Let’s talk about low tech planted aquariums. Part 1

algae co2 crypt fertilizer JBL low tech planted aquarium seachem sword

For many of us we think having a stunning planted aquarium is going to be a daunting and expensive exercise, well this is not the case at all. It is entirely possible to set up a gorgeous planted aquarium on one simple idea. That idea is keeping your aquarium balanced.  The simple balance between light, co2 and fertilisers or an equilateral triangle if you like the idea of a visual representation is enough to produce a magnificent aquarium.

For many of you this may sound like a simple concept, others may not have a clue on how to make this happen. So, let me explain this concept in more depth.For a planted aquarium, there is three key elements, light, co2 and fertilizers, if you get too much or not enough light you will end up with algae or plants not growing, if you add too much or not enough co2 you can potentially end up with dead fish (co2 gassing is a real thing people) or plants lacking proper growth and if we add too much or not enough ferts our aquarium can become a breeding ground for nasty algae’s or nutrient deficiencies.

What I have personally found is being consistent is by far the easiest way of achieving balance, and this is super easy to do, simple upgrades like a power timer on your lights so they turn on and off at the same time each day is a great start. For low tech I find 6-8 hours of light per day is generally plenty (depending on your plants of course) and be smart with the times they are on, there is no point in having them on during the day if you are at work, so set them to be on when you are more likely to be viewing your aquarium. After all we want to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Follow this up by dosing a simple liquid fertilizer twice a week and a co2 supplement and you are away laughing. Yes, I know liquid ferts cost more than doing your own dry salt or PMDD but they are easy, really, really easy. A few milliliters a week via a syringe is a simple ask to achieve a good result. My personal recommendation is Seachem Flourish and Seachem Flourish Excel, but there is plenty of products on the market and what works for me may not be the same for you. As with the lighting, try to keep your fertilizers and co2 going in at the same time and day each week, being consistent is a massive deal in truly achieving the balanced triangle you are looking for.

If you are growing cryptocoryne or echinodorus species (crypts and sword plants) you should also consider adding some root ball style fertilisers to underneath your plants, I personally really like JBL kuglen for this, but there is other products on the market that will do the same job for you.


End of part one, come back next week for part 2.




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  • Catherine on

    What kind of lighting for a non lit aquarium with not built in roof lighting so to speak?

  • Richard Dowers on

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. Very helpfully.

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