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? The more energy used to create an aquarium setup, then the better. 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. Low tech plants tanks may require low lighting and no extra CO2 as well as minimal fertilization once per week. In turn, low light setups are usually less expensive and easier to maintain in 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. 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 pink-colored plant that can be grown in aquariums without any bright lights or added CO2. The leaves’ undersides will still be bright pink, but the leaves’ surface will become more 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” is unique because the leaves look exactly like miniature clover or shamrock leaves. It is a small and delicate plant, which makes it perfect 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. 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
It is not difficult to make a thick carpet of dwarf babies tears (Hemianthus calleditrichoides Cuba) without high levels of light and CO2 pressure. 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. 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 tweediei or Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’ is an excellent alternative to those with little luck growing the aforementioned 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 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. The stem plant can change its color depending on the environment it is in. Its colors are similar to our changing autumn leaves. A low tech tank with medium lighting will bring out a greenish-yellow to light orange color in Ammannia gracilis specimens. 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.
Bonus: Christmas Moss
This is the unexpected twist. Christmas moss, or Vesicularia montei, can thrive in high-tech environments with high levels of light. With a lot of light, extra CO2, and a hefty fertilizer dosing schedule, a more compact growth pattern can be observed. 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 montagnei
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. Intense light can cause chlorophyll to become damaged. To fight this, the plant produces a different red pigment called anthocyanin. This pigment can withstand extremely bright lighting better and can absorb excess light energy in a way that is safe for the plant. Anthocyanins (the red color we see) act as a “sunscreen” that protects the plant cells from sunburn.
Check out our LED Aquarium Lighting Guide for recommendations on the best lighting for your tank.