Advice for upgrading lighting 55 Gallon Tank 

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JSK

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Hi all, its been months since I posted but I could use some advice.

I have a 55 gallon, lightly planted with Java Fern and something LiveAquaria sold to me as "Watersprite" but I am not sure that is what it is. Anyway, both have been in my tank since I set it up. While the tank was cycling I did a DIY CO2 injection and the watersprite went nuts...I swear it was growing a 1/2 inch a day. When I added fish I took off the CO2 (it was really dropping the pH). The "watersprite" kept growing so much I had to trim it weekly....it reached the top of the water and was bushy and lush. This was even with the cheapo fluorescent lights that came with the tank (30 watts total, I think!).

Not so much now. The watersprite is really thin and I can't keep the blue-green algae off of it. Java Ferns seem OK but not growing much...oddly no algae on them.

Im going to take out the Watersprite and replace it with something else, but as I do that I am thinking about upgrading my lighting to get up to 2 WPG or so. I'm thinking a 2-bulb T8HO lamp setup.

Right now, my 55 gallon has two lids/hoods on it (one on each side of the middle reinforcing bar). They are the cheapo plastic ones that came with it...they open on hinged from the front and the lamps are in plastic housings that I can lift off...they fit right over the plastic windows in the hoods.

1. Do I need to replace the hoods with something else in order to update my lighting?

2. What lighting systems would you recommend that won't break the bank?

3. If I go up to 2 wpg and stay with mostly low-light or moderate-light plants, do I need to use CO2?

I love the look of plants in the aquarium, and I realize I need to upgrade for them to thrive...thanks in advance for your help!
 

pepetj

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I figure you mean T5HO not T8HO.

A nice light fixture is the Glo, made by Hagen. I just got one, it cost around USD150.-

You could also go with DIY retroffiting: all you need to do is check if your electronic ballast can handle T5HO, if not you should purchase one that can handle two 54W lamps.

If you move from 30W to 108W you might need to provide your plants with bio-available carbon, either by DIY CO2 -which seems to lower you pH to levels you don't want- or dosing with Seachem's Flourish Excell.

Pepetj
Santo Domingo
 
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JSK

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Yeah, T5...typo.
 

Nutter

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If you go to 2wpg with T5HO (108w T5HO), you will actually have closer to 4wpg. The WPG rule does not apply to T5HO lights. They have roughly double the output per watt as standard T8 lights. So 108w of T5HO is actually more like 216w of T8 lighting.

With two x 54w T5HO lights you would need a co2 system for sure. Dosing Excel would get very expensive very fast at the rate you would need to use it. Depending on your water chemistry you might be able to run DIY or a pressurised injection co2 system. If you can post the current KH & PH of your tank water I can help work out if you can add a co2 system.

With 2 x 542 T5HO lights, you could grow any aquarium plant you wanted. Light would no longer be a limiting factor.
 

Nate McFin

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Higher light is not a cure for BGA though it sounds like you want to take your tank to the next level anyway. Making plants healthy and having enough plant mass vs. Co2, lighting and nutrients is the key to ridding the tank of algae. Balance balance balance. (Great advice on lights and Co2 above!

Assuming you actually have BGA and not GSA (green spot algae) BGA tends to like areas of poor circulation, low nitrates, and low Co2 levels.
Check out this link for some great info on algae.
http://www.aquariumalgae.blogspot.com/
 
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JSK

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pH 7.4
Sorry don't know the KH, I don't have that in my API Master Kit, test but I know I should get it. I'm running out to LFS tomorrow for other reasons so maybe I'll grab one.

What would a good CO2 injector cost me? Ballpark.

In terms of the BGA, yeah, that is a seperate issue. Its a bit of a nuisance but not taking over....I've got a plan for that.
 

Nutter

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Co2 injection can be cheap or rather expensive. If you buy a commercial pressurised co2 sytem, you could expect to spend anywhere upwards of $120. If you put aside $200 you could get something that is very workable on your tank.

You can go the DIY route using yeast generators. This relies on a reaction taking place between yeast & sugar in a container of water, (fermentation) to produce co2 gas. Set up costs are just a couple of 2lt soda bottles & some airline. You have an Eheim canister filter so you have a perfect diffuser already. For a 55 gallon tank you will need to run at least 2 x 2lt yeast generators & with the really high light levels you are thinking of 4 yeast generators would be even better. There is an ongoing cost of yeast & sugar involved but the cost is not prohibitive. I run 4 generators for less than $6 per month.

A commercial or self built pressurised system will give the best results but if cost is an issue or you just want to see how co2 goes before commiting to a big buy, then DIY will work for you.

If you want to add co2 to your tank it is critical that you have KH & PH tests. I would not advise setting up a co2 system without having KH & PH test results if your PH levels are already a concern.
 
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JSK

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Nutter,

When I first set up the tank I rigged a DIY CO2 system exactly this way. I used a single 2 liter bottle, some yeast, sugar, a Buchner flask (vacuum flask so the CO2 bubbled through water - prevented any contamination passing into the tank), and I ran a tube right into my filter intake. Worked great, I had a couple of bubbles going every 5-10 seconds. Plants seemed to love it, but after about 4 days I checked the pH said it was down from 7.4 (my tap water) to 6.2. So the buffering capacity of by water is pretty low. However, I also recognize that more light will mean more plant growth and hence more of the CO2 will be used.

Lowering th pH is OK because I actually want it lower..I have mostly tetras in there and want to add some gourami (I was going to start using peat), but I worry that with a system like this, it is relatively uncontrolled...there is no way I can precisely regulate the amount of CO2 that goes in there. I guess I could put a little airline valve on there to regulate it to a certain degree...I'm a biochemist/scientist by trade so I don't like imprecision!:)
 

chunkdaddy

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Hi JSK,

I'll leave the c02 to the experts, I've got to set one up myself. As far as upgrading your lights, I recommend the Nova Extreme Lights. I upgraded my 29 gallon lights to this and their great. I have the standard plastic hood just like you. The Nova Extreme has legs for the light housing, because its housing is about 1 inch wider than what came with the hood, so that it sits up above my window. I tried just sitting it on top of my tank, but it was getting splashed by my filter! Hope this helps.
 

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If your certain you want a co2 sytem, then I would spend the money on a commercial pressurised sytem or build one yourself. The bare bones set ups will give you a bit of precision but if you want real control, invest in a PH controller. The PH controller controls the release of co2 into the aquarium by monitoring the PH levels constantly. If you know what the KH of your water is, you can set the PH controller & then have a pretty good idea of how much co2 is actually in your tank. PH controllers are not cheap though.

Personally I have no problems using diy co2 & keepng my co2 levels constantly between 20ppm & 25ppm. I run 4 generators though. Two is the minimum to use if you want a consistant co2 supply.
 

flyin-lowe

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Check out AH supply. You can order stuff online from them. You can get a CFL kit that will fit in your existing hoods and they are good prices.
 
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JSK

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So I stopped by the LFS and grabbed a KH/GH test kit; readings:
GH = 7 (~125 ppm)
KH = 2 (~35 ppm)

I have not researched how this affects my ability to set up a CO2 system, but I am guessing that the fairly low KH means my buffering capacity is low and thus the pH is likely to change quite a bit (which is what I saw when I had the DIY CO2 before). Am I right?
 

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JSK said:
So I stopped by the LFS and grabbed a KH/GH test kit; readings:
GH = 7 (~125 ppm)
KH = 2 (~35 ppm)

I have not researched how this affects my ability to set up a CO2 system, but I am guessing that the fairly low KH means my buffering capacity is low and thus the pH is likely to change quite a bit (which is what I saw when I had the DIY CO2 before). Am I right?
That is correct. You need to work out what the best way for you to bring the KH levels up or you will get very large PH swings day to night. My preferance would be to add some limestone chips to the substrate or one of the filter compartments. You can use Crushed coral or shells if you think they will be more suitable to your system. All 3 of those things will raise the GH as well as the KH. The only way I know to raise only the KH is to use Baking Soda but there are certain problems with it's use & it is a long way from my prefered method.

Which ever method you choose, you need to make the adjustment slowly. So add only a little bit of Limestone (or coral) each week & monitor the KH, GH & PH closely for a week before deciding if you need to add more or not. You are aiming for a KH between 4-10.

Here's a link to some ifo you may find usefull:
https://fins.actwin.com/mirror/begin-chem.html
 
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