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I have read probably 70-80% of the lighting posts. I am definitely more knowledgeable, but still lack total confidence in my choices. I have a 15 gallon tall eclipse tank that the light has quit working and I have decided to replace it. I currently have 6 planted nano tanks, 2 el natural and 4 filtered and an unplanted 92 gallon cichlid tank. All tanks are low light with NO added chemicals and I prefer to stay that way. The sizes below are based on being able to use what I have access to, or will only need to purchase a few items at minimal costs.

If I keep the 15 gallon tall tank and replace the hood, I need a low cost option for the light. Will add glass top. It might be nice to have taller tank for all the plants that outgrow my nano's but not crazy about tall tanks.

Options:
All will have 2-3" substrate

15 Gallon Tall: 20"X10"X18"
Incandescent Hood
Clamp on aluminum lights (probably 2) sitting on top of the glass.

What watt lights should I use for successful low light plants with these two options?

Have considered replacing this tank with a 10 gallon or 15 gallon regular.

10 Gallon: 20"X10"X12"

Incandescent Hood
Clamp on Aluminum lights (probably 2) sitting on top of glass
27 watt Hampton Bay Desk Lamp (Would this work?)

What watt lights should I use for successful low light plants with these two options?

15 Gallon Reg: 24"X12"X12"

Have access to a Coralife Freshwater 1X65 watt 6700 compact fluorescent fixture. How high above tank would I have to hang this to keep it a low light tank? If I use the clamp on lights, would I use the same wattage as the 10.

Have considered replacing many of the nano tanks with a 20 gallon long. I've always liked that tank. I already have glass top and stand from a 29 gallon. Also have a 30" F18T8 Perfecto fixture, but really didn't like that fixture, but it was a brackish tank.

20 Gallon L: 30"X12"X12"

Clamp on aluminum lights (probably 3)
Would the 24" Coralife fixture work hung over the tank, even though there would be poor coverage on the ends?

What watt lights should I use for successful low light plants with the clamp on lights? Same as 10-15 gallon regular, since the depth is the same?

I know there are lots of options, but due to being in between jobs, I have lots of time, but can't afford to make poor decisions for me, my plants or fauna.

I would appreciate any input from all of you who have "mastered the light".
Also, just wanted to thank everyone who contributes their wisdom to this forum. I learn something new everyday.
 

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Can't say I've yet "mastered the light", but I can give my experience, which is that on a 10g the stock 15w t8 with a hagen flora-glo, light dosing of dry ferts and excel I've got great growth with mayaca, ludwigia repens, micro chain swords, anubias and subwassertang, with no detectable algae. The 20g long with the t8 would give you similar PAR as I've got, which is for sure enough to grow stuff. The only consideration is that once you toss the substrate it, 12 inches isn't really that tall and many plants can span the gap in a week or two, so you'll be trimming often (not a bad thing, especially if it's your alone time.)

The extra height of your current tank requires additional lighting to attain the same par at the substrate, so the cfl's could well do the trick for you. I don't know exactly which incandescent hood you're talking about, but I'm assuming you're using one with a threaded fixture on either end, in which case a pair might suffice for lighting, but using the aluminum reflectors gives you both the flexibility of adjusting the height above as well as the changed orientation in the bulb which increases the PAR greatly. Over a 20" long tank two fixtures 2-4 inches above the top should give you low to low-mid light. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/lighting/85667-par-data-spiral-power-saver-bulbs-2.html#post837592.

Best of luck in all your endeavours.
 
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