'Low Tech': Definition & Typical Setup - Page 3 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #31 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-20-2006, 06:15 PM
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There probably is a "gray area" that might be considered "mid-tech", but if the system is advanced enough to no longer be considered low-tech, then it probably belongs in General Discussion.

I still believe that low-tech has more to do with complexity than the actual "tech" in our tanks - the technology. Sure electronic ballasts with high power factors are a lot more high tech than an incandescent light bulb, but they're both just as easy to plug into the wall and flip the switch.

I think we're just talking about tanks that are simpler here. Slower growth rates, less maintenence, less cost. I hope we don't get hung up and spend the next few weeks in various debates over the definition of "low tech". I voted to create this section for basically two reasons:
1) Help out people who get intimidated by the often staggering amount of technology in planted tanks.
2) Showcase the possibilities in low-tech tanks. Many advanced hobbyists might even be inspired to start a low tech tank in addition to their existing displays. It can be a challenge to see just how "low you can go".
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post #32 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-21-2006, 01:21 AM
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Possibly another way to differentiate the gray area between high tech and low tech is time spent in maintenance. My high tech (CO2 injected, high light) tanks take on average 1 hour per week each for maintenance which includes water changes (I use a python), inspection, trimming, dosing, testing and cleaning (filters, gravel, etc.). My low tech tanks take about 10 minutes average per week which includes irregular water changes, weekly inspection and cleaning and trimming when necessary.

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post #33 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-21-2006, 06:59 PM
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The definition of ‘low-tech’ tank was first published by Diane Walstad in her book “Ecology of the planted aquarium

It seems like the term showed up in the mid ‘90s in the news groups as a counteraction to the expensive tank setups from Amano and some Aquarium outfitter. People have been running tanks without those equipment successful for year. But of cause CO2 is the number one limiting factor in a tank.

After a blackout this winter I lost all my fish in my 3 year old planted tank. Finding a new balance for my tank I stumbled across Diane’s book. Very interesting scientific read. (it is only a text book, no pretty pictures!). All her findings are underlined with scientific prove.

Her main definition points for a low-tech tank are:

- 50% water change every half year
- A regular top soil as substrate
- Low light <2wpg, tank in sun light is fine too!
- Heavily planted
- No additional fert, all fertilizer are getting supplied by fish food (does mean feeding more than the fish needs)
- Slow moving filter, minimal biological filtration required. Plants taking care of biologic filtration
- A good bio-load

I only can recommend to have read in this book just to understand the underlying principles in our little eco systems. Injecting CO2 and additional fertilizer results in a high-tech tank aka frequent maintenance.

I started my tank (50gal) as a DIY high tech tank 3 years ago with CO2, ferts and 2 wpg and over the time it became a low tech tank due to lack of interest in performing regular maintenance. Only during the initial setup I have to fight with algae. Since now I only lost one Sword plant and some vals. The tank is still heavy planted with Anubias (wich has some black algae), sword, vals and java fern. The only algae eater in it was a common pleco, accommodated by 3 Pearl Gourami, 3 Emperor Tetra, 4 Madagascar Rainbowfish. For at least 2 years maintenance was a 25% water change every 3-4 months, filter cleaning ones a year(I could have turn it off) and feeding the fish and I never had a test kit. Plant grow went down to 1/10 of the initial setup, but the tank was already grown in. Since the lost of all fish during the blackout the tank came out of balance and I got a algae bloom. I’m still trying to get the balance back… During the entire time the tank was always nice to look at for my taste.
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post #34 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-21-2006, 09:07 PM
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Hey Jens Welcome.

BTW, where in NJ are you? Check out the NJ local forum.

OK, I do have that book on order from amazon, becuase I'm really intrigued.
I admit, I'm a total newb to planted tanks, but I always considered what you describe as a "Natural Aquarium", basically setting up a little almost self-sufficient eco-system.
While that is low-tech, I think of it more as a niche of low-tech aquariums in general.

FWIW, Just my 2 cents.

Visit my 125 profile and gallery or my 5 gallon low-tech. Proud member of:

--May the floor under your tank always be dry, and your glass clear!!!
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post #35 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-22-2006, 01:55 AM
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Hmm, I'm on the fence on the CO2 question. I don't have pressurized CO2 at all, and have been using DIY CO2 mainly to get the pH down, since my tap water runs high. I had put a Hagen ladder and DIY CO2 on my 5gal Eclipse hex, and decided to try Excel, but if I use Excel on a nano, then it's not low tech either? It will be interesting to see how this forum develops, but I think it will definitely be a godsend to newbies who feel they need a chemistry degree to keep a planted tank.
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post #36 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-22-2006, 02:02 AM
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My Def of Lo-tech

I guess I'd have to define lo-tech as a tank (no matter what size) that I dont have to screw with for anything but maybe feed the fish avery now and then. I had a 75 gal that way, drained water once a month, only trimmed every few weeks (took about 30 min), fed fish once a day. Spent 99% of my time with iced tea in hand watching it and letting the day go by....Jim....PS, Yes that is a Hagon ladder in the corner, it never got hooked up
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post #37 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-23-2006, 06:49 AM
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Thumbs up Low Tech

Hi all,

Glad to see this forum. I'm getting ready to set up my 4th "Low Tech" tank (7 gallon nano shrimp tank) They're all different sizes and all have different set ups. Soil, potting soil and soil less. Expensive and no cost. CF lighting for some sunlight for others. Fertilizers some times for some of them, even excel, absolutely natural for others. So I hate to see this forum too defined. To have people cut out because a yeast bottle is what, high tech? Or they didn't follow a precise method.

It's fun to experiment and share experiences. On the other hand, with so many variations on "Low Tech" people will need to be very specific in the details of their set ups.

Nice to meet you,
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post #38 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-23-2006, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Keck
I guess there needs to be a mid-tech.

I still consider mine low-tech even though I run CO2. To me, there would have to be some “tech” somewhere in my tank for it to be “High-Tech”. I think it would depend on how dependent you are on technology for upkeep.

Lighting – I think more along the lines of what type of lighting rather than ho much (even though they would pretty much go hand-in-hand). CF, HO, VHO, MH, etc…high-tech. NO, Incandescent or my choice, Halogen,…low-tech.

CO2 – Pressurized with all bells and whistles = high-tech. DIY yeast jug = low-tech.

Ferts – A powdered bucket of each and every macro and micro available = High-Tech. Basic plant tabs, general liquid ferts that include iron and a few others, Excel = Low-Tech.

I find it hard to take water changes into consideration unless you are doing it for EI reasons. Then you could say High-Tech. Yes, I do 2 water changes a week, but not because I have to. I do it for precautionary maintenance and the fish and plants thank me for it. I’m sure I could go over a month and everything would be fine, but doing a water change is a lot easier than dealing with problems from algae, poison or disease.
i think this right here hits it pretty good. also the time is going to play into the high or low. BUT you can buy all the fully automatic stuff... auto ferts light timers (which EVERYONE should have) auto feeder and all that stuff.

but i think it should be the "matnence" that generally goes into it. what i consider my low matnence tank is...

the standard strip light. i get 1.5-1.8 wpg.
substraight is a bag or flourite with some larger gravel mixed in to give me a bit more depth and variation.
really old hob filter will some floss
plants right now are moss. growing them out.
no fish at the moment. there are some snails breeding in there to help on the algea! yey

time i put into this tank? about 5 mins max a month. unless i do something major....

so i think its "more" of a personal thing to say if its high or low. a 1 bottle co2 thing i dont think is high. but if with the co2 you are also doing extensive fertelizing... well then its high.

-=- fish newb -=-

y o y did the mods and admin make this forum.... LOL this will be a stickey im willing to guess... and i think it will take a few YEARS untill we all agree on something....
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post #39 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 06:13 PM
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Whoever said that there are too many factors (light amount, type, co2 amount, type, fertilizers) to try to narrow this down in those terms. Rather, I think something regarding maintenance is in order.

How 'bout: "hours per month spent doing maintenance on the tank", or even "hours spent/month/gallon"!!!

On my 10g shrimp tank ("low-tech"), I spend 0.5 hour/month/10g= 0.05

On my 29g high-tech tank, I spend probably 4 hours/month/29g=0.14

So PER GALLON, the high tech setup is almost 3 times more time consuming.


29 Gallon Tank: 110W PC Lights, Milwaukee MA957 CO2, Fluorite/Sand Substrate, Checked into E.I. Rehab

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post #40 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 06:25 PM
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I don't think time spent on a tank is a good indicator. Imagine a high tech tank with automatic water change, automatic dosing... All you really do is prune those plants, if there are not too many stem plants then even that isn't necessarily a weekly chore.


Low tech = low cost. Isn't that what keeps ppl from having planted tanks, the initial cost of the light and CO2 system? Isn't that why we want a low tech section, because you can have a nice planted tank with little money too?

Regular (maybe even OD'd) fluorescents. DIY CO2. Substrates like sand or soil or gravel or -eeww- kitty litter. Sponge filter instead of Eheim canister. See what I mean?
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post #41 of 41 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 06:46 PM
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This topic came up in another forum not too long ago. My thought at the time, which I still tend to like, is that it's more of a maintenance issue.

Though I can't say I'm proud of it , my second tank is a 10g w/ a small internal filter and a 27w CF desk lamp. I tend to clean the filter and change 50% of the water every 2+ months (or when I can't hear the filter moving ), mostly because it just doesn't get high enough on the priority list. I have a small bottle of Excel sitting behind it, but I add it like every 2-3 weeks. The tank contains cherry shrimp and 5 penguin tetras. There is never really an algae issue. The nana continues to throw out new growth. I couldn't get some narrow leaf java to take in my high-tech tank, so I threw it in here. Within days the shrimp had it cleaned off, and it's looking 100% better. I've even got some Crypt wendtii that is starting to get some nice sized growth.

So, even at 2.7 WPG, it's definitely not high-tech. But, the maint level is certainly low. I'm likely averaging less than 1-2 hours/month on this guy.

46g bf, XP3 w/ vertical spray bar, CO2 w/ SMS122 & diffuser,100% Flourite, 96w+55w cf AHS, AGA Member
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