Despite being a live plant lover, I still find that there are a ton of great uses for silk aquarium plants. Everyone knows that live plants provide oxygen and eat fish waste while fake plants don’t. Sounds like you’re giving up a pretty good deal – or are you? What is it that silk aquarium plants have to offer?
Advantages to Using Silk Aquarium Plants vs Live Plants
Here are a few advantages to using silk aquarium plants.
You Can’t Kill Silk Plants
This is probably by far the biggest advantage to using silk aquarium plants. Even the easiest live plants take some thinking about. You need to consider what sort of water you have; the pH, the temperature, ammonia, and other plant nutrients…
Even plants you can toss in and forget, like Java Fern, will still suffer if you aren’t a little intentional with where you place them. No plant likes being tucked into a dark corner under subpar lighting, for example.
Silk plants aren’t alive so you really can place them wherever you please. They won’t become misshapen if you place them near the current of your filter outflow like stem plants. They won’t wither and die if you use a sterile substrate like gravel.
If you prefer sand or gravel and don’t want to fuss with fertilizers, aquasoil, or other additions, then silk plants are just right for you.
In fact, you can use any substrate you wish! I always recommend silk plants for aquarists with goldfish or betta bowls or nano tanks. These setups tend to have lighting that simply can’t sustain live plants and substrates that won’t provide root nutrients.
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Live plants also need the right lighting. Most aquarium kits today come with either an incandescent or fluorescent light bulb. Unfortunately, while they can be bright, they rarely provide photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) that plants need. Not all light is created equally and if it’s the wrong kind of light your new plants will simply wither away.
Silk plants mean you have even less to think about and less money to spend on upgrading your light fixture. Though for small tanks there are plenty of affordable full-spectrum light upgrades to help your new greenery thrive!
Silk Plants Always Look Good
Even the healthiest live plants need tidying and pruning sometimes. Dead or misshapen leaves, brown edges, tattered edges, snail bites, yellow patches from nutrient deficiencies…These are all very natural but sometimes natural isn’t what you want to see. Sometimes you want to come home to a perfectly beautiful aquarium with happy fish waiting to be fed.
Silk plants are nearly entirely maintenance-free once you place them. They do need a bit of cleaning now and again. But the time spent doing so once will be less than you spend on a weekly basis fussing with live plants.
Fish Won’t Eat Them
If you like vegetarian fish like Mollies, Silver Dollars, or Goldfish, this is a major advantage to using silk plants. Sometimes you can discourage vegetarians with tough plants like Anubias but not always. Silver Dollars are especially infamous for being willing to eat any greenery, no matter how tough or bitter.
- Natural-looking colors will not fade
- Provides charming decorative touch
- Long-lasting & maintenance-free
Silk plants are entirely inedible. At the most your fish will pick at them to slurp off the biofilm that grows on any aquatic surface. So if you see your Plecostomus busily chewing away don’t worry, he’s not going to get a bellyful of silk!
Snails and other plant pickers also find silk inedible. That said, if you do intend to keep vegetarian fish with silk plants make sure you’re offering them some kind of salad on occasion. Blanched vegetables like peas, zucchini, and spinach are great for most fish. I also keep spirulina based prepared foods on hand for those days I don’t feel like cooking for my fish.
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They’re Almost Always Cheaper
Yet another hassle of keeping live plants is the price. Let’s face it: not only are many of the nicer species expensive but many of the plants you buy will likely die. Meaning you then need to buy more plants to fill in the gaps.
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Silk plants though? All you need to worry about is having enough gravel or sand to hold it in place. Or not if you prefer using suction cups to attach them to the glass. Silk plants are by far the most cost-effective way to aquascape a tank!
Live plants are living organisms. Unfortunately, this means you’re really bringing home a lot more than just a plant. Flukes, soil worms, snail eggs, algae, leeches, parasites, and a host of other hitchhikers can end up in your aquarium.
Silk plants, on the other hand, are 100% sterile. If you keep sensitive fish like Discus using silk plants ensures nothing unwanted finds its way into your aquarium.
You may end up constantly treating the tank with chemicals or manually removing them…Only for the invaders to return back as soon as you turn around! It’s best to reduce the chances of an invasion to 0% by using silk plants.
Inert (Do Not Affect Gas Exchange or Biological Capacity)
Silk plants also mean a greater potential for your water conditions to remain stable. As you probably already know, live plants soak up the carbon dioxide that animals exhale and release oxygen through photosynthesis.
What’s less well known is that plants do the exact opposite at night, using oxygen and releasing CO2. This process causes gas levels and pH to fluctuate, sometimes severely in heavily planted aquariums.
Plants also uptake nitrogenous wastes like ammonia and nitrate. This is very beneficial, of course! But if your plants were to suddenly die off, suddenly you’d see a drastic spike in noxious compounds. Not only from the ammonia your fish were releasing but from the rotting plant material as well.
Lastly, we’re not confined to reality when using silk aquarium plants. The majority do look like real aquatic plants and come in various shades of green. But really they can look as whimsical as we want them to be! Pink plants to go with your Pink Betta? No problem!
Are you looking for one with fern-like teal blue leaves just like the plants you used to draw as a kid? You won’t find one in a lake but they certainly do exist!
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Plastic vs Silk Aquarium Plants
As great as silk aquarium plants are I think it’s worth comparing them to plastic plants, the other popular category of fake plants. While everything I mentioned earlier also applies to plastic plants there are a few differences that may sway you in one direction or another…
Longer Lasting: Unfortunately, silk plants have a tendency to degrade over time. How long the degradation takes depends on your water conditions, lighting, the quality of the silk, and other factors. You can expect your silk plants to last for years but over time, they may start to fade and show tattered, worn spots.
Plastic plants, on the other hand, are much more durable. The colors are effectively permanent and they are much less likely to wear out unless you have fish that love biting them.
Easier to Clean: Silk is very tough and strong but it is also a fabric. This means that algae, dirt, and other tiny particles can get lodged within the weave. The surface of plastic plants is much more difficult (but not impossible) for dirt to attach to.
Cleaning silk plants involves much more scrubbing. If done semi-regularly, you will ensure they last much longer. Plastic plants can be neglected for ages and will still clean up like new if scrubbed a little.
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Have More Realistic Movement: For all its toughness plastic plants are much more rigid than fine silk aquarium plants. Placed in a current, silk leaves have an organic delicacy to how they sway and follow every little movement of the water.
They are undeniably much more realistic whereas plastic plants are easily recognizable as fake. I recommend silk aquarium plants if you don’t want it to be obvious that your plants aren’t real.
Harder to Clean: As I said before, silk aquarium plants are made of fabric, which allows algae, dirt, and other particles to attach over time. Make sure you scrub them semi-regularly to keep them from staining or getting worn out too quickly.
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At first, purists might laugh at the idea of using fake plants. But silk aquarium plants offer very real advantages over live and plastic plants. They take the best qualities of both in a form that’s inexpensive, customizable, and easy to maintain. I highly recommend silk aquarium plants for hobbyists that want a natural look without all the fuss!