When setting up your aquarium, plants are a very important addition. Plants give fish places to seek shelter and solace. Also, if you have live bearing fish, plants give the babies a place to hide until they are large enough to enter the community. Plants also give the aquarium a more natural look. When choosing plants for your aquarium, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether to buy real ones or fake.
Fake plants provide a place for your fish to hide from their more aggressive tank mates. Fake foliage that looks like the real thing also gives the tank a more realistic overall look. There are many different fake plants on the market, from realistic looking ones to retro, glow-in-the dark plants. Silk plants are particularly popular because they have a more realistic look than plastic plants
Fake plants have some benefits over live plants. First, fake plants require little to no maintenance. They do have a tendency to grow algae, but fake plants can be removed from the tank and cleaned when needed. Also, fish will not snack on fake plants. Finally, fake plants do not loose their look, whereas live plants may become overgrown or misshapen.
There are a few negatives to choosing to use fake plants. First, fake plants provide no chemical benefit to the water. Second, if you have algae problems, your fake plants will become covered very quickly. Algae eaters usually do not do much to eat algae from the surface of artificial plants. Finally, aggressive fish might try to eat the fake plants. If a piece of the plant breaks off, it could choke the fish. This is rare, though.
Live plants create an almost completely realistic look to your aquarium. They also put more oxygen into the water and use up the nitrates that the fish produce, which are harmful to your fish. Some fish like to eat plants, and they can be a nutritious snack between meals.
Live plants require quite a bit more work than fake to grow and maintain. Some plants have specific types of light and substrate, or bottom layer for rooting, that they need to live. Because live plants are living things, they grow, and sometimes they grow too big. Fast-growing plants can quickly overtake your aquarium. You will need to trim the plants from time to time. Another downside to live plants is their difficulty to clean. Sometimes live plants will get algae build up, and you cannot scrub a live plant without damaging it. Finally, fish will eat live plants. This does not hurt the fish, but pieces of the plant may float around in the aquarium, making it look dirty. Also, the plant may not be as attractive after chunks of leaf have been eaten.
There are positives and negatives to both live plants and fake plants. The good news for the beginning aquarium owner is there are some varieties of live plants that are relatively easy to grow. Anubias and Crypts are plants that grow well in standard aquarium lighting with no special substrate. If you are willing to put in the extra effort to take care of the plants, live plants are the better way to go, as they provide a healthier living environment for your fish. If you do not go with live plants, don’t feel bad, because your fish will be fine with fake if you keep tabs on the water quality. Whatever you decide, the important thing is to add some beautiful plants to your aquarium. You will enjoy watching your fish swim amongst them!