Super confused about lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by SevenEro, Nov 26, 2012.

  1. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    I'm ready to start trying live plants (almost), but I'm super confused about lighting. I'm going to start with my 5 gal Endler/shrimp tank, which currently has no light, just indirect light from covered windows several feet away. I need to buy a light for it, but which is better? Fluorescent light/hood or incandescent hood with CFL bulbs? Right now it just has a glass clover over the top of it.

    I've done lots of reading, but it has done nothing except confuse me further. :confused:

  2. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    If you want the tank to be covered, then the hood with a CFL bulb (color temp range 5000K-10000K, preferably middle i.e. 6500K) would work fine. If you want to leave it as a glass top there are clip on CFL lights (depends on the width of the tank edge and available cover openings), or you can keep it simple and use a desk lamp with a CFL bulb. Incandescent bulbs will not grow plants.

    Sometimes the reflectors are really poor or non-existent in hood, and there isn't any easy control over the spread of light. So, I prefer the desk lamp or clip on light because you can change the way the light is aimed, and the level if it becomes too much for the tank (algae or heat).

    Here is an example of a clip light that fits up to a 19mm edge (roughly 3/4"). Not the best bulb for a freshwater aquarium though since the CFL is a half actinic bulb (grows algae), I just realized that it had that bulb.

    Hopefully this helps and didn't make things more confusing.

  3. Orion5 Well Known Member Member

    I was going to suggest the exact same lamp. :) With a change in bulb as well.

  4. Jaysee Fishlore Legend Member

    I'm not a plant guy, but I am under the impression that it is easier to do in a larger tank.

  5. jetajockey Fishlore VIP Member

    The cheapest effective route with a 5g is a clip on light with a daylight CFL bulb. A brooder light works very well although it is a little unsightly. I currently have a desk clip on light over my fluval chi as it undergoes a dry start method.

  6. iZaO Jnr Well Known Member Member

    I have to agree. For that tank size you can be lucky to find a small 6 or 8" T5NO fixture but it can be difficult to retrofit.

    A daylight CFL will do wonders for the plants and the fish colour.

    Start with the light mounted high-ish above the tank and if you see your plants arent doing too well, lower it until you find it works. I have to say that it is easier to do smaller tank' lighting if you stick to medium/low light.
  7. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    okay, thanks for all the input!

    by clip-on desk lamp, are we talking about something that can be found in office supplies?

    what confuses me the most I think is this: when people are using CFL bulbs, are they using them in CFL-specific lights or incandescent lights with CFL's screwed in?

    also, do LED lights actually do anything for plant growth?
  8. jetajockey Fishlore VIP Member

    Any fixture that takes standard sized screw in bulbs works. Always check the maximum wattage listed on it, but usually CFL's are okay since they run at a fraction of the wattage that the incandescent equivalent does.

    Yes LEDs can be used for plant growth, the important part is getting the right kind. You'd want a high quality LED that has a full spectrum output in the daylight range, unless you are into DIYing LEDs (i'm not) you'd be relegated to finding a planted tank specific type fixture to go with.

    One model that has been getting a lot of action recently has been the Finnex Fugeray, although I've not tried it personally.

    IMO the cost savings for running LEDs over CFLs is negligible until the higher end LED fixture prices start coming down a little more. They do look way cooler, though.
  9. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    I use the CFL bulbs screwed into a hood that use to have incandescent bulbs, not the square or rectangle base power compact CFL bulbs if that is what you are thinking of. There are some nice LED lights that do just as well, if not better, than CFL and even T5HO, but most of the cheap ones (comparable to CFL) won't do anything for plant growth even on a small tank.

    Jetajockey, the finnex fugeray seems to show decent PAR values and quality for the price. Plus, I think it is cheaper than any of the marineland fixtures that don't do much of anything for plants.

    edit: the first part seems repetitive now since I typed it too slow. Jetajockey covered it well.

    It looks like the 10" FugeRAY LED fixture isn't priced too bad, same price as their clip on light. So, depending on the size of your tank, it may be an option. I didn't realize they had any that small.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  10. jetajockey Fishlore VIP Member

    Yes it's definitely a nice little light, I know a few people who have purchased one and are happy with them. For me, though, on my little Chi I just spent $6 on a nickel plated clamp light and another $2 for a daylight CFL, game over. Although my issue is that I have too many tanks to deal with at the moment to spend any more than I absolutely have to.
  11. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    I fully agree, there are many ways to skin a cat (stil a weird idiom to use :)), and on a low tech setup like this using cheap fixtures do pretty much the same thing as their expensive counterparts. I forgot about the clamp-on work lights, that would work well for a small tank. It actually still looks nice too, at least to me, and for the value it can't really be beat.

    Good to know that there are more people happy with the fugeray, I may be getting one in the future. Still need a bigger tank to find it worthwhile to undergo DIY LED lighting with cree LED's. Sorry, I went a little off track there.
  12. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    would this light be good for plant growth?

    i just checked out the FugeRAY LED, too. i think i like that one even better! basically the same price as the other one.

    what's the difference between 6500K and 7000K in plant growth/aquatic life in general?

    also, is 10" in length enough light for a 5.5 gal (which is about 16" long)? i'm going to be setting up a 55gal in the next couple of months so i'd like to be prepared for that as well... when using LEDs like these, how much coverage/length do you need for healthy plants/aquatic life?

    chevyguy: what kind of plant is that in your profile pic? i think it looks a lot like a plant i saw at this new fish store i checked out tonight called a sumatra fern. they said it's super easy to grow. since i'm a "brown thumb", sounds like a good one to try out!

    jetajockey: got a pic of your clip-on with CFL bulb so I have an idea what it looks like/what I'm looking for? and where did you find them?

    can't decide if I want to go the budget route since that's all I can really afford right now OR wait a minute and get a sweet looking LED light.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  13. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    From the description in the link you provided it showed the single bright fixture only being good for a fish only tank. They recommend the double bright (or reef bright) for planted tanks which appears to have 1 watt LED's at 10,000K. The FugeRAY runs LED's at 7000K which should be more full spectrum and better for plants.

    The difference between 6500K and 7000K would be minor. The higher the color temperature number, the more blue the light will be, and the dimmer the light will be. The more blue there is the more algae will thrive, most of the time. 6500K and 7000K should be full spectrum and have more of a balance throughout the visible color spectrum. So, both of those should provide enough reds, blues, and whatever else a plant needs from the light for photosynthesis.

    The plant in my avatar is water wisteria, and is very similar to the sumatra fern (aka water sprite). Both are easy fast growing plants, so be ready for trimming :D. I started with water wisteria, and it survived just fine without anything added other than fish, light, and water. So, both are good plants to start with. Cryptocoryne wendtii "green" is another plant that is hard to kill once it adjusts.

    I didn't know the length of your tank, so it was a number I threw out there. I would put a 16" fixture on it so you don't have to find a way to hang a 10" fixture. Also, the LED light angle probably wouldn't be enough to get to the edges of the tank with the 10" fixture. Both the finnex and beamswork lights look like they don't use reflectors (which is fine), and just use more LED's to cover evenly.

    On a larger tank with LED's it would really depend on what plants you want to grow. With the fugeray the PAR values on a deep tank would be very poor, meaning low or too low of light depending on the depth. So, the fugeray is good for nano tanks, and short tanks. The ray II would provide medium light at a depth of 18" and probably still medium light at 20" (which seems to be standard height for a 55 gallon).

    Edit: I just realized this is a bit overkill on explanation, sorry.
    I say go low budget on the 5 gallon with CFL, and save the money for something nice on the 55 gallon you are planning :).
  14. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    ah, good catch about the single bright vs double bright. i never would have caught that myself.

    with the cliplight you suggested earlier, it says 30,000K-10,000K. why is that one so much higher? what is K a measurement of? color? i get so confused by K vs lumens vs watts vs whatever else there is. PAR is the strength of the light as it shines down through the water, right?
  15. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    A 30,000K color temperature is very blue, commonly called actinic which is used for growing corals in saltwater. Kelvin (K) in lighting is the color temperature, which has different colors at different temperatures, and is a measure of the hue from a light. For example, 5000K-5500K is noonday sun and appears white because it is made up of all the colors in the light spectrum in more of a balance. For aquarium bulbs one company's bulb may look one way, while another will look completely different at the same color temperature. This makes it a bit harder to choose bulbs by the kelvin rating, but it is a good general value.

    My understanding of lumens with aquarium lighting is not that great, but it is a measure of the intensity of light from a source. I would not worry about watts except when you have to buy bulbs :). There is a rule of "watts per gallon", but it only applies to T8 and T12 bulbs, which both are an inefficient light bulb compared to what is available. You are correct on PAR. With fixtures such as T5HO or LED's, PAR is a more accurate value to go from to judge the amount of light at different levels. Not all companies measure this though, so that makes things harder. PAR does become more important on larger tanks for freshwater plants, or saltwater corals.

    The wonderful thing about a small tank is this isn't really necessary, but it is easier to go overboard. As long as the CFL bulb is somewhere between 5000K and 10,000K it will be fine. With LED's there still seems to be other values that tell how well they work for plants, I still need to learn that better. Freshwater plant growing LED's on a mass scale is still fairly new, saltwater people got it first lol.
  16. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    well I feel less confused about lighting now I think. :) thanks for the input everyone!

    I went with this:

    and this:

    free shipping for cybermonday! :) cheap enough and it still looks nice and I can save up for fugeray for my 55gal.
  17. chevyguy8893 Well Known Member Member

    Yeah, sorry, I can't really put my thoughts into organized text generally making things worse lol. Anyway, both of those will make a good combination for the tank :).
  18. SevenEro Valued Member Member

    lol, you did great! now I feel like a made an educated decision about my lights instead of choosing things without knowing why. :) I feel like lighting and keeping aquaria in general is a never ending learning process.
  19. Ziabis Well Known Member Member

    I've done lots of reading, but it has done nothing except confuse me further. :confused:[/QUOTE]

    Im with you on that my friend...
  20. jetajockey Fishlore VIP Member

    Do you have any specific questions? I can attempt to clarify if it's something I know about.