Low tech aquariums aren’t just for beginners. Aquarium enthusiasts of all levels enjoy a low tech aquarium since it’s far easier to maintain. And in most cases it is also the more affordable option.
The substrate is one of the most important parts of the low tech setup. So, be willing to spend the extra cash and time to nail this part down. You have a few options here, and I’ll begin with the most affordable.
The Walstad Method, will be the most affordable and natural approach. It consists of two layers, the bottom layer being 1-1.5 inch of organic potting soil (big pieces sifted out and chemical free). Followed by a corresponding layer of 1-1.5 inch of medium fine sized gravel on top.
The final option would be to use ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia. This is a nutrient filled soil created specifically for planted tanks. It has optimal size and shape to allow easy management of any substrate dependent aquatic plants. It is easier to work with compared to most substrates and can last at least a year without added fertilization.
Light options are pretty straightforward since it will depend mostly on the size of your tank. As long as you pick a light that will offer a full spectrum of color and can cover the entire length of your tank, you will be in good shape. The only tricky part here is finding the sweet spot of light duration for your tank.
Finding your lighting duration isn’t too difficult. It just takes patience over the course of a few days. It is suggested to start somewhere around 6 hours per day and work your way up. Algae is a good indicator of appropriate light duration. If you don’t see common green algae develop, it could be an indication that you don’t have enough light, so increase your duration. The quicker and denser your algae develops, the less you’ll want your duration to be. A sweet spot would be when your common green algae develops over a course of a week into a light layer throughout the glass of your tank.
Free floater: Java Moss
Java Moss can grow just floating around in your tank or attached to a rock or piece of drift wood. It can also be used to tie onto pieces of wood to create miniature trees.
Above soil / attachable varieties: Anubias/
Anubias species can technically be grown floating around although they will truly flourish when anchored down to rock or wood. Do not bury this plant, as covering the rhizomes will likely kill the plant. Java Fern on the other hand can be buried or attached.
In conclusion, just be sure you have a good substrate foundation and sufficient lighting. These plants were chosen because they are beginner friendly, hardy and require little maintenance. This is a great option if you are entering the hobby and aren’t quite ready to jump into a pricey high-tech planted tank. Or, you simply don’t have the time but would like to enjoy your very own aquascape.