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Hi everyone! How do you keep low tech planted tanks? Lighting, ferts, water changes, etc? It seems that everywhere I go people have very disparate methods of keeping such tanks, and it's very confusing and discouraging...makes me paranoid I won't get it right no matter what I do. Thank you for your thoughts
 

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Many low-tech aquarium keepers adhere to the Walsted method: Walstad method - The Free Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit - The Aquarium Wiki

However, I do not strictly follow the Walsted method. On my 20 gallon long, I use moderate light, a soil substrate, regular addition of ferts (no added CO2, though), 20% weekly water changes and low to moderate filtration (Hagen Aquaclear 20). I also have a very light fish load. The tank has been running successfully for 5+ years, no algae issues and excellent plant growth.
 

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I have two low tech tanks that I started this year.

One is a 20 long with a top soil substrate (Miracle Gro Performance Organics) with a gravel cap (Caribsea Gemstone Creek). I have a Finnex Stingray I light that's on for 7 hours with a siesta in the middle of the day. I dose with Thrive according to the bottle and change 8 gal of water a week, which I think is probably close to 50% of my actual water volume. I have very soft tap water (GH and KH between 1 and 2 degrees), so I up the GH to ~6 degrees. I was very conservative with this tank by design - I didn't want to spend a ton of money and I didn't want to fail, so I tried to suss out the most tried and true methods and I think it paid off. It's been very steady going - nothing that will win awards, but it's super lush and there haven't been any catastrophes.

The trials and tribulations of my 5 gallon is here. (The first post has a picture of my 20 gal about 6 weeks after setting up the tank. It's got about 3x the plant mass now.) Let's be clear - I thought I knew exactly what I was doing and expected it to be a slam dunk, but haha, actually it was a total nightmare when I first flooded it. The algae was out of control in a way I had not experienced. Whoops. I eventually worked it is really clean now. I'm very proud of this! It was a big bummer for a while and had me questioning myself, but I learned a lot. At the very least it's a testament to the fact that mistakes can be made and then recovered from.

So, that's my direct answer to your question, but let's talk big picture. There are some things that are going to be true for all low tech tanks. Growth is slower and co2 is always going to be the major limiting factor, so you'll need to watch your light and dissolved organics, but I can't tell you how to do that specifically for your tank. I don't even treat my own tanks the same - the light on my 5 gallon is much stronger and the room is brighter, so I only leave it on for 4 hours a day. I had to figure that out through trial and error and you will too. At least with lighting you can change it easily after the fact; with your substrate you will need to make your choice and see how it goes. Understand upfront that each option has its pros and cons, so there's no right answer. There's a sticky in the substrate section that's a good primer.

I would encourage you to be very choosy about your plant selections. I did not try for a bangin' aquascape off the bat, I researched what plants would be most likely to be successful. This is a good list if you need a starting point, but I would encourage you to do more reading as well. I think this aspect of the tank is as important as any other, but maybe doesn't get enough discussion because there are so many options and sourcing can be a pain.
 

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Hi everyone! How do you keep low tech planted tanks? Lighting, ferts, water changes, etc? It seems that everywhere I go people have very disparate methods of keeping such tanks, and it's very confusing and discouraging...makes me paranoid I won't get it right no matter what I do. Thank you for your thoughts
I'm not surprised you are seeing wildly different opinions on this since its always a balance, that doesn't mean the exact same precise amounts of things every time for everyone. Some people will use more ferts and more light others will use less ferts and less light. Some will use more water changes and more ferts but less light etc etc etc etc.

Anyway I use thriveC and easy green in my low tech tanks (not both in a single tank). Thrive is an EI method fert so I do big water changes once a week 50+%. I also own a par meter and I'm able to find out exactly what my light levels actually are. So in one of my tanks directly under the light I am getting 60+ ppfd at substrate with about half that in corners. This means that tank is medium to high light. In another tank I'm about 25 par under the light and again about half that in corners. This means that tank is low to maybe medium light. I have success in both tanks because I keep an eye on the plants and take action as needed to reduce algae whether that is water changes, or manual removal etc as needed. I also believe firmly in the use of clean up crews in every tank. I have snails in all my tanks and in 2 of them I also have amano shrimp. Would have it in all 3 but I haven't found amanos local to me recently.

Anyway just my way of doing things, other folks will have markedly different approaches and all are correct because its a balance, not a precise recipe for everyone.

Probably the easiest mistake to make is not having enough plant mass to start with. If you have 1 or 2 plants in a tank, chances are very good you are going to have problems. So look at folks journals that are successful and look and see how much plant mass they have to start with and emulate that.
 

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My set up is

55 gallon tank
small pea gravel (no dirt)
Fluval fresh plant 3.0 light dimmed down somewhere between half and 1/4 brightness.
Fluval 407 canister with only foam pad and bio media.

I have 12 corydoras a pair of blue rams 16 ember tetras and 3 bumblebee otto cats.

Plants are
cryptocoryne spiralis cryptocoryne parva cryptocoryne lucens cryptocoryne lutea cryptocoryne beckettii. Anubias nana Anubias petite Anubias coffeefolia 1 Tiger lotus lilly.

I dose dry ferts once a week after a 50% water change 1/8 tsp KNO3 1/32 KH2PO4. One cap of Flourish compressive the day after the water change.

The key to this method is to stock the tank with as many plants as possible. All the plants are low light and need very little nutrients. I give them just enough to out compete algae. I don't have a spec of algae in my tank. Plant growth is slow but the tank is balanced.

There's a lot of different ways of doing low tech. I don't like dirt it's messy. I don't need root tabs for my crypts they absorb nutrients from the water column just fine. The key is balance between nutrients and lights. The more plants you have the better they can out compete algae. Feeding them is essential for them to grow. You don't need a lot of light either. All the plants I have could be grown under a single fluorescent tube. I once left a bag of abubias on my desk for six months and the plants survived.
 

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To go back to your original topic,

the internet is filled with alot of information and unfortunately "mis"information. It can get confusing since different sources will provide different sets of ideal conditions for different species of plants and fish, etc.

To slightly ease some of the confusion, if you are interested in starting a live planted aquarium, welcome and YES YOU CAN!

1. I suggest you plan this journey starting with a LOW-TECH setup. Don't worry about the details yet; just realize this is your initial objective.

2. I suggest you consider if you would like to order all your supplies online or go the route of not only supporting (and learning from) a local pet (aquarium) supply shop nearby. You need to get supplies somewhere and while you can get anything you want online, when starting out, sometimes it helps to learn bits and pieces as you go at a local supply shop even if you do have to pay retail prices. Think of this as supporting local business and also learning from the owner or manager that may have alot of experience managing multiple aquariums with a variety of different filtration systems, chemicals, vendors, tanks, plants, fish, diseases, etc. etc. and you may be able to gain alot of feedback based upon what you are looking to do on your budget.

3. I suggest you also get a reference book(s) from authorities in the field and learn about the pH / KH / CO2 relationship among many other topics as well as for seeing varieties of plants and fish and things to watch out for. For example, I own Sunken Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Freshwater Aquariums by Karen A. Randall. I also have Encyclopedia of Aquarium & Pond Fish by David Alderton. I received these as XMas gifts last year and I refer to them from time to time. There are many great books out there which can be a reference to help you get started and give you ideas.

4. A local supply shop should be able to advise you on ideas of recommended equipment and supplies and you can compare it to other ideas other hobbyists have.

5. In general, get the tank that has the look you like but is also maintainable when it comes to cleaning the substrate.

6. When your initial ideas come together, get some low-tech plants such as Java Ferns, Anuibias, among others, get a Test kit that can measure pH, Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite. It is great to also have a KH/GH test kit as well to start. Test the water at your home and baseline it. Find out if you may wish to get other water such as Reverse Osmosis water and / or mix it with your home tap water. There are so many You Tube videos in which you can see different varieties of plants and fish and setting them up. Do not follow advice soley on one person's You Tube video but base ultimate advice when seeing certain information relayed consistently amongst several authorities that seem to agree. This can help with the confusion.

7. In time with patience, you can learn to be just like a gardener of your planted tank and make enhancements over time as you will find out what works and what might not. It can be a fun hobby and something to enjoy. After a bit of time, introduce fish friends that form a symbiotic relationship with the plants in which each benefits from the others.
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