Do Platies Eat Plants & Algae? (With 15 Examples)

Quite frequently, I noticed that the plants in my aquarium are being eaten. As time passed, I realized that I spend way too much money on new plants and should focus on prevention instead. Since platies are prevalent in my tank, I began wondering whether they eat plants and algae. That was when I began to research the topic a little deeper.

As an omnivorous species, platies do eat plants and algae, mostly when they are hungry and inappropriately fed. Typically, they consume the algae upon the plants’ leaves, nibbling both as a consequence. However, if the platies are satiated, they are less likely to turn to vegetation.

As we move forward, I will share a list of plants that platies are likely to nibble when they are underfed, and which plants they will probably avoid either way. Also, I will elaborate on how to prevent your fish from getting hungry. That will allow you to maintain a healthy, vegetated tank. 

Will Platies Eat Plants & Algae?

Platies like densely planted tanks. Even though they are highly active fish, they enjoy the seclusion that plants offer.[1] This is especially true for pregnant platies. If you want to know whether or not platies will ultimately ruin your planted tank, you might be disappointed to learn that the fish-rearing community has not reached a consensus.

1. Eating Habits

First of all, it should be noted that platies are omnivorous. They eat both animal and plant matter. You can feed them insects, worms, vegetables, crustaceans, and the like. While they like meat, platies can survive on a herbivorous diet.[2] In other words, the creatures are more than capable of eating plants. On this matter, everyone agrees.

But are platies a danger to your planted tank? Well, it depends on the aquarist you have chosen to consult. Some people’s platies have never eaten their plants, while others can’t get enough of them. As every professional has no doubt mentioned, all fish are different. In that regard, they are similar human beings. 

They have distinct personalities that will affect the way they react. As such, some platies might have a higher affinity for plants than others. That being said, there is little to no evidence to suggest that this species is capable of ruining planted tanks. At best, they will nibble on a few leaves. You don’t have to worry about the creatures decimating your aquarium’s plant life. 

Again, all platies are different. If you look hard enough, you will probably find an aquarist whose aquarium landscape was ruined because his platies couldn’t get enough of his plants. But such cases are rare. Based on the experiences of the average aquarist, platies are no threat to your plants. To be more specific, they are not a significant threat.

2. The Question of Algae

Platies have a much higher affinity for algae than they do for ordinary terrestrial and aquatic plants. Why does this matter? Some people think their platies are a threat to their plants because they have seen the creatures nibbling on several leaves.

They have taken this as proof that their fish will eventually reduce their plant cover to ash. But you shouldn’t be so quick to make such assumptions. Algae is typically found on plants. And most platies spend a lot of time grazing on the algae on the plants in their aquarium.

Often, platies will inadvertently nibble on the plants as they attempt to get at the algae. Once you realize that their target is the algae, your concern will fade. Admittedly, by nibbling on the plants during its attempt to reach the algae, your fish could acquire a taste for the plant life in your tank.

But even when this occurs, the creature’s hunger for algae will always outstrip its interest in your plants. Some people rely on their fish to keep the algae in their aquariums under control. Platies are a striking example of such species.

3. Underfed Platies

If your platies are eating your plants, you probably have something to do with that. When owners fail to feed them to their satisfaction, platies usually turn to the plants to satiate their hunger. They can live without food for two weeks, especially if they have plenty of algae. However, if the algae aren’t cutting it, they will turn their attention to the other plants. 

That is also true for most fish. If they are starving, they will eat whatever they can find in the water to survive. If your platies have taken a sudden interest in your plants, review their eating habits. You might be surprised to find that you don’t feed them as adequately as you initially presumed.

Admittedly, I suffered for years from eaten plants in my tank, and I suspect that underfeeding was to blame. Sometimes I forgot to feed my fish, and in other cases, the portions were probably too thin. Once I introduced the Eheim Automatic Feeding Unit (link to Amazon) to my tank, all of that was resolved. An automatic feeder will do magic to your tank, and it is surprisingly easy to use.

4. The Health of Your Plants

Some people accuse their platies of eating their plants because they have seen the fish eating the algae and small crustaceans on the leaves. Other people come to this same conclusion because they have noticed that their plants are disappearing a few sections at a time.

If that sounds like your situation, don’t be so quick to point the finger at the platies. If aquarium plants don’t get enough nutrients or light, they will start to melt, losing their leaves in the process. To a beginner, this might look like the work of a hungry fish.

However, experienced aquarists can tell the difference between a plant that was eaten and one that simply melted. This happens a lot with terrestrial plants. Before you blame your fish, investigate the health of your plants. Eliminate the possibility that they might have rotted away before you turn your attention to the platies.

Regarding that topic, here are two related articles I wrote that might also interest you:

What Plants Will Platies Eat?

People add plants to their tanks because of their aesthetic value. If you like the impact your plants have had on your tank’s appearance, you might want to identify the species your platies will probably eat so that you can protect them. They include:[3]

  • Algae – Algae are plants. Some people treat them as separate entities, but they are not. People permit algae to grow because platies eat it. You can introduce algae to your tank by placing a rock in the water in a location that exposes it to the sun. In a week or two, algae will eventually cover its entire surface.
  • Hygrophila – Hygrophila is relatively popular among first-time aquarists because it proliferates beautifully. Fast-growing plants are attractive because they can grow faster than a fish can eat them.[4] Therefore, you don’t have to worry about replacing them. Hygrophila is readily available in most places.
  • Cabomba – Available in red and green varieties, Cabomba will multiply if you expose it to sufficient quantities of light. It is not only beautiful but soft, which is why fish enjoy eating it.[5]
  • Duckweed – This plant is also beautiful. This is on top of its fast-growing properties. It needs bright light to grow at the rapid rate that aquarists with plant-eating fish require. Though, because platies are not necessarily the most voracious plant eaters, you don’t need the fastest growing plants, not unless your fish have shown a greater interest in plant life than average.
  • Ambulia – This is a delicate plant with beautiful leaves that grows at a decent pace when exposed to sufficient light. It isn’t suitable for fish that eat a lot of plants, but it can contend with creatures like platies whose interest in plants is mild.
  • Egeria – Every aquarist knows this plant. It is probably the most common of the aquarium plants. It has a fast rate of growth, and it is easy to maintain. You can use it to inhibit algae growth.
  • Myriophyllum – Available in various species, this plant has soft leaves, which is why fish like platies might eat it. It also grows quickly, so you can trust it to replenish its numbers before your fish consume it entirely.
  • Aponogeton – This is an attractive plant that produces beautiful flowers that will transform your aquarium’s look. It has bulbs that send leaves to the surface.
  • Rotala – This plant has relatively soft leaves that encourage fish to nibble on it. However, the plant is also somewhat tough. As such, platies are incapable of completely consuming it. You can find it in several beautiful species.
  • Nymphaea – These plants (water lilies and lotus) are hardy and not necessarily suitable for fish, but only when their leaves are allowed to escape to the surface. If you pinch the leaves, forcing them to stay inside the water, they will grow soft over time, becoming an attractive food option for fish.
  • Water Sprite – This beautiful plant is typically found on the surface of the water. With a reliable light source, it will grow fast enough to surpass the rate at which your fish eat it.

While this list included plants that platies can potentially eat, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will do so. As was mentioned above, platies like plants and prefer swimming in vegetated areas. However, if your fish are hungry, they might turn to these particular plants.

What Plants Platies Will Avoid Eating?

If you want to maintain a planted aquarium that your platies are unlikely to ruin, you can add plants that they cannot eat, including:

  • Anubias – These plants come from Africa. They grow slowly, and they have tough leaves.[6] Their slow rate of growth tends to attract algae. They make an excellent addition to tanks when you tie them to rocks and driftwood. You can get it here on Amazon.
  • Java Ferns – These plants use a thick rhizome to anchor themselves to the aquarium. You can also attach them to rocks and driftwood.[7] They will thrive in low light conditions. You don’t have to worry about your platies eating them. Fish don’t like java ferns and usually avoid them. If you are interested in this plant, you may find it here on Amazon.
  • Java Moss – This plant grows in strands and tangles that wrap around rocks and driftwood. It is used to create an attractive background, especially if you permit it to cover certain surfaces in the aquarium. It might become a threat to other plants unless you prune it. Fish won’t eat it. This plant is also relatively cheap, feel free to check it out on Amazon.
  • Crinum – This is another variety of slow-growing plants that are not only attractive but hardy. They have long leaves that grow from a bulb and eventually reach the surface of the water. Fish won’t eat them either. You may read more about it on Amazon.

Conclusions

Typically, platies avoid eating aquarium plants. Even though they are omnivorous, they are less likely to eliminate your vegetation. However, when they are underfed, platies typically consume algae that grow on plants’ leaves.

As they do that, they may bite the leaves themselves, eating them in the process. To avoid such occurrence, you are encouraged to properly feed your platies, not skipping meals in the process. Try feeding your fish the amount of food they consume within two minutes, no more and no less. 

If you forget feeding your platies, I recommend getting an automatic feeder. That will keep your entire community tank satiated, and your plants will be able to flourish. Either way, make sure that your plants are not rotten, and that the fish are the ones to blame.

References

  1. https://platyfishguide.com/do-platy-fish-need-plants/
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/platy-fish/
  3. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/water-plants/wgen/feeding-fish-plants.htm
  4. http://thetyedyediguana.com/blog/how-to-stop-your-fish-from-eating-your-aquarium-plants/
  5. https://www.petguide.com/blog/fish/what-plants-can-i-pair-with-plant-eating-fish/
  6. http://www.unixsupport.ca/information/fishing/fish_tank/Plants_in_tank.htm
  7. https://petcentral.chewy.com/plants-as-fish-food/

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