» Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Blog, Education, Freshwater Fish, Paul P | Comments Off on High-Tech versus Low-Tech Planted Aquariums

High-Tech versus Low-Tech Planted Aquariums


By Paul Pinto

You may have heard the terms “low-tech” or “high-tech” when referring to planted aquariums, so lets take a minute to define these terms. “High-tech” or “low-tech” is a reference to the amount of light and nutrients that are being added into the aquarium. A “high-tech” aquarium is defined by the use of high intensity lighting, pressurized CO2 injections, and a daily nutrient dosing regiment. In a low-tech aquarium pressurized CO2 injections are not used, the lighting is low to medium intensity, and it may or may not have a daily nutrient dosing regiment. Remember, there is a difference between a planted aquarium and an aquarium with plants in it. A planted aquarium is usually heavily planted, has a substrate formulated for plant growth, and the focus of the tank is based around the plants.

High-tech Planted Aquarium

An example of a
“high-tech” Planted Aquarium

Low-tech Planted Aquarium

An example of a
“low-tech” Planted Aquarium

There are of course pros and cons on both ends of the spectrum. In a “high-tech” aquarium you can expect rapid growth and very vibrant colors from your plants. Certain plants, such as Dwarf Baby Tears, will only thrive in a “high-tech” aquarium due to their demanding light and nutrient requirements. However, a “high-tech” planted aquarium will be more labor intensive and time consuming to maintain. Due to the rapid growth of the plants nutrients will be used up much more rapidly, so a daily nutrient dosing schedule is a must and large (25-50%) water changes should be conducted weekly or bi-weekly to maintain proper nutrient levels. Pressurized CO2 injection is a must with these conditions to meet the needs of the rapidly growing plants. Without proper CO2 levels the high amounts of light and nutrients will turn your tank into an algae farm.

“Low-tech” planted aquariums will be easier to maintain since slower plant growth can usually be expected. Slower growth means fewer nutrients, less plant pruning, and fewer water changes are required. However, there are a number of plant species that will not tolerate these “low-tech” conditions and may either grow very slowly or not grow at all. Also, some plants may not exhibit the bright reds or purples they would have in a “high-tech” aquarium. Nutrient dosing in a “low-tech” aquarium can be done daily, but is more often done weekly or not at all depending on the bio-load of the tank, the growth of the plants, and the total amount of plants in the aquarium. CO2 injection is normally not necessary in a “low-tech” set-up due to fewer nutrients and light but it can help the plants if you do chose to do so. Many people will choose to dose with an organic carbon source regularly or use a sugar and yeast system in lieu of pressurized CO2.

Planted Aquarium Products

A few of the products available for planted aquariums.

Both styles of planted aquariums can be beautiful and rewarding when maintained correctly. Having a “high-tech” planted aquarium is not for everyone, as it requires more dedication to maintain, but the vibrant colors and vigorous growth make it well worth the effort. A “low-tech” planted aquarium, however, is relatively simple to maintain. A “low-tech” planted aquarium is a great choice for beginners or people who love the look of a planted tank but don’t want to deal with the time investment of a high-tech aquarium. Stop into the store today and talk to one of our associates about which set up works best for you!  

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