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Old 03-18-2005, 03:29 PM   #1
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Aquarium lighting - for a beginner

Howdy folks,

I currently have a non-planted 30gl tank, I intend to begin planting in the near future, but waiting to see what happens with the husband/wife negotiations for a new 72gl bow front.

Nonetheless, I'm trying to decide how to go forward with lighting. I've read all over the place how the rule of thumb for even the easiest of live plants is to use 2wpg. I understand the average fish tank kit lighting doesn't come close to that (my current is 20w for 29 gallons, .68wpg). How do you get to that point, without having to spend a couple hundred on a heavy duty setup. I can spend what I need, but I don't want to spend far more than necessary.

I'm really looking at things from the perspective of the 72gl tank, where a 48" light hood would be the simple route. Now I can find a 48" light rig, low powered, and high powered, however the compact flourescant or other options don't seem to advertise even close to the 140 watts I'd need as a minimum. The best I've found is 2 - 40W - 48" bulbs, getting me to 80 watts. Thats still 1wpg.

I'm looking for opinion and/or experience. Its very probable that I'll be purchasing that new 72gl pretty soon, given the cost of the tank and equipment, I really want to make the smartest choices here from the start. Are there any faq's or articles I'm missing on how to achieve the given goal?
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Old 03-18-2005, 03:46 PM   #2
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Its hard to get up to high light - 3wpg - without moving to power compact lighting. The cheapest option, up front cost, is to overdrive normal fluorescents to a higher output. Long term, you'll spend more on replacing the bulbs, since they'll toast out after 6 months.
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Old 03-18-2005, 04:11 PM   #3
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as always, check www.ahsupply.com They have 13, 36, 55 and 96 watt bright kits (power compact) you can have them retro fitted (isn't hard to do, I helped a friend with one) into your current hood. Their prices are decent, but remember, included in the price is for their high polished aluminum reflector that supposedly reflects 162% of the light into the tank. Check it out, many people praise them. I don't thnk you'll be disappointed if you order from them. You could also get a 55 watt bright kit right now for your 30 gallon, and if you like it, then just order more for your 75 gallon.
HTH
-Stewie
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Old 03-18-2005, 04:28 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses, your comments are totally appreciated.

Malkore -
- I'm not trying to get to 3wpg, just the recommended 2 for your average live aquarium plant (if 2 isn't the average ok wattage, please advise). But given a 72gl tank, and a 2 bulb 48" hood, the highest i've spotted for sale is 40W bulbs, which in turn give me just over 1wpg. Any pointers on where I could find higher wattage's? I think i'd prefer a different approach, but if overdriving is significantly cheaper, i might be interested.

Stewie
- I just went through ahsupply.com a few minutes ago (passed through a week ago or so). I like the kits, and the prices are definately respectable. My concern here, and your experience may assist me here... If the bulb kit is only ~36" long, and I have a 48" tank, how will that effect plants on the outer edges? Is it just an assumed that your bulbs should be as close to tank length as possible? or as long as the light is the correct spectrum/wattage, it will still get to all of the tank ?

Overall, the best lighting options I've found so far are with them. The 162% advertised efficiency is a real selling point, especially with so many people on forums like this praising their equipment.

Nonetheless, thanks for the recommendations...
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Old 03-18-2005, 04:40 PM   #5
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A lot depends on what kind of plants and what variety you want. I currently switched over my 29 gal to a planted tank. The only lighting upgrade I did was to buy an all-glass versatop top ($16.99) and instead of a housing holding a single 20W bulb like you have, I picked up one that holds two 20W bulbs. (That was around $55). So for under $75 I was able to double my light, I now have 40 watts over 29 gal, so rougly 1.3-1.4 wpg. In doing research online for plants, I cam across many that seem to do fine with that kind of lighting. Plus, many other plants, even if they are advertised as needing 2 wpg, or 2.5 wpg, often will grow just fine with less. (Anarchis is supposedly a high-light plant that needs 2.5 wpg or greater according to all the "experts" on various plant websites, yet I had some in my tank with my 1.4 wpg and I think it grew about 2" of new growth in less than a week!)

Also keep in mind once you start getting into the 2.0 to 2.5 wpg range, you (seemingly) almost have to go to some kind of CO2 injection system. I know for myself, that was more work than I wanted to put in, so I intentionally kept my light low enough to where CO2 would not be needed.
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Old 03-18-2005, 06:00 PM   #6
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the ballast drives the bulb. if the ballast pushes 40watts, the light is taking in 40watts. a bigger bulb will still only receive 40 watts, and may not even light up.
with normal fluorescents, every 12" of bulb is 10watts. You can't change that unless you overdrive them with a bigger ballast.
The other option is going with power compact fixtures. To get 2wpg on a 72 gallon tank, you need about 150watts (obviously this is basic math). The 'issue' with bow fronts is that they are narrow at the back, and wide in the front...so you often have less light in the rear because you have to go with smaller bulbs.

But to hit 150watts of power compacts, it's $41.99 per 55watt kit from ahsupply, times 3 is $125.97, plus 3 bulbs at $18.99 each is $56.97... so $182.94 to get about 150watts over the tank.

You said you didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars, thus I recommended the overdriving of normal fluorescents.

Planted tanks aren't exactly 'cheap'. A higher light planted tank with CO2 injection (pressurized) will cost at least $10 per gallon to setup, not including fish or plants. In other words, budget at least $750 for the bowfront...although bowfronts are nearly double the price of a standard rectangular tank (at least around here) so you might wanna budget $1,000 just to be safe.
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Old 03-18-2005, 08:23 PM   #7
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Maklore,

IRT paying hundreds of dollars for the proper lighting, my intent was to say that I can surf around for preconstructed light kits with plenty of wattage for what 'seems' like inflated prices, 2-3 hundred plus... It just fascinates me how anything larger than 30 gallons will cost a pretty penny to light well enough for plants. Assuming one doesn't research the lighting aspect as well as one could. (smile)

My goal, if I get the 72gl, is really to stay under 2wpg, close, but under in hopes that I don't need to insert C02. I would intend (at this point at least) to go upwards with plant content/wattage in time, a year or two, but not to get started.

I have a 30gl now which Is handling itself pretty well. I think while I'm waiting for the 72gl decision to be made, I might try my hand with some low-light plants, to get a feel for them. However I think i'm going to start another thread (or find one already) directly on the topic of setting up a 72gl FW planted tank. The expenses i have calculated and expected already are well under $1000, but a large portion of that is chopped off with a custom/DIY tank stand.

Anywho, thanks a million for the comments here. I've searched for a while before resorting to threadstarting, but haven't got the answers quite the way I want them until here. All tolled, I think a 2x55w kit (178watts assuming 162% efficiency, so it could be safely said there is 140 watts shining) from ahsupply will end up being my starting point. As was mentioned, It shouldn't be hard to expand/double that, should more wattage be necessary. Not to mention, the solution being relatively inexpensive to start, yet setting the foundation for the best performance/scalability.


Anyway, sorry for being longwinded (smile). Thanks again.
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- 300W Jager Heater
- Emperor 400 - 40lbs Eco-Complete
- 1 Rainbow Sharks, 2 Marbled Angelfish
- 1 Gold Nugget Pleco
- 5 Red Wag Platys, 2 Gouramies (1xBlue, 1xGold)
- Jebo 110W/220W PC illumination
- Lightly planted(experimenting)
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Old 03-18-2005, 09:24 PM   #8
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Ebay....... I am currently in the market for some new lighting and while I was browsing through yesterday there were TONS of 48" set-ups of varying wattage (specifically designed for lighting planted tanks) at prices lower than what I have seen at retail stores. Yes, there's always a risk w/e-bay but the aquarium stuff I have purchased so far from their vendors has been GREAT!!!! (and cheaper than retail...always a plus)
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:42 PM   #9
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Excellent advice mandi. And PayPal is always great about guaranteeing your EBay purchases. IME, always use PayPal if you're buying on EBay. You might also want to check out www.aquabid.com. It's sort of like the EBay for aquarium nuts. You can find all sorts of incredible deals there, just make sure to check out the seller's references before you buy. A guy by the nick of Lowcoaster is one of the best and most reputable plant dealers around and you can find many incredible deals from him on AquaBid. HTH
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:59 PM   #10
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I actually followed you here Toker due to the question you placed in my thread. I have a similiar problem albeit the difference is you are going bowfront. I have researched the low maintenance plant question for over several weeks and the consensus I've recieved is that 1.4w per gallon is adequate for the low maintenance plants. I think the problem you will have is the bowed front. The light will dissipate as it follows the curvature of the tank. Have you considered a standard? It would save you some $$$.
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