Planted tanks are amazing, but not everyone has a green thumb. Or the time required to check water levels and maintain a planted tank properly. For those who fall into that category, there are some excellent alternatives. So, read on, and we’ll explore the artificial option and show you some of the best silk plants available.
1. Ecoscaper Lobelia Silk Plant
This artificial Lobelia hits all the good points for an artificial aquarium plant. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a good base, and closely resembles the real deal. As an added bonus, it has a splash of more color than many other realistic fakes.
In aquascaping, it can be used as an alternative to plants like Cryptocroyne sp. to create a relatively dense area of foliage. The stems tend to be a bit droopy, but using hot water seems to reset the thermoplastic used in their construction to counteract it. Just heat, dip and straighten.
There are some complaints about quality control in all of the Marina artificial plants. However, the vast majority of the plants seem to look and sit great in the tank.
This artificial Lobelia is an excellent example of a realistic silk plant. The entire brand is worth a look if that’s your bag.
2. MyLifeUNIT Artificial Seaweed Water Plants
Realistic plants aren’t limited to silk versions. These soft, PVC artificial seaweed plants make a great addition to most tanks. You can use the whole set to densely plant a portion of your tank, with a similar use to plants from the Vallisneria genus.
They have a bright, cheery look if you purchase them in green, but there are a couple of other color variations as well if you want to get psychedelic. Fish can wriggle through the leaves, so it doesn’t deny them the use of part of the tank.
Like all plastic plants, shipping weather matters. A quick dip in hot water will let you work out any deformation that occurs during shipping in hot weather.
Other than that, these are an excellent way to achieve a tall, grassy look in the tank.
3. Smarlin Aquarium Plants Decoration, Artificial Plants for Fish Tank
Smarlin makes decent, relatively cheap artificial plants for aquariums. Of those, my favorite is this one, which loosely resembles an Anubias lancelota and comes with “grass” around the base. Even better? Those stems are posable.
These plants are primarily sold as a “base” for smaller Betta tanks. The upper leaves provide them with some shelter, similar to the much-touted “Betta Beds” that you can find for sale.
Overall it’s a solid plant, but it seems there have been a few rare issues with the base having sharp points. Feel around in the grass beneath the larger leaves before you place it in your tank.
As a cheaper centerpiece plant, this one shines!
4. Smarlin Artificial Aquarium Plants
Another one from Smarlin, this brushlike artificial plant is an excellent addition for filling in the back of your tank’s overall scape. Despite their solid look, the leaves spread into a semi-translucent fan when placed in water.
When placed with peaceful fish, this is a great way to give them extra cover. They also come in a pack of three, making it relatively easy to fill in the back part of the tank without spending too much money.
There’s a caveat here: these are too delicate for a cichlid tank. When “played with” by large, aggressive fish, there have been reports of the fronds separating and getting pulled into the impeller of HOB filters. That’s an enormous pain, and unchecked it can also cause the pump to fail.
On the other hand, if your fish aren’t constantly tearing the tank apart, then you’ll be able to kick back and enjoy these soft, silk brushes.
5. biOrb Parrots Feathers
BiOrb has some excellent artificial plants available, and this set is one of my favorites. Adding a splash of purple in a sea of green is never a bad idea, and the round base makes them extremely easy to set in place.
The set comes with two plants, both of which are attractive in their own way. One billows out, forming a large, multi-colored plant which is akin to Echinodorus sp. while the other resembles a purple Rotala, complete with fading colors at the “budding” tip.
There aren’t any major negatives to this particular plant. Even the cost (at the time of writing) is in a good place.
For a splash of new color and an easy base, take a closer look.
6. MyLifeUNIT Artificial Aquariums Plants Plastic Fish Tank Plants
Individually, these plants aren’t much to look at. They’re made with cheap, but relatively soft, plastic. I’d skip them for a Betta tank, but they’re an excellent candidate for a peaceful community tank.
The good point here is that they’re inexpensive, and you get a bunch of them. The low price makes them particularly attractive as a temporary decoration in many cases. It allows for the look of a filled-in aquascape without breaking the bank.
They don’t look realistic, unfortunately. I’d give them a once over for edges where they were broken out of the mold as well.
But they’re the cheapest way to populate the aquascape of a large tank, and some of the “ground cover” plants are elegant. Take a closer look!
7. Fluval Anubias Plant
Fluval is mainly known for its aquarium equipment. The cool thing is that they also make some of the most realistic artificial plants you’ll find anywhere.
The Anubias variation is a great one, closely resembling an undefined Anubias species. It’s also a great move since even real Anubias can look like plastic when they’re completely clean.
Some people disagree with the plant’s assessment as looking real, but it’s really in the eye of the beholder. The truth is that if you look too closely at any artificial plant, you’ll find out that it’s not completely real.
For a realistic look, Fluval delivers with this simple Anubias.
8. CNZ Aquarium Aquascape Artificial Plastic Plant
I’m rather fond of artificial plants that include some semblance of aquascaping. Whether it’s the fake plant attached to a stick or just a little formation like this… it’s a good way to go.
This one has a hair grass look on the taller plants, with something that resembles Glosso along the bottom. It’s a winning look, and it lends itself to creating a diverse aquascape if combined with the right decorations.
My only complaint is that it lacks the ability to really “flow” in water. The grass portion, in particular, is a bit stiff despite the look.
If you can get past that, however, this is an aquascaping miracle for those who are limited to using silk and artificial plants.
9. SunGrow Plastic Leaf Plant for Freshwater
This fake plant from SunGrow embodies the larger centerpieces you can find. It stands at a good 10″ tall, making it too big for small aquariums but just right for those with a larger tank.
It doesn’t closely resemble any one plant. Instead, it looks like a composite of many of the plants which are available for aquarium use. It also stands well on its own. That makes it a good choice for vivariums.
The downside is… well, it’s big, and it doesn’t seem to closely replicate any existing plants.
As a centerpiece, on the other hand, plants like this make a great focal point in your tank.
10. OrgMemory Artificial Aquarium Plants
You’re not limited to just finding rightly colored plants if you want to go with a cheap set. This one has a whopping 29 pieces, allowing you to decorate an entire tank with plants at a lower price.
The beauty of this one is in the bundle. It’s not going to compete with higher-priced plants when it comes to realism or quality. They’re still fine for most people’s tanks, however.
The downside? They’re cheap thermoplastics. You may have to reset them if they arrive deformed with hot water, and they’re not as durable as some options.
On the other hand, you can also decorate a 30-gallon tank with the set easily, so they’re no slouch in the value department.
11. Imagitarium Blue Fiesta Silk Aquarium Plant
Of course, you can go the other route from realism. There’s actually a good market for those who want imaginary plants with higher quality. This blue silk plant is one of my favorites from that end of the market.
Imagitarium covers quite a few of these plants, but this one is my favorite. It’s got some flow and looks just surreal enough to add something different to a tank, instead of trying to mimic nature.
The plant isn’t without problems. The material tends to catch algae, particularly brown, in tanks where it’s present. It’s also hard to clean, so make sure your tank is balanced before you shove it in there.
Still, this plant is representative of a part of the market most people aren’t aware of: high-end plants that come entirely from fantasy.
12. QUMY Large Aquarium Plants Plastic Fish Plant for Tank Artificial Colorful Decoration
Not surprisingly, you can also find sets of “fantasy” plants. These boldly-colored plants come in a pack of four and have some serious quality in their construction.
They have a pleasing overall shape as well. Oddly enough, they actually look quite life-like in the tank, more than many of the plants which are actually intended to mimic the real thing.
They’re still relatively cheap plants. The look is more to be admired than the actual construction. They’re not shoddy, just middle-of-the-line for fake aquarium plants.
On the other hand, if green isn’t your thing… well, your tank will benefit from adding in this splash of color.
13. Exotic Environments Rock Tunnels with Silk Style Plants
Looking for a bit of hardscape with your artificial plants?? This tiny cave with some vaguely Java Moss looking silk plants attached is perfect.
It’s about the right size for a Betta habitat as well. It’s got a good look and the whole thing is made of decent materials, although it’s the old-style “silk” instead of modern soft PVC.
That said, I’d go over it carefully before putting it in. There may be some sharp edges in there. It’s just leftover stuff from the molding process rather than actual design elements, thankfully.
If you’re willing to do a quick touch-up, then this is a one-stop fixture for a Betta tank or part of a large aquascape in more sizable aquariums.
14. SunKni 7+10+17 inches 3 Pack Glowing Effect Kelp
Looking for something truly unique? These “kelp” plants light up with a ton of colors when they’re hit by your tank’s light. They’re also made of high-end silicone, creating a soft environment your fish can fully interact with.
The lighting effect only works while the light is on. Don’t confuse these for glow in the dark plants, but the effect is still a stunning one.
They’re a bit pricy, but otherwise, this is an amazing addition to most tanks. Even in a tank planted with real plants, they can add a distinct effect.
If you want to make things a bit more special? Try these out, their effect is singular.
Artificial Plants vs. Real Plants in Use
Real plants have long been a part of keeping aquaria. From the start, the pioneers of the hobby have strived to replicate a fish’s natural environment. In most places, that included plants. Except for a few ancient exceptions(i.e., Koi), plants were also necessary for oxygenation of the aquarium before pumps were around.
Of course, in the modern world, we have different options. As much as those of us who love planted tanks can talk about them cleaning the water… it’s really a supplement to your actual filters. Aeration can be achieved with an airstone or even just a heavy filter flow from above the surface of the tank.
And, not everyone is great with live plants. Sometimes it just makes sense to quit killing plants and go with a “fake” option.
The majority of silk aquarium plants are made of polyester or some sort of plastic, rather than natural silk. Modern techniques have made it viable to create natural-looking plants with polyester. These don’t react with water, and neither do PVC or silicone models.
Silk artificial plants are those that will flow with water. With a careful choice, you can create an aquascape that looks fully natural to a casual glance. Other plants are made in colors that you don’t see in aquatic plants, especially bright ones.
What they all have in common is that they’re no-maintenance. They can considerably cut down on the total maintenance you need to do in a tank, especially since live plants require regular trimming and fertilizer to remain viable in the long run.
The drawbacks are pretty simple:
- Silk plants don’t produce oxygen
- Some artificial plants have rough corners that can hurt vulnerable fish
- Artificial plants don’t act as a nitrate sink
- Less versatility when it comes to aquascaping
On the other hand, when compared side-by-side with the real deal, the following advantages are there:
- They can withstand even the most aggressive fish
- Easily moved
- Provide shelter and shade for your livestock
The choice is up to you in the end. Silk plants are great for beginners or casual aquarists who don’t wish to go through the process of setting up a planted tank.
Artificial and Silk Aquarium Plant FAQs
Are Silk Plants Different From Artificial Plants?
A bit. You see, all silk plants are artificial, but not all artificial plants are considered silk plants. Silk plants are those that will move with the flow of a tank, as opposed to standard artificial plants that tend to remain solid in the water. These are usually made with plastic cloth or silicone.
Are Silk Aquarium Plants Made of Silk?
In most cases… no. Artificial plants of all types were originally made from silk. In the modern world, it’s much cheaper and easier to just use plastic. As long as the plastic is woven properly, it makes no difference in the properties of the plant. Construction is often a proprietary secret, but you can look at how artificial flowers are made for more information.
Can I Combine Artificial and Real Plants?
Absolutely. It’s commonly done by those who want a tank to look “finished” when they initially put their flora into the tank. Combining them can also be done long term, allowing the aquarist to focus on easy plants like Echinodorous sp. while still creating a lush aquascape.
Can I Put Silk Plants in With Aggressive Fish?
This is one of the more common uses for them as well. For instance, cichlids are intelligent, easily bored, and powerful, which makes them plant destroyers. Well-made plants can take the punishment, allowing you to maintain the illusion of a planted tank with very aggressive fish.
How Is Aquascaping With Silk Plants Different Than With Live Ones?
For the most part, tanks that use silk plants will be unlikely to be as densely “planted” as most planted tanks. They have bases that can make it hard to stick them together in clumps, for instance. It’s also hard to achieve the same effect as some live plants, such as the ever-popular Glossostigma with a replica. On the other hand, there’s no need for further maintenance, which draws many people to them.
What Can I Do About Sharp Points on an Artificial Aquarium Plant?
I don’t recommend buying any hard plastic plants, particularly for fish which like to rub. If you do, and you can’t bring yourself to part with them, then you can often file down the problem area with a steel needle file. However, it is just best to avoid them, especially with the tons of great options currently available to fishkeepers.
What Do I Do If My Fish Keep Moving My Artificial Plants?
It happens on occasion. You may want to stick with hardscape elements for these fish. Those like African Cichlids really don’t need plants. On the other hand, you can use hardscape elements to wedge the base in place. Just make sure that you use stone instead of driftwood, most fish are surprisingly strong.
Can I Use Silk Plants in a Saltwater or Marine Tank?
The plastic used to make artificial plants is relatively inert, and they should be fine in most systems. If you’re wary… don’t risk it. I’ve yet to hear of any damage other than accidental(or purposeful) ingestion of plants. You could hypothetically be taking an expensive risk by introducing false plants into a saltwater tank.
What’s the Best Material for Artificial Aquarium Plants?
Silicone is the high-end material currently in use. It creates a rubbery, safe texture on the plants and lasts for a long time, although it’s harder to clean if algae gets into the pores. Plastic “cloth” is also a good idea, flowing naturally in the water and looking great. Hard plastic is the cheapest, but it’s still usable, you just need to look it over before putting it in the tank to avoid sharp edges.
Artificial, But Still Vibrant
Artificial plants aren’t always our first pick, but you don’t have to sell yourself short by using them either. The real meat of the matter is finding plants that will enable you to aquascape to your heart’s content, which is easier than ever before!