The term ‘low tech tank’, refers to a planted aquarium that does NOT use CO2 injection (see: Non-CO2 Methods). The downside to using this method to grow aquarium plants is that the plants have to rely on sources other than gaseous CO2 to fulfil their carbon requirements. For many, Excel represents the perfect solution. Excel has been described as ‘liquid CO2.’ CO2 provides plants with carbon, a critical element for life. However, Excel is able to do the same thing.
Setting up an Excel Based Low Tech Planted Tank
Low tech tanks differ from so-called ‘high tech tanks’ in several ways. While Excel is able to provide carbon to aquarium plants, this process is less efficient that the absorption of gaseous CO2. Therefore, the overall process of photosynthesis is less efficient. In simple terms, this means that you have to use less nutrients and less light. While high tech tanks are able to absorb enormous amounts of nutrients and use sophisticated lighting systems to produce enormous amounts of plant growth, you cannot do the same with low tech tanks. While you will still experience appreciable plant growth, the growth will be slower.
Most low tech tanks use nutrient rich substrates as their main source of nutrients. This may be in the form of store-bought ‘aquarium soils’ or DIY soils. Many hobbyists setting up low tech tanks are doing so to save money, so many opt for DIY soil options. These tanks are commonly referred to as ‘dirted’ tanks. Either option is fine.
Low tech tanks use the same nutrients as high tech tanks, although in smaller amounts. If you purchase commercial branded nutrients, then you can simply follow the dosage recommendations on the back of the bottle. However, rather than using the full dose, use half the recommended dosage and split it into as many smaller doses as possible. You can then gradually increase the dosage amount until you either, start have algae issues or experience the desired amount of plant growth. The same applies for DIY nutrient options. Use half the dose recommended for high tech tanks and go from there.
As with substrates and nutrients, lighting can be either commercial or DIY. Personally, I prefer to use T8 fluorescent bulbs intended for planted aquariums. Twin bulbs suit most low tech aquariums. This is my personal preference and there are many other options, so do your research.
Low tech tanks are a great option for those looking to setup a beautiful planted tank without the costs of a traditional high tech tanks. The cost of a low tech tank can vary greatly depending on the individual choices of the hobbyist. Doing everything DIY will cost the least, however, will cost in time and effort. While on the other hand, the more components are commercial branded products, the more expensive the overall setup will be.