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Real Or Fake Plants, Which Is Better?


The article concerns the following question – Real Or Fake Plants, Which Is Better? Plants, whether real fake plants, play a very important role in your aquarium design, in that they tone down the unnatural look of fish tank decorations. Plants make those buildings, pagodas and sunken ships look more realistic, as if they have always been there in their natural settings.

Real Or Fake Plants, Which Is Better

The question is not if real or fake plants are necessary, but the real question is is it necessary to have real plants as opposed to fake plants? Why go through all the hassle of growing and nurturing live plants to place with your fish tank decorations when it is so much easier to just pop in some fake plants that do not require any maintenance?

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Real Not Fake Plants As Fish Tank Decorations

Any seasoned veteran at fish keeping will tell you that nothing beats real plants. It is true that real plants require a lot more maintenance and upkeep that fake ones but live aquatic plants provide an invaluable benefit to your fish.

The first and most important benefit that they provide is definitely oxygenation. Plants breathe out oxygen and consume carbon dioxide in the day. This provides your fish with ample oxygen to breathe. If you have a tank that is a little over populated, you may be depriving the fish of oxygen. You could always aerate the tank with bubbles but a more natural thing that you could do instead is growing some live plants in there. They are a lot more pleasing to the eye than a long plastic tube sticking out like a sore thumb.

The second benefit of growing real plants is for algae control. Algae is a form of plant life and like all plants, it needs three things to survive: sunlight, aeration and nutrients. Planting an aquatic plant in your tank will create a deficit of aeration and nutrients for the algae and limit its growth.

Types Of Live Aquatic Plants

Water plants that you grow in your aquarium are not created. There are actually four types of aquarium plants, each with their own unique characteristics and each playing a different role in your fish tank.

The first kind is the type that is fully submerged in the water. These plants make excellent fish tank decor because they do not stick out awkwardly from the water and generally do not grow too tall. All the oxygenation is kept within the water and none is wasted into the atmosphere, unless the water is fully concentrated. Then the oxygen rises as bubbles, which you sometimes find on the leaves of these plants.

Because they consume air and nutrients fully in the water, they are best for competing with algae. Be careful of using too many of these fully submerged plants though. Remember, plants consume oxygen at night and having too many of them would cause an oxygen deficit. You would know this when you see the fish gasping for air at the surface in the morning. One example of this is Ceratophyllum, also known as hornwort or coon’s tail.

The second type of aquatic plants have their roots in the substrate of the fish tank but grow tall enough to have the top leaves poking out of the water. Because the leaves are sticking out of the water, there is a general loss of oxygen to the atmosphere and while it does oxygenate the water, it does not do so efficiently. I guess the one benefit that these kinds of water plants provide is beauty, most of them have beautiful flowers above the water line. The plants that fall into this category include Water Lilies and Water Poppies.

The third type of aquatic plants are the ones that float directly on the water, having almost no contact with the substrate. These kinds only offer shade, which may be useful if your aquarium is in direct sunlight everyday. Small fish and fry loves hiding under their leaves. The plants that fall into this category include Hyacinths and Neptuna repens. Apart from shade, since these do not have contact with the substrate, they get their nutrients directly from the water and are great at cleaning up the nitrogen and heavy metals from it.

The last category is generally not used in aquariums. They are mainly planted in outdoor fish ponds because their roots may be planted into the substrate but the larger portion of the plant, including its leaves grow outside of the water. These include Sagittaria and Hibiscus.

Ideally, you would want to choose a plant that goes well with your aquarium theme and all your fish tank decor but you also need to consider what effect you desire from them. The best effect would be a combination of the first group and the floating plants.

Maintaining Aquatic Plants

As tedious as it may sound, maintaining aquatic plants isn’t all that difficult. The most immediate task would be removal of any dead leaves or flowers from the water. While this can be done during your weekly water changes, it would be best to remove them immediately if you notice any. Dead leaves get recycled into the water as nutrients and would encourage algae and fungal growth.

Another task that you should do is to check on the root spread, especially if you are planting them directly into the substrate. This does not have to be done very often, just inspect them during your regular maintenance and if they seem too much, remove some. Too much roots trap debris and excess food and will encourage fungal growth too.

Remember also that these are plants and they do need some sunlight. If your tank only gets artificial light, they would eventually turn dull and lack luster. Place your aquarium where it is not in direct sunlight, but close enough to a window to benefit your plants.

Hands down real plants are always so much better than artificial ones. They make a more authentic environment for the fish and complement your fish tank decorations like no plastic alternative can.

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