Defining multiple plots to be animated with a for loop in matplotlib

In the solution below I showcase a bigger example (with also bar plot) that may help people understand better what should be done for other cases. After the code I explain some details and answer the bonus question.

import matplotlib
matplotlib.use('Qt5Agg') #use Qt5 as backend, comment this line for default backend

from matplotlib import pyplot as plt
from matplotlib import animation

fig = plt.figure()

ax = plt.axes(xlim=(0, 2), ylim=(0, 100))

N = 4
lines = [plt.plot([], [])[0] for _ in range(N)] #lines to animate

rectangles =[0.5,1,1.5],[50,40,90],width=0.1) #rectangles to animate

patches = lines + list(rectangles) #things to animate

def init():
    #init lines
    for line in lines:
        line.set_data([], [])

    #init rectangles
    for rectangle in rectangles:

    return patches #return everything that must be updated

def animate(i):
    #animate lines
    for j,line in enumerate(lines):
        line.set_data([0, 2], [10 * j,i])

    #animate rectangles
    for j,rectangle in enumerate(rectangles):

    return patches #return everything that must be updated

anim = animation.FuncAnimation(fig, animate, init_func=init,
                               frames=100, interval=20, blit=True)


The idea is to plot what you need and then reuse the artists (see more here) returned by matplotlib. This is done by first plotting a dummy sketch of what you want and keeping the objects matplotlib gives you. Then on your init and animate functions you can update the objects that need to be animated.

Note that in plt.plot([], [])[0] we get a single line artist, thus I collect them with [plt.plot([], [])[0] for _ in range(N)]. On the other hand[0.5,1,1.5],[50,40,90],width=0.1) returns a container that can be iterated for the rectangle artists. list(rectangles) just convert this container into a list to be concatenated with lines.

I separate the lines from the rectangles because they are updated differently (and are different artists) but init and animate return all of them.

Answer to bonus question:

  1. line, = plt.plot([], []) assign the first element of the list returned by plt.plot to the veriable line.
  2. line = plt.plot([], []) just assign the whole list (of only one element).

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