View Full Version : 29 Gallon Low Light, Low Tech Journal of Taurus

04-24-2009, 04:57 PM
I've been doing a lot of research and asking a lot of questions about lighting through PMs. I really want to say thanks to all that have generously responded to my PMs. LOL..you know who you are.

I'm planning a Low Light, Low Tech 29 Gallon Tank. As someone relatively new to the hobby, the only thing that has been more confusing to me than proper and adequate filtration is lighting.

My research indicates that a low light setup with Java Moss and Java Fern (good for plant newbies) requires lighting between 1.5 watts\gallon and 2.25 watts\gallon. Seachem's Flourite and gravel has been recommeded as a good mix for substrate. I question that as Jave Moss and Java Fern once tied to driftwood or rock does not need to be rooted in the substrate and takes nourishment from the water through stems and roots tied to rock or diftwood.

Do I really need Flourite?

Lighting. I have been given three basic senarios for lighting that I'm considering.

1. An All Glass Deluxe Hood with a single T8 tube of between 8000k to 10000k for about 0.69 watts per gallon. I like this scenario because it is relatively inexpensive and provides easy access through hood to clean and feed. $65.00 including shipping.

2. An All Glass Double T8 Tube strip light on top of a ALL Glass Versatop or Perfecto glass canopy. Both tubes would be 8000k to 10000k and give me about 1.3 watts per gallon. Does the double tube strip light need to be removed from the glass canopy to gain access to clean and feed? $75.00 including shipping.

3. A Nova Extreme SLR T-5 fixture double tube (1-24 W 10,000K 1-24 Watt Freshwater) over an All Glass Versatop or Perfecto glass canopy giving me
1.7 watts per gallon. Do I need to remove the fixture to gain access to clean and feed? $100 including shipping. T5 replacement tubes would be costly, need to be mail ordered.

4. A Coralife Freshwater Aqualight Deluxe Single 30" Strip 1 65 watt 6700K straight pin base compact flourescent T5 lamp giving me 2.24 watts per gallon, over a Veratop or Perfecto glass canopy. $84.00 including shipping (it's on sale at BA's)

So, how much light and what temp do I need to grow Java Fern. Rate of growth is not important to me as long as the fern and moss stays healthy.

I've read with these low light, low tech startups that you don't need to change water for the first month as the moss and fern will use the nitrogenous compounds created for growth. I'm going to find it hard NOT to change water.

I already have the 29 gallon tank and an AC50 filter.

The heater is a no brainer as I would go with a Visi-Therm Stealth 200 watt heater.

I've also read that lighting temps in excess for 8000 k help prevent algae and improve the health of the fish. Don't know it's true of not.

comments, suggestions welcome and are encouraged.

04-24-2009, 05:05 PM
Awesome I'm glad your doing this Taurus!

I'm in a similar-ish boat, and will be a couple of months behind you.

what are you thinking fish/theme wise?

Good luck sir

04-24-2009, 05:18 PM
1. 1, but not more than 2 Koi Angels, 6 Prestilla Tetras or Harlequins, Cory Cats.

2. 1 Male Pearl Gourami, 13 Harlequins, 2 Zebra Loaches.

I could go either way. Thanks for your comments and good wishes.

I'm really only adding the Angels, Gourami, Loaches depending on scenario.

Sorry, Java Fern is Microsorum pteropus (red) maybe.

04-24-2009, 05:54 PM
Boy, posting this stuff has really helped to clarify my thoughts and I don't feel so overwhelmed.

It looks like Lighting Scenario No.2 would work for me. 1.3 watts per gallon is about what Java Fern needs for light to do well without Co2 injection. Any higher wattage and Co2 injection becomes necessary to prevent the Fern from burning.

04-24-2009, 11:42 PM
Boy, posting this stuff has really helped to clarify my thoughts and I don't feel so overwhelmed.

It looks like Lighting Scenario No.2 would work for me. 1.3 watts per gallon is about what Java Fern needs for light to do well without Co2 injection. Any higher wattage and Co2 injection becomes necessary to prevent the Fern from burning.
I disagree. IMO, option #4 because it gives the right kelvin rating to grow plants and provides a better wattage. Java ferns don't burn with more than 1.3wpg and no Co2. My java ferns have been under 2wpg of light with no added Co2 and they haven't burned. With 2wpg and the right kelvin rating there are plenty more plants you can put in your tank than with 1.3 wpg of light. If you plan on sticking with just java moss and java fern there is no need to buy flourite IMO.

04-24-2009, 11:46 PM
Thank you troy. I appreciate your input. :22:

04-25-2009, 07:09 PM
Found out from BA's that No.4 just sits on top of the glass canopy and does not a fix to it unless DYI with epoxy, glue, bundgy cords, springs.... :hmm3grin2orange:

Probably true with all strip lights.

Sir Tristen
04-25-2009, 10:21 PM
I also feel that an expensive plant substrate is unnecessary for the plants you have listed; however, if you think you might want to try some more plants later, you might want to go with the better substrate now.

As far as what light promotes algae growth, what I have read is that light closer to the blue spectrum (higher kelvin) promotes algae growth more than light nearer the red spectrum. Take that for what it is, as I am no plant biologist, but I would stick to somewhere around 6500 k for visual appeal and correct color. Anywhere between 5000 and 10000 should be fine. I think we are more picky about the light than our plants.

My 20 long has a 17 watt 5000 k bulb that makes my plants and tank look VERY green. I recently got an incandescent hood and stuck two 13 watt CFL bulbs in there with a k rating of 6500, and that created a good balance. I really like the color now. It's a fairly recent development though, so I'll have to see how things go.

As far as C02 goes, DIY is really easy. I just set one up a couple weeks ago, and I was surprised at how easy it was. That does add a little maintenance though, and your plants may not need it.

04-26-2009, 12:16 AM
Thank you Tristen. Yeah, the more I read, the closer to 5000k - 7000k I'll stay.
I'm beginning to think that watts\gallon is not so important. A deluxe hood and a 6700k single tube may do all I need it too. Bud, I appreciate you're attention. thumbs2:

Funny..I've got one of those hoods around here for a 10 gallon. Can't seem to find one at 30" which is ok. Must be a pain though..you've got to take it off just to clean the tank. LOL...I can't fit my arm though that little port.

Geeezzzzz I'm fussy.

04-26-2009, 01:20 AM
1.3 watts per gallon is about what Java Fern needs for light to do well without Co2 injection. Any higher wattage and Co2 injection becomes necessary to prevent the Fern from burning.

Not trying to beat this into the ground, but rather I mean to add another personal experience. I have between 2 and 2.3 watts per gallon on all of my tanks. No CO2 injection and heavy use of java ferns. No burning.

Sir Tristen
04-26-2009, 01:39 AM
Thank you Tristen. Yeah, the more I read, the closer to 5000k - 7000k I'll stay.
I'm beginning to think that watts\gallon is not so important. A deluxe hood and a 6700k single tube may do all I need it too. Bud, I appreciate you're attention. thumbs2:

Funny..I've got one of those hoods around here for a 10 gallon. Can't seem to find one at 30" which is ok. Must be a pain though..you've got to take it off just to clean the tank. LOL...I can't fit my arm though that little port.

Geeezzzzz I'm fussy.

It's not so bad taking it and the light off. I just place them on the couch right by the tank, tell my two daughters to keep their hands off, do my water change and algae cleanup (hair algae! grrrr) then put it back on. Easy as pie.

How many watts for that single light? You might get by with less, but I'd shoot for at least 1.5 watts, depending on what type of lighting.

Also, do get dark gravel, it looks so nice. I'm thinking of ellen4god's tank right now and it really looks nice. I have a white silica sand that looks okay, but I want to change it out. So I would recommend a darker gravel or even black sand/gravel if you can find some.

Keep us updated!thumbs2:

04-26-2009, 06:23 AM
The lamps like the T5 and PC...mount onto the tank via "mounting legs" you can buy various ones that can flip the fixture up so it doesnt have to come off plus you wouldnt need a top for the tank as the light mounts. They definatly make the tank look clean and high tech :)

Check out www.aquatraders.com

Im thinking about ordering a 108watt HO T5 for my 55G planted to clean up its look some and get it open top the way I wanted it originally. Plus its only $45 plus the cost of proper bulbs

My narrow leaf ferns are really liking their position in my manzanita tree inches below 96watts of T8 lighting...and Ive known plenty of people to grow ferns in high light setups as well :22:

04-26-2009, 01:36 PM
Hi Jenn..yeah, I just found the mounting legs at BA's here:


Thank you very much your your suggestion and you know I appreciate it. :ssmile:
I'm not sure if an open top tank would work for me. We have a dog. Hanna is a Yellow Lab that weighs in at 85 lbs. LOL..we have a sign on the main entry doorway to our house that reads.......

"This house is maintained entirely for the comfort and convenience of the dog."

Well that statement is entirely true! She sheds year round and we always have a vacuum full of Hanna Hair. Even with the All Glass deluxe hoods, Hanna Hair makes it's way into the other tanks once in a while. We use flea and tick treatment on here once per month. I can't remember the name of the treatment (Advantix or something similar). So, can you imagine how much treated Hanna Hair would make its way into an open topped tank? Not to mention the normal dust and stuff from having the windows open during the warm season.

Ask WildTurkey why he doesn't go to an open topped tank.

So, No.1 or especially No.2 from above still look like my best options.

Thanks Again Jenn. You're always helpful.

04-26-2009, 02:14 PM
Not trying to beat this into the ground, but rather I mean to add another personal experience. I have between 2 and 2.3 watts per gallon on all of my tanks. No CO2 injection and heavy use of java ferns. No burning.

Thanks gm72. I appreciate your input. How do you mount your T5's and are the tank open top? :22:

04-26-2009, 03:04 PM
I have all of my lights over glass tops (8 cats in the house means no open top tanks for me). I buy strip lights usually from bigalsonline.com and just sit them on top of the glass.

04-26-2009, 03:09 PM
Thanks gm72. :22:

04-26-2009, 03:11 PM
No problem, friend.

04-29-2009, 11:33 PM
New 29 Gallon Plan 4/29/09.

Coralife F/W T-5 Aqualight Double Strip Light-30" 36 watts.

Perfecto or All Glass Glass Canopy.

200 Watt Visitherm Stealth Heater.

Aquaclear 50 HOB filter.

Natural or Black Gravel 3 - 4 mm with API's Pure Laterite mixed in.

Manzanita root and\or stem wood pile with Java Ferns and Java Moss on left rear of tank as you face the tank. Ferns and moss tied to wood for rooting.

Flourish Comprehensive dose to supplement plant growth.

1 Gold\Marble Koi Angel.

6 Gold Pristella Tetras.

I'll start with photo period of 4 hours on, off midday, 4 hours on evening for total of 8 hours. I'm trying not to promote algae growth.

Comments \ Suggestions encouraged. :ssmile:

05-01-2009, 02:26 AM
Sounds like a great start to me :) Sounds like the making to a fantastic aquarium! I really advocate the broken photo period as it does drastically IME cut down on algae but at the same time doesnt bother your plants.

05-01-2009, 05:33 PM
Thanks Jenn for your comments and help. You really helped me narrow things down. :22:

05-02-2009, 11:03 PM
New 29 Gallon Plan 5/2/09. Tank moved onto stand.

Coralife F/W T-5 Aqualight Double Strip Light-30" 36 watts. On Order

Perfecto or All Glass Glass Canopy. Got it. On 29 g tank.

200 Watt Visitherm Stealth Heater. On order

Aquaclear 50 HOB filter. Got it

Natural l 3 - 4 mm. Got it

Manzanita root and\or stem wood pile. In process of ordering

20gallon Long moved.

10gallon moved.

05-03-2009, 01:57 AM
Just saw this thread. I don't know if you've already ordered those mounting legs or not, but if you're getting the same light fixture as we got for our 20 long (I believe you are), those legs probably won't work. I know the legs say they're for all Coralife Aqualights, but that's a misleading statement. That 36 watt light strip doesn't have anywhere on it to mount the legs. Instead, the light comes with wire frame pieces that slide out from the light fixture itself.

I didn't like how close the light strip was to the water just using the wire frame pieces (we run an open top tank), and plus, the lighting was too direct. I ended up bending the wire frames that come out from the fixture so that the light sits up about 2 1/2 inches from the top of the tank. I used some office clips to hold the wire frame to the top of the tank. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but it provides extra assurance that the fixture won't fall in the tank.

If somehow you get some type of mounting legs to work with that fixture, please let us know.

05-03-2009, 05:21 PM
Hi, I did not order the mounting legs. I plan on resting the strip light on top of the All Glass Versatop glass canopy for a closed top tank.

05-12-2009, 03:34 PM
All Glass T-8 Double Lamp Strip Light 30" Oak replacing the Coralife T-5 Double Bulb Strip Light. Big Al's was unable to get the Coralife T-5 Strip, customer service says they are having problems gettting all Coralife Lighting.

The All Glass Strip Light was in stock and should be here by Friday. Big Al's did give me a break on shipping. :thumb:

I can't seem to make a reasonable deal for manzanita wood, so I ordered Malaysian Driftwood tank ready from Feller. $16 for a large piece 15 - 18".

This is where I really miss the LFS. If I had a good one near me, the tank would have been up and running within a couple of days. Those days are gone here in my area. Moving forward. :ssmile:

05-12-2009, 03:39 PM
what about DIY driftwood?

05-12-2009, 03:44 PM
Yes, I did think about that, but would probably end up costing me just as much anyway.

When I add small to medium stones, they will be from a local river. I will just do the soak and scrub in 10% bleach solution for a couple of days.

05-12-2009, 03:48 PM
How does it cost as much? Go down the river, find some good wood, scrub it and soak it for a week or two. and hey presto driftwood!

You're doing it with the stones, why not the wood?

05-12-2009, 03:59 PM
Good point! Guess I'm taking a strole along the river this weekend. The river is down now anyway as it has been a fairly dry Spring. Ya talked me into it rob, thanks!

05-12-2009, 04:08 PM
no prob man - im going to do the same thing. take some before and after pictures!

05-15-2009, 08:53 PM
The ALL Glass double tube strip light arrived today and.....it WORKS. BA's put 2 10,000k coralife T-8 tubes in it..both work.

I'll be going driftwood and rock hunting tomorrow.

05-30-2009, 11:06 PM
Driftwood and rocks found. I headed to California for a vacation. I'll be back June 9th. I'll get the 29 up and running upon my return.

05-31-2009, 12:34 AM
Driftwood and rocks found. I headed to California for a vacation. I'll be back June 9th. I'll get the 29 up and running upon my return.

Looking forward to tracking the progress further :)

Good thread Taurus

05-31-2009, 12:58 AM
This is a great thread Taurus.
Very informative... Any pics. Have fun in Cali, but know I and a lot of us here can't wait to see the tank set up!!!!

06-14-2009, 11:39 AM
The tank is up and running. I found some flat black foam sheet material for the back ground and I really like it. So, I washed the shallow creek pebble gravel and added it to the tank at an approximate depth of 2". The rock came from a near by river and matches the gravel nicely. The Malaysian driftwood got a scrub and soak yesterday morning and went into the tank in the evening. The AC50 is up and running. Today I'm going to swap some biomax from my 20 long into the 29. The 200 watt Stealth Heater mounted nicely. Between the flat black background and the driftwood, the heater blends in nicely.

I have not added any plants yet...I'm on the hunt for some Java Fern to attach to the driftwood. Today I'll check water temperature to make sure the heater is working properly and seed the AC50. I'm going to use Seachem's Stability as bio booster and will add 3 Prestilla Tetra from the 20 long into the 29. I'll post some pictures later today so everyone can have a look see. :fish:

06-14-2009, 11:42 AM
Good stuff!

You are definitely ahead of me, i'm still soaking driftwood and deciding on substrate!

Can't wait to see the pictures

06-14-2009, 05:15 PM
Here the new tank as of 6/14 1:15pm


Biomax seeded from the 20 Long, gravel, rocks, Pristella Tetra

Hmmm, looks naked without some plants. Oh well, Rome wasn't built in a day.

06-14-2009, 05:45 PM
Its off to a great start! Cant wait to see it with some nice plants in there...I could so see a sword on that left side behind the wood for some reason.

06-14-2009, 06:27 PM
How about a Java Fern growing right on top of the wood on the left? :jumpgreen:

06-14-2009, 09:13 PM
Very nice as well! :22:

06-22-2009, 04:09 PM
I picked up a yellow, silver, white, black Marble Angel Fish on Saturday from a local breeder that I just met last week. The Angel fish is so much fun to watch. The piece of driftwood that's in the 29 has a branch that rests it's point on the bottom of the tank and arches back to the main branch. The Angel Fish tilted his body sideways flat toward the bottom of the tank and swam underneath the banch yesterday evening. I had no idea they could maneuver their bodies so agilely. This morning she was peaking at the bottom of the tank with her body pointed straight down like an arrow. She flipped backwards to upright herself. I'll get some pics up this week sometime.

06-22-2009, 04:50 PM
Congrats on the angelfish! Im sure he/she will grow into a splendid fish :22:

06-22-2009, 05:58 PM
Thanks Jenn, so far she's doing well.

I did move the AC30 from the 10g onto the 29g to supplement the AC50. The AC20 that was on the 20 long is now on the 10g. The AC30 that remains on the 20 long now had the AC skimmer attachment on it. So, I am hoping for no cycle on the 29g.

I did add some Seachem Stability last week as insurance. The third day there was a massive bacterial bloom which had cleared by day 5 of the 7 day treatment. Water parameters are 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates. The bacteria that's in Stability is in spore state. The spores activate after 24 hours in the tank water and that's why I had a bloom on day 3. The bacteria in Stability devour ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. After 7 days of treatment, the colonies will stabilize and shrink to match the bioload. Nitrates will show up soon after that. I tested for nitrates yesterday evening and they were unmeasureable. I'm guessing that by this evening or tomrrow, the water in the 29 will test positive for nitrates. Time will tell. :22:

06-25-2009, 05:32 PM
The marbled Angel is doing quite well and growing more accustomed to his new settings everyday. He's starting to challenge the Pristella Tetras now for for flakes or pellets at feeding time. And he knows when feeding time is. The last two feedings he been at the top of the tank waiting for me to drop food into the water. And he not quiet so shy anymore. I'll bet it won't be long before he's taking flakes out of my fingers. Cichlids really do have personalities and are quit smart. I couldn't care less about his coloring (as long as he's not sick), but I do look forward to greeting him when I approach the tank.

06-25-2009, 05:46 PM
Angels are cards, Im glad yours is adapting well to your tank! :22:

06-26-2009, 04:58 PM
Yes they are Jenn. Guess who was first in line in the 29 at feeding time this morning. Yup, the Angel. And he took flakes right from my fingers before I had a chance to say no. What a character. I've gotta come up with a name for him\her soon. Until then "Angel" will have to do. It's better than "fish".

06-27-2009, 11:15 PM
I got my first look at some Gold Pristella Tetras today for the first time and (no offense to anyone that keeps them) I was less than impressed. The Golds look very washed out, almost to the point of resembling Lemon Tetra. The bright yellow and black dorsal fin, and the bright red tail fin of the common Pristella Tetra is much impressive. The Golds looked almost washed out. Maybe they will brighten up when taken home and cared for well in the home aquarium?

The Golds are cheaper than the regular Pristellas and I can understand why. I passed up purchasing them and added two more regular Pristellas to my 29g for a school of 8. The do get along well with my single Angel. I'm pretty happy with the stocking level of my 29g. I've been keeping my eyes open for an attractive cory but haven't found any yet that really caught my eye. I'll try to have patience until I can come across something attractive for the lower level of my tank.

06-28-2009, 01:21 AM
I tend to agree with you Taurus on thinking that the regular Pristellas look much nicer. Do you have any pics of the tank and new fish? :afro:

06-28-2009, 06:14 PM
Why yes I do. I just need to find my cable. I'm going to attempt that today. If I can't find it, I'll just take the chip down to the store and pull a few new pics off the chip and burn them to CD. Hmmm..wonder how much a card reader is.

07-19-2009, 09:55 PM
Ok, the long awaited pictures.

The 29 gallon gang:

http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/data/500/thumbs/Angel1.jpg (http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/showphoto.php?photo=13709)

Star of the Show:

http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/data/500/thumbs/Angel2.jpg (http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/showphoto.php?photo=13711)

How cute is this:

http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/data/500/thumbs/Angel3.jpg (http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/fishpictures/showphoto.php?photo=13712)

LOL..my camera skills are lacking.

07-19-2009, 11:28 PM
Very nice fish!

07-20-2009, 11:04 AM
Awww...your angel is a cute little guy! Love how he has practically no markings on one side and does on the other :22:

07-20-2009, 09:38 PM
Thank you Jenn and Rich. :22:

07-24-2009, 01:55 PM
Ok, the tank has been up and running for 41 days now. The Angel and Pristellas are doing very well. The double tube All-Glass strip light came with 10,000k tubes and I've been keeping them on for about 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening. There is some natural light in the room also. So, I've got a nice carpet of green algae covering my Malaysian drift wood and rock work. The blue light from the 10,000k tubes seems to be encouraging the algae growth. I really do need to find some Java Fern and Moss for the tank. It's also time to add an Albino Bushy\Bristle Nose Pleco to the tank. I think otos would be a bit small and the Angel may end up hasseling them. The BN Pleco seems to be a good idea. I'll try to find one this weekend, somewhere and add him\her to the tank. I'll call around today to see if I can locate or order the Pleco.

07-29-2009, 10:02 PM
Found a Bushy Nose Pleco, natural color and female. I just acclimated her and put her in the tank. I'll feed her a sinking tablet after lights out so Angel won't compete for the food (yeah, like that's not going to happen, the pig). I'll get a another picture up when the pleco is out and post it soon. :22:

Oh yeah, my 29g is fully stocked.

09-14-2009, 02:31 PM
I was given a fairly nice Java Fern with about 8" long leaves and have tied it to a rock placed on the bottom of the tank on the glass. I piled gravel up around the rock to hide it but still have the roots and rhizome uncovered. Some of the leaves are filled with holes and are turning black, but over all the fern look pretty healthy. I'm pondering whether or not to add Flourish in half dose to get the fern off to a good start. I have 36 watts of t-8 bulbs on a total of 8 hours per day. I'm trying to avoid an algae bloom. I'll try to get some pictures of the tank up sometime this week. :22:

Angel, Tetra , and BN Pleco are all doing very well.

09-14-2009, 02:39 PM
*cough pictures cough*

09-14-2009, 02:55 PM
Sounds like you're coming down with the flu rob.:hmm3grin2orange:

Yeah, yeah, I know..pictures soon. :ssmile:

09-14-2009, 05:49 PM
I second the notion of pictures :22:

10-20-2009, 07:36 PM
Taurus, this is a great thread! I'm hoping for some new pics too!! :-)

02-03-2010, 07:05 PM
Ok, I do need to add some pictues to this thread because the Angel fish has just about doubled in size. Other than that, everything is just about the same. So far it's a stable, very enjoyable tank that requires a weekly 50% water change, filter foam rinsing, biomax rinsing. I break the two AC filters down once a month for a through cleaning of impellors, impellor chambers, filterbox, and intake tubes.

02-03-2010, 09:23 PM
:hmm3grin2orange: :worthless: :hmm3grin2orange:


02-04-2010, 05:47 PM
LOL...ok you two, I can take a suttle hint. Pictures in the next couple of day, I promise. :ssmile:

03-21-2010, 06:06 PM




03-21-2010, 07:02 PM
Nice clean looking tank for sure, and that angel has really grown :22:

03-21-2010, 07:04 PM
I like it.

Looks really good Taurus

03-21-2010, 07:10 PM
The angel needs the extra swimming space and the fins have stayed much cleaner without fraying since I opened one end of the tank. The Pristella Tetra all run and hide in the corner that is protected by the driftwood and plants when the Angels darts at them for eating his food. But then they circle around him when he's not looking to get their share.

Thanks for the comments Jenn.

Thanks Cliff.

11-30-2010, 02:38 PM
The fish and the tank are all doing very well. There have been no loses, no disease or parasites, no issues at all. There's no need of keeping a tank journal for both the 29 gallon and 20 gallon long. I'll merge both journals into one.