Aquarium lighting

OK, so maybe the SDMB isn’t the perfect place for this but I can’t find another forum that might be better.

I have a hex 20 gal tank. The lighting hood is only 14 Watts (florencent tube). I need more lighting watts for my plants (the general rule of thumb is 3-4 watts per gal) and the only way I can think of doing that is with external lighting on an angle.

Would the “angle” of light affect the quality of the light entering the water? I once asked an aquarium guy about it and he said it wouldn’t work because light coming in from an angle isn’t good. I gotta question this since, well, the sun’s light comes in an angle for the most part :slight_smile:

So if I was to buy a normal desk light, put in a florencent plant light and set it to shine the light into the aquarium from an angle (lets say 45 degrees) would the light be “bad”?

Are there easier ways on doing this?

I was googling about, and it seems like 2-4 watts of light per gallon is more important than the angle, as long as the light was hitting the right places. So the lamp might work, as well as placing the aquarium in proximinty to sunlight.

Also remember to turn the light off at night. Fish don’t sleep well in blinding light (They’re so weird). I hope an expert comes along to answer your question more fully. I spend most of my time trying to kill off the green stuff in my aquarium. :cool:

I’ve been told sunlight is a big no-no. Wide spectrum sunlight helps algae grow. I’m using aqua-glow lighting right now.

And I do use a timer ($4.88 CAN from walmart) for 10 hours a day :slight_smile:

I can’t see any reason why the angle would matter, so this isn’t strictly an aquarium question. Does light from an angle make any difference to a plant?

From the web site of my local fish store…

See also this article about the newer fluorescent lights (T8s and Compact). I can’t imagine that the angle of the incoming light would make any difference at all.

If you can’t find a better forum, you haven’t looked much.
Try the forums on these sites for starters.

A problem with the 20g hexes for plants is the small opening compared to the relatively great depth.
Whatever lights you put on top, a great deal of it will be lost before it gets down to the bottom of the tank.
For that reason, lighting from the side might be more effective.
It would be up to you as to how it looks.

You could probably get slightly more wattage from a power compact fluorescent in your existing fixture, like those from AH Supply. You could build a DIY hood, and jam a couple PCs in there.

Or you could overdrive your fluorescents.

But whatever you do, given your tank, I think you will do best if you limit yourself to relatively low light plants such as crypts, anubias, java fern, etc. Those will all do just fine under 2 wpg or less. Your growth will be slow, however.

If you are serious about increasing your lights and plant growth, you will want to look into the spectrum you are providing.

Also, if you jack up your wattage, you will probably want to add CO2 (if you don’t already) and start up an aggressive ferts schedule.

And badmana is correct. Tho some report otherwise, sunlight is generally considered a quick route to algae.

The only thing “bad” about light coming from an angle is that not as much of it would get to the plants as if it were straight overhead… particularly if it’s coming through the side glass on an angle. The light isn’t harmful, it’s just less efficient. But you’re not talking about replacing overhead lighting with side lighting, you’re adding side lighting to the existing overhead lighting. There shouldn’t be any harm done from angles.

I would think – though I’m no physics expert – that if you have the light at a 45 degree angle to the glass, you’re going to get a lot more light reflecting out into the room than if you have your light source facing the glass directly. Maybe it wouldn’t make too much of a difference; it’s just a thought I had.

I agree with mmmiiikkkeee on this one. If you do decide to go with CFLs, note that most packaging will tell you if it has the same light output in any burning position. Dinsdale’s suggestion of plants requiring lower light is great, too. I have some tanks I use specifically as plant tanks, and often transfer nicer plants to some of the fish tanks. I don’t have to wait as long for the plants to grow, and fertilization/plant food really helps out more than one would imagine.

Thanks for all the help guys!

I did a broad search for forums dealing with lighting. Maybe I should have looked specifically for aquariums in general :slight_smile:
The plants I have in my tank right now are doing marginal. I’m using Red Sea substrate.

The lighting to me looks rather dim after shining through 2 feet of water so lighting is my first huddle. I figured if I couldn’t get the lighting right, there wasn’t any point investing in a co2 system.

I have no experience with aquarium plants. I picked some up from the local pet store (not the best place but it’s cheap!) and after having 1 of the 2 plants totally die on me I’m looking into getting a little more serious.

I have a smaller 5 gal hex with only a betta in it. I’m thinking of using that as my “plant grower” but wanted to upgrade my 20 gal first. The 5 gal is using CF lighting and is really bright. The 20 gal in comparison is dim.

I’m going to buy some hardy plants and “plant” them inside a bowl with my substrate in the 5 gal and see what happens. My only real concern is keeping snails out of there!

Metal halides are another possible option (tho pricey).

I suspect any gain you receive from the supplemental lighting you propose would be minimal. Absent a good reflector and the proper angle, a great deal will be lost. I question whether it would be worth the effort and expense. But heck. It’s your tank and money. No reason not to experiment.

IMO a hex is probably just about the worst choice you could make for a planted tank. They are neat looking, but their dimensions don’t lend themselves well to planting.

My recommendation would be to keep your hexes low-light, low-tech planted tanks. You should be able to get crypts, java fern, and anubias at most LFS and big boxes.

And if you find you really want to get more into planted, get a bigger standard tank and do it up right. 50s, 75s, and 90s are really nice, but not in the insane size yet. I suspect you will consistently be frustrated at the hassles and marginal results of trying to jury-rig a tank that lends itself poorly towards your goals.

You can do DIY CO2 ALOT cheaper than any additional lighting. Less than $10 for tubing and checkvalves, including the soda bottles. And you get to drink the soda. Then a couple of bucks for some sugar, baking soda, and yeast.

And don’t sweat the snails. If they bother you, lots of fish love to snack on them.

Search for sites and forums on planted aquariums. There are tons of them out there. Including a bunch on low light, low-tech.

Planted aquaria is a kinda tough hobby to get into. You can’t rely overmuch on store staff. Rarely you will run into someone who shoots straight. But far more often, they just BS trying to sell whatever they have in stock.

Then you run risks when you talk to people who are really into the hobby, because they will make it seem almost like you need to get chemistry and engineering degrees to make a frigging plant photosynthesize.

Make sure that however you choose to pursue this hobby, do it in a manner that is pleasing to you, and suits the resources you wish to commit to it.

You are better off going slowly and following a plan. Because I suspect you are likely to be disappointed with any attempts to save costs through jury-rigging. Moreover, the stuff you buy in your initial attempts will not likely be useable when and if you decide to upgrade.

Thanks for the heads up Dinsdale. I’ve been reading up on the sites you gave me.

Yeah, the hex tanks were purchased before I knew I wanted a planted aquarium. Because space is an issue for me (and not so much costs) I need to keep my aquarium footprint sizes as low as possible. When we get a bigger house I’ll look into a new 120 gal :smiley:

The aquarium store I normally go to sells MH lighting but they will not fit under my hood (at least without building a custom hood) so I’m thinking of using a MH light source and attaching it under my bio-wheel housing on an angle. I’m looking into the heat issue with MH right now to best determine the distance from the glass and the attachment I should design.

Yeah, I’ve read about the DIY co2 systems. Do you think co2 even without the extra light would be worth it? I figure if I can’t get lighting to work, I shouldn’t bother with plants at this time until I get a normal tank with better lighting.
Thanks again!

This may be no help whatsoever, but…

I’ve seen kits for lights that go on the bottom of the tank. As I understand it they’re mostly for the amusement of the owners, but would something like that give the plants a boost if you used white lights (instead of colored gels)? It’d certainly be much closer to the plants.

I am far from an expert. I believe folks at those (and other) sites could tell you if you would get any incremental benefit from CO2 with very low levels of light. I cannot imagine it would hurt. But you have to get an overall picture of where you want your system to be over time, instead of just thinking you can add one or 2 elements.

For example, you mention your bio-wheel filter. That filter creates considerable surface agitation, such that DIY CO2 would be of little effect. You can modify a bio-wheel to decrease surface agitation (I have), if that is what you want to do.

Further, you have to get your CO2 into the water effectively. You could consider the Hagen bubble ramp diffuser, if you want that hanging on the side of your hex. The Hagen system is simply a pricey DIY system, and you can mix your own culture. But it might be an option, given your space constraints.

Or you can try something like that Seachem product (excel?). But that is also pricey over time.

I am not familiar with the Red Sea substrate. What is it? Your plants might prefer a mixture with some flourite, laterite, etc.

And you will want to learn about ferts. Depending on your plant selection, both for the water column and substrate. Most commercial liquid ferts are EXTREMELY diluted. So you can’t even be guided well by the packaging.

Don’t get me wrong. You CAN grow plants in a hex with no more lighting than the std flourescent. One of my best friends does. I thought I remembered that when we talked a while back he would be able to get more light with an AHSupply retrofit in his existing canopy. The guys at AH Supply are really good, and will tell you straight what - if anything - they have that will work for you. I am a total mechanical dork, and I have had no problem doing PC retrofits.

Don’t let the geeks convince you you need 4 wpg. That is a HUGE amount, and tough for a newbie to handle. But at the low level, any increase will help - especially if you stick with low light plants.

And some plants will do well without supplemental CO2. Tho they will have really slow growth and you won’t see much if any pearling.

But it would take a herculean effort (not to mention a lot of $) to get anything like the growth you see in books and magazines with your present set-up.

You are just getting into this hobby. Take it slow. And start building up experience to make that 120 shine!