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Open top aquarium?!?!?! Yes or... no???

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I finally got my substrate changed to eco-complete and got my big order of plants in. But I just realized my original lighting that came with the tank is not strong enough. it's only ONE 40 WATT BULB for a 55 GALLON!!! i know that's horrible!! I have had my plants for about 3 days and they are already turning brown :(. So I need to get this problem taken care of ASAP! In my defense, I'm new to the planted aquarium world. So should i just just a new strip with three bulbs that will fit my original hood. OR should i go with the open top and order the Coralife Aqualight Single Compact Fluorescent Strip Lights with the adjustable legs from doctor foster and smith. Here is a link

http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=9871&rel=1

my only worries on the open top is the fast evaporation rate and mold growing. However, i would be getting more wattage from the open top fixture than a standard three bulb hood.

i have the following fish:

13 Tiger barbs (2 albino)
6 Harlequin Rasbora
11 Neons
4 platys
2 african clawed frogs.
and last but not least
one red-tailed shark (who is a notorius jumper!)
will be getting a school of 11 cardinals soon.

I also have a pressurized co2 system so i know higher wattage is favored.

Any other suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Im on a budget though. I don't want to spend more than $150.... unless i absolutely have to.
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try this light instead of the compact fluorescent - Catalina 3x54watt 48" T5HO - it will be plenty bright enough for you. start with just 2 bulbs until you're comfortable with your co2. Too much light is an invitation for algae, especially when you're first getting started. if you're upping your light and adding co2, make sure you don't neglect the third aspect of healthy plants - fertilizer. eco-complete won't provide what your plants need. take a look around the forums here, there are hundreds of threads on good fertilizing plans. If you don't have all 3 aspects(light, co2, nutrients) balanced, you'll run into problems.

As for your top, Are you sure the light legs wouldn't fit with the stock (assuming glass?) cover? Give Catalina a call and ask them if you have doubts.
If it won't, you could try a plexiglass piece custom-cut to fit inside the rim (check at a local auto glass-repair shop, they can usually cut it there for you.), or try egg crate.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
thanks for the link! i like that lighting fixture and it's more watts than the other! ill probably order that one instead of the one i was thinking since it's black and matches the stand and trim. and im going to make a plexi glass top just to put on at night to minimize evaporation and keep the fish in!. but have an open top during the day.

i read somehwere that said keeping the glass top and the adjustable mounting legs is not recommended. does anyone know why this is?

and about the fertilizers. i probably read every post on this website about them yesterday! that was my next step after i solved my lighting issue. will post pics when i get everything setup!

and one more question! one of my harlequin rasboras is about to burst with eggs!! do the african clawed frogs eat the eggs!?
 

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Don't worry much about evaporation, since that will keep your water temperature down a bit during the warm months. To keep fish from jumping our of the tank, use "eggcrate" which is that plastic material that is generally used under flourescent lighting in ceilings. It comes in white and also in a "chrome-like" highly reflective form. It's very inexpensive and available in Home Depot and stores like that. When you use plexiglass or glass, it inevitably gets covered with a white film from the minerals in the water that will shield out light. The "eggcrate" won't do that. Also, when you cut it down to the size you want, it sits in the inner part of the rim around the top of your aquarium and won't interfere with the legs of your lighting fixture.

And, yes....the frogs will take the eggs...any eggs once they figure out that they're there.
 

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Agree with the advice you have been given so far. I suggest though that if you get the 3 bulb Catalina fixture you start with one bulb until you get your CO2 and dosing in order. Even one 54 watt T5HO bulb is going to be way more light than you currently have and developing a proper dosing routine and CO2 levels will be a must. While CO2 certainly is necessary to grow plants at higher light levels algae also likes CO2 and high light. One 54 watt T5HO bulb is still a lot of light and once you learn how to balance light, CO2 levels and ferts you can start increasing light (and ferts and CO2 to match increased light level). I have the 4x54 watt Catalina fixture and my experience is that running only 2 of the bulbs over my 50 gallon tank (same footprint as a 55 but slightly shorter) has the capacity to easily turn the tank into an algae farm (reflectors in the Catalina fixtures are really good). I like the concept of the 3 bulb model since you can run one, two or three bulbs giving you much more control over light intensity particularly if you don't hang the fixture and need to reduce intensity. I started off using the Catalina legs but ended up hanging the light for two reasons. One being more control over light intensity, I now have mine 12" over the tank and still get BBA on my spray bars and driftwood(using only 2 bulbs). The other thing I didn't like about the legs was that they make it very difficult to open the hinged glass top. Using the legs and a glass top the light fits on the tank with no problem but I found myself having to remove the light to open the top and be able to clean and work in the tank. Naturally if you keep fish that are jumpers an open top is not an option but with the light hung you could also keep the glass top on and open it easily to service the tank. I also suggest you consider asking Catalina to install the brackets you need to hang the light in case you decide in the future you want to hang it. If you do it yourself later you will have to take apart the fixture to drill into the top and install the brackets. Hanging the light gives much better spread to the corners of the tank too but the trade off to hanging is the light spillage out into the room which you may or may not like.
 

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One step better than eggcrate (especially since it has been show that eggcrate cuts down light levels), it to make your own window screen.

I use the window screen edges, with bird screen (found in the garden section) - cut to fit and build. It looks great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
yeah i like it a lot better! thanks again for that link. i wish i could get it locally somewhere. does anyone know if they would sell it at my lfs or petsmart or anywhere!? if not i will me placing my order tuesday.

i may not have to order it though! i found a 55 g acrylic tank with stand and canister filter with nice lighting for only TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS on craigslist!! but if i don't end up getting this i will be ordering those 3x54 t5ho lights!
 

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You can take those legs off and set the fixture right onto a dual bulb Versa-top. I think the legs are junk, if you're like me you won't want to use them anyway, they also allow for a bunch of scattered light into the room. Waste of time, energy and plastic, IMO, nice dust catchers. I think the non-adjustable type Coralife legs will fit that Catalina (and the Coralife, obviously), they still allow for light spillage but are a lot more practical than those stupid lip-mount adjustables.

I love open tops, but I've also lost a lot of fish to it.
 

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One step better than eggcrate (especially since it has been show that eggcrate cuts down light levels), it to make your own window screen.

I use the window screen edges, with bird screen (found in the garden section) - cut to fit and build. It looks great.
+1 for that method. What I did was I bought a DIY window screen kit and a piece of white mesh that you can find at walmart's fabrics section. You cut the frame with wire cutters and stretch the mesh to the edge. Before that you can paint the frame (I did that cause mine came in white). Looks great and the whole thing costs just about $10.
 

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Get the kit from home depot or loews.

Get the actual screen from home depot or lowes garden section. I've seen it at petsmart also (too expensive though), and the previous poster already said Walmart.
 

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where did you get the window screen kit from?
I got it from walmart. One kit is enough to make 2 screens for 75g tank, but you only got 4 corners so the second one you have to figure out yourself (I glued corners with jbweld and it works great). The fabrics costs about 60 cents/yard and it looks similiar to that mesh used on laundry bags if you know what I'm talking about. It is fine enough to stop shrimps and fish from escaping yet it's almost transparent, so I think it's a good deal for 0.60/yard
 

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I bought a product called Bird Block to use in my screen kit because it's a sturdy, thin plastic mesh. I bought black because I think it is less visible than any other color. I looked at every imaginable net, mesh and screen and think this one is the best for invisibility and mesh size. I've attached a picture, which isn't great but, you get the idea.

 

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I bought a product called Bird Block to use in my screen kit because it's a sturdy, thin plastic mesh. I bought black because I think it is less visible than any other color. I looked at every imaginable net, mesh and screen and think this one is the best for invisibility and mesh size. I've attached a picture, which isn't great but, you get the idea.

Now that's what i need.. for my DIY screens i used a black, plastic mesh that is a lot thicker so i loose quite a bit of light. Good idea, i'm gonna have to get some of that stuff!
 
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