Best Plants For African Cichlids: 6 Safe Picks | Aquascape Addiction

Best Plants For African Cichlids: 6 Safe Picks

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We have put together of our top 6 best plants for African Cichlids along with some essential information as you need to be sure you add the right kind of plants with these fish as they can be tricky but we are here to help!

Best Plants For African Cichlids: 6 Safe Picks

You are about to find out that keeping African Cichlids in a planted tank is not all that easy. This is true for a variety of reasons. Anyway, finding a good plant to keep in your African Cichlid tank can be a real challenge. However, we are here to help by giving you a little list of the best plants for African Cichlids.

The list is not huge, but it sure has a lot of quality! Keep in mind that these fish have their own personalities and their own tastes, so each one may react differently to various plants. Note that the plants we list here have the best overall chance of surviving in an African Cichlid tank, but there are no guarantees (this plant one is our top pick).

Jungle Vallisneria Spiralis Our Top Pick 9.4/10
Java Moss Hardy 8.9/10
Java Fern Strong roots 8.3/10
Hornwort Versatile 8.1/10

What We Think Is The Best Plants For African Cichlids

Let’s take a really quick look at what we think is the best plant for any African Cichlid tank. This following plant makes for a really good choice for a wide variety of reasons so let’s talk about it right now.

Jungle Vallisneria Spiralis

Vallisneria Spiralis has a really good chance of surviving and making it to old age inside of an African Cichlid tank. This is true for various reasons. First off, this plant can easily survive in fairly basic (alkaline) conditions, which is important because African Cichlids need basic water.

Moreover, African Cichlids tend to not like to nibble on this plant, maybe because they don’t like the taste, or maybe because of something else. The point is that your Vallisneria Spiralis is not likely to be eaten by your African Cichlids.

Also, these plants develop a strong root system and can also be anchored down to rocks or driftwood. This is really useful because African Cichlids do like to root plants up, thus destroying them in the process. Vallisneria Spiralis is not easily uprooted, especially when anchored down, which makes it a prime choice.

Taking care of Vallisneria Spiralis is very easy. It does grow very fast, but can be easily trimmed down to size whenever you see fit. Vallisneria Spiralis does not require too much light or any special treatment either, making it an awesome choice for any African Cichlid tank. There is also the fact that this plant looks nice and helps to recreate a natural habitat for any fish present.

Buy Vallisneria Spiralis at Amazon

Plants & African Cichlids – Some Considerations

Ok, so there is a reason we are talking about this topic today and it is because finding the right plants for an African Cichlid tank can be quite difficult.

When it comes to housing plants with these fish, there are some problems that can arise. Generally speaking, for one reason or another, African Cichlids tend to not be very friendly towards plants, plus there are some other issues too;

  • African Cichlids require the water to be alkaline, or in other words, basic. This has to do with the pH level. To put it in a different way, these fish don’t like acidic water, not in the least. However, most plants need the water to be a little acidic. This makes it really difficult to find a plant that can survive in the same water as an African Cichlid.

  • African Cichlids are big into nibbling on plants. There are not too many plants that these fish won’t nibble on. Therefore, many plants get destroyed by these fish.

  • These fish also like to root up plants of all kinds, which makes it hard to find a plant to keep in a tank with them. There are some plants that develop a good root system which can withstand this assault. Also, plants that you can anchor down to a rock or some driftwood are good options too.

  • You should avoid plants that are known for making good snacks for fish as African Cichlids will probably nibble on the leaves and kill it in the process.

  • Try to avoid plants with weak root systems. African Cichlids love to dig and will more than likely uproot plants with weaker root systems.

5 Other Good Plant Options For African Cichlids

In case you are not a big fan of the Vallisneria Spiralis, there are some other plants which have a good chance of surviving in an African Cichlid tank.


There are many species of Anubias and all will work fairly well for a Cichlid tank. They can be easily anchored down to something in the tank and they are not very tasty either.

They are hardy and can easily survive in the same conditions as an African Cichlid. There is also the fact that most varieties of Anubias do not require very much care.

Buy Anubias at Amazon

Java Moss

Java Moss is another plant that can easily survive in the same water parameters as African Cichlids. Also, just like Anubias, java moss does not require much care or maintenance. It’s a hardy plant that is almost harder to kill than it is to make it thrive.

This type of moss develops a really strong root system, it can be easily anchored down, and Cichlids don’t seem to be too big on eating it.

Buy Java Moss at Amazon

Java Fern

The Java Fern is another plant with a strong root system, and therefore African Cichlids are not likely to dig it up.

Also, just like with java moss, Cichlids don’t seem to be too big on eating this stuff. Moreover, the java fern is a hardy and resilient plant that will do just fine in the same water conditions as the African Cichlid, plus it is fairly low maintenance too.

Buy Java Fern at Amazon


Hornwort is actually a great plant to keep together with African Cichlids. They are not known to be fond of the taste of it. Moreover, hornwort is a floating plant and does not have any roots.

Therefore, there is nothing for the Cichlid to uproot. Furthermore, hornwort is pretty versatile and does not mind the water conditions which an African Cichlid needs to survive.

Buy Hornwort at Amazon


This final option we want to talk about is moneywort and it is also a good choice. This one does have roots, but they grow dense and they grow fast, thus minimizing the chances of being uprooted by an African Cichlid.

Some have been known to nibble on this plant, but not nearly as much when compared to other plants. Moneywort can easily survive in the same water conditions as the African Cichlid requires, and it is fairly easy to maintain as well.

Buy Moneywort at Amazon

Commonly Asked Questions

Do Cichlids Eat Plants?

Yes, as we mentioned earlier these guys are big plant nibblers so you need to be very selective about what plants you just to add. Stick to some of the suggestions we have made and you ‘should’ be fine.

Do Cichlids Eat Moss?

When it comes to cichlid proof plants, various mosses are a pretty safe bet to go with. Although cichlids to eat and disturb many aquarium plants, they don’t seem to enjoy moss too much.

Yeah, they might nibble on it on occasion, but for the most part, no, they not enjoy eating it.

Do Cichlids Eat Java Fern?

In terms of plants compatible with African cichlids, the java fern is another fairly safe bet. For one, the java fern has a fairly strong root system, so cichlids usually won’t be able to dig them up.

Also, just like with java moss, cichlids do not seem to be attracted to java ferns, nor do they seem to enjoy eating this plant.

Do Cichlids Eat Algae?

This really depends on the type of cichlid involved. Most will try eating it on occasion, but for the most part cichlids don’t particularly enjoy eating algae.

Can You Really Have Cichlids In A Planted Tank?

Yes, you can absolutely have cichlids in a planted tank, just as long as you get cichlid safe plants. For one, cichlids do often eat various aquarium plants.

Moreover, the plants they do not eat, they still often love to dig up, thus killing their root systems, and therefore the plants as a whole.

Some plants that are ideal for cichlid tanks include anubias, java ferns, java moss, crinum, vallisneria, echinodorus, and cryptocoryne. As long as the cichlid does not like to eat the plant in question, and as long as the plant has a strong root system, it should be fine.

So, What Are The Best Plants For Cichlids?

In our opinion these 6 have the best chances of survival;

  1. Jungle Vallisneria
  2. Anubias
  3. Java Moss
  4. Java Fern
  5. Hornwort
  6. Moneywort


The bottom line is that even though keeping plants with African Cichlids can be a challenge, it is not impossible. There are more options to go with than we listed, but we did talk about the ones with the very best chance of survival (Vallisneria Spiralis is our top pick). The best plants for African Cichlids are ones that can survive in the same water, are not too tasty, and have a good root system (or not roots at all).