5 Best Aquarium Plants for High Tech Planted Tanks with CO2
Have you ever heard the words “low tech” and “high tech” being used when referring to a planted aquarium and wondered what the difference was? Simply put, the more energy required to set up an aquarium, the higher tech it will be. High-tech planted tanks might have intensely bright lighting, high levels of fertilizer, and pressurized carbon dioxide gas (CO2) gas. High tech tanks require more maintenance and are therefore more expensive because they consume a lot of energy. Low tech plants tanks may require low lighting and no extra CO2 as well as minimal fertilization once per week. Low light systems are generally less costly and more cost-effective over the long-term.
With the exception of some species, virtually every aquarium plant can thrive in a high-tech tank. It is being provided with all its basic needs (e.g. nutrients, light, CO2) in an abundance. But, many plants in aquarium trade will not survive in such conditions. This article has been carefully chosen because they are able to grow in both low and high tech environments. You might not be aware that the same plant can look completely different when it is grown in a low tech aquarium.
1. Scarlet Temple
Alternanthera reineckii is also known as scarlet temple, or “AR” and can be kept in an aquarium with no bright lights. It has a naturally pink color. The leaves’ undersides will be vibrant pink, while the outer leaves will turn a golden brown. However, when growing this plant with medium to high light and added nutrients (especially CO2), it is possible to achieve deep red to pinkish-red, magenta coloration throughout the entire plant.
Alternanthera reineckii and Scarlet temple
2. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
Hydrocotyle Tripartita Japan’s unique leaves look just like miniature shamrock and clover leaves. This plant is small and delicate, making it ideal for aquascaping. In a low tech tank, this plant may grow long stems in a slightly upward growth pattern or may creep along the surface of the substrate loosely. However, when given a high tech environment and regular pruning, this plant can become quite dense, bushy, and low-growing with many leaves, forming a lush pillow of clovers.
Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’
3. Dwarf Baby Tears
It is not difficult to make a thick carpet of dwarf babies tears (Hemianthus calleditrichoides Cuba) without high levels of light and CO2 pressure. It can, however, be grown successfully in a lower tech tank provided it has adequate light, nutrients and time. Those who do not want to wait many months for a mature carpet to form can opt to add this plant to a high tech tank where it will grow at a much, much faster rate. The dwarf baby tears is an unusual aquatic plant that has the smallest leaves. It is very enjoyable to watch the plant grow and fill out.
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 doesn’t require quite as much care and grows at a slightly faster rate, even in a low tech environment. However, if you give it at least medium light and plenty of essential nutrients, monte carlo can really take off and form a cascading river of green leaves along the substrate of your tank.
Monte carlo or Micranthemum tweediei
5. Ammannia gracilis
Ammannia gracilis is quite a beautiful plant. Like the colors of our ever-changing autumn leaves, this stem plant can take on various shades of yellow, orange, and red, depending on the conditions in which it is growing. A low tech tank with medium lighting will bring out a greenish-yellow to light orange color in Ammannia gracilis specimens. On the other hand, a high tech tank with high lighting, CO2, and a lot of nutrients will allow this plant to color up to its fullest potential and exhibit bright red to an almost maroon-pink color throughout the entire plant.
Bonus: Christmas Moss
Although you may not have anticipated this, Christmas moss (or Vesicularia mountaini) is a moss that thrives in high-tech environments under bright light conditions. With a lot of light, extra CO2, and a hefty fertilizer dosing schedule, a more compact growth pattern can be observed. The moss will grow closer to the surface, more tightly layered and more horizontally in high-tech tanks. In a low tech setup, the growth pattern is slightly less compact and more vertical in position as the new fronds reach to absorb as much light as possible.
Christmas moss or Vesicularia mountaini
Why Do Plants Turn Red in a High Tech Aquarium?
The simplest answer is light and an important pigment called anthocyanin – the same chemical that gives us red leaves in the fall and some vegetables and fruits their red or purple color. The pigment chlorophyll is what makes a green plant appear green to our eyes. Intense light can cause chlorophyll to become damaged. Anthocyanin is a red pigment that the plant uses to fight this problem. This pigment is more capable of withstanding extremely bright lighting and can actually absorb the excess light energy in a way that is not harmful to the plant. Anthocyanins, or the red color that we see, act as a sunscreen to protect the plant cells against being burned.
Our LED Aquarium Lighting Guide offers recommendations for lighting that is best for high-light tanks versus low-light tanks.