The Never Ending Debate of Real Aquarium Plants vs Fake Aquarium Plants

When it comes to decorating an aquarium, plants are almost always a big item for consideration. There are two choices when it comes to aquarium plants, real or fake. Real aquarium plants are those plants that would grow in the wild and will also grow in your aquarium. In this article, we’ll make the argument in favor of real plants and the argument in favor of artificial plants to let you make your own judgement in the unending debate of real aquarium plants vs fake aquarium plants.

The Argument for Real Plants

1. Real plants just looks better.

There’s really no room for argument here.  Real plants look better.  They grow fuller, move naturally in flowing water, and look like an actual river or lake.

By Aleš Tošovský [Public domain]
By Aleš Tošovský [Public domain]

2. Real plants help to remove a lot of compounds harmful to fish.

Fish produce ammonia which goes through the nitrogen cycle.  Without plants, the harmful compounds are broken down by bacteria.  When you add plants, they will absorb some of those same harmful compounds. Plants will “eat” nitrites and nitrates. So adding plants can actually contribute to the overall health of the tank. This can also reduce the need for water changes.

3. Real plants better replicates natural fish environments.

Do you think plastic is something a fish would ordinarily come across in their natural environment? (Pollution aside), of course not. Fish are already put in a very unnatural environment simply by being put an aquarium.  Adding really plants will help to recreate a bit of their natural environment.

4. Real plants can help reduce algae by out-competing them.

Plants and algae rely on the same nutrients to grow and reproduce.  Mature plants that are hardy will consume a lot of the nutrients that algae needs to grow.  This can help to keep algae levels down.

5. Real plants offer a much greater variety in terms of looks, but with only one or two color choices.

Real plants offer a VERY wide variety of different looks.  Some plants look like grass.  Some are leafy. And some are long and stringy.  The point is if there is a look you desire, real plants are going to offer you the best chance to find that look.

Luis Navarro [Public Domain]
Luis Navarro [Public Domain]
The one exception is color.  Plants are limited to green and there are a handful of plants that have deep reddish color leaves.

The Argument for Fake Plants

1. Fake plants are much cheaper.

Fake plants are a one time expense and they only cost a few bucks.  You buy them when you set up your aquarium and you’re done.

While some real plants require fertilization, complicated CO2 systems, and lighting systems which cover very specific color spectrums.  It’s easy to spend a couple hundred bucks on your system just to keep your plants alive.

2. Artificial plants require little to no maintenance.

Real plants grow (duh). It’s very easy for the plants to grow and spread to the point where they overshadow the fish in your tank.

Your regular maintenance now includes removing dead leaves, replanting any plants that have been uprooted, and overall trimming that can be very time consuming.

3. Artificial plants have no risk of bringing in snails or any other unwanted visitors.

One of the risks of live plants is that they are often riddled with snail eggs. You put your plants in your aquarium and these snail eggs hatch. If you are unlucky enough to end up with a male and a female, you’ve got a breeding pair. If you don’t quickly notice the snails, they can very quickly overtake your tank.  Removing snails can be a very difficult task even for an experienced hobbyist.

4. Fake plants can be placed anywhere in your aquarium and don’t require substrate.

Real plants need to be planted so they can absorb nutrients from the substrate with a few exceptions for floating plants. If you are trying to create a canopy feel to your aquarium where the surface is covered in plants, you can do that without much effort or research by using fake plants.

5. Artificial plants come in many different colors.

With real plants you’re kind of limited if you want different colors.  Your options are green and dark red-purple. Fake plants come in nearly any color you can think of.  Pink, yellow, green, blue, black, even rainbow colored artificial plants are all readily available.

tonycrash on youtube
tonycrash on youtube