Fish in a clean aquarium have a very soothing and curious effect on many people. This is not strange given that many Asian and other world cultures place great emphasis on fish.
In Chinese culture ancient mythology associates well kept fish with wealth, prosperity and harmony. This cultural relationship has contributed to arts such as Feng Shui that encourages proper management of fish or plants in the home to bring prosperity. This ancient art is today widely practiced even in the West to bring one’s soul into harmony with nature; the goal being to ward off bad karma and improve spiritual wellness.
On the other hand, some find the aquarium a nice addition to their interiors and just like to watch and learn from their aquatic pets. Whatever your reasons, all fish need optimum water conditions to survive and remain healthy.
Do live plants provide anything other than aesthetic value?
Aquarium Plants are significant part of aquaculture because they exist in the fish natural environment. Often choosing between fake and live plants is challenging given they have varying requirements and can be costly. Many say both are just as good for a stable submerged ecosystem.
Not so many years ago live plants were very easy to spot; today, with silk and high quality plastic it not that simple anymore.
With quality artificial plants becoming better by the day aesthetics is not an issue and many will tell you it is really a personal choice.
Live plants have a symbiotic relationship with the fish while artificial plants are purely ornamental. Live plants absorb chemical waste from excretion that could be dangerous to the fish and also help reduce the growth and spread of unsightly algae in your fish tank. We could thus say live plants do indeed provide a little bit more to the eco system than just beauty.
Live plants are living organisms and they respire and grow. Like plants in the open they absorb carbon dioxide by day and give release oxygen further improving the aquatic environment.
During the night plants operate in reverse and give off carbon dioxide instead. In densely populated aquariums this can be a problem as the plants could increase the deficiency of oxygen in the tank. Fortunately modern aquariums often have advanced filters installed, many of which are capable of providing enough oxygen.
Best aesthetic value – they look great when well maintained.
Live plants harbor beneficial bacteria
Can act as a secondary food source. Specific fish species enjoy nibbling leaves of aquatic plants as a diet supplement.
Inhibit growth of unsightly algae in the aquarium.
Upon decay they create a mess in the fish tank.
Can ferry harmful parasites.
Not easy to clean.
Die very quickly in the absence of adequate lighting.
While back in the day all artificial plants were made of hard plastic, today silk and high quality plastic are much more common. The designs are so realistic that even the most discerning eye could have difficulty differentiating between live and artificial plants.
The improvements in manufacturing technology and raw materials have seen artificial plants become so sophisticated and realistic that appearance is no longer an issue. This is not forgetting that they are not seasonal and are much more damage resistant than live plants.
They will not be eaten. Gold fish are one of the worst culprits when it comes to destroying live aquarium plants. The fish is known to consume anything when hungry with the exception of just a few super hardy plants such as the Anubias and Java Fern.
They can scar or wound fish. Hard edged plastic plants have been known to injure aggressive species such as betas. Where possible always try buy silk over plastic.
While for some there is nothing as rewarding as seeing the fruit of their labor; keeping live plants healthy is no cake walk. Especially given that beginners often start out with species such as Goldfish that are notorious for completely destroying live plants.
It would appear the choice between live and artificial plants should be based on your personal preference and experience with aquatic pets. That is not forgetting that some aquatic plants can grow and grow, e.g. Amazon sword. This popular and beautiful plant species can easily get out of control and is best used in large aquariums of at least 55 Gallons.
This is especially because artificial plants have the potential to give your aquarium the same natural ambience / character with much less maintenance.
You can still strike a balance as a beginner by using artificial plants and some natural materials. For instance you could use some natural drift wood and pebbles alongside your artificial plants. You could also tint the water using Tannin and Indian almond to give your aquarium an even more natural look and feel.
Given these thoughts it is safe to say that if you are passionate about the fish, in time you should get to learn about their environment and make the best choices for your species.