for algae, they will eat it wherever they can find it. If the algae manifest on the leaves of your plants, the angels might eat the plants along with it.

If you suspect that is your case, you may find another article I’ve written useful. In there, I explained in which situations angelfish are likely to consume algae. I also offered you six prevention techniques, which I have found extremely useful. 

5. They Are Actually Breeding

Plants provide attractive breeding platforms for angelfish. For this reason, you could erroneously assume that your angels are eating your plants when they are merely cleaning a spawning site. You should always take a moment to search for any signs of damage to your plants. Only then conclude whether or not your angels have developed a taste for them. 

Also, when reproducing, the female angelfish will lay eggs upon the leaves. Then, the male will swim above them and begin his fertilization. This behavior is a massive hint that the angelfish aren’t eating the plants, but instead using them for reproductive purposes. 

Conclusions

Angelfish nibble on plants – that is a given. Sometimes they will do it when they are hungry. That is easy to solve. All you have to do is introduce the meals more frequently in sufficient amounts. 

Nevertheless, they might bite the plants for other reasons. It could be that they are cleaning the algae which had been accumulated them. They may also show interest in your foliage since they are planning to lay eggs and reproduce. 

Identifying the different cases can only be done by observation. See how your angels behave and determine their intentions. Then, you may take the necessary steps accordingly.

References

  1. https://www.thesprucepets.com/best-live-plants-for-angelfish-4588961
  2. https://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/blog/2014/02/which-plants-will-my-fish-not-eat.html
  3. https://www.ratemyfishtank.com/blog/fish-to-avoid-for-planted-freshwater-tanks
  4. http://thetyedyediguana.com/blog/how-to-stop-your-fish-from-eating-your-aquarium-plants/

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