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Introduction to Low Tech Planted Tanks

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  • Introduction to Low Tech Planted Tanks

    Introduction to Low Tech Tanks

    A low tech tank is essentially a tank that foregoes the modern equipment, expense and methods instead opting for a more natural style of planting. A low tech tank is characterized by low to medium lighting, a lack of compressed CO2 injection, minimal dosing of fertilizers and infrequent water changes.

    A low tech tank’s driving force is the nutrients provided by fish faeces, the nutrients in the substrate and the use of plants to kerb algal growth. Light and nutrients are often the factor limiting plant growth in a low tech tank and this sets it apart from its high tech counterparts, and as such, low tech tanks will exhibit slower growth.

    There are many approaches to a low tech tank. Arguably the most famous method is provided by Diana Walstad, a setup that relies on lower lighting levels, no fertilizer dosing, moderate fish stocking, infrequent water changes and reliance upon a soil substrate for nutrients.

    Low tech tanks are the perfect introduction for an aquarist to enter the realm of planted aquaria, they can act as an incredible stepping stone for new aquarists and are invaluable in demonstrating the principles, techniques and knowledge that are required to run a more high tech tank. Furthermore, they can be used as a sort of trial run, a first attempt at running a planted aquarium without the expenses and the difficulties that running a high tech tank represent. Low tech tanks still retain a vast, varied and diverse selection of plants, which ultimately allows the low tech tank to be as colourful, beautiful and attractive as the high tech tanks.

    For the beginner stepping into the world of planted aquariums, there are multiple options available representing a vast range of difficulties with regards to equipment, experience, information and maintenance. The easiest level to enter on is with an inert substrate, moderate fish stocking and using only Mosses and Epiphytes (see Discus Edens list) as the plants. By removing the fertile substrate, this approach will limit the expense and the difficulty of setting up, researching, planning and maintaining a planted aquarium.

    For the more confident beginner, who is willing to do research and expend more time and money, a Walstad style tank would be the perfect choice for a planted aquarium. Walstad style tanks will incorporate a fertile substrate, fast growing easy stem plants and some of the more forgiving ground covers. This is not to say that Walstads are only for beginners, some of the most effective low tech planted tanks are based on the Diana Walstad principle, however it is a method that remains open to aquarium owners of all skill levels.

    As you get more and more technical, you approach the boundaries of the low tech planted tank. A tank of this upper low tech style is likely to include fertile substrates (possibly commercial), moderate growth moderate difficulty stem plants, demanding ground covers, difficult mosses, water column CO2 in the form of Glutaraldehyde or DIY yeast and basic water column macro and micro nutrient fertilization. These tanks present growth that is similar to high tech aquariums without the added expenditure and difficulty. They are sometimes time consuming to maintain and will require a degree of knowledge that takes research, trial and error and dedication to attain. These tanks are not recommended for the inexperienced plant grower. In these upper tier low tech tanks, given appropriate knowledge, you can grow nearly any plant that is grown in a high tech set up, and whilst growth rates and colours may suffer, it will give you an insight and a feel into growing difficult plants.

    Some important resources for the low tech planted aquarist, are:
    Diana Walstads book
    2 Toned’s DIY CO2 Generating Substrate Recipe
    Discus Edens low light plant list click here
    Inspiration from the new low tech planted aquarium photo album
    Plants from one of the amazing forum sponsors
    and Fish to feed the plants, again, from the amazing forum sponsors
    Last edited by Graeme; 12-04-13, 05:21 PM. Reason: added link
    Chris -my tank
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