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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm pretty new to aquaria, so I'm not completely up to date on a lot of things.. One thing is lighting. For how many years, people relied on single 15w light bulbs for most tanks, and suddenly, people want to run 192 watt lights, and I'm still in a little bit of shock about it.

So, here's the current question-
Lots of people run power compacts, metal halides and such. Why does no one use the standard spiral compact fluorescent lights that can be bought at Wal-Mart?
I could buy sockets & wires for $3 per light, and the lights range from $6-$15, depending on wattage, K, and all that.. So, what reason is there for me to not make my own canopy & rig up my own lighting fixtures using them? I'm assuming there's a specific reason that people don't use them so much for aquariums, but I can't seem to find that reason. I was thinking that I could put 3 different sockets under a canopy for a 20L, and at that point I could get some cool diversity in my tank, because I could light one end and not the other, or both ends and not the middle, or whatever. It could make nifty shadows throughout the tank that aren't seen in a tank that has a light the whole way down its length.

So, is there a reason why no one uses compact fluorescents, and everyone uses power compacts? And if I go with compact fluorescents, what wattage & K and everything would you recommend for a 20 long aquarium?
 

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Well compact flourescents (CF) also come in tubes. I actually don't know the difference between CF and power compact (PC). I use the screw in CF's in my 10 gallon.

People do not use screw in CF's for, I believe, the following:

Not very space conserving
Light is less concentrated even with proper reflectors (I think)
15w of screw in CF is less "light" than 15w of normal flourescent lighing.

Next you can search "screw in" or maybe just "screw" in the lighting section
 

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I've always wondered the same. It seems to me that for smaller aquariums this is the way to go if your looking for an inexpensive setup. I use them in my 10 gallon and I'm building a canopy for my new 20 gallon and I'll be using them again. As far as their disadvantage, I believe they may be a little less efficient given that the spiral form causes much of the light to bounce back onto the bulb itself rather than going into the tank. And when your using them you probably don't have a nice reflector so that wastes even more light but overall I'd say that this wasted light is negligible since for another $8 dollars you can add another 20+W bulb to the setup.

From my own experience I'd say it is better to use fewer more intense bulbs rather than more less intense bulbs even if they add up to the same wattage. I've used the 5500 and 6500 bulbs and I do not like the color of either. For my new setup I'm gonna look for something in the 7000-10000 range. They give off a light that is generally considered more pleasing to the eye.

What do you plan on doing with your 20 long? Will you dose ferts and do you have CO2? What kind of plants do you want to keep? Those kinds of things will help better determine how much light you wanna put into your tank.
 

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People relied on a 15 watt bulb to see the fish. Not grow plants. There is a difference.

Spiral bulbs are highly inefficient when lighting an aquarium where the you want the light straight down. They work really well at lighting up a room.

Spiral bulbs are at best 40% efficient when it comes to lighting an aquarium. You have a lot of restrike and there is no way to get a decent reflector.

Also the available color temperatures are extremely limited. Most of the bulb.s available are very "warm". There are a few "daylight" type bulbs available. But these max out at about 6500k.

Until you have actually had a light and reflectors designed for aquarium use you can't compare the two. I see people telling me that the spiral bulbs get lots of light into the aquarium. But what are they comparing it to?

When I started my 55 gallon I had two shop lights on top of it. That was 160 watts of light over the tank. Worked for a while. Then I switched the 160 watts of shop lights for 110 watts of AH Supply kits. The tank was much brighter and the area around the aquarium less so.

It's not about how much light you can cram over your tank but about how much you get INTO the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What do you plan on doing with your 20 long? Will you dose ferts and do you have CO2? What kind of plants do you want to keep? Those kinds of things will help better determine how much light you wanna put into your tank.
Eventually, I plan on losing 3-5 gallons of water out of it, and putting in a small land area for some Eastern newts. The land area would just barely be a land area, as Easterns are pretty much 100% aquatic as adults. Right now I've got Java moss, Java fern, an Amazon sword, and an aponogeton bulb in that hasn't sprouted yet. The Amazon sword has done surprisingly well. I didn't expect it to live at all, but I got it for free, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The leaves on it are pale, and it's grown very short, looking more like a bush than they normally do, but it's all new growth, and has survived like that for about 6 months.
My Java fern is doing decent, but not growing very fast at all. It started out sunk down into the gravel a few months ago, and as it rooted, I lifted it up out, and it just rests on top of the gravel now. It has more than quadrupled its size, and some independant growth has started on the leaves that fall off it & drift around- I have three tiny pieces of it in with my betta sprouting right now, and they're growing MUCH faster. I can hardly get Java moss to even start growing in the tank, though. I've tried it many times, and every time, it starts growing, "roots" into whatever I put it on (I've tried gravel, my plastic rock cave structure in there, fake driftwood, and lava rocks), and has a little bit of new green growth, then it dies & rots in a month or two.
I currently don't have CO2 introduced only because it won't do any good with my current 15w lighting. As soon as I figure out what I'm doing with my lighting, and get better light on, I'll start introducing CO2. I haven't dosed with ferts at all, because (except for the sword) nothing in there should really need it.
When I get lighting, CO2, and fertilizer, I'd like to completely fill the tank. Not sure what all else, as I've thrown too many things around to really come up with a specific. Specifically, a floating plant, like hornwort, or anacharis. Other than that, I wouldn't mind just letting my Java moss & Java fern fill the whole tank. I would also like to put in some kind of dwarf val or something as a carpet, but I wouldn't want it to cover the whole tank, just in little places. Not worried too much about it getting enough light to grow fast.

If I go with the CFs, I could go with the rectangular ones instead of the complete spirals. I was looking in the fish department at wal-mart last night, and they have a couple rectangular 15 watts that screw into the normal outlets.

I understand that this lighting isn't uniform, and I kind of like that, because as I said, I like the idea of shadows & everything in the tank. And, if it's not even, I could always just put the lamps directly over the plants that need the brightest light (like the amazon sword).

If I do this, it's pretty much been established that I can't go with the 2-5wpg rule of thumb. How would I? Some bulbs have a higher K than others.. Just aim for the highest K bulbs?
 

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i have two spiral compact fluorescents in my 5.5g that i'm setting up. they are 6500k 20 watts, and i got them at walmart for $6.50 i would use the same on my 10 if i didn't already have three 18" light strips, all of which i got very cheap.
 

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I use the spiral bulbs over my nano tanks in desk lamps. The light gets driven down into the tank but I loose a lot, thankfully, to restrike (as Rex said up above). Otherwise a 23 watt PC bulb over a 2.2 gallon tank would be a never ending algal bloom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
One of my reptile buddies suggested putting the spiral compacts into a heat lamp style dome reflector. Like one of these.

Wouldn't standing the bulb upright, and putting it in a dome rather than a standard hood & reflector take care of restrike better? I know the hood would look better, but I'm not terribly concerned about that right now. Whatever I do, I'll probably end up building a canopy to hide everything, anyway.
I'm not planning on this aquarium being terribly permanent, because in another year or so, I'm going to set up my 55 gallon again.
That's one of the biggest reasons I'm hesitant to spend money on lighting. Spend $40-$50 on lighting for a 30" aquarium, and then in a year, I'm going to have a 4" aquarium with almost three times as much water in it, and I'm going to need all new lighting, anyway.
 

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Yes, that would work. That's what one of the members on this forum, spypet, is using. He's using a cone reflector that's screwed into a regular architech's desk lame with a spiral bulb.
 
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