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? 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 systems require more maintenance because of the amount of energy required. Low tech plants tanks may require low lighting and no extra CO2 as well as minimal fertilization once per week. Low-light setups can be more affordable and are easier to maintain over the long term.
Except for a few rare species, most aquarium plants can thrive in high-tech tanks. This is because it has all the necessary nutrients, light and CO2 that it needs. But, many plants in aquarium trade will not survive in such conditions. These plants can thrive in both low-tech and high-tech environments. However, what you might not know is that the same plant growing in a low tech aquarium can look entirely different or even become a different color when grown in a high tech aquarium.
1. Scarlet Temple
Alternanthera reineckii (also known as scarlet temple or “AR”) is a naturally pink-colored plant even in an aquarium without bright lights and added CO2. The leaves’ undersides will be vibrant pink, while the outer leaves will turn a golden brown. It is possible to get a deep reddish-red or magenta color throughout the plant if you grow this plant in medium to high light.
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. The plant may grow tall stems that are slightly higher than the substrate or crawl along the substrate. If the plant is given high-tech care and regular pruning, it can become dense, bushy, and low growing with many leaves. This will create a lush cushion of clovers.
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. On the other hand, it can be successfully grown to its fullest potential in a “lower tech” tank if given at least medium light, plenty of nutrients, and enough time – with the last part being the most important. If you don’t want to wait for the mature carpet to form, you can add this plant to high-tech tanks where it will grow much faster. Dwarf baby tear is an uncommon aquatic plant. It has some of the most tiny leaves in the trade. It is really fun to watch it grow and fill up.
Dwarf Baby Tears or Hemianthus Callitrichoides “Cuba”
4. Monte Carlo
Micranthemum tweediei or Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’ is an excellent alternative to those with little luck growing the aforementioned 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. Monte carlo will thrive if given adequate light and nutrients. It can form a river of green leaves that runs along the tank’s substrate.
Monte carlo or Micranthemum tweediei
5. Ammannia gracilis
Ammannia gracilis is quite a beautiful plant. This stem plant, like the ever-changing colors of autumn leaves, can take on a variety of shades depending on its growing conditions. Ammannia gracis specimens will be able to show a light yellowish-orange color in a low tech tank. 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.
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. A lot of light, extra CO2 and a strict fertilizer schedule can result in a more compact growth pattern. The moss will grow closer to the surface, more tightly layered and more horizontally in high-tech tanks. The growth pattern of moss in low-tech setups is more compact and vertical as the new leaves reach for as much light as possible.
Christmas moss or Vesicularia montagnei
Why Do Plants Turn Red in a High Tech Aquarium?
The simple answer lies in light and an important chemical called anthocyanin. It is the same chemical that gives fall red leaves and purple-colored vegetables and fruits. The pigment chlorophyll is what makes a green plant appear green to our eyes. However, chlorophyll can be easily damaged by intense levels of light. Anthocyanin, a different type of red pigment, is produced by the plant to combat this. This pigment can withstand extremely bright lighting better and can absorb excess light energy in a way that is safe for the plant. Anthocyanins, or the red color that we see, act as a sunscreen to protect the plant cells against being burned.
Check out our LED Aquarium Lighting Guide for recommendations on the best lighting for your tank.