Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Here is the order in which I gradually shifted from low tech to medium tech:
1) Low light, fish food as fertilizer. Plants did not do much, except the ones by the windows. High fish loads, so fertilizer and CO2 matched plant needs. Light was too low.
2) Improve lighting. Almost immediately potassium and iron deficiency started showing up.
3) Add potassium and iron. Something else was needed.
4) Added Excel.
That sort of level seemed to work for a long time. I think things were in the right balance. Any algae that grew was not a big problem, no rampant growth, and algae eating fish took care of it.
Most tanks had about 2 watts per gallon from T-12 or T-8 bulbs, selected from Plant and Cool or Daylight spectrums. Plus some were right in a window, others near by. Sheer curtains in the summer.
Tap water has 4-5 degrees GH and KH.
K and Fe added.
Carbon in the form of Excel.
I still had a lot of fish in the tanks.
Weekly large water changes.
5) Then I started playing around with DIY CO2, EI dosing of fertilizers and more light. Mostly these were more work than I wanted to put in, so I went back to level 4 conditions.
6) Repeat level 4, except with fewer fish in the tank. Modify the EI dosing from level 5 to replace the fish food, but so I do not have to do such frequent large water changes.
For each person the level that you stick with will be different. Find the spot that you are happy with. Figure out what the tank needs at the different levels and try to meet those needs. If meeting those needs is more than you can do, then alter some condition until the tank is manageable to you.