Can You Keep Blue Acaras in Planted Tank?

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If you love cichlids, you have to love the Blue Acara. This fish is among the few cichlids with a softer temperament, as they’re generally peaceful and calm.

They’re also relatively easy to maintain and care for in the long run, provided you learn the animal’s preferences.

But the main question we’re dealing with today is – Can you keep your Blue Acara in a planted tank? The most straightforward answer will undoubtedly confuse you.

That’s because, on the one hand, the natural habitat of Blue Acaras is heavily planted.

On the other hand, they tend to unearth and even destroy most tank plants in their habitat. So, let’s delve deeper into the issue.

Do Blue Acaras Eat Plants?

Yes, they do because these cichlids are omnivorous. They will have a variety of foods, including animal protein, fats, and plant-based nutrients.

That being said, their primary source of nutrients is meat. So, they prefer animal protein over anything else, with plants only forming a small part of their diet.

So, yes, Blue Acaras will eat some of your aquarium plants, but only if their diet is suboptimal. They’re less inclined to exhibit plant-eating behavior if they’re regularly getting veggies and plants in their diet.

Overall, don’t worry about your Blue Acaras eating your tank plants. You should be more concerned about them destroying them, either by mistake or intentionally.

After all, these are quite energetic substrate diggers that require a lot of space to feel comfortable in their habitat. So, expect them to produce some casualties among your plants in the process.

Do Blue Acaras Dig Up the Substrate?

Yes, Blue Acaras will dig up your substrate, despite what you may hear from other sources. Many people claim that their Blue Acaras don’t like to dig around the substrate, which is only true if you have no substrate at all.

Or, maybe, if you have a coarse and rough substrate like gravel or rocks.

For an even clearer perspective on Blue Acaras’ temperament and needs, refer to the following:

  • Blue Acaras need a substrate – Many people keep these cichlids in bare-bottom tanks to prevent them from digging. This is generally to keep the cichlid from flooding the water with substrate particles and making a mess in the process. I don’t recommend this strategy, though, because Blue Acaras are evolutionary prone to dig their substrate. They do so to search for food, relax and explore their habitat, and even find comfort when stressed. Your goal should be to provide the cichlid with a natural-looking environment, which includes the addition of substrate.
  • Choosing the right substrate – Go for sand. Cichlids love sand because it’s soft and fine and allows them to dig around uninhibited. The marriage between Blue Acaras and sand is one to last because the cichlids’ burrowing behavior will prevent anaerobic sand pockets. So, the cichlids’ presence will eventually prove beneficial to your sand-based aquarium.
  • Some plants hold some don’t – Rooted plants are, naturally, in danger in any cichlid tank. Fortunately, Blue Acaras don’t bury themselves in the substrate as often as other cichlid species. Blue Acaras are bottom-to-medium lurkers that enjoy larger swimming spaces. So they won’t spend too much time near the substrate. This being said, their burrowing activity will unearth more sensitive plants with poorer anchoring capabilities. To prevent that, always prioritize stronger and more adaptable species that can withstand the cichlid activity taking place in the tank.
  • Blue Acaras need plants – Some people try to solve the plant-unearthing problem by skipping plants entirely. Unfortunately, this drags us back to the same issue for which we’ve already criticized bare-bottom promoters. Cichlids require specific environmental conditions to remain safe, healthy, and happy in their environment. After all, these fish can live up to 20 years in captivity in ideal conditions. Plants are a must, the same as the substrate because it comforts Blue Acaras and keeps them calm and happy.

How to Prevent Blue Acaras from Digging Up Plants?

This is the right question to a problem that’s haunting most cichlid owners. Including those housing Blue Acaras.

Fortunately, there are ways to deter your cichlids from digging up plants, and you’ve come to the right place for that.

Here are some strategies to help with that:

  • Add more space – Blue Acaras require considerable space to feel at home. An adult Blue Acara can grow up to 8 inches and requires approximately 30 gallons for itself. You should increase the tank’s size by 15 gallons for each new Acara coming into the mix. The increase in tank size achieves 2 things: provides cichlids with more swimming space and allows you to alternate the tank’s layout. So, you can plant your live plants in one area of the tank and create a rocky or plain sand setup in a different area. This will minimize the chances of your cichlids digging up the plants since they’ll prefer digging around their cave for the most part.
  • Consider floating plants – This is clearly the best option since floating plants don’t have roots and don’t depend on the substrate to survive. Not to mention, floating species like water lettuce or java moss reduce the level of environmental light, keeping everything dimmer. This mimics the cichlids’ natural lighting levels.
  • Consider potted plants – Pots are great cichlid deterrents if you’ve decided that you absolutely need rooted plants in your tank. You can cover the pot with a flyscreen with a hole in it to allow the plant’s stem to grow through.
  • Secure the plants with rocks – This is probably the best method I would recommend. Cichlids live in rocky setups with a lot of plants and sand. This is your chance to create the ideal environment, mixing up all these features in one well-organized setup. The concept is simple. You just plant your plants, allow them to anchor themselves in the substrate, and then place rocks and other decorative elements around their stem. These will prevent the cichlid from digging at the plant’s base, which will either unearth it or destroy its roots. Sometimes both. Just make sure that the weights you’re using aren’t heavy enough to strangle the plant’s roots.

But there’s another factor that will ultimately decide whether mixing Blue Acaras and rooted plants will last. That factor is luck. The truth is that not all cichlids exhibit the exact same behavior and temperament.

They have a lot of things in common, but, like any other animal, they are individual fish with individual and unique temperaments and behaviors.

Some Blue Acaras are more aggressive and territorial than others, others come with larger appetites, while some will dig up and destroy plants more often than others.

Finally, some Blue Acaras won’t disturb your plants at all, which makes them obviously ideal for you.

There’s honestly nothing you can do to influence or summon this factor. Just pray that the cichlid(s) you’re getting is among the docile and more manageable ones.

Best Plants for Electric Blue Acaras

I recommend hardy and resilient species like java fern, java moss, water sprite, anubias, Bolbitis, or water lettuce.

These will withstand your cichlids’ attacks and will thrive, especially since Blue Acaras aren’t known to consume plants too often.

You can also try the Amazon sword for rooted plants since this one is hardy enough to resist the cichlid’s burying behavior.


Blue Acaras are peaceful and docile fish that demand a heavily planted setup to thrive. They also demand plenty of open swimming space, a fine substrate, an omnivorous diet, and a lush and green ecosystem.

Naturally, the latter can be tricky, given the cichlids’ predilection toward playing with their substrate.

Fortunately, you now know how to approach the situation to keep your cichlids healthy in a fully planted habitat.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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