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Old 10-26-2008, 07:21 PM   #1
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Need help with low-tech planted aquarium. (I'm new to planted Tanks).

Hello. I haven't been on this forum much since school started once again. But i'm going to try to get sometime to focus on my aquariums.

So I wanted to create a low-tech planted aquarium. A 5 gallon and a 20 gallon(Tall). To tell you guys right now. I want to know about everything. The lighting, substrate, rocks, drift wood, type of plants, and anything else you can think of to tell me. I want to get this right .

I'll explain my setups now. My 5 gallon has a 15watt heat lamp I use to have on a lizard, it has sand from my local river(we just had a bad flood during the summer.) I have some dwarf hairgrass but it's failing terribly but there is some grass still there. It has some rocks towards the back then some driftwood in the middle. I do put some liqiud plant stuff in it I can't exactly remember what it is right now. It has 3 neon tetras, two very small baby mollys, and one small pleco. I run an air pump during the night and take it off during the day.
If I need to make any changes at all I will. I want to know everything about low-tech planted aquariums, amout of light, to use co2 or not, ect.


My 20 gallon is not setup yet bcuz we had turtles in them and i'm in the processes of cleaning the aquarium and getting new equipment for the aquarium. So just tell me what I need and i'll put it on my list.



Please help.

Thank you!
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Old 10-26-2008, 07:39 PM   #2
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replace the "heatlamp" with a fluorescent or "CFL" daylight bulb, biggest one that will fit(well till around 25w)
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Old 10-26-2008, 07:48 PM   #3
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Well let's see. For low light/low tech, you could use regular gravel or sand for substrate. Buying nutrient rich substrate would be fine, but since you are limited plant wise in low light, you might as well save money IMO.

For lighting I would find a lamp for the 5g and get around 10-15 watts over it. A heat lamp isn't going to work, I don't think. I would either get a fixture that holds some compact fluorescent bulbs or a lamp that you can get a compact fluorescent bulb in. Make sure you get something marked "daylight". Once you get over about 20 watts, you'll be tinkering with needing co2 because algae will become an issue. You'd need to dose some ferts/nutrients as well, so if you want to keep it low tech, I'd stick with at most 18 watts.

As for plants, Dwarf Hairgrass isn't exactly a low light plant IME and since you have the heat lamp (which I'm unsure of the Kelvin rating), I wouldn't expect it to do well. Also, I find it grows best with co2 and fert dosing.

If you can get around 15 watts of daylight over the tank....or maybe even the 18 watt Coralife fixture, you could grow some Dwarf Sag. or Echinodorus tenellus which are both grass like. They should thrive without co2 and without fert dosing. Some other low light plants are Java fern, Anubias, Cryptocorynes, Anacharis, Rotala rotundifolia (if you had closer to 18w), Marsilea minuta (nice foreground plant that looks similar to Glosso, but low light), Hornwort....and there are more, but I am out of names for now.


For the 20g, same goes with just about everything, except for lighting, I would shoot for around 1.5 to 2 watts per gallon, meaning 30-40 watts. If you can find a fluorescent fixture in that range (or maybe slightly less than 30w), that would be good. Substrate is up to you. Like I said above, you could skip out on nutrient rich substrates......maybe get some root tabs for under the plants. Plant choices are going to be similar as well.

You can look at PlantGeek.net - Your Aquatic Plant Resource for other plant suggestions. Just click the plant guide and select light requirements. You can look through low and medium light suggestions. Some of the ones listed I think need higher lighting, but most are fine.
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Old 10-26-2008, 07:55 PM   #4
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The biggest bulb i can get is a 15watt 5000k. That should be good enough thats 3 wpg. But I need to know more then just the light. I need to know everything about low-tech planted aquariums.
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Old 10-26-2008, 10:44 PM   #5
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Well besides what I said above, what do you need to know?

You don't have to use co2 or dose ferts.....low tech is less stuff to do.


The watts per gallon rule breaks down on smaller tanks, so you need a bit more wattage than you'd think. I have no idea why.

15 watts would be more like low-medium light.
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Old 10-26-2008, 10:53 PM   #6
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Well besides what I said above, what do you need to know?

You don't have to use co2 or dose ferts.....low tech is less stuff to do.


The watts per gallon rule breaks down on smaller tanks, so you need a bit more wattage than you'd think. I have no idea why.

15 watts would be more like low-medium light.


Ok so then I need no special substrate like that soil stuff and kitty litter or supersoil or what?

Then when I buy plants I want to aim for the low to medium light plants?


And should I add anything to the substrate like certain tablets or and liquid nutrients??
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Old 10-27-2008, 05:09 AM   #7
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oky doky
you need no special anything really. having a lowtech tank means low mantienence (spelling). no need for fertalizer sence you have fishies, no need for high grade soils or kitty litters, no root tabs, no c02.

the WTG rule does not aply for any tank under 30g. for the 5g you will only need about 15 watts of >5500k rating. for the 20g tall get a incodescent hood and put in 2 14 or 15 watt compact flouresents that are 5500k or >.

might want to look into what your adding as far as a plant supplement as some can do more harm then help, epecially in such a small tank.

remember to cycle your 20g!

plantgeek is great for looking up plants for your setup.

yes low light plants to medium light plants. i prefer java fern.

the low-tech planted tank is a VERY EASY tank to maintain. you may find it to be almost boring. most plants will be slow growers. if you add fertalizers you may actually be giving more nutrients thens needed and you will get algea. the fishes doodee will produce enough nutrients for the plants to grow. do a 50% water change every week. once your tank has become established water changes can be done once a month to once every few months!


sry for unorganized wall of text
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Old 10-27-2008, 09:17 AM   #8
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Also please note that there is a Read this First sticky at the top of the forum. It has links to threads and articles on the forum with lots of great information on all things having to do with planted aquariums.
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Old 10-29-2008, 10:09 PM   #9
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oky doky
you need no special anything really. having a lowtech tank means low mantienence (spelling). no need for fertalizer sence you have fishies, no need for high grade soils or kitty litters, no root tabs, no c02.

the WTG rule does not aply for any tank under 30g. for the 5g you will only need about 15 watts of >5500k rating. for the 20g tall get a incodescent hood and put in 2 14 or 15 watt compact flouresents that are 5500k or >.

might want to look into what your adding as far as a plant supplement as some can do more harm then help, epecially in such a small tank.

remember to cycle your 20g!

plantgeek is great for looking up plants for your setup.

yes low light plants to medium light plants. i prefer java fern.

the low-tech planted tank is a VERY EASY tank to maintain. you may find it to be almost boring. most plants will be slow growers. if you add fertalizers you may actually be giving more nutrients thens needed and you will get algea. the fishes doodee will produce enough nutrients for the plants to grow. do a 50% water change every week. once your tank has become established water changes can be done once a month to once every few months!


sry for unorganized wall of text

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Also please note that there is a Read this First sticky at the top of the forum. It has links to threads and articles on the forum with lots of great information on all things having to do with planted aquariums.


Thanks for the help guys. You guys are really helping me get started. This saturday i'm problly going to get to PetSmart to buy a 15watt 5000-5500k light bulb for my 5 gallon. I'm also going to buy some low to medium light plants. I'm hoping to find some java moss or fern. But mainly i'm just hoping for anything low light plants.

After I buy all of this and put it in my aquarium, i'm going to snap some pictures and then start a brand new planted aquarium log. (Since my first attept failed horriblely) Lol.


So yeah keep in touch with my log if you could to see if i'm doing everything right. That would be awesome. Thanks for everything guys.
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Old 10-30-2008, 02:25 AM   #10
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The biggest bulb i can get is a 15watt 5000k. That should be good enough thats 3 wpg.

Is it a screw in bulb, like a normal light bulb? If so you can go to Meijers or walmart and get other wattage bulbs, just get one labeled as "daylight". Then normally make up to 25w bulbs like this that are easily available as long as it will fit in your fixture.
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Old 10-30-2008, 07:08 PM   #11
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Is it a screw in bulb, like a normal light bulb? If so you can go to Meijers or walmart and get other wattage bulbs, just get one labeled as "daylight". Then normally make up to 25w bulbs like this that are easily available as long as it will fit in your fixture.


Well the lid and light fixture that came with it is a screw in and i put like a 15 or 25 watt bulb in it but i dont think its a day one. But right now I have just a light fixture sittin on top of the aquarium and it has that to pokie things at the end. But I already know what light bulb i'm gettin and such so it's all good.
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Old 10-30-2008, 07:21 PM   #12
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Hey everyone. I was looking at my lights today. Well one of my lights is a 25watt just a screw in one, i dont know if it's daylight or not but would that work since its a higher wattage.

Then besides that the bulb I was going to replace my "Heat lamp" Actually has a 15watt super uv daylight bulb. So should that be good enough for a low light setup or do i still need to replace it?
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Old 10-31-2008, 08:40 PM   #13
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Heat lamps are usu. incandescent. These put out very little usable light per watts. You want fluorescent lamps when growing plants.
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Old 11-01-2008, 10:45 AM   #14
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Heat lamps are usu. incandescent. These put out very little usable light per watts. You want fluorescent lamps when growing plants.

This light bulb I have is fine I found out. I looked it up on the internet and it said it was great for growing plants. So it should be fine. But if it's not I will end up getting another light bulb. The one I have is a Super UV Daylight 15watt. If you wanted to know.
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Old 11-18-2008, 02:25 PM   #15
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Just because it says it's great for plants doesn't mean that it is.

An incandescent 15 watt bulb puts out well less than half the light of a 15 watt fluorescent.
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Old 11-18-2008, 05:35 PM   #16
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Just because it says it's great for plants doesn't mean that it is.

An incandescent 15 watt bulb puts out well less than half the light of a 15 watt fluorescent.

I've figured everything out already and moved everything from a 5 to a 10 gallon and added more light ect. but thanks anyways.
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:41 AM   #17
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At 15W, I would not say the word medium when talking to plant salesmen. You need to stick to low light plants for ease of care and for your lighting. Enough light over a 5 gallon to get to medium or high light would be enough to start worrying about the light heating the water.
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Old 11-25-2008, 08:06 PM   #18
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This tank is tore down but thanks away.
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