Help me do it right: Low tech, low maintenance planted nano tank

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AC Members
Aug 1, 2017
I'm not new to fish keeping but I'm new to planted tanks. I would like a 5 gallon desktop tank for my office that is low tech and low maintenance. So far I like the Fluval Spec 5 but I'm not set on it. The included light is 7000k and I assume it will be good for low and moderate light requirements. The room this will be set up rarely gets over 70 degrees and is probably over to 66-68 in winter but it's stable. I am not opposed to using a heater depending on what type of plants/fish I decide on. I will be able to do water changes weekly or bi-weekly if needed.

I want simple, easy to establish and maintain, less than $250 for the tank, plants, substrate, heater, etc. Fish are secondary, I plan to decide on plants first and after the tank is setup and established I will let the water parameters determine which type of fish I go with.

I don't mind adding fertilizer regularly but I do not want to add CO2. Is this doable? Any suggestions on substrate, plants, etc would be greatly appreciated. If you were doing a similar setup how would you do it? I'd rather do it right from the start rather than struggle so if I'm not being realistic please let me know that as well.


Mar 29, 2005
see if this helps..

A fancy betta will require a small heater, I think the plants should be OK at room temperature, I would personally do neocaridina shrimp in there for something simple.. but hopes it helps give a start either which way
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Feb 26, 2020
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Neo shrimp! Minimal water changes would be needed compared to fish options, no need for a heater or even a filter for that matter--could just use an airstone for circulation.

Any low light plants like moss, anubias nana petite, Bucephalandra, and Java fern would all work for a small 5 gallon low light. Of the mosses, sußwassertang is really nice, shrimp love it as well.

If a heater is doable, look into a single male scarlet badis if interested in a fish option instead of fish... only thing is these guys need live foods or maybe frozen as they don't take to prepared foods easily, and shouldn't be expected to transition. Best be prepared with the feeding situation there. But really fun fish option for the tank size and would be more than happy with low light plants and mosses to explore.