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Thread: Lighting trouble? You tell me!

  1. #1
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    Lighting trouble? You tell me!

    Hi everybody! I have a planted 55g that I'm having trouble with. My 25g plants are WEEDS, but the 55g has been a headache. I think its a lighting problem, but I'm looking for some opinions. Please and thank you!

    Its a 55g blackwater setup. I have play sand as a substrate, and leaf litter. I have pretty hefty amount of driftwood. Its kept at about 77 degrees F, and I run an Emperor 400 with a prefilter sponge. The pH is 7.4. It has Limnobium laevigatum (frogbit), Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce), and about 18 Vallisneria americana gigantea (jungle val) presently. It has a single bulb fixture. Its on for 12 hours/day. It is lightly stocked and has MTS.

    On 9.8 I started adding plants. The water lettuce and a few vals went in at this time. (I have slowly added more vals along the way. Most of the vals have looked pretty rough to begin with.) The bulb was a 40w T10, unknown K, and it was old. I knew I'd have to replace it soon, but since it was a T10, odd size, I was researching how. On 9.26, the water lettuce was sending daughters and looking good. The vals looked them same. On 9.29, I started dosing 4.6mL of Flourish Comprehensive weekly. On 10.12 I had a quite sudden die back on the water lettuce. The largest heads started losing leaves, and the roots totally fell off. Only the small heads were left. It was at this time that I had a nitrate reading of about 15ppm. Other than this, my trates have never been over 5ppm in this tank. On 10.13 I removed the first of three dead vals. I also started adding some frogbit from another tank to help with the trates. I've never had more than a 10"x10" patch of floaters, combined, so I don't think they are blocking too much light. On 10.12 I installed a T8 6500K bulb and added the last of the vals, but this batch was VERY healthy. Today, almost a month later, I expected to see that everything has bounced back. It hasn't. In fact, those healthy vals I added a month ago, even with the new light, are starting to look just as pitiful as the rest of the vals.

    So, I've ruled out certain things as culprits: substrate, snails, pH, hardness, ferts. Things I have not ruled out: light, blackwater. I mean, my water isn't dark, its just a nice amber glow. (Well, it was until I installed the new bulb that has a much greater spike in the blue spectrum. Remember those old Ziplock commercials? Yellow and blue makes green? Yeah, well now my tank looks LIME GREEN. Its very unpleasant looking. But that's a whole 'nother rant. )

    I'm thinking the solution is a 48" fixture with two bulbs. Well, that's my guess. I can't really afford that right now, and even when I can afford it, I don't want to waste my money if that's not the problem. So does anyone have any ideas? I'd be very, VERY grateful!

  2. #2
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    Also, I should add...
    The only noticeable change in the tank since I added the new bulb is an increase in diatoms and hair algae. Super.

  3. #3
    I think your assumption is correct . More light . Or switch to low ligth plant's . Mosses and Anubia's plenty of variety there . You do not need aquarium fixture's and expensive bulb's for plant's or fish . I sit a 4' fixture I think it was $7.99 and a warm and cool white bulb on top and it fit's perfectly . Hanging work's as well . Taking some driftwood out may get rid of the amber cast . If you really want to see the plant's flourish you can use grow bulb's but you will also help your algae grow . Warm and cool white combined is good enought for almost anything freshwater ( or get a gro bulb and a cool white if your feeling rich ) , saltwater is another story . Oh I am no expert but 14 or more hour's on can help

  4. #4
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    Thanks for the input, I really appreciate it!
    I'm kinda set on blackwater with vals and water lettuce, since I have that biotope-ish thing going on.This tank is in my dining room, trying to make it pretty. So that's why I'm trying so hard to make this work, but I didn't think it'd be that hard! I know I don't have great light, but I thought I had at least a moderate amount. Its not like its HC and glosso, for bleep's sake! lol
    I think I'll def try upping the photoperiod to 14 hours. I suppose it can't hurt that much at this point, and maybe it'll work!

    What kind of fixture are you talking about? What are the stats, and where did you get it? If you don't mind me asking, of course.

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Wild Caught GCAS Member BruceL's Avatar
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    From what I have learned having live plants and all my plant tanks are organic soil and sand or gravel or what some say dirt convert, if you have to much nutrients and not enough plants then algae seems to bloom, extra water changes will help and the right amount and light is something you have to play with, I would add more plants if you can and keep doing 25% water changes and see how it does.

  6. #6
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    You could go 2 ways.

    1. Increase the light by switching to 2 bulbs. The blackwater tannins decrease the light penetrating the water, but otherwise shouldn't be a problem with plant growth. The nitrates sound fine even with the small spike you describe. One T8 bulb over a 55 gallon is just not much light at all. I would guess your plants need very little if any fertilizers at this point since they are going to grow slowly (if they live) with the amount of light you have. I would not increase the lighting period. What the plants need is more light intensity not more light duration and more time with the light on will probably only cause more algae growth. The color of the light is also less important than the intensity, so getting a bulb that is pleasing to your eye should be fine. That said, I usually get 6700K plant specific bulbs.

    2. Or you could switch to plants that require less light like crypts, anubias, java fern, and mosses. I would consider most vals medium light requiring plants and your current set up is low light or very low light. But even these low light tolerant plants would benefit from 2 bulbs.
    Jeremy
    Planted aquarium and dwarf cichlid enthusiast

  7. #7
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    Correction: I forgot that two weeks ago I bumped the light from 12 hours to 14 hours. Tonight I bumped it to 16. Excessive, I know. I guess we'll see!

    Bruce, I do 30-50% water changes every week. Do you think I should do more? And thanks for the ideas!

  8. #8
    Big Fish GCAS Member
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    Ah, didn't see your post there, Jeremy. Your post goes along with what I was thinking, though I'm sad to hear it. I don't want to switch plants, and I realize that's a problem. I was thinking I was going to have to go with a dual light fixture. Are there any alternatives to aquarium-specific fixtures (that don't cost upwards of $100 like aquarium ones do)?

    In the mean time I'll try increasing to 16 hours, realizing it may cause more algae. At least that part's free.

    Aquatics & Exotics used to sell used equipment. Do they still? Does anyone else? I haven't had any luck here, nor on Craigslist.

    Thanks!

  9. #9
    You can use a standard light fixture from Lowe's etc . I have a number of them Shop Light's is another term used . I use the cheap promotional one's and set them on top of the tank or hang them . Also I wonder if water lettuce is the best choice as it really does better outside and cast dense shade underneath it .

  10. #10
    Wild Caught GCAS Member
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    I run two light fixtures on my planted tank, two T-8 bulbs, you may be OK with just adding another t-8 4ft light to your tank, I run a 6700K and a 10000k bulb in my lights. I know alot of people will probably chime in on this and I am not telling anyone to do this, but it works for me. I run my lights on that tank 24-7. I dont think this is the norm but it works for me. I also agree with BruceL, I think you have too much nutrients and not enough plants and the extra nutrients are helping the algae. In my planted tank I havent had too much algae issues, but tanks where I have just a few plants I get the black beard algae and hair algae. good luck, and I hope all works out for you.
    Ricky Turner
    Hamilton, OH
    Got Saltwater?? Check out Cincy's new Reef Club:
    http://www.care4reefs.com/index.html

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