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Home > General > Plastic vs Live Plants for Goldfish Aquariums: Pros, Cons & Top Picks

Plastic vs Live Plants for Goldfish Aquariums: Pros, Cons & Top Picks

Plastic vs live plants

Finding ways to decorate your goldfish aquarium can be a lot of fun, but it can also be stressful when your goldfish starts yanking things out of the substrate. Goldfish are known for their love of uprooting plants and tearing up décor, so choosing the right things to add to your tank is important. It’s not easy to know what to even look at when it comes to plants for your goldfish, though. Many people resort to plastic plants since they are less likely to be torn up by rough goldfish, but is this the best thing for your goldfish?

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Overview of Plastic Plants

Plastic Aquarium Plants
Image By: Huy Phan, Unsplash

Plastic plants are available at just about any pet store you set foot in. In fact, many big box stores that carry pet supplies also carry plastic plants. They are a good option for goldfish because most plastic plants can withstand any abuse your goldfish may put on them. They are made to last for years, which can save you some time and money over time.

However, plastic plants lack the water purifying benefits that live plants offer. They also may have rough edges that can catch on scales and fins, injuring your goldfish. It’s also important to keep in mind that plastic plants are made from plastic, which has proven itself to be detrimental to our planet.

Plastic Plant Options

When it comes to plastic plants, you have a world of options. They’re available in just about any size, color, and shape you can dream up. Whether you’re looking for something to give your tank a realistic or whimsical appearance, there’s a plastic plant for you. Some plastic plants may have hard plastic leaves, while others have silk leaves, which can be safer for your fish.

aquarium set up_Piqsels
Image By: Piqsels

Benefits of Plastic Plants

Plastic plants are built to last, so you shouldn’t have to replace them regularly. With proper care, plastic plants can last for decades. Even your toughest goldfish shouldn’t be able to tear up plastic plants and they don’t require special substrate to use.

  • Easy to acquire
  • Made to last
  • Available in a wide variety of colors, textures, and sizes
  • Not easily torn up by goldfish
  • No substrate required
  • Lack water purifying benefits
  • Rough edges can injure goldfish
  • Bad for the planet


Overview of Live Plants:

Carassius auratus Goldfish
Image By: gunungkawi, Shutterstock

As more and more people have become interested in aquarium keeping, the availability of aquatic plants has increased. They may be more difficult to come across than plastic plants, though.

Goldfish can be rough on live plants, so it’s important to select plants that can withstand your goldfish’s uprooting and snacking attempts. Most live plants are safe for your goldfish and don’t offer any rough edges that will injure your goldfish.

Live Plant Options

Floating plants like duckweed and dwarf water lettuce are excellent options for goldfish tanks because they often reproduce more quickly than your goldfish might eat them. This is especially true of duckweed.

Plants that grow attached to surfaces, like Java fern and Anubias, also tend to work well for goldfish. They may not be appetizing to your goldfish, and some varieties of these plants have thick, sturdy leaves that are unappealing. Anubias is often considered the best live plant option for goldfish tanks.

Other plants that work well for goldfish include hornwort, Vallisneria, and water sprite.

Koi and Goldfish
Image By: Aleron Val, Shutterstock

Benefits of Live Plants

Live plants are a wonderful way to help maintain high water quality in your goldfish tank. Many plants will absorb waste products, like nitrate, from the water column. This helps reduce waste products without water changes, although it doesn’t replace the need for them.

Live plants can also be beneficial for enhancing the environment for your goldfish. Goldfish love to scavenge and graze, so they will nose through the substrate and snack on plants throughout the day. Live plants can create a more enjoyable living environment for goldfish.

  • Becoming easier to acquire
  • Most are safe for goldfish
  • Lots of options that are resistant to goldfish
  • Help purify water
  • Create a more natural and enjoyable environment for goldfish
  • Some are more prone to being eaten or uprooted
  • Need replacement more often than plastic plants


Other Factors to Consider

Keep in mind that live plants do require more a time and effort commitment than plastic plants do. Some live plants may require nutrient supplementation or special substrates, while plastic plants don’t. You may also need to invest time in propagating or pruning your live plants to maintain their appearance. Live plants need specific lighting as well, which plastic plants don’t require.

Extra work aside, live plants are far more beneficial for your goldfish than plastic plants are. On top of that, they are better for the environment since they create a far smaller negative environmental footprint than plastic plants do.

Image By: dien, Shutterstock
Plastic Plants Live Plants
No water purification properties Help purify tank water
Can last for years Need propagation or replacement regularly
Bad for the planet Enhances and enriches your goldfish’s environment
Available in any color, size, and shape Limited to natural colors and shapes
Resistant to being eaten Some are resistant to being eaten


Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Marineland Bamboo Plastic Aquarium Plant Marineland Bamboo Plastic Aquarium Plant
  • Easy to acquire
  • Made to last
  • No substrate required
  • Second place
    Planterest - Anubias Barteri Live Aquarium Plant Planterest - Anubias Barteri Live Aquarium Plant
  • Becoming easier to acquire
  • Most are safe for goldfish
  • Help purify water
  • Our Favorite Plastic Plant:

    Marineland Bamboo plastic aquarium palnts

    The Marineland 3-foot long bamboo is a great option for your goldfish aquarium. These strands of faux bamboo will help fill up tank space and provide your goldfish an interesting and fun environment. You can allow it to float, but it’s made to be anchored to the bottom of the tank, so the long ends of the strands float on top of the water.

    Our Favorite Live Plant:

    Planterest - Anubias Barteri Broad Leaf

    When it comes to live plants, there’s nothing better for your goldfish tank than Anubias. This plant has thick leaves that are unappealing to goldfish and are sturdy enough to be the last choice for your goldfish to try to eat. They can grow attached to surfaces within the tank and do a good job of helping to purify the water.



    Live plants are a better choice for your goldfish tank. This is because of how well they reduce waste products within the tank, enhance the tank environment, and bring a natural appearance to the tank. Plastic plants are sturdy, but they can have rough edges that may injure goldfish, they don’t help purify the tank water, and they are bad for the environment.

    Featured Image Credit: Left: Plastic Plant: SunGrow, Amazon | Right: Live Plant: AquaLeaf Aquatics, Amazon

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