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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK, these artistic, Amano like displays, are they confined to only high tech? Can you be artistic with a low tech planted aquarium? A couple years ago, a gentleman nameed Giancarlo Podio, (I hope I spelled his name right) claimed his tank was low tech and later incorportated some high tech aspects, and really achieved an artistic layout, using artistic principals. Is this possible with a Walstad or in general low tech type tank?
 

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Robert, i feel that natural planted tanks can reach great aquascapes. i think that a nice moss foreground looks just as good (if used correctly) as a high tech glosso foreground. aquascaping is mostly creativity, and as the 2004 AGA competition proved in the Large tank devision a natural planted tank can be aquascaped well.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I would tend to agree with you Russ. I think many people presume they can not attempt an Amano like tank without C02, or use that as an excuse not to try.

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.
Thats interesting. Can you list the 49 plants?
 

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Originally posted by Robert H:
Thats interesting. Can you list the 49 plants?
Sure, here is the list:

Azolla pinnata
A. filiculoides
A. filiculoides
variety rubra
Ceratophyllum demersum
Chara
species (possibly C. corallina)
Chara species (I have no idea which one this is)
Crassula helmsii
Cryptocoryne wendtii
Didiplis diandra
Echinodorus
species (some kind of chain sword but I'm not sure which one)
Egeria species
Elatine gratioloides
Eleocharis accicularis
E. pusilla
E.
species (I am waiting for it to produce some seed heads to identify it)
Glossostigma elatinoides
Hemianthus micranthemoides
Hydrilla verticillata
Hydrocotyle verticillata
H.
species (possibly H. leucocephala but I'm not sure)
Hyrgophila difformis
H. polysperma
"Rosanervig"
H. species "Narrow-leaf"
Landoltia punctata
Lilaeopsis brasilensis
L. polyantha
Limnophila sessiliflora
Ludwigia arcuata
L. peploides
subspecies montevidensis
L. repens
Lysimachia nummalaria
Marsilea drummondii
M. mutica
Myriophyllum aquaticum
M. caput medusae
M. crispatum
M. papillosum
M. salsugineum
M. simulans
M. variifolium
Microsorum pteropus
Najas
species
Nitella species
Nymphoides crenata
Potamogeton australiensis
P. crispus
Ranunculus amphitrichus
Riccia fluitans
Ricciocarpus natans
Rotala rotundifolia
Spirodela polyrhiza
Triglochin procera
Utricularia gibba
subspecies exoleta
Vallisneria americana
variety gigantea
V. spiralis
Vesicularia dubyana


When I actually sat down and thought about it, I discovered I had acquired a few more plant species since I last counted; I could remember 56 different plants off the top of my head, I think (not including a few plants whose names I don't know). If I actually went and counted them I might find some more but this list gives you a good idea of the types of plants I am growing.

As you can see, there aren't any "difficult" species, but neither are they all typical low-tech plants. I hope more people with low-tech tanks will try growing plants that supposedly need CO2 injection and high light levels. Don't get me wrong - I love tanks with mosses, Crypts and Java Ferns - I just think that people with low-tech tanks should not be limited to these kinds of plants simply because they believe nothing else will grow in their tanks. I know other people in "El Natural" have also had success with groundcovers and a variety of stem plants.

From Alex.
 

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Originally posted by Robert H:
all in one tank? How do you have room for the Glossostigma?
LOL! No, I have five tanks set up at the moment. I have Glosso growing in two of the tanks. Both tanks are 24 inches x 12 inches x 12 inches. One tank has 2.6 wpg and some sunlight, and the other tank lives outside and gets morning sunlight. In the indoor tank which has been set up for eight months, the Glosso started out horizontal, then grew about an inch high for a few months, and has now gone horizontal again! The Glosso in the outdoor tank which has been running for about two years, has always grown horizontally.

From Alex.
 

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Without an exact high-tech "parts list" of my own, and only reading other's posts and sites, I would say that a major defining characteristic of high-tech is the number of components the hobbyist uses to enjoy their hobby. It's quite high…compared to low-tech as I see it.

My low tech-equipment list includes:

50G Tank, Stand, Eheim 2213 filter, 200W heater, 1 96W AHSupply CF light in DIY canopy, gravel, soil, Seachem Equilibrium & baking soda at water changes with the aim of keeping my tank at about 6 KH/GH (my local water is about 2-3 for each).

8 major components.

If it were high-tech it would likely double the WPG, add compressed CO2, regulator/solenoid/PH meter assy (not necessarily all), and I would be dosing "ferts" and "traces" a few times a week, along with weekly water changes. Maybe using water that's been treated with RO/DI and re-mineralized before use.

Most low-tech tank keepers, from my reading, are usually not using enriched gravels either.

This is where El Natural, or "Walstad tanks" come into the picture which seem to be an offshoot of low tech with 3 pre-requisites. The hobbyist will [1.] Include a layer of soil of some sort as an enriched base for their substrate. [2.] Situate the tank where it will receive sunlight. [3.] Use little or no biological filtration leaving the plants to consume the products of the ammonia/nitrate cycle. (my plants struggled and algae thrived while I had biological media in my filter, now I have only foam and about 1" of fine media).

I suppose some would contest that I am not keeping an El Natural tank since it gets no sunlight after September and only a small amount during the summer months and I use some chemicals to alter my water conditions. I even recently resorted to using H2O2 to slow/stop the algae that had continuously developed while my filter had the bio media in it. The plants are now thriving, I am sucesfully growing (in 1 tank) l.repens, h.difforms and h.polysperma, b.monnieri and b.caroliniana, s.subulata, a.nana, m.pteropus and c.wendtii. c.balansae. I recently added a.reineckii and c.crispulata balansae which seem to be doing well, but it's only been about 2 weeks. Some grow better than others, and there have been a few flops, but I think that was my inexperience and choosing plants that wanted a lot of light.

I am however, trying to adhere to the methods and tactics in The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium since I admire the notion that the El Natural method seems to be striving to build a glass encased pond rather than a "plant tank". The fish and snails and all the little critters we can and can't see are key components, contributing "fertilizer" by way of waste, ammonia, CO2. A big plus: less frequent water changes. There also seems to be a much longer life span between tear downs of El Natural tanks.

I'd say that's my 2 cents, but this turned into a 25 cent post!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
That is interesting. I would love to see pictures of what your Glosso looks like. I have had a real hard time getting this plant to do well in anything other that bright light and very high levels of C02. Even with very moderate levels of C02 using "Carbo Plus" the glosso grew and spread at a snails pace and was over taken by Micranthemoides in a 20 gallon tank I did a couple years ago.

But 2.6 watts per gallon is moderately high light, and if your tank is only 12" tall, then that is pretty good light penetration. I would like to see how thick it is growing and the leaf size without any C02 in the water.

As I see it, the major difference between "low tech" and "high tech" plant tanks is the use of C02 injection.

Without adding any C02 to the water, the most C02 you can ever achieve is around 5ppm. That includes C02 generated by decaying organic material, (soil, peat, compost) bacteria, fish and other animals. What kind of growth, photosymthesis can you expect at such a low level? There is no question that raising C02 levels increases the growth rate, makes plants stronger and more resiliant and affects color and leaf size. It also allows many plants to grow under water that otherwise would not be able to so easily.

My understanding of the Walstad approach is that it is all centered around the use of soil in the substrate. I do not think low light, or the use of sunlight is a pre-requisite. Ms. Walstad has said that she uses power compact flourescents.

The end result of either approach is the growth rate. Elevated C02 levels along with adequate NPK and trace minerals produce a much faster growth rate. No added C02 and a fertile substrate produces a comparitively much slower growth rate. We are talking about weeks compared to months, and months compared to years.

I think that is the main thing one should look at when deciding which approach to go with.

Anyone disagree?
 

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As I see it, the major difference between "low tech" and "high tech" plant tanks is the use of C02 injection.
Sure, I'll disagree


The amount of light has a far greater impact on plant growth than CO2. Try injecting CO2 into a well planted, 1.5 wpg aquarium. You'll see an increase in plant growth, but not a big one.

Increase the wpg to 3.0 with the same CO2 and there will be a big increase in plant growth, along with increases in dosing requirements and other maintenance.

Alternatively, increase the light to 3.0 wpg without CO2 and dosing, and in time you will see a mess.

The amount of light is the controlling variable.

Bill
 

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i think that if you upped the lighting, the plants will grow faster, but they will look worse. they will grow really tall and leggy looking. i hate that look.

i think that robert has a great point when he said the injection of co2. you can also consider flurish excel, so we can just say carbon enriched tanks. APC recently had an aquascaping contest and they had 2 prize elligable categories. co2 tanks, and non co2 tanks. the tanks were basically co2 = high tech, and non co2 = low tech.

i know my plants grow much faster when i add co2.

i wonder if diana could comment on this thread? that would be interesting.
 
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