High tech vs. Low tech (El Natural) - El Natural - Aquatic Plant Central

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El Natural Diana Walstad's low-maintenance, soil-based 'El Natural' method for keeping plants and fish.

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Old 01-15-2006, 08:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default High tech vs. Low tech (El Natural)

This has been discussed before, but I think it always bears re-visiting.

What does high tech and low tech mean to you? How would you define them? If you have a preference, what are the positive things about using either high or low tech? What limitations do you see?
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Old 01-16-2006, 05:19 AM   #2 (permalink)
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hmmm, well to me low tech is Diana Walstad's method. A nutritious substrate, natural sunlight, fishfood/mulm feeds the plants, no water ferts, and sunlight combined with moderate lighting. In this type of tank, the plants are the water purifiers rather than the usual filters. Diana says the goal is to set up an ecosystem where "plants and fish balance each other's needs". The only downside I've seen so far is that you can't move plants with large root systems easily and you can't have fish that like to dig or that move a lot of gravel. Other than that, it's a great low hassle approach that results in very happy plants wiithout a lot of tinkering. Here's the progression of my 125 natural planted tank and my 30 gallon bowfront.

High tech usually involves a not so nutritious substrate, dosing with ferts to compensate for the substrate, high lighting and CO2 injection. The emphasis in these types of tank appears to be the plants and aquascaping with the fish being ornaments to complement the aquascaping. These are great if you like to tinker and mess around with the tank constantly.
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Old 01-16-2006, 06:10 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Low tech: Minimal care and minimal use of electricity. Cheap to free substrates.

High tech: Plants Gone Wild with high-end equipments such as pH controller, pressurized injection, excellent and therefore often higher priced items. Frequent water changes and fertilizations atop a quality substrate system.
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Old 01-16-2006, 06:23 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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i know robert chose this question to start a friendly debate, so i feel obligated to speak my mind

first off i would like to say that basically everything betty said about natural tanks is right on the money. but i think she didn't give high tech tanks a very fair summary. this is how i see it.

in a high tech tank you have 3 parts: Light, Fertilizers, and CO2.

it is my understanding that most Natural tanks have upgraded lighting, but it just isn't as high as a high tech tank. please correct me if i'm wrong.

so basically when you buy lighting, if you want a high tech tank, spend a few extra dollars and get the 3-4 watts/gallon.

this leaves us with co2 and nutrients. yes, a pressurized co2 system is very expensive, ranging anywhere from 100-300+ dollars. mine was about 230 dollars just for my 30 gallon tank.

fertilizers cost about 30 dollars for a 2-3 year supply if bought from http://www.gregwatson.com .

so yes, high tech is more expensive, but well worth it if you ask me. when you compare a 500 dollar top of the line setup to some hobbys such as cars were you spend thousands just on 1 part.

now, as far as time/maintanance goes, i think a lot of people think that high tech people spend hours a week trimming. i can only speak for myself, but i have 4 high tech planted aquariums, and i spend around 2 hours a week on maintanance. this to me seems minimal considering the amount of beauty you get from these hours of work.

another BIG difference is plant selection. i can go out and get 95% of the aquatic plants i see on the net, and they will grow and do well in my tank. when you have a natural tank, your plant selection is very limited. i mean yes, there are tons of plants out there, but most of them (to me) aren't that appealing to the eye.

i hope i havn't upset anyone, or hurt any feelings. i am just trying to get this thread going a little more with my perspective on things.
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Old 01-16-2006, 06:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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I also tend to equate low tech with natural--no CO2, less light (2 wpg or less), less ferts, minimal water changes. Unlike the previous posts, I also think plain gravel rather than a fancy substrate.

High tech--high maintenance, pressurized CO2, high light, high ferts, etc. Plants that look like they're on steroids.

What surprises/disappoints me is that most of the forums seem to push high tech (kudos to Robert for making a home for low tech/natural and a place where the answer to everything isn't crank up the CO2 and ferts). I'd be thrilled to see more discussion on a moderate approach (neither high tech nor natural, but somewhere in the middle).
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Old 01-16-2006, 06:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
 
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cheryl, i agree totally, it's great that we have established a great natural aquarium community.

its funny that you brought up the "somewhere in the middle". i'm setting up a in the middle tank this week. it is a 10 gallon with 2x10 watt screw in CF bulbs. it will be featuring a large piece of driftwood and a java moss foreground. you never know, i may just find a whole new understanding of low tech aquariums
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Old 01-16-2006, 11:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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I'm largely in agreement with most of the above. However, I keep going back in my mind to low tech = minimum maint and high tech = higher maint. There are likely counter arguments I haven't thought up yet, but in general, to me, other than food, if you have to add something to the tank more than once a week (either manual or automated), it's high tech. If you don't, it's low. In addition, if you really should be pruning your tank more than once a month, it's high. If not, it's low.

So, to me it's more a question of maint levels.

I've got my higher end 46g where I add daily ferts, do 50% weekly WCs and prune 3 or so times a month. I've also got a 10g with a internal filter, a 27w cf desk lamp and Eco substrate (I figured it couldn't hurt). If I get around to changing water every 8-10 weeks I'm doing good. Certainly not optimal for the inhabitants (fish (low load) or fauna), but the tank continues to look pretty decent and growth is apparanent.

So, what did I miss ?
Brian.
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Old 01-16-2006, 12:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I think the main distinguishing factor between low tech and high tech is the amount of light provided. Light drives everything else. Tanks with a lot of illumination need extra CO2 and fertilizer; those with less, don't.

Anything over 2.5 wpg would be high tech under this definition; anything less, low tech. Of course, we then would have lower low tech and
higher high tech, but these could also be defined by the amount of light provided.

I am an upper-end low tech guy, with 2.0 - 2.2 wpg. I use a soil substrate and I am very happy with the results. I'm sure that there are plants that I could not grow in that environment, but there are a lot that I can grow.

Bill
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Old 01-18-2006, 04:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I two aplaud this fourm for giving us "low techies" a place to hang out.

By some of these definitions my 180 (14 page build thread for those who have not seen it http://aquabotanicwetthumb.infopop.cc/groupee/forums/a/...6048124/m/1941044761 )
would be a high tech tank. I don't agree with that. My tank does use a pressurized CO2 system, but I maintain CO2 about 5 (day) to 10(night)PPM. My tank does use liquid ferts, but only weekly and I dose what I used to dose in my 50 gallon high tech. I do 25% weekly water changes, but don't syphon the gravel. I do use a soil substrate.

The reson I don't think my tank is high tech is that I don't micromanage my plants. I let them grow wild unitl they start to shadow each other, then trim them so they don't. Also the fish arn't there to complament anything, they are there to live. I find something relaxing about a whole bunch of different fish with diffrent manerisms coexisting peacefully. Another thing is I don't worry about this tank the way I used to worry about my high tech tanks. I don't test things every other day I don't stress over the PO4-NO3 relationship or the KH-PH levels either. In fact my 180 does not even have a heater!!!

I think the diffrence between high tech and low tech is stress. Stress over proper levels, proper trimming, perfect temp, "right" fish, ect, ect,.....

Just my take, now I am back to my corner ,
Whiskey
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Old 01-19-2006, 05:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Low-tech means Diana Walstad's method to me too. As Betty said, the goal is an aquarium that that is as close to a self-supporting ecosystem as possible, and which does not require extensive maintenance to stay healthy.

High-tech to me seems more focused on growing healthy plants by carefully controlling nutrient levels using artificial means (chemical fertilisers, CO2 etc.). Aquacsaping is also easier with this approach because the plants grow so fast.

I personally like the low-tech method because I prefer watching my tanks to tinkering with them, and because I like the "natural" approach. The only drawback I can think of is that some people may find they get bored with such low maintenance tanks. The only maintenance I do is feeding, topping up and pruning once every two weeks during summer and once every two to three weeks during winter (my tanks are unheated).

I disagree with Russell's comment that plant species selection is limited with this approach. Currently, I am successfully growing 49 different species of plants in my low-tech tanks. Nearly all of these plants are stem plants, groundcover plants or floating plants, not typical "low tech" or "easy" plants. In fact, I cannot get so-called easy plants like Crypts and Java Ferns to thrive in my tanks, probably because they get smothered by the faster growing plants. Perhaps the reason that many people with low-tech tanks grow easier or slower growing plants is not because they cannot grow anything else, but because they don't want to prune the plants very often or are afraid to try plants that are regarded as being more difficult to grow.

From Alex.
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