Can Swordtail Fish Eat Plants? Why And How To Stop Them

Can Swordtails eat plants?

Swordtail fish are very lively fish in the Xiphophorus family. They are classified as omnivores because they eat a lot of algae, and even small animals too. They thrive more in a planted tank and dwell among plants in the wild, but many hobbyists are afraid to have their tanks planted because they fear that those live plants will be eaten and damaged by them, so this brought about the question, ‘ do Swordtails eat plants?. In this article, you will learn if they do, why, and how to stop them.

Can Swordtail fish eat plants? Swordtails are omnivores, which means they can eat both vegetables and animals too, they could eat plants, but soft plants anyway.

All fish are considered omnivores and scavengers too, except for a few. They are known to eat whatever could fit into their mouth.

Swordtails being omnivores and scavengers too will eat anything they could get close to, be it meat or plants, etc.

Many aquarists fear keeping plants with them because of this particular habit of nipping at any plants they see, but despite that, it is not recommended to keep them just like that in a tank without the presence of live plants.

The fact is, this particular behavior is what you must get used to because you must provide live plants for them. Later in this article, we will tell you how to prevent them from eating your plants.

The bitter truth is, that swordtails need live plants in their aquarium because, not only does it makes them happy by keeping them busy and active, it also helps with aeration of the tank and depletion of harmful chemicals like nitrates by providing oxygen and sucking those chemicals.

As I mentioned above, there are some reasons why they eat plants, we will discuss them in a second.

Why Swordtail Fish Eat Plants

If you are wondering why your fish are eating their live plants, then here are some of the reasons.

1. Naturally, they just love to eat plants. Swordtails are omnivores, and they are referred to as that because they do not only eat meat, but also plants and veggies too.

So being omnivores, they don’t have much choice, but to eat any plant or vegetable they find enticing and soft.

From experience, I have learned that they don’t usually go for the hard plants, but those soft ones that they can easily chew.

2. They will always take plants as an alternative when they get hungry, so hunger is one of the reasons they normally go for plants.

Being scavengers, they will turn into beasts when it comes to eating whenever they are hungry, so they will eat anything eatable.

3. They sometimes eat plants as a source of nutrition which they might be lacking.

Although they will naturally stay and play around with plants and nip at them too, many times, it is because it is not their nutritional needs.

4. Being great algae lovers and eaters too, they sometimes try to eat the algae on the plants, and in that case, will eat the plants themselves.

Being obsessed with algae, they will always pick on it anywhere they find it, including plants that will suffer nipping as a result, so this is to say that sometimes, they don’t eat plants intentionally, especially if they are well fed.

How To Prevent Swordtail Fish From Eating Aquarium Plants

If you are worried that your fish are dealing with the plants you keep in their tanks, then here are the tips on how to stop or at least minimize their level of attacks on your plants.

1. Keep Hard plants for them: There are many or should I say, countless aquarium plants out there that are very suitable for any type of fish, including swordtails.

So, when planning to get them live plants, get them those types with hard leaves, so that they can’t easily eat them, because swordtails don’t like much stress, and won’t stress themselves that much just to take on a plant.

Apart from getting hard plants for them, another great idea is to get them the type of plants they don’t fancy or like that much, and so, they will naturally have to ignore them.

The fact is, they normally attack soft plants and those that look like grass, such as micro swords, hair grass, sags, pennywort, etc.

But if you have plants like Anubia, Java Fern, etc, trust me, they won’t try to disturb them, and even if they do, they won’t like it and so, will stay away.

2. Feeding them properly with balanced diets could prevent or at least limit the levels of attack on your plants.

As I mentioned above, one of the factors that drive their hunger in aquarium plants is hunger and lack of nutrients in their body.

A well-fed Swordtail will have less time nipping at plants than those that are very hungry.

Don’t quote me wrong, Swordtails naturally love plants and vegetables, but once they have all they eat, and which vegetables are involved, they will have less time nipping at the plants than when they are not getting enough to eat.

So, feeding your fish, and with a balanced diet is one step closer to stopping them from disturbing their live plants.

3. Try to barricade the plants so that they won’t have access to them.

Many people do suggest this, but honestly, it’s good, but I don’t see much fun in covering some parts of your live plants with maybe a net or whatever.

So, if you find it useful and alright, then you can cover some parts of them, especially the soft parts with something, so that, they don’t tamper with them.


Swordtails will eat your plants if they find them suitable and appealing because they are carnivores and herbivores as many people do think they are.

So, in all, my honest recommendation is to keep them with plants that are very hard or bitter for them to eat, so that they abstain from trying to eat them.