Planted Tank: Hi/Low Tech?

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Planted Tank: Hi/Low Tech?

With the increasing popularity of planted tanks and aquascaping, a few people are asking questions about High Tech or Low Tech setups. In this post I will try to answer a few questions on the subject, without getting too technical (no pun intended)…

What is the difference? High Tech setups uses CO2 injection, an intensive fertilizing schedule and specialized high intensity lighting. Low(er) Tech setups run on standard lighting, the occasional addition of fertilizers and (usually) no additional CO2

Do I need to have a High Tech setup? The short answer is “No”. It really all depends on the difficulty factor of the plants you are attempting to grow, and to a large extent the size of your budget and the time you can dedicate to your tanks. Stunning low tech planted tanks can be found everywhere. All planted tanks (all aquariums really) demand maintenance in various degrees and low tech planted tanks are no exception. High tech setups requires a much more dedicated approach though.

Going ‘high tech’ generally implies an interest to grow more types of, and more demanding plants, and to grow them in a more optimal way to produce colors and density greater than what is possible without CO2 injection.
Dennis Wong – The 2HR Aquarist

Do my plants need CO2? Yes. All plants need CO2. In the normal aquarium with a few normal plants, the water should contain enough dissolved CO2 to sustain growth. Keep in mind that fish exhale CO2 into the water as well. However, when plant density or growth reaches higher levels, there’s a need to supplement CO2. This can be done in more that one way. The addition of Liquid Carbon additives supply in this need to some extent, and still qualifies as “Low Tech“. Certain more difficult or demanding plants will not do well or may be downright impossible to grow without injected CO2. Injected CO2 will immediately put your tank in the High Tech category, and this is where the fun starts.

Can I upgrade to High Tech in stages? Not really… The problem is that one High Tech item without the others, will usually create an imbalance that will cause other less desirable issues. Algae growth being the biggest culprit. Plants growing with injected CO2 will use up nutrients faster and will also demand more light for photosynthesis. Absence of any of these will allow the opportunistic growth of algae as one effect, and also cause deterioration of your plants due to lack of either nutrients or light, or both. The keyword here is “balance”. The three components of a High Tech setup (CO2, Lighting and Nutrients) needs to be in balance to be effective.

What is this “pearling” that everyone is talking about? During the process of photosynthesis plants use CO2 and “exhales” oxygen. This oxygen gets released and dissolves into the water column. This is actually very good for your livestock, supplying them with much needed oxygen. As the dissolved oxygen in the tank reaches saturation level, the oxygen that is released by the plants cannot dissolve in the water anymore and floats to the surface as bubbles (pearling). This is actually quite a good indication of two things; Firstly, that the oxygen levels in your water is sufficient, and secondly, that your plants are doing well.

Future posts will discuss all three the basic elements of a High Tech setup in more specific detail.


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