Planting on a Budget - CFLs
Hi everyone! This is my first post on this forum. I've actually been reading for a while on here, stealing great bits on info to help me out.
I'm posting today because I'm on a mission. I'm cheap(and poor ;)) and want to do my new 29 gallon tank as planted. I live in eastern Canada and we have slim pickings in my city for affordable lighting. I set to looking for an alternative to my costly options here and think I may have found something.
The thing that REALLY had me thinking my crazy scheme could work came from an old thread on this site actually!!
I want to do similar. I've found CFL bulbs I think I can work with. They are 26 Watt, have a Kelvin rating of 6500 and the Lumens are about 1750 I do believe.
I want this to be a basic tank. I plan to keep low light. Probably some water sprite, horn wart, java fern. Basically what ever low light plants the local stores have in stock that are in good shape. I don't want CO2 and I'm of course willing to dose ferts as needed.
I was thinking I could do 2 of these lights with the clip on lamp fixtures. The ones I were planning ot use differ from the ones in the pic.. they are not as wide and I'm thinking this may be an issue. They are only 5 inches wide.
I know this gives me less than 2 watts per gallon and hope this wouldn't be a huge issue.
Anyone have any thoughts? Think this could work?
Welcome to TPT! I suggest you read up on PAR since using watts to determine your lighting levels has become antiquated.
Here's the PAR thread:
Also, orientation plays a big part on how much PAR your CFLs will emit. The same 26 watt bulb can be either low or high light, depending on how it's situated. Here's some more info:
thank you. I've read through the PAR one though I don't think I'm taking it all it and will need to read it again to see what else I can take from it. lol. I'm still confused. I think looking at it that my lights will do but I will need to rethink the fixture/reflector which wouldn't be a problem.
I knew Watts per gallons wasn't the best indication but honestly didn't know what else to go by other than lumens and Kelvin.
I use clamp light from home depot, its about 8.5inches wide.
Here is a really basic PAR lesson:
People see yellows and greens best.
Plants see reds and blues best.
PAR is a measure of the reds and blues.
A high PAR light may not make the tank look great, because it usually does not have much of the greens and yellows we see. If you can arrange 3 of those light fixtures over the tank I would get 2 bulbs with high par, and use one of the 6500K bulbs so it will make the fish look better.
Light is a lot of different colors. A K value is just an average of what the light looks like to our eyes, it does not tell you what colors go into making it look like that.
WPG worked pretty well when there were very few styles of bulb to choose from, but the field is so wide open now that it is much better to go by the PAR info, if you can find it. Reflectors were not all that great then, either. Now you can get reflectors so good that they make a low light bulb (a T-8) work as well as a much better medium light bulb (a T-5NO).
If you are stuck going with WPG, this was worked out when T-12 and T-8 bulbs were most commonly used. There were hints even then that the colors produced by the bulbs made a difference, and about the only info commonly available about most lights was the K value.
This does not work so well with the fluorescent bulbs that are coiled into a spiral. A lot of the light hits the other parts of the spiral, and not the tank. A straight bulb with a good reflector puts more light into the tank, loses less to getting absorbed.
I understand low budget, but there are 2 parts to that equation:
Buy the cheapest, then pay more for the power because you had to get a more powerful fixture, 'cause half the energy is wasted.
Buy better, then pay less to run it because more of the power it uses is turned into light that actually works by hitting the plants (not lost or getting absorbed by cheap reflectors), and is the right wavelength to make them photosynthesize.
I find light to be highly over rated as the major factor. I also find it is almost impossible to get a clear answer to what is needed. That left me to go with a low cost but highly adapable system.
If you can nail together a rectangle of wood to set on the tank top, the ultimate in cheap is hanging CFL twisty bulbs on a cheap extention cord. Clamp, strap or nail temporary construction bulb holders to the wooden frame and keep changing until you see what you want. The bulbs run around $2 and the holders the same. When you have a better idea and want to change out the lighting, use the bulbs in your house. I used four 13 watt, 6500 K for my 20 gallon and was quite pleased. Specialty bulbs are not needed. But they may cost more than the entire DIY lighting system.
When I see T5 bulbs priced at more than $10, I don't worry the question of lost lighting due to poor reflectors. I just throw on another $2 bulb and keep going.
I don't use those clamp lights for anything aquarium related, but I do use loads of them in my art studio and as decorative lighting for bookshelves. You could even take the clamps off and suspend them if you found you were getting too much light and wanted to distance them from the substrate a bit.
I got the 150W ones at Lowes for $10. There's a cheaper version of same size with a basic clamp. I think the clamps are removable on that one since this one is removable. The one I have I can clamp and still position the shield. The reflectors are thin so they dent and bend easily, went through a few boxes of them before finding 2 somewhat decent ones.
I use them for cheap photography lights, the power cords on these are short and if you're hanging above you'll need some extension.
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