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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking for some help in regards to lighting from the experts. I have a 29g that I I'm going to be using in combination with an all-glass top, but I'm looking for the best lighting for the money. I'd like to keep it under $50 including bulbs. I'm assuming cheap dual T8 fixture is the way to go but I've never had to really grow plants before. I'm used to just using UVB for reptiles.

Thanks
 

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T8 would work...

A simple and fairly inexpensive solution would be to use 2-3 23-26W CFL 6500K bulbs... It'd likely be cheaper than the T8 and it should give off more light. You can use super cheap clamp lamp housings (although the bulb will likely poke out a bit) or use exo terra/zoo med hoods with the bulbs. Exo makes one that's 24" long with 3 sockets... Should look nice on a 29G.

Lighting should be between 6500K to 5500K. Much above 6700K or below 5500K won't do much in terms of plant growth. (Color temp chart)
 

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Wow, okay. That's awesome. I was assuming that T8 and T5 lighting was better than CFL. I was actually already using a cheap dome with CFL and then a 24" strip with some reddish strip light. I'll go ahead and use the Exo Terra canopy. I forgot how inexpensive they actually are. Thanks!
 

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No problemo! "Better" is relative... T5s and T8s would do the job with less heat than CFL bulbs, but at a higher cost. CFLs are super cheap lately and the prices are only going down. If the heat becomes a concern (exo hoods do have an air vent at the top to help a bit) you can always just raise the hood off of the glass lid 1/2" or so with some rubber feet from your local hardware store. ;)
 

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to be honest, spiral CFL's are pretty inefficient in means of providing light. A member on aquatic plant central explained it like this: think about how much of the bulb you actually see facing down into the tank. Technically only one half faces the tank, and you can't see the inside of the bulb, therefore only 25% of the light emitted directly into the tank. Of course a little more will get in because of reflection, but seeing that CFL's are pretty big an awkward, nobody makes a really good reflector for them. I think ideally you are probably only getting ~60% of the light that they say on the package. Combine that with their inefficiency along with the massive amount of heat caused by restrike, and you can see why they are not ideal even though they are cheap.

While this doesn't really answer your question directly, with spiral CFL's you get what you pay for. Sure you can make a light fixture for 40 bucks, but they aren't quality. For the most lumens into your tank for the cheapest, T5ho is your best bet... especially with quality reflectors. You probably cant get one for under 50 bucks, but if you do a diy fixture you can probably make a really good one under 100. Check out horticulturesource.com
 

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I agree with the above post as far as efficiency & heat, but disagree that T5s are a better bet or value. I'm probably going to get eaten alive on this forum but I've really thought about this for the past few months as we're re-doing our breeding rooms. :p Looking at lumens/watt, T5 lighting is much more efficient. It's even arguably OK when factoring in lumens/watt/dollar. If you forget the scientific jargon and look at what actually works vs. $ spent - CFLs and T8s are (at this time) in my opinion the best bet financially (at least for us). I'll 'splain.

Efficiency & heat really matter - but after considering everything in a real-world scenario it makes no financial sense to switch from T8s and CFLs in our case. We primarily breed temp sensitive animals, too. (Rhacodactylus)

Basically as an example, if I have a 3 foot rack with 2 medium/large vertical vivariums it takes 4 CFL lights and 4 cheap housings (which is around $40 total) and uses 104 watts. Yes it produces heat but I'll get to that. T5 lighting would easily be $150+ (assuming 4 bulbs to light to the bottom) unless I take hours and hours to build my own hood (impossible with a 65+ hour work week) - and even then it'll likely be over $120 to make it look professional. Then I'd be using 156W. If I built my own hood and used 3 bulbs (probably all I'd need with T5s) I'd still be spending around $90-100 and be using 117 watts. I'd love to use the super high efficient T5HOs and prices are dropping but we'll see. :) Right now it's too expensive.

We overcome heat from the CFLs by using small (and who'd have guessed: cheap!) room circulation fans (which we'd use either way to keep air fresh) on either ends of the room. In the summer we DO have to use A/C, but only in 80F+ weather.

Another example... On 4 foot racks we use 1 or 2 T8 fixtures (1 5500K + 1 6500K bulb each) and each fixture WITH bulbs is around $30! (We stock up when lowes has a sale on fixtures!) Unlike the Wal-Mart & Home Depot "American/Standard Lighting" brand - these fixtures actually last awhile! Those are untouchable as far as value goes. I wish they made cheap 36" fixtures & bulbs, but they don't (yet). So on 4' racks where I don't need a TON of light (when we're using 18" and shorter vivaria) we're only using 1 $30 fixture and 64 watts! On larger vivaria we're spending $60 & using 128 watts, which is still respectable considering the stupid cheap cost. We built a plant rack for the mass reptile expo with cheap T8 lighting that ended up working so well we've moved it into the retail store as a plant display.

So yeah. In short I may be old school, but T8s and CFLs work just fine and they keep me out of the poorhouse! :p Anyone breeding animals on a small-scale will tell you - there's not a lot of money in it, so cutting expense with lights allows for nicer environments for the animals. Anyway. Sorry for the long post. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I agree that the T5 would be probably be more efficient, but idea that I can achieve adequate lighting with the simple 3 bulb CFL fixture is more appealing. I don't really know anything about wiring or building a fixture and although I could probably find instructions the overall cost along with construction isn't worth it. I actually already have the 2 bulb 18" Exo Terra and I know that it puts out good light for the 18x18x18, so 3 bulbs in the 30x13x18 should do the trick. Plus, my parents are pretty picky about how things look and probably wouldn't be pleased with my shoddily constructed light.

I may have to invest in T5 eventually anyways because I would like to start a nice nano reef sometime.

Thanks again!
 

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I agree with the above post as far as efficiency & heat, but disagree that T5s are a better bet or value. I'm probably going to get eaten alive on this forum but I've really thought about this for the past few months as we're re-doing our breeding rooms. :p Looking at lumens/watt, T5 lighting is much more efficient. It's even arguably OK when factoring in lumens/watt/dollar. If you forget the scientific jargon and look at what actually works vs. $ spent - CFLs and T8s are (at this time) in my opinion the best bet financially (at least for us). I'll 'splain.

Efficiency & heat really matter - but after considering everything in a real-world scenario it makes no financial sense to switch from T8s and CFLs in our case. We primarily breed temp sensitive animals, too. (Rhacodactylus)

Basically as an example, if I have a 3 foot rack with 2 medium/large vertical vivariums it takes 4 CFL lights and 4 cheap housings (which is around $40 total) and uses 104 watts. Yes it produces heat but I'll get to that. T5 lighting would easily be $150+ (assuming 4 bulbs to light to the bottom) unless I take hours and hours to build my own hood (impossible with a 65+ hour work week) - and even then it'll likely be over $120 to make it look professional. Then I'd be using 156W. If I built my own hood and used 3 bulbs (probably all I'd need with T5s) I'd still be spending around $90-100 and be using 117 watts. I'd love to use the super high efficient T5HOs and prices are dropping but we'll see. :) Right now it's too expensive.

We overcome heat from the CFLs by using small (and who'd have guessed: cheap!) room circulation fans (which we'd use either way to keep air fresh) on either ends of the room. In the summer we DO have to use A/C, but only in 80F+ weather.

Another example... On 4 foot racks we use 1 or 2 T8 fixtures (1 5500K + 1 6500K bulb each) and each fixture WITH bulbs is around $30! (We stock up when lowes has a sale on fixtures!) Unlike the Wal-Mart & Home Depot "American/Standard Lighting" brand - these fixtures actually last awhile! Those are untouchable as far as value goes. I wish they made cheap 36" fixtures & bulbs, but they don't (yet). So on 4' racks where I don't need a TON of light (when we're using 18" and shorter vivaria) we're only using 1 $30 fixture and 64 watts! On larger vivaria we're spending $60 & using 128 watts, which is still respectable considering the stupid cheap cost. We built a plant rack for the mass reptile expo with cheap T8 lighting that ended up working so well we've moved it into the retail store as a plant display.

So yeah. In short I may be old school, but T8s and CFLs work just fine and they keep me out of the poorhouse! :p Anyone breeding animals on a small-scale will tell you - there's not a lot of money in it, so cutting expense with lights allows for nicer environments for the animals. Anyway. Sorry for the long post. :)
I think the scale of things comes into play with this a lot. Seeing that you have a lot of tanks for breeding pairs and such, T5ho definitely would not be the best option. I bet to light your whole collection, it would cost upwards of a grand or so for lights, reflectors, ballasts, etc.... So in your case t8 shop lights are great. If you only have a few display tanks, a nice t5ho fixture is better.

I've priced supplies to make a 2x39 watt t5ho fixture, and i think it was around $87 and that's with 2 TEK II reflectors.

I have retrofitted a strip light to house 2x26 watt spiral cfl's. although it works, its not a hole lot of light and it got so hot it started to melt the plastic even with vents directly over the bulbs.

Another option is dual or quad CFL's They are better than spirals because they are practically linear bulbs and you can get a reflector for them. AH supply for example.

You could also do T8 odno (over driven normal output) which is where you replace the ballast with another rated for higher wattage. The lumens output is a lot higher, but the bulbs need to be replaced about twice as often.

Just some ideas.
 

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This is a good post. How about throwing in some new school into the mix for alternate option. I am facing the same decision on 29g. I have a left over Marineland LED being used on my 18x18x24 exo terra dart viv but its not enough for the plants - prob ideal for frogs (since there are "shadow" areas) anyway also have 36" rack that will have 2 vert 29gal and on top 3 @ 10gal verts.

I put the marine land on the vert 29 front to back (looks funny but does work ok) however new they are $80, and AAA version is prob 10x better and same price. The marineland is maybe 1" high and has little if any heat. Plant colors look great. AAA version has better spectrum. So I am thinking once you replace bulbs 2 times on the old school method (say its $50), you just off set slight prem for LED. (I have email sent to AAA to see if they think the 20H vert light will fit and put good light on the 29g)

If we look at lighting for "collection" but not serious breeder setup for something like my 36" rack: I was looking at 4bulb 36 strip $180ish vs buying 2 ($80) LEDs from AAA frogs for the 29s and possible individual LED boxes for the 10 gals. That way I can move around if needed. The LED do give of clean nice light and last years (we hope) so long run might be big $$ saver.

Like most hobbyist, I want breed but only to maintain my collection and trade, so for me i need more beauty and presentation w lighting system, but also want to save $$ where I can.

-Scott
 
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