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Re: Lighting Intensity - the Tom Barr Dialogue

OK, I'm feeling like David pulling out the slingshot for another go at 
Goliath here, and what's worse, Goliath is smiling and patting me 
on the head all the while! 

> >Can another non-expert weigh in here? I think Wayne Jones has 
> >made the most important comment on this subject - that you can't 
> >just flatly state that you can grow any plant, or any bright red plant
> >(sorry Tom Barr), with 1.5 or 2 watts per gallon, without qualifying
> >exactly what the lighting conditions are.
> Well **within reason** one can:)........ dat better? If you have a super
> deep tank, well what do you expect?

Many people read this digest, so the more specific you can be, the 
better! I have no idea what size tanks you work with so when a 
generalization is made about the (non) importance of light in 
growing red plants, it's worth asking about.
>  Tank height and size, 
> >water surface clarity, reflector, ballast, bulb type and age all come
> >into play. 
> Well the same could said for other things too:). Like CO2 and nutrients.
> Light is just one thing effecting color. Balance -balance -balance. If you
> take things to extremes well....  Got questions about those? Ask. Balance
> your tank is all I'm saying. You can achieve a nice tank without 4 watts a
> gallon etc. 

We have no disagreement there. No question, balance is key. No 
question, there are a lot of nice tanks out there with less than 4 
wpg. But what are the factors that influence color development in 
red plants? Is not light one of those factors? Surely it can't be 
complete dismissed. That was my point.

> Thus, when Tom says he can grow any red plant in low 
> >light and it ain't da light, I have to ask, what exactly are your low
> >light conditions? They may truly equal much more than low light. 
> I think I said "most" not "any" plant. If I did not, I meant to say "most"
> then.  Well how about a basic tank? Say 20 inch max depth, clear water
> surface,reflector, 1 year old bulbs(many are even older), lets just say
> FL's shoplights. I think the rule may be pushing it for a 24+ inch deep
> tank though. 
>  Ballast type? Well I never have really considered this as a "real" factor
> effecting color in red plants myself:). It may help a little more light
> but not enough to make a difference here IMO.

I was thinking in terms of some ballasts being more efficient than 
others - obviously an icecap ballast is going create more lumens 
per bulb than a tar ballast, and that would have an effect on the 
color of the plants (assuming there is SOME correlation between 
light intensity and plant color). 

> The biggest one would be
> water depth as a factor. Neil Frank has a 135 and a 70 gallon with 2 watts
> a gallon standard FL's. Maybe less on the 70.135's are not shallow
> tanks(24 inches). He has blood red Rotala macrandra for some odd reason:).
> My red cabomba is a nice red color as is my other red plants with a 40
> gallon long with a shop light over it. I have a cheap cool white and a
> Triton in there plus a reflector. Nothing up my sleeve:) No "Tom's special
> snake oil" only 39.99$ a bottle at work here. Neil doesn't have any tanks
> over 2 watts a gallon BTW. He does quite well with red plants I think:). I
> used only 2 watts a gallon many years also. 

This is very interesting to know, and more useful than making 
generalizations! I am at a disadvantage here because I have not 
seen these tanks - in fact, have never met any other plant tank 
aquarist in person - so my range of experience is very limited. I 
could envision an 18" high tank with 2 wpg growing bright red 
plants very well, but a 24" high tank is surprising. You sure about 
that snake oil?

> anectodotal comments. There's no doubt in my >mind that light plays SOME
> part in the reddening of SOME plants. >Hygro polysperma, for example, only
> develops a reddish tint to the >leaves under strong light. You can dump in
> all the iron you want but >leaves that are shaded will grow green, and
> leaves in bright light will >have a pink tint. Ditto the Tropical Sunset
> variety. Unshaded leaves >are much more vibrant than shaded ones, which
> generally don't >even show any pink. Same with red Ludwigia repens. I have
> to >believe that in these cases, it IS the light. Now, for crypts, a
> >different set of rules seems to apply. But there again I have >purchased
> crypt plants which were grown under low light and were >totally green, and
> had them turn deep blood red in my tank with >higher lighting (admittedly
> there could have been other factors >involved). So perhaps we cannot
> generalize. SOMETIMES it's the >light. 
> Are you sure it's not just being *shaded* over by other plants and not the
> lighting itself? This is gardening/pruning issue, not lighting. 

I'm not sure I see the difference between shading in a high light tank, 
and overall lower light levels. Either way there are reduced lumens 
to the plant, with resultant paler coloration. Can you explain further here?

> I like high-light tanks, 
> >but they certainly do require careful monitoring as things happen 
> >quickly in there.
> You should be able to grow any red plant then:).

Yes, I have had no trouble growing almost any plant. For some 
reason Crypt blassii and Didiplis diandra don't like my tank 
conditions. Everything else grows very well.

> I think while algae can
> cause problems it is more a pruning issue and making sure there's enough
> nutrients and the right kinds. Not keeping up on these lead to algae and
> lack of red color IMO many times. At higher light values one needs to use
> a good substrate in order to help keep upon nutrient demands of the
> plants. Plants need three things basically: Light/CO2 and nutrients. Mess
> up one or more of these things, the plants may not go well for you. Most
> folks tend to start out in the 2 watts a gallon range. I was asked to set
> up a 50 gallon tank that had a 2 x 96 watt light on it. I added a 2
> x55watts and the tank is much more manageable. It is full of Red plants. I
> think for 55 gallon sized tanks the PC's at 2 x55 watts are the best over
> all lights for almost any set up for most folks. 

I agree with everything you are saying here. And that was my point. 
It's hard to learn in a highly lit tank, because any imbalance has 
very sudden effects. I've been working with the 4wpg tank for about 
5 years now, and for the most part it's been in good balance, 
thanks almost entirely to what I've learned on this list. And I do 
think the PC's tend to throw out a little more light than the wattage 
would indicate, so the 2x55 over a 50 or 55 would be ample lighting.

> I suggest for someone new to try out a basic 20 gallon tank(24x16Hx12D)
> with 2x20 watt FL's bulbs plus a reflector for lighting at 10-12hrs a day
> using a triton and cheapy bulb or a couple of cheapy bulbs like a 5000K
> and 6500k. With this you can grow pretty much any red plant. If you
> cannot, it ain't da light. 

Agree again, a 16" deep tank with 2 wpg of decent lighting should 
not have light problems.

It would be helpful to those of us who aren't in the SF Bay area to 
be able to see photos of these expert tanks. Don't any of you folks 
have websites where we might get an idea of the possibilities? 
(many thanks to George Booth for your excellent website)

Cathy Hartland