Lighting advise for a total noob - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 3 Old 02-05-2011, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
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Lighting advise for a total noob

This is my second time working with a tank and my first time putting in the research to create a planted one. So I am the first to admit that I'm a total noob and am extremely susceptible to "opinion" which I find a great deal of on the topic. My biggest confusion is lighting. First I read "blue spectrum lighting" so I get Aquatic - Products. Now I see that I need at least 2 watts / gal and this is only a 15 watt bulb in a 20 gal tank. The hood fixture only has a spot for 1 bulb and doesn't support anything higher than 15 watts. So, before I spend the money on a new light fixture I would like to get some advise based on what I have, have done and am looking to do.

At present I have a 20 gal tank (using the above mentioned light). I have placed a 1 bag of CaribSea FloraMax as substrate topped with a few bags of gravel. I just finished getting DIY CO2 system working. It's connected to a bubble latter and the bubbles are almost completely dissolved before reaching the top of the ladder. Currently the tank only has a couple of plants that I picked up at PetsMart, before I did my research on the plants, and a few more appropriate for underwater. I have a couple of umbrella plants and some grass plants (not hair grass and I can't seem to find my information on the plant). After purchasing and planting I did some research and found that both types of plants are not for full submersion, but strangely all of them are alive after three months and the umbrellas have starting producing new chutes. I honestly expected them to be dead by now after I looked them up. I also have 1 anubius, 1 Amazon Sword and three water wisteria that I put in the tank 1 week ago. I currently have no fish, not until I complete the plant set up that I'm looking to do. I am dosing weekly with Flourish.

The plan: I am looking at something of a meadow set up. I've seen some pictures of some really nice aquariums with several tall plants and floaters as well. Though beautiful tanks, it's not what I'm looking to create. I like the idea of an open style theme with some tall plants in the back corners to give the tank more of a miniature world feel. So I'm looking at placing the larger plants in the back corners. Using dwarf hairgrass as the center back plants and carpeting the entire foreground with HC. I still anticipate the umbrella plants to go eventually so planning to put them along the sides next to the wisteria and sword.

I'm holding on ordering the HC and hairgrass until I have the lighting solution that will work for them. I have been looking at two lighting systems but I'm shooting in the dark and hoping you guys with more experience can help out. The ones I'm looking at are Odyssea T5 High Output Lighting & Odyssea T5 High Output Lighting.

I also have one more totally noob question. Neither of these actually fit to replace my existing hood. The current hood is 23" long by 4" wide. I need to maintain some sort of cover since I also have dogs, birds and cats with considerable dander getting everywhere. Not to mention I don't wants my little friends to be able to jump out when they get to their knew home. Any advice you guys can give on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

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post #2 of 3 Old 02-06-2011, 12:56 AM
The light you have is appropriate for plant growth. The primary photosynthetic cell in the plant, chlorophyl, uses purple/blue and red light. The ideal bulb is a "daylight" bulb with a 6500K rating, which you have. A successful planted tank is always about balance. A balance between light and nutrients. If you haven't already, there is a very good thread that is posted as a sticky at the top of the aquarium plants forum. I know it's a lot to read (4 parts), but it is worth reading all of it at least once. There is a separation of planted tank philosophy that is divided into "high tech" and "low tech". It sounds like you're interested in the high tech route. This involves a well calculated balance of CO2, light intensity/duration, substrate, nutrient dosing, and management of an hyper-optimum environment. It is difficult to do, especially for your first planted tank. I'd equate it to wanting to learn basketball and instead jumping right into a game. However, you are preparing yourself well with an enhanced substrate, quality lighting, CO2, and a reputable supplement (Flourish). Personally I would go with the second lighting setup of the two. While 48 watts over 20 gallons doesn't sound like much it really is. T5 HO lighting came after the watts per gallon rule. I would pick the lesser wattage to avoid an explosive algal growth. In my opinion 70+ watts is excessive. As far as covering the aquarium, you should be able to pick up a sheet of glass or plexiglas at a hardware store for the tank. HC and hair grass require a lot of light. I am currently experimenting with both in high and low Watt/Gal conditions. The hair grass seems to do alright with a lower amount of light, but the HC has not.
Aqua Jon is offline  
post #3 of 3 Old 02-06-2011, 01:51 PM
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I agree the light you linked at first is fine.

I'll just comment a bit on high vs low tech. Once you starting adding CO2 you are leaving low tech. There are many "levels" between the extremes of low and high tech, and as Aqua Jon correctly said, it's all about balance. Plants can only photosynthesize (grow) if there is adequate light with adequate nutrients to balance that light in its duration, intensity and spectrum.

I personally do not use CO2 because I find that there is sufficient in the aquarium to maintain good healthy plant growth which serves my particular purpose. If one wants faster growth for some reason, then CO2 will achieve that, provided the light is increased proportionally along with nutrients. That decision is yours, and should be based upon what you want from the plants in terms of the fish. Most of the fish we keep are forest fish that occur in habitats with fairly low light entering the water, and they will be "happier" in similar environments. That is the main reason I go low tech, or natural as I prefer to term it, minimal light, nutrients to balance, and let nature do most of the work rather than my intervention. The photos of my tanks [under "Aquariums" below my name on the left] utilize this method, as I explained in that series of articles AJ mentioned. I have much less than 1 watt per gallon, but it is the right light and the nutrients balance, so it works.


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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