Byron! Need your input on a lighting decision
Hey man, I read any thread with your response in it. You're a sharp cat and just the person I need to help me make this decision.
I posted another thread here about my new Uniquarium. I can fit a 36" fixture on it if I go T5 HO. Your "Part 4" article mentions that I only need about a watt and a half per gallon if I go with T5 HO. The tank is 30 inches deep from where the light fixture sits to the bottom of the tank (minus 3 inches for substrate).
Here's my dilemma:
I love actinic blue light. I really enjoy the way it accentuates the colors of my bettas and tetras.
I need enough light to grow my plants. I'm not looking to grow an Amano aquascape, just a collection of plants to provide oxygen for my fish (I hate bubble walls and stuff like that).
I'm thinking a 4x54w fixture with two actinic blue bulbs, a 6500 and a 10k.
1- Will I still be able to see my actinic light, or is it going to be washed out by the others?
2- Is this enough light?
I'm planning on some onion plants, hygrophilia, and a couple of types of Anubias.
If you want details on my substrate plan, let me know.
I forgot to mention, I'm considering metal hallide as well, though I don't know what the pros/ cons are. I know it's going to generate a lot of heat though, so I'm hesitating on that. I've not done a whole lot of homework on MH thusfar.
In my 20gal, I've got a 15w actinic FL bulb. My anubias and hygrophilia grow slowly, but they stay healthy as long as I dose with Leaf Zone regularly.
Every tank can be different; many do not follow the "norm." But there are some things on which all experienced planted tank aquarists do agree (yes, a few:-)).
One of these is that actinic light is no good. Plants often manage to stay alive under this light, but I guess they do not thrive. I have never tried it, I wouldn't, so I can only offer what those who are trained botanists (some of them are) and experienced planted tank folks write. Another comment is that it can cause algae problems.
If you read my article you will have read the bit on balance between light and the 17 nutrients. Only when these are available will plants photosynthesize (grow). If the light is somehow inadequate, plants stop growing, and at that point algae will take advantage because it can use any type of light, and there will likely be plenty of nutrients available.
Having said that, you may have a tank that has not seen this--yet. I wouldn't risk it. Sometimes algae is difficult to control and eradicate naturally, and "naturally' is absolutely the only method to ever use in controlling algae. And light is almost always the aspect that does it.
I can understand the colour accentuation bit; 25 years ago I used Grolux tubes, everyone did, they were the plant light. They cast a purplish hue to the tank, and the reds and blues on fishes were brilliant. I was out of the hobby actively for a few years, moving around too much, and when I got back in some 15 years ago, Grolux was no longer "it" but full spectrum was--and still is because frankly there is nothing better. It replicates the sun at mid-day. The blue and red that plants need--and they need both to photosynthesize fully (the absence of red is probably one significant issue with actinic)--is there, plus green to balance for a true rendition of fish and plant colours. And much as I liked the Grolux, I would never go back to that now, having lived with full spectrum. The "Aqua-Glo" and "Flora-Glo" or similar types of tubes are today's Grolux, and aside from the purplish hue they are also significantly less intense in light.
What I use on my large tanks is a combo of one full spectrum and one col white equivalent. Scientific studies have proven that aquatic plants grow best under this combination. Cool white is higher in blue (but not as much as actinic). On my 115g for instance, I have one 6700K full spectrum [Life-Glo 2 as it happens] and one 11,000K Ultra Daylight made by Lightning Rod. There is clearly a cool ("bluish") hue to the tank, but not sufficient to distort the other colours. The plants are happy (obviously from their growth) and the light is not "bright" because of the blue emphasis. I have a similar arrangement on my 90g, one full spectrum 6700K [also a Life-Glo 2] and one Reef Sun put out by ZooMed which is a combo of full spectrum and actinic. This has so far worked, though to be honest the same plant species do not grow as well in this tank as in the 115g, and considering that the light intensity is slightly less in the 115g due to the larger volume with the same two 48-inch tubes, this may be telling. Anyway, this was an experiment with this tube, and I want to give it due time before I pronounce judgment. It was the closest thing I could get to the lightning Rod which for some reason I can't find locally.
Metal halide's big problem is heat, plus cost to operate. And considering your low-tech setup, and the plant species, I would not go down that road when T8 fluorescent largely eliminates those two issues, plus provides what many deem near-perfect light.
The other issue with 4 tubes is simply one of too much light, even though half may be wasted on the plants. Algae as I mentioned. But the fish must be considered. Forest fish of the type most planted tank aquarists maintain in planted tanks are all with very few exceptions from very dimly-lit streams and ponds in the tropics. Rarely do these fish ever see the direct sun, or if they do, they avoid it by remaining in the shade of floating plants, overhanging vegetation, etc. These fish will look better in colour under less light, and they will be less stressed which means in better health. And this brings me to T5. Most T5 is HO (high output) which is considerably more intense (brighter) light than T8 or T5 NO (normal output, which is basically equivalent to T8]. Given the choice in type of tubes with T8, I personally would not bother with T5 [the two types are not interchangeable so different fixtures are involved]. I have tried T5 HO, two tubes over my 115g, and after a week it went back and I put two T8 tubes over it. Perfectly adequate as the photos illustrate. Here again, the least amount of light to grow the plants is preferable from the standpoint of plant growth, fish health and algae.
Hope that gets things started; don't hesitate to ask more. And thank you for the compliment.:-)
Wow man. I'm really stuck now. I was just about sold on the T5HOs until your response. The color of the fish is very important to me- hence why I'm so hung up on actinics.
Let me clarify my goal a little more:
I'm not looking to build an Amano aquascape. All I want is enough plant life to help filter and oxygenate my aquarium. That's it.
I would like to not sacrifice the pretty blue lighting that looks so fantastic on my black substrate.
I'm going to take a couple of pictures of my 20gal, because it's set up exactly the way I want. I'll post pics of the new tank shortly.
So, here are the images I promised. The first ones are of my 20gal. It used to be in my office at work, but I brought it home when I decided I was going to take time off to finish my Bachelor's degree. That's why it's sitting in the fireplace =O
It's running an 18w actinic bulb. I've got two Anubias plants in there, some micro swords, and a Hygrophilia.
I added the Hygro a couple of weeks ago. I was experiementing with my nutrients when I decided to hold off (API Leaf Zone) to see how the plants would respond. The Anubias Nana, as you can see, started to develop yellow holes and the bud in the center hasn't opened up. I had two other buds just before my experiment that opened within days of appearing. The Hygro's topmost leaves have lived, but the lower ones died, which I am again attributing to lack of nutrients.
I decided today that I'm going to go with a 4x54w T5HO lamp, with two 10ks, and two actinics. After a couple of weeks of this, I'll swap another out depending on how the plants are doing.
Again, my goal isn't an "Amano" aquascape, only living plants to keep my fish alive (I hate bubbles).
The last pics are the 125. I picked up carbon and a heater today. Next week I'm picking up the substrate and filling it.
Ugh, I can't upload pics here, so check my aquariums tab to see what I'm talking about for the images.
I have already given my views, I can't keep repeating myself. Your plant issues are probably due to the light. And 4 T5 HO tubes is too much over (presumably) a 125.
But did we address the height issue? If the tank was only 20 inches tall and was a rectangle, I'd feel more comfortable going with less light. But from top to bottom, there's 30". Shouldn't I expect the light to diffuse and become weaker the further it goes down?
That is relevant. What are the other tank dimensions (length, width front to back)?
The 20gal is:
12" front to back.
The 125gal is:
36" wide on the corner sides (corner pentagon)
34" thick (from back corner to front center)
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