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Queen Platy
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I'm getting very fustrated with my planted tank and my hairs are going gray. I usually try to find my answers before posting threads in the forum but I havent had any luck. Is there anyone out there that is experienced with moderate-high lighting plants that can help me?

I have a 20 gallon 30Length, 12Width, and 12Depth long tank. And I want to plant HC (baby tears) and Dwarf hair grass along with a bunch of other plants that require moderate to high light. BUT I don't want to deal with the CO2. Is that possible? I dont understand this Watts Per Gallon rule because with high lighting it's 3WPG and according to this, a 1 gallon aquarium will require 3watts. Thats basically NO light. Anyway, I just dont want to buy a lighting that gives off too much light or too little light and need some guidance.
 

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To me, lighting and CO2 are two separate issues.

For the lighting, I wonder if it would hurt to just get the brightest possible full-spectrum light you can find.

As for the CO2, I've read that a CO2 system is needed in a "heavily planted" tank (whatever that means). Basically, there are so many plants in a tank that the fish don't give off enough CO2 to meet the plants' needs.

I'm fairly lazy when it comes to stuff like this, so I always choose plants/fish that require less care/modifications over more, but that's just me. I work full time, and I have a 3 year-old, so I have to be realistic about my time commitments. :)
 

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Queen Platy
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Discussion Starter #3
To me, lighting and CO2 are two separate issues.

For the lighting, I wonder if it would hurt to just get the brightest possible full-spectrum light you can find.
yea I wondered the same thing with just getting the brightest light possible but I would think it would make the algae go crazy unless I have a family of plecos or something.
 

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yea I wondered the same thing with just getting the brightest light possible but I would think it would make the algae go crazy unless I have a family of plecos or something.
My understanding is that without additional CO2 a highly lighted planted tank will be an algae factory.
 

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I believe both of the plants you are thinking about are considered higher light plants and that usually means CO2 is needed and to get the HC to carpet you will need high light IMO. I dont think you will need anything more than a double T-8 fixture because of the depth of a 20 long but I think you will need CO2 and you could probably use DIY CO2 instead of going all out with pressurized.
 

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Queen Platy
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Discussion Starter #6
I believe both of the plants you are thinking about are considered higher light plants and that usually means CO2 is needed and to get the HC to carpet you will need high light IMO. I dont think you will need anything more than a double T-8 fixture because of the depth of a 20 long but I think you will need CO2 and you could probably use DIY CO2 instead of going all out with pressurized.
Even if the tank is not densely planted i still need co2? I would think there would be a sufficient amount of co2 already.

that DIY CO2 sounds very messy lol
 

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Queen Platy
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Yea, thats a very good explanation. All these updates to my tank is making me poor. I might have to reduce the amount of plants I have and not let them grow too big.
 

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I have both these plants in my tank and I can recommend that you go with just the baby tears if you're looking for a nice ground cover. It's less maintenance than the "dwarf" hair grass (which will have to be trimmed if you don't want it getting 4 or 5 inches long!) and won't collect algae (as the hair grass did in my tank when it started getting tall.)

Unfortunately, both these plants really would appreciate supplemental CO2. In fact, if you do have high light for your planted tank - CO2 pretty much becomes a necessity or you will be stuck in a never-ending battle against algae and poor plant performance. The good news is with your 20 gallon tank's dimensions, you could get by with the smallest DIY system. If you don't want to mess with DIY, I recommend checking eBay for CO2 tanks and setups as you can often find them there very cheap.

If you decide you'd rather avoid CO2 altogether and would rather stick with low light, low tech - you might still want to purchase some Seachem's Flourish Excel. It adds carbon for your plants without dangerous swings in the pH that can happen when you first start adding CO2. As a bonus, Flourish Excel is also known to inhibit the growth of algae.
 

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I have a 20g long and for lights I juse use three spiral pig tail light in round clip on reflectors setting on a 1/4" square lighting diffuser egg crate top. With 15w 6500k bulbs plant go crazy with no co2
 

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Queen Platy
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Discussion Starter #11
I was going to DIY my own fixture because the 30" Coralife fixture was $170. I went to home depot today and the only 6500k color long-tube bulb was a size T12.... People dont even use T12's anymore. I will look into the pig tail lights. Where did you buy the Square lighting fixture?
 

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Okay sorry for the long convoluted post everyone i haven't posted in a while and see quite a bit of confusion on both the poster's questions (not just on this thread, but all over). Any one who wants to can just skip to the bottom and find my generalization. I even highlighted it for really lazy people like me!

First thing first, the watts/gal rule. I guess the most important thing to know about it is that it's wrong. Well, I mean it can be a decent guideline, but doesn't work in a number of scenarios. For starters it's fails on small tanks. As you noted 3 watts would not grow any plant in any size tank no matter how small. The second thing is watts/gal does not address the lighting type or efficiency of the reflector, nor does it measure how much water the light has to travel through in order to get to the recipient. Some examples here: 60 watts of incandescent light is next to nothing for plants, because incandescent bulbs have terrible efficiency, as anyone knows who has tried to take one out of the socket while on and gotten burned, they produce mostly heat, not light. On the other end of the spectrum T-5 HO lights are very efficient, and therefore run cool and produce far more intense light for the same wattage. Regular florescent and PC or CFL lights fall in between these two.

What you are after for photosynthesis is lux, pluralized as lumens. This is how much light is actually getting to your plants. Several factors influence this number including lighting type, wattage, distance from source to aquarium, reflector efficiency, transparency of hoods/covers, depth of water, plants/objects in the way, and so on. If you don't care about any of this sorry for the rambling, just take away from it that if you are using a less efficient light source, or placing it farther away, or

Now on to the second question. The plants you mentioned require a moderate to high amount of lighting. In a 20L you are going to want at least 2 watts/gal even using T5HO lighting. Other types are going to require probably 3 plus. Another reason you'll need this much light is because these plants are on the bottom of the tank and therefore light has to travel further through the water.

Here comes the problem. When you add more light you are going to increase the growth of algae. Now algae isn't really a huge problem in a fish only tank (unless completely out of control) because it isn't harmful to fish and really the only problem is the ugly nature of everything being green or brown. In a planted tank however, algae uses the same nutrients plants do and can lead to the plants suffering nutrient deficiency. Usually this takes the form of yellowing/browning and dying leaves, and eventually growth will probably come to a crawl or stop altogether. This tank is out of balance.

The only way to really fight this phenomena is to allow the plants to grow at such a rate that they are using the nutrients which previously were in control of the algae. Fast growing plants such as Vals, Anachris, Hornwort, and various kinds of hygro are great for this, as they are real nutrient hogs. In order for plants to grow quickly in high light environments they must have enough nutrients. I don't want to go overboard here because certainly there could be a 20 page discussion on all the various nutrients plants need.

CO2 is necessary in this scenario because it is one of the main ingredients plants need to survive. Having sufficient CO2 for all your plants is necessary for them to outgrow algae and be healthy, lush and green. This is when heavily planted tanks will need more CO2 than tanks with less plants in them. Of course there is some amount of CO2 always present in fish tanks because for two reasons:

1) The atmosphere contains a level of CO2, therefore so does your fish tank. Surface agitation increases the gas exchange between your tank and the atmosphere.

2) Nitrification: The bacteria that converts fish waste from ammonia to nitrite to nitrate produces an amount of CO2 also. An additional benefit is the nitrate produced is also used by your plants in the form of Nitrogen. (isn't nature amazing??) :)


Where supplemental CO2 comes into play is when you have a lot of light and therefore need to outpace the algae growth and keep your plants growing healthy. This is also true because many common aquarium plants are not found completely submersed in nature and therefore have more CO2 (not to mention light) available to them. Of course CO2 is not the only nutrient required to maintain healthy growing plants, a good regimen of macro/micro nutrients would also be needed. But since you didn't really ask about that part, I won't go into great detail.

So basically the really long, winding road type answer to your question is:
In order to grow those plants you wish to grow to look like a carpet on the bottom of your aquarium you will need a good amount of quality lighting 2-4 wpg in the daylight (5500-6700K) spectrum, and some type of supplemental co2 and fertilization routine.

I know it sounds like a lot but there are ways you can cut down the amount of cost especially in a smaller tank using techniques like DIY CO2, and cheaper lighting which can be found at any lowes/home depot/walmart, etc. Also there's the other possibility of doing a low light/tech plant which can be awesome you just have to be aware there are some plants that will just never thrive in there.

Good luck with whatever happens, and try not to get too frustrated. Mistakes are definitely what improved my understanding and evolution of my tanks (if not my wallet thickness!!!)
 
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