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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
For folks that have come & gone thru EI, pressurized CO2, etc, and want something lower maintenance (as if you have a life outside of your tanks lol), this is the best article I've found (this is Tom Barr's low-tech method in a nutshell, the "opposite" of Tom Barr's EI if you will).

The low tech method is applying the same principals but with different variables (lower lighting, low ferts, no co2, & no h2o changes), this article is a great summary; it will make more sense to those who have a background in EI, but even for any beginner, if they follow this article, the challenges to a healthy tank will be minimized).

Sudeep Mandal's *EXCELLENT* summary of Tom Barr's Musings

This is my 46g tank that I started 4 months ago, using the steps outlined in Sudeep's article. As you can see, moderately planted from the beginning (fairly heavy but could be heavier), break in w/ low light hours, etc.



This is my tank now, 4 months later. As you can see, not all the plants have survived (dwarf tear's didn't make it, val's barely making it, sag has thinned, dwarf clover doing ok), but, everything else going well. No h2o changes (just RO top-off's), ferts 2x weekly, 6 hours of 10K & 6.7K daily, daily feeding. A few otto's, and 10 nerite snails help out a ton. My lily's just started melting, so, I'll still have to make some small adjustments, but the low-tech method, with its slower pace, will allow you MUCH more time to identify problems and react before algae takes control.

 

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I gleaned this article some time ago. It's a good article. And a great place for many just starting out. A jump point if you willl.

Kind of like the first bike with training wheels for confidence ... after a while takem' away see how you do.

Thanks for sharing.

Best wishes,
Wes
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·

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Non CO2 and the Dry start method (DSM) do go VERY well together. More so than amplified CO2 gardening methods.

I'm also curious why folks squabble on and on over wanting to avoid water changes and whine about pruning and maintenance, but then avoid this entire topic or poo poo it like the Plague.

Lack of patience, too much a CO2 scaper snob fan boy.......

You can scape at a very high level with non CO2, just takes longer and you need to learn different gardening techniques, be more patient with plants etc.
It amazes me more do not use this method, ironically, it's often the more advance folks who come back and try it these days. You can still have your gas and do this too, have 1 CO2 gas tank and then a few non CO2, this way you do not get overwhelmed.
 

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This is what I have, and I'm thinking that when the CO2 runs out, I may go back to low tech on that tank too. I can't keep up with the growth in the CO2 tank!
You may not be able too.......but many simply do not want to deal with excessive rates of growth, the DSM allows you to quickly grow the plants in, then non CO2 keeps them there.

This is a wise approach, not low tech really or lesser a skill, or aesthetic.
It's just plain sensible in an often un-sensible hobby.
 

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That is a pretty comprehensive description of low light tanks, but I do have some disagreements with it. For example, the lighting he recommends, in watts per gallon, should be considered to mean little except for standard light fixtures sitting right on top of standard shaped tanks. On extra long, or breeder, or extra high tanks, those numbers will be far from correct. And his statement that CFL bulbs are less effective than T8 bulbs is clearly wrong.

And, it isn't CO2 that is the criteria for low maintenance tanks, it is light intensity. If you use 20 micromols per meter squared per second PAR lighting - close to the minimum you can use for growing plants with no CO2, and only for "low light" plants, you can still get much faster growth, for almost all plants, still with minimal algae problems by adding CO2 to the tank. The ideal tank has low light with moderate CO2 concentration - in my opinion - and DIY CO2 will work for that for all but the really big tanks.

He also misses the boat, in my opinion, in recommending a substrate. The most effective substrates are the fertile ones, like ADA Aquasoil, Fluval Stratum, mineralized topsoil, etc. If you do the simple mineralizing process on ordinary topsoil you have an excellent bottom layer for a substrate. Top that with a high CEC substrate, like Flourite, and you have an almost unbeatable substrate.

I hope the author will update his otherwise very good article to include some of these points, plus a few others I didn't mention.
 

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That is a pretty comprehensive description of low light tanks, but I do have some disagreements with it. For example, the lighting he recommends, in watts per gallon, should be considered to mean little except for standard light fixtures sitting right on top of standard shaped tanks. On extra long, or breeder, or extra high tanks, those numbers will be far from correct. And his statement that CFL bulbs are less effective than T8 bulbs is clearly wrong.

And, it isn't CO2 that is the criteria for low maintenance tanks, it is light intensity. If you use 20 micromols per meter squared per second PAR lighting - close to the minimum you can use for growing plants with no CO2, and only for "low light" plants, you can still get much faster growth, for almost all plants, still with minimal algae problems by adding CO2 to the tank. The ideal tank has low light with moderate CO2 concentration - in my opinion - and DIY CO2 will work for that for all but the really big tanks.

He also misses the boat, in my opinion, in recommending a substrate. The most effective substrates are the fertile ones, like ADA Aquasoil, Fluval Stratum, mineralized topsoil, etc. If you do the simple mineralizing process on ordinary topsoil you have an excellent bottom layer for a substrate. Top that with a high CEC substrate, like Flourite, and you have an almost unbeatable substrate.

I hope the author will update his otherwise very good article to include some of these points, plus a few others I didn't mention.
Yea, could use some tweaking, but at the time.........he was fine, I could say the same about myself and lighting too if I went back far enough for articles.

"Light meter? What the heck is that?"
 

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This is what I've been looking for a nice hybrid approach that is easy to maintain. Truth be told, I barely have what is considered a planted tank but it gets kinda boring if you only have anubias, java fern, and java moss to work with.
 

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This low tech approach is excellent. I've been using it to do a 125g tank with wild peruvian angel tank. I really love the minimal maintenance required, and the slow growth also works for me. Truth be told, there are many plants that will not just grow but thrive in this kind of setup, but in my experience, it's the wider leafed plants (as opposed to the rotala types) that do well with this. But nowadays there's many to choose from like the many different swords, crypts, hygros, mosses, and grass like plants. I think there's enough variety out there to do a stunning low-tech setup.
 

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it looks like sudeep may have gone back and revised his article? I see now mention of CFL vs. T8s, only that spiral CFL are less efficient than T5s, which I can agree with.
 

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That is a pretty comprehensive description of low light tanks, but I do have some disagreements with it. For example, the lighting he recommends, in watts per gallon, should be considered to mean little except for standard light fixtures sitting right on top of standard shaped tanks. On extra long, or breeder, or extra high tanks, those numbers will be far from correct. And his statement that CFL bulbs are less effective than T8 bulbs is clearly wrong.

And, it isn't CO2 that is the criteria for low maintenance tanks, it is light intensity. If you use 20 micromols per meter squared per second PAR lighting - close to the minimum you can use for growing plants with no CO2, and only for "low light" plants, you can still get much faster growth, for almost all plants, still with minimal algae problems by adding CO2 to the tank. The ideal tank has low light with moderate CO2 concentration - in my opinion - and DIY CO2 will work for that for all but the really big tanks.

He also misses the boat, in my opinion, in recommending a substrate. The most effective substrates are the fertile ones, like ADA Aquasoil, Fluval Stratum, mineralized topsoil, etc. If you do the simple mineralizing process on ordinary topsoil you have an excellent bottom layer for a substrate. Top that with a high CEC substrate, like Flourite, and you have an almost unbeatable substrate.

I hope the author will update his otherwise very good article to include some of these points, plus a few others I didn't mention.
Yea, could use some tweaking, but at the time.........he was fine, I could say the same about myself and lighting too if I went back far enough for articles.

"Light meter? What the heck is that?"
Hey Hoppy and Tom,

I don't know if you remember me from several years ago when I bugged both of you with lots of questions and tried my hand (very successfully!) at growing a dwarf hairgrass foreground for my LT tank using Tom's dry start method. I am infact Sudeep, the author of that article and unfortunately, I've been away from the PT community for several years due to a lot of changes on the personal front.

When i wrote that article, it really was more a way for me to collect all the great information I had gleaned from all my research online and put it in one place so I could go back and refer to it when needed. I have a terrible memory so it has served well. I never expected it then, but that article ranks very high on Google and a lot of people seem to be reading it to learn about building low tech tanks. I'm thrilled that it is helping people get started along their wonderful journey of planted tanks. I would love to update this article by removing any erroneous information and adding any new developments/best practices that have come up over the past few years.

Would it be possible for either of you to PM me or reply on this thread with any suggestions for what I should change/add? I'd also be happy to add links to any other forum threads or sites that might have more detailed information on certain aspects of low tech planted tanks under "further reading".

Cheers and thanks for all your help in getting me started with planted tanks. I'm glad I've been able to give back to the community in my own little way.

Best wishes,
Sudeep
 

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Having just re-read your excellent article, and after a year of keeping a low light tank, I see something else that would improve the article a lot. It can be difficult to decide on what plants will do well in such a tank. I found that many plants just don't seem to make it, even though I thought they would be good candidates. So, if you were to add a list of plants you have found to work well in that type of tank, that would be very good. One group of plants that would be especially useful to know of is low growing, carpet plants. You did note that HC didn't do well, as I would have guessed, but some of the photos seem to show dwarf hair grasses doing well. Do they really?

There is a big list of "low light" plants in this forum, but, unfortunately the list was mostly made when people considered light only in terms of watts per gallon. A 20L and a 20H tank are both 20 gallon, but the light that would be low light on the 20H will almost certainly be high, or at least, medium on the 20L. Any new list should, in my opinion, include only plants found to do ok with 20-35 micromols per sq. meter per second of PAR.

I'm about ready to re-scape my 65 gallon tank again (I'm bored) and I think I want to do a dry start, possibly with Aquasoil, then follow this method with the tank. So, any information that improves the article will be very helpful to me.
 

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Having just re-read your excellent article, and after a year of keeping a low light tank, I see something else that would improve the article a lot. It can be difficult to decide on what plants will do well in such a tank. I found that many plants just don't seem to make it, even though I thought they would be good candidates. So, if you were to add a list of plants you have found to work well in that type of tank, that would be very good. One group of plants that would be especially useful to know of is low growing, carpet plants. You did note that HC didn't do well, as I would have guessed, but some of the photos seem to show dwarf hair grasses doing well. Do they really?

There is a big list of "low light" plants in this forum, but, unfortunately the list was mostly made when people considered light only in terms of watts per gallon. A 20L and a 20H tank are both 20 gallon, but the light that would be low light on the 20H will almost certainly be high, or at least, medium on the 20L. Any new list should, in my opinion, include only plants found to do ok with 20-35 micromols per sq. meter per second of PAR.

I'm about ready to re-scape my 65 gallon tank again (I'm bored) and I think I want to do a dry start, possibly with Aquasoil, then follow this method with the tank. So, any information that improves the article will be very helpful to me.
Hi Hoppy, Yes, I do agree that a list of plants would be beneficial. Unfortunately, I don't think I would be the best person to make that list as I have only had the one tank and I haven't been very adventurous with the plants that I used. Dwarf Hairgrass works really well in a tank with Excel supplementation, but once I transitioned away from Excel and made it a true low-tech tank, it started to die out. Certainly the anubias and java ferns work very well, though they grow quite slowly. Perhaps I should start a forum thread asking for input from other members in this sub-forum to get an idea for what plants have worked out for them in their low-tech tanks. Also, I read your comment about substrates:
The most effective substrates are the fertile ones, like ADA Aquasoil, Fluval Stratum, mineralized topsoil, etc. If you do the simple mineralizing process on ordinary topsoil you have an excellent bottom layer for a substrate. Top that with a high CEC substrate, like Flourite, and you have an almost unbeatable substrate.
Could you clarify that bit about mineralizing the topsoil? Is that the same as cycling the topsoil. I remember that when I wrote this article, ADA Aquasoil was getting very popular but a big thing with it was to cycle it to get rid of ammonia, etc, before you established your tank. I left it out at the time as it seemed a bit complex and challenging for someone completely new to planted tanks. At the time, it seemed like you really needed to know what you were doing if you were going the route of aquasoil. Unfortunately I haven't followed up on substrate developments in the past few years along with best practices.

If you could give me some more details or point me to some forum threads here or on Tom's site, I'd be happy to read up some more and update the article. I just want to make sure that I don't end up getting someone in over their heads by recommending fertile substrates that need more initial prep work. So I'd appreciate your suggestions on an idiot proof guide to setting up a fertile substrate based tank :)
 

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http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=152027 is a good article on how to "mineralize" soil. Mineralizing means converting organic nitrogen compounds to inorganic nitrogen - nitrates. The article explains how to let bacteria do it for you, or you can bake the soil in an oven to accomplish the same thing faster, but with a good possibility of stinking up the whole house.

ADA Aquasoil contains ammonia, which leaches out into the water for a couple of months or so. That means you need to do lots of water changes for the first couple of months after setting up the tank. But, if you do a dry start, much, if not all of that process is accomplished before you ever fill the tank with water. (I think I am remembering right on this - perhaps someone will correct me if I'm not.)

The problem with deciding which plants do well with "low light" is that there is no easy way to define what "low light" means, without using a PAR meter to measure the light. Some people's "low light" tanks, where plants X, Y, and Z grow well, may well be "medium" or higher light when a PAR meter is used to measure the light. Maybe, the better list would be plants that do well with no added CO2?
 

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Thanks a lot Hoppy. Will read up on that and add to the article. I agree about the low light comment, but the problem is that most of us don't have PAR meters, and probably 80-90% of PT enthusiasts probably stop at the WPG type rules and CO2 levels when determining what plants to attempt growing.

That's why I'm a bit hesitant to compile a list myself. Perhaps I'll just add some of the no brainer low light plants for now.
 
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