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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
After years of fresh water, and a few years with a 90 gal salt, I'm slowly making progress towards creating my first planted aquarium. I feel that I have made significant progress on my planted project, but so far it is all in the form of research knowledge. Nothing practical.

Today's question has to do with lighting. From my salt days I still have a "Custom Sea Life" light fixture. The fixture has some nice ballasts and supports four 96w compact florescent lamps. I am going to be building out a 55 gallon glass tank for my first planted aquarium project.



As you can see in the picture, the fixture is a tad long for this tank, (it fits perfect front to back). With my back-yard engineering abilities, I figure I can either black out the overlap, or better yet, build a reflector box that will redirect the overlapping light back into the sides of the aquarium. We are talking about a total of 384 watts, or about 7 watts per gallon for the tank.

Eventually I would like to go with a BML fixture, but the CF fixture would work well for my current budget, as I'm only planning to replace the lamps in it with more suitable color temperature ones for plants. That theoretically should give me good bang for the buck.

As I mentioned above about BML lighting, that's where my research was headed initially, LED lighting. Consequently I have done zero research on compact fluorescent lighting for planted aquariums.

So, all that said, what do you think of this idea? Terrible? Please keep in mind that I'm trying to spend what money I do have wisely, like for a good regulator, etc., etc., etc.

Thanks very mucho for any input you care to offer,

~Shrimp
 

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Injected CO2 cost $$$ to start up if you don't get lucky on Craigs list for example.
About $200 ish from listening not from exp.
Not a heart stopper but combined/w a BML LED it will top $500.
Now for the bad part: That is, if you can only use two of the bulbs. As in one on each side.
My limited Electrical exp. doesn't equip me to know what happens when you leave
a bulb out of a two bulb ballast set up. Does it allow or charge ? You can put a 1000W
power supply on a computer that just needs 250W and it just uses 250W.
But I haven't a clue how that works on a ballast.
Logic dictates that both bulbs on one side are on one ballast...but not necessarily so.
By design, the fixture may have been made so you can turn off one bulb on each side
from a switch. If that is true, you may have something workable...but still high enough
to need injected CO2.
On the other hand...and far less money...Home Depot has a shop light fixture made of
chrome plated floor plate that sells for $40 and two good plant bulbs in there will furnish
enough light for lots of kinds of plants though not in anything like high range.
They even have one of the bulbs which I speak of in stock...actually two different ones each less than $10. Doctors Foster & Smith has the other for that same price.
Those are T8 bulbs. If you are interested in them, PM me and I'll tell you which they are. Getting other bulbs will not work as efficeintly for viewing or the plants but you may not want T8.
If chrome plated floor plate doesn't appeal...and that is sure a chance to some, you can just spray paint the outside black etc.
 

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I would want to make sure the frequency of the CF bulbs was a good one for plants...somewhere in the 5500-10000k range. I would consider using at the most 3 bulbs. I think you are doing it right by using what you can and spending the extra money on a quality regulator. I would recommend a dual stage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks guys.

Mainly I was interested in if using that fixture would cause problems with the tank, like creating massive algae. I take it from jrman's post that the fixture may produce too much light? I am planning on going with pressurized CO2, and using a pH sensor to meter the CO2. I'll put a timer on the lights.

The problem with only running three lights is that one half of the tank will still have full light. So really it should either be 2 or 4, not three lamps.

In answer to Raymond's question, basically when you have an electrical device that needs to draw a specific amount of current, say 100 watts, you need to supply that device with at least that amount of current. More will not hurt it. As in putting a 1,000 watt power supply in a case that will be drawing 250 watts. The problem is if you go the other way around. Put a 250 watt PS in a computer that needs 1,000 watts will blow the power supply. That can even ruin the mother board as well as it will cause the components to over heat.

I would assume that ballasts fall under the same principal. Otherwise if you had a fixture set up say with one ballast pushing two lamps, and one lamp burned out, it would fry the ballast. The truth is that we never see that happen. If a lamp burns out, or you remove one lamp, the other one keeps right on going.

Thoughts?

~Shrimp
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hey, I just had an idea, I could build a stand that would raise it up off the tank, say a foot or two. I would just have to figure out what the appropriate amount of light I need to target the bottom of the tank. Hea, I wonder how often people come here with a problem of too much light?

~ Shrimp
 

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Hea, I wonder how often people come here with a problem of too much light?

~ Shrimp
My guess is that about half the lighting questions are from people with too much light, considering that they are not using the optimum amount of CO2, if they are using it at all. Planted tanks don't need nearly as much light as reef tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There you go, I learned something new. I just assumed that aquarium plants needed a lot of light, like I needed to attempt to mimic sun light to some degree. That is indeed interesting. Well, I've got some more reading to do it would appear. Thanks to all of you for helping.

~Shrimp
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
ok, thank you Hoppy. Upon doing some research I learned that you are the resident lighting guru here. I located one of your many posts, "Lighting an Aquarium with PAR instead of Watts". Nice chart there on how to calculate PAR values for various types of lighting, such as Power Compact.

So I ran with that. The benchmark you used for power compact lighting was an AH Supply Brightkits fixture with one 36 watt, and one 55 watt bulb = 91 watts.

I used that chart to calculate how high I would need to raise my own light fixture above the aquarium to achieve a desirable PAR. As with 4x96 watts, as you said, it would be too bright (when sitting directly upon the tank). I found in your chart that 26" off the substrate would provide 25 PAR from the 91 watt fixture you used as a benchmark.

I could extrapolate that result for my own fixture containing four 96 watt bulbs. Once you figure in filling the aquarium with water, as water has a 10-20% negative effect on PAR amount, that will get me close to 100 PAR at that same offset as the chart indicated, 26".

So all that said, my aquarium being 20" tall, I would have to raise my fixture 6" above the top of the tank for 100 PAR.

Except I'm not sure that I need 100 PAR at the substrate! I will be using pressurized CO2, but I have some further research ahead to determine exactly how much PAR I will actually need. So thanks much for that chart., it was very helpful.

~Shrimp
 
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