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55g planted tank. What lighting?

This is a discussion on 55g planted tank. What lighting? within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> Originally Posted by WisFish oops. (hit the tab key by mistake) let me continue; Most of the bulbs will tell you how bright they ...

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55g planted tank. What lighting?
Old 09-28-2009, 01:48 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by WisFish View Post
oops. (hit the tab key by mistake) let me continue;

Most of the bulbs will tell you how bright they are by the lumens rating. When I was looking for a light for my 55gal tank, here's the figures I came up with for the bulbs you'd find in a typical fixture. Most of the fixtures would use more than 1 bulb. These are just estimates and again, vary by manufacturer.

48" T-5 HO 54 watts 4400-5000 lumens
48" T-5 28 watts 2750 lumens
48" T-8 32 watts 2700-3000 lumens
48" T-8 40 watts 3500 lumens
48" T-12 40 watts 3000 lumens
22" CFL 65 watts 5400 lumens
The Life-Glo 2 that I favour is 320 lux for the 48-inch 40w tube. The Life-Glo 2 T5 HO 48-inch 54w tube is 430 lux. So that is about 25% more brightness. Which meant that with two tubes, the T5 were 50% more bright than the regular; that made a considerable difference--comparable to three of the regular tubes. After a week I went back to the regular tubes. I've had everything in balance for 12 years, and I couldn't see the use in increasing the light that much and risking algae blooms. Besides which, it really was very bright to look at; and the small fish show their colours better under "subdued" lighting. I think they're happier, and I know I am.


Last edited by Byron; 09-28-2009 at 01:50 PM..
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:26 PM   #22
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I agree. I tried the 2 tube T-5 Ho fixture and it was way too bright. I switched to the three tube t-8 fixture thinking I could remove 1 tube if it was too bright. Turns out the 3 bulb fixture worked out fine. But the two tube model probably would have been fine. At first I had an algae outbreak. Now that the plants have matured, I only have to clean the algae once to twice a month. For anyone having plants, the amount of light, nutrients and CO2 really come down to the plants you're going to have. I have to trim the jungle vals and wisteria to allow the rest of the plants to get some light. But if the tank doesn't have too many leaves at the top to use the light, I'd probably go with less light.
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Old 09-29-2009, 01:21 PM   #23
What are you guys using for fertilizer? also do you have a substrate down before you put gravel in, if so what do you guys recommend? Also i see root tablets. do i need these also? Sorta new to plants, Only had one planted tank and it was low mlight plants. I dont want to skimp out on anything this time.

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:25 PM   #24
Also what sort of ground should i have? sand, gravel what?
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:01 PM   #25
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Tim, for the substrate regular aquarium gravel at the smallest grain size is recommended by every plant authority I have so far read, and I have used this for 12 years with good plant growth. The small grain size allows the plants to root, encourages the necessary bacteria activity in the substrate, and is easy to maintain. Too coarse a grain and the plants sometimes have difficulty rooting (some plants like swords and crypts have very extensive root systems) and it traps too much larger detrius; too fine (like sand) and it can compact unless you are vigilant in preventing compaction. A natural and dark colour is best because it is more "natural' and the colours of the plants (and fish) look better. There are many fish that colour up better over a dark substrate.

I do not use enriched substrates, by which I mean a layer of dirt, laterite, planting medium, etc., under the gravel. Some do, and there is no problem doing so. But it is not necessary, and it does take a bit more work and care to prevent mixing the material with the gravel, stirring up dirt, etc., plus there is the aspect of additional nutrients leeching into the water column if not used by the plants. The latter effect is comparable to overdosing liquid fertilizer: if you have more nutrients in the water than what the plants need, algae will take control. That's why I do not favour planting mediums in the substrate; once it's there, you can't remove it except by tearing down the tank. In 1996 I did try laterite, but could detect no improvement in the plants compared to the other two tanks without laterite (same type of plants, same light, etc). No point in wasting money.

I do use root fertilizer, specifically Hagen/NutraFin's Plant-Gro sticks. There is also the Seachem Flourish tablets. I prefer the former because they last a year (compared to 3 months for Flourish), and are less expensive. And I have had incredible results with this particular stick. These, whichever, are only needed next to the larger swords and crypts. Both these genera of plants have extensive root systems as I mentioned above and they are heavy feeders. Non-substrate rooted plants like stem plants, Anubias, Java Fern will not benefit from root fertilizer because the roots are not in the substrate (Anubias, JF) or the root systems occur all along the stems (stem plants) and liquid fertilizer in the water is sufficient. All plants obviously pull the nutrients out of the water, mainly through roots but also through leaves; heavy feeders getting those nutrients close to where they grab them helps them utilize them.

Which brings me to liquid fertilizer. I use Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium and have for a year now. Previously I used Kent Freshwater Supplement with to me comparable results. The main thing is using a complete ("comprehensive") fertilizer. Plants require a number of different macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients, and in a specific balance to each other. Flourish Comprehensive has this balance (you can see the list on their website). Any product that does the same would be as good I'm sure. The thing to avoid is getting different nutrients (like iron, magnesium, potassium, copper...) and dosing ad hoc. This is not only very expensive, it is risky. There is the real danger than either something will be missing, or something will be in excess of what the plants need or can store, and that brings other trouble. I have myself once overdosed on magnesium and the plants developed holes in the leaves; I read on the Aquatic Plant forumn of potassium excess causing plants to stop taking up iron. It is safer to use a comprehensive fertilizer. Once a week may be sufficient, or twice, depending upon the plants, how many, light and CO2 levels.

A last point on CO2 (carbon dioxide); I don't add CO2 or liquid carbon, I leave the CO2 to the fish to provide, and I balance the fertilizer and light accordingly. In a relatively heavily planted aquarium you can have more fish than in the same one without plants. The thing is all in the balance. My approach is certainly more low-tech than high-tech; the advantages are less cost to set up and maintain, and because I am relying heavily on the biological actions of the inhabitants (fish, plants and bacteria) with little influence from me, it is more stable and less likely to develop problems. That's not to say other methods don't work, they do; but it comes down to what you want in terms of plants, fish, and layout of money to get it. My aquaria have been running like you see in the photos for 12 years with only weekly liquid fertilizer and yearly replacement of root sticks. And I can't begin to measure the beneficial effect this has on the fish.

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Old 09-29-2009, 03:18 PM   #26
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Great post as usual Byron!!! I'll just add a couple of thoughts.

I too use Seachems Flourish comprehensive once a week. It's easy to add and works great. The individual fertilizers are great if you know exactly what a given plant's requirements are and you test the water frequently to see if the water is deficient in that area. But to me that makes the hobby more of a science project. I’ve never used them myself but can appreciate their use.

I use gravel with Seachem Flourish root tabs and an UGF. The plants do great in gravel and the gravel is easy to clean. But I think the water circulating through the gravel because of my UGF causes the root tabs to dissolve too quickly. I have to add root tabs practically every 2 months. For that reason, I'm hoping to remove the UGF and switch the gravel to Seachem's Flourite. Flourite is supposed to be similar to my gravel as far as size and appearance yet it holds on to nutrients for the plants. This should eliminate my need for root tabs. Some people use 100% Flourite while others use a 50/50 mix with gravel. I haven't switched over yet because I really don't want to tear the tank down since everything looks so good.

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Old 09-29-2009, 04:43 PM   #27
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Forgot to mention I also use Flourish Excel as a CO2 alternative. I'm not sure if it's needed or not but I'm afraid to stop using it. If I stop and the plants start to die I'm worried they won't recover. But I did notice when I started using it it killed all the BB algae I had from the <1 watt light fixture I replaced.
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Old 10-09-2009, 02:38 PM   #28
Do t5HO bulbs run hotter? I've read that they do, and they need fans to run efficiently.

It sounds like it isn't a necessity from what I read here, but maybe i am under the wrong impression. I am getting a 48" fixture soon for my 55 and am trying to decide what bulb to use.

From what i have gathered the RO t5 is hands down better than the t8. If that is true i am just trying to weigh the ups and downs of the t5 RO versus HO.
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Old 10-09-2009, 06:20 PM   #29
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Yes the HO bulbs run hotter. I tried the Nova Extreme T-5 HO with two bulbs and it was hot. I returned it because it was too bright and the fan seemed faulty to me. It was really load. Sounded like a model airplane engine running all the time.

If you're going t-5 RO, I'd get the twin tube version at a minimum for a planted tank. Use the "daylight" or "full spectrum" bulbs.
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Old 10-09-2009, 09:06 PM   #30
If i retrofit my own t5ho's and put a computer fan on each end (one pushing, one pulling) to create air flow through it, do you think it would run okay? Or will it still run hot? Will it heat the water up as well?
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