Do Goldfish Needs Live Plants?

The basic needs of a goldfish are oxygen, food, and shelter. Aquatic plants can provide all three.

Do Goldfish needs live plants? Why are plants important?

Although, with the selected diet you’ll be giving your goldfish, and with a proper filtration and aeration system, food and oxygen are insignificant contributions of aquarium plants. They need hiding place – the shelter provided by the plants, however, is quite essential, and they need it.

To see this for yourself, visit any pet shop or the home of a friend in which there are well-planted and barren aquariums set up at different sizes. In the bare tank, the fishes’ colors will be washed out, their movements more or less jerky, and they are easily frightened by the slightest bump to the aquarium.

In the well-planted aquarium, the fishes’ colors are much more brilliant, their movements are smooth and easy, and they are not easily frightened.

A variety of aquarium plants will benefit goldfish in many ways, and also make your tank more attractive.

In other words, a thickly planted background makes the goldfish feel more secure. And when they are more secure, they are under less stress, which makes their natural disease resistance much higher.

As far as your own enjoyment is concerned, you’ll find a well-planted aquarium much more pleasant to look at than a barren one. The planted aquarium has a more natural appearance, and it may even enhance the appearance of the room it is situated in.

Furthermore, healthier, happier goldfish look a lot better. The green background provided by the plants brings out sparkling brilliance in the metallic oranges and reds of the goldfish. The goldfish are likely to get along better with one another, eat better, and generally be more active overall.

In addition, a planted background, more so than a bare tank, is likely to help trigger spawning in mature goldfish. Having fish reproduce is indeed one of the more pleasurable aspects of aquarium keeping, even if you don’t raise the fry – baby fish.

Live Plants or Plastic Plants (Fake plants)?

Many fishkeepers find that growing plants in a newly established aquarium is rather difficult. I agree that if you don’t have the right kind of plants it isn’t easy. This is because the water and the gravel in a new aquarium being defined here as any aquarium set up for less than six months – has not had time to build up a supply of nutrient materials.

Plants not having a large self-contained storehouse of nutrients will die of starvation in a few weeks in a newly set up aquarium. However, there are some plants that can do well in a new aquarium. You will have to decide whether to try growing them or to use plastic plant replicas.

Do I need to put live or fake plants in a goldfish tank?

The easiest, although expensive, way to solve the problem of dying plants in a newly set up aquarium is to use plastic fake plants. There are several manufacturers of plastic plant replicas whose products so closely resemble the real thing that without close scrutiny most people looking into an aquarium can’t tell the difference.

To the goldfish, of course, it makes no difference at all, since, as pointed out earlier, you provide them with choice foods and your filtration and aeration system provides them with all the oxygen they need.

All the goldfish really need from plants in an aquarium is a fairly dense, dark background, and that is indeed provided by plastic plant replicas.

Aside from the fact that no special conditions of light, temperature and water chemistry are required to maintain plastic plants, they have another important advantage over live plants – they cannot be destroyed by your goldfish.

Goldfish are omnivorous creatures – that is, they eat both animal and vegetable matter. It is not uncommon to see goldfish nibbling away on the tender young leaves of aquarium plants. Although you may see goldfish nibbling on the leaves of plastic plants, they are usually nibbling at the algae that grow on them or on the microorganisms that live among the algae fibers.

Goldfish soon learn that they cannot eat the plants themselves, and eventually they stop trying. Meanwhile, during this “learning” period, your plants will not be destroyed.

Live plants for the new tank

To grow aquatic plants successfully you must pay attention to their environmental needs – just as you pay attention to the needs of your goldfish. You must consider the temperature, water conditions, and lighting required for the plants.

What kind of plants can I put in a goldfish tank?

The best plants to use in a newly set up aquarium are those species that have heavy rhizomes, or rootstocks. The rhizome is the part of the plant from which the roots and leaf stalks grow and is the part in which most of the plant’s food supply is stored in the form of starch.

Plants such as Aponogeton, some Echinodorus, and some Cryptocoryne species have thick rhizomes. Because these plants contain vast food stores in the rhizomes, they can be put into a newly established aquarium and will survive if kept under the right conditions.

On the other hand, plants that lack heavy rhizomes, such as the common and decorative species Vallisneria, most of the Hygrophila, and Myriophyllum (parrot’s feather), will not do well in an aquarium that has not had a chance to build up a concentration of minerals in the water or the gravel bed.

These are best avoided until the aquarium has been established for about six months.

Requirements for a goldfish planted tank

Water parameters

Most of the aquatic plants available to the aquarium hobby are tropical species. Some are flexible in their temperature requirements, but many are not. If your goldfish aquarium is being maintained at room temperature – about 70°F – the plants you choose should be those species that do best at temperatures of 65°F to 70°F.

Water chemistry is also important. Some plants only grow well in acidic water – that is water having a low pH value such as 6.2, for example. Because goldfish do not do well in such water. these kinds of acid-loving plants, including most of the Cryptocoryne species, should be avoided.

Most of the plants that grow well in very alkaline water – water having a pH value over 8.0, also thrive well in water that is slightly acidic (pH value of 6.8), neutral (pH value of 7.0), or mildly alkaline (pH value of 7.2 to 7.6).

The latter is the condition of most city water supplies and is the pH value at which both goldfish and most aquatic plants thrive. The extremes are mentioned here only because water in an aquarium tends to become more acidic over time, especially if a careful maintenance program is not followed.


Light conditions are also critical to the survival of aquarium plants. Without light of sufficient intensity and duration, aquarium plants will die. Natural sunlight is one of the best sources of light for aquatic plants. As we said before, however, most aquarium plants are tropical species. This means they require about 12 hours of light a day.

This is more than the sun provides during the winter in a temperate climate like that of the United States. Natural sunlight must, therefore, be supplemented, especially during the winter, by artificial light. This, of course, is done with a lighted aquarium hood.

Regular incandescent lights will promote good plant growth, but keep in mind that they put out a lot of heat. This is a difficult problem in small aquariums, especially with goldfish, which prefer cooler water.


Although light quality and quantity are important in growing beautiful aquarium plants, the quality of the substrate is also important. If good plant growth is to be a major focus of your aquarium, the substrate should be high in iron as well as other basic elements.


Gravels with a high iron content are available in some fish shops under various trade names. In addition to iron and other basic elements, compounds, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are essential for the growth of plant cells. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of fish respiration and is used by the plants as a nutrient source in the process of photosynthesis.

The amount of CO2 available from fish respiration is, however, not enough to sustain heavy plant growth. This compound can be supplemented in a number of ways, from a relatively inexpensive liquid, which is added to the aquarium water, to a rather expensive CO2 generator.

Unless you are really serious about having a luxurious plant growth in your aquarium, I don’t recommend that you get involved in the expense of having a CO2 generator. Your fish shop owner or manager can advise you as to the best way to meet your need for supplementing CO2 in your aquarium.


Finally, aquatic plant fertilizers are also available in fish shops. These do not harm the fish and are very helpful in maintaining healthy plants. Most of these fertilizers come in liquid forms, which are ready to add to the aquarium water. The manufacturers’ directions should be followed explicitly.


Before you go to any great expense in having a planted goldfish aquarium, keep in mind that some strains of goldfish tend to nibble on aquarium plants. Therefore, it is important to choose your goldfish and your plants wisely. Soft-leaved plants, such as water sprite and Cabomba, etc. could easily become goldfish fodder and should probably be avoided in your goldfish aquarium.