How to light a 55 gallon blackwater tank and still grow plants? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 14 Old 06-29-2010, 01:13 PM Thread Starter
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How to light a 55 gallon blackwater tank and still grow plants?

Hello all first time poster on your fine site.

I have a question regarding lighting up a standard 55 gallon tea color amamzon themed tank and still have enough light to grow plants and enhance the color of the fish?

The stocking is as follows;

6 Julii cory, 10 Bloodfin Tetra, 10 Redeye Tetra and 6 Blue Rams cichlids.

Substrate is silica sand.

Currently has stock lighting with canopy but looking at the Coralife Aqualight T5 Series - Double Linear Strip--not the ho.

Would this light take away the tea color water or just enhance it more. I DO want the tea color.

Is their a combination of bulbs that would be effective for both jobs?

The plants I want to grow are Amazon Swords, Vals, Cabomba and Wisteria.

The current stock lighting is not enough for the vals and swords and cabomba.

Any ideas?

Thanks,

Dan
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post #2 of 14 Old 06-29-2010, 09:54 PM
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I would start with some 6700K plant bulbs or 6500K "cool white" bulbs. they are not soo cool that they wash out your warmer colors and its what your plants want. you can go cooler or warmer from there.
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post #3 of 14 Old 06-29-2010, 11:40 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks FuzzAz

Any advise about the 48" double t5no lights? will they be too strong or just enough to give about 1.5-2.0 wpg?
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post #4 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 02:18 AM
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Thanks FuzzAz

Any advise about the 48" double t5no lights? will they be too strong or just enough to give about 1.5-2.0 wpg?
I think the bulbs would be good place to start. The plants (swords,cabomba,wisteria) in my limited expierience do better with considerable light, and swords might benefit from a root tab placed at the base of the plant each month.
Personally in blackwater tank , I might select Java Fern,Crypt,and Anubia. Have grown these in low light conditions but they grew very slowly. Just my two cents

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post #5 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 12:33 PM Thread Starter
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Appreciate the advice.

Dan
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post #6 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 02:35 PM
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Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum Dan.

Following up on previous responses, a full spectrum tube (with a kelvin rating around 6500K) will produce the truest colour rendition of fish and plants, as it is very close to mid-day sun. A warmer K rating (below say 5500K) will highlight reds [appears "warm"] and obviously affect the colours of the fish and plants and probably the tannin-coloured water. Going the opposite direction, above 6500K, will add more blue and less red, [a "cool" hue]. Plants perform best under a combination of full spectrum and cool white, so with two tubes once can have a full spectrum 6500K and a cool white. With one tube, the 6500K tends to be best because it provides the necessary colours for plant growth plus a true rendition of colours.

As to the type, over a 55g I would say either a single-tube T5 with NO [normal output] or a single tube T8. I had a single T12 over my 55g years ago (before T8's came along) and it grew beautiful swords. My larger tanks now have two tubes, T8 in all cases, and you can see the colour rendition and plant response in the photos under my "Aquariums" at the left under my name.

T5 NO tubes are not all that common in stores, and are expensive. T8 you can buy at hardware stores for a few dollars, and the daylight tubes (around 6500K) by Phillips, Sylvania or GE work fine; I have a couple on my tanks. So, I would go with T8 (regular) fluorescent fixture and single tube over your 55g. You will have no difficult growing swords, vals or wisteria; cabomba might be a bit different. Stem plants are fast growing and thus tend to require more light and nutrients. Liquid fert will be needed, and as 1077 suggested root ferts (tabs or sticks) next to the larger swords will provide a boost. Stem plants only need liquid.

By the way, there is a 4-part series of articles at the head of this section entitled "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" that may provide more info, or you can always ask us.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #7 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 03:06 PM
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It's true that Java fern, Java moss, and Anubias thrive in lower light levels, but that doesn't mean other plants won't do just as well (as long as nutrients and CO2 are in the proportionate amounts)

Sounds nice- I have a blackwater setup for my green terrorss...

Were you purposefully going for a south-american biotope?
If so, thats another reason not to go for the java ferns (malaysia) and anubias (africa). :)

Out of curiosity, what is the stock lighting for the tank?

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post #8 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Byron, always look forward to reading your posts.

One reason I wanted to go with t5, was the compactness of the fixture and since it is show tank, hardware store fixtures wont cut it for me...way too bulky and ugly. at least what I can find here.

I;m a little surprised you mentioned only a single tube t5.. would that have enough light to penetrate to the bottom of a stanadard 55?


Dan
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post #9 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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redchigh, right now all i have for plants are wisteris(barely), a couple of anubias and some java fern.

Stock lighting is 2 24" canopys with 18" tubes at 15 watts each.. No where near enough to grow the plants I want.

You are right about the biotope I was purposely going for it. Not with the java ferns and anubias though just something I got to throw into the tank for now. With a proper lighting setup, I wou;d most likely stay with Amazon Swords and other South American plants.

I have a few pieces of Malaysian driftwood and runningn peat through my filter.. Very nice tea color..I likee a lot.
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post #10 of 14 Old 06-30-2010, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by The Baron View Post
Thank you Byron, always look forward to reading your posts.

One reason I wanted to go with t5, was the compactness of the fixture and since it is show tank, hardware store fixtures wont cut it for me...way too bulky and ugly. at least what I can find here.

I;m a little surprised you mentioned only a single tube t5.. would that have enough light to penetrate to the bottom of a stanadard 55?


Dan
I'm assuming by standard 55g you mean a 4-foot 55g tank that is 12 inches front to back, and whatever deep. If so, then absolutely, one tube in T8 or T5 NO is adequate. T5 HO would be too much in my opinion; too much for the fish, which to me come first. The plants can make do, and they will.

I bought two new "All Glass" fixtures last year for my 90g and 70g, 4-feet, twin tube. They are very compact and look good on the tank--did you see the photos? And I believe they are well constructed. I am very happy with these. If you were thinking of building your own with "shop fixtures" etc., that's different.

From your subsequent post, I would agree the present two smaller tubes are cutting it very fine and would not be the preffered choice, but a single 48-inch across the length of the tank, fine. Plants require a lot less intensity of light than some would have us believe. All of my tanks but one have less than 1 watt per gallon, and with my T8 tubes that is still a reasonable guide; yet I have fantastic plant growth that authors have said is impossible with less than 2 watts. And interesting observation, the tank that has just over 1w per g (80w on the 70g) is the one with more algae issues (cyanobacteria); there are also much fewer fish in this tank (only 36 small fish). It's all about balance, and this tank does not have it.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 06-30-2010 at 04:53 PM.
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