Technology is great. It makes our lives easier, it keeps us entertained, it saves lives, and it helps us maintain our aquariums. As nice as technology is, some people believe that technology doesn’t belong in an aquascape. After all, aquariums replicate nature, so it kind of misses the point to create a natural aquascape and then fill it with lots of gadgets and gizmos.
There’s a technology spectrum for aquariums. Over at one end you’ve got high-tech aquariums with LEDs, pumps, filters, remote-controlled feeding systems, robotic glass cleaners, computers, transmissions, nuclear reactors, space lasers, and a dozen other machines. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got a glass box and that’s it. Today, we’re going to take a look at technology’s role in aquariums to see where you fall on the technology-natural scale.
Adding technology to an aquarium generally does two things: It makes your life easier and it increases the price tag. Filters, pumps, water heaters, and similar pieces of technology take care of critical maintenance so that your fish stay happy and healthy. Unfortunately, these pieces of equipment elevate your initial start up price and they’ll increase your electricity bill by a few extra bucks.
In my opinion, the biggest problem with high-tech aquariums is that technology can be distracting. I personally like a natural, organic look with my aquarium, so filters and pumps can ruin the overall aesthetic if they’re not properly hidden within the aquascape.
I love low-tech aquariums, but you really have to keep a close eye on your aquascape. Taking out pumps and filters means that the tank’s inhabitants will have to take up the responsibility of maintaining the tank. You’ll still have to get involved (all tanks need water changes, for example), especially if an imbalance messes up the ecosystem.
On the bright side, low-tech aquariums are more authentic and they can have a smaller price tag. But as Kris Weinhold points out, “Cost is a funny thing.” He adds, “You can absolutely set up a nice planted aquarium on the cheap. For low tech (low light, no CO2, etc), many aquarists have success by simply replacing their existing aquarium’s bulbs with bulbs that are more suited to grow plants. At this point, due to the lower light levels, the variety of plants that you can use are limited, but with careful plant selection you can have success. For high-tech aquariums, used CO2 equipment and lights can often be found on CraigsList, aquarium club auctions, etc for much cheaper than they would cost new. The cost will almost definitely be more than for low-tech aquariums, but the cost could be quite variable.”
Like anything else in the world of aquascaping, technology boils down to preference. It’s important to consider all of the variables and figure out the type of aquarium that’s right for you. Are you comfortable with aquarium lamps or would your rather specifically design an aquarium so that it can survive on natural sunlight? Do you want top of the line aquarium cleaners or would you rather leave janitorial work to shrimp and algae eaters? Do you prefer convenience or natural authenticity?
Ask yourself these questions before you start your aquarium, because low-tech aquariums have to meet very specific requirements in order to thrive without the help of technology. You also need to factor in your own personality. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to worry about daily maintenance, then you should probably opt for a high-tech aquarium even if you prefer low-tech’s aesthetic. In any event, just pick the aquarium that fits you!