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Lighting for low/med tech 5ft tank

soil give you the advantage of the possibility of a clever source of CO2 plus nutrients, while the clay product like Aquasoil does not produce as much CO2
it might cause less headaches to use Aquasoil or Oliver Knotts.
Normally you would "cap" or cover the soil because of the mess issue. You can use any decorative gravel to do that though, so that's easy to address.

How much of a disadvantage (in terms of losing the CO2 element) would there be if I chose the Aquasoil over the compost? would this have an impact on the low tech 'efficiency' ? If there is no real disadvantage, I think I would prefer to spend a bit more but have less mess if I choose to resite any of the plants.

If I chose the aquasoil, would it still be on the same principle that I would be capping it with gravel? what should the ratio be between them and how deep overall should I aim the substrate to be? and how do I calculate the right amount to buy?
I read that inert clay products (such as moler clay) have good CEC, so would this be a good capping choice?

Is seachem Equillibrium an all in one solution? and is it as effective (and cost effective) as the dry method?

I shall be starting the whole process within the next few weeks and am very excited, and shall keep everyone posted on my progress.


Golly, I wish I had some real numbers for you. It's a very complicated question because the type of plant that you use also is a significant factor. For example, suppose you decided to plant a tankful of Hydrocotle. Hydrocotle has been shown to be incapable of using sediment CO2, so in that case it wouldn't matter at all. Lobelia and Vallis on the other hand are very efficient users of sediment CO2, so sediment choice might make a difference.

There is another twist though. Aquasoil also has organic matter (peat) impregnated on the clay particles, so in time and with organic waste settling into the sediment there will be lots of bacterial action in the substrate which will produce CO2. How much less than potting soil, I have no idea. The thing is that when you do the Dry Start, keeping the sediment moist, you will automatically be culturing bacteria in the sediment which will not only mineralize the ammonia in the substrate but will also start to consume the peat and produce sedimentary CO2.

Measurements have been taken in natural systems. I've seen data from temperate zone lakes where the at a depth of only 5 centimeters, the CO2 concentration was measure to be around 1000ppm. Of course these soils have been sitting around for millions of years so I don't think we can compare their content to what we will produce in the tank, but it's an indication that in time, organic sediments can produce significant amounts of CO2, and if the plants being used are efficient sediment CO2 users then there is a good chance of success.

If you are hesitant to use soil, then no big deal. Go with the Aquasoil Amazonia which is a clay product with high CEC. That decision will not be a "Make or Break" decision. Amazonia is a complete clay substrate and does not require capping, so use it alone. I love Amazonia because I do a lot of replanting and reshuffling, and this substrate is very kind on the hands with a smooth velvety feel. Doing a Dry Start with this sediment for a month or two will allow the ammonia to be mineralized, and as I mentioned, will cycle the sediment properly and will allow the plants to put on weight. It's just that Amazonia is hideously expensive. There is a substrate calculator around but for a 5 footer, to get a couple of inches sediment depth you'll need more than a few 9L bags. If you want deeper then that's even more bags. Remember that to save cost you can also "bulk up" the substrate by inserting a layer of soil, mulch or cheap clay and then laying down the Amazonia on top. There are lots of tricks to bulking up.

Seachem Equilibrium is just a remineralizing powder. It is not a fertilizer per se. You can see the specification here: Seachem Equilibrium
It's used to add hardness to soft water but because it contains Iron, Calcium and Magnesium it functions as a micronutrient for low tech purposes. You can get these components for cheaper elsewhere and that's why I said it's an alternative to the micro mix.

I have just tried to purchase an OSRAM 58W Skywhite 880 T8 tube from lampspecs, but it seems that with that particular tube, you have to order a minimum of 6.
Not sure why. I did notice however that they sell the OSRAM 58W Biolux 965 T8 as singles, which are £14 delivered.

I need one 58W tube and wondered if I should just consider perhaps buying an arcadia tube (£18) as I have ordered the arcadia controller and reflector, or whether I should opt for the Biolux. Would anybody know if the Biolux likely to be much different in colour from the Skywhite 880 in JamesC's sticky, and if this would be a good choice for plant growth?

Hi Paul,
As you can see in the model number (965) the Osram Biolux is "supposed to be" very similar to the first image shown on James's sticky (Philips de Luxe Pro 965). The Osram documents reference the Philips 965 as an equivalent for this model, check page 2 http://www.osram.com/media/resource/hires/335262/light-color-and-lumen-overview--lichtfarben--und-lumenbersicht.pdf

So just get it for 14 quid and get on with it. As we continually try to remind everyone, you will not see any difference in plant growth. It's all about how the tank looks to you. That's the point JamesC was trying to make in that post.

Hey Paul, your certainly in good hands with such sound advise from clive, i just thought that while on an entirely different scale to your tank you might be interested in this. i started this as an emersed set up (never planned to flood it) using amazonia but struggled to keep humidity up so filled it after 6 months.


Melt has been really quite minimal, but as you can see dry start does give you the option to use carpet plants in a low tech which otherwise wouldnt take if flooded from the start. Its all a bit rough round the edges but you get the idea.
Good luck with your tank and look forward to seeing it progress.
Hi Easerthegeezer

Thanks for your reassuring words, It's a bit daunting as I still have so many confusions but i'll get there. Your examples are great and has helped my confidence...cheers!

One thing I am unsure about is whether I should choose slow or fast growing varieties of plants at the start. Would I be correct to say that it would be best to plant carpeting varieties and slow growers first and then add the faster growers and stems before submerging, or should I just plant everything straight away?


Paul, i planted everything together but different plants behave differently as clive has said, especially when flooding a dry start. If you wish to do a dry start then id avoid crypts as they do melt a lot when you fill and dont be shy with water changes while the plants make the transition (i did daily 95% as a small tank). Ultimately every tank is different, what worked for one doesnt mean it'll work for someone else. While we can advise on substrates, keeping light low, water changes, low tech plants etc you just have to bite the bullet eventually. I would say dont try to be too ambitious, start your tank up and just figure out how to grow healthy plants.

All plants are slow growing low tech :lol:

this isnt my list or concise but its a good starting point for low tech plants. Bare in mind some of these dont like dry starts. Find the plants you like then google with emersed in front of the name. Happy hunting.

Java Fern - Microsorum pteropus
Windelov Java Fern, Windelov Fern - Microsorum pteropus 'Windelov'
Narrow Leaf Java Fern - Microsorum pteropus v. 'narrow leaf'
Java Moss - Vesicularia dubyana
Green Hygro - Hygrophila polysperma
*Sunset Hygro - Hygrophila polysperma 'Rosanervig'
Ceylon Hygro - Hygrophila polysperma 'Ceylon'
Rotala Rotundifolia - Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala Rotundifolia sp. Green - Rotala rotundifolia sp. 'Green'
Rotala Indica - Rotala indica
Hornwort - Ceratophylum demersum
Parrots Feather - Myriophyllum aquaticum
Moneywort, Water Hyssop - Bocapa monnieri
Brazilian Pennywort, Pennywort - Hydrocotyle leucocephala
Crypt Wendtii - Cryptocoryne wendtii
Crypt Balansae - Cryptocoryne Balansae
Pygmy Crypt - Cryptocoryne pygmaea
Guppy Grass - Najas guadalupensis
Anubias barteri - Anubias barteri v. barteri
Anubias barteri 'marble' - Anubias barteri 'marble'
Anubias barteri v. 'glabra' - Anubias barteri v. 'glabra'
Anubias nana - Anubias barteri v. 'nana'
Coffee leaf anubias - Anubias barteri v. 'coffeefolia'
Crypt retrospiralis - Cryptocoryne retrospiralis
Crypt spiralis - Cryptocoryne spiralis
Golden nana - Anubias barteri v. 'nana golden'
Narrow leaf nana - Anubias barteri v. 'nana narrow leaf'
Petite nana - Anubias barteri v. nana 'petite'
Philippine Java Fern - Microsorum pteropus 'Philippine'
Red Java fern - Microsorum pteropus "red"
Crypt Becketii - Cryptcoryne becketii
Pelia - Monosolenium tenerum
Waterwheel Plant - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Bacopa - Bacopa caroliniana
African Water Fern - Bolbitis heudelotii
Hornwort - Ceratophyllum submersum
Crypt Aponogetifolia - Cryptocoryne aponogetifolia
Micro Crypt - Cryptocoryne petchii
Tropica Sword - Echinodorus parviflorus 'Tropica'
Downoi - Pogostemon helferi
What height should my T8 be from the water level? I know that the closer to the water it is means higher intensity at the substrate, but I heard that increasing the distance will create a better lighting spread.
Is there any rule of thumb for this? if not, what would be sensible?

I've been making a design for a new canopy for my tank and I currently have the roof face 5" above water level.