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Lights for 55 gallon tank
On the question of lighting a 55 gallon tank on a budget:
I have a 55 gallon acrylic tank that also only had provisions for one
bulb (48") in its hood. I just removed the piece from the light fixture
that covered the hole in the top of the tank and set it on the hole.
I got two 4 foot shop lights made by Lights of America at Home Depot
for $10 each. I bought four 48" full spectrum bulbs from the Home Depot
plant department for about $10 each (they also have "grow" lights, but
they are very red/purple looking). The shop lights will work with one
or two bulbs, so you do not have to use four bulbs if that would give too
much light. I used aquarium silicone to attach two pieces of a white wooden
baseboard (matches the fixtures) to the ends of the tank (on top from back
to front). You can use whatever is laying around the house.
The light fixture ends rest on these boards, so this keeps the lights
from touching the top of the tank.
I am successfully growing some of the red plants that died
on me before (Rotala magenta and Red Ludwigia). So, if you can cover the
hole on the top of the tank with glass or acrylic (not sure what type of tank you
have), and your 55 gallon is four feet long (I think this is standard), you can get
160W of light for about $60 with little modification required. You could probably
also suspend the shop lights from the ceiling if you want an open top tank.
Your success with different plants might also depend on adding CO2 to the
tank (not sure if you have). I still had problems growing the redder plants until
I added CO2. This may have been due to water conditions which may not
affect you, but you will still need to try different plants to see what will work.
Please e-mail me if you need more details.