How to Maintain a Low Tech Planted Tank?

An aquarium with a planted display that needs very little to no upkeep is referred to as a low-tech planted tank. The tank is not only made simpler by the mix of plants, lighting, and substrate. But it is also made easier to maintain because it does not need you to change the water frequently or worry about the equipment.

You can save a lot of money and time by building a low-tech tank. Suitable plants, substrate, and illumination are essential elements to the establishment and upkeep of a low-tech planted tank. Fill 90% of the substrate with plants to provide adequate CO2. Pick low-maintenance plants like Java Fern, Java Moss, Echinodorus, Moss Balls, Cryptocoryne, or Anubias. Use root tabs as fertilizer or invest in nutrient-rich soil. You must keep the light intensity low and turn it off for a few hours every day.

Without proper maintenance, you may find yourself destroying plants and accumulating algae. This article will guide you on how to maintain a low-tech planted tank with tried and tested techniques for a trouble-free and healthy aquarium.

How Do You Cycle a Low Tech Tank?

Fish wastes, uneaten food, and rotten plants can release ammonia into the water. Your tank will keep getting more and more dangerous levels of ammonia. Ammonia is bad for your fish and will kill them soon. However, the nitrogen cycle stops this horrendous situation from happening to your fish.

While the levels of ammonia rise, beneficial bacteria start eating it. These bacteria naturally emerge in your tank and may swiftly devour ammonia. When ammonia levels drop after a week, these bacteria bloom in your aquarium.

But then, another menace starts erupting in your tank. It’s been observed that as ammonia levels fall, nitrite levels rise. This is due to the fact that the ammonia-eating bacteria produce a byproduct called nitrite.

Nitrites, like ammonia, are extremely poisonous to fish. The rising nitrite levels in your aquarium won’t be a problem, though, because a second bacterium will appear.

As the population of these beneficial bacteria rises, it may consume nitrites at the same rate at which it created them. When the nitrite levels in your aquarium start to drop, you know this bacterium is present. This is the last phase of the nitrogen cycle.

You will see an increase in nitrates as nitrites decrease. This is because nitrite-consuming bacteria produce a byproduct called nitrate. The end result of the nitrogen cycle is nitrates. And, at least at low concentrations, they won’t do any harm to your aquarium’s ecosystem.

How Many Hours of Light for Low Tech Planted Tank?

The tank’s lighting is crucial. Algae will begin to grow in just a few days if bright lights are used. In most cases, fluorescent lights are the best option, and the light output should not exceed 2 watts per gallon of water. Some fish species require periodic darkness, so check with your fish store to see if you need to adjust the lighting schedule.

You should leave lights on for no more than 10 hours every day. The plants can get by with this, and if you keep them on for much longer, algae may start to proliferate. Set up a timer for your lights so you won’t have to remember to switch them on and off manually.

Does a Low-Tech Planted Tank Need Fertilizer?

Since your plants won’t sprout overnight, you don’t need to bother about different substrates and fertilizers. Any simple, standard substrate from a pet supply store will suffice, and you will only need to add fertilizer to the water every few months.

The best thing to do is to buy aquarium soil with nutrients in it. You don’t have to add liquid fertilizer to your plants when you use these planted tank soils in low-tech aquariums. Aquarium soil is the easiest to take care of over time.

Root tabs are another type of fertilizer that may be used. Root tabs are a form of plant food that comes in the form of a tablet. These tabs or sticks can be pushed into the soil up to the base of a plant.

Water Changes in Low-Tech Planted Tank

Every tank has a different water change schedule due to each tank’s bio-load. The number of fish present and the amount of food consumed both contribute to the bio-load. More fish and food equals more fish waste. Fewer fish and food would reduce waste.

It is necessary for us to figure out how much waste they produced. An examination of the water for nitrates is one way to find out these facts. Nitrate levels will continue to rise each week in an aquarium that is only partially filled. As soon as we are able to monitor the increase in nitrate levels, we may immediately start taking action to regulate them.

Large variations in the water’s chemistry may give the appearance of being beneficial, but they can really be harmful to fish and plants. Make sure the water is fresh so the fish can stay healthy. Nevertheless, if a significant change in the water causes stress and illness, then it is recommended that such drastic shifts be limited. In order to maintain a high level of water quality, it is best to do a water change of thirty percent every week.

Low Tech Planted Tank Algae

Algae often form when nutrients, CO2, oxygen, and light levels are out of balance. Algae will grow if there is too much light but not enough nutrients and CO2. Poor CO2 and nutrient distribution is another major cause of algae.

When a new aquarium is first established, there are not enough beneficial bacteria present to convert ammonia through the nitrification cycle. The presence of high amounts of ammonia will cause the growth of algae blooms.

The majority of aquariums begin with brown algae, (often known as diatoms), green thread algae, or even black beard algae, which is much more problematic. If you see algae, you should make an effort to get rid of it as soon as you can. Understand that things will be much better in a few weeks’ time.

When your tank has been set up for a while, algae will have a harder time vying with the plants.

Best Low-Tech Aquarium Carpet Plant

The smaller, ground-cover carpeting plants envelop the foreground of a tank in a thick mat. New aquascapers may find the process of carpeting plants to be intimidating. However, that depends on your plant choice. Even in the absence of CO2, we may grow a carpet plant if the right species are used.

Marsilea species (hirsuta or crenata) are little freshwater ferns that look like individual leaflets (or occasionally, 4-leaf clovers). Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’ (Micranthemum Tweedie) has somewhat larger leaves and a far more vigorous growth habit. They both are better carpeting plants for beginners, and just as lovely.

Plants like Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’ and Glossostigma elatinoides are notoriously challenging and finicky. Beautiful as they may be, these species have a significantly higher dependence on dissolved carbon dioxide and steady water conditions and characteristics.

Eleocharis species (Dwarf Hairgrasses) are somewhere in the middle when it comes to difficulty. A full dwarf hairgrass carpet is both an enjoyable experience and hard to develop. It looks like a fine-bladed, grassy lawn. Although the plant may be grown by anybody, it may prove more challenging to spread out into a dense mat.

A substrate that is both wholesome and abundant in nutrients will provide the best conditions for the growth and spread of carpet plants.

Beginner Low-Tech Aquarium Plants

In a low-tech tank, Hemianthus micranthemoides (Pearlweed) will grow swiftly and produce dense bushes, especially with regular trimming and replanting. It’s incredibly adaptable, serving as a stem plant, a mid-ground plant, and even a foreground plant.

Vesicularia Montagne, popularly known as ‘Christmas moss,’ is another low-tech favorite. While other mosses are slightly more hostile than this one, it is visually appealing and has a tight, compact growth habit in a low-tech tank.

Even though it has a scary reputation as a “difficult” plant, Utricularia graminifolia is another low-tech plant for beginners with a passion for aquascaping. In truth, all it seems to want is a tank with consistent temperatures, pH levels, and hardness of water, all of which are easily attainable with little equipment.

Despite their common association with high-tech aquariums, most species of Ludwigia or Rotala rotundifolia really thrive in a low-tech aquascape.


Building a low-tech planted tank is not only economical and time-saving, but also easier to maintain than a regular tank. With the right mix of plants, light, and substrate, a low-tech tank can provide a healthy and beautiful environment for your fish and other aquatic life.

By following the instructions provided in this article, you can create and maintain a low-tech planted tank with minimal effort and achieve success. With a little bit of knowledge and patience, you can create a unique and rewarding aquarium experience.


How to Set Up a Low Tech Planted Aquarium for Beginners – Aquarium Co-Op (

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