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FAQs on Lighting Fixtures, Lamps for the Planted Tanks

Related Articles: Lighting Fixtures for the Freshwater Planted Aquariums Spectral Quality of Various Fluorescent Lamps by Dana Riddle,

Related FAQs:  Light and Planted Aquariums

Without adequate nutrient availability, the best of lighting won't do your plants any good.

T5 lighting? For planted tank    1/27/16
Hi Neale,
I have several aquarium kits that I've had going for a long while with the budget lids. Last year a light fixture went out and I purchased another budget light fixture which is now gone out also. I went to aquarium shop and it doesn't have the replaceable parts (i forget what she called them) and she said she cannot fix a starter. She recommended T5's which she has on order. She had some very expensive ones already there for $171 but the ones on order run $100. Then the guy at the shop started showing me how well the valls and the swords do with the T5s. They don't even use CO2 injections and there is only minimal algae and thriving plants and happy fish!
<Neither of these are demanding plants... at least not Vallisneria generally nor the "easy" Amazon Sword species most commonly traded.>
When their filter died one night, he said you could still see all the bubbles from the valls which were providing natural aeration  <http://www.bing.com/search?q=aeration&FORM=SSRE > and filtering when they came in the next day. Many of their simple display selling tanks look like showcases at this store and they were all using T5 fixtures.
<Indeed; but part of this is that T5 has increasingly replaced T8 on mid price aquaria. The German 'Juwel' range for example switched over from T8 to T5 some years ago.>
I am probably going to buy a T5 seeing as I already bought a chunk of the beautiful purple crinkle plant they had partially submersed in one of their tanks and love the idea of having more plants and it's time to invest up, but I wanted to check with you all first in case you had any comments or recommendations on T5. There is so much material here on lighting, and I
am working a long week 11 days without a day off so not much time to research, and since my light is not working I'm in a real crunch to replace it as this under-cabinet fluorescent lighting piece which I placed over the plastic hood for a temporary fix is dim and insufficient encased in a plastic strip.
I am wondering also before I purchase if it is typical for light fixtures to break after a year?
<Nope. The tube may well have a useful life of a year, that's true; but the rest of the system should last a decade or two. Some older units have capacitors that blow and need replacing; these look like small (inch or two tall) cylinders that unscrew out. But the rest should work many years.>
My other one lasted several years, maybe 3, but the more recent one barely a year. If I invest in this T5 which costs more, will it probably also be more durable?
<From a good brand, yes; I would be wondering about the manufacturer(s) if you've been having trouble, and also how the tank is maintained or sited... e.g., excess UV light could cause problems, damp as well... so maybe better ventilation?>
Everyone else has sold out of fluorescents and replaced with LEDs which I understand do not do quite as well with plants and haven't been as extensively tested.
<The LEDs are cheap to run and do work well, hand should have a long lifespan but unfortunately a high cost initially. Much written about these on WWM.>
I guess brand could matter too... but I have no idea about lighting other than I now have a little extra money to invest and I'm ready to enjoy a more heavily planted tank and use swords and Val.s to shade my thriving Anubias to keep them happy in their new environment.
Thank you Neale,
<With this selection of plants too much light could cause algae problems, so the medium-bright performance of T5s makes a lot of sense. Would read some online reviews with regard to brands, but sticking with familiar brands shouldn't be a bad choice. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: T5 lighting?       1/28/16

Thank you, Neale. I will take those things into consideration when I purchase my new lighting. The cheap store brand didn't have capacitors rather an enclosure for a starter, and I'm hoping to find one that does have capacitors for the T5's as my local fish store carries them and if my current light unit had them I wouldn't be in a dilemma today. Though, it does give me an excuse to upgrade to the better lighting.
<Understood. Good luck with the shopping. FWIW, I use T8 tubes, rather than T5, and they're effective enough with Vallisneria and other undemanding plants. So I wouldn't rush to spend money... read reviews, reflect, shop around.
Cheers, Neale.>
RE: T5 lighting?      1/29/16

Thanks Neale. I will check T8. It would be nice if it were a little less expensive.
<T8? Should be very cheap indeed. Old school fluorescent tubes. Interpet, Hagen, all sorts of decent brands. T5 is more expensive, LED is much more expensive.>
When I searched the purple crinkle plant I discovered that contrary to the pet store employees' opinion, it isn't meant to be under water all of the way...just partial submerged is alright.
<Hemigraphis alternata? Yes, a pot plant. Sold to unknowing aquarists by disreputable retailers. An old con. Treat as any other houseplant.>
If it's hanging over the edge of my tank then I don't need to worry as much about its requirements as sun comes through the windows and if it ever starts to look unhappy, I'll pot the plant and set it in front of the window.
<For sure. I grow some Tradescantia in a tank on a windowsill, with just the stem in the water. Lots of roots have grown now, and many leaves. It seems happy like that!>
Do partially submerged plants do alright rooted in Fluorite?
The pet store had it in dirt hanging over into the water but I prefer not to use dirt, unless I guess I could put a layer of gravel over the dirt and let it unclog itself in a bucket before adding it to the tank.
<This is possible, or even to part fill a flowerpot, put the plant in, top off with gravel to keep the soil secure, then place in the aquarium. I have some Vallisneria growing this way because the catfish uproot anything more natural. But still, Hemigraphis alternata isn't an aquatic plant. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: T5 lighting?        1/30/16
Thanks Neale.
<Most welcome! Neale.>

Lighting advice please      11/28/15
Hi Crew
Happy Thanksgiving.
<And you>
I wonder if you can advise I ordered some spare bulbs (FRF-601L) for my planted tropical tank FRF-600 (has Neon Tetras and shrimp) but was sent FRF-ML in error. The packaging states suitable for marine and tropical.
Please can you confirm that these will be ok for my tank, as I understand that the blue light can cause the fish stress (die as a result) and the plants will not survive.
<Mmm; I don't find anything via Google re FRF-ML, though there are referrals to FRF (fish are fun) products.... do you have a link to their spectral performance? Barring this I will make a broad statement that these lamps are likely fine to use on a planted tank... IF intended for marine use, they should produce useful EMR for aquatic plants. Bob Fenner>
Many thanks.
Re: Lighting advice please      11/28/15

HI Bob
<Hey BJ>
Many thanks the only links I have been able to get are
They do not have a spectral performance on their site.
<I see; or don't I guess>
I have asked den marketing directly and will pass on any info I can.
<Good move>
My assumption is that the fish will be fine and that the lighting will have not adverse effect.
<Yes; am almost sure this is the case>
Also found this link
<Is the light from these lamps too blue for you? For your enjoyment? If so; I'd send them back; if not, they're likely fine functionally>
<Cheers mate. BobF>

Lighting question... nebulous      5/17/14
Hello. I have a 29 gallon glass aquarium. My lighting system is a 30"
Single Fluorescent Aqueon Aquarium Strip-Light
It takes t-5 bulbs.

My question is as follows:
Is a 24", 24 watt, 6,700k
Current T5 High Output TrueLumen 6700k Aquarium Flora Bulb
Too strong for my lighting system?
<Not likely too strong for anything...
Have you read on WWM re whatever you're illuminating here? Do so. BobF>
Re: Lighting question      5/18/14

Thank you.
Light Bulb replacement question      5/20/14

I am planning to add north American hornwort (Coontail) to my aquarium. I hear it can tolerate low light levels.
<In cold water and ponds yes; but in tropical tanks needs better light. Not necessarily strong, but fair, 1 watt per gallon upwards. Think about it this way: the higher the temperature, the faster its metabolism will be; the faster its metabolism, the more food it will need; the more food it needs, the faster photosynthesis will have to run; the faster the rate of photosynthesis needs to be, the stronger the light intensity must be.>
I already have 1 Anubias petite plant in my aquarium, which likes very low light levels.
<Indeed; or more precisely, in bright tanks needs to be a shady spot.>
I have a 29 gallon long tank. It is about 18" high, 3 ft. long. I have a 30" standard fluorescent lighting system. The single bulb currently in my system is a 24" standard fluorescent bulb of about 1" in diameter. Can I replace this bulb with a 24" t-5 high output bulb of 24" ?
<You cannot normally swap T8 and T5 tubes. T5 tubes have specific "caps" that fit on each end on the tube. But many modern hoods can be adapted to fit/use either type of light. Refer to your manufacturer or retailer for specific advice. Cheers, Neale.>
e: Light Bulb replacement question      5/20/14
Thank you Neale.
<Most welcome.>

Should I worry about too much light in a low-tech planted tank?     1/19/14
HI wonderful experts!  I have what I hope is a simple question.  And yes, I read everything here about lighting planted tanks, and I think I got a hint of a partial answer, but I'd love to narrow it down.  I have just assembled (still empty) a 46-gallon freshwater tank which will be low-tech: no CO2, simple plants such as Java Fern, Egeria densa, and a few select Anubias and Crypts.
<Mmm, the last don't need much light>
  But I may have made a lighting mistake, and I'd like to get an opinion on whether I should struggle to fix it, and how I would know if it's fixed. 
My mistake: I bought a very nice 6500 Kelvin LED fixture specifically for planted tanks.  But it's shockingly bright!  At the surface, directly under the light, it's 172 PAR, though a bit off axis and at 20" depth it drops to about 60 PAR.  Should I rig something to raise it well above the tank? (A real pain!).  Or just take my chances and act only if algae gets out of control?  Are there any problems other than algae outbreaks?  Thanks for any advice!
<I wouldn't modify the lighting here... the Egeria I take it is floating... try experimenting with 8-10 hours per day (on a timer... you can leave off during day time if you'd like to enjoy the aquarium in the evenings with the light on.
Bob Fenner>

Lighting and plants, and algae     9/14/12
Hi Neale and crew,
Just wanted to pass along some pointers I found very useful from some lighting experts on the web. I had 48 watts of T5HO sitting on right on top of 29 gallons. I was having what appeared to be nutrient deficiencies in my Amazon swords even though dosing Flourish Excel, Potassium, and Comprehensive. The clue was my Pygmy Chain sword which was turning bright red. Something that only happens at high light.
Some lighting guys informed me that T5HO is much more intense and pure than T12, T8, or T5NO and therefore watts/gallon does not apply.
<Ah yes, likely so.>
I was putting so much light in that the plants were bleeding the water of all nutrients and starving. This also explains the algae bloom even when nitrates were at 0 even after 2 weeks without water change. To keep up with that pace I would have needed pressurized CO2 and intense fertilizer schedule.
For 2 weeks now I have turned off 1 light to bring down to 24 watts T5HO.
Still dosing Excel, Potassium, and Comprehensive. Algae has DISAPPEARED from driftwood and glass.
<A very good sign. Once an aquarium has happy plants, algae seems to go.>
Still present chain sword but less. Leaves have returned to green and no holes. I have attached 2 links that I found extremely useful.
Hope this helps anyone else struggling with light like I did. Neale you guys are the best. I'll send finished photos of the entertainment center build out with the Amazon tank along with my Asian tank when they get a little more lush. I'll also send photos of the beautiful Blue Ram pair I have. I have them with cardinals in temps in low 80's. Would never have happened without your help.
<All sounds like you've achieved a great deal.>
Credit for link and all work associated to Hoppy a member of The Planted Tank website.
<Real good. Thanks for writing! Neale.>

just a little advice on lighting please, planted tanks     5/24/12
Good day folks. I am looking for some guidance on lighting. This weekend I have some buddies coming down to install a custom lighting system I had built for some planted invert tanks I am planning to set up. I have a T5 6500K system spanning 80 inches (2 20G long tanks and a 10G one side by side). Here are my questions that I would be forever grateful if you could advise me on:
1) How far from the top of the water (or the substrate, whichever is more accurate to measure) should the bulbs system be?
<Mmm, I do hope you're using reflectors behind the lamps... MUCH better in terms of making the useful light do what you want it to do... this being stated, understood, about six inches above is about right... giving sufficient (light) spread, and space to get in/out of the systems>
2) There are 2 bulbs that make up the system. Unfortunately due to a planning error on my part the bulbs overlap in the middle, which means there are actually 2 T5s over the 10G tank in the middle. Will this be too much light for that middle tank? All tanks are going to be low tech setups without CO2.
<Not too much. Will be fine; perhaps a place to situate more "high light intensity" plant/species>
OK, any info would be greatly appreciated. Take care, have a great day, and thank you in advance for your expertise!
<A pleasure to share. Bob Fenner> 

Freshwater angelfish and black lights UVA 438nm f15t8     5/18/12
Hi gang. Just wondering if anyone knows pros vs. cons with freshwater angelfish and using black lights at night. I have read many articles and have seen many mixed reviews. My angels are beginning to pair off and some are starting to spawn and I didn't want to disturb their breeding process or be detrimental to their health at all. Please help with any suggestions or knowledge available. Thank you!
<Not sure there's any compelling arguments either way. Fish can see slightly into the UV range, so what seems invisible to us might not be to them. Personally, I wouldn't use them. On the other hand, there are plenty of "moonlight" tubes and LEDs available that don't disturb nocturnal fish but provide enough light for us to see what's going on. Dim red tubes and
LEDs work great, too. Cheers, Neale.>

feedback and query on lighting for planted community tank   4/1/12
Hello WWM
myself SUHAS from India I had previously contacted you about a year back regarding swollen eye infection in my RES and based on your advice was able to cure them and are now very healthy ... (hope this feedback might help other pet lovers - I observed swollen eyes when I had changed their diet from green Tuttle pellets to dry worms n took ur advice n once I started feeding them the pellets which have vitamin A,E etc .. gradually their condition  improved also exposure to direct sunlight helped and now also I have designed and built them an ideal tank u can find these pics in the attachment..and thank you very for your trouble )
<We thank you for this input>
> This time I have a query regarding sufficient lighting system required for a planted aquarium community tank .. the tank dimensions are L-70 * W-16 * H-24 inches .. a 120 gallon tank and these are the following plants .. Red wallichi green wallichi, tonina umbrella, Glossostigma, anubiasis coffeefolia... could you please suggest the minimum and maximum watt of light required and the type a light that is to be used .. T5 , T8 or T11... Thank you very much
<The T 5 choice is best here... Do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lgtfxtfaqags.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Regards SUHAS M R

Planted tank questions   3/6/12
I am planning a 125 gallon planted tank setup.  My first question is about lighting. Is a 72 inch fixture with eight 39 watt high output T5 6500k lamps enough to grow most plants.
<Should be.>
It would be nearly 2.5 watts per gallon but researching it seems that watts per gallon might not be a good guideline.
<The problem is that the watts/gallon guideline is extremely approximate.
There's really no easy way to estimate how much lighting you will need, but assuming the tank isn't unusually deep (i.e., no more than about 50 cm/20 inches deep) then 4-8 tubes running the full length of the hood should provide moderate to strong lighting suitable for a variety of plants.>
Secondly, would clown loaches be a good fish for a planted tank this size and what would be a good number to stock.
<A bad choice. Clown Loaches are [a] herbivorous and [b] diggers, so even putting aside their size, they're likely to damage your plants.>
Thanks for the great website!
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Planted tank lighting, LEDs     2/2/12
Hi Crew.
Been out of this hobby for way to a long a time. My pride and joy 6 year old Discus's died after a power outage over 2days in the middle of winter, new baby in the house and and and.. just placed a damper on it all.
So I just want some approval on what I'm doing, things are somewhat costly so I just want to know if I'm on the right track.
I like to focus a little more on my pants <plants!> than the fish this time.. Opening the old boxes and equipment I stored from years ago, I think most will still be functioning, I tested most of it for leaks and so, and I think I'm in the clear. I'm planning on making the 2foot tank a planed <> tank first, see if I get things working before even starting with the other. Since the other tank is 80gal and lighting will cost the same as the rest of the setup cost me.
Being somewhat of a DIY kinda guy, ( note kinda ) .. I bought some CO2 canisters a regulators and from Eheim I bought a final regulator and diffuser and digital ph and Co2 meter from oxygaurd.
The Idea was to plant Hygrophila corymbosa in the middle Riccia on the drift wood, and lots of micro swords surrounding it.
<All right>
I bought 3x20Watt 5500k compact florescent lights, that's a lot of light right?
<Not really; no>
 With my CO2 reading at 31ppm and ph 7.3, 60watts of CF light I created the absolute best and perfect environment to grow luscious think green ALGAE!
Over the last month the plant just died off and Riccia was just never really happy, and the sword just slowly turned brown.
<I'd start such tanks w/o the CO2 infusion... run them for a few weeks w/o>
So in an attempt to find out what going on spoke to what seems like a reasonably well informed pet shop owner, and he informed me the 5500K doesn't really host all the right spectrum light the plant need,
<No; should be fine. This temperature (relative to black body radiation) is about what sunlight on the surface of our planet is like>
 they just mix some phosphor till the colour looks right, and them pointed me to his stock of light tubes of all sorts of names and price tags, but none that will fit into my tank. Some are 60cm long, that's 67cm with all the fittings and so, and my tank is only 60cm long, the lid is even smaller. So he mumbled something about LED lights that might work that he can order, and said something I recognized "Cree".. and a light when on in my head.. I love these LED lights made by Cree. I know some Cree 50/50 light for really cheap ( compared to the Sunglow T2 lights )  and bought some of the lights in the link below. They are waterproof, and 18 Cree 50/50 LED per Aluminium strip, man.. this is going to be easy. But only if Cree 50/50 are any good?
So I bought 2x 18LED aluminium strips and 2x 10watt floodlights,
last night I installed the 18LED aluminium strip into my 2foot tank, since its only 32cm long, it as easy... But its bright, and I mean blindingly bright..
So the part I need help with is...
How do I know how much light is right when it comes to these LED's I mean the little, and by little I mean 110mmx85mm unit gives 750lumens of light, spraying down a mere 30cm before it hits ground level seems almost to <too> much..
<The only measurable way to tell, other than bio-assay (waiting and seeing what they do) is to use a PAR or PUR meter... at depth... See the net re these; perhaps your fish shop or local fish club have such meters to lend>
O. and for the fish I'm thinking of getting is 10 rummy nose tetra's and 2 Ram cichlid's..
<Sounds very nice indeed. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Lighting Confusion  1/21/12
Hello again,
Sent an email last month re. my new 20 tall planted tank.  I really appreciated the help and was really excited when my lfs received a large shipment of crypts a few weeks ago.  The red wendtii is looking great!  Now that I know it does well in my system I hope to buy a few more.  My current dilemma is where to find a better light fixture.  I would like to add some plants that need a little more light than my 30 watt setup has to offer, however I have no idea where to start.  I have been reading through the Mini Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants which has been extremely helpful when it comes to the science of planted tanks, but when it comes to the practicality of finding a good lighting system I am lost.  I have read through several FAQs and articles on your website and want to stick with fluorescent lighting, but I have yet to find a hood or strip light that supplies more watts than what I currently have.  The ones I found at the pet stores and online only have one or two bulbs, no different than the setup I have now (I currently have two single bulb strips set atop a glass canopy).  And as I am a beginner making my own hood is out of the question (even though my husband would probably enjoy the challenge :D).  Am I missing something in my search?  Do people buy two of the double-bulb strips?  I would prefer to have 3 bulbs for a total of 45 watts.
Thank you,
<The problem with getting high levels of light in off-the-shelf aquaria is that the lights almost never fit! Frustrating, I know, but the aquarium kits sold at the budget/casual aquarist end of the range almost always only have space for 1 or 2 fluorescent tubes running the length of the hood. For moderate to very demanding plants, you need 3 or 4 tubes, and you can't fit the extra lighting in standard aquarium hoods. If you look at aquarium kits designed for marine aquarists, the hoods are much more spacious, and this is the reason why. If you want to grow corals, you need much more lighting.
There are really three ways around this problem.
The first is to accept what you have, and stick with undemanding plants, of which there are many. I recently wrote a piece on this topic for WWM that lists various options, here:
The second approach is to replace the standard fluorescent tubes with T5 tubes using special adaptors available for many (if not all) lighting fixtures and hoods. T5 tubes tend to be a bit (maybe 10-20%?) brighter than standard T8 tubes, and if you include reflectors behind the T5 tubes, they're even better. The difference isn't massive, but if your plants do okay under the T8s you have, they should do noticeably better under the T5s. You could even try some slightly more demanding plant species, such as Cryptocoryne lutea.
Finally, you can replace the lighting you have with a high performance lighting system, LEDs such as those from TMC (Aquaray in the US), Ecoxotic and Marineland. These are expensive up front, but very cheap to run compared to even fluorescent tubes, so that after a couple of years they generally pay for themselves. They're designed primarily for marine aquarists, but they grow plants extremely well too, and because they're designed as after-market upgrades, you can buy all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit almost any aquarium. Do read James Gasta's piece for a quick summary, here:
One last option, I suppose, is to use natural sunlight. I do this with one aquarium, and plant growth is astonishing. But the flip side is temperature changes a great deal during the day/night cycle, and algae grows rapidly too. It's a fine aquarium for rearing gobies, shrimps and killifish that don't mind extremes, but it isn't an easy option for everyone. On the plus side, sunlight is free and precisely what plants like best! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium Lighting Confusion, planted tank     1/27/12

Thank you, Neale.
That was very helpful!  I was able to purchase an affordable T-5 double bulb fixture from EBay to use in conjunction with one of my single-strip hoods to give the plants a little added help until I upgrade to a bigger tank sometime later this year (I hope) and need a new lighting system all together.  My crypts are doing well, but this will give me a little more to work with (total of 43 watts).  Thank you for all your help, I really appreciate it!
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

converting marine Biocube to planted freshwater, lighting    10/6.5/11
Good morning, crew (or whatever time it is where you are).
I've written a lot recently about setting up my new system (upgrading from a Biocube 29 to a 40 breeder with a sump/refugium), and the transition of tanks has left me with a perfectly good aquarium to "reinvent". I had considered a number of things: turning the old Biocube into a frag tank, using it for Corallimorphs I'd rather not have in the main display, even contemplated using it as a seahorse tank (decided against this due to it's height and the fact that I'd most likely need a chiller). What I've landed on is converting this to a planted freshwater tank.
So my question is this: will the lighting I have be adequate for planted life?
<... please learn to/use the search tool and indices on WWM...>
I'm not using stock lighting, rather I have a custom LED in-hood fixture. It utilizes 24-3 watt emitters (Edison-Opto), 12 at 455nm, 12 at 6000k.
<This should be fine for any mix of species>
This tank when used as my Nano-reef had no problems support SPS (with about 250 PAR halfway down the tank), but I wasn't exactly sure how well this translated into freshwater plant sustainment.
I did read in one of your articles that Kelvin temperatures above 5000 were recommended, but will actinics serve any purpose other than making the tank more aesthetically appealing?
<Not really, no>
This was my only real concern for the
conversion. I've read 4 or 5 of your articles this morning about planted tanks, and feel pretty confident about the endeavor thanks to the wealth of information on WWM.
<Ah good>
As usual, a big thank you to the entire crew for this vast resource.
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Planted tank with no lighting fixtures? (Not a joke) 8/24/11
Hi Crew,
You've helped me a lot over the last few months, for that I will be eternally indebted. I love how you guys and girls don't let people who write in get away with being lazy/thoughtless/sloppy/ungrateful with their words and enquires. Nothing wrong with a bit of academic rigour and basic standard-keeping I reckon, even if it does rub those who are slightly ignorant/easily offended the wrong way. If people wish for some altruistic assistance, the least they could do is be relatively careful and decent in the way they request it.
Which brings me to the point of my email, which may well lead to a Fenner/Monks-led dressing-down!
<Fire away.>
I've searched everywhere on WWM and the rest of the web, and I can find no mention of my probably-foolish idea - a planted tank with no artificial light.
In short, does the following have any chance of working?
<Yes. I have one in the guest bedroom.>
4ft X 1.5ft X 1.5ft planted tank, but with NO lighting fixtures.
The tank will be next to a big window in a school classroom (usually a big no-no I realise, but please read on).
<On the contrary, this can work extremely well. Sunlight is the ideal spectrum and very strong, amazingly so, and plants can thrive in sunlight provided they get 4-5 good hours of direct lighting.>
The window faces due south (forms the top half of the south wall of the classroom), with no chance of direct sunlight coming in as I've measured the sun's path through an entire day and it never shines in. I live in Singapore, where the sun's path varies little (if at all) throughout the year.
The classroom gets heaps of indirect light from this and another big window that forms the top half of the north-facing wall of the classroom - I rarely have to turn on the room lights, and regularly have to draw the blinds to show videos, etc.
I plan on using Ceratopteris thalictroides, Microsorium pteropus, Taxiphyllum barbieri and possibly Vallisneria spiralis or similar as plants/sacrificial lambs. I've thought of these as possibilities after consulting "Plants for your Aquarium" by Wolfgang Gula.
Is there any chance the above will work, or am I dreaming?
<Should work. Have grown at least three of these species in a no-lighting tank. Do look here:
This tank is in England, east-facing, and so gets a few good hours in the morning, but that's about it. I've grown some of the biggest Hygrophila you've ever seen! Plant growth rate is potentially wild, and algae will be a problem if you don't compensate for that, e.g., with some fast-growing algae-busting species.>
Mighty thanks as always,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Planted tank with no lighting fixtures? (Not a joke)  8/27/11

Hey Neale,
Thanks so much for your reply. It's great that my little idea has actually got some legs!
<Glad to help.>
My scientific brain was thinking "As long I can control the temperature being near a window, and knowing that the species I'm thinking of using have low light requirements in the main, why shouldn't this work?" Now I know there's a decent chance it will! Great!
Would any of Ceratopteris thalictroides, Microsorium pteropus, Taxiphyllum barbieri and Vallisneria spiralis count as fast-growing "algae-busters"? I'm thinking maybe Ceratopteris thalictroides, though I'm not sure about the other three.
<Correct. Indian Fern is quite a good algae-beater. The moss and the Java Fern are too slowly growing to have much effect. Vallisneria can be good, but the long leaves do sometimes become a focus for red algae (brush, thread algae).>
Thanks for the link to your website and the info on your non-planted tank - very helpful and from what I've explored of your website, it looks top-notch (in my humble opinion)!
Thanks again for all your help and I'll send you a progress report on the tank when it's up and running over the next couple of months if you're interested!
<Real good.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Lighting for planted tank   5/2/11
Please could you give me some advice on starting a planted freshwater tank.
I am planning to use a tank with measurements of 80cm (l) x 35cm (w) x 45cm (h) which was originally sold as a reef setup.
<126 litres, or 33 US gallons.>
The lighting unit consists of 3 x 55w 10 000K power compact tubes.
<165 watts total, or about 5 watts per gallon.>
According to my local pet store these tubes are only available in 10 000K in the country I live.
Will this spectrum be OK or is it going to be too high for plants to grow successfully?
<The colour of the lights isn't a big deal for plants. Most are pretty adaptable. But the wattage is high, and that can cause algae problems if you don't have very fast-growing plants to compete with the algae.>
It also consists of 2 x 24w T5 tubes which are currently 12 000K.
<Yikes! Even more light. 165 watts plus 48 watts is 213 watts, or about 6.5 watts/gallon.>
Obviously I can get these changed and was wondering if I should go for some bulbs around 6 000K?
<That's about the ideal for plants, but as I say, if you have the other bulbs already, feel free to use them.>
Will I be able to grow plants successfully with a setup such as this or would I be better off switching to Metal Halide?
<Oh, plants should grow well.>
Would you consider my lighting as low, medium or high intensity?
<High light intensity.>
I bought myself some bags of Seachem Fluorite Red to use as the substrate.
Is this a good substrate to use?
<It's as good as any. The actual substrate isn't a major factor in terms of success with plants. Provided you add appropriate fertilisers, most plants will grow in plain gravel. I use pond soil, sand, and gravel. Others use nutrient-rich substrates such as Laterite, while others use fluorite that doesn't so much contain nutrients as react with fertilisers put in the water, making them more easily absorbed by the plant roots. In other words, substrate is the one part you can cut according to your cloth, choosing the substrate that suits your budget.>
I was considering buying some Peat Plates to place underneath the substrate but after giving it some thought, I am worried that they will release too many tannins and discolour the water.
<Peat does little of value in aquaria.>
Should I stay away from these?
<Likely so.>
Finally I would like to add a CO2 system. I have been considering using a home made unit with yeast, water and sugar. Do the D.I.Y. systems generally work well or will I be able to achieve better results with a professional unit?
<On the whole the DIY units are not good choice for beginners. They often don't work well, and the amount of effort required to use them both safely and adequately to the needs of your plants is substantial. The best systems are automated and adjust themselves depending on the pH, and these are well worth using. They're expensive in terms of initial set-up, but if using refillable CO2 canisters, are cheaper in the long run.
Under bright light the use of CO2 will likely be essential otherwise fast-growing plants won't grow well enough to stop algae blooms. Floating plants are the exception here, particularly Indian Fern, and may be a good stop-gap while you decide what to do.>
Thank you in advance, Neil
<Cheers, Neale.>

Aqueon 36 Bow lighting for plants, mostly lighting    5/1/11
Hello crew! I have recently been redoing my Aqueon 36gal Bow Front kit. I have put in a sand substrate along with a lot of Mopani wood, and I am attempting to turn it into a low tech planted tank.
Unfortunately the lighting system that comes with the kit seems to be lacking when it comes to growing plants'¦
<Is almost always the case with all-in-on aquaria unless specifically marketed as "bright light" or "plant/coral-friendly".>
There is only room for one florescent bulb in the hood,
<Usually not enough.>
and I have noticed that most people use multiple bulbs.
<Indeed; as guesstimate, for an undemanding mixture of plant species, expect at least two tubes running the length of the hood.>
If I were to get an extremely powerful bulb would it do the job of two less powerful bulbs?
<Not normally an option. The wattage of the bulb or tube largely determines how much light it produces. Your hood will the designed to hold a bulb or tube of a specific wattage. Ergo, you won't be able to add any more watts than it actually has already, so you're stuck with what you have. For a good mix of plants, you want about two watts of light per gallon of water, or about 72 watts in the case of a 36 gallon tank. I believe that the Aqueon 36 comes with 20 watts, i.e., only about two-thirds of a watt per gallon, which is really very, VERY little for growing plants.>
At least for some easy plants?
<Easy plants aren't necessarily low-light plants. Hygrophila for example is one of the easiest plants to grow, but it won't grow without bright light. Conversely Cryptocoryne species have a reputation for being tricky to established, but several species tolerate low lighting quite well.>
I don't have the money to upgrade to a better hood. I currently have Anacharis, which has grown quite well under the standard lighting, wisteria, and patches of dwarf hair grass.
<Wouldn't rate ANY of these as low-light plants, and my hunch here is that they'd "grow" for a while as they used up their starch reserves, but after a month or two they'd basically fade away. From personal experience, I'd start with these three if you can: Java fern, Anubias, and Java moss. All have the potential to work with rather little light, especially Anubias. If you can, add some Floating Indian Fern because it's a good algae-beater, and those three low-light plants are algae magnets. None of these plant species needs a substrate, so you can keep the sand bed as thin as it takes to cover the glass, minimising wastage of space inside the tank (less substrate = more water, and more water = happier fish). It'll also be easier to manually remove algae, which will surely be necessary in this aquarium, though a few Nerite snails would minimise this. If you do choose to have a deep substrate, then potted Cryptocoryne wendtii (of which there are several varieties) is another reliable low-light plant. It looks nice alongside the plants already mentioned, and should do tolerably well. But that's about it. The Floating Indian Fern would prefer more light, but because it's right up at the top, it seems to do okay under middling lighting conditions.>
Both the wisteria and dwarf hair grass are newcomers. Thank you for your time it is invaluable! I am an employee at the LFS but new to planted tanks. I give WWM's web address out daily because the knowledge here is accurate, first hand, and reliable.
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aqueon 36 Bow lighting for plants   5/1/11

Thank you for all of your help!
It probably saved me from wasting more money on something I assumed would work haha. Now I have a bit more of an unorthodox question... I have a light fixture mounted on a tripod left over from my mothers old photography business. It is rated for over one hundred watts. Is there any way I could utilize this to provide the required lighting for the plants I shouldn't have at the moment?
<In theory, yes. However, there are a few issues. Firstly, water and electricity don't mix, so using fittings that aren't waterproof isn't sensible or recommended. Secondly, you'd have to take the hood off, and
many (if not quite all) fish are suicidal when it comes to open-topped tanks, and you stand a good chance of finding things like Danios, Loaches and other jumpy fish on the carpet. Finally, without the hood evaporation and heat loss become noticeable issues, and have to be worked around. Of course, a piece of glass or acrylic placed on top of the aquarium may allow light in while keeping the fish and water from getting out.>
A specific bulb that would work? There is a 100watt compact fluorescent bulb in it right now.
<Worth a shot.>
Also, if this does seem like a feasible idea, could I just point it at the tank through the glass or does it have to be looking down directly through the water?
<Directly downwards if you want your plants growing straight. If the light comes from an angle, they'll grow at an angle, and that can look pretty dumb. Also, fish orient themselves in part by placing the brightest light above themselves; if the side of the tank is lit up, they swim leaning towards that side. Again, looks a bit weird.>
Thank you!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aqueon 36 Bow lighting for plants   5/1/11
That actually sounds kind of funny. :) Though I'm definitely not going to try it, canted fish would sure be an interesting talking point! Thanks Neale.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Lighting taller tanks   3/4/11
<Guten abend!>
I have a question about lighting. The tank I have is 30 gallon tall, 18 inches high.
I wish that stores here in the US focused on shorter longer tanks, they are harder to find and way pricier.
<Odd. Here in the UK it's usually not to difficult to find either, though tall tanks do look more dramatic and have a smaller footprint in terms of floor space, so I guess they are that bit easier to sell.>
Anyway, I was wondering how much extra wattage I would need since the tank is tall.
<A good starting point would be 2-3 watts/gallon assuming moderately demanding plant species, things like Vallisneria and Amazon swords. Java ferns and Anubias and Cryptocoryne wendtii are less demanding, while Rotala and Hygrophila would want more lighting. For a basic mix of moderate and low-light plants it's going to be something like 4-5 tubes the full length of the hood, ideally high-output tubes towards the blue rather than red end of the spectrum, i.e., higher rather than lower Kelvin values. Reflectors behind the tubes would be essential. Do remember that once you've added substrate, 8 cm/3 inches worth, the tank will be less deep than you suspect. Also, if you have floating plants at the top and low-light plants underneath, then you mightn't need so much light. If you don't plan on growing plants, then any old lighting will do. Spot-lighting just one or two parts of the tank and leaving the rest shady can be remarkably effective.>
I read the light needs to be more powerful to make it to the bottom with full intensity with a taller tank. Right now I have a fluorescent light which I got at the big box hardware store. At what wattage is a fluorescent light going to start to cause heat problems or do they cause heat problems??
<Yes, heat can be a problem. The usual solution is to place a fan near the tank, open the hood, and let evaporation take the heat away. This is a stop-gap for summer usually, and may not even be an issue for you if the tank contains species that are happy in quite warm water, e.g., Angels, Gouramis. But Neons, Corydoras, Danios, etc. can be stressed by high temperatures.>
Do I need more than the 60 watts you mentioned for a taller tank?
<Would guess that would be at the low-end for this tank, and 50% more wattage will be useful/essential depending on the plants.>
Thank You!!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Lighting taller tanks   3/4/11
Hello Again:

My concern for lighting that would allow algae to grow on a few rocks.
<Depends on the algae you want. Green algae, the pretty stuff that fish like Platies and Otocinclus like to eat, needs strong lighting, similar to that of moderately to very light-hungry plants. Diatoms and red algae
(hair, bush, thread algae) will tolerate less. You'll notice poorly-lit tanks tend to have ugly brown and black algae types rather than bright green stuff most people think is prettier.>
I am thinking that light needed for that may make the tank to warm for Platies or Danios. The only real plants I have in their now are two Japanese moss balls
<These are coldwater plants that don't live long above 22 C/72 F. Look at their distribution in the wild -- Japan, Iceland, etc.>
Would that require something like a 10,000K light toward the blue spectrum or would that be too warm for such fish?
<10,000 K is a very bright white light, like a reef tank. Fine for plants, but tends to wash out the colours on freshwater fish. Do review the ample literature on this subject, both here at WWM and in any good aquarium plant book. If plants aren't an issue, and you don't mind manually removing ugly algae types, then redder lights will enhance the colours of freshwater fish. As a broad rule, 5,500 to 6,500 K is the optimal range for freshwater tanks.>
The hood I have will only fit one long florescent bulb.
<Commonly the case on cheap hoods, and one of the prime reasons so many newcomers to the hobby fail to keep live plants alive. Almost nothing will grow in tanks with fewer than two full-length tubes, and the more demanding plants will need 3,4 or more tubes. Again, review the literature for more.>
Since the tank is backed against a window with a background, maybe I should open a part of the background and let sunlight in for the algae for platy food.
<Can work, and I do have such a tank on a windowsill with the only light it gets comes from sunshine. Plants and green algae thrive. But the sideways lighting isn't popular with the fish, and their colours are somewhat paler than you'd like. Also, during winter the tank looks rather gloomy, while summertime temperatures can be very high, 30 C/86 F or more.>
Thank you!!!
<Cheers, Neale.>

A question for you :), Planted tank, plant sel. &/or improved (from stock) lgtg.    2/21/11
<Hello Wendy.>
I bought a 37 gal eclipse tank a few weeks ago and I've been setting it up as a planted tank. It has a Fluorite base with an inch of gravel on top. I plan on introducing some fertilizers later as well, but no CO2 system unless I can increase my wattage sufficiently. When I bought the tank I didn't realize how low the wattage was (1 wpg) and now I'm wondering if you know anyway to increase wattage in an already set up hood like mine. Can replacing the lights with something else or changing something else increase my wattage or am I stuck with only the hardiest low light plants out there
<It has been some years, but I doubt the hood has changed much, if at all. A single 55 PC used to fit in there. Nowadays you could likely fit 2 T5 HO bulbs in the hood or even one of the newer LED light strips. Though any of these will take a bit of DIY work, but not much!>
Thanks for any help
<Welcome, Scott V.>
Re: A question for you :) 37 gal. Eclipse planted tank lighting retrofit  2/23/11

Great it's possible, what kind of DIY would this require?
<Basically just finding a light as described before, mounting it in the hood then wiring up the ballast. Scott V.>

Freshwater Plants 12/18/10
Hi Jim again. Been getting many new ideas from your site and have new been thinking of a remodel project on my 125 gal freshwater. Here are my questions:
My lighting is a 4 bulb, 4 foot system the bulbs in it are actinic and I think 54 watt. Is this enough light to do a project similar to what's on http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i6/planted_aquascaping/planted_aquascaping.htm
<Mmm, yes... through you really need more light... about twice this minimum. I would def. switch out the actinic for more "white">
My existing tank has Texas Cichlids I know they are not compatible with plants. I saw on your site about letting your fish have a summer vacation.
Living in southern CA, would the Tex's survive in a pond year round. I have a friend who has a small one.
<Neat! Bob Fenner, also in not so sunny S. Cal. where such Cichlids would require expensive heating>

FW Plant Substrate/Lighting  11/30/10
Hey WWM crew,
I read your article on aquarium substrates,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/nicebottoms.htm, and I am a little confused...
I have a 10 US gallon tank (50x30x28cm) and it is the only piece of equipment I have so far. Here is the proposed stock:
1 Betta (Betta Splendens)
6 Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma Heteromorpha)
8 Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina Heteropoda)
And I was thinking of doing a moderately planted aquarium with a 'Silver (silica) Sand' substrate. The article states that silica sand can be used with an appropriate supplement of Laterite to provide an 'outstanding medium for aquatic plants', and this may sound like a dumb question, but is this simply using the silica sand as a layer over the Laterite? Sorry if that is an obvious answer.
Now to the lighting. My planned plant stock is:
Crypts (Cryptocoryne wendtii)
Java Fern (Microsorium Pteropus)
Water Lettuce (Pistia sp.)
Due to being a 50cm long tank, I couldn't find any lights that were the right length. The LFS told me to buy a desk lamp for my tank. I emailed in to WWM to see if this could be done, the result was that it can be done, but a 'real' hood etc would be best. The only way I can do this is if I order in a custom made light, but I don't have the budget to do that, so my choice is the lamp. With the plants listed above, what would the right wattage be for my plants? 15watt? Or because it is a desk lamp should I go up to 20-25 watt?
Thank you in advance. James.
<Hello James. Laterite is sold either in its powder form or as Laterite-enriched gravel. The Laterite-enriched gravel is simply added to the bottom of the aquarium as-is, to a depth of an inch or so. Laterite powder is mixed with fine gravel to form a rich red sludge. You don't need a huge amount, but enough so the gravel looks as though its covered in emulsion paint. Again, lay down about an inch of this mixture. Place a
gravel tidy on top of this layer if you can. I buy cheap plastic mesh from a garden centre and cut it to size as required. So long as the mesh is fairly fine, it works just as well as commercial gravel tidies. Next, place
2-3 inches of gravel or sand on top of the Laterite-enriched gravel or the Laterite/gravel mix. As for the lighting, the problems with desk lamps are two fold. Firstly, they tend to light only bits of the tank, not the whole length of the tank. Secondly, because you need a glass or Perspex pane on top of the tank to stop fish jumping out, and to minimise heat loss and evaporation, only a part of the light from the desk lamp actually gets into the aquarium. Some of the light is absorbed or reflected by the top pane of glass or Perspex. Over time limescale and dust covers the top pane, so this problem gets worse and worse. Bettas are notorious jumpers, as are Cherry Shrimps, so neither of these are good choices for open-topped tanks. Hope this helps, Cheers, Neale.>
Re: FW Plant Substrate/Lighting  11/30/10
Thanks Neale for your speedy reply! I have a MUCH BETTER understanding on Laterite gravel now. Thank you. I am going to save up more money to invest in a proper hood with lights. Thanks again, James.
<Glad to help. If you don't already own it, the "Aquarium Plants (Mini Encyclopedia Series for Aquarium Hobbyists)" by Peter Hiscock is excellent, and at $10, a steal. Covers lots of different aspects of successful plant growing, including substrates and lighting, as well as in-depth reviews of plants and suggestions for different biotopes. For the price, can't really be beat. Cheers, Neale.>

Replacement Bulbs, CFs... FW, planted...    5/3/10
Hi Crew!
One of my compact florescent bulbs just burned out. The bulb length not including the socket is just over 19 1/4" inches. It was a 50/50 bulb with the 4 flat pin socket configuration. There are two bulbs per fixture and
two fixtures on my 240 gallon 8' X 2' x 2' aquarium. The previous owner of the tank had it set up as a salt tank. I have it set up freshwater. My question is what would be the best freshwater bulbs for these fixtures. The only plants that I expect to be growing in the tank are the Amazon Frogbit that I'm still trying to get to multiply.
Thanks very much
<Hello Pat. I can't possibly tell what sort of light you need to replace the one that's gone. There will likely be a wattage on the tube you have, and since the fittings are largely standardised, you should be able to take
the bulb to your local pet store and have them find precisely the one you need to replace. You can save a little money buying generic tubes from hardware stores *if* you know the colour temperature you want, which for plants is usually around 6,500 Kelvin, as opposed to around 10,000 Kelvin for corals. If the lighting unit was adequate for corals it should be fine for plants, but do standard, off-the-shelf aquarium kits frequently have quite poor lighting, and this may be why the previous owner gave up with this tank. As a benchmark, aim for at least 1.5 watts per gallon for plants. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Planted tank cleaning (Bob, want to add anything here?), LED use  - 4/19/10
Haven't heard from anyone about LED lighting yet but now that I've read a little more I think I'd like to try and build my own setup. As with everything else, there are a lot of DIY articles, but which is actually right for a planted aquarium? If anyone knows of a good DIY on LED lighting that I could try that would be great. I'm pretty handy with a soldering iron and assembly so if anyone is interested in designing something I'd love to participate. I could turn a schematic into an actual lighting system :>)
<Tim, I'm not aware of anything along these lines in the aquarium literature, and for liability reasons, I'm not really sure it's wise for me to recommend DIY projects that involve mains electricity and water! But with that said, when I entered the following terms in Google -- DIY LED aquarium lighting -- I came up with all sorts of hits. Any and all of these might be lethal, so what you do with those hits is up to you! There has been quite a bit of discussion on LED lighting over on the WWM Bulletin Board, so if you haven't been across there yet, and you're looking to
bounce around some ideas, that might be a place to stop by. http://bb.wetwebmedia.com/
For what it's worth, do be clear that at the moment there's no compelling economic reason to switch from fluorescent to LED lighting where relatively low light intensity is required. That would be the case in a planted tank,
where 2-4 fluorescent tubes running the length of the hood allows a wide variety of plant species to thrive. The low cost of fluorescent tubes, plus their relatively low running costs, mean they're generally quite cost efficient. LEDs become economical by contrast with high-output lights as required, for example, on reef tanks with stony corals. The metal halide and other lamps used on such tanks are expensive to buy and "run hot", meaning they waste a lot of electricity. So by contrast to these, LEDs can pay for themselves in the long run by being much more efficient. As/when high brightness LEDs become cheaper, then I'm sure they'll replace fluorescent tubes, but at the moment, we're not at that point yet. Cheers, Neale.><<There's much "hub bub" re LED technology and the "next wave" of popularity for them dropping prices drastically, mainly for marine/saltwater use. I fully suspect that LED fixtures and utility will parallel "flat screen" TV technology's rise in the next few years... For now, I'd go w/ CF or T-5 fluorescents. RMF>>

Re: More Re: Planted tank cleaning (Bob, want to add anything here?), lighting fixt.   4/19/10
Okay you talked me in to staying with CF.
<Is certainly a popular approach at the moment, and cost-effective too.>
I found two good deals out there
The cheaper one is 65w or3.25w/gal and the other 48w or2.4w/gal. I like 48w better especially for the Betta fish and algae eater but it seems counterintuitive to spend $20 more for less power. Any recommendations?
<Six of one, half dozen of the other in all likelihood. Provided you're offering around 2 watts/gallon, you can pretty much guarantee a good range of plants will do well. I don't know either brand so can't recommend one over the other from personal experience. Actinic isn't particularly useful for freshwater tanks, so I wouldn't necessarily be swayed by that. It's a bit too blue for plants to grow under. The "freshwater" one on the other hand has the pink tube that makes the reds and oranges look richer, and that's a plus in freshwater fishkeeping and does make plants look prettier than blue light. Plants also like red light better than blue. On the other hand, units that sit way above the waterline let "jumpy" fish escape, so bear that in mind: no Hatchetfish, no loaches, no halfbeaks, no shark-minnows, no eels, no shrimps, among others. Great for allowing plants to grow above the waterline though, an aspect of aesthetics often overlooked. In other words, there are likely pros and cons to both, and you might care to canvas opinion a bit more broadly, or better yet, examine both (or similar) units in your local fish store.>
Thank you for all your help
BTW I've just about completed my first article for the 'Conscientious Aquarist'
<Great! Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: More Re: Planted tank cleaning (Bob, want to add anything here?)   4/25/10

For now I took the cheap road. I purchased two accent light fixtures and two 23W daylight (6700K) CF bulbs and turned them upside down on the glass for a total of 2.3W/gallon. If this works for $25 I don't see how I can
justify the cost of one made for aquariums.
<Indeed. But from the photo it seems you have two "spots" of bright light rather than even illumination across the tank. Nothing wrong in that at all, and I've seen some fantastic aquaria that are mostly dark save for one bright patch. In those tanks the light was held about 15 cm/6 inches above the waterline, which results in an amazing ripple-like pattern of light across the bottom substrate. Really quite beautiful, and the fish love being able to swim between bright and dark areas, just as they would in the wild. But this may affect which plants do well where. If there's one or two bright spots, you'd put plants there, and elsewhere would either be unplanted or just shade-tolerant species like Anubias and Java fern.>
I may switch to 3 cans with 18W bulbs to get it more even and a little more power but even that would only be $36. The picture is without flash and you can see the cans on top which I think look okay. I'll send a another
picture in the future when it starts looking really good.
Thank you again for the advice,
<Glad to help, and good luck. Cheers, Neale.>

Lighting for large, acrylic FW planted tank   1/13/10
I am having such a hard time trying to find a light fixture that will fit my needs for my tank. its 150 gallon custom built tank. 48" long x 30" deep x 24" tall.
<I see.>
ok, I am planning on doing medium light plants so I dont have to go into the co2 side of things.
<In theory, at least...>
this means 150 gal X 3 watts per gallon = 450 watts (approx) that I will need.
<Something like that. Actually, if you have a lot of light, as you will do with this wattage per gallon, you'll have a lot of "surplus" light that isn't being used. In other words, the potential for algae problems is substantial. Bright light plants need additional CO2, while low light plants can get by with whatever is in the water already. If you're happy with shade-tolerant Cryptocoryne, Java ferns, etc., you would do better to reduce the lighting level down to between 1 and 2 watts per gallon for a tank this depth. There is some leeway here to be sure, and floating plants will use up lots of light while not relying on CO2 fertilisation, but floating plants aren't always popular with those aquarists favouring Amano-type tanks. Likewise, plants that use bicarbonate as their carbon source, like Elodea and Vallisneria, will use up the carbonate hardness of an aquarium very quickly, resulting in massive pH changes. Indeed, a rapid pH crash can kill your fish. So you have to tailor the amount of light very carefully to match the types of plant being used and the amount of CO2 being provided.>
I have read that watts are not the only thing to go off of and that I also need full spectrum 6700k lighting.
<Broadly, yes, plants prefer a colour temperature between 5500 and 6500 Kelvins, but it actually doesn't matter hugely. Unlike corals, they aren't fussy, and tend to adapt to whatever is available.>
I know I want t5 or compact fluorescent, not metal halide since heat is a huge issue for me in the area I live in and the price doesn't help.
<Fair enough. But do bear in mind fluorescent lights don't really do the job once water depth exceeds 45 cm/18 inches.>
my problem is the most wattage I can find for a 48" fixture with 4 bulb only adds up to 260 watts. the higher watt bulbs are for saltwater with a high k spectrum that I wont need for fw.
<As I said above, this isn't a huge problem.>
its almost like I will need to order two separate lighting fixtures which will get me to 520 watts ( 2 x 260) and 3.46 watts per gallon. is this a common problem with large fw tanks or am I missing something? what do people usually get?
<Surprisingly enough, DIY solutions using off-the-shelf ballast systems such as those used for home lighting are popular. In fact provided the wattage and colour temperature is right, any fluorescent light will do. You don't need one made just for fish tanks! Of course waterproof fittings are important, but that's about it.>
even if I go to 2 watts per gallon I still need 300 watts, not 260. I have been on multiple aquarium supply sites trying to find something to fit my parameters but I am coming up empty handed. do I order a saltwater fixture and add 96 watt 6700k bulbs.
<Yes, it is quite common for people to use marine light holders but with the tubes swapped out for the warmer tubes preferred.>
Ahhhh, so frustrating! thanks for all your knowledge!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: please help with my sick loach and suffocating fish... Now lighting    1/11/10
thanks for pointing me in the right direction with so many of my questions but I am still a bit unsure for the lighting.
<Using "Command-F" (or whatever) to Find stuff on a page is very helpful!>
now, I was told that my large 150 gal would need anywhere from 176-269 watts of light, which would fit most fixtures since they are 260 watts, but looking into WWM planted fw tank info, it says I need anywhere form 2-3
watts per gallon. that would be anywhere from 300-450 watts for my tank.
so I'm confused as to how much I would need, not to mention the tank is 30" deep but only 24" tall.
<A good approach is to start with something between 1 and 2 watts per gallon. Use reflectors behind them. Such a system should be economical and easy to assemble. Get a mix of plants, including some shade-tolerant hardy
species (Cryptocoryne wendtii, Anubias nana, Java fern, Java moss, floating Indian Fern) and a few still hardy but more light hungry species (Vallisneria, Hygrophila, common Amazon Swords). Avoid anything known to be delicate or demanding (Rotala, Hairgrass, Cabomba, etc.). Install an at-least semi-decent substrate (perhaps a couple of inches of fine gravel mixed with laterite or fancy aquarium plant substrate) and then top it off with another inch or so of plain gravel. Use a gravel tidy between them if you have fish prone to digging. Plant the tank, decorate, add the fish, and perhaps a few Nerites, Cherry Shrimps and/or Ancistrus for algae control (recommend you avoid Otocinclus spp. because they are quite delicate and often don't thrive in community tanks). Enjoy aquarium. Now, over the next 2-3 months it should be very clear which plants thrive and which ones don't. If you're happy pulling out the failing plants, then your job is done. If you REALLY want to keep even the finicky ones, then think about whether you need to add fertiliser to the water, more light, or CO2; do so accordingly, and again, wait and see what happens for a few months. Every aquarium is different, and there's no point looking at a photo of an Amano-style aquarium without realising that creating such tanks is expensive and labour-intensive. It's also misleading in a way, because Amano-tanks are built FOR A SINGLE PHOTO and not to run like that for even a few months, let alone years. They also contain virtually no fish. Much better to build your planted tank up over the course of a year, adding plant species, trying our technology, and seeing what works for you (and fits your budget).>
I have looked into the T5 lighting like you had suggested but, I'm then confused about the wattage. do I need 4 bulbs at 65 watts or the fixtures with around 55 watts (or something like that). I will be doing a lot more reading on your planted fw tank info regarding co2 and substrate...
<T5 lights are a little more intense than traditional T8 tubes, but not dramatically so. In other words, choosing between 1-2 watts/gallon with either lighting type should work well, though the T5 tubes will seem brighter and may support somewhat fussier plant species that bit better.
Nothing to lose sleep over though, and many aquarists continue to maintain lovely planted tanks using T8 tubes. As a ball park kind of figure, something like 3 watts of T5 lighting seems to equate to every 4 watts of T8 lighting. This does assume both are around 6,500 K in colour temperature, which is more or less what plants are happiest with, and nice clean reflectors help get the best from both. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: please help with my sick loach and suffocating fish...
so I think I found a light fixture that should work for my large tank.
is on dr. foster & smith (love them and they ship to military addresses).
its for freshwater and has the wattage I need. as for my sick loach...still doing eh..laying on its side and gets a burst of energy flies around the tank and then back to the bottom.
<Will not get better until water conditions improve... you really do need to fix water conditions.>
I ordered clove oil so if he's not better by the time I get it then its time to put him out of his misery.
<Would be very careful about what you're doing here... the loach isn't "sick" but stressed, poisoned. Needs consistently good water conditions for good health. Without providing these, none of your fish are going to last long.>
four days later and my tank has finally regulated. ph 7.0-7.2 (a little higher than before but the water changes increased it a bit), nitrite 0, ammonia 0, nitrate 10ppm. Ahhhh, so relaxing now. anyhoo, I'm in the process of trying to plug the holes in my tank where the salt water sump hoses came through. I wont be using those and I want to seal it well. I hope my choice in freshwater planted lighting is correct. now my project is to build a stand for this puppy...hopefully it wont take me six months!
haha. thanks again for ALL of your help. you get a lot of the same questions but still reply with a great attitude. thanks a bunch. you have NO idea how helpful you all have been!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: please help with my sick loach and suffocating fish...
what is the difference between compact fluorescent bulbs and power compact fluorescent?
<Marketing. Cheers, Neale.>

Need Lighting Insight for FW Planted Aquarium (RMF, comments re: American PVC pipe fittings, sumps)<<Okay>> 12/5/09
Hello WWM Crew,
I Read BF's article "Lighting: Quality, Quantity & Duration" and based on that I've picked out full spectrum fluorescent tubes for my new 240g (72" L X 24" W X 31" H) freshwater aquarium. The lighting fixture I'm looking at is 48" long for a 72" long tank.
<Since most of the light travels vertically downwards, a 48" fluorescent light fixture will effectively only light a 48" patch of your aquarium.
This may or may not be an issue depending on how you intend to decorate and plant the tank.>
Is this a serious problem, or will I just have more shade in the corners of the tank and more light in the middle?
<Part of the tank will be bright enough for plants, part of it won't be.
Will look a bit odd. Would think seriously about not doing this way.
Otherwise, you might choose to create an asymmetrical layout. For example, put the rocks and filter outlets in the shady end, and the plants at the other end, where the lighting fixture will be.>
The tubes I'm looking at are 5200 lumens X 4 tubes = 20,800 lumens. 20,800 lumens / 240 gallons = 87 lumens/gallon. That's towards the high end of the recommended 50-100 lumens/gallon, but I am concerned because the tank is so deep. I'm also concerned because I expect to have a fair amount of surface agitation.
<I see.>
I'm planning to build a ring manifold for my returns or more likely 2 partial ring manifolds so the 2 pumps don't have to push against each other. I'm having a little trouble finding pipe to build the manifold with. I want to build the manifold with black PVC (really ABS?)
<<Yes, or you can paint the "white" PVC black with epoxy paint>>
but I can't find fittings in sizes less than 1.25" over the Internet and I have yet to find pipe locally at anything less that 2". Am I trying to find something that doesn't exist, or should I keep looking?
<I can't answer this from the UK. Maybe Bob will offer up some wisdom. Here in England at least, I'd simply visit a plumber's supply shop, and either chat with the clerk or go through a catalogue.>
<<For speed/time and money savings' sakes I'd buy the regular schedule 40 PVC and a can of spray paint myself>>
I should have plenty of gas exchange when the drain water goes over the bio-balls in the sump but I'm wondering if I will need to build vents in the sump to make sure I get good gas exchange.
<The sump will be open topped, surely? In which case, it'll have all the air it needs.>
Would I be better off to plumb the return outlets to be below the water line to keep the surface smoother?
<I'm no expert on sumps, so I'll open this up to Bob. But in terms of keeping CO2 in the water for the benefit of photosynthesis, the damage will be done just by splashing down the overflow into the sump. It hardly matters where you position the inlet.><<Better to discharge underwater or into mechanical filter bags... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/sumppumpcircfaqs.htm
and the linked files in the series above>>
I'm wondering what kinds of plants I can realistically grow with a this much light but a tank so deep.
<You will need to experiment. Cryptocoryne species are always a good bet, and the larger species like C. ciliata can look spectacular. Anubias and Java fern don't care, and both are superb choices for tanks with robust fish. Since they're epiphytes, they don't even need a substrate, so are ideal with digging fish. Vallisneria is adaptable, and even though it prefers bright light, most Vallisneria species will tolerate shady conditions quite well. But when it comes to Amazon swords, Hygrophila, etc., it'll be a case of "suck it and see".>
Injecting CO2 would be a waste because I'd lose most of it in the filter.
<Indeed. In itself, this will limit your range of options.>
Obviously anything floating on the surface will get plenty of light. My water comes out of the Colorado River so it's hard and alkaline - pH around 7.8 most of the year.
<Fine for Anubias, Java fern, Vallisneria, and most of the hardy Cryptocoryne species. C. ciliata for example comes from brackish water habitats, so hard water is fine.>
I'm not sure about the exact measure of hardness but the encrustation on all of my faucets suggests that's high as well. What can I reasonably expect to grow in the way of plants under these conditions?
<Many, many species. In fact a lot of plants prefer hard water:
Vallisneria, Anacharis, some of the Amazon swords... do read here:
I've done a lot of reading but most of the material is for much shallower tanks than mine.
I think I want to use sand for substrate. I hadn't planned to use any soil underneath even though it would be good for live plants because I am concerned about fish digging. I've seen the suggestions about using a gravel tidy to solve this problem, but I can't find one anywhere.
<Just buy some sturdy, pond-safe mesh from your garden centre. Cut to size.>
I am debating whether to bury the heaters (3) in the substrate to promote circulation or place them in the sump. I've read recommendations supporting both options.
<Either works, so go with whatever is cheapest and more convenient. The benefits of a heated substrate are slight, and if you're not providing CO2 fertilisation, the difference a heated substrate will make will be trivial.
Obviously if you use just floating plants and epiphytes, heating the substrate will be pointless.>
Adjusting heaters under the substrate wouldn't be a problem because I have chosen a model with he temp control several feet down the cord. Do you have an opinion on this?
<Not a strong one. Have used both approaches, and got equally good results from each of them.>
I was considering silica sand but I'm concerned about washing out the colors of my fish.
<Depends rather more on the greenery. Yes, they may fade out initially, but once the floating plants and tall plants provide some shade, things settle down quickly. Silica sand is the cheapest and safest sand option if you plan to keep species that like to dig or "earth eat", but if you aren't keep such fish, the black, glass-byproduct sands like Tahitian Moon Sand are viable if expensive options.>
I'm looking at American cichlids - gold Severums (Heros severus)
<These eat plants.>
and possibly some other species since I'll have plenty of room. Will this be a real concern with lights this strong and a tank this deep? I know that Heros severus usually likes softer water than mine, but the strains available locally are reportedly thriving and breeding so I'm not concerned.
<Indeed, a very adaptable species. Naturally occurs in brackish water, so not the least surprised it does well in hard water. Cheers, Neale.>

Fish compatibility and Lighting for a 3ft aquarium, plants, two dissimilar water qualities 11/25/09
Dear WWM Crew,
I have been browsing your site since I bought my first aquarium in January this year. Needless to say I am now hooked on the hobby and have bought a new, larger aquarium to accommodate my interests.
I would like to stock fauna from the South American biotope, but I already have some from the South East Asian region. Will the following be compatible in a 44 gallon/164 litre tank (36"x14"x20")?
6x Corydoras julii (which I suspect isn't, but rather C. trilineatus)
6x Schwartz's cories
6x Dwarf loaches
1x Bristlenose
1x Siamese Flying Fox
10x Rummy nose tetras
2-4x Bolivian rams
8x Guppies
...Some cherry shrimp??
<Very likely so... the biggest concern I have is that the Corydoras spp. & Rams may bother the shrimps... but if there's a good deal of habitat (rock, plants) this will likely not be a problem>
I am worried about the SFF as he is a bit of a bully around feeding time already. He is currently 6cm long, but I know in the larger tank he will grow to maximum size. I was wondering if he can be replaced with some of the Otocinclus species?
<I would make this trade out>
I originally bought the SFF to clean the brush algae in my tank,
<Mmm, are quite lazy re such duties, particularly when large/r>
and read that Otocinclus are one of the other species that can also control this algae, but I would like to confirm that.
I am planning on a moderately planted tank and if set up correctly I know algae shouldn't be too much of a bother, but I like 'just-in-case' scenarios.
With respect to lighting for the tank, I am not sure how much wattage I will need?
<Mmm, quite a bit, depending on the species of plants chosen, whether there is any supplemental sunlight, what you want to do with them, whether you're potting them or the light will have to penetrate 20" of water depth>
I thought of purchasing an Aqua-Glo bulb and wanted either a Power-Glo or Life-Glo to complement it.
<The Power... and more than one lamp... three or even four would be ideal>
I have Anubias, Java moss, Wisteria and some Dwarf blyxa at the moment, but I like some of the swords and the Nymphaea species. I am not sure that these will all be happy together!
<They can be if your water is "moderate" in hardness et al.>
Thank you in advance for your help,
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Fish compatibility and Lighting for a 3ft aquarium  11/26/09

Dear Bob,
<Marianne... am thinking of the chorus of your name song by the Hollies>
Thank you so much for the quick reply. Yourself and the rest of the WWM Crew are much appreciated by many of us for the time and expertise that you so freely give.
I am heading to the LFS tonight and will look for a larger lighting fixture based on your recommendations.
Thank you! =)
<Welcome my friend. BobF>

Planted Tank Lighting: General questions: 7/24/2009
Hi Crew!
<Hi Sammy.>
I was just wondering if you could give me some advice on lighting.
I'm looking into T5 lighting because I've read they're brighter (18000k?) and take up less space than the regular T8 lights which I think are the kind I have which are 1000k from my understanding.
<They produce more light (Lumens per watt). The 18000K you are referring to is the color of the light - see more below.>
At the moment on my 90cm long (150l) tank I have four 30 watt lights giving roughly 3wpg. I have DIY CO2 which seems to boost the plant growth quite nicely. I have 100% Fluorite black sand for substrate and dose with a fertilizer. I have pearling and new growth.
<Sounds like a nice setup.>
Is it really overkill to go for T5 in your opinion? It seems quite costly, but more efficient.
<They do produce more light and are very efficient. I use them on my planted tank.>
I'm struggling a little to understand the deeper complexities of lighting regarding lumens and Kelvin so I just very basically based my lighting needs on wpg.
<I'll give you a simplified crash course. Lumens is the brightness or intensity of the light. Kelvin is the color temperature of the light.
Lights with a lower kelvin number (< 5000K) are regarded as "warm", meaning the bulb produces more red\orange\yellow light. 5000K - 7000k are classified as "daylight" bulbs, with 6700K bulbs generally regarded as the closest to natural sunlight When buying bulbs in this range, do make sure the bulbs are labeled "Full Spectrum". Bulbs > 7000K are classified as "cool", with the produced light looks blue white to blue. - the higher the
number, the bluer the light.>
<Warmer colors are absorbed by water fairly quickly, where "cool" colors can penetrate much deeper. This is why water of any significant depth looks blue, because blue light is the only light that can penetrate that deep >
<Color (Or Kelvin) is significant based upon what you have in your tank.
Plants generally need warmer colors for photosynthesis. As long as your tank is not too deep (less than 60cm) You should do fine with a 6700K My planted tank is 60cm deep, so I use a 6700K bulb and a 10000K bulb and am very pleased with the results.>
There are no good aquarium stores as I live in a regional area much less any one who cares about plants, so there's no one I can ask about planted tanks really.
<No worries, we have several pages on the subject:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html >
Also wouldn't more light mean I would have to go pressurized CO2? That's not really a option cost wise and I would be concerned about finding somewhere to get a refill.
<Should not be necessary.>
So sorry to bother you with so many questions, thank you so much for taking the time. I apologise if I seem ignorant regarding lighting.
<Not at all. You can give this article a read for more in depth information:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/lgtfixtags.htm >
Sammy :)

New Tank and Lighting issue, plt sys.   -- 4/30/09
<Hey Alex.>
I have a 60 gallon(approx) rimless tank, a recently gifted 250W MH pendent 10K bulb (I wish it was 150W) but grateful nonetheless. The tank is 17" tall but would be 15" in water depth with substrate added.
I was wondering if this light can still be used for this tank.
I understand some of the ramifications of that amount of light, algae bloom potentials and extra Co2 consumptions. Could I offset this by raising the light a few inches higher and could I still plant medium
light plants. I'm trying to avoid purchasing a 150 MH or and array of T5's.
<Yeah, just raise the light up. This will help with heat transfer to your tank and give you a larger spread of the light as well.
If you do want to go with a 150 you could always just buy a new ballast, bulb and socket, while selling the old parts. In the end it would be much cheaper than buying a brand new 150.>
Thank you much, Alex.
<Welcome, Scott V.>
Sweet, Thanks Scott.
<Welcome, have fun!>

Aquarium Lighting, planted tank I am trying to start a planted aquarium. I have a CO2 system set up, but I don't know what lighting to use. Can you please help me out, all this info I'm finding on the internet is so confusing. I've read your article and still don't know what to think. I have a freshwater aquarium and I would like to grow a wide variety of aquatic plants. Could you please recommend a setup for me? I have 150 gallon aquarium with these dimensions: 6' Long X 28" Tall X 18" Wide. Thank you if you can help me out at all! Brady <Hi Brady. For bright-light plants, you need upwards of 3 watts per gallon, so if a variety of plants are being kept, including species that need lots of light, then a 150 gallon tank will need upwards of 450 watts of lighting. Now, the problem you have is your tank is extremely deep, and plain vanilla fluorescent tubes will have a problem illuminating the tank properly. High intensity T5 (rather than standard T8) tubes might do the trick, but unless you're up for a potentially expensive gamble, I'd recommend skipping them altogether in favour of a marine-grade lighting system. Pendant metal halide lights are popular with aquarists keeping plants in deep tanks, and I'd perhaps look at these before anything else. Otherwise, generally review the marine lighting section at WWM for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm Much of what is said there will be relevant to you. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Aquarium Lighting, planted tanks    12/21/08 Thanks for the help Neale. I just figured something out! The tank is actually a 125 gallon so it is only 23" deep, not 28". From the top of the aquarium to the substrate it is about 20.5". I've been looking at the different fixtures and its hard to find a T-5 system that is 72" long. There aren't many, and the ones that are available seem like total overkill. I found this fixture for a reasonable price. It is not a T-5 system though and was wondering your opinion on it. http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+3733+12109&pcatid=12109The 72" has four 96W tubes bringing total watts up to 384. That would be a little more that 3W per gallon. I figured if I ran all four bulbs at 6700K that would work fine. Do you see any problems with this system, especially since it is not a T-5?I really appreciate your help, I don't know anyone I could ask about this and your website seemed very helpful and knowledgeable, and I feel like I can trust your advice. Brady <Hello Brady. If your tank is "only" 23 inches, that's still pretty deep. Standard aquarium lights work adequately to about this depth, so you should be okay, especially given a couple of those inches will be substrate anyway. The unit you are linking to seems more than adequate. Certainly, 3W per gallon at 6700 K should be very good for a wide variety of plants. Four tubes running the length of a tank seems to be the magic number when it come to growing plants. Fewer than that, and a lot of plants struggle. You will need some floating or tall plants (such as Vallisneria) to provide shade though, otherwise certain slow growing plants (Anubias for example) will become algae magnets! The moon light feature sounds fun, if a bit useless! Oddly enough, the best colour light for observing catfish and other nocturnal fish is red, not moonlight blue. So if it turns out you can replace the blue LEDs with some red ones, that would be even better! Anyway, sounds like you've picked something for Santa to deliver this Christmas! Cheers, Neale.>

Lighting query for freshwater planted tank 12/01/08 G'day Crew First up, thanks very much for a fantastic site and for the service you deliver. If my fish could talk, I'm sure they would be incredibly grateful for the exponential increase in their collective survival rates since I discovered your site! <Thanks> I have a question about lighting for a freshwater planted tank. Since this is my first post I will follow the site instructions to provide as much detail as possible with the assumption that you can always edit out what is irrelevant :) The tank in question is a 1-yr-old 4ft (L) x 2.5ft (H) x 2ft (W) and houses a mix of primarily South-American tropicals (Discus, Angels, Black Ghost Knife and Tetras). Lighting is with 8x54W T5 tubes with a photoperiod of around 10hrs per day. I keep the water on the soft, slightly acidic side, but use Purigen to remove tannins - which constantly leach from the generous amount of driftwood - in order to improve light penetration. The primary plant species in the tank (hope I get the spelling right) are: Amazon Swords, Hygrophila, Willow, Hemianthius, Lilaeopsis and Crypts, as well as Java Fern and Anubias in the more shaded areas. After a bit of experimenting I currently employ a mix of tubes, primarily 6500K and 10000K, to try and provide a broad spectrum of light to the plants while still looking aesthetically pleasing. I am getting satisfactory growth, however am still searching for the optimum mix. Like many other enthusiasts, I have spent hours and hours reading through info on lighting as well as talking to attendants at the local fish stores. Some days however I still feel like I'm getting nowhere fast. At this point my understanding (and I am open to correction) is that good-quality tubes which sit on the warmer end of the spectrum (say 5000k-10000K) are the preferred option for planted aquaria as they put out a wide spectrum of wavelengths which are useful to the plants; especially in the blue and red/orange areas. But, the orange/red light gets filtered out very quickly by the water, so these tubes do not always have the best penetration. Now on the other side of the coin I believe that bulbs which sit at the cooler end of the spectrum (say 14000K and upwards) primarily favour the blue wavelengths so do not provide as wide a range of plant-usable light, however offer much better penetration than the "warmer" tubes. So question number one is this: is the above assumption regarding colour temperature and penetration accurate? <Generally, yes. However, there are other factors, such as the tannins you've mentioned, that are arguably more (or at least just as) important in terms of light penetration...> The second question is: for a tank like mine which at 2.5 ft is relatively deep for a non metal-halide setup, what is the optimum mix of bulbs (given that I have up to eight to mix-and-match)? Do I stick with the warm, broad spectrum bulbs like the Hagen LifeGlo (6000K), or do I look at throwing in some higher end bulb to (e.g. Aquamedic Reef White 15000K or Arcadia Reef Blue Actinic) to try and improve penetration? I am also told that many of the cooler colour temperatures favour algal growth, and am unsure of the truth to this too. <General rule... when in doubt, stick to what's closest to nature. Natural sunlight is <6000K. So even your Hagen LifeGlo is actually significantly more "blue"/"cooler" than natural sunlight. The 15000K bulbs (and the 20000K bulbs some reef aquarists use! yikes!) are actually rather unnatural. If I were you, I'd either consider switching to metal halide, or... have all your bulbs at 6000K with one 15000K bulb in the front for aesthetics. But, you say you're getting good growth, so... as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." ;-) > Thanks in advance Leon <De nada, Sara M.>
Re: Lighting query for freshwater planted tank 12/01/08
Thanks for the quick reply, Sara. So just to ensure that I've got things straight...my understanding from your response is that there is no real functional benefit in utilising cooler (higher-Kelvin) tubes in a deep (>2ft) freshwater tank to try and get better light penetration to the plants near the bottom. The only benefit is aesthetic. So if I want optimum plant health, it's better to stick with primarily warmer, full-spectrum bulbs? <As far as I understand such things, yes. Another point to consider is that it takes more energy to produce those "cooler" spectrum wavelengths of light. Thus, for the same wattage, you might actually be getting less over all light output. But this varies from bulb to bulb... without a light meter, these things can be difficult to judge exactly.> The next question which is related to the topic is about specialist "plant-grow" bulbs which many manufacturers produce e.g. the Aqua-Medic Planta, or Arcadia's Plant Pro. This is another area which I have done a lot of reading about, and am coming up against many conflicting viewpoints. So the question here is: are these bulbs superior (in terms of encouraging plant growth) to the full-spectrum "sunlight/daylight" bulbs which we have been discussing, or are they really just more of a marketing gimmick by the manufacturers? <Likely the later... but again, without actually testing the bulbs with a light meter and rather extensive "testing" at different depths of water, different lighting units, etc. it's difficult to say for sure (likely why you run into so many conflicting viewpoints). To my knowledge no such "research" has been done for T5 lighting over a planted FW aquarium. Such has been done for MH bulbs and the results are rather interesting... output seems to vary not only from brand to brand, but from bulb to bulb (even of the same brand and type).> I know from personal experience that the Sylvania "Gro-Lux", while they look great, are a waste of time unless you have a VERY shallow aquarium. <Go with your own experience with your own system... it's likely the most reliable "data" you can get for your particular set up. Since you seen interested, I do encourage you to get a light meter and see if you can't "get to the bottom" of this.> Thanks again Leon <De nada, Sara M.>

Lighting 11/5/08 Hello, Hope all is going well for you today. I have a question on lighting, please. I am setting up a 75 gallon fw tank with a black background. I am probably going to have a couple of java ferns . I plan on having pearl Gouramis, rainbow fish, cribs and some Corys. I have done some reading about selecting the right lighting but can find nothing very specific. I guess it all a matter of taste, but could you please recommend a type of lighting for this setup that will be attractive, bring out the colors of the fish and also be comfortable for the fish? I appreciate your help with this! James <Hello James. Java ferns generally adapt to a range of lighting conditions.  Something around two watts per gallon should be appropriate, given that a 75 gallon tank is going to be fairly deep. One thing about Java ferns is that they rot if not planted properly; they are epiphytes and should be attached to wood or rock. Often you see them sold in pots: that's fine for when they're being grown in a hydroculture system, but doesn't work once the pot is stuck in sand or gravel. So unpot the plants and bind them to bogwood with dark cotton thread. You can sometimes buy them already attached to bogwood; these are useful and good value. Anubias and Java moss require exactly the same treatment, and the three plants are often used in combination. When choosing lights, go with ones designed specifically for plant growth. You can get pinkish tubes called Gro-Lux that work well with plants and make the red colours on your fish very intense. The downside is that these lights don't "punch" the light very far, so most aquarists prefer to use the much "punch" blue and blue-white tubes. It doesn't matter too much to the fish, particularly if you add some floating plants (like Indian Ferns) to create some instant shade. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Lighting 11/6/08
Thank you Neale, Good information. I learned something. Didn't know they had lights just for plant growth. I do have some driftwood and was going to tie the java fern to that, but I was also going to let some float because I had read that that is what the Gouramis felt comfortable with, and I was thinking the colors on the fish would show up better with floating plants since I was going to use a light colored substrate. But you say that java fern will rot like that so I may just forget the floaters and use a darker substrate (like 3m colorquartz). I have never tried live plants before anyway and am kind of leery. Also, do the lights made specifically for plant growth show off fish as much as those that aren't? Might just go with artificial if I can find any that look realistic. As always you do a good job. James <James, thanks for the kind words. I've never had much success with "floating" Java ferns; by all means try some, but I usually find it disintegrates or gets sucked into the filter. Indian Fern (Ceratopteris cornuta) is the floating plant of choice for aquarists who want something easy and adaptable. Gouramis love the stuff. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/ceratopteris.htm Indian Fern is easy to grow, and Java fern, Anubias, and Java Moss are very hardy indeed. I also happen to like Cryptocoryne wendtii, and consider it one of the easiest and most reliable plants with roots. Pots of this species are inexpensive and can be almost guaranteed to do well in any aquarium, quickly spreading outwards over the substrate.  Be careful when choosing colour substrates. Some black sands (e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand) are too sharp for use with burrowing fish, and even the manufacturers recommend against using them with catfish, loaches, etc. http://www.caribsea.com/pages/products/super_nat.html So do check with the manufacturer prior to purchase before selecting such media. The colour of the lights hardly matters once you have areas of light and shade created by floating plants. Thickets of submerged vegetation (like pots of Cryptocoryne) also make an enormous difference. Fish welcome the shade and will adopt natural colours. Plastic plants can look very good in tanks with clean water, but in messy tanks (e.g., with Oscars, Plecs, etc.) I find they become "mud magnets", getting covered with silt and algae too quickly for my tastes. In tanks with tetras, barbs, etc. and decent filtration this isn't a problem, and a tank decorated with lots of the same "species" of plastic plant can look extremely realistic. Bad results with plastic plants usually follow from when people choose "one of everything" in the shop, so there's a riot of colours and shapes. Cheers, Neale.>

WPG/FW Plant Lighting 9/22/08
Good evening.
<Good morning now/here.>
I have what I hope isn't a dumb question. I have a dual T8 tube hood for a 30x12x12 aquarium (20 Gal Long). It originally had 2 20 watt 18000°K bulbs in it. I have mostly low to medium light plants. I replaced the bulbs with a Zoo Med Flora Sun 5000K bulb which is 17 watts that has a more ideal spectrum and a GE 9325K bulb at 20 watts.
Would I be better off with these bulbs that have the right spectrum versus the other bulbs even though they produced 2 WPG as opposed to these that only give me 1.85 WPG.
<Definitely, these are a much better choice.>
I do believe the lumens are also better with the new bulbs.
<Likely so, at least in the spectra that will fuel photosynthesis.>
I am very confused on the whole WPG thing as a measure, because I though that the watts were a measure of how
much power was being used.
<It is a measure of how much power is used, not a measure of how much usable light to the plants is produced. A black light uses power'¦can be quite a bit. But, it will not grow plants! The bulbs you have installed are definitely more appropriate, for myself I would pick up another in the 5000-6500K range to swap out for the 9325K.. Try it for a while and see what you think. Cheers, Scott V.>

New Duro Test light for planted tank   5/30/08 In your WWM article, "Lighting: Quality, Quantity & Duration," you praise the Vita-Lite by Duro-Test. <Ah yes... glad to find them back in business> Your description seems to be about the tube-style standard florescent bulbs. I have found a new (maybe) product by Duro-Test - the 26W Spiralux Vita-Lite. These come in the new, screw-in, twisted, compact florescent shape. <Don't see them/these on their site: http://www.duro-test.com/fluor.vitalite.html but plenty of info. via Google: http://www.google.com/search?q=Spiralux+Vita-Lite&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GGIC>My questions are: does this product still receive your praise for planted freshwater? <Mmm, yes... has a temp. of 5,500 K. and CRI of 91...> Does the new shape change anything in the quality and spectrum of the light? <No> Or is it simply that, just a shape? <Yes> I have a 55g (48") that I would like to plant heavily. Four of these lights will provide slightly > 100 lumens/gallon, and make my fish look wonderful. Am I on the right track? <I think this will not be enough light for what you have in mind... I would look on Duros site re more intense choices... the "show", stock dimensions of a "55" gallon (not actual volume) are some 22 inches in height... even with substrate... this is a good depth to "punch" to/through. Bob Fenner> Thanks!

Planted Tank Lighting 5/21/08 Hey, <Hello.> I have a 46 gal fresh water planted tank and my lighting is not good enough, I have read and read the w/gal thing but still fully do not understand. <This is a general guideline, 3-5 watts per gallon, more dependant on what plants you wish to keep and tank depth. > I was wondering if you could recommend a light that looks very much like the one that comes on my tank, yet puts out the proper light for my plants to go, and is no too expensive. <Some manufacturers do offer a dual bulb VHO unit that will simply replace what you have. This can work, depending on the plants you plan to keep. A search of the manufacturer's site will let you know this fairly quickly. Other cheaper options include retrofit kits, you may be able to install one of these into the existing fixture. Another option to consider is the use of regular fluorescent fixtures above the tank with full spectrum bulbs. Of course, you will need to make sure these fixtures are not subjected to moisture (hung above with some sort of splash guard). > I would much appreciate the help Thank you <No one easy answer. You will need to decide exactly what you wish to keep, research its needs and then decide on your lighting route accordingly. Welcome, have fun, Scott V.>

T5 Lighting/Planted Tank 5/10/08 Nice to be back again! Hello everyone. <Hello, welcome back!> Last month I started my planted tank in my 10 gallons aquarium. I've been using an Iron Fertilizer in my aquarium and the lighting I use is 8watts T5 light, because far as I know this is the best light for planted tanks. <T5 units are a good choice for planted tanks.> But as days go by, some of my plants leaves are beginning to became transparent and then die. <Too little light. What substrate are you using?> So now, what will I do? Is my light is not enough? <It is not.> By the way my plants are Amazon Swords, Cabomba caroliniana, Water Sprite, and Brazilian Micro-Sword and I would like to add Glossotigma elatinoides. <The last addition may be a bit tough to add in such a small tank, the others will overshadow it very quickly. These all require moderate to high lighting, what you have in not enough. Something 3-4 times your current lighting will be needed.> And will adding DIY co2 help my plants to grow? <It can, with all other factors for growth in place, lighting, substrate, etc.> Thanks <Welcome, Scott V.>

Need advice - 90gal Freshwater Lighting Choices -03/17/08 I have a 90 gallon freshwater tank, community fish and plants. I love the lighting effect of MH, but it's expensive!! I am trying to decide between two options and would appreciate your help - <You don't need Metal Halide lights for a freshwater planted aquarium.> Option 1. I have a friend willing to sell me an orbit lighting fixture - a 150 watt system, MH, 2 compact fluorescents, and some lunar LEDs - for $300. A terrific deal - I know this is a really high end setup and they'd bought it originally for a reef system, but was essentially never used - but it's only 36". <Nice, but likely too small -- light travels fine downwards, so the bit underneath it would look great. But the plants to the left or right of the fixture would be in shade, and obviously won't grow.> It's a could of years old but essentially this one at www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+3733+15486&pcatid=15486 I'm very tempted to just get this - it's available, a great bargain and has both the MH and lunar lights which make for lovely effects. But I have two concerns - 1) Will the MH be too bright for freshwater? <Not if you add CO2 fertilisation and choose plants that grow quickly. Otherwise yes, you'll have crazy amounts of algae. In addition, not all fish like really bright lights.> 2) I'm trying to use a 36" System on a 48" tank It that nuts?? Or is this such bright lightening that the tank won't look strange and I can just resign myself to low level light requiring plants on each end of the aquarium? <Not nuts, but certainly not ideal.> Option 2. I could try to just buy another package, trying to stay under $300 (this budget doesn't include CF bulbs since I'd have to buy them anyway). If I did that, what would you recommend? (I typically shop from DrsFosterSmith.com - easiest shipping for me) <Multiple fluorescent tubes with reflectors should be adequate for good results with most plants in tanks up to 50 cm deep. Beyond that you will likely need higher-output systems of some sort. With fluorescent tubes, you need 2 watts per gallon for average plants and upwards of 3 watts per gallon for "light hungry" plants.> So what do you think, should I take my friend up on their kind offer, or would my fish and plants be better served by using the same money to invest in another alternative? Many, many thanks for your recommendation on this. Lighting is so expensive I'd like to do this once, and do it right. Thanks <All depends on the plants you want to grow. Are you going to use CO2 fertilisation? If not, high output lights are somewhat irrelevant. What sort of visual are you after, lots of little bright green things like an Amano tank, or a tangle of jungle-style Crypts and Java ferns; again, this will alter your lighting choices. Cheers, Neale.>

Question about plant lighting  1/7/08 Hello. <Hello,> I have a question about plant lighting for my 55 gallon aquarium. It will have fish and plants in it and I was wondering what lights would be best. I just recently purchased the 48" Triple Tube Fluorescent Light Strip from Petsmart and was wondering what would be the best lighting combination. So here I go. <Anything ~5500 to ~6500 Kelvin colour temperature, at >2 watts per gallon. Stick reflectors behind them and off you go. Plants are far more adaptable than, say, corals provided the amount of light is adequate because they have a suite of photosynthetic pigments at their disposal and are very good at adapting to variation. There's a reason plants are the dominant terrestrial life-forms on the planet!> My options are Tropic-Sun, Ultra-Sun, and Flora-sun. <All good brands.> I was planning on buying three 48" Flora-Sun bulbs but each one is 8500 K, and I recall reading that for plants the range should be 5000 - 6500 K. However Zoo Med recommends to combine Flora-Sun with TropicSun and/or Ultra-Sun. Tropic-Sun has a rating of 5500 K and Ultra-Sun has a rating of 6500 K. <Indeed. Lower K values are more reddish and bring out the colours of your fish, while higher K values are more blue and tend to make aquaria look unnatural when used alone. Lots of people like to mix them, myself included, and the plants will adapt just fine.> Would having 3 flora-suns with 8500 K be too much for my plants? <The plants wouldn't care. But your tank would have a very "marine aquarium" brightness to it, and the fish would likely lose their colours, especially species with red or green colouration.> Or would it be best to have one Tropic-Sun, one Ultra-Sun, and one Flora-Sun to get all different light spectrums. I would just like to know what combination would keep my plants AND fish happy. <One of each would be great!> Oh and real quick. The CO2 system I am considering buying is called *Red Sea CO2 Bio-Generator. *Have you heard good things about this system? It's the cheapest one that will actually let me lessen the amount of CO2 being generated at night. I would just like to know your opinion on that system. <Never used it. You do get what you pay for to some extent, but even a basic CO2 system will result it a noticeable improvement in plant growth compared with no CO2 at all. So if you just want to "try things out" first, this would be a great way to do that.> Thanks. <Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium lip   9/28/07 Hello, I recently bought a 40 gallon tall aquarium (sea clear). This is originally designed to have an eclipse hood on the top - so it has no inside lip. The thing is, I don't want the eclipse hood because I want something that has enough light to grow decent plants in a 24" inch high aquarium. Bottom line. I need to add an inside lip to this (it has a center support only) so that I can put a versa-top on it. I have searched far and wide and cannot find replacement parts or ideas for how to do this. Any help you can give me would be welcome! Thanks terry <Terry, I doubt there's an "off the shelf" conversion kit you can use. So like all the rest of us adding extra lights to an aquarium set-up, you have to make do with some sort of DIY solution. At the simplest, forget about the hood altogether. Just rest the tubes on the sides of the tank. I've recently done this with a Rio 180 tank, upgrading its lights from 2 tubes to 4. (Obviously, this means the lights are close to moisture, so use waterproof fittings for safety's sake.) Alternatively, you can buy "hanging" lighting kits that you attach to the ceiling and come with cables that let you lower them down above the tank. There are also third-party hoods, usually sold for marine aquarists, but perfectly viable for freshwater hobbyists too. One last thought is simply upgrading the existing lighting. Swapping out the old tubes for high-output ones (such as Triton tubes) and then adding reflectors behind them will significantly improve your results. So long as you weren't too ambitious, you could work around low-light plants species and not have too much bother or expense. Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium lighting... planted tanks  - 7/23/07 Good morning. I am planning on setting up a 55 gallon aquarium. I am considering buying a Coralife 48 inch compact florescent light. The wattage is 265 watts. This is for a freshwater aquarium. Will that be sufficient lighting for this aquarium? I will also add that I am planning on using live plants. Will this be sufficient lighting for this aquarium. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much and have a good day. Paula <Hello Paula. A good rule of thumb for growing plants is to aim for a certain amount of "watts per gallon". Anything below 2 WPG is really only good for shade-tolerant plants like Java ferns and Cryptocorynes and Anubias. Between 2-4 WPG works well for a variety of adaptable plants that need medium strength lighting to do well, like Vallisneria and Hygrophila. Above 4 WPG (which is what you have) and you can grow pretty much anything, including light-sensitive species like Amazon swords. The only restriction is water depth. Beyond about 40-50 cm, and fluorescent lights seem to loose their punch, so if you happen to have very light hungry low-lying plants (like Lilaeopsis) you might have problems. But I think you'll be fine. The main issue is you provide CO2 fertilisation to go along with the high level of lighting. Without it, you might find results disappointing, unless of course you're growing plants that perform "biogenic decalcification", i.e., they take the Carbon they need from bicarbonate and carbonate in the water rather than dissolved CO2 (Vallisneria, Egeria, and most of the other plants that demand hard/alkaline water to thrive do this). Now, one last thing. I'm not personally a big fan of using marine lights on freshwater aquaria. The problem is colour temperature. With corals, you're after fairly high colour temperatures (up to 10000 Kelvin) to give them the blue light they're adapted to in fairly deep water environments. Plants tend to live in shallower water and are attuned to blue and red light (they don't use the green light, which is why they're green!). While plants are amazing in their ability to adapt to suboptimal lighting conditions (way better than algae or, by extension, corals that contain algae) plants still prefer medium colour temperatures around the 6000 K mark (5500-6500 being about right). I'm not familiar with the precise fitting you are talking about (Bob F or someone else might care to comment) but I'd advise you confirm the colour temperature of the light in question is within this range and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.> <<You/they have read on the Planted System subweb on WWM re lighting? RMF>>

T-5s for Euphyllids and Freshwater live plants -- 06/11/07 Hi Crew, I have been reading your FAQs for days now learning as much as I can. I have some questions about using T-5s for Euphyllids and Freshwater live plants. <Okay> I am planning on setting up my 55 gallon and two 25 gallon tanks (arranged in a L, all the same height) <Really? The 25's must be custom... the stock 55 is some 22" tall> for one combined reef (by powerheads and piping) for strictly Euphyllids. I would like to keep an Elegance coral on the sand bed (shooting for a 5-6" DSB) so the coral would be about 14" from the surface. <Mmmm> Would T-5s suffice for the Elegance, <Could... depending where this specimen was collected... do see WWM re... some Catalaphyllia are still collected (correctly for aquarium use) from relatively shallow waters...)> and a variety of related corals (Bubble, Hammer, etc)? <Mmm... not really a good idea to mix these "very stinging" species... esp. with the Elegance> Also, I am confused how many of the 54 watters I'd need on the 55 or 24s on the 25 gallons? Would you recommend the 108 watt for the 55 or the 216 watt? <The latter> Would 48 watts on each 25 gallon work? <Not really. Need, could use easily twice this wattage for this depth, intended stocking> I am planning on a DSB in there too. At first I was thinking about doing PC light, but I liked how the T-5s lasted longer. <Yes> I also have two 29 gallon tanks side by side that I am planning on doing with freshwater plants. What wattage of T-5s would I need for the higher requiring live plants? <Mmm... well, more to this story than raw wattage (per gallon et al.) but about the same "thumb" measure as the marines... Depending on the species of plants kept, what you want to do with them, how and what you intend to supplement with (fertilizers, soil, CO2...)... Do understand these co-factors... what your desires and capabilities are> I was thinking about micro swords, Rotala, Cabomba and the like. <Ahh! These can "get by" on 2,3 watts per gallon in this size/shape container... More would boost their metabolism... which to optimize growth, looks... would need to be matched with other circumstances... as noted> On a different note, I heard about the really bad luck with Elegance corals lately. Does that only apply to wild caught specimens? Would an aquacultured one be immune to what is happening? <Yes's all the way around... if you can secure a cultured colony this would be ideal> Thanks much! Ty <Welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

T-5 Lighting for Planted Tank; How much?  -- 05/16/07 Hi <Hello Charlie!> - yet another 'set up' question. <No problem.> With my 42 x 18 x 24H tank that I want to lushly (is that a word?) <Yup...an adverb.> plant, I'm intending to CO2 inject and fluorescent light. But how much light. <Would depend on the plants you are trying to go, with he Co2 injection I presume they are on the more "demanding" scale.> I've read much on the site but am interested in your thoughts on the T5 fluorescent lighting and how much as a staring out point. <One of my favorite lighting systems, my favorite in comparison to other fluorescent systems. For the system you are proposing and the height of the tank I might recommend T-5HO rather than just standard T-5.> I understand there are many factors but I have to begin somewhere! <I'm going to try to point you in the right direction.> I was thinking of the Arcadia I bar Twin Light Unit with 2 x 34" 39W bulbs and reflectors. <Mmm...not familiar with this brand, I like the Sunlight Supply set-ups.> Now that's around 1W per gallon (if I've converted from my litres to gallons correctly) but aren't these T5 things superior to the older fluorescents? <Correct whish is the why the watts per gallon rule is obsolete, not a good measure. 50 watts of T-5 light is very different than 50 watts of power compact or metal halide lighting. This is why you should measure your lighting by par rating or lumens.> I'm unclear if the 2W+ per gallon applied to the older systems. <Doesn't apply at all in my book.> I could add another set of bulbs in a 2nd I bar but the spiraling cost means I'll never get a birthday present again. <Depends on what your trying to grow, but I think your okay for what you're proposing.> Oh and what T5 tubes do you guys like? My retailer has aqua medic planta or arcadia plant pro but I could shop around for other brands. <I mentioned the one I like above.> Many many thanks, <Anytime!> Charlie <Adam J.>

Too Much Light for Plants? - 3/24/07 Greetings Wet Web Crew. <And to you, Taylor. JustinN with you today.>       In the near future I am in line to receive a Nova Extreme T-5 light fixture , 8x54w I believe, and I was planning on using it on my 75g FOWLR tank.   <Excellent, a very nice fixture. I'm quite a fan of T5 technology myself.> The light fixture above the saltwater tank currently is a Jebo 4x55w compact fluorescent. I also have a 55g planted tank which I am resetting up and was wondering if I could use the Jebo light fixture which is on the 75g FOWLR combined with the Coralife 2x65w 6,700k compact fluorescent light fixture currently on the 55g.   <Certainly, though you will likely want to swap out any actinic bulbs for aesthetic purposes.> I realize this would create 350w of lighting over a 55g tank which equates to 6.36 wpg.   <A good number, for a heavily planted tank in my opinion.> Is it possible to set up a planted tank with plants which require bright lighting of this magnitude/intensity? <Certainly, and likewise, you can create features and eaves to allow for variations in light intensity and thus allow for a greater variety of plant life.> The 55g planted tank includes pressurized CO2 and a Fluval 404 filter. <Excellent choices> If I did the swap, I would buy two new 6,700k 55w bulbs to replace the blue 55w (not actinic) bulbs which comes with the Jebo 220w fixture. <Ah, yes... You beat me to this! *grin*> The Jebo fixture would then have 2x55w 10,000k and 2x55w 6,700k which I believe give the lighting a more balanced look compared to a total 6,700k setup. <I agree -- 6,700k is simply too yellow for my tastes alone.> I'm trying to utilize all of my lighting fixtures in some way on both of the tanks. <I think you would be best served doing this as well, my friend.> If 6.36 wpg is too much for any type of planted tank then I guess I would probably have to sell my Coralife, and just use the Jebo giving the planted tank 4 wpg.   <Not a bad course of action either, though I don't see a reason to not simply go ahead with your initial plan.> Please leave suggestions.   -Taylor <Give 'er a go, Taylor... I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, and will end up with all the lighting you could possibly want. Hope this helps! -JustinN>

Lighting for planted tank   3/8/07 Hello all, <Ian> I would first like to comment on your excellent website. It is quite literally a treasure trove of information and I have found that over the past few years the advice offered by you is invaluable. Thanks! My question: I  have kept numerous freshwater tanks in the past and have been content with the standard light fixtures (meaning stock tank hoods w/ light) for the most part. Recently, though, I decided to take a gander at upgrading my rainbowfish tank, <Ooh, you and your Melanotaeniids will appreciate this...> as they are getting larger and I want to provide more swimming room as well as a more natural habitat. I have read on your FAQs and other various websites that rainbows will act more naturally and be more at home in a planted aquarium. <Oh yes> As of right now, I have a 29 gallon tank that is empty that I acquired from a friend (I figured I could use it one day :-) ) It has no hood, but I have everything else that I think will work nicely (including some eco-complete substrate, which I have heard good things about, and a ViaAqua canister filter). My question involves the lighting - I am interested in power compacts and HO bulbs in order to provide decent lighting for my plants. Will I be able to run a power compact bulb from the standard hood type given with most aquarium kits - or will I need to purchase something like an electrical ballast to run such lighting? <Mmm... you'll need to match up the ballast/fixture with the appropriate lamp types... they are not all compatible, no> Also, if an electrical ballast is necessary, what kind of hood do I then use for my aquarium? <Most all types will do... retrofits are fine here> I figure I will be using something along the lines of 100 watts or so. Is it possible to run a 100 watt tube out of the standard hoods offered in the trade? <Yes> I have read the lighting FAQs and just wasn't sure. I know it's a lot of questions but I appreciate any help you can give. Thank you, Ian <Mmm... not to seem to "dance around" the issue/s here, but for the size/shape system (29 gal.s, 30" standard width...) tank, most all but Metal Halide/HQI lighting will be fine here... not too much in the way of waste heat production... venting issues. I think you will be very pleased. Bob Fenner>

Lighting for Large Freshwater plant tank   3/8/07 I am going crazy wading through all the junk that surrounds lighting for aquariums.  I have been asked to install a 72x30x30 live planted fresh water tank.  From everything I read, I need 2-5 w per gallon and that since the tank is so deep it needs metal halide.   <Mmm... depends on what types of plants, what you want to "do with them"... your matching gear for supplying nutrient/s, CO2...> The problem is that there are very few metal halide bulbs in the 5000k-6700k range, and I haven't found any in the HQI metal halide.   <Mmm, look around... I'd try some of the larger e-tailers...> I read on your site that metal halide isn't the way to go. <Mmm... for this size, shape system... is likely best...> What would you recommend for a lighting fixture and bulb setup for this large of a tank?  Any help appreciated. <Is posted... See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html Bob Fenner>

Re: Lighting for planted tank  3/11/07 Thank you for your answer. I have only one more question for you. The plants that I am interested in keeping are Java Moss, some Aponogetons (but not Madagascar lace, ha), water sprite, Hygrophila (particularly Green Hygro -polysperma- ) and some members of Cryptocoryne (wendtii, lutea, etc). Sunpaq makes a double lamped retrofit kit with dual actinic <I'd switch these out for "more white"> and dual daylight compact fluorescent lamps (Model 1602 20" SunPaq Retrofit 2x40 watt). I have been looking at it with increasing interest, but I'm not sure if I should go with the 18? watt full spectrum bulb I have or get the retrofit, considering some of my choices do not need much light. I have a Fluorite substrate. Will I be able to get away with some higher "maintenance" plants with the retrofitted lighting setup, or is my current bulb sufficient to grow my selections? <I think I'd go with the retrofit here... though many of the species listed do very well under moderate illumination... and the more light demanding ones (e.g. the Hygro), will be better sub-tended...> I know that some Aponogetons need higher light intensity (undulatus, etc). I also don't want to drown low light requirement plants in too much light. I have a feeling that the retrofit is a better idea in the long run. <Me too> Thank you again, Ian (p.s. would I be able to house a Ludwigia var. like needle leaf with the retrofit?) <Yes... though not an easy genus to buy/adapt from afar... buy locally conditioned if possible. Bob Fenner>

Re: planted tank follow up, light fixture  3/13/07 <Ian, my ding dang Hotmail acct. doesn't allow some parts of corr. "in"... am sending this to WWM... pls send all future corr. there> Hello Bob, Since you have been the primary respondent to my inquiries, I figured that I should follow up on my aquarium lighting and possibly see what your final opinion is in light (pun not intended) of a new idea. I appreciate your input and I am interested in your feedback regarding the following: Recently on WWM I presented a question on my planted aquarium tank lighting and in my second email I said that I was looking into the SunPaq retrofit kit (2X40 watts) - see at http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=CU01602   . However, I think I may have found a less expensive solution. Coralife sells a 30'' 1X65W "freshwater AquaLight" CF hood (see at http://www.hellolights.com/301xcofraqcf.html ). I have made measurements and at its width and length it will fit on top of my aquarium nicely, if I replace the current fluorescent hood with it. Additionally, the hood comes with a 65 watt CF linear strip that has a color temperature of 6700 K. The Sunpaq retrofit does come with a 40W 6700/10000K bulb and a dual actinic bulb, but seeing as actinic emphasizes the wrong area of the spectrum for freshwater plants and the fact that I would be getting only 40 W of "useful" light, it seems more cost efficient to get the Coralife hood which has a higher wattage at the same color temperature. As you said, getting the Sunpaq would merit replacing the dual actinic with something more in the daylight spectrum... in the manifestation of additional cost. I will be growing low to medium light intensity plants. One of the clinchers is the Coralife hood is about half the price of the Sunpaq model. <An important consideration> I have two questions: In your opinion, would I be better sticking to the retrofit, or should I go with my new discovery (the Coralife)? <I'd go with this latter> and Will the Coralife CF hood get too hot, or is it fine considering it wouldn't be in a canopy and the outside exposed to the air? (or should I purchase mounting legs) <I would be open to the mounting legs... I have no idea what your ambient conditions can/do become seasonally, but I really like the look of the suspended lighting in any case...> I realize that this is ultimately my decision, but I would greatly appreciate your years of experience in this matter. Thank you! Sincerely, Ian <I say go with the Coralife alternative here. BobF>

Freshwater lighting for tall tank; other planted tank issues. Not to mention, a plug for fishless cycling!   3/2/07 Hi there.   <Well hello!> I have a 20x18x30 47gallon column tank I've almost got ready to get cycling (freshwater), and the last issue I have is lighting.   <Yes, these taller tanks can prove challenging in this regard. I myself have a 44 gal. pentagon shaped tank that is 23" high. I had a heck of a time finding a suitable power compact (PC) fixture for it, but I eventually did.  JBJ makes a fixture that's 20" wide, and holds 2 36-watt PC bulbs. That's the best solution I was able to come up with.> I'd like to keep some live plants in it (6-8 plants maybe?), both at the bottom and at various heights on a rock wall I've built up. <Keep in mind that generally, the more plants you have, the less algae you'll have - the plants use up the nutrients before the algae get a chance to! But, of course, and as you realize, it's challenging to find the right plants for such tanks.  I've had success with anubias, Aponogetons, crypts and swords. For a great planted tank resource, check out Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" - this will tell you everything you wanted to know (and more!) about proper substrate, lighting, fertilization, etc.> The tank came with a cheap light fixture housing one 16W bulb.  I'm assuming this will not be appropriate for any kind of variety of plants, especially ones at the bottom, correct? <You are correct. If you want to grow anything, you'll have to  upgrade to at least a power compact fixture.>   Everything I've read says generally 3-5 watts per gallon, and/or 30 watts per sq. ft. of surface space. <3-5 watts per gallon (WPG) is a pretty broad range, as aquarium plant lighting is concerned.  Generally, 1-2 WPG = low; 3-4 = medium, and 5+ = high.  The plants I named above (most species of them, at least) are all have low to medium-low light requirements.>   Obviously this column tank throws all that out the window I'm sure, but using that as a rough guide, I would need anywhere from 75-235W, if not more because of the depth, and I just have no idea what exactly I would need.  Also, I don't need to be keeping plants that require the most light, but maybe ones that are at least the middle of the road in that regard.  I'd like a decent variety to be able to choose from. <I understand, but honestly, it's a bit of a challenge.  In retrospect, I probably wouldn't try to plant a taller tank, but sometimes you just work with what you've got.  I can say that after 5 years of growing, the anubias is looking awesome, and has reached a height of almost 16".> The fixture I want has to sit on top of the tank (no MH or anything), and therefore has to be only 20" wide, which seems to limit my possibilities (I also only want one fixture, and don't particularly want to make my own). <You sound just like me!> These are the only 20" solutions I've found: http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=ES53111 (96W total) http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=CU01020 (80W total) http://www.marinedepot.com/md_viewItem.asp?idproduct=CU01012 (80W total) Would any of these even be close to enough wattage to work? <Actually, I wish I had seen those in my quest a few years ago; I've only got 72 watts and still, I've successfully grown the plants mentioned above.  Your tank is a bit taller than mine, so by my rough "guesstimation", if you go with the 96 total wattage, we'd have similar setups. If I had your choice, I'd go with the 96 watt one - the more light, the better, with such a tall tank...> I don't want to buy one of these only to discover after the fact it's still not enough light. <Understandable.  You won't be able to grow super-demanding type plants, but you should be able to do well enough with lower light requirement ones.  Also, do consider what substrate you're using, as that makes a *huhe* difference.  I recommend a product called "Eco-Complete" - it has the nutrients already in the substrate, so you don't have to mess around with layering different substrates. "Fluorite" is the equivalent product (just a different brand); the "Eco-Complete" is black, and the "Fluorite" is rust colored. Again, all of this is explained very well in Hiscock's book, which I recommend to anyone who wants to grow plants in their freshwater aquarium.>   Will I be doomed to having to use two hoods or having to build my own?   <I don't think so - just measure the opening you've got on your hood and match it to the product description's.  Many tank hoods are units are pretty "standard" as cut-out sizing goes...> Also, two of these units come with actinic lights -- I'm assuming I wouldn't want those with a freshwater tank and could just switch them out with regular bulbs? <Absolutely.  If you're doing two bulbs, I'd recommend one 7500K and one 10,000K.> Those 2 also have moonlighting, which I think would be nice. <Sounds very nice - I'm almost ready to buy one myself!> Anyway, any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you. Jeff <Hope I've given you some info. to start with. Best of luck, and enjoy your new tank! Jorie P.S. I hope you're planning on using the "fishless" cycling method...quite easy, and doesn't hurt any livestock. Just a pinch of fish food daily will do the trick...>

Lighting for Planted Tanks   12/19/06 Hello, I am thinking of converting my 20gal. freshwater aquarium to a planted  tank. I am just confused about all the different forms of lighting. <Mmm, easily rectified> Ok, for my   other tank, 10 gal. I have a hood with the regular conventional "screw in bulbs." <Wow! Incandescents! Can/do work... just expensive to run, replace for "what you get"> I figured if I place 2, 50watt "screw in bulbs" in the hood, and place  this light fixture above my 20gal. I will have enough light for most any plants.   My question is that do the "screw in bulbs" give off sufficient light for plants? <Can, but I would go the fluorescent technology route here> I know there are other options such as metal halide and fluorescent bulbs but fluorescent bulbs are hard to find in high wattages for the smaller   tanks <Mmm... not so... a bit more looking... reading> and the metal halide bulbs are so expensive. If I were to use the "screw   in bulbs" would it be necessary to buy one regular, white output, and another a different color? Thanks for your time! <Take a few minutes to read here please: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm and the few files linked at top. Bob Fenner>

Lighting Recommendations  12/5/06 Hello crew. Quick question; what would consider to be the best overall 36" fluorescent for planted aquariums? Hagen lights, GE lights, Sylvania or whichever. Thank you for your time..................Craig P. <Look for a light with a color temp of around 6500K. ZooMed FloraSun bulbs are rated very highly on CichlidForum.com. and are very energy efficient. I use these myself for years and am very pleased with them.-Chuck> New aquarium set up, bright lights for Discus, plants...   9/26/06 Hi WWM Crew, What I want to create is a densely planted tank with livebearers or discus. I have a 72 gallon bowfront (about 22? deep) with an IceCap   660 lighting system  totaling to 440 watts of light (mounted about 5" from the waters surface). Is this too much light? <Mmm, for Discus, yes... unless you have a good deal of shading "cover" supplied by good plant growth, decor (e.g. driftwood and such)> Also, are URI 10K   bulbs the correct color for growing plants? <Are fine...> It seems that the 10K bulbs are the lowest color VHO bulbs that I can find. Should I swap out one or more bulbs with actinics, or are those entirely useless to plants? <Almost the latter> Could you make some recommendations for the types of plants   that would be suitable for this type of system. <Is posted on WWM...> I want to do the proper planning before I start this system so any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time. ~Chris <Please read starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html Bob Fenner>

Metal Halides in my Planted Aquarium  9/18/06 I have a continuous and heavy growth of green hair algae which has been there since the inception of my planted aquarium approximately 6 months ago.  I have a 75 gallon tank that's planted fairly heavily.  The light I am using is a metal Halide canopy with two 175 watt 6500K bulbs that are 6 inches above the water.   This equates to 4.6 watts per gallon, significantly in excess of the 2-4 watts that I frequently see suggested.  Is this in fact to much light?  Unfortunately I don't have the ability to move the light higher.   <Well, I can't well say if this is "too much" light w/o knowing the types of plants you have.  4.6 watts/gal. certainly is on the high side of light output, so if you haven't already, look into plants with red leaves, particularly those with very fine, filament-type leaves.  Take a look at Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of the  Planted Aquarium for particular suggestions as to which plants will do well with this much light.  Also, I know you said your aquarium is "fairly heavily planted", but keep in mind that the more plants you do add, the less nutrients there will be for the algae to feed on.  Also, check your phosphate levels if you haven't already - if you have a problem there, that may well be contributing to the algae bloom.  I like to use PolyFilters as an additional filtration media to help combat phosphate issues.> My other concern is the age of the bulbs.  I believe they are significantly in excess of one year old.  Is it possible that the degradation of the bulbs is causing the growth of the algae? <This could absolutely be causing, or at least adding to, the problem.  The recommend lifespan of bulbs is between 14 and 16 mos.  I'd recommend switching at least one of the bulbs ASAP, then doing the other in a month or so.  You may notice a drastic improvement in that the algae subsides at least some.> Despite the persistent green hair algae, the plants seem to be doing well.  Kenneth Kuhn <Glad to hear that.  Don't know what type of livestock you have in the tank, but conditions permitting, you may want to look into some algae eating fish, such as Florida Flag Fish or true Siamese Algae Eaters.  Hard for me to be more specific without more information as to your setup.  Best of luck, Jorie> Metal Halides in my Planted Aquarium Part 2   9/21/06 Thanks for the insight.   <You're welcome.> I have a 75 gallon tank as stated with the halides.  There is a two inch bed of fluorite gravel.  Filtration is from two Fluval 204 canister filters which up until day before yesterday contained nothing other then filter pads and ceramic rings.   <OK> The tank is stocked with five black mollies with an additional one that I found lying on top of a lily pad. <Hopefully you don't mean that the last is dead...> Two of these mollies represent the progeny of the others. <Only two?! Perhaps the tetras are enjoying the offspring. I can't imagine either the otos or Corys are...> There are also 5 otos and two Corys along with five bleeding heart tetras.  Somewhere in there is a freshwater shrimp that I occasionally spot.   <Another thought - you may want to add additional shrimp to help combat the algae problems.  Cherry shrimp would be great, but depending upon how aggressive/large the tetras are, they may not last long (and they are somewhat pricey). Alternatively (or additionally), Amano shrimp may help.  You've got a large enough tank that sounds to be well-established...I'd throw a handful of Amano, a handful of ghost (won't do much for the algae directly, but will eat leftover food, which might help in preventing the algae from feeding too much, thus growing out of control.)  With regards to fish, I'd look into the Florida Flag Fish.  They are very attractive (in my opinion!), and are supposed to work wonders on most sorts of algae, including the hairy variety.  Also, you may want to try a couple of Siamese Algae Eaters (they do very well on black beard algae - don't know if you have that problem).  Both of these fish should be compatible with the fish you already have, and you are fairly lightly stocked, so you have the room.  Obviously, don't add all the livestock at once, and do be sure to quarantine!> There is a broad selection of plants.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure what is what.  I purchases one of those 75 gallon packages and though the plants looked great when they came in, not one was marked as to its name. <That certainly wasn't helpful of whoever you purchased the plants from! Perhaps you can go back to the website, see what you bought and try to contact the seller for more information.  Do look into some of the "higher light" requirement plants I suggested - they will likely thrive in the conditions you have.  I'm *guessing* that if you bought a package, they probably didn't sell you too many "specialty" plants.  Also, the book I earlier recommended (by Peter Hiscock) has wonderful pictures that may aid you in identifying what you've got.  Always remember the general rule of thumb - with plants, more is usually better, and adding additional plants will likely aid in the ongoing algae battle.> I have now added to each filter a bag of ChemiPure and a total of three bags of Hagen Phos-X. <Sounds good.  Lowering phosphate levels should help reduce algae growth.>   There was very little iron present based on my tests so I began to dose with 'Flourish' at one half the recommended rate or approximately one capful once a week.   <Why one/half the dosage? I use that same product, and I find it to be very beneficial.> Luckily, I can already see a significant difference. <I'd dose full-strength - things will likely improve even more.> You would have had to have seen how bad it was to appreciate the change.  With adding both the ChemiPure and the phos-x, I do not know whether this was from the elimination of Phosphorous or nitrite/nitrate.   <Likely both.  Also, do make sure you are doing regular (i.e., weekly) water changes...I forgot to ask about your normal schedule in that regard.> I do want to clarify that the tank is not heavily stocked with plants.  After I sent the below e-mail I checked several sites on the internet and compared those tanks to mine.  At best, mine is moderately stocked.   <Do consider adding more, especially with the abundance of light.  I personally like www.aquariumplants.com - they are very helpful and will work with you to determine specifically what plants will be in your tank's best interest.> I am beginning to plan for adding CO2.  I will be purchasing a 5 gallon canister and injecting the CO2 directly into one of the Fluvals.   <Your plants will be thrilled! Unfortunately, I have absolutely no experience w/ CO2, so I cannot offer any specific advice on that.> Any additional suggestions would be greatly appreciated.   <To sum up, consider adding algae eating inverts/fish, start/continue with weekly water changes, keep up with the filtration improvements, keep dosing with Fluorite (and consider increasing to full-dosage), and add more plants, all per the above suggestions/specifications.  Best of luck - your tank sounds very nice so far, and it has *great* potential for all the beautiful plants that many of us just don't have the lighting requirements to buy! Enjoy...Jorie> Eclipse 12 Planted Systems   7/3/06 Does the Eclipse 12 provide enough light for plants such as the java  fern and moss, Amazon sword, micro sword, anacharis etc. or should I  look for some sort of retrofit like the ones offered by SunPaq?   Thanks.     Robert <The South American swords mentioned won't grow much or quickly with all else being provided and this quality and intensity of light, but the fern and moss will do okay and the Anacharis/Egeria so-so. Real answer supplement: You would be better off with the lighting upgraded. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Plant Tank Lighting   6/22/06 Hi Crew,  My previous question was answered by Sabrina.  She was very gracious and I have been trying to become more informed before asking more questions. Anyway, I have 2 aquariums I would like to convert into planted tanks, one is 150 gal and the other is a 20 long.  I need new lighting for both tanks and am still trying to determine just how much lighting to purchase. <Mmm, w/o going further... depends on the species you intend to keep, what your goals are, budget for purchase and operation...> My plants aims are not too ambitious at this point.  For the 20 long, I am thinking about cryptocoryne willisii or walkeri, dwarf sag, dwarf swords, pygmy chain sword, and perhaps some Brazilian pennywort or anubias. <Mmm, well the Crypts and Anubias can "get by" with quite low intensity...> I'd like similar, but larger plants for the 150 gal.  For livestock I would add cardinal tetras, lemon tetras, Rummynose tetras, Otocinclus and kuhli loaches.  I've tried to find plants and fish that have similar needs (don't know whether I've succeeded) but need help with lighting.  For the 20 gal, I have considered a 55 watt compact fluorescent or 3 18 watt T-5 bulbs.  Would this be sufficient lighting for these plants? <Yes> Are there factors to consider that would help determine which type of lighting would be best for this tank?   <Mmm... species, needs, depth... just the particulars of lamp type/s> For the deeper tank I am looking at 2 36" fixtures, each with 6 39 watt bulbs.  Is that sufficient for low to moderate light plants in a tank that deep?   <Not really... You really will want at least half again as much total PAR here...>   I plan to use Eco-complete as part of the substrate, and I'm working to avoid plants that need very bright light.  Thanks for your thoughts.  Kerry   <Mmm, have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html The articles and FAQs files on Planted Tank lighting, fixturing? Bob Fenner>

Re: Plant Tank Lighting   6/26/06 Hi Crew (hopefully Bob),      I am feeling confused and hope you will provide clarification.  I recently e-mailed a freshwater lighting question and stated (perhaps confusingly) that I am considering to buy 2 36" T-5 fixtures each with 6 39 watt bulbs for my 150 gal tank.  That would provide the tank with 468 watts of light, approximately 3.12 w/gal.  Bob stated in his reply to my e-mail that I would need half again as much lighting for this tank.  After reading his article "Lighting: Quality, Quantity and Duration", I was under the impression that 3 w/gal would be sufficient for low to moderate light plants.  Providing I use the optimum lamps for my set-up, am I going to need 700 watts?  Is this because the tank in so deep?  The tank is 22" deep.  If so, I will be searching again for lighting options, compact fluorescents I would guess because I cannot fit a larger T-5 fixture on the tank.   Thank you,  Kerry <Sorry re my poor math Kerry... I do now see that you wrote "2 times the 6 lamps"... The 468 watts of T-5 fluorescent lighting of suitable quality lamps should do very well for what you have in mind here. Again, my apologies for the mis-reading. Bob Fenner>

Plant Tank, Compact Fluorescent Questions - 05/12/2006 Hi! <Hello!> I just found your site today!  What a wealth of info!  Thank you for all the great stuff!   <And thank you for your kind words!> I did a search through the FAQ's and the Google option, <Thanks very much for doing this.> but couldn't find the information I needed, so here goes.  I am fairly new at freshwater tropical fish, though my husband had been involved for some time.  I bought him a 150 gallon tank for our anniversary a few years ago (48"x24"x30" high), not knowing then that the lights that came with it (from big box pet store) were woefully inadequate.  I hope to remedy that by surprising him with a new light set up.  We want a well-planted tank, with freshwater fish (barbs, giant Gouramis, cardinals, danios, tetras, etc.).   <Exciting!> We'll use about 4" substrate consisting of sand, fluorite and gravel.  We have lava rocks, slate, flagstone and a dense brown wood (looks like a dark brown version of driftwood, but it is incredibly heavy and does not float - java moss loves it) for decoration.  We've planted java moss, java ferns, swords, anacharis, Ludwigia and Hygrophila (I think), in our 50 and 55, and had fairly good success with plant health and propagation.  We want to make one of the 50's a quarantine tank and focus on our 150 gallon, <Wonnnnnnderful!> but we need to be able to grow the plants in it too!  My husband would also like to expand the plant selection into some of the red-leaf types.  We have young children, so the dangers of metal halide lighting (especially heat) are not an option we're comfortable with, instead we are planning to go with power compact fluorescent.  We've been told that we need something akin to a 4x96 watt bulb set up for the 48" wide tanks, and I've also recently seen a 6x65 watt arrangement.  The ones I am looking at also come with a 3/16" Lexon high heat shield to protect from splash (barrier, I know, but with our filters, read on).  Is this arrangement a sufficient amount of light in a 30" high tank for the health of the fish and successful plant growth?   <Probably.  Much will depend upon what, specifically, you wish to grow.  I'd like to advise you to also look into T5 fluorescent lighting.  TekLight retrofits, with their waterproof end caps, in a canopy might look quite nice.  And you can pack a BUNCH of T5 tubes in a small space, get a LOT of light out of them.  Some prefer PCs, some prefer T5s.  Take a look at both, and cost options of both.> There are also choices of bulbs within the set ups, being able to mix and match 50/50, 65K, 10K or Actinic.  Within each - the 4 bulb and the 6 bulb, which bulb selection would benefit the tank most? <Omit Actinics and 50/50s.  A mix of the other two to suit your aesthetic preferences will be fine.  Most folks tend to prefer 6500K, I like the 10000K myself.> Which fixture would you recommend, the 4 or 6 bulb arrangement?   <Of these two options, I, personally, would go with the 4 bulb arrangement, as it will be somewhat cheaper when you go to replace bulbs.> The fixtures also have LED 'moonlights'.   <Fun!> We use Bio Wheel filters, and I've noticed some information on your site that says this may actually remove CO2 from the tank, as the bacteria on the wheel uses it up?  Am I understanding this correctly? <Not quite.  The CO2 gets "released" from the water being too splashy, too much movement at the surface of the water.> Is there another form of filter that would be a big improvement over the Bio Wheels (we like the ease of use)?   <I like to recommend Eheim's Professionel II series.  AMAZING filters.  Really.  In any case, you'd do better to use a canister filter, or try at least to reduce the amount of "splashiness" of your Bio-wheels (which, incidentally, are my favorite HOB-type filters).> We don't currently have any type of CO2 system in place, concerned about the balance between fish needs and plant needs - any opinions?<Depends on what exactly you want to plant, and how much of it.  You can always try a couple of homemade yeast CO2 generators, or if you really  want to throw money at the tank, a pressurized CO2 system with a pH controller.> We have thought of getting a couple of power heads to keep water moving in the bottom of the tank, by the base of the plants, for circulation, but we have yet to purchase these.   <Perhaps unnecessary, but might be of good use.> Thank you, in advance, for your help!  -Erin <Since lighting is a very personal preference for some, if this is to be a complete surprise, maybe print out a few of the options for the "surprise" part, and then let him pick the one he likes best.  On the other hand, if you've done more homework on it than he has, maybe you should pick for him ;)  All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

Freshwater Planted Tank Lighting - 04/24/2006 Hello gang, <Sabrina with you today.> I've written to you before, and here I am again. I have had a 10 gallon tank for the last 9 months: 0 ammonia,  0 nitrites,  0 nitrates, pH 7.0 - 7.2  As I said in my prev. email I have hornwort, Anubias and banana plants and six teeny happy fish (three cories and three dwarf neons). The hood that came with the tank had incandescent screw-in type fixtures for two 15 to 25 watt bulbs. The bulbs were burning the plants so I replaced the hood with one for a fixture for one 18 inch fluorescent bulb.  Here's the problem: When I put in the 18" fluorescent bulb the 'leaves' (well, they're not really leaves) on the hornwort turned bright green and kind of 'melty'. While I was trying to figure out the problem, I replaced the new hood with the old one, and put in two cheapo Marina Aqua-Glo 15 watt bulbs, with what seems to be blue and red paint on the bulbs. Voila! Hornwort happy, banana plants actually putting out leaves for the first time, as are the Anubias.  The conclusion I have come to is that the fluorescent light for the tank just didn't have enough wattage (besides spiking in the 4700 K range). But I can't seem to find an 18" fluorescent full spectrum bulb anywhere that has 30 watts! Does it exist?   <Mm, if you are quite serious about it, you could/should look for a small compact fluorescent fixture, or perhaps have two normal output strips on the tank.> Should I go to screw in type compact full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs? <You could try these.> But my concern here is that in the pix I have seen, the diameter of these fluorescent bulbs seem to be wider than the hood allowance ; i.e., the standard 15 watt incandescent bulbs for aquariums are somewhat narrow and the fluorescent, fat. <You may in fact have trouble finding screw-in bulbs that fit.> Or do I have to make my own hood with fixtures for two 15 watt, 18" fluorescent bulbs and if so, how? <There are probably a number of suggestions you can find online for doing a DIY or "retrofit" hood for the tank.> Is there a user friendly kit out there?   <Several power compact retrofit kits available, if you have a hood to build it into.> What perplexes me that it seems that no 10 gallon tank would get enough light for plants with the standard 18" full spectrum fluorescent fixtures that are available out there, and yet 15 watts seem to be standard. But nobody else seems to be complaining. <I do, I assure you.  The Anubias can survive in this low lighting, and so can a few other things, but not the hornwort or banana plants.> What do I do? <Up to you.  I, personally, would stick with the fluorescent strip and go with low(er) light species.> Also, I was having 'creeping' pH problems (UP) and after some research on your site, found that hornwort actually raises pH. <I've heard of this, but not experienced it myself.  Interesting.> I will be experimenting with CO2 injection at some point to compensate (and help the plants too). Great site guys, and thanks in advance for any help you can give. <Thank you very, very much for your kind words!  All the best to you.> Lisa <-Sabrina>

Aquarium lighting... planted tank learning    4/16/06 Hello, I have three questions regarding my tank. I have a well-established - over 9 months old - 10 gallon tank with brown Estes' small sized gravel, some hornwort, sword plants, banana plants, 3 albino dwarf cories, and 3 dwarf neon tetras. <So good, so far> My first question is about lighting. Little did I realize when I bought those sweet little, inexpensive plants at the pet store that I would be entering a nightmare of aquarium lighting. <Or Nirvana... depending on your point of view> The incandescent bulbs <Whoa! Time warp!> that came with the tank burned the chlorophyll right off the sword plants. I then purchased a new hood with a fluorescent fixture which spiked in the 4700 Kelvin range. <This CRI is too low...> About two weeks later I saw the end leaves on the hornwort turning an almost pure green and coagulating together. I would like the purchase the proper lighting and am slightly dazed by the info to consider. Even the internet research I have performed on full spectrum lighting turns up prices from $10.00 to $90.00 on an 18" plant. Can you recommend a brand for a 18" fluorescent fixture? <... there are quite a few. The parameters (color temp., CRI... for discerning are gone over here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm and the linked files above) I have read that the plants that I have are very accepting of different wattage. <To a degree> Secondly, my pH was staying above 7.2, even though I only use distilled water for my water changes and have no rocks in the aquarium. <Need more than distilled...> Have you heard that Estes gravel can raise pH? <Much of this brand can/does> And what can I do to lower it? I would put some cured driftwood in, but am concerned as the tank is only 10 gallons. <... also covered on WWM...> And finally, I read on your site that an aerator can harm plants by reducing CO2. So I got rid of it (I read that hornwort is somewhat oxygenating anyway).  I used to see minute bubbles drifting off the hornwort all the time, are they oxygen damaging the plant, or CO2? <... they produce oxygen during the light/photosynthetic part of the day, carbon dioxide, using O2 during the dark phase...> Thanks for your time and attention. Otherwise, my fish are very happy, happy fish. Lisa <Keep studying Lisa... keep an open mind and you will learn, benefit. Bob Fenner> 10,000 k bulbs for planted tank  - 03/05/06 Hello, Would a Coralife fixture with 2 96 watt 10,000 k bulbs work well on a 46 gal. bowfront tank that would be used as a planted aquarium? <Mmm, yes> Or would I have to replace the bulbs with 6,700 k bulbs to get good growth? <Either will/would work... more/different results here due to other factors> I was using the fixture for a saltwater reef and have since moved up to metal halide. So now I want to try my hand at a planted tank. I will be using a laterite substrate, and use the yeast type CO2 injection system at first to see how it works. <Good> I have read that up to 10,000 k lights are the upper limit for spectrum, and also have read that 7,500 k would be the upper limit for useable light, so at the moment am kind of confused. <The "incandescence" measure of lamps has little to do with PAR...> I would like to use the bulbs I have since they are still fairly new, but if the plants can't use the light then I'll have to buy new ones. Your input would be most appreciated, thanks. <I would go ahead with what you have, perhaps try switching out when these lamps are "old". Bob Fenner> Plant Tank, Upgrading Lighting - 12/10/2005 I have had a 29 gallon aquarium for 3 months.  I have 4 platys, 4 Corys, a school of lemon tetras, and a school of zebra danios.  I currently have a T-5 dual bulb strip light.    <Are these high output T5s?  I, personally, absolutely love the Tek-Light T5 systems from Sunlight Supply.  VERY nice systems, in my opinion.  I prefer their retrofits to the fixtures, I think, as the retros have waterproof end caps, and the fixtures don't.  Probably not a big deal if you keep a thin piece of Plexiglas on the fixture as a shield, but as you know, that will cut back on the light that actually gets to the plants (even if by just a little.> I have some java fern, java moss, Anubias, Cryptocoryne, an Amazon sword, Hygrophila, Sagittaria and Vallisneria spiralis.  The Vals is looking pretty dull and not very good.  Everything else looks ok, but not great.     <The sword and hygro could benefit from greater lighting - but I have to admit, I've kept vals in MUCH less than ideal lighting and still gotten them to thrive....  Do you have any substrate fertilizers?  I found that my vals were heavy root feeders, and really thrived when I used a fertilizer in the substrate, such as Seachem's "Root Tabs".  When I moved, pulling the vals up was like pulling up a carpet with 3' grass growing out of it....  SERIOUS root system.> I am thinking about upgrading the lighting so I can have a little more variety in plants.  At the same time I don't want something I have to spend several hours a week cutting back or replanting and I don't want to harm the fish.   <You've got a very, very delicate balance to strike, here....  If you increase your light output, but don't alter other nutrients (including CO2), you're headed for algae problems....  and if you increase all the factors that affect your plants, you WILL be wanting to spend some time occasionally cutting, replanting, etcetera.  Uhh, I wouldn't say it's several hours a week, though.  Hm.  Best suggestion?  Get a copy of Diana Walstad's book on low-tech planted aquaria, and a copy of Peter Hiscock's "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants".  That first will show you approaches to having a successful, easy-ish, low-ish light plant tanks, and that second is my absolute favorite for showing how/what plants need to live, and what to do with them.  It's a must-have for any beginning plant tank keeper, in my opinion.> I have 5 year old twins who are primarily interested in the fish, but I like the plants too. <The fish probably like them, as well!> Also my aquarium store told me I absolutely had to add salt at 1 tsp per gallon for livebearers so I did.  Does that harm the plants and if so what is the tradeoff? <That's a lot too much for the tetras, which tend to hail from areas with no salt.  The platies can go entirely without salt.  I would never exceed one tablespoon per ten gallons in a plant tank; freshwater plants, for the most part, aren't really designed to handle salt - but the plants you've selected so far are very tolerant of such things.  I would cut back on salt significantly.  My current platies have been with me for several months and entirely saltless - though they do prefer harder, more alkaline water than is typical in a planted tank, they will thrive in a very, very broad range of water types.> Thanks.   <Sure thing.> Tim <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Plant Tank, Upgrading Lighting - 12/10/2005 I have had a 29 gallon aquarium for 3 months.  I have 4 platys, 4 Corys, a school of lemon tetras, and a school of zebra danios.  I currently have a T-5 dual bulb strip light.    <Are these high output T5s?  I, personally, absolutely love the Tek-Light T5 systems from Sunlight Supply.  VERY nice systems, in my opinion.  I prefer their retrofits to the fixtures, I think, as the retros have waterproof end caps, and the fixtures don't.  Probably not a big deal if you keep a thin piece of Plexiglas on the fixture as a shield, but as you know, that will cut back on the light that actually gets to the plants (even if by just a little.> I have some java fern, java moss, Anubias, Cryptocoryne, an Amazon sword, Hygrophila, Sagittaria and Vallisneria spiralis.  The Val. is looking pretty dull and not very good.  Everything else looks ok, but not great.     <The sword and hygro could benefit from greater lighting - but I have to admit, I've kept vals in MUCH less than ideal lighting and still gotten them to thrive....  Do you have any substrate fertilizers?  I found that my vals were heavy root feeders, and really thrived when I used a fertilizer in the substrate, such as Seachem's "Root Tabs".  When I moved, pulling the vals up was like pulling up a carpet with 3' grass growing out of it....  SERIOUS root system.> I am thinking about upgrading the lighting so I can have a little more variety in plants.  At the same time I don't want something I have to spend several hours a week cutting back or replanting and I don't want to harm the fish.   <You've got a very, very delicate balance to strike, here....  If you increase your light output, but don't alter other nutrients (including CO2), you're headed for algae problems....  and if you increase all the factors that affect your plants, you WILL be wanting to spend some time occasionally cutting, replanting, etcetera.  Uhh, I wouldn't say it's several hours a week, though.  Hm.  Best suggestion?  Get a copy of Diana Walstad's book on low-tech planted aquaria, and a copy of Peter Hiscock's "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants".  That first will show you approaches to having a successful, easy-ish, low-ish light plant tanks, and that second is my absolute favorite for showing how/what plants need to live, and what to do with them.  It's a must-have for any beginning plant tank keeper, in my opinion.> I have 5 year old twins who are primarily interested in the fish, but I like the plants too. <The fish probably like them, as well!> Also my aquarium store told me I absolutely had to add salt at 1 tsp per gallon for livebearers so I did.  Does that harm the plants and if so what is the tradeoff? <That's a lot too much for the tetras, which tend to hail from areas with no salt.  The platies can go entirely without salt.  I would never exceed one tablespoon per ten gallons in a plant tank; freshwater plants, for the most part, aren't really designed to handle salt - but the plants you've selected so far are very tolerant of such things.  I would cut back on salt significantly.  My current platies have been with me for several months and entirely saltless - though they do prefer harder, more alkaline water than is typical in a planted tank, they will thrive in a very, very broad range of water types.> Thanks.   <Sure thing.> Tim <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Plant Tank, Upgrading Lighting - II - 12/13/2005 Thanks Sabrina! <Sure thing, Tim!> This is good advice. <Hm?  Who, me?  Whew!> Yes the T-5 is a coral-life.  I don't remember whether its termed high output or high intensity but yes each bulb is 18 w but it looks about twice as intense as the combined 40 watt strip I had before.  And it came with Plexiglas. <Sounds decent.  How old are the bulbs?  Might be time to change them.  If that's the case, that may be the/a cheaper solution for ya.> I will cut back the salt as you suggest as I do weekly water changes.  This probably explains why the blood fin tetras I had died, although the lemon tetras are fine.    <Could be.> Regarding the substrate fertilizer I mixed in a little premium gravel for plants when I set up the tank and then I have putting in the iron potassium liquid supplement.  This may seem like an ignorant question but I can add a substrate fertilizer now without tearing up the tank? <Oh, sure!  Try looking for Seachem "Root Tabs".  I like these a lot.> I will check out the books you recommend.   <Great!  You'll especially like the Hiscock book.> Regarding CO2 I think I want to wait unit I understand all this better.   <Understandable.  I'll again caution you heavily about going higher in lighting at this point, then.  It really could be trouble.> I find the information I get on CO2 confusing as it seems like there is some danger of harming the fish.   <Mm, some, but not great danger....  Again, you'll want that Hiscock book.> Thanks.  Believe it or not I really have researched all this quite a bit but its seems like there are no easy answers once you get past the basics. <Absolutely, completely, entirely, 100% true!!> Tim <All the best to ya,  -Sabrina> 27 gallon Hexagon tank, Lighting Retrofit  12/04/05 Hi again, after searching your web forums with no answers I decided to email you again. <Welcome stranger!> I have a 27 gallon Hexagon tank. I have talked with many different pet stores, getting different answers from each. I cannot grow plants in my tank. It has been established for about 8 months, I currently have platies. I have a 15 inch Aqua glo bulb in it but I don't feel its getting enough light. <Likely> I have contacted the manufacturer and there isn't any other top for it. What can I do to promote plant growth in my deep tank? thanks <Look into "retrofit" kits available from online retailers, such as ahsupply.com and hellolights.com. Or, if you know what you're doing, purchase the "bits" yourself from a lighting outlet and build an additional fixture. Best regards, John> 

400 HPS Lighting for Freshwater System  12/1/05 Hi, great site. I can buy a 400w hps unit for really cheap and was thinking about using it to grow aquarium plants is this a good idea?? I was thinking along the lines of maybe two, 3fts tanks back-to-back with the light suspended from above, but I need more information before I set out. Any help would be great on bulb type, distance from the tank etc etc.  I'm new to the plant side of things in aquariums and have only used very low lighting before and with little luck. Thanks <You could give it a try... , you may find the bulb has an inappropriate spectral output (yellow or pinkish tint). If so, plants may like it, but likely so will algae, and it may have a poor aesthetic. I would give it a shot, and if it is too yellow, you could switch out the bulb for an HPS/metal halide "conversion bulb", compatible with an HPS ballast. The Iwasaki 6,500K is one such bulb. Ushio 10,000K is another. I would place the bulb at least 9" above the tanks so you don't heat up the glass where the tanks join too much. Do investigate CO2 injection - your plants will need it with this light. Best regards, John> 

Lighting, Covers, And Plants - 09/13/2005 Hi aquarium gurus, I have what is hopefully a very quick question.   <Not sure about the guru bit, but let's see what we can do for you....> I read the following paragraph at http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm: "Also, although we'll cover fixtures in the piece after next I want to make sure and mention the advantages of direct exposure of the lamps to the waters surface. Do your best to keep nothing between the lamps and the water; all such barriers reduce light transmission and phase shift the light." I'm setting up a 75 gal acrylic tank wanted to know what's ok to have between the lights and the surface of the water.   <Preferably nothing but air - and not a lot of that.> My previous planted tank had a glass lid which the lights sat on and the plants did very well.  My new tank (which someone was nice enough to throw away in our dumpster) <Score!> has an acrylic top with access holes cut out of it.  Is the light that is over the acrylic going to be deficient compared to the light over open water? <Mm, a little, but as long as you can do your best to light properly for the plants you want, you'll probably be fine.> Also, I was planning on putting some kind of barrier over the open holes or over the entire light fixture for fear water getting into the light fixture area.  Can you comment on this?   <Sure.  Your best bet is to have waterproof end caps on your tubes and not have a barrier at all.  If you must have a barrier, or just wish to, do your best to be certain it is thin and quite clear; no UV coating, etc.> I was thinking glass or acrylic.  I haven't bought the light fixtures yet, I only have the tank itself.  If it's useful, here's a picture of the tank: http://zhyla.net:4000/files/images/aquarium_from_dumpster1.jpg <An excellent find indeed, my friend!  Congratulations!> Thanks for the advice,  -Nathan <Wishing you well with your new tank,  -Sabrina>

Rotting plants, poorly lit 125, unwashed gravel, too much stock too soon 8/22/05 Hi,     I have a 125 gallon tank with a FilStar  Xp3 filter, a Coralife 48" double bulb compact fluorescent light, <Not enough light...> and a  mixture of eco-complete and fluorite substrate.(4-5" high) <Good> The tank has  about 50 plants and that is where the problem lies. When I filled the tank and  had about 20 plants in it, the tank turned to tomato soup (the Fluorite). <Have to rinse thoroughly...> As it  cleared, everything had been covered with the dissolved Fluorite. Soon after  brown algae formed over all the plants and driftwood. Then many of the plants  turned to mush, for lack of a better term. My guess is that the fluorite on the  leaves suffocated the plants, <And? Lack of light energy, perhaps lack of nutrient... maybe water quality...> while creating an environment conducive to algal  growth. So my first question is this: What caused this? How should I  correct the problem? <... many possibilities... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html Yes, the whole of the linked files>     The other topic I would like to discuss is the  fish. I put four danios in the tank to cycle it <... I would not cycle a system with livestock generally... too stressful, likely to introduce pathogens> and one died on the second day  and it was left to rot (family emergency) for 4 days. I have only  tested the water once and it was 6 days after I originally got the  danios. The results were: Ammonia: 0.25 , Nitrite: second lowest color  on test kit. ( around .25) So, it has been a week since I got the danios  and I wanted to know if I can remove the them and put 6 Discus in the tank  in a week? <... I would not... read for now... your system is not cycled, stable enough> I have heard it best to put all the discus you buy in at once. Is  this true? <Usually, yes> Can I do so in one week? Afterwards, how long should I wait to put in  6 German rams? <A month or so> And then, how long should I wait to put in 25 cardinal tetras and  6 Plecos? Thanks, Anthony <Another month perhaps... Study my young friend... too easy to make simple mistakes w/o knowledge of what you're up to, potential circumstances. Bob Fenner>

Lighting/Freshwater Hello crew, I have a question which might border on the less than right side...I recently bought compact fluorescents for my aquarium.  They are supposed to be used for regular lamps (screw-in) but I rigged my canopy as to fit these bulbs for the tank, it is a planted tank.  Each bulb puts out 1,920 lumens, a warmth of  700K, and a wattage of 30. On the package it says the 30 watt bulb illuminates or gives off enough light as if it were a 100 watt bulb. So my intellectually challenging question is if I have 2 bulbs on my tank, are my plants receiving a total of 60W or are they getting 200W?  <Jean-Pierre, the lumens will be your answer. See what the lumens is of bulbs you have been using. GE, Phillips, etc. will more than likely have this info online or you can email them for lumens info. I think a lot of this is just an advertising gimmick. They may be brighter to your eye since they are fluorescent, and the company is comparing them to incandescent lighting which wouldn't look as bright due to the CRI index but may be the same lumens. I would be more concerned with the CRI index and wattage of the lamp in growing plants. Remember the term they use, "as much light as a". James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for sharing the knowledge.  <You're welcome> 

Lighting for live plants Bob/anyone else: I am setting up a 215 gallon tank 72" x 24" x 30"(tall) and am using live plants. (fresh water) <Spectacular!> this is a standard oceanic aquarium and has the double strip lighting that came with it 2 - 36" fixtures each with 2 - 25 watt bulbs. <Hee hee, your plants futures aren't so bright that you'll have to wear sunglasses...> The tank has a 4' window behind it that I can use to let sunlight in and a second window at the end that I could also open the blinds on to let in natural light. <Might help, but I definitely would augment your over-tank lighting... even with selecting low-light requiring plants... they will not grow much, look great.> I would like to grow Amazon swords, micro swords, and several other types. <More light intensity> Any suggestions on what I need on lighting besides this, without getting too expensive. I don't mind spending another $100-200 dollars if it will really make the difference. <Will indeed make a huge difference. So much so that I would wait to purchase, place plants till you've done the addition, change. Look into T5 fluorescents (what I would use)... even the more expensive (to purchase and operate) possibility of metal halides> Also, any other suggestions for plants, and how to be successful with them is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jim Giammatteo <Read over on the site: The Krib... ( http://www.thekrib.com/) you will become so "pumped up" you'll be stirred to proceed apace. Bob Fenner>

Reef lighting for FW Dear Sirs, <Nah, just Don here today> I have recently converted a 75g reef tank to fresh water. It still has a 4 bulb 2act. White 2 act. blue VHO rated at around 380 watt when it was new probably closer to 300w now. I would like to keep it for fresh water plants. Is this wise? <"Wise" is not my strong point, but I'd give it a try. Choose high light plants.> Are there any problems that you predict like algae? <A concern, for sure. Don't go into this half hearted. Add plenty of plants to help suck up the nitrates and keep the algae at bay. You will also be able to see which plants are doing best in these high light conditions. Watch your feeding. High light and high nitrate equals algae bloom> Any comment would be greatly appreciated. <Most of the red leafed plants do well in high light> Sergei Dutch Aquarium, Lighting - 04/15/2004  I want to do a Dutch style planted tank, with java moss or some short grass in the foreground and terrace the bigger plants to fill in the middle back and sides.  <Sounds like fun, for sure!>  I have a JBJ 48" with 4x65 watt bulbs but I'm not sure what Kelvin to use  <Anything over 5000K will do; pretty much the rest of the selection will depend upon your aesthetic preferences.>  and whether I should do 2 bulbs of one Kelvin and two of another or all 4 bulbs the same?  <Again, this is mostly up to your aesthetics. Heh, I personally absolutely love my 10,000K VHOs on top of my plant tank - this is most aesthetically pleasing to me, and gives me great results. Try to get some hands-on with other hobbyists, look at local shops, etc., and see what you, personally, like best.>  Thanks.  <You bet. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

- Reader Response to Dutch Aquarium, Lighting - I have this JBJ fixture over my 75 gallon plant tank and love it. It caused some serious hair algae problems which were fixed quite easily with CO2 to go with the light. I am very happy with the 10000k bulbs as well. The fans in the fixture make a god awful noise the first 15 minutes they turn on, probably need to be cleaned. Other then that I love the fixture and the 10000k bulbs! <Great - thanks for sharing. Cheers, J -- >

Freshwater Lighting Hi, I have a 30-gallon long freshwater tank -- 36 inches long.  I want to grow live plants and replace my Perfecto strip light (about 24 inches) with a brighter lighting system.  I've been looking at the Aqualight unit that is 36 inches long with two 96 - watt bulbs.  A couple of questions:  1) Is this too much for the tank, especially in terms of possibly overheating it since there is a wood canopy cover that may restrict air circulation (the Aqualight unit does have fans built into it, though). <It shouldn't be too much light provided you have plants that like light.  Some of the plants found on the market today tend to like the shadier areas in the wild.  Do your research before getting plants, and get the ones that will like the intense lighting.  I like having fans on my tanks, just gives me a better piece of mind.> 2) I like the unit made for saltwater tanks that has one blue bulb.  Will this work with freshwater plants?  Thanks for any advice. <Actinic Bulbs are designed to mimic the light that would be found at deeper depths of the ocean.  this might not be the lighting that the freshwater plants are used to.  Many of the freshwater tanks I have kept have liked the daylight bulbs.  Check with many manufacturers and you will find that they specifically design bulbs for freshwater plant growth, that fit most lighting systems.> Tim <Good luck. -Magnus>

Planted Tank Lighting. Hello folks, Thanks for putting together such a terrific resource.  I have a question about lighting. <Excellent, I hope I can illuminate.> I'm fairly new to the hobby, but have been trying to do my homework before getting in too deep (sorry for the bad pun). <We are even.>  I'm interested in setting up a freshwater aquarium with some live plants - not a huge number but enough to make for a nice aquascape.  My current plans are for a 50 gallon tank, with no more than 2-3 species - maybe one group of schooling tetras, some Corys, and something else (platys? Kribs? rasboras? rainbows?).  <Maybe a cool Pleco and/Or a few Angels?> Tank dimensions as you know doubt know: roughly 36" x 18" x 18". <right> One of our LFS's was going out of business, and I stocked up on a few things including two 75W heaters and a Magnum 350 canister filter (seem like reasonable choices to you?). <Yes, I like the Magnum 350 canisters, maintenance is not always fun, but if the price is right, heck yeah, they filter well.  I would use two 75w heaters at least.> They had some used compact fluorescents which I held off on until I had a better sense of what I am going to use, lighting-wise -hence my question. For a set up like this, could I get away with just a few 36" normal output fluorescents?  Assuming I'll start with a few good "beginner plants", would it be foolish to go this route - should I just try for a canopy setup with multiple compact fluorescents?   I guess there is a larger question here - in terms of applying the helpful information on this site to a specific situation - what is a reasonable way to figure out lighting needs?  For example, is it: 1) determine requirements of tank occupants in terms of light output strength (watts per gallon?) and desired spectrum. <Bingo! What plants do you plan on keeping, and what are their requirements.> 2) calculate needed watts based on above as well as height of tank <Yes, you must take this into consideration.  Normal Output fluorescents do not penetrate as well as Power Compacts, or VHOs, which do not penetrate as well as Metal Halides.> 3) use this information to decide on which types of lights are adequate vs. ideal (NO, HO, VHO, MH, CF) <For lower light plants (Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss) a pair of fluorescents will be fine.  For plants with a greater demand for light I would go with Power Compacts.  No need for Halides unless you get really nutty.  You might also want to experiment with injecting CO2, a couple of 2 liter bottles, yeast, sugar, silicone, and some creativity on your part to diffuse the bubbles, and you are on your way.  Best Regards, Gage> Thanks very much for any info you can provide, Jason Charlottesville, VA

Lighting for Plant Tank Continued Thanks so much for the information!  To follow up, I went back to the LFS (which is closing in 3 days) to pick up some more gear - this is getting addictive. <You Betcha!> I picked up (at pretty good discount) a 36" Helio strip light fixture with remote ballast and 4 36W bulbs - the selection was limited but was told the four I bought were appropriate - I wanted to double check with you all if that's ok: 2 "Daylight" 36W 10,000k compact fluorescents and 2 "Rapid Grow" 36W compact fluorescents - each has one 10,000k and one 7100k (blue) - I believe...... Does this seem like appropriate lighting for a 50g "starter" planted tank? <You are going to have a Rockin' plant tank, with the lights that you picked up you pretty much have everything covered.  Bulbs around the 7000k range are good for plants, but can give off a yellow or pinkish appearance, the 10,000k bulbs are going to be very white and maybe a touch bluish, the two combined should please both you and the plants.  If you go with any lower light plants like Anubias, you may need to place them in a shaded area.  Now, check out the links below for some info on CO2 and substrate (no worries, aquarium gravel will work fine).  Best Regards, Gage http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/ http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm  > Thanks again!! Jason

Planted tank lighting upgrade, heat Dear Bob, <Howdy Ken> I have read your articles for years in the magazines. I had reef tanks for years and was successful. I took a break and I am now setting up a planted tank- 65g (36x18x24). I bought a CO2 system with Ph controller and Dupla heating cables. (As you can see, I still remember how to spend money from my reef days). <Ha! Good training> My question is about lighting. I want to have the correct light but I don't want to have so much that I need a chiller. I lived that life already. I was going top buy a canopy with two VHO tubes (192 watts total) and Ice Cap ballast. This would be almost 3 watts per gallon. However I saw on some forums that lighting a tank with 24" depth is a problem for plants, especially ones that would go in the foreground. So I was wondering should I got with a 4 tube canopy giving me 384 watts which is almost 6 watts per gallon. Is this light good or too much, and just as importantly, will there be a heat problem? The lights do have a fan. <Mmm, maybe... But I would just use what you have now and see if you like the results. I suspect you will> I really appreciate your comments as I need to make a decision right away. Thanks and regards, Ken Kloss <Please write back as you go along with notes re your progress. Bob Fenner>

Planted tank lighting Hi, <Hi yourself! Ryan at the helm today> I have a 75 gallon tank that is freshwater and I recently converted it to  a smaller fish heavily planted aquarium, I have 2 48", 40 watt bulbs for planted aquariums and a 24" one also.  I know I need more watts for this tank but I would like your opinion on if I should buy 2 more normal 40 watt bulbs or buy a more expensive light system made for aquariums.  <sadly, to get the kind of growth that you see in great systems, you'll need a good lighting system.  But, it's not like we're talking about reef lighting here.  Make sure you get the lights on a timer.>  I would just like your honest answer and I don't know very much about these more expensive lighting systems. <Not necessary, but it will benefit your tank.  I've grown some incredible plants with shop lights from Home Depot, but there are certainly limitations.  Keeping the plants higher in the water column will help as well.> Thank you, Chris <Keep us posted, and do look over the FAQs for recommendations on lights.  Do what works for YOU>

Bulb Selection for Planted Tanks (04/10/03) Hi Bob, <Hi! You get Ananda today....> I must say that when I started looking into setting up my freshwater planted tank the information I found was not very concrete.  There are so many different experiences and opinions and very few of them seem to share the same conclusions.   <I've run into the same thing.> However, I have managed to settle on a setup and I'm just looking to fine tune it a bit before I plunk down my dough.  Kudos to you and the WetWebMedia site for providing concise and useable information in a straightforward manner. <Thanks for the kind words.> My question is this; what compact fluorescent bulb do you recommend for freshwater plants in the 55W variety?   <A pair of them at about 6500K.> I have a 55 g tank that I will be putting two 55W CF's on.  I've decided that the actinic blue used in reef tanks and the "daylight" tubes with 10,000 K plus do not fit my lighting needs.   <The 10000K bulbs are supposed to simulate daylight over deeper water... generally not what you want for a planted tank.> With that said, I'm having a hard time finding other CF bulb options.  Please help. <I know that Custom Aquatic, AH Supply, and Hello Lights carry 6500/6700K bulbs. (All of them have web sites at www.[companyname].com when you take the spaces out of the company name.)>    Best regards, Mike Durham, NC <Enjoy your tank garden... --Ananda>

CF Bulb Selection for Planted Tanks So what conclusions did you come to? Thanks a bunch Ananda! <You're welcome...> AH Supply had exactly what I was looking for.  Wow on the quick response!  Keep up the great work! <The quick response is partly because your question was a very easy question for me to answer, since I've considered planting my own 55g tank.  --Ananda>

Thanks a bunch Ananda! <You're welcome...> AH Supply had exactly what I was looking for.  Wow on the quick response!  Keep up the great work! <The quick response is partly because your question was a very easy question for me to answer, since I've considered planting my own 55g tank.  --Ananda>

Plant Aquarium Size I like taller aquariums and am planning on purchasing a 128 gallon tank that is 60x18x28(H).  My plan is to use four 96 watt Hamilton power compact fluorescent lights to support live plants.  The tank will have a canopy (8").  I want to avoid metal halide bulbs and fans.  My concern is that it will be difficult to maintain the live plants in good condition using power compact lights with a tank this deep. <I don't see a problem here. With that many bulbs your plants should do excellent, even with the deeper aquarium depth. The output of a PC light reaches farther into the water than a normal fluorescent bulb.> Will this lighting be adequate and will there be problems using this type of lighting without fans?   <It should be. I don't think the heat will be much of a problem either unless the area where the tank is gets fairly warm in the summer. Just keep an eye on your temp but you should do just fine.> Or would I be much better off going with a standard 100 gallon tank?   <If you like the 128g, go for it! The one thing to keep in mind is that a deeper tank doesn't mean you can add more fish. Surface area of the water is always a huge consideration so a shallower but wider/longer tank can hold more fish than a tall one, even if the gallons are the same.> Thanks, Marini Ballard <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: question about wattage on CF's Hello, First, I want to thank you for having such an informative website. <You're quite welcome.> many many hours spent reading it has taught me a lot. <Me, too!> One question I haven't seen addressed concerns the watt ratings of compact fluorescents. Most CF's list their watt ratings, then compare it to an incandescent. for example, something like 23 watts equals the light output of a 90 watt incandescent. I have a 45 gallon planted freshwater tank, and I want to use a couple of Maxine CF's. <Hmmm. Not familiar with this brand...do check the color temperature rating. You want lights that have a rating of about 6500K. If it says "cool white" or "warm white", avoid it. "Full spectrum" is usually okay.> as I'm making the hood myself, I'm wondering how many of the 23 watt maxlites would be sufficient. <Two or three should be enough for most plants. Since you have a deep tank, I would suggest three.> thanks for any info on this matter Michael Pinsonneault <--Ananda>

Lighting The Way My tank is 45 gallons (36"(wide) by 24"(high) by 12"(deep)).  My question is can I grow low light requiring plants such as java fern with only one fluorescent tube? <I think that you'll need one more for best results> Could you suggest a high output energy efficient light, T-8 for example? <Many good ones to chose from!> I've seen very high-output (5000 lumens) in 20 watt bulbs but haven't been able to find the equivalent in tubes.  Is it possible to get those somewhere? <A number of manufacturers, such as Coralife, make a wide variety of appropriate full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs for the applications that you need. I'd check with one of our wetwebmedia.com advertisers to see which bulbs they carry.> I currently have a power-Glo which I understand is too high intensity for brackish figure-8 puffer.  My local (Canadian) home depot carries Philips Agro-Lite or Sylvania Gro-lux wide spectrum.  Are these more appropriate? If not, can you suggest another brand/model?   <Those Gro-Lux bulbs will definitely grow plants- but they cast a very pinkish hue, in most cases, that you will probably find unattractive. If it is a true full spectrum bulb, it may work. Best to use a full spectrum bulb designed specifically for aquarium use.> Thanks very much. Paul <Glad we could help. Good luck with your efforts! Scott

Actinic lights for a freshwater planted aquarium Hello:  <Greetings!>  I wrote you earlier about using my old reef tank wet/dry system for a freshwater planted habitat.  This question is in regard to the lighting and has two parts. Light output:  Common sense tells me that the lighting requirements for the reef would have been at least if not greater than that of a planted freshwater habitat.  Is this truly so? <Your lighting requirement will depend on the plants you are trying to keep.  There are lots of fresh water plants with high lighting needs. Select your livestock/plants now and build the environment around the stocking list>   Should I plan on toning down the intensity a bit for the freshies?  <Again, it depends on the critters you will keep>  Spectrum:  Would the ideal light spectrum differ from coral to freshwater plant?  <White light around 6500K but not over 10,000K>  Would you suspect that the combination of Osram actinic blue (Deluxe S9watt F9TT Blue/uZ9) and Osram 50k daylight that allowed the reef to THRIVE do the same for the plants?  <In this application, I would consider the blue for aesthetic purposes only. Maybe keep the 50/50 and change the actinic to white.>  Would or can you suggest something better?  <I can't emphasis enough that a good stocking list is the key to success. White light will be good for most if not all freshwater plants. Much success to you in this endeavor>

Lighting (large planted freshwater system) I am after some advice, I have a 6 x 2 x 2 tank planted with java fern and java moss set up as a community tank with discus, Gouramis, and tetras. There seem to be a lot of people saying their bulbs emit the correct and essential light needed for plant growth and for good looking fish, but which ones would you recommend, Coralife's Spectramax seem to be a good deal as they have a reflector built in, I was going to buy 4 3 foot tubes and perhaps in the not to distant future another 2 as this seems a cheaper option than say 5 2 foot tubes, can you help? <These are good lamps. Please do read through the various "Light", "Lighting" sections on our sites, whether they're in the "Plant Index" or no. Perhaps start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lightfxtagb.htm following the links along, or use the Google search tool on our homepage: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ with these terms. There are many good lamps, lighting fixtures made for your low light-intensity situation... Understanding the underlying science and choices is simple with some knowledge of underlying science and product availability. Bob Fenner> Thanks Graham Edinburgh

Lighting Can you help me by pointing me in the right direction. I'm looking to light a 72 gallon 48x18x22 bow front aquarium. It will be a freshwater aquarium with live plants. I read your article on lighting. Have made some phone calls and everyone's trying to sell me on VHO lighting. Sales from Champion lighting tried to talk me out of standard full spectrum fluorescent saying "I would have to replace five 40 watt bulbs every 6 months.  <This is likely so> That VHO would be more cost efficient because I would only need to replace 2 bulbs once a year".  <Again, a verity> After hearing this my "Spidey" senses lit up and figured I should ask you. I'm new to this. I don't mind building one or buying an already set up lighting system. I just want something of quality without getting ripped off.  <I understand... feel the same way> Any suggestions or product recommendations would very much be appreciated. ~KB <Do read through the "Marine Lighting FAQs" starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/lightMAR.htm Same technology for your application. I would very likely get/use compact fluorescents... the current best available, most appropriate technology for your size, shape tank, desires. Bob Fenner. Like the fish below.> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>

Lights for Freshwater Planted Tank Hi, I have a 46 gallon bow front freshwater tank. Can I grow Val.s and Swords using regular store bought 3 foot full spectrum GE fluorescents with a 3 foot 2 bulb fixture. Do I need to make it a 3 or 4 bulb fixture?  <Yes... a four would be better...> The more I read the more confused I get.  <Ahh, then keep studying... you will soon enough be past the "more confusion" per effort spent curve... and on to the "more understanding and enjoyment" per effort phase in your enlightenment> I almost bought an ALL GLASS power compact light strip but after reading your articles and also not being interested in flash or techie looks I would like to go with your suggestions for fluorescents. Do I need HO or VHO or can I just skip those options? <Hmm, no outright "need" (in other words regular or normal output will/can do...), but the boosted formats are "better" in looks, efficiency, costs in the longer hauls...> Those type of bulbs do not seem available at the stores. Your response will be appreciated....Jim <Anytime my friend. Let us help each other to be clear, complete in our conversations, and understanding. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lights Thanx for the reply. I spent some time today looking for 36 inch bulbs. Locally in Vancouver WA. there are few choices. I did find out that power compacts are MORE efficient than the regular fluorescents. Is it also true that they will need to be replaced less often? <No, about the same rate, useful life time... some ten thousand hours, others 15...> Are they as good for plants and fish as regular fluorescents? <Better... Produce more PAR, PUR than Normal Outputs... at a lower net cost...> The one I have considered are GE 9325, Kelvin 55 Watts. <So far... so good. Read over light, lighting... on the Net, the www.WetWebMedia.com site. Bob Fenner>

Light Hi Bob, I want to run a plant tank without CO2 injection. I have read through your plant pages here on WWM and the are indeed informative. A few more questions though. <Okay> The tank size will be 38ga. pH 7.4, GH 140ppm, DKH 5. I will be using Seachem products, their Flourish line of fertilizers and Fluorite substrate (2inches in front to almost 5" in back. Their Flourish Excel (organic carbon) sounds pretty good. What say you Bob? <So far so good> As for the light, Compact Fluorescent or regular output? <CFs> How much before it becomes necessary to add CO2? <Hmm, a little tricky here... boosted photosynthesis, or not boosted, this system would benefit from carbon dioxide infusion... At what point will you/it be held back from a lack of carbonic acid?... Depends... on plant stocks used, their abundance... temperature... surface agitation... much more.> I want decent plant growth but not so much as I need to add CO2 or not enough and have a lovely algae tank with some plants in it. There really isn't much choice with spectrum on Compacts.  <Hmm, actually... > Very limited. I figured with CF, one 96 watt tube should do. (?) <Likely> With regular output I can get a massive variety of spectral output and can utilize several tubes in combination. Should I have three or four tubes running. Will four need added gaseous CO2? <This will certainly be a/the principal rate-limiting component/feature of your system... Are you adverse to trying a simple "pop bottle, yeast, sugar" infuser?...> You said that added CO2 is not really necessary unless you have a ton of light. <Or plants, desire for growth... perhaps color... all in a balance> I want to test this for my self. I have always wanted a lush plant tank but never wanted to spend that kind of money on a fresh water tank. <Yes, careful planning, execution... your time, study, dedication instead> You have also indicated that RO water, reconstituted or not is simply not necessary either. <Yes... have yet to find such terrible "potable" water that could not be worked into shape by plant selection, their modifying of the water...> WOW you certainly do contrast with a lot of others who state the contrary. (I like your opinions, they are cheaper). I will hold you to this as well. Zimmy <Perhaps these other folks experiences differ, maybe they're selling water treatment gear, additives... You can/will find out soon who is more correct. Bob Fenner>

Lighting for planted tank Hi Bob, I have a 29 gallon planted tank with fish that has been up and going for about 5 months. It has about 7 or 8 different plants in it. I was wanting to upgrade my lighting here to increase my plant's growth and/or be able to acquire plants which require more light. All of my fish are plant-safe so far. I was looking at the CSL Brite-Lite 30 inch hood which has a 10,000 K bulb and 65 watts versus my 20 watt bulb. Is the Kelvin rating of this bulb too high for freshwater plants, would it kill them? <Not likely outright, but your plants (and even fishes) will have to undergo an "adjustment period" where likely you will see different and differential growth... I encourage you to try an "aluminum wrapping" technique I've seen used with good results. Do cover about half the new lamps area with some foil for a good week or two, slowly tearing off bits, allowing more light... to more generally acclimate your aquarium's inhabitants to the new intensity> Would the Smart-Lite setup be more appropriate with the 50/50 bulb?  <Hmm, depends on what your ultimate intentions are in the way of species mix and boosting growth... I would refer your question to the listserv of the Aquarium Gardeners Association. Do plug in this descriptor in your search engine, and sign up, read through their exhaustive treasure of archives in "the krib"...> Some of my plants look a little thin, especially where the clown loaches hide in the Amazon Sword. I do add a little fertilizer with my weekly water changes, and I have a Penguin 330 bio-wheel and a mini Penguin Bio-wheel for filtration, gravel bottom, some African driftwood and a couple or rocks. Your suggestion would be appreciated, the best I can find on the internet re: Kelvin rating is that 6700 K is good, but not much info on the higher values. Thanks for your time, talk to you soon. <That temperature is fine... as are most any above 5,000K... Do read through the wetwebmedia.com site re lighting, fertilization and the use of soil... You're on your way to pet-fish revelation, and greatness. Bob Fenner> Dave Bayne

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