5 Best Aquarium Plants for High Tech Planted Tanks with CO2
Ever heard of “low tech” or “high tech” when talking about a planted aquarium? Have you ever wondered what the difference is? Simply put, the more energy required to set up an aquarium, the higher tech it will be. A high tech planted tank may use intensely bright lighting, a pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) gas system, and large amounts of fertilizer. High tech tanks require more maintenance and are therefore more expensive because they consume a lot of energy. A low tech planted tank may use low lighting, no additional CO2, and minimal fertilizing once per week. In turn, low light setups are usually less expensive and easier to maintain in the long term.
With the exception of a few species, almost any aquarium plant has the ability to thrive in a high tech tank because all of its needs (e.g., nutrients, light, and CO2) are being met in abundance. There are however many aquarium plants that cannot survive in these 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 undersides of the leaves will remain vibrant pink while the surface of the leaves appear 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 entire plant.
Scarlet temple or Alternanthera reineckii
2. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
Hydrocotyle Tripartita Japan’s unique leaves look just like miniature shamrock and clover leaves. It is a delicate and small plant that can be aquascaped. 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
Although it is possible, it can be challenging for some to grow a dense, thick carpet of dwarf baby tear (Hemianthus Callitrichoides “Cuba”) without high-light and pressurized CO2. However, it can be grown to its full potential in a low tech tank with adequate light, nutrients, and sufficient time. 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. 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 great alternative for those who have had little success growing dwarf baby tears. This plant does not require as much care, and can grow at a faster rate even in low-tech environments. Monte carlo is able to take off if it gets at least moderate light and lots of essential nutrients.
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. A high-tech tank with lots of nutrients, CO2, high lighting and high light will enable this plant to show bright red to almost maroon-pink colors throughout the plant.
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. You can observe a more compact pattern of growth if you provide lots of light and extra CO2, as well as a heavy fertilizer application schedule. As the moss grows, the fronds or new “leaves” remain closer together, tightly layered, and more horizontal in a high tech tank. 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 mountaini
Why do plants turn red when kept in a high-tech aquarium?
The simple answer is light and an important pigment, called anthocyanin. This chemical gives red leaves in fall and certain vegetables and fruits their purple or red color. Chlorophyll is a pigment that makes green plants appear green. But intense light can damage chlorophyll. Anthocyanin, a different type of red pigment, is produced by the plant to combat this. 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 (the red color we see) act as a “sunscreen” that protects the plant cells from sunburn.
Our LED Aquarium Lighting Guide offers recommendations for lighting that is best for high-light tanks versus low-light tanks.