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I'm looking to get some new lights for my standard 55g planted , and after browsing for a while I've pretty much hit a wall. I'm not exempting things that require some DIY but at this point I just wish there was a quality prebuilt fixture that I can throw a reasonable about of money at and be done with it.

Currently the tank has 4 36" 30w coralife daylight bulbs and 2 coralife 36" 30w 10,000k bulbs. Obviously this has a few problems, but they haven't been too terrible for the time I've used them, but I'm looking for something more elegant that suits the higher tech overhaul. (Mainly, I think something with more intensity, and capacity to reach the bottom of the tank, even coverage and good reflectors is worth investing in. I'm not sure how much light I'm actually getting from the 180w that is on there.)

From what I understand, 2 t5HO 54w 6700k (maybe 1 6700k and a 10,000k?) bulbs with quality reflectors would be more than suitable for growing any plant, though I wont hesitate to go to 3 of the bulbs if needed. (I plan on doing mostly stem plants and some of the of the more fussy ground cover). Please correct me if I'm wrong on any points.

I'm running a pressurized Co2 system. It's the Doctors Foster and Smith semi automatic Co2 with a pretty efficient diffusing system using an aquaclear powerhead with modified intake/output and replacement co2 tubing. I'll be using Flourish, as I've used it in my other less high-tech tanks with very good results, though I wont use excel. The substrate was originally going to be fluorite but I went with 40 lbs of Eco-complete black planted and then 20 lbs of Moon Sand on top. It will probably settle out to the bottom in short order but I'm not concerned about it.

Anyway, back to the lighting.There are so many brands, and this is what I've gathered so far:

Oddyssea:
Pros: Cheap, comes with bulbs
Cons: Looks to not have individual reflectors, problems with getting shipped broken, flimsy legs, questionable ballast

AquaticLife:
Pros: Affordable, comes with bulbs, seems sturdy, expandable
Con: Low quality reflectors?

AH Supply:
Pros: High quality components, good individual reflectors (haven't read anything negative about them)
Cons: Doesn't come with bulbs, needs some DIY, when factoring in cost of bulbs/DIY supplies comes out marginally more expensive than other brands

Nova Extreme:
Pros: comes with bulbs, individual reflectors
Cons: ?

Fishneedit:
Pros: Comes with bulbs, affordable, seems decent quality
Cons: Out of stock, ugly

Catalina Aquarium:
Pros: Affordable, bulbs of your choice, individual reflectors, hear good things
Cons: The fixtures I'm looking at seem pretty ugly

Coralife:
Pros: comes with bulbs, seems the newer models are pretty sturdy
Cons: more expensive than other options

GLO:
Pros: Looks sturdy/ sleek
Cons: Not sure if they have individual reflectors, more expensive, doesn't come with bulbs, coverage might not be the best.

Could anyone recommend any of these? Is there some other brand that I should look at? Preferably I'm looking to spend $160 or less.

Any help would be appreciated, the barren 55g is currently haunting me and the lighting is my last obstacle to finally putting something alive in it :bounce:. Stones just aren't interesting by themselves.
 

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I would pass the coralife as there have been quite a few reports of melting ballasts.

Aquaticlife is awesome, the reflectors seem very nice, its pretty much all metal and built like a rock! Lights are beautiful, i have had no problems except for it being to much like for my tank (which some floating plants have corrected)!!

I don't know much about the other lights, have heard really good things about the nova extremes though.

Good luck choosing, i was in the same ditch btw, i only just bought a light for my 55 sitting in a corner collecting dust. Sadly the light is still downsouth and i am way up here. haha
 

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I like my Coralife and according to my PAR meter it puts out as much light as any of them. I also liked my Catalina but it wasn't nice to look at and didn't seem to be built as well.
 

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I would go with the AquaticLife or AH Supply, they seem to have the highest quality of the one you listed. The Nova Extreme is a good option also.

If you don't mind building a canopy or hood look into Hellolights DIY kit. Around $100 for a 2X54W kit. You will need to purchase the bulbs though. 97% reflective reflectors and the ballast works at a 1.0 power factor. This is a very strong setup. The fixtures you are looking at have 95% reflectors and the ballasts have power factors of less than 1.0 meaning that the bulbs are not receiving all of the power they are meant to operate at and therefore not at full output.
 

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hey - I purchased Catalina Aquarium, 4 x 39W T5HO for my 55Gal.

It is good looking - and I really like the vented top allowing heat to escape without need for fans. The light really does a good job, my Downoi has never done better. I changed out my brand new Current USA 2x39W T5HO after only 2 months, it just didn't have the beans to get the job done.

Not only that, the folks at Catalina Aquarium are good people too.


Tom
 
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