Plants impossible in small tanks with fluorescent lighting?
Most of the information I have come across says you need at least 2 watts of lighting per gallon for healthy plants. Currently both my 26 gallon and 15 gallon tanks use ~20" hoods with single 18" 15 watt fluorescent bulbs. I can't find a bulb higher than 15 watt in 18" size or a higher capacity fixture that is 20" in size .
Does this mean plants are pretty much impossible for me to consider without upgrading to a larger (24" or longer) tank and a higher output lighting system?
Not at all. There are many option to get more light over your tank. The first is to take a couple of the 15 watt fixtures and make your own hood for them, if you are the DIY type. The second is to go to compact flourescents. They come in many sizes and you can either buy the fixture as is or retrofit the ones you have to take the fixtures. The third is to find a flourescent fixture with more bulbs. There are some that will fit a 10 gallon tank that hold 4 bulbs and sit on the standard glass hood. Compact flourecents are the way to go if you can afford to do so though so that is what I woulr recommend.
Personally I have a 48 inch 80 watt shop light over 2, 10 gallon tanks and there isn't much I can't grow. Comes out to about 33 watts for each tank. Cost of fixture and bulbs, $27.
Big Al's is a good place to find fixtures already done for you and some of them are not too bad. The link to big als is a lot of wattagebut there are many others to choose from. Do a little searching through the site and hopefully you will find one you like and in a price range you like.
If you are truely a DIY type then www.ahsupply.com will have all you need to get the light you want.
Small planted tanks, often, are more successful than larger, deeper aquarium. The reason being, better, less diffused light in the smaller tank. Many times it is not the quantity of light, but the quality of light. As long as all of the plnts needs, food, light, water condition, and temperature, are met the plants will do fine.
There are plants that will thrive under low-lighting conditions and may be just the ones you are looking for your tanks. This is in case you cannot possibly make your own hood where you can allow it to handle more than one or a couple of light tubes needed by plants that require very high lighting.
Anubias, Javan fern, Javan moss, hornwort, cryptocorynes and Nymphaea species are a few of those I can mention. I won't comment them as being easy plants to care for(with the exception of hornwort which are quite fast growing). How they will thrive totally differs from one experience to another. I have an easier time growing crypts, anubias, hornworts and Nymphaea lotus.
i have had a lot of luck with java moss, it tends to do alright in low light. i attach it to a piece of rock and let it do its own thing.
I've got Hybrid Aponogeton Bulbs that have sprouted(now 2"tall) in my 10g tank that has nothing but ambient room light.
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