Real Aquarium Plants vs Plastic: What Should You Pick?

Real Aquarium Plants vs Plastic: What Should You Pick?

Aquarium plants: Real or plastic?

When I was looking for an aquarium for sale, I must admit that I already had my sights set on decorating it. I mean, I wanted a unique fish tank, for sure. But even if I end up settling for a regular rectangular 29 gallon aquarium, I still wanted to decorate the tank in a way that makes it special and unique to me.

I eventually bought a 75 gallon aquarium, bigger than what I originally wanted. And the first thing I thought of getting (yes, even before I settled on what fish to get), was aquarium plants. I wanted a “homey” environment for my pet fish. I wanted the aquarium all set and ready before I even put the fish in.

But deciding on whether to get live plants or the plastic kind was problematic for me. On one hand, there’s a certain charm and authenticity to having real, live plants in there. But it also means additional maintenance work that’s not quite as tedious as with plastic plants.

So, how does one decide then?

There’s really no right or wrong here, unfortunately. It may all boil down to a matter of preference. But to help you out, here are some of the pros and cons of each one.

Live Plants: PROS And CONS


  • They grow, and there’s a certain satisfaction to seeing them grow and prosper under your care.
  • They respire and help with the gas exchange process in the tank.
  • Harbors bacteria that aid in waste breakdown.
  • Inhibits algae growth by reducing nitrates.
  • May serve as additional food source.


  • Gas exchange process reverses at night and heavily planted tanks can produce a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • Can decay and add to aquarium debris.
  • May carry harmful pests and parasites.
  • Hard to clean.
  • Needs good lighting.

Plastic Plants: PROS and CONS


  • Will not die, grow too large, become damaged or unattractive.
  • Easily removable for cleaning.
  • No light requirements.
  • Does not affect oxygen or carbon dioxide levels.
  • Won’t carry parasites.


  • Won’t help in gas exchange process.
  • Won’t absorb toxins.
  • Won’t carry beneficial bacteria.
  • Can’t be used as food source.
  • Won’t inhibit growth of algae.

Again, there are plenty of pros and cons for each one. A fish tank owner would just have to choose what works best for him.

In my case, I ended up with the plastic kind because I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to maintain live plants at the time. Here are some of the plastic ones I ended up getting at one time or another.

Jardin Plastic Simulated Water Lily Lotus Plant Aquarium Ornament

Product Features and Details

  • Design: Water Lily.
  • Material: Plastic with ceramic base.
  • Size: 10 x 7.1 inches.
  • Base diameter: 2.8 inches.
  • Weight: 50 g.

This is a great looking item that adds a nice pop of color to the aquarium.

Penn Plax Red Bonsai Tree Aquarium Décor

Product Features and Details

  • Material: silk (leaves), plastic (rest of tree).
  • Size: 3.2 x 4.8 x 7.9 inches.
  • Weight: 8 ounces.
  • Meant for:  reptile habitats and aquariums.

I really loved the whole zen vibe this plastic plant has going for it. It’s not going to fit smaller aquariums, however and better off on bigger ones.

Fish Tank Manmade Cyan Blue Green Floral Plants Decoration

Product Features and Details

  • Material: plastic, ceramic.
  • Size: base, 2.2 x 1.8 inches; over-all, 3.1 x 4.5 inches.
  • Weight: 66 grams.

For less than $5, you can get these cute little plastic plant balls by Como. The oval ceramic base allows the plant to stand underwater. It looks really cool and you might even find your fish laying eggs on them.

There are actually a variety of colors available in this design so you can play around with what looks best for your aquarium set up.

At the end of the day, the matter of live versus plastic aquarium plants may just be down to preference. Yes, having live plants and managing to keep them growing makes for a certain level of accomplishment. But there’s definitely nothing wrong with going for plastic, either.

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