To Continue on the Planted Aquaria discussion from my last post...
Last time, I discussed how everyone is focused on equipment versus the "why," and forming technique. This is a continuation of that line of thought.
We left off with talking about different pathways to results more or less being the same way of doing things, but to different results.
Specifically the eco-complete example: ultimately, you buy eco-complete to perform the same duties of Aqua Soil. However, to get eco-complete to perform to the same level of effectiveness as aqua soil, you would need to use probably about four fistfuls of root tab fertilizers. Even then, there are other issues: such as softness of soil particles to allow roots to spread quicker and better.
Let's go with another example: the so-called "Natural Planted Tank" method. Here there's absolutely no special reason to try here. You're literally just better off going with even the lowest-quality of planted substrates and rigging something together to make it work than shooting for the 'purist,' method of Natural Planted Tank. All I really need to cite here is, have you ever seen a beautiful NPT layout (don't confuse 'low tech,' with the 'pure' NPT)? If you have, then I would submit that you are either blind, geeking out on the process and not the result (which is fine to geek on the process), or you've found the tank that's touched by the god(s) and should do everything in your power to steal said tank setup for it's magical, ambrosia of the gods elixir and monetize that thing as an immortality potion.
Moral: do not waste your time with the NPT. It's a nifty high-school experiment, but that's about it.
In regards to the low-tech
Okay, here's the thing on low-tech. The current interpretation of a low-tech aquarium is kind of BS.
More or less someone's idea of a low-tech tank right now is "well, I'm not going to do co2 (because I can't afford it), so I'm going to go low-light and hope for the best."
Then we get a list of plants together that grow in lower light levels, and you have a moss anubias tank. Which kind of stays idle. For a long time.
There are two points to stick two on this topic:
1.) If you really want a low-light tank, stick to something cool growing emmersed in a bowl similar to wabi-kusa fashion. You'll save yourself a lot of head ache and still get something that looks great.
2.) The fundamental premise of low-tech is off. It takes a ridiculously low amount of light to really grow almost anything. What people are doing right now is just using the wrong lights.
I totally respect operating on a budget. I understand the idea that what you want is something great - you have a passion for it, but you just simply don't have the money. Not having the money doesn't make the feeling of wanting to do it go away.
If all you were to do is stick to core principles, and stop defining tanks as low-tech or high-tech, you would open yourself up to a whole world of possibilities.
There is no such thing as a high tech tank. There is no such thing as a low tech tank.
There is only one methodology and one planted tank that works. One that follows rules and secrets to success.
Takashi Amano successfully grew layouts that make the highest tech tanks today look like absolute jokes back in the late 80's early 90's, before the ADA product line was really developed, more or less using a sand gravel bed.
What were the few things that really carried over from those days? Bacter 100, Clear Super, Tourmaline BC, 8000K (flourescent at the time) lighting, Co2.
So if you have the low-tech mind set, stop it.
Your budget constraints shouldn't in any way, shape or form, limit your ability.
Really when we talk 'low-tech,' we're talking Co2 and lighting. Get yourself any cheap fixture that will hold an ADA 27w 4 square pin bulb (on a nano) or 36w 4 square pin bulb (need 2 for a 20 gallon, 4 for a 40 gallon).
Always, always, always use Co2
Even if you cannot afford a pressurized unit, rig up a DIY yeast system and just make it work until you can afford a pressurized unit. Don't even bother trying to do a layout without Co2. It's not worth the hassle.
If you can't afford Aqua Soil, get yourself some basic gravel-like substrate, get some root tabs, Bacter 100 & Clear Super and you've at least got something that will work efficiently (efficiency being a measure of doing the job, effectiveness being a measure of doing the job well).
So now I've put together a basic lighting system, a co2 system, and substrate system on the super-cheap.
Congrats. You're now "high tech." Are you starting to see how silly it is to pre-determine yourself as "low tech" or "high tech."
I'll continue on later, but I hope by now you are beginning to understand where I'm going with this, and why you should start focusing on "why," and "how" techniques.