Grow little guys... grow.
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Chicago, IL
Welcome to planted tanks. I'm sure you'll get a ton of different answers to your question because there are so many philosophies to keeping planted tanks - even within the low-tech category.
Based on the general info you provided, I would say that you have enough to get started, but I'll point out a few details to help keep you on track… In any planted tank, the major things you need to be concerned with are lighting, nutrients, substrate, and water movement.
SUBSTRATE: The fluorite can be used as a substrate, but it in itself does not provide a cache of nutrients for the plants. Fluorite is a fractured clay which provides a very large surface area and is great for colonizing bacteria. Over time, detritus will build up in the fluorite and be metabolized by the bacteria thus creating a cache of nutrients that will be accessible to plant roots. But this takes time. In light of that, you can choose to supplement with Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and trace minerals. Overall, you want to make sure that your plant nutrients are not limited. Consistent nutrients will provide better success. Your sword plant is a nutrient hog and given that your tank is already set up, you may want to insert some "root tab" fertilizer where the swords will be growing. If you were starting fresh, I would recommend yard soil capped by the fluorite. Something to think about for the future.
CO2: You can definitely choose to not inject CO2. I am personally against excel, but many people use it with apparent success. Without injecting CO2, you will be operating at ambient levels of CO2 in the water column which is low. Thus you will want to make sure that your water is sufficiently circulated throughout the tank. Typically, the outflow from your filtration is not enough to provide the type of tank circulation that I'm referring to. A separate power head, or a side-mounted impeller will definitely be an advantage to getting what CO2 you do have available to all parts of the tank.
LIGHTS: This is probably the trickiest thing for beginners. Well, to be fair, it's tricky for a lot of people, non-beginners alike… The reason is because there are so many kinds of light sources now days and almost all of them can be used to grow aquarium plants, but the biggest question is: how much? I've never personally used the LED strip light that you bought. But with my experience and watching an unboxing of this particular light on youtube, I would say that it is a light you can work with. To answer your question about spectrum and lumens - its relatively meaningless concerning aquarium plants. Especially meaningless is watts! Your LED strip light can be used to grow plants, rest assured… however, despite what the marketing says, the LEDs are NOT full spectrum, and your plants could care less about lumens. If you read any of my other posts, you'll come to understand that there is a definitive and precise way to determine your aquarium lighting, but it is beyond the scope of a beginner - but only in terms of money, not understanding. Really, you can choose most any light source, but you just need to make sure that you have enough of it. Especially without injecting CO2 you'll want to make sure that your light is not limited. But the balancing act here is that you also want to make sure that it's not too bright! My guess, is that you will have moderate lighting with your chosen LED strip light and will be fine for the plants you've chosen.
SPECTRUM: For many years, before the explosion of the number and type of light sources we have available today, people used standard fluorescent tubes to light their tanks. Those, fluorescent tubes were by no means full spectrum, but they grow plants just fine… You just need enough of them. In fact, standard old-school fluorescent tubes have a huge green spike in their spectrum. Manufacturers designed the phosphors this way because green light appears brighter to humans compared to other colors. Thus, they could claim more "lumens". Green light, as it turns out, is the part of the spectrum where the plant is "least efficient" at photosynthesizing. For a long time, I was incorrectly educated to believe that plants only cared about the blue and red part of the spectrum. But the truth is that this is only where they are "most efficient". Diving deeper into the subject, you'll learn that a large number of plants can use light from ALL parts of the visible spectrum to activate photosynthesis. So don't be fooled by spectrum and color temperature such as 5000K, 6500K, 7500K, or 10000K. It, again, is marketing. And what it refers to is how yellow or blue the apparent color of a light source is. Choose a light that makes your tank look good to you and fits into the lighting of your room. If you have "enough" of it, your plants will collect it and use it.
Jeremy Squires, Chicago, IL
One should never have to decide between chocolate, cake, or cookies.
Last edited by i4x4nMore; 11-19-2013 at 10:19 PM..
Reason: Additional comments