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Old 11-18-2006, 12:59 AM   #1
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55 Gallon Planted Tank. Should I Upgrade Light?

Here is my situation:

I have been thinking that it would be really nice to have NICE LOOKING PLANTS in my tank, like quite a few of you on here. Currently I have 5 amazon swords, an ocelot sword, melon sword (noticing a pattern yet? LOL), some dwarf hairgrass (about 2 little clumps), 2 sprigs of anacharis, about 3 decent sized clumps of java moss that has lots of algae on it, an anubias bartari (spelling?), a banana plant, and a bunch of wisteria (quite a bit floating as well as planted). Oh, and some limnosomething aromatica.

My problem(s):

Do I have enough light? I have stock All-Glass Aquarium hoods with (2)15W (I believe) 18,000K Power-Glo (certain of this) bulbs. My plants don't seem to be "growing", they just seem to be "surviving". I want a lot of plant cover in the tank and I do not want any algae. I do not add CO2 because I can't afford that much for a setup and the DIY setups, I hear, are not recommended for a 55 gallon tank. I dose with Flourish (with iron) in the recommended amount (sometimes 1.5 times the recommended amount) about once a week/week and a couple of days.

Should I dose more often? Should I add anything else? Should I add tap water (very hard) to my next water change instead of the RO/DI that I normally add (ten gallons changed out per week/week and a half)? In this tank I have GBR's, ottos, BN plecos, glo-light tetras, and danios. (I am pretty sure that they can withstand some of the tap water as that is what I initially started the tank with and then added dechlor.

Right now the tank water is pretty soft from all of the water changes so maybe that is why my plants are starting to look like old lettuce (that dark green mushy color) in some spots. Some leaves are completely dieing, which is normal? Not a lot, usually a few then new ones grow. Maybe I should upgrade my lighting? ANY suggestions would be helpful.

P.S. Sorry about the long post.
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Old 11-18-2006, 01:11 AM   #2
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I think you should definitely upgrade the lighting. The plants you have need more light than you are giving them and I'm surprised they are still living. Stock 55g lighting is only enough to grow java fern and java moss really.

I don't think I'd dose as much as you are...I think I would dose every 2 weeks or so with the Flourish if you keep your current lighting. The plants can't be growing enough to use up the nutrients from dosing more than once a week.

Around 110 watts over the tank would be good. That would give you 2 watts per gallon which would be enough for the plants (well except the hairgrass) and you wouldn't need CO2. If you wanted, you could get a 2x65 watt fixture, for a little more light and add some stem plants...and you wouldn't need CO2. I have the same fixture and no CO2 on my 55g and it grows plants nicely.

I would shoot for atleast 2 watts per gallon with the swords...they are medium light plants. The hairgrass is more medium-high light. I couldn't get it to grow in 2.4 watts per gallon...something around 3 would be best for it. Limnophila aromatica is also a high light plant.

I think you should upgrade your lighting...and then pick plants according to how much light you have. Pretty much all the ones you have now won't thrive in stock lighting.
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Old 11-18-2006, 01:52 AM   #3
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First of all, thanks for taking the time to read all of that and reply. I wanted to point out that it really isn't "stock" lighting so to speak because it has better output bulbs. They are each 18,000 K compared to the normal 6,500K or 10,000K used by most people. The guy at the lfs said that these would be better suited for what I had seeing as how I chose to keep the stock hoods.

I am actually contemplating getting 260 watts, possibly what is listed in the classifieds on here (260 watt PC's), but I am not sure if I want to or not. I would need to get new hoods that will work with this light or a glass/acrylic top because I am not sure that I am comfortable with having a fixture above the water without anything underneath.

My tank is by no means "dark" but I am not sure if the plants are receiving the best quality light.
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Old 11-18-2006, 02:33 AM   #4
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First off, you need to think hard about want you really want.

Do you want to have a nice tank with 'some' plants in it?

Do you want to have a tank that can grow some common plants quite well, but others not so well, but you don't have to dose it every day?

Do you want a tank that you have to dose ferts every day and have to keep after or it will get over run with plants?


secondly its Limnophila aromatica, which needs more light then you have to grow nicely.

The 18,000K bulb does not put out anymore light then a 6700K bulb. Your LFS just made some money off you. (I, also have been bitten by the 18000K 20 Dollar bulbs. Once was enough for me. Let this be your lesson.) Home depot sells T-8 bulbs for 6 bucks that are just as good, well, they are better (same spectrum for less then half the price).

Let us know what you want and we will help you on your way.
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Old 11-18-2006, 02:34 AM   #5
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Which one would any of you guys/gals suggest that I buy or stay clear of and why. Thanks.

http://cgi.ebay.com/48-Power-Compact...QQcmdZViewItem

http://cgi.ebay.com/CORALIFE-48-AQUA...QQcmdZViewItem

http://cgi.ebay.com/48-INCH-JEBO-ODY...QQcmdZViewItem
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Old 11-18-2006, 02:48 AM   #6
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I would strongly suggest NOT putting 260 watts of CF over a 55 gallon tank until you have figured out what you are going to do about CO2. If you cannot afford to provide your tank CO2 then all of those links you provided are NOT good choices, even with 50/50 bulbs you are over 2 WPG of CF lighting.
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Old 11-18-2006, 02:50 AM   #7
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I think what I REALLY want is a nice planted tank that has a wide variety of plants. I want these plants to fill in the tank. I would like a "carpet" of some sort of plant (dwarf hairgrass would be nice if I could get it to grow)in a large section in the front. Lots of taller plants (jungle vals, swords, other neat/uncommon stuff that grows tall and bushy). Stuff that wouldn't grow to tall (6-8 or so inches) but has lots of leaves or places for fish to hide in/around/etc. for the middle and sides of the aquarium.

I don't mind having to trim every week or two to keep up with the plants. I don't want to have to dose ferts every day but once a week wouldn't be bad. I am interested in a VARIETY of plants but I want to make stuff look like it fits together, ya know? LOL. Maybe keep to a theme like south/central america,and what plants are found there, as my fish are from there. But then again I may see something that I like and just have to have it.

BTW - I had lots of anacharis... now I only have 2 stems left. Guess what? My limnophilia aromatica is doing very well LOL. I have NO clue HAHA. Aren't jungle vals lower light as well? I had some of them and they died. I think they were shaded by a LARGE aponogeton that I had, but have since thrown away. It must have been 24 inches long or more! Most of the leaves were on top of the water going half way across the tank.

EDIT: So anything over 2 watts per gallon I would have to add CO2? Should I give you my water parameters when I get a chance to make sure? If so, what would you need?
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Old 11-18-2006, 03:04 AM   #8
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IMO this is what I would do, since you said that money was tight. (again, this is ONLY what I would do)

I would purchase some glass tops and throw away those plastic hoods if you have them and run to home depot and pick up one or two shop lights. I would make myself a canopy. I know the shop lights are made to light rooms, but for 8 bucks they do a heck of a job for an aquarium. I would also pickup 2 or 4 pillips 6500K t-8 bulbs. Now you have 2 (bulbs) x 32 (watts) x 1.4 ( t-8 vs t-12) / 55 = 1.6 WPG or with two shotlighs you will have 3.2 WPG. And this only cost you 14 bucks for one shot light and bulbs and 28 for two shop lights plus the glass tops( and canopy if you desire).

I have a shop light on my tank rightnow. You can't beat the light for the price.

With the money you save from the light, you can spend on the CO2!

EDIT: FWIW I do not have a canopy, I just have the shoplight laying on the rim of my tank. It is hidden by my other light fixture.
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Old 11-18-2006, 03:10 AM   #9
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I was just reading about Flourish Excel and you can add it in place of CO2 as a source of carbon? This might be the route that I want to go along with new lighting (2 x 65 watt instead of 4 x 65watt).
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Old 11-18-2006, 03:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bs6749
I was just reading about Flourish Excel and you can add it in place of CO2 as a source of carbon? This might be the route that I want to go along with new lighting (2 x 65 watt instead of 4 x 65watt).
Excel works well for a C source, but for a 55 gallon tank, it will end up costing a lot of money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bs6749
Aren't jungle vals lower light as well?
No, they are medium light plants.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bs6749
Guess what? My limnophilia aromatica is doing very well LOL
From plantgeek.net: "A slow growing species that requries high light and soft acidic water. Propagation by cuttings."

http://www.plantgeek.net/plantguide_viewer.php?id=147

Maybe it's not limnophilia aromatica?
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Old 11-18-2006, 11:20 AM   #11
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The link that you provided does not work for me. I do believe you on the limnophilia aromatica, I am not sure as to what I have. I looked up what it should look like and it is definitely not that. It has only been in the 55 gallon for about 2 weeks as I kept it in a 10 gallon previous to that. Maybe it will start to die off, but I am seeing new leaves every morning. It is weird too because the leaves grow two at a time and are staggered (right and left one level, then the next is front and back). This is not what is weird to me, what I find to be weird/neat is how the leaves point up to make a sort of cone that protects the new leaves that are being made.
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Old 11-18-2006, 11:25 AM   #12
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EDIT: sorry for the hijack.

BACK on topic!
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Old 11-18-2006, 12:44 PM   #13
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While you may be able to go a little over 2WPG without needing CO2, it's not a certain thing. The 2-2.5WPG is the grey area where you may or may not need CO2. As long as you keep you lighting under 2WPG you can be fairly certain that you won't need CO2.

Unfortunately some of the things that you want to do with your tank, would be nearly impossible without high light and CO2. Namely your carpet. There are a few plants that can be used in lower light to form a carpet, but they won't grow as fast or form that really nice thick carpet look.

The only think that the Kelvin rating tells you is what the color is going to look like to the human eye. It has nothing to do with the actual light output, which is measured in lumens. Generally most bulbs that fall between 5000K and 10000K will look good to the human eye and have peaks in the right areas for plants.

While DIY CO2 is possible on a 55 Gallon tank, it's certainly not recommended. The larger the tank is, the harder it is to maintain good CO2 levels this way. Pressurized CO2 makes your life so much easier in the end. You may want to start saving up for the Pressurized CO2, and do an inexpensive shop light upgrade to your lights in the mean time. This should give your current plants a better environment, and time to save up for the High Light CO2 tank that you seem to want down the road.
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Old 11-18-2006, 01:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkilling1
EDIT: sorry for the hijack.

BACK on topic!
Whatever you said, I don't mind. If it helps me or others learn something then I am all about it. I know it can be hard to avoid and I really don't mind in the least.

How much are we talking for a pressurized system. One that is failry inexpensive but good quality.

Also, I had a thought last night. After reading, I found from various sources various answers as the when (at what wpg) CO2 is needed. Some claimed over 2, some over 2.5, and some over 3. I believe you guys/gals on here since you have had personal experience with plants and lighting but how can answers vary that much. Is it the types of plants in the tank?

One other thing I was wondering is, if I DID get the 260 watt fixture (I want one with moonlights) would it be okay to run the back two bulbs for 6 hours, then have the front two bulbs turn on for 2 hours (all 260watts active at this time), then have the back two bulbs turn off after the 2 hours (front two still lit) and keep the front two on for 6 hours?

In short I would have 130 watts in the first 6 hours, 260 in hours 7-8, and 130 watts in hours 9-12. The bulbs would be the same either 6500K or 10,000K (which ones look better?) and the light would be on continuously through the 12 hour period, i.e. no breaks in between. Would this allow me to possibly grow some medium-high light plants? The reason that I thought of this was thinking about the sun being the most intense in the afternoon for a period of time. Or do any of you think that this is a bad idea and why?

So I was also wondering, what is "bad" about having too much light? Is it that if the plant doesn't have a carbon source (CO2) that it won't grow well? If that is the case then it would just be like overkill right? Where a plant can only use so much because CO2 is the limiting factor in growth???Now for measuring CO2, how do I go about that. Is it KH? I forget. I know that I have a relatively high KH though.

Thanks for any input.

Also, money may not be that short for that much longe, but I still don't know if I want to do injected CO2. Probably give it a try first without it then if I NEED it I may decide to get it.
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Old 11-18-2006, 10:48 PM   #15
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Basically High Light + No CO2 = Algae. The reason that you are going to see CO2 recommended at a variety of lighting levels, has to do with the quality of the lighting involved. You can have 2.5WPG over two tanks, but a significantly different amount of light will actually make it into the tank. One big factor is the reflector being used. A really good reflector will direct the majority of the light into the tank with little loss, while a poor reflector will absorb a large portion of the light and/or direct it into the room instead of the tank. Another factor is the bulbs that are used. A quality bulb will have a high lumen output and the spectral range will be excellant for plant growth, while a poor bulb will have low lumen output and/or poor spectral range for plant growth. It's factors like these that make it impossible to tell for sure at what point a tank will require CO2, but as a general rule most tanks will need CO2 somewhere between Medium and Medium High Light.

A fairly basic Pressurized CO2 Setup will run in the neighborhood of $150 - $200. This will partially depend on how much you have to spend to get the CO2 cylindar locally. The Regulator will be about $100 give or take a little depending on make/model and where you buy it from and how many extras it comes with. The cylindar and first fill make up the majority of the rest of the cost.
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Old 11-19-2006, 02:17 AM   #16
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The amount and types of plants also has to do with the different values of wattage needing CO2. You can have 130 watts over a 55g tank (2.4wpg), have lots of fast growing plants (which will outcompete the algae), and not need CO2....and have minimal algae growth. You can also put 130w over a 55g and have slower growing plants...just a few anubias, crypts, maybe a few stems, with no CO2 and have a ton of algae....because those plants grow slower and will not compete for the nutrients that the algae feeds off of.


Quote:
One other thing I was wondering is, if I DID get the 260 watt fixture (I want one with moonlights) would it be okay to run the back two bulbs for 6 hours, then have the front two bulbs turn on for 2 hours (all 260watts active at this time), then have the back two bulbs turn off after the 2 hours (front two still lit) and keep the front two on for 6 hours?
I think this could possibly work. You'd have to have a large plant mass IMO to have minimal algae...and use some Excel as a carbon source. 2 hours is probably the most I'd have all 4 bulbs on. Really though...you might as well not use all 4 bulbs at once without CO2. You could still alternate the back and front....then if you decide to eventually get pressurized CO2, you could use all 4. A heavily planted 55g with 130w over it will do fine without CO2 as long as you use mostly fast growing plants (stem plants)....IME. I know because I have one like this. And I have minimal algae.
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