22 Best Fish For Planted Tanks (& What To Look For)

Last Updated on 2024-07-02

An aquarium that has been carefully planted is a thing of beauty; it is a self-contained ecosystem. When it’s time to add fish to complement your beautiful plants, though, it’s important to remember that not all fish are equally plant-friendly. Collateral damage due to size and behavior are two possible risks.

Some fish are too big for the tank, and others will eat the plants you’ve carefully selected for your aquascape.

So, it’s not easy to figure out which fish will do best in a planted aquarium. Have no fear! Here, we’ll go over some criteria to keep in mind as you stock your lovely aquarium with fish.

Can You Put Fish In A Planted Tank?

The final step in aquascaping is to stock your tanks with thriving freshwater fish so that your plant life can truly flourish. Aquatic plants and fish should be carefully curated for naturalistic realism in a “planted” or “natural” aquarium.

Natural aquariums are typically easier to maintain than other types of aquariums due to the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. By releasing carbon dioxide and other nutrients, fish help plants thrive. Aquatic plants, in turn, contribute to a healthy ecosystem by enhancing biological filtration and oxygen levels.

Do Planted Tanks Need Fish?

One of the most common questions that people have about planted tanks is whether or not fish are necessary. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of plants you are using and the size of your tank. We will explore some of the pros and cons of keeping fish in planted tanks. 

Factors to consider when adding fish to planted plants:

The Type of Plants You Are Using

If you are using fast-growing plants, such as stem plants or floating plants, then fish are not necessary. These types of plants can out-compete algae for nutrients and will not be affected by the presence of fish in the tank.

The Size of Your Tank

Another factor to consider is the size of your tank. If you have a small tank, then it is possible that fish could out-compete your plants for food and space. In this situation, it is often better not to keep any fish in your tank.


Here are some of the pros of keeping a fish in a planted tank.

Fish Can Help Control Algae

One of the benefits of keeping fish in planted tanks is that they can help to control algae growth. This is because fish consume algae and compete with it for food. As a result, algae growth is often reduced in tanks with fish. This can be a great benefit for people who are struggling to control algae growth in their planted tanks.

Fish Make The Tank More Interesting

Another benefit of keeping fish in your tank is that they can add interest and variety. There are so many different fish to choose from, each with their own unique appearance and behavior. Fish can also be a great source of entertainment, watching them swim around and interact with each other.


 And here are some of the most common problems that can come with adding a fish to your planted tank!

Fish Require Maintenance

One of the drawbacks of keeping fish in your planted tank is that they require regular maintenance. This includes feeding them, cleaning the tank, and providing them with the proper water conditions. Fish also produce waste, which can contribute to algae growth and water quality issues.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to keep fish in your planted tank. These include the type of plants you are using, the size of your tank, and the benefits and drawbacks of keeping fish.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to keep fish in your planted tank is up to you. If you do decide to keep fish, be sure to research the care and maintenance requirements before adding them to your tank.

fish for planted tanks

Best Overall Fish For Planted Tanks

One of the most commonly recognized hobbies today is the creation of a planted aquarium. Everyone wants their aquarium to look natural and attractive.

But that depends on the fish you put in your planted tank! It is possible to find information on the fish species that are suitable for a planted tank online.  

This article, however, has covered the five top freshwater fish for a planted tank. The overall look and demeanor of each one have been taken into consideration. Therefore, let’s get right to the point and explore it in depth.


In addition to being one of the most aesthetically pleasing aquarium fish tetras are also one of the most widely used. To begin with, the presence of these delicate fishes will add beauty to your aquascape’s plant life. And most tetras are social fish that won’t eat the plants in your aquarium if given a chance.


Livebearers are a specialized group of fish that carry their eggs until they are ready to hatch, at which point the young fish are released to swim freely. It is safe to stock a planted fish tank with community fish like mollies, swordtails, platies, and guppies. They will especially enjoy your java moss plants, which provide cover for their young.


There’s a pretty fish that could really jazz up your aquarium that you might not know about. They are actually (in my opinion) some of the most beautiful fish you can add to your tank, especially the blue killifish and clown killifish!

Dwarf Cichlid

As a member of the family Cichlidae, this fish is small in size and has earned the nickname “Dwarf” among fish keepers. Nonetheless, thousands of planted fish tank owners widely use it because they thrive in environments with lots of plants.


The gentle disposition of this fish has made it a popular choice for aquariums around the world. Like other tropical freshwater fish, they require an aquarium heater and spend most of their time swimming and playing in the tank’s upper layers of water. They can eat the ready-made food that you provide. In addition to keeping your aquarium clean, they eat tiny live food.

What Kind Of Small Fish Are Good For Planted Tanks?

You have a wide variety of options when it comes to selecting the best fish for your small aquarium. It’s easy to go overboard when deciding who will live in your 5-gallon, 10-gallon, or 20-gallon tank. If you’re having trouble settling on one option, this guide should help. 

If you want to make a quick, well-informed decision, we’ve compiled a list of the best small fish.


guppy care sheet

Guppies are essential to any small fish aquarium. As with many other live-bearing species, guppy tanks can quickly become flooded with juveniles after repeated breeding. One of the most helpful things a guppy owner can do to prevent a population explosion is to learn to identify male and female guppies. The males are smaller and brightly colored, while the females, who are typically larger, have a more subdued appearance overall and a larger white belly.

Zebra Danio (Zebrafish)

zebra danio care sheet

Small and striped, these fish are one of the rare aquarium species that can survive outside of the tropics. Zebrafish are cooperative members of the community that thrives when grouped together in schools of five or more. There is a zebra danio variety with longer fins, and you can get them in fluorescent “glow” colors too!


platy care sheet

Platys are brightly colored fish that are easy to care for and can be kept alive. Since they are viviparous, many hobbyists begin with just a few fish and end up with a large population. The tail peduncle of Mickey Mouse Platys develops a distinctive pattern of colors, hence the name.

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetra Care Sheet

The neon tetra is one of the most popular fish for freshwater aquariums. This species of fish is well-known for its eye-catching red and blue stripes. They form a lively wave when they school and are great for a community aquarium.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

white cloud mountain minnow care sheet

Another small community of fish that can thrive outside of the tropics is the White Cloud Mountain Minnow. These fish can coexist peacefully with Zebrafish and goldfish in a temperate aquarium, so long as they are not snack-size. In aquascape arrangements, where the plants and not the fish are the primary attraction, these fish are typically included.

Harlequin Rasbora

harlequin rasbora care sheet

The Harlequin Rasbora is a schooling fish that is small and brightly colored (ruby) on the front half of its body and black on the back half, giving it a ‘harlequin’ pattern. These gentle fish are a great choice for a tank with plants or an aquascape because of the vibrant color they add. Many species of Rasbora are naturally suited to community aquariums due to their small size.

Serpae Tetra

Serpae Tetra Care Sheet

Although small in size, the Serpae Tetra certainly doesn’t lack character. A natural aquascape with lots of aquatic plants can benefit from the addition of these bright red schooling fish with black spots on the body and fins. These fish are constantly swimming around, and they have a nasty habit of biting the fins of their tank mates.

Panda Corydoras

Panda Corydoras Fish Care Sheet

In the pet trade, the Panda Corydoras is one of the most common Corydoras species. These panda-like catfish have white or translucent bodies with black spots at the top of the head and the bottom of the tail.

Glowlight Tetra

Glowlight Tetra Care Sheet

It’s a common misconception that a small tank is required for small fish. Due to territoriality or the need to keep them in schools, some small species require considerably larger tanks than others. If you already have fish in an aquarium, you should make sure they will get along and that the aquarium meets their needs before adding more.

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What Fish Should You Avoid In Planted Tanks?

Maintaining a healthy planted tank in freshwater can be difficult, but the results are well worth the effort if you do it right. A freshwater aquarium with flourishing plants and happy and content fish is one of nature’s true wonders. Fish in a planted tank should not be destructive to the plants, as this would defeat the purpose of keeping the tank in the first place. If you want to keep a planted tank, it’s best to avoid keeping any fish species that are known for eating or uprooting live plants.

Stocking a planted tank incorrectly can lead to a variety of issues, so it’s important to know which species to avoid beforehand. Here is a list of fish you should avoid:

Silver Dollar Fish

Among the many reasons for the silver dollar fish’s widespread acclaim is its relative simplicity of maintenance. The dangers of keeping these fish in a planted tank are not well known, unfortunately, and many aquarium hobbyists continue to do so anyway. These fish can grow to be as long as 6 inches, giving them the ability to consume large quantities of plant life in a short amount of time.

Buenos Aires Tetras

buenos Aires tetra care sheet

Though they only reach a maximum size of 2 1/2 inches, Buenos Aires tetras can wreak havoc on a planted aquarium. Community tanks with other South American species are ideal, but they do best with a group of at least six of the same species. There is only one type of aquatic plant that this species of tetra won’t eat, and that’s Java Fern.


Fish belonging to the genus Monos resemble Silver Dollar Fish in appearance but are much larger in size. In the wild, these fish consume mostly plant matter for sustenance; therefore, if you do not offer them enough vegetables in your home aquarium, they may resort to eating live plants.


A species of fish known as scats thrives in salty environments. Even though they are likely to eat live plants in the tank, many types of aquatic plants do not do well in brackish conditions.


Goldfish Care Sheet

Keep in mind that goldfish require a lot of room to swim around in, and they can be difficult to maintain in a home aquarium. Besides their massive size, these fish have a high oxygen requirement because of their long life spans. If you must keep goldfish in a planted tank, choose fast-growing plants because the fish are likely to eat the others.

Best Schooling Fish For Planted Tanks

There are many species of small fish that form schools and travel together or stay in large groups to avoid predators. A beautiful sight to behold in any home aquarium is a shimmering, active schooling fish, a kaleidoscope of hues and patterns, swimming through a bed of verdant aquatic plants.

Many of the most common schooling fish sold at pet stores are also incredibly easy to maintain, making them perfect for anyone with any level of aquarium experience.

Learn more about the top freshwater aquarium schooling fish by reading this guide.

Neon Tetras

A large school of neons can make your aquarium come alive with their vibrant colors. Their small size (adults are only an inch long) means they shouldn’t be kept with predatory fish.

Black Skirt Tetra‘s

Black Skirt Tetra Care Sheet

Among the many favorite schooling fish, the black skirt tetra ranks high. If you have larger fish in your tank, these are a better option than neons because of their size. They have black stripes along their chunky little bodies and long, flowing black fins, making them look very sleek and sophisticated.

The Corydoras Catfish

The little cory catfish will busily scurry around your aquarium, picking up any food scraps that have landed on the floor. They are fascinating to observe and can be considered an integral part of your aquarium’s maintenance team. 

However, some individuals are unaware that corys must be kept in schools. The stress levels of social fish need to be managed, so it’s important to keep them in small groups. They thrive emotionally and physically when they are in the company of others of their species.

Otocinclus Catfish

otocinclus catfish care sheet

When maintaining a freshwater aquarium, many people would benefit from adding a school of otocinclus catfish. Otos resemble miniature plecos and will stick to the glass of your tank in a similar fashion.

You should stock a minimum of six and keep away any larger fish that might eat them. Feeding algae wafers guarantees that your otos will get enough to eat.

Best Cleaner Fish For Planted Tanks

In order to maintain a stable ecosystem in your aquarium, you need algae eaters. In addition, a good algae eater will do more than just prevent the growth of algae. Bottom-feeding scavengers, like many of them, eat any leftover food before it becomes a problem. These fish are well-known for their adaptability, as they can consume a wide variety of algae found in freshwater aquariums.

Siamese Algae Eater

siamese algae eater care sheet

The Siamese algae eater is a top contender for the title of “most efficient algae-eating fish” due to its ability to digest a wide range of algae. It’s great to have these algae-eaters around because they’ll even eat the black beard algae that other algae-eaters tend to avoid. When it comes to controlling algae in a new aquarium, this species may be a good option because it is peaceful and easy to care for.

Chinese Algae Eater

Chinese Algae Eater Care Sheet

The Chinese algae eater requires at least a 30-gallon tank for optimal living conditions. But these fish can get up to 10 inches long, and as they get bigger, they tend to become more aggressive.

Twig Catfish

Twig Catfish Care Sheet

The bodies of these catfish are long and thin, and they grow to be about 4 inches long. Twig catfish are calm, so they can live with peaceful fish like tetras and livebearers. However, cichlids and larger fish can bully them.

Otocinclus Catfish

The otocinclus catfish, which only reaches a maximum size of 2 inches, is one of the tiniest algae eaters on this list. Although they look like the larger Chinese algae eaters, these fish are much calmer. Generally peaceful and cooperative in community tanks, this species should not be housed with large or aggressive fish such as cichlids.

Whiptail Catfish

The whiptail catfish is a relatively low-maintenance, placid species of armored catfish. These fish are usually black or tan in color, and they can get up to 6 inches in length, so you’ll need a tank that can hold at least 50 gallons. The whiptail catfish is omnivorous, meaning that in addition to algae, it will also consume detritus like uneaten fish food.

Bristlenose Plecostomus

The whisker-like projections on its snout are what inspired the name “bristlenose catfish.” The ability of this species to efficiently consume both algae and uneaten fish food is remarkable.


Mollies and other livebearers will eat algae when it is available, though they may not do so as frequently as some of the other fish on this list.

It’s impossible to recommend a single algae eater that would be ideal for everyone. In reality, the algae eater that is best for your tank will depend on different factors: the type of algae you have, the size and conditions of your tank, and any other fish or plants you may already have in your tank. What you should do is look into your options and pick the one that seems to be the best fit for your aquarium.


Will My Fish Eat My Plants?

While many fish will nibble on the leaves of live plants, consuming bits of fish food or algae, there are a few species that will consume the plants whole. The silver dollar fish is a terrible addition to any freshwater planted tank.

Do Tetras Like Heavily Planted Tanks?

Be sure your tank has plenty of plants to make it feel more like a tetra’s natural habitat. Floating plants are favored by tetras because they offer shade.

Are Planted Tanks Better For Fish?

 Including live plants in your aquarium is widely recognized as one of the best ways to ensure the well-being of your fish. Fish feel safe and protected in the protection of the plants. By using nutrients at the same time that algae do, they can effectively suppress algae growth.


So, what is the best fish for a planted tank? The answer to that question may depend on your specific needs and preferences. Some of the best overall fish for planted tanks include angelfish, gouramis, and tetras. However, there are many other great options as well. If you’re looking for small fish that are good for planted tanks, consider guppies, platys, or swordtails. Just be sure to avoid any fish that are known to be destructive or messy – such as goldfish – in order to keep your plants healthy and thriving. 

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