Choosing Freshwater Aquarium Plants

For most people, the most important object in an aquarium is the fish.  Fish are important as the reason why you have bought an aquarium for your home.  Besides the fish, plants another object you should know about.  Choosing freshwater aquarium plants is not a simple task like most people think.

Plants help make the aquarium more appealing.  There are many different types of plants that you can choose from.  There are live plants and there are plastic plants.  So which one should you use?  With many choices to choose from, continue to read below to find out more about them and it should help you choose the right plants for your freshwater aquarium.

Besides making your aquarium beautiful, plants in the aquarium also benefit the fish.  Fish love plants because it provides the security and shelter.  When fish sense danger, they head straight to the plants for protection.  Besides protection, plants also offer shelter for the fish.  In their habitat, most of the time spent is around plants so it makes sense to decorate your aquarium with plants.

Live Aquarium Plants

Live plants are the best option when choosing freshwater aquarium plants.  It gives the fish their natural surroundings and makes the fish feel more at home as this is what is found in their natural habitat.

Most fishkeepers including myself recommend live plants in the aquarium.  They not only help the aquarium look more appealing but help remove toxins and other chemicals from the water.  The fewer toxins that are in the water, the clearer the water is and the healthier the fish will be.

Live plants can be easily be found and bought at most local pet shops and gardening centers.  They will have a large selection of freshwater aquarium plants to choose from.  When choosing the plants, pick the ones that are found naturally in the fish’s habitat.  In addition, choose the one that you are happy with too.

Besides the local pet shop and gardening center, you can actually find live plants naturally in the outdoors.  Most natural ponds, rivers, and even lakes will have live plants growing.   However, live plants found naturally will have some pests and parasites living in them.  Some of this pest can be a threat to your fish and could even kill them.  To prevent this problem, simply leave the live plants in a bucket filled with water and use a product like Freshwater Fish Bacterial Infection Remedy, which can be bought at Amazon.  This product will kill bacteria and other parasites in the plants.  Leave the live plants in the bucket for a couple of days and then you can place them in your aquarium.

By using live plants, there are advantages and disadvantages.

Some of the advantages of using live plants:

  • Serving as food for herbivore fish
  • Produce oxygen (O2)
  • Absorb the carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) that your fish generate
  • Helps prevent green water by removing waste from the water

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • Plants need to care on a routine basis
  • Water temperature needs to be monitored closely
  • Live plants require good lighting

As you can see from above, live plants have their pros and cons.  Either way, choosing live plants for your aquarium is a great choice.

Artificial Aquarium Plants

Another choice to think about when choosing freshwater aquarium plants are artificial plants.  While live plants provide a natural habitat for fish, artificial plants have their own benefits too.  Most people think that live plants have too high maintenance so they opt for artificial plants instead.

Artificial plants do have some advantages though.  For one, they don’t need to be cared for.  Just place them in the aquarium and forget them.  However, they do still need cleaning once in a while.  This is true if your aquarium tank has a lot of algae, especially green algae.  When algae are present, you’ll need to remove them from the aquarium and clean the algae completely off.

Another advantage of artificial plants is their sturdiness.  Unlike live plants, when there is a lot of fish, the leaves of the plants or even the entire plant can be damaged by them.  With artificial plants, since the material is made of plastic, it will be hard for the fish to damage it.

Besides the advantages, there are some disadvantages to having artificial plants.  One is the material used to make them.  Artificial plants are made from plastic, which can be dangerous for the fish.  Besides plastic, other materials used to build an artificial plant are other harmful materials such as glues and dyes.  Both glues and dyes have chemicals that are harmful to the fish.

Some species of fish eat plants and since they can’t tell an artificial plant from a live plant, they will nibble or bite on it.  If they happen to bit a piece off, it could end up in their stomachs.  The end result could be death by poisoning of the chemicals in the artificial plants.  To be safe, if you’re planning to use these types of plants, make sure the species of fish you’re planning to put in the tank do not plant eater.

Caring For Your Live Plants

With live plants, you’ll need to carefully monitor them frequently.  They require care due to being fragile and are easily damaged.  In addition, they are more prone to diseases caused by their environment.  On the other hand, live plants are more appealing than artificial plants.  Live plants can make the entire aquarium more beautiful.

With live plants, you’ll need to monitor the water condition carefully, especially nitrate.  Aquatic plants absorb nutrition and oxygen from the water.  Sometimes, when there is too much nitrate in the water, it can actually kill the plants.  Nitrate is invisible and the only way to tell if your aquarium has it is to test it with a nitrate testing equipment.  

Live plants are prone to damages by the fish.  Fish like to stay around plants for protection and even to sleep.  In addition, some species of fish will even eat the plants.  Damaged plants don’t cause any threats to the fish, but they will be an eyesore to look at, especially when there are a lot of damaged live plants.  You can just leave them as is replace it with another one.

Caring For Your Artificial Plants

With artificial plants, caring for them is much easier.  Since it’s made of plastic, there’s really not much you need to do to it.  However, there is still some maintenance that needs to be done to it.  Usually, it’s just keeping them clean and repairing or replacing it due to damages done by the fish.

Artificial plants over time will need to be clean from time to time.  This is due to algae and other materials being present in the water.  A few weeks or so, the plants will start to have algae growing on it.  Algae is nothing to worry about, but a large amount of it can be very unappealing, especially when it’s growing on the artificial plants.

To counter this problem, you can put algae eater in the aquarium.  Algae eater such as plecostomus and cory catfish can help reduce algae in the aquarium and on the artificial plants.  However, you’ll still need to clean the plants from time to time. This is to keep the artificial plants in pristine shape.

Plant damages is another thing to watch out for.  Fish tends to hang around the plants often, whether it’s for protection or sleeping.  When they are around the plants often, some damages to the plants will happen.  If the artificial plants are damaged remove it entirely and replace it with a new one.  Keeping damaged artificial plants in the aquarium can make the plants unappealing to look at.  In addition, damaged plants can kill the fish due to sharp materials exposed when it’s damaged.


When choosing freshwater aquarium plants, make sure to do all the research first.  Find out what plants are the best fit for your aquarium and the fish.  Choosing the right plants will give your aquarium a boost in beauty and will make the fish happy.

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