No, platies don’t need live plants to live a happy life. Platy fish do need some kind of plants–live or artificial–to stay healthy, but if you only have artificial plants available, they will suffice.
Keep reading the rest of this article to find out why platy fish need plants in their tank, the difference between using artificial and live plants, and learn what live plants are best for these small, fun fish.
Why Do Platies Need Plants in their Tank?
Even though platy fish love to exercise, they need a break now and then. Having a densely-planted tank gives them plenty of places to hide and relax for a bit when they’ve had enough fun with their friends.
Pregnant platies also benefit from having a safe place to hide. Soon-to-be platy moms need a quiet, secluded place to stay when they are ready to give birth to their fry.
Since platy fish are livebearers, platy fry need a hiding spot immediately after birth in order to protect them from the other fish in the tank. Left out in the open, the adults in the tank will eat them. Moms and dads will even eat their own young if they aren’t given plenty of plants or other decorations to use as a hiding places.
Lastly, adding plants to your platy tank allows them to be in a more natural environment. When platy live in environments that mirror the one they’d find in the wild, they are more comfortable and less stressed.
Why Should I Use Live Plants Instead of Artificial Plants?
Though artificial plants will give platy fish the hiding spaces they need, live plants offer more benefits to your platy and to your tank.
Increased Oxygen Levels
Platy fish need more oxygen to survive than water can offer. When using artificial plants, an air stone or water pump is required to drive oxygen into the water.
However, live plants release oxygen into the water through the process of photosynthesis. Aquatic plants use photosynthesis to receive the energy they need to survive. Oxygen is a by-product of this process, which means it’s deposited into the water for the fish to use.
If you have a large selection of live plants in your tank and a small number of platy fish, this method of adding oxygen to the water may negate the need for a water pump or air stone, though to be safe you should still use another method of increasing oxygen levels in the tank.
In addition to adding oxygen to the water in your tank, live plants will absorb nitrates found in the water. Nitrates, caused by fish waste and rotting fish food, are damaging to your fish when they are consistently exposed to them.
To keep your tank clean and healthy, nitrate levels should be as low as you can keep them. Ideally, the concentration of nitrates in the water would be no higher than 25 ppm, instead aiming for 5 to 10 ppm.
To keep nitrate levels down in the water, monthly partial water changes are required. Aquarium stores also offer filters to help with this process. Using live plants is a wonderful way to naturally help keep nitrates down when used in conjunction with water changes and mechanical filters.
Lower Algae Levels
In order to thrive, algae needs high levels of nitrates. In fact, a good way to tell that your nitrate levels are dangerously high is when an algae bloom occurs in the tank.
Since live plants also use nitrates as food, they are extremely helpful in the fight against algae in your aquarium. They will work hard to absorb nitrates and other harmful substances that algae requires. The algae will essentially be starved and will struggle to grow, keeping your tank clean and fresh.
An Additional Food Source
Platy fish are omnivores, meaning they need to eat both meat and vegetation. Though you can give your platies fish food to meet their nutrient requirements, offering live plants for them to munch on throughout the day is natural and healthy.
The material in the bottom of your tank, called substrate, benefits from the root structures grown by live plants. The roots from live plants help to keep the substrate held in place.
If your substrate doesn’t have live plants to hold it down, it can be easily disturbed by fish or your filtration system. This can create a murky, uncomfortable environment for your platy fish.
Which Live Plants Should I Use?
The main thing to keep in mind when choosing live plants for your platy fish is safety. While live plants are typically less sharp and pointy than artificial plants (yet another reason to choose live plants!), it’s important to make sure you are using soft plants in your tank.
If you have plants with sharp edges in your tank, your platy fish may injure themselves while they are darting around their tank. Lacerations can quickly become infected and seriously endanger your fish.
Common options for platy fish tanks are hornwort, duckweed, alvinia, and java moss. These plants offer great protection for your platies.
While your platy fish don’t need live plants to survive, live plants offer significantly more benefits than artificial plants do. The primary benefit of using artificial plants is that they provide hiding places for your fish without needing to care for a live plant.
Live plants not only give your platy fish places to hide, they also help oxygenate the water in the tank, decrease levels of harmful substances and algae, offer food for your fish, and keep the substrate in place.
If you are adding platy fish to your aquarium and trying to decide whether to buy live or artificial plants, know that your platies can thrive with either kind so long as their environment is clean and healthy. If you’re looking for plants that offer the most benefits, live plants might be the perfect choice for your tank.