Proper Lighting For Planted Tanks

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Sheena-Phx

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Alright, well I seem to have way too many questions lately about all of this, but I want to make sure that I'm doing things right. Lol. I am in the process of figuring out how to plant all of my tanks. I have the little ones figured out, and am going to see how low light plants do in those. My 2 bigger tanks though I have no idea.

I have a 55 gallon with a two bulb fixture that currently has 2- 18" T8 Aqueon Full Spectrum bulbs in it. While they say they are for plants, and have a kelvin rating of 8000k, they are only 15 watts each. From what I have read I need way more watts than that, even just for a low light setup. I have also read that the Kelvin rating is more important than the total wattage. There is so much contradicting information that I have no idea where I'm supposed to go with this. Lol. Is my 30 watts enough since they are 8000k, or do I still need more wattage?

My other tank, an 80 gallon currently has a 48" T8 Daylight LED bulb that is probably around 6500k, but I have no idea how many watts. But according to most low light definitions I would need around 160 watt bulb to sustain my plant to have 2wpg. How does this work?

Now, all this energy efficient bulb fiasco drama makes it really hard to find higher wattage for plants. But I have heard people saying how they have led lights, and planted tanks. How does this work? I just want to know if I need to change anything, if my tanks can even be called "low light" or do I need something more? If I do need something else, what would that something else be? I'm wanting to put some vals in the 55, which I have read can be with lower light, but I'm not sure if that lighting is sufficient. I was also wanting to do red ludwigia repens in the 80, but have read they need a bit more light. Any information, knowledge, experience, advice, and anything in between in greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
 
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Pescado_Verde

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Wattage isn't really a good way to determine lighting as wattage is a power consumption rating and really says nothing about the light that is being emitted. Once upon a time it was more useful when most lights were either fluorescent or incandescent but as you note that's just not the case anymore.
SeattleRoy might be able to help with lighting, I think he's good with that stuff.
 
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Sheena-Phx

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Pescado_Verde, thank you for that bit of info. I feel the same, and am just trying to figure out how to do it right. Hopefully, SeattleRoy sees this. Thanks!
 
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Nataku

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Okay so the thing tou really need to be looking at for lights for plants is PAR - Photosynthetically Active Radiation. This is the range of light in the spectrum that plants need to photosynthesize. Lights which create more PAR are better for growing plants. With some digging you can find charts for many popular lights with their PAR ratings at different depths away from the light - which is something to consider if you have a really deep tank.
 
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max h

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Part of this depends on the plants you are looking at keeping. Java fern can pretty much grow with ambient light, Anubias are also a good low light plant. Then you have the Amazon Sword, Crypts, Vals, Hornwort, Moneywort, and Water Whisteria. They can all do well with a low light system some liquid ferts for the column feeders, and root tabs for the root feeders.
 
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Nataku, thank you for that, I will do some research and see what I come up with. My deepest tank is around 21.5 if I remember correctly. Is that considered a really deep tank? I quickly googled Par levels for Aquarium plants just now and came up with a chart that shows different plants and what levels they thrive at. I guess I need to find out what Par levels my current setup provides. I will go look that up now. Thank you for the tip.
 
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max h, thanks for the list! I plant on getting many of those plants for my smaller tanks, because I feel the led light strips that they have are probably bare minimum. Just guessing, but to be on the safe side, that is the route I'm taking. For my larger tanks I was hoping that I could branch out a little bit from the norm of those basic plants, but I guess it all comes down to whether or not my lights are considered "low light". I see Amazon sword on a lot of low light lists, but what I've gathered from people personally is that they like a little bit more light? Do you have experience with this plant personally? I would love Amazon sword because I do have a goldfish, and I've heard those are good for gold fish tanks.
 
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I have several different Amazon Swords, my oldest was a Petsmart medium Tube plant when I got it about 2 years ago. It has pretty much been given liquid ferts, and in the 150 I did give it a root tab. Now the plant is almost 22" tall as an estimate. The tank is 24" tall and I have about 2+" of substrate, I also have some Rotola, and a few other plants spread between the tanks. I would have to look up the names of them. It actually grew some under the old single T5 fixer I had on the 55 gallon tank. On my 150 gallon tank I'm running a Beamswork DA FSPEC and a stand DA light, the 100 has a pair of Beamswork ET series lights, and the 55 is running a Current USA Freshwater light. I have had good luck using the Beamswork LED lights, they are a good bang for the buck.
 
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max h, that is great news. 22" is awesome! I have both root tabs and liquid ferts, just comes down to figuring out my lighting. I will definitely keep the :Beamswork in mind, at some point I do want to switch everything over to leds that will work for all the tanks.
 
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The good thing on the Beamsworks they are relatively cheap on eBay. When I bought the pair of 48" ET series they where on sale for about $25-26 each, these are on a 60 x 18 x 19" roughly 100 gallon tank. I went with 2 lights to get full coverage side to side on the tank and canopy mounted them. It's a basic light with no remote controller, but can be fit with a timer. The DA series lights where a little more since they where 72" lights and a stronger light, on a 60 x 24 x24" 150 gallon tank. I decided to go with 2 on it due to the width of the tank, one did good, but either the back or the front of the tank seemed a bit dim. I have timers on the DA's also.
 
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Sheena-Phx

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max h, I will definitely keep that in mind, I'm always on the lookout for the best place to get the best deal. That's a really good price.
 
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max h

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You can still get a 48" light at a good price, the DA series has more LEDs then the EA series which means higher light output. The none FSPEC light have the 6500K white LEDs which are actually the optimal white color range for plants. The FSPEC has the 10000K white LED plus red and blue colors.
 
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Okay, so I can't figure out the whole Par thing with my particular lights, but I did find something else about tank lighting in my research for the last 45 minutes.

I can only calculate one of my tanks, because I can't find the lumens for the Aqueon bulbs listed in my first post. I don't know how trusted and true the source is in the above link, but after running the numbers for my 80 gallon you'd think my tank is so dI'm that I have a freaking flashlight bobbing around in there and nothing else. According to the site above my LSI is 3, which doesn't even get close to making the charts for a low light tank. Now I'm questioning whether or not I can even have plants in there, lol. Should I take this rating to heart, or do more research, or just get new bulbs? Does anyone have a recommendation for good bulbs that I could use with my existing fixtures? I have a 48" fixture that says it is rated for T12 and T8 in my 80 gallon. In the 55 I have a fixture that holds 2 18" T8 bulbs. I can't swap out my light fixtures at the moment, but am more than happy to get better bulbs. Anyone have any advice? Thanks!
 
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Sheena-Phx

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max h said:
You can still get a 48" light at a good price, the DA series has more LEDs then the EA series which means higher light output. The none FSPEC light have the 6500K white LEDs which are actually the optimal white color range for plants. The FSPEC has the 10000K white LED plus red and blue colors.

I'm going to go see what I can find out now. Ugh, lighting shouldn't be this complicated. I would prefer to stick with my existing fixtures right now to save on cost, since I'm going to be putting out a lot on plants in the next week, but I am going to go see what I can find out right now on the ones you have mentioned. I may have to switch everything sooner rather than later.
 
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max h

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If those T8's are more then a year old get some new ones. Save some money and go to Lowes or Home Depot and by them in the 6500k range. They should have them in stock, I had a big Java fern survive for 2 months on nothing other then ambient light in the hallway. It's a real good starter plant, just attach it to a decoration or a piece of drift wood. If you where near me I would just give you some, one of mine need some thinning out.
 
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Thanks max h, one tank has new, one tank I don't know, as I just recently got it from someone. I have java ferns in my smaller tanks and they are doing good with the led strip that is integrated in the lid. They are awesome plants and I love the way they look. And thank you for the offer, I would gladly take them! I can't find anything locally around here. : )
 
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max h

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I think it was on Amazon, but I found a 50 stem aquatic plant pack for in the range of $35 that came with about 90% low light plants in it. I picked it up to finish out my 3 three tanks. The plants actually came in good shape and so far after a couple of weeks I haven't seen any melting or dying off of any.
 
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max h

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Sheena-Phx said:
Thanks max h, one tank has new, one tank I don't know, as I just recently got it from someone. I have java ferns in my smaller tanks and they are doing good with the led strip that is integrated in the lid. They are awesome plants and I love the way they look. And thank you for the offer, I would gladly take them! I can't find anything locally around here. : )
If you have a couple already you have plenty as they grown and you need more just cut the rhizome making sure you have about 5-6 leaves on the part you cut and now you have a new plant.
 
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max h said:
Part of this depends on the plants you are looking at keeping. Java fern can pretty much grow with ambient light, Anubias are also a good low light plant. Then you have the Amazon Sword, Crypts, Vals, Hornwort, Moneywort, and Water Whisteria. They can all do well with a low light system some liquid ferts for the column feeders, and root tabs for the root feeders.
Funny you say that. I’ve grown most aquarium plants that i’ve had since I started planted tanks. But java fern is one that I can not grow. I’ve purchased several sp. of them and haven’t had luck with any. Now I have like 10 java fern rhizomes just sitting in my substrate, not growing.
 
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max h

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The rhizome needs to be above the substrate.
 
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SeattleRoy

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Sheena-Phx said:
Alright, well I seem to have way too many questions lately about all of this, but I want to make sure that I'm doing things right. Lol. I am in the process of figuring out how to plant all of my tanks. I have the little ones figured out, and am going to see how low light plants do in those. My 2 bigger tanks though I have no idea.

I have a 55 gallon with a two bulb fixture that currently has 2- 18" T8 Aqueon Full Spectrum bulbs in it. While they say they are for plants, and have a kelvin rating of 8000k, they are only 15 watts each. From what I have read I need way more watts than that, even just for a low light setup. I have also read that the Kelvin rating is more important than the total wattage. There is so much contradicting information that I have no idea where I'm supposed to go with this. Lol. Is my 30 watts enough since they are 8000k, or do I still need more wattage?

My other tank, an 80 gallon currently has a 48" T8 Daylight LED bulb that is probably around 6500k, but I have no idea how many watts. But according to most low light definitions I would need around 160 watt bulb to sustain my plant to have 2wpg. How does this work?

Now, all this energy efficient bulb fiasco drama makes it really hard to find higher wattage for plants. But I have heard people saying how they have led lights, and planted tanks. How does this work? I just want to know if I need to change anything, if my tanks can even be called "low light" or do I need something more? If I do need something else, what would that something else be? I'm wanting to put some vals in the 55, which I have read can be with lower light, but I'm not sure if that lighting is sufficient. I was also wanting to do red ludwigia repens in the 80, but have read they need a bit more light. Any information, knowledge, experience, advice, and anything in between in greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
HI Sheena-Phx,

I will be pleased try to help answer your questions. First of all 'watts per gallon' is no longer an accurate way to measure the light we put into our tanks, years ago there were incandescent lamps, followed by T-12 florescent tubes, T-8 florescent tubes, T-5 florescent tubes, T-5-HO florescent tubes, compact florescent tubes, and now LED's. Each of these types of lighting showed improved light intensity at a lower power consumption (less watts per gallon). I believe the 'watts per gallon rule' started about the time the T-12 florescent tubes were popular (1970's) but obviously no longer apply.

Today we measure the actual amount of light that a light source provides in PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) which basically measures the amount of light that is hitting a given space within the spectrum that plants can utilize for photosynthesis (growth). Although plants are somewhat more efficient doing photosynthesis at certain spectrum it has been found that plants can readily utilize light for growth across a wide range of color spectrum and what is much more essential for growth is light intensity; there is absolutely no need to have a 6700K lamp for good plant growth - period. When it comes to our aquarium pick a spectrum (lamp color) that looks good to you when viewing your tank but pick a light output / intensity (PAR) that is adequate for your plants. Also, not all plants require the same amount of light. Some typically grow in shaded streams and can tolerate lower light levels while other species live in full sunshine and require high light levels to be healthy. Typically we assign certain light intensities as follows: “Low light” tanks have lower PAR levels typically PAR@40 (+/- 20%); “Medium light” tanks usually have a range of PAR@60 (+/- 20%); “High light” tanks typically have a light level of PAR@80 (+/- 20%).


I have a 55 gallon with a two bulb fixture that currently has 2- 18" T8 Aqueon Full Spectrum bulbs in it. While they say they are for plants, and have a kelvin rating of 8000k, they are only 15 watts each. From what I have read I need way more watts than that, even just for a low light setup. I have also read that the Kelvin rating is more important than the total wattage. There is so much contradicting information that I have no idea where I'm supposed to go with this. Lol. Is my 30 watts enough since they are 8000k, or do I still need more wattage?
You are absolutely correct, I would guesstimate the 55 gallon (48.25" x 12.75" x 21" high) with those two 18 watt lamps are providing PAR@24 measured at the substrate level assuming 3 inches of substrate and the lamps are less than 1 year old (-10% if a glass cover). Well below what would be considered a 'low light' level tank. The fixture / lamps are adequate for viewing fish, just not for growing plants. I have retrofitted fixtures before but I would suggest just replacing the fixture with an LED fixture that has adjustable light intensity (PAR) and adjustable spectrum (output color); by not having to replace two lamps every year and the electricity savings the new fixture will likely pay for itself over 3 - 4 years.

My other tank, an 80 gallon currently has a 48" T8 Daylight LED bulb that is probably around 6500k, but I have no idea how many watts. But according to most low light definitions I would need around 160 watt bulb to sustain my plant to have 2wpg. How does this work?
In my emersed plant growing set-up I have three (3) 'shop lights' with two 40 watt T-12 lamps per fixture; but I got tired of changing bulbs every year (not to mention the electricity cost). A year ago I starting changing out the T-12 lamps for LED T-8 size lamps (some re-wiring required) just as you did for your 80 gallon. The result what much greater light intensity (PAR) with less electricity consumed. I can't guesstimate the amount of PAR in your 80 gallon with that light without knowing the tank dimensions but if you want to provide the information I will try.

in our local aquarium club (Greater Seattle Aquarium Society / gsas.org) last spring dealing with light in planted tanks. I have converted it to a blog post for those that would like to read it. If you have questions just ask! -Roy

.
 
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Sheena-Phx

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Thank you so much SeattleRoy, this was the information I was looking for! This makes more sense and I thank you tremendously for taking the time to explain all of that so well. I also keep reading about PAR in my research, but I can't find any realistic charts or formulas to calculate everything. I keep hearing that I need a PAR meter, which I am not interested in investing in. Lol. I just measured both of my bigger tanks using "inner" dimensions, and also taking into account the amount of substrate in each. My dimensions, and total current gallon capacity are as follows:

1st tank- 41.1 gallons being used taking into consideration the amount of substrate.
Dimensions are 47.5" long, 12.5" wide, 16" tall

2nd tank-64.5 gallons being used taking into consideration the amount of substrate
Dimensions are 47" long, 17.375" wide, 18.25" tall

There is also glass separating both of these fixtures from the water.

My 80 gallon tank has a T12 fixture that also accepts some T8 bulbs. Short term I'm just trying to find efficient bulbs that I can use with my current setup. My husband is an electrician and can change out ballasts, pieces, etc., to make different things work or open up other options as far as bulbs go. I do want to switch to LED setups in both eventually, just trying to avoid the $100 right now if I can. Lol.

Do you have any recommendations for T8 bulbs, and T12 bulbs that would work in my current setup so that I could be in between the low light and medium light PAR levels? Or is this just an unrealistic idea with what I have? Would some type of modifications to the lights be needed, and if so what do you think could be done to make this work? After I know what could work then I can see if it would just be more cost effective to do the leds now and discuss it with my husband.

I am also working on an emersed setup for both tanks today. I just got my plants yesterday and am doing my water changes before I put everything together. I will also be incorporating eggcrate troffer diffuser material to suspend the plants above the tank but have the roots in the water. We will see how well this works. Lighting for those plants is going to be with regular lighting and plant lights that I already have for houseplants. Very excited to get this done. I will read your article here in a bit, I have a very needy toddler at the moment : ). Thank you for your help, and taking the time to assist, I truly appreciate it.
 
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SeattleRoy

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HI Sheena-Phx

I assume your first tank is the 55 gallon which we estimated the PAR@21 through the glass top (assuming newer bulbs). If you were to change those two T8 15 watt 18" bulbs and replace them with LED 7W lamps (rewiring required) I would guesstimate your PAR would increase to about PAR@42 - medium/low light

The second tank I would guess is a 75/80 gallon. You stated the fixture accepts 'some T8 bulbs' do you mean that the fixture holds more than one (1) lamp? If it is just a single lamp fixture, and with the change from T12 40 watt to an T8 LED (18W - 22W) likely doubled the PAR on that tank from about PAR@10 to PAR@20. If you can add a second LED lamp to the fixture then you can double the light intensity to PAR@40.

If you are curious how I know the estimated PAR converting from fluorescent T12/T8 lamps to LED I have access to an Apogee MQ-510 PAR meter and I have converted some of my fixtures from 'standard' fluorescent to LED tubes and measured the results.

Here is a picture of my emersed/immersed set-up where I keep a supply of harder to find plants for future aquascapes.
25081519144_a156486cea_b.jpg

25590914452_f7ddfeac6b_b.jpg

Pogostemon helferi
25685887516_22bf63ef89_b.jpg
 
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Sheena-Phx

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Sorry for the delay SeattleRoy, busy day today. I also attempted to figure out the cost difference between redoing my current fixtures and using led bulbs, and just getting led light bars for aquariums. It turns out the cost is going to be around the same. So I'm wanting to find out if you may possibly know if the par levels on these particular lights would be satisfactory for my tanks, and what level they would put me at. max h mentioned Beamswork lights. Do you think there is any difference between those(first link), and this other similar light(second link).






Any advice on which of the above led bars, or any other led bar would be good for the low/medium range would be extremely appreciated. Thank you so much in advance. Also, I tried clicking on the link for your article, but it said that I didn't have permission to access it. I also love your setup with the plants, genius. The Pogostemon helferI is beautiful!I envy the variety that you seem to have grown. Very nice.
 
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max h

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Out of the 2 lights the Aquaneat will give you more light output, if they had the Beamsworks DA light in the 48" length available it would end up being a matter of how much money you want to spend.
 
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Sheena-Phx

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Thanks max h, that is great news. I did a lot of research on the Beamswork, and I'm just trying to find something similar, as affordable as possible, but effective. Do you think one Aquaneat per tank would be enough light for each tank to at least get me into the low light category?
 
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max h

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Sheena-Phx said:
Thanks max h, that is great news. I did a lot of research on the Beamswork, and I'm just trying to find something similar, as affordable as possible, but effective. Do you think one Aquaneat per tank would be enough light for each tank to at least get me into the low light category?
Actually it does look like it has enough light output, way more then the EA series.
 
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Yay, I believe you just made my day max h, that is exactly what I wanted to hear! I can't wait to get everything up and running properly. : )
 
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