Live vs. artificial plants in aquariums: pros and cons for making the best choice

The decision to use live or artificial plants in your aquarium can be daunting. Each option has pros and cons, making it difficult to determine the best choice for your unique situation.

green aquarium with live plants
Photo by Chris Jackson, cc

This guide will explore the advantages and disadvantages of live and artificial plants, helping you make an informed decision for your aquatic habitat.

Live plants in aquariums

Pros of live plants

  • A natural environment for fish
    Adding live plants to your aquarium can create a more natural environment for your fish, providing them with hiding spots, spawning areas, and a sense of security.
  • Water quality improvement
    Live plants help maintain water quality by absorbing nutrients, such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, which can harm fish. They also produce oxygen through photosynthesis, which benefits the inhabitants of your aquarium. Guaranteed, you will have to perform partial water changes less often and most likely will get by without an aerator.
  • Visual appeal
    A well-maintained planted aquarium can be a stunning and visually pleasing addition to any home or office. Aquatic plants’ various colors, shapes, and sizes can create a beautiful underwater landscape.

Cons of live plants

  • Maintenance requirements
    Live plants require care and attention, including appropriate lighting, fertilization, and pruning. This can be time-consuming and may not be suitable for all hobbyists.
  • Lighting requirements
    Different plants have varying light requirements, which can be challenging. Inadequate lighting can lead to weak, unhealthy plants or excessive algae growth. Though the amount of light can be easily controlled using a timer.
  • Potential for a visual disaster
    If neglected or not cared for properly, live plants can become unsightly and detrimental to the overall appearance of the aquarium. Overgrown or dying plants can create an unpleasant visual display.

Artificial plants in aquariums

Pros of artificial plants

  • Low maintenance
    Artificial plants require little to no maintenance. They do not need light, fertilization, or pruning, making them an easy and hassle-free option for busy or inexperienced aquarium owners.
  • Consistent appearance
    Artificial plants keep their appearance over time, providing a consistent look to your aquarium without the risk of decay or overgrowth.
  • Wide variety
    A vast array of artificial plants is available in various shapes, colors, and sizes, making it easy to find the perfect plants to create the desired aesthetic for your aquarium.

Cons of artificial plants

  • Lack of natural benefits
    Artificial plants do not provide the same benefits to water quality or oxygen production as live plants. This may require additional equipment or maintenance to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.
  • Less realistic appearance
    While some artificial plants are designed to mimic the appearance of live plants, they may not provide the same level of realism or visual appeal as their natural counterparts.
  • Potential for damage
    Some artificial plants may have sharp edges or parts that could harm your fish or other aquatic inhabitants.


In summary, the choice between live and artificial plants in your aquarium will depend on your personal preferences, time commitment, and skill level.

Live plants require more care and maintenance but can provide a more natural environment and improved water quality. On the other hand, artificial plants offer a low-maintenance option with a consistent appearance but lack some of the natural benefits of live plants.

By considering the pros and cons of each option, you can make the best choice for your aquarium and its inhabitants.





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