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Necessity of CO2
Ms. McLaughlin brought this up, so I'll comment.
It isn't necessary to add CO2 to have a lush and beautiful planted tank,
Your light levels and your CO2 levels need to be balanced for the type of
plants that you want to grow. I think that if you want to grow a wide
variety of plants in one tank under high light conditions then you will
need to add CO2. If you stick to plants that are well adapted to
submersed growth and capable of competing for low CO2 levels and/or using
bicarbonate as their carbon source then you can use high light without
CO2. Under lower light conditions even plants that aren't real
competitive at low CO2 levels can grow beautifully, although more slowly.
Some plant keepers also use CO2 levels that are higher than the minimum
they need so they can promote rapid growth. The rapid growth provides a
nice advantage; plants that are growing rapidly can quickly replace
damaged leaves, fast-growing stem plants can be pruned and replanted
and older damaged or algae-ridden stems can be removed or hidden. This
gives them more flexibility in their aquascaping and makes it easier to
maintain an attractive tank.
When you use extra CO2 to promote rapid growth you also have to make sure
your fertilizing regimen keeps apace with plant growth, or growth will
slow down and deficiency symptoms will damage the vigor and beauty of the
plants. The amount of hands-on maintenance also increases as the growth
rate increases and the possibility of uncontrolled nuisance algae growth
So while CO2 isn't necessary, using CO2 gives us a way to fit our tanks to
our needs. It's up to the aquarist whether they want the extra
flexibility, high growth and high maintenance promoted by adding CO2, or
whether they want the lower growth and correspondingly lower maintenance
that comes with little or no CO2.