5 Best Aquarium Plants for High Tech Planted Tanks with CO2
You may have heard the terms “low tech” (or “high tech”) used to refer to a planted tank. Have you ever wondered what the difference was? The more energy used to create an aquarium setup, then the better. A high-tech planted tank might have intensely bright lighting, a pressurized CO2 gas system and large quantities of fertilizer. High tech systems require more maintenance because of the amount of energy required. A low-tech planted tank might use minimal lighting, no additional CO2, or fertilization more than once per week. Low light systems are generally less costly and more cost-effective over the long-term.
The high tech tank provides all of the aquarium plants’ needs, including nutrients, light and carbon dioxide. Many plants in the aquarium trade can only survive under these conditions. The plants discussed in this article have been carefully selected because they can grow in both low tech and high tech environments. You might not be aware that even the same plant in a low tech aquarium may look completely different or change color in a high-tech aquarium.
1. Scarlet Temple
Alternanthera reineckii, also known as scarlet Temple or “AR”, is a pink-colored plant that can be grown in aquariums without any bright lights or added CO2. The undersides of the leaf will still be bright pink while the surfaces of the leaves will become more golden brown. This plant can be grown with moderate to high levels of light and additional nutrients (especially CO2) to produce deep red to magenta colors throughout the plant.
Alternanthera reineckii, Scarlet Temple or Alternanthera reineckii
2. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
What makes Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’ unique is that the leaves appear just like miniature shamrock or clover leaves. This delicate and small plant makes it ideal for aquascaping. It can either grow long stems and a slightly upward-growing pattern in a low-tech tank or it may just creep on the substrate. With regular pruning and a high-tech environment, this plant can become dense and bushy with many leaves.
Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’
3. Baby Tears For Dwarfs
While certainly not impossible, it can be difficult for many to achieve a thick, dense carpet of dwarf baby tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’) without high light and pressurized CO2. It can, however, be grown successfully in a lower tech tank provided it has adequate light, nutrients and time. People who don’t want to wait several months for a mature carpet form can choose to place this plant in a high tech tank, where it will grow at an even faster rate. Dwarf baby tear is a rare aquatic plant. It has some of the most delicate leaves in the trade. It is really fun to watch its growth and fill in.
Dwarf baby tears or Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba’
4. Monte Carlo
Micranthemum “Monte Carlo” or Micranthemum “tweediei” is a good alternative to the dwarf baby tears. This plant is easier to care for and will grow faster in low-tech settings. Monte carlo needs at least medium sunlight and plenty of nutrients to thrive. They can grow a stream of green leaves all along the substrate.
Monte carlo or Micranthemum tweediei
5. Ammannia gracilis
Ammannia gracilis is quite a beautiful plant. This stem plant is similar to the color of our ever-changing autumn leaves. It can take on different shades of yellow, red and orange depending on where it grows. Ammannia gracis specimens will be able to show a light yellowish to greenish color in a low-tech tank. High tech tanks with CO2 and lots of nutrients will give this plant the best chance to bloom and display bright red to almost maroon pink colors.
You may not have expected this curveball, but Christmas moss or Vesicularia montagnei is a moss that can do quite well in a high tech environment under high light conditions. It can grow more compactly with lots of light, extra carbon dioxide, and a rigorous fertilizer application schedule. The moss becomes more dense and more horizontal as it grows. As the new fronds absorb as much light as they can, the growth pattern in a low tech tank is less compacted and more vertical.
Christmas moss or Vesicularia mountaini
Why do plants turn rosy in high tech aquariums
The simple answer lies in light and an important color called anthocyanin. It is the chemical responsible for red fruits and vegetables, as well as giving them their purple or red hues. Chlorophyll, a pigment that makes green plants appear green to the eyes, is found in green plants. But intense light can damage chlorophyll. To fight this, the plant produces a different red pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment is better able to withstand bright lighting and can absorb more light energy, which isn’t harmful for the plant. Anthocyanins, or the red color that we see, act as a sunscreen to protect the plant cells against being burned.
You can find recommendations for which lighting you should get for a low light or high light tank in our LED Aquarium Lighting Guide.