T5 Lighting 2, 3, or 4 bulbs on a 55gal? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 02-15-2011, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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T5 Lighting 2, 3, or 4 bulbs on a 55gal?

Are two T5 HO bulbs sufficient for a planted 55 gallon tank? I know it works, but is it optimal without using injected CO2? I'm planning to upgrade my lighting setup but didn't know if going with more T5HO bulbs would be helpful. I currently have two T5HO on the tank. So far, everything seems to be doing very well under the 2-bulb setup [except the myro and Cabomba - slow, but steady growth]. I'm dosing with Excel and Flourish comprehensive and no plans to use injected CO2 at this time.

Plants to date: Amazon sword, Brazilian Sword, Ozelot sword (really growing well), Rosette sword, micro sword, American Val (grows really fast!), corkscrew val, Cabomba, Myro, rotalia.

Thanks in advance,
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post #2 of 12 Old 02-15-2011, 11:42 PM
Can't use more then two bulbs if you don't want to use CO2 and all the other fun stuff that goes with high maintenance.

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post #3 of 12 Old 02-16-2011, 10:11 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, that's exactly the information I was looking for. I know it's a balanced triangle of nutrients, light, and CO2, (with plant species requirements factored in) but I wasn't sure how much "room" there was on the lighting side of the equation!
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post #4 of 12 Old 02-16-2011, 12:16 PM
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You'll have some pretty wicked algae with more than two t5's... Personally, I'd go with 2 t8's.

You'll need more floating plants with T5's, since the fish don't like super bright light.

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post #5 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 12:02 AM
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This is relatd to another thread, and I responded at length there, so won't repeat. Only to say that over a 55g I would consider (thinking of your plant choices here) two T8 tubes (48-inch) or one T5 HO tube. [Certainly not two T5 HO, as I explain in that other thread.] With different plants, even one T8 tube. Years ago I had a 55g with one T12 tube, and a Grolux at that (very low intensity), and still had good plant growth. But the plants have to be suitable for such a setup. The advantage of two T8's over one T5 is being able to mix kelvin (colour), which is basically an appearance issue more than plant needs, but it is nice to have the option.


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 #6 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 12:34 PM Thread Starter
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I do have additional plants in the tank, including duckweed, rotalia, purple cabomba, myro, corkscrew val. From reading, the stem plants seem to require a higher light level. All the stem plants are growing well (cabomba is not purple except at top of the tank, but growing). I'll reduce the lighting levels and see what happens over time.
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post #7 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 07:12 PM
If it was me I would go with 2 T5 tubes. Set it up right and it will not be a problem at all...

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post #8 of 12 Old 02-20-2011, 12:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Mikaila31 View Post
If it was me I would go with 2 T5 tubes. Set it up right and it will not be a problem at all...
If set up right ,you mean CO2 injection then I would agree. Otherwise,I would expect algae growth and all the frustration that goes along with trying to be rid of it. I say this due in large part to 4 foot T5's normally being 54 watts which would produce 108 watts of fairly bright lighting for non CO2 injected 55gal?.
Even plant guru's running high tech tanks with CO2 injection are starting to migrate towards lower lighting level's and finding that growth is not hampered.
Floating plant's can help offset higher lighting in non CO2 application but could also block light to lower plant's or if not enough floating mass,, then little or no help.
Daily dosing of Excel (liquid carbon source) may allow more light to be used but also increases demand for more fertilizers and can get expensive for tanks larger than 20 gal to achieve desired result's.
Two 24 watt T5's (Big Al's online store) could work or one T5 bulb such as Byron suggested o9r better yet,,Two T8 bulbs 5000 k to 67000 k.
I have expierimented with T5 bulbs over 80 gallon tank(and algae associated with same) and would highly recommend the two T8 bulbs in the absence of pressurized CO2 over 55 gallons assuming you are 0K with moderate plant growth and little algae.
Everyones water is different and onne must take note of impurities or minerals that may already be present in source water before suggesting that what may work with their tank/water, may also work for other's.
I'm no plant expert,, but have managed to grow various forms of algae and feel confident with that which I have shared. Have recently managed to set up low tech ,Non CO2 tank with near zero algae and good growth but it's all about ones expectations in my view.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #9 of 12 Old 02-20-2011, 07:32 AM
No without CO2... I tend to run lighting higher then needed, but thats just me. That said I have never played with T5 HO before. None of my tanks run less then 2WPG... but what one person likes isn't what another person likes. Same with how we are successful. I have nothing against T8s, except for the life of me I can not get successful growth with them, unless its java moss. I know its not the bulbs, its probably me. But different bulbs and more light have always worked for me in the past.

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post #10 of 12 Old 02-20-2011, 09:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks 1077, Mikaila31, and all others to date. I've also been lurking on the Planted Tank Forum and the consensus between all the comments here and there is "whatever works for you". It's interesting to see the philosophical differences. One forum emphasizes max plant growth with sometimes less regard for fish lighting preferences and here some optimize for fish at the expense of plant growth. I'm trying to strike a balance and, so far the T5HO is working well - for me. I am supplementing with Flourish Excel and Ferts and, yes, it can add up the $$. Algae absolutely was a problem until I started dosing with excel, but it's still a new tank with all the variables still settling down so I can't isolate cause and effect well. The algae, except for a few small spots of green hair algae, is currently under control. Even the hair algae is declining as I play with the photoperiods.

I'll likely change out my 24" T5HO for a 36" fixture at some point. It will be at the lower end of a high-light system, based on some excellent tables and graphs posted on The Planted Tank - Articles, Forums, Pictures, Links. Will this cause me algae problems down the road? Will my fish tend to stay at the lower light end of the tank? I'll keep everyone posted!

Last edited by DKRST; 02-20-2011 at 09:34 AM.
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