Live Plants vs. Fake Plants in Aquariums: A Guide Comparison of Its Pros and Cons

    live vs fake plants aquarium

    Aquariums offer a glimpse into the fascinating underwater world, right in our living rooms. More than just ornamental displays, aquariums are vibrant ecosystems that require careful nurturing. A study by the National Marine Aquarium revealed that well-maintained aquariums have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of their observers. This miniaturized aquatic environment’s health and stability hinge significantly on one crucial component – plants.

    The Importance of Plants in Aquariums

    Plants play a pivotal role in any aquarium ecosystem. They serve as shelters and provide hiding spots for the aquarium inhabitants, contributing to a safe and comfortable habitat. In addition, plants are a vital part of the oxygen supply chain in the water, enabling the fish to breathe easier.

    Furthermore, some species of fish may use these plants as a food source. Importantly, plants help maintain water quality by absorbing harmful toxins, thereby reducing algae growth that could otherwise overrun the tank.

    Live Plants vs. Artificial Plants

    When it comes to beautifying an aquarium, most enthusiasts turn to plants. However, the choice between live and artificial plants often becomes a point of debate. Both types have unique characteristics and offer different benefits to your aquarium ecosystem.

    Live Plants: An Integral Part of the Ecosystem

    Live plants are real, growing aquatic flora that become an integral part of the aquarium’s ecosystem. They engage directly with the biological processes within the tank, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. These plants also utilize nutrients from fish waste and uneaten food, which helps enhance water quality and prevent algae growth.

    However, live plants come with their own set of benefits and challenges:


    Enhance water quality: Through photosynthesis, live plants absorb harmful toxins and release oxygen, improving the overall water quality.

    Aid in algae control: By consuming nutrients that algae would otherwise use to grow, live plants indirectly help control algae proliferation.

    Provide natural shelter: Live plants offer a natural habitat for fish, providing them with places to hide, rest, and even breed.

    Serve as food source: Some species of fish and invertebrates feed on live plants or the biofilm that grows on them.

    Contribute to aesthetic appeal: Live plants can significantly enhance the natural look of an aquarium, making it more vibrant and visually appealing.

    Stimulate natural behavior: Live plants can stimulate natural behavior in fish, such as foraging, exploring, and spawning.


    Require specific care: Live plants need adequate lighting, CO2, and fertilizers to thrive. This could mean additional cost and maintenance efforts.

    Risk of decay: If neglected, live plants can decay, potentially polluting the water and depleting the oxygen they previously produced.

    Potential food source for some fish: Some fish species may consume these plants, leading to increased waste in the tank and possibly disturbing the balance of the ecosystem.

    Susceptible to diseases and pests: Live plants can sometimes bring diseases or pests into the aquarium.

    Compatibility issues: Not all live plants are compatible with all fish species. Some plants may not survive in certain water conditions, and some fish might damage delicate plants.

    Growth control: Some live plants can grow quite rapidly and may require regular pruning to prevent them from overtaking the aquarium.

    Artificial Plants: The Low-Maintenance Alternative

    Artificial plants are non-living replicas, often made of plastic, designed to mimic real plants. While they don’t contribute to the biological processes within the tank, they add aesthetic value and provide spaces for fish to hide and explore.

    The pros and cons of artificial plants are as follows:


    Minimal maintenance: Artificial plants require little to no maintenance, making them a convenient choice for busy aquarium owners.

    Durability: Made from robust materials like plastic or silk, artificial plants are highly durable and resistant to damage.

    Flexibility: Artificial plants can be rearranged easily without any risk of damage, offering more flexibility in designing your aquarium.

    No decay: Unlike live plants, artificial plants do not decay, eliminating the risk of water pollution due to plant decay.

    Variety: Artificial plants come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, allowing you to customize your aquarium’s look to your preference.

    Safe for all fish: Artificial plants are safe for all types of fish as they pose no risk of introducing diseases or pests into the tank.


    No contribution to biological processes: Artificial plants do not participate in the tank’s biological processes like oxygen production or nutrient absorption.

    Can look fake: Depending on the quality, some artificial plants may not look as natural as live plants, potentially reducing the aquarium’s aesthetic appeal.

    Cost: High-quality artificial plants that look more realistic can be expensive.

    Potential harm to fish: Poorly made artificial plants with sharp edges or toxic materials could potentially harm the fish.

    Not environmentally friendly: Artificial plants are often made from non-biodegradable materials like plastic, which is not an environmentally friendly option.

    Live Plants vs. Fake Plants: Which is the Best Option for Your Aquarium?

    The decision to incorporate live or fake plants into your aquarium hinges on several crucial considerations. These include your personal commitment to maintenance, the particular requirements of the fish species you house, and indeed, your aesthetic tastes and preferences.

    Live and artificial plants each offer unique benefits and challenges. Live plants actively participate in the aquarium’s ecosystem by absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, and utilizing nutrients from fish waste. This can significantly enhance the water quality and create a more natural environment for your fish. However, they demand specific care, such as adequate lighting, CO2, and fertilizers, and may even introduce diseases or pests into your tank.

    On the other hand, artificial plants require minimal upkeep and are highly durable. They offer flexibility in design and eliminate the risk of plant decay. Yet, they do not contribute to the biological processes in the tank and may not look as natural as their live counterparts.

    Therefore, when deciding between live and artificial plants, consider your ability to provide the necessary care and attention, especially if you opt for live plants. Understand the needs of your fish species – some may enjoy nibbling on live plants, while others might prefer the sturdiness of artificial ones. Finally, consider your personal preference in terms of aesthetics. Do you value the vibrant, authentic look that live plants provide, or do you prefer the wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that artificial plants offer?

    Remember, your choice will significantly impact the health and happiness of your aquatic pets and the overall appearance of your aquarium.