I’ve had MANY types of mermaid tails and I have quite a few now. There are so many different kinds, it's sometimes hard to choose so I’ll go through all the common choices!
•Spandex/Polyester/Basic Fabrics: These are GREAT starters! They are very easy to put on and take off, they're the least expensive tail, they are light, easy to transport, can fit in a carry on, and extremely easy to store. These are low maintenance tails but they do snag and tare easy. I would pick one with a monofin thats fits your style best. Some monofins are better for pools such as this tail:
Other monofins are better for open oceans or springs such as this fin:
Some monofins require a tail to be custom made for you to fit fins like the Mahina.
Luckily there are a few crafty people, such as the Vancouver Mermaid, in the community who take commissions!
•Scuba Knit/Neoprene (which is different from neopren): These tails will have a little more drag and fit a little nicer. They don't have as much stretch as fabrics like spandex but they do allow small amounts of stretch depending on how well they are sewn. These types of tails tend to hold more water as it is a thicker fabric. If you have a large fluke, it may hold water like in the Finfolk Productions fabric line. These are a great tail for photos as they are light and easy to transport and carry. Depending on what monofin you have, they will store easily or fit in a carry on bag! Mertailor Fantasea Monofins will fit in any beach bag and it is lightweight. Finfolk Production tails are more difficult to transport because of the vinyl inserts. When these get creases, it shows in the tail. These types of tails are for a little more experienced mers but can still make a good first tail for strong swimmers!
•Silicone: The most expensive option! These tails are made to your body measurements and fit nice and snug. There is very minimal stretch with these. They are more textured for a more realistic fish like touch. Most silicone tail makers offer incredible add ons like side fins, dorsal fins, custom colors, and more. They can be difficult to get into. They usually require lubricant of sort to get into. They are usually the heaviest tail ranging from 25 lbs to 75 lbs! They can also be difficult to carry depending on shapes and size. The smallest and lightest ones can fit in carry on but they usually are sent as a check bag when flying. If you do get a silicone, don’t forget to give the tail a bath after use! Silicone requires a bit more of maintenance than the rest but they are very durable. Reputable companies off the top of my head is Finfolk Productions, Mernation, Made by a Mermaid, and Mermaid Amatheia.
•Hybrids (These are commonly referred to as “basic silicone” tails):
These look very similar to full silicone but these have scuba knit or neoprene on the inside, sometimes as a lining. These are usually a little more expensive than fabric tails but less expensive than full silicone. Depending on the artist the seams tend to be more noticeable then on a full silicone because the seams are sewn. You can cover the seams with side fins if the artist offers those kinds of upgrades. No lubricant is needed with these but they can be more difficult to slide into when wet. Just as regular scuba knit/neoprene tails, these hold water in the fabric and take a little longer to dry. Carrying is about the same as a neoprene tail with a little extra weight from the silicone. These range from 15 lbs to 45 lbs depending on how much extra silicone is added onto it. They are transportable just as silicone tails are. They may fit in carry on depending on the monofin inside. These do need to be rinsed out after swims.
•Sequin/resin: These are definitely one of the most lightweight of tail types. They tend to be the most expensive to purchase but one of the cheapest to make. This are very time consuming to make and take the most work to create. These look beautiful in photos but are terrible for the environment. Fish tend to eat the sequins or resign scales that fall into water ways so it is very important that these stay in pools and dry lan, preferably controlled environments! They will shed their scales no matter how well made they are. I cannot express enough that these should not be worn in natural waters! They are typically easy to transport and store. These are VERY HIGH maintenance.
•Latex: I honestly wouldn't recommend. These do not last long. They can melt if left in a hot car, get sticky in chlorine and many people are allergic to latex. Unsuspecting kids could have a reaction by accidentally touching your tail!
•Caulking silicone: Don’t. It is NOT regulated like medical grade silicone is and not meant for human skin. It can be toxic and cause illness in the long term. I'd recommend only purchasing medical grade silicone products. Here is a blog post from my mermaid tail maker on the dangers of caulk: https://moxiemermaid.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/silicone-caulking-and-mermaid-tails/
Hopefully this helps you on deciding what kind of tail would fit you best!
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