Lights are possibly the most confusing thing to deal with when starting plants. I hope this helps to clean up the confusion a little.
First, check THIS site and input your tank dimensions. From there find where it says moderate light. This is what you need to grow the majority of the basic plants. The types of lighting doesn't matter wether it be T5, T8, T12 or compacr flourescent, the wattage does.
Now as far as lighting goes, there are some simple basics to consider. The first is the Kelvin rating of the bulb, nothing under 6500 unless it is specifically designed for plants is going to do much for your plants. whether it is 6,500K or 10,000K or more K is a personal preference as to what color you want. Some or bluer, some redder and some are more yellow.
Actinic lighting is useless when calculating fresh water wattage, it will not provide enough K nor lumens to grow them. That being said, it is useful as a secondary light to provide spectrum that other lights might not provide. I have heard many stories of the right lighting being used at the correct Kelvin and wattage in conjunction with Actinic with some very good results.
Now the question always comes up, what should I get. The easy answer is anything with a Kelvin (K) rating of 6500 or higher and as high a Lumens as you can find. The lumens will help but won't break the lights usefulness for growing plants. Either that or most of the name brand lights that say they are used to grow plants.
Example: I use a standard 48" shop light with 2 40 watt bulbs in it over two 10 gallon tanks. I can grow a majority of the plants short of ground cover and the highest light need plants. I use two different bulbs, one is a daylight bulb and one is a plant grow bulb. The specific Kelvin and lumens don't matter, the Daylight bulb meets the numbers and the Plant grow bulb is designed for plants, all that matters is they work.
Don't think that just because a bulb doesn't say 6500K that it won't work because the ones that specifically say Aquarium plant bulb, plant grow bulbs or anything similar will most often work even though you find it has a 3500K and the lumens supposedly are very low compared to other recommended lights. They are designed to meet the spectral needs of the plants and they will, in most cases, grow plants in both aquarium and out.
You can even grow plants in an aquarium using screw in compact flourescent bulbs but they do need to be 6500K to work, the others do not have the spectrum to grow plants.
I hope that helps and this thread will be open for questions to try and help to explain some of the intricacies of dismiss some of the falacies about lights for plants in the aquarium.
What about halogen?
I wish I knew something about them but I don't. I have never dealt with them, and have not dealt with any fresh water users that use Halogen. I will see if I can find information about halogen but feel free to add your facts on it if you have any.
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