05-01-2012, 05:41 PM
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Both real and fake plants have pros and cons. It is really up the aquarist which they prefer.
From a utilitarian perspective,
Real plants will grow, consume excess nutrients and toxins in your tank and compete with algae. However, with real plants, you need to pay attention to the nutritional balance in your water as well as additional factors like light duration (too much will still give you algae), gas levels, and cleaning decaying leaves and trimming overgrown plants.
With fake plants, they will not grow and will maintain their colors regardless of light quality and water quality. However, they will also not clean your water and you will need to stay on top of your water changes more strictly than with live plants.
Fish can be healthy in either system, and it is mainly up to the hobbyist to ensure that the environment is healthy.
Personally, I think live plants give enough benefits to warrant their use over fake plants, all of my tanks use live plants now.
Ultimately, the choice is yours depending on what you are willing to do for your tank, if you are ok with doing more water changes but do not want to spend a lot of time picking out dead leaves and trimming plants, then fake plants are the way to go. If you don't mind working in your tank and prefer to have more peace of mind with the quality of your water, then live plants are the way to go.
From a aesthetic perspective:
This is purely subjective to the owner. However, if you want a natural looking tank, nothing beats live plants. However, if you have turquoise substrate and a giant pink castle in the middle, fake plants might fit that environment better since you can get fake plants in crazy colors.
Some aquarists use both live and fake plants. For example, some want that flexible lawn look and use foreground plants but accent them with tall fake plants. Others don't want hard to maintain lawn plants and use fake plants to accent the foreground while keeping fast growing stem plants in the background to help with water quality and to help the tank look more natural.