Planted Aquarium

I have always been fascinated by planted tanks but I never knew enough to really get into it. Then one day I decided to give it a shot. Being of a scientific background and not having a clue about the logic/rationale behind planted tanks I spent many months reading through internet forums, websites and books on planted tanks, trying to separate fact from fiction and putting together a rough understanding of the needs and demands of planted tanks.

I have put together two guides on setting up low tech planted tanks. One guide covers the basics of low tech planted tanks without any supplements (except minor fertilization) while the second guidecovers the use of Seachem's Excel product as a Carbon supplement for the plants to increase plant growth rates.  Feel free to click on the links below to read the guides. You might learn a thing or two 🙂 .

  1. Guide to setting up a Low Tech Planted Aquarium
  2. Guide to setting up a Low Tech Planted Aquarium using Seachem's Excel

Here are some pictures of my planted aquarium. It currently houses 9 female betta fish and 3 otos. I have used the Excel method to setup this tank.

14 thoughts on “Planted Aquarium

  1. Hi Sudeep,
    Nice summary of Tom Barr’s approach to low-tech low light planted tank. Did you post these tank pictures to another web forum where you write under a different pen name?
    Beautiful aquarium!!

    Tomar nam dekhe mone hoie tumi bangalee. Am I correct?

    I am in this hobby for a long time and I have my struggles….
    Thank you for nice post.


  2. Hi Enayet,

    Thanks. And haan, aami bangalee. I have indeed posted my tank pics on a couple of forums on the net. When I setup this website I decided to add this stuff in as it might be more easily available/viewable.


  3. Lovely tank there. Did you have to go the liquid carbon route on it to maintain the dwarf hairgrass carpet?



    1. Hi Kosh,

      Thanks a lot. Yup, I used Seachem’s Excel to maintain the dwarf hairgrass. As I found out the hard way, DHG does need some form of carbon supplementation to survive in a tank. When I switched to a completely low-tech setup (no Excel), they started to die out. I have confirmed this with another low tech planted tank owner who lost his DHG foreground once he decided to stop using Excel.

  4. hello sudeep thanx for the easy to read methods that made my approch to the non co2 planted world possible, there is so much confusion on the net as i spent many months looking for answers but all this talk and mumbo jumbo like tomms excess phospate dosnt couse algea?? and less light couses algea to? WTF and crap like that makes it hard. but your guide is spot on and no bull, kudos to you 🙂 ill send some pics of my 75gall 8mth old planted tank to show the proof

  5. Hi Sudeep,
    Nice tank and information. I’d like to know what lighting you think I should use for my custom tank? I have a 20 gallon custom tank: 48”L x 12”H x 9.5 W (no CO2). Currently I have a Current USA double T5 light and think that is too much light for the depth of my tank. I really like the Marineland single LED strip light but wonder if that’s still too much light for my tank?

  6. Dear Dudeep!
    I have translated your low-tach planted aquarium guide to hebrew so people that do not read english as well as i do can still enjoy your wonderful guide.
    But in order to post it in the Israeli forum i’m writing in i would like to recive your agreement for posting the translation version.
    Thank you!

  7. Hi,

    Shifting from current Oscar setup (Giving back my oscars to LFS)

    Need advise and suggestion from the experienced members with regards to setting up a planted tank /

    Just, a brief idea on my planned tank setup where i only have the tank at the moment /
    (PH and Temp readings are given below as i was running the same tank with 2 Oscars)

    Tank Size: 120cms L * 37cms W * 50cms H
    Lighting: JBL 2*45W T5 9000 K (1 Daylight Full Spectrum + 1 Fluorescent tube) with Seperate Switch for both
    Substrate: JBL AquaBasis plus + JBL Manado (Top Layer)
    Liquid Supplements: JBL Ferropol Weekly
    Everyday Supplements: JBL Ferropol 24

    Filters: 2 External Filters (1400l/hr) + 1 builtin OHF.

    Live Stocks: NIL, Will Begin with Tetra, Rainbow, Corydoras – Once cycled and bacteria colony established – Discus Fish in the Future for sure
    PH: Neutral Generally, sometime rises but max 7.4
    Temp: 27-29 Generally

    Note: Will not be intrested to use a Co2 euipment in near future.

    Plants Intrested in:

    Java Fern
    Jungle Val
    Amazon Sword
    Dwarf Sag i.e Sagittaria
    Crypts i.e Cryptocoryne
    Rotala Indica


    1) Do i need a co2 reactor mandatorily? I will be having fertlizer and T5 lighting (2*45W), will this alone cause algae bloom? as these three needs to be in balance i.e co2, light, fert/
    (or, should i stick on with my current lighting 30W T8 (Blue and Pink) with fertlizer mentioned above without Co2.)
    2) Airstone/spraybars? some say do not use, other say use, as it will remove co2 from tank. Then, how do i supply sufficent oxygen level for both fish and plants – and nighttime would be nightmare for both.
    3) Surface agitation is required/not required in a planted fish tank with no airstone?

    All you comments will be highly appreciated. And thanks to all in advance.

  8. Hi sudip,
    Ami ai oscar chere ektu simple plantet setup korte chai besi highfy noe. so can you please guide me for that?? and can i use only stones in place of sand and mud in the base???

  9. Hello Mr. Mandal,

    I want to thank you for a very straight forward write up on setting up a low tech planted tank. I really appreciate the lighting information. I do have a couple of questions. Since the type of bulbs used has some effect on the lighting quality, do you have any different input relating to the use of LED lights. I have a long( 35.5in)12gallon with a marineland 36″-45″ LED light of 8.5 watts. What do you think of 0.71 Watts LED per G in a narrow tank like this? Have not set this up yet.
    Again, thanks for a great article on low tech planted tanks. I think it is the best one I have found.



  10. Sir Mandal, Good Morning, and your articles have made this morning so good, as good as the pearling effect. Your research and dedication is sincerely appreciated and surely all this wasn’t possible without your hard work/interest.

    I’ve been planting for a decade now, and Ive probably used over a thousand litre of excel by now. Yes it works if used properly. and is expensive specially for a person who had a aquarium room, … AQUARIUM HOUSE i must say. Ive been trying and researching of other chemicals such as Hydrogen Perioxide which was good too if applied carefully, but it misses something.

    Could you please share your thoughts of precious experience if a substitute can be made which is atleast half effective of Excel.

    If its half effective, its still effective. I cant come over the fact that there is no substitute for Excel in this World.

    Please help!

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