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Best plants and plant bulbs

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#1 Guest_KenOn10_*

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:24 PM

Greetings all,

My tank has a regular aquarium light bulb and doesn't get much natural light. I've tried a variety of plants over the past 3 1/2 years without much success - sometimes they last a month or two but always die eventually.

What plant species would you recommend for a native tank with a (fairly large) resident bluegill?
What kind of light bulb would help keep the plants growing? How many hours/day should it be on?


#2 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:40 PM

Vallisneria, Elodea, Hornwort (Ceratophyllum) are some easy to grow native plants that usually do well with cheap T8 or T5 fluorescent shoplights. Get the 5500 - 6500 Kelvin "daylight" tubes, rather than "cool white". I leave mine on 12 hrs a day but some folks do just 8 or 10 hrs and have decent growth too. If your sunny is a digger, you can put rooted plants (like Val) in a pot with large flat rocks on top of the sand/gravel to discourage him from digging them out.

#3 Guest_Usil_*

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:07 PM

I have a thread here where I experimented and eventually made a LED lighting for my 55 gallon tank to replace my florescents. It is extremely effective, provides PAR/PUR light at at a light temp of 6500 K, looks great and cost very little. My problem was that I kept it on like the old Florescents at 10 to 12 hours a day and I had runaway algae everywhere. I have learned my lesson and now just have it on 8 hrs a day and all is good. If you want to try your hand at making a good LED lighting system then you might like to give this a try. My plants love me for doing this.


#4 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 06:11 PM

What kind of light bulb would help keep the plants growing? How many hours/day should it be on?

5500 K is merely the color that the bulb's light seems to be. Red, yellow, blue, these tints are denoted using the 'K' term. K value does not have anything to do with how well the light is going to feed your growing plants. Here is a picture with three bulbs with their different K values so you can see for yourself how it means color tinting: http://upload.wikime...-comparison.png
One is more blue than the others, one is more yellow, one is more orange. K value is how it looks to you, the user, not how well it'll feed the plants.

Here is a picture of chlorophyll's absorption spectrum: http://upload.wikime...ab_spectra2.PNG
As you can see there are peaks around 400-500 nanometers and 600-700 nanometers. These are the numbers that chlorophyll can absorb. Light that is shining on the plant that is 500-600 nanometers is reflected, not absorbed, so the plant can't eat it. So buy a bulb that is either "full spectrum" (has energy values at all of the visible wavelengths) or specifically made to grow plants (has peaks in the blue and red section of the spectrum).

Also use a substrate that will give the plant the nutrients it needs to grow. I use kitty litter (pure baked clay) because of this article: http://www.thekrib.c...rate-jamie.html but you can use Seachem Co.'s Fluorite®, EcoComplete®, soil capped with a few inches of gravel, soil capped with a few inches of sand... basically anything you want as long as it's not pure silicon dioxide like new pea gravel and sand are. Plants need things like iron, calcium, magnesium to grow. Brand new pea gravel or sand don't have that. There's a way around that if you really want to use gravel/sand; just use fertilizer sticks or allow the fish poop to build up in the substrate. But I don't like the idea of having to regularly fertilize the tank and kitty litter is $4 for 25 pounds and needs no capping layer, so, yeah, it works. My point is that there are a lot of different substrates that work; you don't just have to use kitty litter because I do. *nods*

The way to tell if a plant is taking in or releasing ammonia is to pinch it with your fingernail. If the plant is mushy, it's rotting. If the plant is crunchy, it's growing.
The way to tell if the plant enjoys your substrate is to give it a few weeks and then tug on the stalk. A simple tug will tell you whether or not it likes your substrate. If it stays in, it's got lots of roots. If there are fine, threadlike roots coming from it then it enjoys your substrate. If it comes out easily and has no roots on it and is rotting, well, it didn't like it there. That's not to say that no plant will like it there, just that this species definitely doesn't. If the base of the plant is rotting and does not have roots coming out of it then you might want to change substrates.

Now as to what kind of bulb you want to buy, that's up to you. Bulbs vary in their efficiency to make light. If the bulb was 100% efficient it would use all of the energy [watts] coming into it to make light with no waste heat. If the bulb was 10% efficient it would convert 10% of the energy fueling it to light and 90% to heat. Different bulbs have different efficiencies, and if you're trying to keep your tank cool for darters and minnows, efficiencies and how hot your light gets might matter to you. LEDs are very efficient, making a lot of light and very little heat. They can also be very expensive, which is why if you want an LED Usil's post is worth reading. It's worth reading regardless, actually. Anyway, continuing. Fluorescents are in the middle in the efficiency spectrum, making both a lot of light and a non-negligible amount of heat. They're pretty inexpensive. I bought my four foot Lithonia shop light from Home Depot for $20 and the four foot T8 3,000 lumen full spectrum fluorescent bulbs for $7 for two (the light fixture takes two). Link: http://www.homedepot...t&storeId=10051 Pictures of it on my tank: http://img.photobuck...imiru/012-3.jpg http://img.photobuck...imiru/016-4.jpg http://img.photobuck...imiru/015-3.jpg http://img.photobuck...imiru/018-4.jpg http://img.photobuck...imiru/014-4.jpg Incandescent bulbs are the least efficient, making not a lot of light and quite a lot of heat. Incandescents are usually the kind that come in standard aquarium hoods. They're by far my least favorite; they are often dim producing very few lumens of light and it's often yellow tinted. I personally think yellow tinted lights look nasty, but again the K value is personal preference and has nothing to do with how well your plants will grow. So. What bulb you choose determines how much heat the light imparts upon the aquarium. How much you're willing to spend is up to you, but as Usil and I pointed out there are low cost LED and fluorescent alternatives. You don't just have to use the light that came with the tank. Those standard aquarium hoods are actually more expensive and lower lumen than either of the full spectrum options Usil and I presented. Basically anything full spectrum and high lumen will grow plants well; you have multiple valid options to choose from.

I'd also like to add as a plant suggestion myriophyllum pinnatum, which is probably my favorite native plant. It's feathery and soft and a great fry saver. It's also a fast grower and has no problems continuing to grow while uprooted, if your bluegill messes with it and it comes up from the substrate. I'd also like to second the nomination for hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum). Ceratophyllum demersum is like a hardcore (ha ha) version of myriophyllum pinnatum. It's fluffy and feathery and will poke delicate, fine little holes in your hand if you squeeze it. Your bluegill will only ever swallow C. demersum once. *innocent smile* There's also bacopa and Ludwigia repens, which are native. Those two aren't exactly low light plants, though they'll grow fine with the lights recommended above.

Edited by EricaWieser, 17 April 2012 - 06:39 PM.

#5 Guest_Usil_*

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 09:10 PM

Listen to Erica! She is a world of knowledge.


#6 Guest_pam916_*

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:36 AM

Ada soil is great but it cost a bundler. Plants love it.

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