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Author Topic: Low-Tech Success  (Read 13921 times)
Botia Junkie
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« on: May 03, 2006, 12:15:06 PM »

Here's one recipe for a successful low-tech, low-light planted tank.


They key to a successful easy to care for planted tank is a mature substrate or an ammended substrate. The possibilities are numerous, clay/laterite, flourite, peat, soil, you name it. I prefer to keep it simple, when setting up a new tank I will syphon the mulm off the top of the substrate in another tank and use it in the new tank as a starter in the substrate.

All of my tanks use nothing more than plain gravel and mulm as their substrate. If you are the patient type, you can achieve the same affect by simply letting the tank mature on its own with light gravel vacs to get the big chunks off the top.

I have had the most success with a substrate depth of about 2 inches, this gives plenty of room for root growth and allows you to anchor stem plants so they won't float.


Go with what you can afford, you don't need more than 2 watts per gallon and in fact I will go so far as to say that having more will make things harder for you. 2 watts per gallon is a happy medium that removes the need for adding the 'hi-tech' gadgetry. You can grow plants with the stock lighting that comes with most tanks.

I only have one planted tank with 2 watts per gallon all the rest average out at about 1 watt per gallon, with one exception and that is my quarantine tank at 3.5.


Plant selection is the most crucial factor in a low light tank.

Most green stem plants will do well. Hygrophila Polysperma is a weed and will grow in nothing more than water. If you can stand pruning it regularly or letting it float, Hornwort will do well and has the side benefit of some allelopathic abilities. Brown and green Cryptocoryne Wendtii are also nice foreground plants that will do well. Any of the smaller members of the Anubias family are good choices.

When first starting out, plant densely with fast growers, ie stem plants. 60 to 75% coverage of the substrate is a good number to shoot for. After the stem plants have anchored and are showing good growth, start planting your lower foreground plants, the crypts and anubias. You want to start out with fast growers so the plants can get the upper hand on algae growth. Stem plants are the obvious choice because most of them grow fast and suck nutrients out of the water before algae has a chance to get to them.

Note: Keep your stem plants trimmed so that there is at least an inch between them and the surface of the water. This will stave off the blue green algae (cyanobacteria) that like to grow in the upper part of the water column on the plants.


Given a moderate fish load, none is really necessary.

If you want to plant heavy root feeders such as Amazon swords you should supplement them using any of the various root tablets on the market. They will appreciate the extra nutrients in the substrate.

I do, when I remember to, add some fertilizer to the water column. Personally, I choose Seachem's line of products. Kent also makes a good line of water column additives that will do just as well.


Stem plants: The easiest method is to uproot them and cut off the leggy portions at the bottom and replant. To propogate, simply replant any trimmings in the substrate.

Anubias: Cut off any unsightly leaves. To propogate, cut the rhizome with a sharp pair of scissors.

Cryptocorynes: Cut off any unsightly leaves. Crypts propogate via runners in the substrate. Snip the runners and replant elsewhere.

Amazon Swords: Cut off any unsightly leaves. Propogation is via a flower stalk. Trim the flower stalk off the mother plant. Snip the flower stalk into sections just above and below where each baby plant is attached and plant the babies.

In Conclusion

There really isn't any magic to it. Just experiment with what you can grow in your tanks and leave the rest alone.
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