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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everybody. I am new here!

I'm a long time fish keeper. Tank in question is an established 66gal freshwater that once was planted. I keep rainbows and loaches and my tank used to have healthy (excuse spelling) Anubias, aponogentin, val and Java fern. At that time I had 4x 48" T12 fluorescents daylight house bulbs from a hardware store. All was well. Then the ballast died. My hubby took the opportunity to upgrade to T5s and installed 4x 48" of them. My plants all died quickly. I tried halving the lighting (I can turn off 2 lights with a switch) with no luck. We started trying different lights and have tried everything on the market. Frustrated, we bought CO2 and a UV filter... We have fertilized, we have used substrate... All plants die and become coated in algae. The water tests for phosphorous, nitrate and nitrite were all low to 0. Our water is hard (GH 140, carbonate hardness 70)

I've spoken to shop owners. The most consistent thought has been that I burned my plants by upping light intensity dramatically so I have since been reducing it (been making changes over the past >6 months)

Three-four weeks ago I switched to a fluval actinic 54 watts and a Phillips alto soft white house light (3500 kelvin) and took out the CO2 (I figured I needed signs of plant life for that to be useful). No improvement. Things are just dead in there.

Things I wonder: when "they" recommend 2 watts per gallon (and I realize lumens and watts etc are not the same) I should have @150 watts. But how does that relate to tube length? A 2' 54 watt tube must produce less light energy than a 4' does. Is my problem the tube length??

I am really frustrated with it and am thinking of selling the T5 ballasts and replacing them with something else... but what? T8s? Finding some old T12s again? Sigh. The ballasts I have must have 2 lights on at a time so I am stuck needing 2 tubes. Too much? Is there anything I can do with the ballasts I have?

I find the technical details of lighting overwhelming. I'd like to keep things basic. I have CO2 available (I took it out of the tank since everything is dead anyways...) but my goal is just to get back to where I was- with the T12s I didn't use CO2 or fertilizer. Sorry if I missed it but I read through the forum looking for some simple guidelines.

Jen

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I am not an expert but I do think that you have to restock the tank with plants for the light to be utilized. At this time there are not enough plants in the tank and that is a clear invitation to algae. With teh sort of plant cover you have now there is really no need for any lights other than just one T5.
I would certainly get a lot of easy, inexpensive and fast growing plants like Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) planted as soon as possible. Once the tank stabilizes, you can progressively replace them with plants of your choice.
Me 2 cents.
Good luck :)
 

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Ill try to help as much as I can lighting confuses me as well . for a start 2' T5 tube would be somewhere around 27 watts not 54w, 3' around 39w and 4' 54w. I tend to agree that you may have burned the plants.
If you are trying to grow low light plants you could probably get away with 1 t5 tube, 4 T5 tubes puts you into the high light category.Low light plants don't need co2 injection. if you are using ferts the you should be getting a nitrate reading from your test kits. what brand are you using?
Black beard algae which is what it looks like in the pic, some of the causes of it can be lack of flow in the tank, and some times high KH. I get BBA from time to time, I just spot dose with hydrogen peroxide, using a syringe which will kill it.
Are you able to disconnect one of the tubes and just run the twin tube ballast with only one tube in it if it is safe to do it. I would be happy to run 2 tubes in a low light planted tank. I would be watching the length of time the light is on and the amount of ferts being used to stop algae outbreaks. You could get some Amazon frogbit it will give the plants some shade as it will float on the surface if you have to run 2 tubes. The plants you mentioned tend to be slow growing so recovery may be slow.
Actinic is a reef tube not really suitable for plant growth. The best tubes for plant growth have spikes in the blue and red colours of the colour spectrum. 3500k tubes will be Ok for plant growth, don't think it would be much good for red colourd stems.
The plants should grow, you may have to replant some but they should be OK, Fert as label directs and keep an eye on light on time to keep algae at bay.
 

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4 T8 Tubes between 5000K and 8000K in the color spectrum would allow you to move back to low/medium light and grow the previous plants.
Would purchase macro/micro mix of dry fertilizer's from Aquariumfertilizer.com and dose as directed.
This Would provide all nutrient's needed in one dose, with exception of phosphate, which feeding the fish twice a day could provide.
Would use same species of plant's you previously had.
I suspect the plant's you had previously did well under lowish/medium light, and as the mass grew, a bit more nutrient's than fish food and fish waste alone could provide became the limiting factor in their health.
Add more light energy to the equation, and plant's that were maybe just getting by with nutrient's available under lower light energy begin to struggle = good condition's for algae to quickly take advantage of.
Adding any CO2 would help in the above scenario but is sometimes tricky to get dialed in .
Meanwhile the light does not care that nutrient's are maybe lacking, and or that you don't have CO2 distribution dialed in.
It just keeps beaming upon the plant's driving the demand.

P.S. Might pickup some Iron cheleat FE DTPA if water is on the hard side.
 

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I have the same size tank as you do, a 66 gallon, four foot long tank. I currently am running four T5HO bulbs over it, and using pressurized CO2. I also have hard well water, GH 232, KH 196 from the tap. I have a successful (I think) planted tank. I will tell you what I am doing, and maybe it will help a bit.
- the distance of the lights to the surface of the water is 7 inches
- I have the lights on for 7 hours per day
- I currently have one 10,000K, one 6500K and two 5000K bulbs in the fixtures. I have the 10000K at the front, the two 5000K in the middle and the 6500K at the back. I just like the way the tank looks with the bulbs like this and the plants seem to like it, too.
- I have the CO2 come on 2 hours before the lights and go off at the same time as the lights. I have both on timers to keep it consistent.
- I currently have the tank planted with Ludwigia repens, Rotala rotundifolia, Echinodorus Ozelot, Echinodorus Amazonicus, Echinodorus parviflorus Tropica, Echinodorus barthii 'Red Melon', Anubias barteri coffeefolia, Cryptocorne Wendtii, Cryptocorne undulata, Vallisneria americana, Microsorium ' Windelov', Cryptocorne balansae
- I have found that these plants seem to thrive in my hard well water. Just my experience from trying different plants in this water over the years.
- I have the higher light plants in the center of the tank, and the lower light plants near the sides. I have the vals on the sides along with the Cryptocorne balansae, and I let them shade the anubias, and the rotala shades the microsorium.
- I do dose with fertilizers, but very sparingly (I have worked out over the years a dosing routine that works for my tank). My nitrate level is 20 ppm.
- I do use Excel, as well. I use one and one half capfuls per day, which is around 7-8 ml. I also have found that spot dosing the Excel with a syringe directly on the BBA will kill it gradually over the course of several days. I take the daily dose and put it in a syringe and squirt directly on the areas of BBA. I use Metricide instead of Excel, as it is cheaper, but I won't get into that here.
- I do 50% water changes every two weeks
-I currently have the tank stocked with harlequin rasboras, black neon tetras, lemon tetras, one weather loach, and ancistrus

I can't think of anything else, but if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Don't give up on the lights. I think that raising them or if that doesn't work, you could even screen them with some window screen to reduce the light. Also, you are going to have to add to the plants in the tank, to add a good plant mass. I would try some of the fast growing stems that I mentioned, like the Rotala rotundifolia and Ludwigia repens. I have found those two very forgiving in my water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You guys have been really helpful, I am going to print off your suggestions and try to go through it step by step.

I have had water lettuce and duckweed to try and shade the tank but they died. We bought what I thought was a good load of "easy" plants: corkscrew Val, Amazon sword and hygrophila and the only thing that isn't dead and rotted away is the short stubby corkscrew Val (it's not dead, but it's not growing).

We picked the actinic because I thought it was a way to use the second ballast socket while reducing the photosynthetic light in the tank (and the blues are nice on the rainbows). Just to explain the thought process :)

alright, I will start working through this and I'll let you know what happens.
 

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I would try floating plants like water lettuce and frogbit until things settle. They should grow well under your lights and help filter the water, keep algae at a minimum since they should cover the surface and keep light from penetrating down in the tank. Depending on the season where you live, pond plants can be found a local nurseries. Otherwise, order online.
 
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