Beginner Questions for my Very First Tank

  • #1
I just purchased a 55 gallon tank (48" x 13" x 21")
I have never owned a tank before so I am going for Freshwater

I was originally looking at a T5 setup but I'm reading that's probably too much light?? Is a 48" 2x34watt T8 light enough for a tank that is not heavily planted?

I want to keep the light from being too bright in my living room. A lot of what I have read says to stick to around 1 - 1.5 Watts per Gallon for low-light plants, but I have heard a lot of different things as well... I read that floating plants can "block" some light, Any tips on top floating plants?

also I'm trying to understand about the Lumens but having a difficult time here, I don't quite get what's best unless less is what I want since I don't want it too bright? I heard pink bulbs are great for plants, but are those overkill for what I'm doing?

I don't plan on keeping a lot of plants as I also have plastic cave scenary. I do have some driftwood, and I plan on sticking to beginner stuff, probably Java Fern/Moss, but I'm not certain yet, anything slow-growing is my 1st choice. For fish, all I know is that I want a good variety of peaceful Community Fish.

I also want a good substrate + gravel, but I don't know enough about Co2 to say what I can use there, so I'm hoping I can keep things simple in that area. And I have a Aqueon HOB Filter, but I am willing to upgrade my filtration at some point down the road.

Can anybody tell me how hot a light like this gets? And how I would go about placing it on my tank? Or how close to the tank I should ask, can it sit right on top?
  • #2
I am not the pro at lighting yet (as I too am still learning) but will your floor be able to support the tank... because wuth the tank gravel water stand etc. it is probably going to weigh 600 lbs! I would check that before you have a fish tank in your basement!
  • #3
Depending if it's a T5NO (normal output) then that would be fine. T5HO (high output) is what you would not want as that's high lighting and that's not what you are looking for.

Any T5NO, T8 and T12 with 6500k-10000k would be fine. K = Kelvin the temperature of the bulb - how it looks to your eyes. As long as you have 2 bulbs for enough light for low light plants. You can mix a 6700k and a 10000k, so you can mix and match.

You would want to stay under 2wpg - any higher you start getting into CO2 and fertlizers on a daily bases.

Low light setup dose not need CO2.

Substrate you can use fine gravel or gravel.

Good plants would be Java Fern, Anubias and Crypts. Floating plant - Water Sprite.

Crypts need root tabs for nutrients. Like Flourish Root tabs.
  • #4
I second everything AlyeskaGirl says!

You should be fine with the lighting, 2x34 T8, setup you have. If you go with some bulbs in the K temperature range mentioned above you'll be able to grow low light plants pretty easily, granted their are getting proper nutrients. So I would recommend you go with some nutrient rich substrates if you plan on doing plants, i've seen noticeable improvements. You don't want to get plain old cheap gravel or sand unless you are willing to dose a bunch of liquid ferts and use plenty of root tabs, which start to add up $ real fast.
  • #5
Anubias and Java Fern get their nutrients from the water column as they are to be attached to driftwood etc.

Nutrient uptake is slower in a low light setup as plants grow slower. A nutrient rich substrate isn't needed. This is where root tabs come in for root feeders like Crypts. Basically it's up to you if you want to use a nutrient rich substrate but you still need root tabs for Crypts.

I use fine gravel in my planted tank for what I grow with root tabs and medium high lighting. Granted my lighting I dose fertlizers into the water column with liquid CO2. My plants are doing great!

Flourish Root tabs are about every 3 months to insert a new one.

Edit- a single T5HO fixture would be good also, if not better. This would give you medium/low light.
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  • #6
Thanks for the very detailed response this was pretty much the conclusion I was coming to but clarification is always nice! I really like the suggestion of Water Sprites, haven't read about that before.

But the problem I'm really having is where to buy lights. I keep reading Lowes or Home Depot which I have not checked in-store yet, only online... But any recommendations?? ...I have not seen too many single bulb setups at 48" and as a beginner I kinda was hoping I could just buy something to fit my current hood but everything I see is too big. The home depot link I put is the "smallest" light I found and everything else is like $100 and up and I'm still wondering how important is a hood I see people not using them, and will I need a new one

I was hoping a good substrate would mean Root tabs would be less frequently needed?? Or root tabs would be even more beneficial if used as well with maybe just a little clay or dolomite for setting up a new tank? anything to keep maintenance to a minimum over the long haul I don't really like the idea of having to mess around in the tank too much, I'm really hoping trimming is easy lol but I guess the occasional root tab isn't a big deal, just the idea of spreading them around I heard they need to be crushed/mixed up good

Also, what's the opinion on air bubbles? I keep losing track of weather they are good or if they Add Co2 or reduce Co2... lol ? I bought a decoration with a "Wheel" for the bubbles to spin, but I would like to keep it set very low so its like one bubble every few seconds
  • #7
Ok, I have a 60g(36l"x24wx18h" I think, not 100%) tank with crypts, jungle val, java moss, anubias. Theres a single 48" 6500k t8 bulb sitting directly on the steel grate I use as a lid. I've never used a single root tab and the rooted plants are my best growers. I add a cap or 2 of flourish comp once a week. I'm not saying don't use root tabs but just that they aren't 100% necessary all the time. I also used medium-small sized gravel in that tank. I just switched it over to sand so will see if plants continue to do well without tabs.

Seeing as you want slow growing plants I would not go with t5HO. t5 at best, preferably t8. The key to plant growth is keeping nutrients balanced. There are 17 different nutrients with the most important ones being Light and Co2. Light is the easiest factor to control so you want that at a manageble level. Sufficient Co2 can be added simply through gas exchange from your filter or an airstone/bubbler. If you don't have enough light.. the plant grows very slow. Of course it's possible for the plant to die but a single t8 is enough. Too much light on the other hand can burn the plant if the other nutrients are not up to par for the plant to photosynthesize it all.

I would not add dolomite to the substrate. It will raise the PH significantly. It's best to let your tank be for a good 6 months then revisit the issue of adjusting the PH, especially since you're a beginner.

Oh and you mentioned something earlier about if a hood was necessary... yes it is. All fish can jump. For some it takes certain conditions such as poor quality water or feeling stressed and/or threatened. Some do it for fun or even breeding purposes.

Just saw your edit so I'll clarify about the air bubbles. Basically it takes air from outside the tank which is composed of like 65% Co2 and puts it into the tank. It's really adding Co2 to the tank rather then taking it away but it keeps fresh oxygen coming in as well. The bigger the bubbles the less that gets absorbed. I'll mention that my "filter" for this 60 gallon consisted only of an airpump pushing the water through a small sponge about an inch thick and 2-3 inches long. Think it was bought at wal-mart and intended for 5 gallon or less. The plants took care of the rest.
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  • #8
Yea I have seen the Seachem products, they seem good thanks for sharing how you run things! My main concern is keeping the light to a minimum, so a T8 is the route I will take. Now I just have to figure out how it will fit on my hood.

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