20 Gallon Low Tech Planted Tank (Setup Breakdown)

By Billy | Updated: January 8, 2023 | Planted Tanks

20-Gallon Tank

I went for the UNS 60s 20-gallon aquarium because I wanted the space for more fish. My first tank was a 5-gallon portrait, which limited my stock options. This is my second UNS rimless tank, and I’m a big fan. I don’t think I could ever return to a regular aquarium again.


There’s a total of eight Neon Tetra and twenty cherry shrimp. I picked these with intention because of the colors. The vibrant blue of the Neon Tetra contrasts nicely with the bright red/orange shrimp.

neon tetra


Since my tank is low-tech (no C02 injection), I went with hardy plants. Starting with the foreground, I used Pearl Weed (Hemianthus Micranthemoides). This isn’t the hardiest plant, but I saw it at my local store, and they said it was fairly easy to grow. So far, it’s growing fast and doing well.

I then scattered some Anubias Nana throughout the midground. I glued two of them to the pacific wood arch. Then two of the larger ones I put at the base of the arch.

For the background, I used six Java Fern (Microsorium Pteropus). I tried angling it towards the center to draw attention to the pacific wood arch. Creating a visually compelling composition is one of the main reasons I love building planted tanks.

aquarium plants


The light is the Fluval Planted 3.0 (15inch). I decided to stick with Fluval since I’ve had a great experience with their Planted Nano light. You can find cheaper alternatives, but the main selling point for me is their app.

You can connect to it via Bluetooth on your phone, customize the light levels, and have it automatically turn on. This way you don’t have to manually turn it on and off daily.

fluval light


Fluval stratum substrate is what I’ve been using, and it works well. For this setup, two (8.8lbs) bags was enough.


Pacific wood mixed with small Estes Pagoda Stone. The centerpiece is two pacific wood mixed to form an arch.

20 gallon planted tank hardscape


Some issues I ran into and how I solved them.

The first issue was the opaque white fungus/bacteria on the pacific wood. This appeared just a few days after I set up the tank. I would brush it off almost every single day, but it kept coming back. The solution was adding 20 cherry shrimp because they feast on it. It’s nonexistent now.

Another challenge I ran into was trimming the pearl weed. The roots are incredibly thin, making it easy to unroot them. I don’t think I would get it again because of this.


I've been building freshwater aquariums with my dad since a young age. A few years ago, I shifted my focus to low-tech planted tanks. My goal is to share my experience to help make yours easier.