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  • #21
Just wanted to comment on the kelvin issue. Coming from the reefkeeping hobby, color spectrum/kelvin and PAR is a heavily debated issue when dealing with coral growth and the photosynthetic needs of their zooxanthalae (symbiotic algae that gives the coral its color).

Anyway, for the greatest PAR and best coral growth, 6700k halides are used because this really close to the spectrum of the noonday sun over the tropics(which is a pretty commonly accepted in reefkeeping.) I notice that you suggest 5500k for this...a kelvin rating that any serious coral keeper would avoid like the plague. You also describe the 6700k spectrum as "blue". Ironically, the reason so many reef hobbyists don't like this bulb (regardless of it's ability to stimulate coral growth) is its yellow cast on the tank. Most people prefer a 10,000k bulb for a nice clean white...and don't see much blue until they hit a 20,000k bulb. However, it should be noted that the lighting industry uses kelvin ratings somewhat loosely and more for the benefit of the hobbyist so that we can have an idea of the spectrum it will create (i.e. 50,000k bulbs, etc.)
  • #22
Skylsdale, the thing you are forgetting is that the water column absorbs a large amount of light, mostly of the longer wavelengths (red).  That's why deepwater corals use more actinics (blue, high K) than shallow reef corals.  Continuing the progression, a terrestrial plant will actually see a lower K color temperature than the reef corals.  FW tanks are also commonly lit with lower K bulbs than a reefkeeper might use, because the plants often grow barely submerged at all.

I have to disagree with some of the statements in the original post, too.  My CPs are currently under 3500K lights because that's all HD had when i bought them, and i haven't bothered to pick up others yet.  The plants are growing well.  I have noticed that some seem to feel "underlit" while others are growing and coloring nicely, which just seems to strengthen the suspicions i have that actual PAR spectrum and useable light is very plant dependent.

One thing that was left out so far is that there are essentially two types of linear fluorescents commonly in use: the old T12 and the preferred (efficient) replacement, the T8.  This is quite important to people setting up new grow areas, because the market and availability is changing (relatively) rapidly right now, and some vastly superior options may be missed if this isn't understood when buying. I've already written a volume about this (LOL) based on my rather extensive online research to the listserv, but if anybody missed it and wants to read, i put it up as the beginning of a FAQ a la Krib here.  Which reminds me, the Krib, one of the first and best aquarium hobbiest web sites, has a lot of information on lighting.

  • #23
confused out of my mind... I just bought a 5.5 gallon fish tank (15" by 7" ground area) that I am going to convert to a terrarium for about 14 vfts, what kind of lighting would be best and how far? I've been reading this thread, and there are so many bulbs and lumens and who-knows-what that I have no clue what to buy, I'd appreciate any help. -William
  • #24
No prob we just ask that you read it. To start with the lights should be as close as possible. What type of top do you have for the tank?

I think in your case you have two basic choices, 1st, find a lizard style terrarium lid that has two standard bulb sockets and fill them with compact florescent bulbs (cool whites). Second choice, cover the top of the tank with a piece of plexi glass and on top of that lay 3 or 4 18 inch florescent tube lights (cool whites). These are available from walmart as under counter mounted light strips.

Either of these two choices will be good, unfortuanatly lighting is one of the highest investments in this hobby.

Almost forgot the third choice, a ledge by a sunny window. Be very careful to balance the amount of light against the temperature. If the tank gets too warm use a shade cloth or anything similar to limit the sunlight but keep it bright.

good luck
  • #25
thx joe, I currently have two philips "Agro-Lite's" 60W each, and one Philips "Daylight" bulb 15W 750 lumens , and these three bulbs are screw ons in clamps, so they are not touching the terrarium, the bulbs are about 6 inches from the glass. Are the two plant lights and the one daylight bulb sufficient? too much? -William
  • #26
Not familiar with the lights your using but I recognize the clamps. For that setup you should be using the compact florescents, largest you can get, like 25 watts. Ditch the incadescent grow lights, too much heat too little light. Put the florescents right against the glass. Remember to buy ones that say cool white or full spectrum. The full spectrums are still hard to come across, perhaps you can find one at home depot.

Hope this helps
  • #27
thx once again, I will go return the bulbs I got, and go for the compact fluro.'s in cool white, also how long should I expose my vft's to these lights each day? how many hours? -William
  • #28
hmm...The lights are cheap to run so I'd say go for 16 hours as long as it is dark in the room the other 8 hours.

  • #29
would your recommend a 25 watt compact fluroscent daylight, cool white, or full spectrum?
  • #30
full spectrum prefered. Then daylight.

  • #31
I bought 3 19watt daylight screw-ins, they are the only cool whites I could find and they are 6500 K, will this be sufficient? I have them on for 16 hours a day and as close to the glass as I can get.
  • #32
that sounds good. 6500k is a good color, and as long as the plants look brightly lit they will do well.

  • #33
What Watts are the best for dews and butterworts?
  • #34
would 5300k be better than using 6500k bulbs? i use 2x19watt 6500k screw-in type CFs over my ten gallon terrarium and my dews dont seem to color very well
. the tenticles just seem to stay a dull pink color. i was thinking of maybe switching to ahsupply's 36watt pc retro with a 5300k bulb. do you think that a lower kelvin would help the coloration?
  • #35
Any recommendations on a bulb for growing S. Leucophyllas, S. Purpureas and VFTs?
  • #36
Okay, here's a simplified version of this topic:

( > means the thing on the left is greater or better than that on the right)

Which lighting is best for the plants?

Lots of sunlight > some sunlight with other lighting > fluorescents of any kind or HID like metal halide or high pressure sodium > halogens > incandescent (normal light bulbs)

The last two are only in there as a reality check.  Nobody should use halogens or incandescents as a primary light source for plants, as they are very inefficient and will burn your plants.

Which lighting is best for plants in a terrarium?

Sunlight can heat up a terrarium very quickly, so a closed or almost-closed terrarium should never be placed where it will receive direct sunlight.   A bright windowsill is still good, if there is never any direct sunlight coming through it.  You will probably need some extra lighting for most CPs.  Other than that the same guidelines above apply.

What kind of fluorescent bulb do i need?
There are two approaches to plant lighting using fluorescents.  One is the low cost, mainstream route, and the other is the high tech, high cost route.  In either case, if you can give the plants some natural light it will make them happier.  It's impossible to beat the sun, because that's what the plants are designed for!

For the mainstreamers (anybody not prepared to spend $50-$500 on their lights), the proper way to approach the problem is to maximize the amount of light:  "Quantity of light is more important than quality"  Here, the amount of light a bulb puts out is more important than any other factor than its price.  You'll need to buy a plug-in timer with a ground (third) pin.  Some examples of this approach to lighting are:

1) for mid-sized to larger collections: grow shelves.  Buy cheap shoplights at Home Depot or Lowes or wherever you can find them.  Mine were from Home Depot and cost $8.  It should say on the box that it has an electronic ballast (instead of magnetic or electromagnetic).   These shoplights are four feet long, hold two bulbs, and come with chains and hooks to hang them from the ceiling or a shelf.  Do that.  Hang them about 10 to 20 inches above the growing area (or more if you have tall plants, but realistically tall plants don't work well with artificial lighting).  
Most CPs should be as close to the lights as possible, within reason (closer than 3 inches is probably not a good idea).  
MOST! Not all!

If you have a lot of plants, you can get some nice four foot long metal wire adjustable shelves for less than $80 and hang two shoplights under each shelf to create a lot of growing area very compactly.  You might have heat problems with this many lights in one area, though.

Buy bulbs for your shoplights.  If you bought the electronic ballast shoplights, the kind of bulbs you want are T8s (that means they are an inch in diameter).  A lot of fluorescent bulbs are the thicker T12s, so make sure you get the right kind.  One that works for me that i found at Home Depot is the Phillips TL741 bulb.  It has green endcaps because it is one of their low-pollution, high efficiency bulbs.  Mine cost less than $3 each.  Any "cool white" bulb will probably work.  "Warm white" are not as good, if you have a choice between the two.

Here is a photo of my grow shelf (and i've got three more shelves if i really want to get crazy with the grow lights! )

2) for small collections, if you don't have a nice window, you can get one of the clamp-on utility lamps (it's all made of shiny metal and has a pretty good reflector) at Home Depot or Lowes.

Here's a photo courtesy of Larry:

I think they cost around $8.  The reflector makes a big difference in how well the plants get lit.  If you want you could use any lamp that can be positioned to point down at your plants, but a good reflector will help.

Buy a compact fluorescent bulb for the lamp.  These bulbs are just like the long fluorescent lamps, except they are twisted up so they look like an incandescent bulb (the ordinary light bulb).  They can fit in normal light bulb sockets (like the kind on the utility lamp you just bought), but they are much better at producing light without so much heat.   You want to get the most powerful one you can (meaning the number of watts or the amount of lumens - look at the packages) that isn't too expensive.  If you find some that say they are "cool white" (instead of the usual "warm white"), that's a much better option than warm whites with the same power. A quick look at the local supermarket revealed 23, 25, and 30 Watt bulbs, all for $8.50. They should be cheaper at a home improvement store.

Put the bulb in your lamp.  Position the lamp so it shines down on your plants, within six inches or so of the plants.  Once again, two or three inches is too close, while a foot is too far for most CPs.  If you set the lamp on top of a terrarium, make sure that there is some open space around the edges of the reflector for heat to escape.  Fluorescents last longer and are more efficient when they aren't overheated.

Finally, set the timer for 12 hours on, and plug in the lamp.  Unless your plants are all tropical CPs, adjust the timer throughout the year every few weeks or month so that the amount of time the lights stays on varies from around 10 to around 16 hours to simulate the seasons.  It would probably be best to do that so that the short time is the same as winter in your part of the world.  That is just a suggested amount - you could run them much longer, for example.  

For the high tech people who want to spend more:  read this entire thread.

So that's it!  It's not really that complicated.  The most important thing to remember is that plants are really not as delicate as we sometimes think.  It's best to take these guidelines and try them, and then change them to fit your needs and see how the plants respond.  Experiment.  What works for one person doesn't always work for another.  Just make sure to adjust the plants slowly when moving them from artificial lights to sunlight, or they WILL get hurt or even killed.
  • #37
which is better for a small place:pOWER COMPACT COMPACT FLUORESCENT / JL LIGHTING, or I dont get it what is the difference between these
  • #38
Is a white painted surface a better reflective surface or tin foil! Thankyou!
  • #39
D muscipula: thats a good article!
hey i saw the wire shelf that you have in ikea in singapore, my questions are:
how much light is needed for that? 2 4ft double tube set ups?
also how does you plants get humidity in an open space like that?
1 more qns, how do you stick/drill/etc the lights to those kind of shelves?(wire shelves). tieing wont be so stable right?
thanks !
  • #40
For attaching to the rack I just tie them up with good safety wire (of the non rusting stainless type). I would use at least for bulbs per shelf unless you rewire the ballast to overburn, then you may be able to get away with 2 but I would still use four the plants will grow faster.

I prefer mylar, you can use the cheap $2 emergency blankets from outdoor shops, they are made of mylar. If not then I would use a painted white surface (glossy) because it is easier to wipe down than aluminum foil.

Humidity: Place in a small area and add a humidifier.
Or cover the whole thing in 2mil Mylar, or if you really want to be cheap use 2mil or 4mil poly from the paint section of walmart to cover the whole thing. Humidity really is a issue that requires creativity to meat you specific requirements in you specific envirnment.

fre8train: depends on which ones you are looking at, either can be good. but standar 4foot bulb shop lights are my favorite for cheap and ease. If you really want them bright then add an extra ballast to each.