Is It Okay To Use Fake Plants in an Aquarium?


Plants in your aquarium provide many benefits for you and your fish. However, the kind and amount of benefits largely depend on what you choose to incorporate into your aquascape: real or fake plants. 

It’s okay to use fake plants in an aquarium. Artificial plants may be silk or plastic. Some advantages to fake plants include versatility, low maintenance, not transmitting diseases, and longevity. However, artificial plants cannot provide oxygen or absorb pollutants, unlike live plants. 

Whether you choose plastic, silk, or live plants, each will have pros and cons. So, let’s talk about them and figure out what kind of plants will be the best fit for your aquarium. 

Why Should You Use Fake Plants in an Aquarium?

The types of plants you get for your aquarium are a personal preference. Thus, you need to weigh out the pros and cons and see which kind suits your tank the best. 

You should use fake plants when the aquarium’s conditions aren’t favorable for natural plants. You can also use them if you prefer low-maintenance ornaments that last longer. They also have similar functions to natural plants and provide hiding places for fish. 

To help you choose your plants, I’ve laid out the benefits and drawbacks of using fake plants in an aquarium. 

Advantages of Fake Plants

These are the advantages of using artificial plants: 

  • Versatile. Artificial plants are the best for tanks where conditions aren’t favorable for natural plants.
  • Hiding places. Fake plants help reduce stress and boredom by providing hiding and resting places for fish. 
  • Replicate natural habitats. Although not quite as natural as the real ones, most modern fake plants look so real the difference is subtle.  
  • Visual aesthetics. You can choose from various types, colors, sizes, and shapes of artificial plants.  
  • Don’t rot or die. Fake plants are long-lasting and low-maintenance.
  • Don’t carry parasites or diseases. Unlike real ones, you don’t have to worry about artificial plants transmitting diseases to your aquatic friends. 
  • Inedible. You can avoid losing all your plants to fish that like to nibble on them.  

Disadvantages of Fake Plants

These are the disadvantages of using fake plants: 

  • Non-absorbent. Unlike natural plants, fake ones cannot absorb pollutants, carbon dioxide, nitrates, or phosphates. 
  • Cannot hinder algal growth. Since they don’t consume nutrients or absorb nitrates and phosphates, they do little to impede algal growth.  
  • Cannot provide oxygen. They cannot photosynthesize like plants. Thus, they cannot release oxygen.  
  • Collects dirt, bacteria, algae, and feces. Fake plants need cleaning now and then to remove gunk and grime.  
  • Inedible. Artificial plants’ inedibility is a significant disadvantage because some fishes will still try to nibble, and when they do, they consume plastic. Plastic isn’t safe for fish consumption and can cause impaction.  
  • Not suitable for fragile fishes. Plastic plants can be pretty sharp. Their sharp ends can harm delicate fish, like betta.  

Fake Plants vs. Real Plants in an Aquarium 

While knowing the individual pros and cons of fake plants can help you make a decision, I think it’s also best if you know how they stand up against natural plants. 

To make the comparison more straightforward, I’ve laid each point out in a table:

CharacteristicsFake PlantsReal Plants
Maintenance Low Varies
Absorb pollutants, waste, and carbon dioxideDoes not absorbAbsorbs
Provides oxygenDoes not provide oxygenProvides oxygen
PropagationNot possiblePossible 
Cost (Long-term)More expensiveLess expensive 
EdibleInedibleEdible 
Prevents algaeDo not prevent algae Prevent algae

Both natural and fake plants present significant advantages and disadvantages. 

While natural plants can be high-maintenance and cost a lot when you first buy them, certain benefits like absorbing pollutants and providing oxygen benefit you and your fish. 

Moreover, long-term costs can offset the short-term costs of acquiring natural plants, primarily if you propagate them and care for them properly. Real plants are better if you have a lot of aquariums, as you can reproduce them and divide the new ones into other tanks.  

On the other hand, fake plants’ low maintenance and longevity are significant benefits, especially for those who don’t have much time to care for their aquariums. It may also cost less if you only have to get a few of them. 

You can also combine fake and live plants. Doing so can help you balance costs and maintenance. 

Tips for Using Fake Plants in an Aquarium

If you plan on getting fake plants for your aquarium, I have a few tips:

  • Check if it’s safe for use in an aquarium. 
  • Clean the plant with water before placing it in the aquarium.
  • Use water from the tank for cleaning plants to avoid introducing chlorine. 
  • Check for any exposed wires or sharp edges before placing the plants in the aquarium. 

Final Thoughts 

Installing fake plants in your aquarium is an important decision. It’s possible, but whether it’s optimal depends on your tank’s condition and your personal preferences. Understand and weigh the pros and cons to make the best choice for your tank.

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