Originally Posted by Jmalone
There was a light fixture, but it was messed up when I received it from my friend so I'm just going to buy a new one, I dont mind spending a little bit of money on a new fixture....I just want one that has an output good enough for low and moderate light plants, maybe even some high light plants if theyre not too fussy....also with the sponge filter....how does that work?? is it a whole new filter set up? or will it work with my existing HOB....its an aquaclear 50 from Hagen, its a nice filter and two of the guys from the LFS reccomended it, but I feel like the intake tube is way too short for it as well
On the filter, if this is new, can you return/exchange it? It will work, but is not the filter of choice in a planted tank for more than one reason. Primarily the fish kept in such aquaria generally come from quiet streams and flooded forest and the less water movement the better. Also there is the issue of nutrients and plants, as I explain in Part 3 of the series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" at the head of the Aquarium Plants section. A sponge filter is basically a sponge with an airline connected to a pump. The reason these are so successful in planted tanks is that they move the water gently, and the sponge filters out particulate matter which keeps the water "clear." The plants do the main filtration job to keep the water "clean" so the two work together using nature more than filters.
If you are getting the light fixture, you can decide either on a full hood or a glass top (in sections that open for ease of feeding) with a light fixture that sits on the frame. I have this latter system on my larger tanks, it is far less costly. On smaller tanks I rather like the hoods. Your choice.
Whichever, I would go with a single-tube T8 fluorescent fixture. For a 36-inch long tank, the fixture will (should) hold a 30-inch tube. This will be fine (it's what I have on that 33g). A full spectrum or daylight type of T8 tube with a kelvin rating of 6500K or thereabouts is perfect. You can get these tubes at hardware stores for less money than "aquarium" types in fish stores, but either will work so long as it is full spectrum around 6500K. T8 should be replaced about every three years; the intensity lessens too much after that.
T8 is the regular fluorescent and refers to the tube diameter. T12 was the original fluorescent, a wider tube, now largely being phased out as the T8 uses less energy for slightly more light intensity. The T5 is newer, but not something I recommend wholeheartedly. There are two types of T5, HO (high output) and NO (normal output). The latter is approximately equal in intensity to a T8 tube of the same length, but the T5 NO are harder to find and come in far fewer types, whereas the T8 is widely available and the full spectrum by Phillips, Sylvania, GE are good tubes at a fraction of the cost. The T5 HO are approximately 1.5 times more intense than T8 in the same length and type (full spectrum) but the tubes are far more expensive, and having tried T5 HO I found it too bright and I took it back for T8. The fixture for T5 is different, so T5 and T8 tubes are not interchangeable. All considered, I prefer T8.