i havea question im getting a 20 gallon tank, and i want plants, i just saw a beutifull 15 gallon tank with the tank filled with plants with no co2 system. how does that work? i thought if you had two or more plants you need a co2 system.
Many people dose Flourish Excel in small tanks like that.
But, it is possible to keep a no CO2 tank, but it is very, very hard. That means having a pretty stocked tank for the fish to give off CO2, and to have very little surface agitation.
I just got through doing a lot of research on this for myself. I had some crypts in my tank for years without adding any CO2 or Excel. Plants in general need CO2 (or Excel), nutrients normally supplied by bottled supplements and light. The substrate and water circulation also come into play. The amount required for each one of these depends on the plants you choose. Turn that around, if you have low levels of one or more of these resources, you have to pick plants that will grow with that reduced resource. You'll hear people mention low tech and high tech planted tanks. Low tech is generally a tank with low amounts of these resources. All of these resources also have to be balanced or you'll get a big algae bloom.
So you don't have to use CO2 or Excel to grow plants. You just need to pick plants that are slow growers and don't require much light. If you decide to add more light past 2 watts per gallon, then you'll want to add CO2 or Excel.
Lighting is THE factor that determines the rest of the requirements in the tank. If lighting is low or moderate, plants will not be driven to grow very quickly, therefore CO2 and nutrient demand are such that fish food, waste and respiration can supply all that the plants need. A good read on this type of setup is Ecology of the Planted Aquarium by Diana Walstad. If, however, lighting is on the higher end, the plants will be driven to grow at a higher rate, demanding more CO2 and nutrients, so both must be supplemented to keep up. Of course many other things play into the equation, but that's the fundamentals. Both setups have advantages and drawbacks. Research and deciding what type of tank and maintenance level you want are the key to success. Here's another site that is excellent for planted tank setups : Barr Report - Aquarium Plants - Barr Report
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