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Old 02-19-2012, 11:36 PM   #1
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Lighting for lo-tech, lo-light plants?

I have a 55 gal kit that came with two 18" 15W bulbs, which I read somewhere is essentially only lighting enough to "see" vs. being in the dark. I'd like to have a few live plants in the tank that have low light requirements, as I plan to keep it low-tech. What kind of lighting should I really have? I'm assuming what I currently have is pretty inadequate even for what I would like. I thought I read somewhere 1-2 Watts per gallon. Are there any other considerations? Thanks!
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:43 PM   #2
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I would recommend a dual T5HO fixture. That would allow you to grow low light and medium light plants in a 55 without requiring CO2 injection.

T5-ho 4ft / 2LAMP Aquarium lighting

The link above goes to a suitable economically priced dual t5ho fixture.

On a tank that size, T8s or PC lighting just aren't the best option imo. PAR ratings on T8s and PCs is not very good for a tank that is almost 2ft deep. You could look at LED fixtures too, but that would be considerably more expensive.

For freshwater plant lighting, you want to pick up bulbs that have a color temp of 6500K-10000K. The color temp is important because if you gets bulbs in that range, the spectrum of lighting will be proper and optimized for growing plants.
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:52 PM   #3
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I'm a noob, so please forgive my noob questions, but just looked at the light and it says 8000K full spectrum daylight 15W 120V T8 . Is this adequate?
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:55 PM   #4
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Doubtful. It might grow some java ferns or java moss... but I wouldn't rely on it for much more than that (and even with those low light plants, it might sustain, but you won't see much growth). The color temp is correct - but unfortunately PAR rating (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) is extremely low at depth for T8's - and the wattage of your bulbs is insufficient to provide adequate lighting for most plants.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:10 AM   #5
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So is it possible to just get new bulbs, or do I need to get a new fixture as well? Trying to save $$.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:12 AM   #6
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Unfortunately, new bulbs are not going to help. Florescent fixtures are not like incandescents - each florescent fixture only takes a particular wattage and size of bulb - so if your fixture takes 15W T8s, than that is all you can put in it. You cannot go out and buy a 30W florescent bulb that would fit in your fixture.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:24 AM   #7
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Ugh! But thank you for your info.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:27 AM   #8
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You are welcome -

You might try growing some java ferns and java moss, and see how it goes, if you really don't want to commit to an upgrade right away. Unfortunately, lighting is about the most expensive (and most important) aspect of a planted tank. And, the biggest reason why beginners fail with live plants is their lighting is inadequate. Most folks at LFSs (even ones that sell plants) unfortunately just don't know much about the hobby of live plants, and make inappropriate recommendations on what patrons can grow, and often even sell plants that aren't suitable to aquatic environments. It is good you are doing the research up front to see what you are getting in to!
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:38 AM   #9
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I think I'll try that first--the Java Fern route. See how that goes, and take it from there. Thanks!
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Old 02-03-2013, 06:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fort384 View Post
I would recommend a dual T5HO fixture. That would allow you to grow low light and medium light plants in a 55 without requiring CO2 injection.

T5-ho 4ft / 2LAMP Aquarium lighting

The link above goes to a suitable economically priced dual t5ho fixture.

On a tank that size, T8s or PC lighting just aren't the best option imo. PAR ratings on T8s and PCs is not very good for a tank that is almost 2ft deep. You could look at LED fixtures too, but that would be considerably more expensive.

For freshwater plant lighting, you want to pick up bulbs that have a color temp of 6500K-10000K. The color temp is important because if you gets bulbs in that range, the spectrum of lighting will be proper and optimized for growing plants.
fort384, thanks for the lighting advice you gave me about lighting my 55 gal tank for decent plant growth. I'm almost ready to order the T5-HO lighting fixture from Fishneedit.com you mentioned in one of your replies to me, but there are some choices they give on the order that I have no idea about: all white, all actinic blue, 1white/1 blue, and 1white/1pink...???...also there are three color temp choices: 6500K, 10000K, 14000K. Would you be kind enough to explain which might be best for me? I'd like lighting to sustain a few more interesting plants than java fern and anubias, but still am a really low maintenance-ophile. Thanks in advance!
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