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I'm thinking about building a canopy for my 55 Gal. Right now I have 1 t-5 light, but I'm thinking of buying and installing a regular overhead fluorescent light fixture when I build the canopy so that I don't have to spend an awful lot and can get multiple bulbs in for more wpg. My Question is: How far above the water should I put the lights?

It's a freshwater tank, sparsely planted (though I'm working on that too) and has guppies, mollys, platys, otos, a pleco, and panda corys.
 

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I'm no expert, but since nobody else replied:

From what I've read, if you're within a foot of the water's surface, you'll be fine. The only concern I've seen is that "regular overhead flourescent fixtures" are designed to spread light out, so the further from the water's surface you put them, the less of their light will be getting into your tank.
 

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I just bought the AH Supply 55w retrofit for my 33gal low tech. It comes with quality reflectors designed for aquariums. I would think two of their 65w kits would at least be the equal to 3wpg of normal output bulbs on your 55g. They're not too expensive.

But again, this is coming from a relative newb. Maybe one of the experts will chime in and agree, or set me straight.
 

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So I'm in the same boat as Cheesehead, I'm pretty much a newb when it comes to planted tanks. However, I've been doing reef tanks for a while and learned that reflectors make all the difference in the world. On one of my 65g (48x13) tanks right now I have a shoplight that I bought at HD. It was about $30 and is just the right length and width to fit over the tank. It's just 2 NO T12 bulbs I believe, but the reflectors do a great job of concentrating the light in a mostly downward direction. However, the idea to use 2x55W PC's (either retrofit into a canopy or in a fixture) is also a great idea. You can buy the parts to build it into your canopy for cheaper than buying a fixture usually. Just make sure that you remember to put in reflectors, or at the very least paint the inside of your canopy flat white (one of the best reflectors ever).
 
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