i'll jump in.
i've used artificial plants in my tank,still do..
i change mine a lot because they get algea on them,and it's not easy to get it off,
so i buy new ones,i'm not a fan of the hard aquarium plants,they just don't sway
the same way that the silk ones do.
all my fish are healthy..perhaps i'm lucky...
i'm pants at live plants,i kill them very quickly,just don't have the knack.
so i brighten it up this way,many aqurists i've no doubt would cringe
if they saw the plants i have in with my cichlids,however i like how it looks
in my living room,they are all eating extremely well,no breeding as i don't have
females which i find keeps the aggression down better,and i like the way the
fish swim in amongst them.
when i have had a little rust on the end of a cut stem i have removed the rusty
bit. you could use aquarium safe silicon to seal them off.