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55 gallon lighting
March 18, 2015
4:53 am
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schatzi
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March 6, 2015
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I currently have two life-glo 2 tubes on my 55 gallon planted tank. (ONE on each side) I have valisneria, anubias, micro sag, hornwort, and java ferns that are doing ok. I would like to add an amazon sword. Are these 2 18" tubes enough light for my 55 or would changing to the Finnex planted+ be better for plant growth? I'd like to be able to switch to LEDs and have the moonlights, but don't want to switch if it will be less lighting for my plants or not look as pleasing as the ones I already have. I have read a lot of reviews on each, but nothing that actually compares the two.

March 18, 2015
5:25 pm
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Byron Hosking
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The existing lighting is quite low on a 55g 4-foot tank.  The Life-Glo is about the best tube you can get for planted tanks, in terms of its colour wavelength and intensity for the tube size.  I use these on all my single-tube tanks.  You can try an Amazon sword; if Vallisneria which is comparable to light intensity requirements is doing well, the sword might too.

But a 55g is a fair space, and you would be in better shape with a dual tube T8 taking two 48-inch tubes.  You could then use the much less expensive daylight tubes available in hardware and home improvement stores.  I use the Sylvannia 5000K and 6500K combo over my three 4-foot and 5-foot tanks with good success.  Making your own from a dual tube shop fixture will be far less expensive than LED.

I've no experience with LED except for one that I tried and it went back after a week as it was too blue and low intensity.  I will leave it for those with LED knowledge to comment.  If you know what you're getting, LED can work.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA Vancouver, BC Canada
March 18, 2015
6:33 pm
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schatzi
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If I were to switch to dual tube T8s would I need to use CO2? I currently don't use CO2 or ferts. and really don't want to. The Vallisneria is starting to really grow well, I think I just get impatient and I really want the micro sag to fill in as a carpet and worry about the LEDs reaching the bottom. Is there a moonlight fixture I could use at night if I get the dual T8s and would I need new hoods/lid? I still have the standard hood that came with the 55 aqueon deluxe kit.

March 19, 2015
12:32 am
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PJ
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If the sun shines, does there appear a CO2 apparatus in nature? No,... so more light does not mean you need more CO2 dissolved in your water. You should increase lighting gradually though, because if your plants will not use the energy, algue will.

Above my 60 litre aquarium I have 18 Watts of LED running at 80% peak power for 4 hours a day. The five hours before and after it gradually changes. Plants are growing just fine. Increasing duration or peak intension gives me green algue, decreasing duration or peak intension gives me brown algue. The pulse width dimmer lets me tune lighting better than I was ever able to with TL's.

LED's not reaching the bottom is complete nonsense. Do you really think that after travelling a few inches a photon will remember where it originated? If you require the same light intensity on the bottom, you will have to place the same intensity above your tank.

Beware: current LED technology will not save you enough money to pay for the initial invest. At best you will end up with roughly the same total costs over a few years timespan. But the sunrises, sunsets and full control over your lighting is nice to have. Currently here in Europe a 5 channel 200W pulse width dimmer costs € 50. I build my own 20W LED lights at roughly € 50 materials. The same can be bought for € 120 (rgb + ww + cw strip combination).

March 19, 2015
4:53 pm
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Byron Hosking
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schatzi said
If I were to switch to dual tube T8s would I need to use CO2? I currently don't use CO2 or ferts. and really don't want to. The Vallisneria is starting to really grow well, I think I just get impatient and I really want the micro sag to fill in as a carpet and worry about the LEDs reaching the bottom. Is there a moonlight fixture I could use at night if I get the dual T8s and would I need new hoods/lid? I still have the standard hood that came with the 55 aqueon deluxe kit.

No on the CO2.  But, I will come back to this as I also have comments on something PJ posted that is related.

"Moonlight" is an LED feature.  You could build your own hood with T8 tubes and have "blue" tube for this, independently switched, but I wouldn't.  All these tubers over the tank take up a lot of space, generate heat, etc.  I don't know how the present hood is constructed, but if it is in one piece (end to end 4 feet) and if you can remove all the inner parts to have an empty shell, it is easy enough to fit in a dual tube fixture if you get one that fits the shell.  I did this on my five-foot tank and the new shop light cost me $30 whereas a new fixture in LED was around $300 for something that would be adequate/sufficient light.

Another option for a rebuild is to get a single tube 48-inch T5 shop light and fit that into the empty shell.  T5 is about 1.5 times more intense light that T8 in the same type of tube, so a single T5 using an HO tube would give you light intensity close to a dual-tube T8.  You could use the Life-Glo T5 tube.

Most substrate cover plants are slow growing.  Increasing the light well beyond what I have already suggested, adding diffused CO2 and daily nutrient fertilization would perhaps get the micro Sag growing more quickly, though without knowing the plant species this is difficult to predict.  I have found the pygmy chain sword (Helanthium tenellum) to be about the fastest growing substrate plant.  If the "micro Sag" is actually the dwarf Sag, Sagittaria subulata, then it is for me much slower growing.  I have both in the same tank.

Now to the CO2 and related issues.  The depth of the aquarium does make a difference when it comes to lighting.  As light travels through water, the water "absorbs" it in a sense, so less and less remains the deeper it goes.  This is why the ocean gets darker the deeper you move.  Light does not penetrate water as well as air.  So the deeper the tank, the more intense the lighting must be to have brighter light further down.  But there is a down side to this, and that is that brighter light runs the risk of exceeding the balance with nutrients, and algae will take advantage.  Brighter light also affects fish, considerably.

There is a balance between light intensity and nutrients.  Aquatic plants require 17 nutrients, in a basic proportion to each other, plus certain light intensity in order to photosynthesize.  This balance varies for different plant species, which is why we talk of low light, moderate light and high light plants.  These are relative terms, and there is overlap.  But having all low-light plants with bright lighting will cause algae issues, because the plants cannot "use" all that light.  Same happens if nutrients exceed the plants' requirements, in relating to the light intensity.  This is why not replacing the light tubes after a set period of time can cause algae; as light tubes burn, the intensity of the light being produced weakens, and when it becomes too weak to drive the plants' photosynthesis, algae again takes advantage.  I have found that T8 tubes should be replaced every 12-15 months.

CO2 is one of the 17 nutrients.  CO2 is regularly being produced in the aquarium.  The respiration of fish and plants and bacteria create CO2, but the majority of CO2 occurs from the breakdown of organics in the substrate.  This is why the CO2 level will slowly increase as a new tank becomes establilshed; the deposit of organics (fish waste, etc) in the substrate builds, and the bacteria break it down, releasing CO2 along with other nutrients.  The brighter the light, the more CO2 you need, along with other nutrients.  So yes, if you increase the light too much, the CO2/nutrients will be insufficient, and algae will plague you.  Once you find the balance, which depends upon the lighting, nutrients and plant species and numbers, it is fairly easy to keep it.

The duration enters the equation too, once you have the intensity/nutrients balanced.  Plants will only photosynthesize if everything they need is available, meaning sufficient light intensity to drive photosynthesis in that plant species, and all 17 nutrients.  Plants photosynthesize as fast as possible if everything is available, until the point when something is no longer sufficient, at which point photosynthesis slows and may stop altogether.  Here again algae takes advantage.  So the duration of the tank lighting is important.

As for fertilizers, this is the easiest way to ensure the other 16 nutrients are sufficient.  Here again, the type of plants and their numbers determine what needs to be added beyond that already available naturally.  The GH of your water factors into this, as this is the prime source of several of the "hard" minerals (calcium, magnesium, etc).  The fish load and feedings are part of the nutrients.  If you have healthy plants now, under the present lighting and fish load/feeding, increasing the light will raise the need for more nutrients, CO2 and others.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA Vancouver, BC Canada
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