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Want Live Plants in your Aquarium? Ditch the high powered lights.

Posted by ottawaaquariums on January 30, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Many people are attracted to the bright, lush green colors of live plants.  Rightly so; planted aquariums are beautiful and natural looking.  In addition, most fish are healtier in aquariums with live plants.  Fake plants can actually damage fish, because they have sharp edges. 


When a novice gets plants, they almost always make one predictable mistake; they buy a new, higher wattage aquarium light to give their new plants a great start with lots of light, great right?  Actually its a big mistake.  Unless you are going to add a pressurized CO2 system and keep high difficulty, high light plants, you actually will kill your plants with high light.


Plants can only photosynthesize as fast as they can take up CO2; blasting plants with too much light makes the plant consume all available CO2, and then they run out, and algae start growing on the plants, which kills them, and having no CO2 for a large part of the day is not good for plants either.  Basically your plants need an amount of light which is in line with the available amount of CO2, so that they have some CO2 all day long.  In the case of most low light/easy plants that the beginner will attempt (crypts, anubias, java fern, etc) the plants will actually thrive far better under the standard low wattage flourescent lights that come with most aquarium kits.  Most people simply think that more light = healthier plants (an intuitive thought), and I run into a lot of people who are frustrated with their planted aquarium because they purchased an expensive, higher wattage lighting system to 'help' their plants, and are completely unable to keep even the easiest of plants, because they are actually killing their plants with light!  


A large number of my clients tanks are low light, low tech planted tanks.  It keeps the fish healthy, and because the wattage over the tank is kept low, the plants thrive, as long as I select the proper plants and follow a few rules.  A pleasing aquascape can be made using only three or four types of plants; crypt's, java fern, anubias, and moss.  There are many types of each of these families of plants, so a varied and interesting low tech tank is easy to create if these easy plants are used under low wattage of the proper spectrum; 5000-9000 kelvin bulbs (daylight bulbs).  That in conjuction with a plant gravel such as seachem flourite, a root tab fertilizer, and a moderate amount of liquid fertilizer, will result in a supremely easy to keep planted aquarium with healthy plants, and healthy fish.


Here is a poor pic of a very nice tank of one of my customers which uses just that formula.




There are a few other things which help in a low tech tank such as this one; first, don't use an air pump.  Air pumps and air stones will force most of the CO2 out of the water before your plants can use it.  Second, don't disturb the water surface too much; use a canister filter and direct the output downwards(under water).  Disturbing the surface of the water will again displace much of the CO2 which the plants need to thrive.  Finally, have a good sized fish population, the fish are the ones making the CO2 in the first place.




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