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Thread: Lighting Basics and Types

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    Moderator deranged chipmunk's Avatar
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    Default Lighting Basics and Types

    ok, so, i did construction materials, and i keep saying to myself that i would sit down and do the same for lighting. so here goes.

    i'm not going to get into heat lamps here, so if that is what you came in looking for, i apologize. this is for lighting the enclosure only. when lighting a vivarium, you have many options. incandescent, fluorescent metal halide, high pressure sodium, and L.E.D. i'm going to start off by saying that Metal halide and high pressure sodium generate way too much heat, so they are really not all that practical for our amphibious friends. now, if you have 6 feet of space above the tank and have a 150w MH fixture just laying around, then by all means, go for it!! you will get astonishing plant growth in a quick amount of time, but is it really worth it? ok....so let's go over the realistic choices.

    Incandescent- the "old fashioned" light bulb that Thomas Edison invented. it has served us well. but in today's vivarium, with live plants, and for some, aquatic portions, just not a viable option. they cannot meet the color spectrum that plants prefer as well as the other options. also, incandescent bulbs throw off a ton of heat. so, if you are on a budget, and plan on having imitation plants, then this may be a good option for you. but, if you prefer to have live plants in the vivariums, then we need to look elsewhere, such as:

    Fluorescent- mostly everybody knows these. but there are various types. first is the compact fluorescent. these are the spiral bulbs you see all over the place. they screw into an incandescent base, which allows for the use of a less costly fixture. now, the cool thing about these, is you can get them in the right color spectrum for your plants, and they also come in a U shaped bulb to fit into tighter enclosures. the other nifty thing is that box at the base? that's it's ballast. ALL fluorescent lighting requires a ballast to start them up and continue their operation. next are power compacts. these are larger U-shaped fluorescent bulbs that require an external ballast and a their own specialty fixture. these were used primarily for reef and planted tanks years ago, and with the cost in other fluorescent fixtures dropping, these have become pretty much antiquated. some companies do make smaller versions and they work wonderfully. Finally, we come to linear fluorescent bulbs. this is, hands down, THE most common lighting choice for glass cage inhabitants. there are as many choices in these as there are colors in the rainbow, i think. let's start at the "low end of the spectrum", T12. these were the first fluorescents. the bulbs are larger than their counterparts, and while they can give off the right lighting spectrum, they are not as bright as the later models. T12VHO (Very High Output). good luck even finding a fixture for these, and if you find a fixture, have fun finding bulbs. they were used for a short while in the reefing hobby, and if you are lucky, you may even find a reef specialty store that still carries them. incidentally, i just threw a T12VHO fixture in the garbage a few weeks ago while i cleaning out some old supplies...LOL next on the list, one of my favs, the T8. affordable, affordable, affordable!! you can buy a 4 foot T8 shop light with 2 phillips natural daylight bulbs for less than $30 at Home Depot. these suckers light quite a few of my planted fish tanks, as well as my white's tree frog vivarium. most of your current aquarium strip lights run T8 fluorescent bulbs. you can get them anywhere. and they are very inexpensive. i know many people in the planted tank hobby who run these across 4 foot shelves to light up breeding tanks. i did it myself for quite some time. next are the T5. a much, much thinner bulb with more light intensity. there are 2 options to T5 lighting, T5No (normal output) and T5HO (high output). NO lighting is decent, in fact, my mantella tank has a T5NO lighting it, but here's the problem, finding bulbs for them is not easy. Petsmart is the only local retailer that i have found that carries them on a normal basis. obviously, mail order is an option, but i'm not too comfortable having something so fragile shipped. Then there's the HO lights. the kings of the indoor plant growing world. Massive amounts of light, sometimes too much, nice, sleek fixtures, they are my favs. My 125 runs 8 36" T5HO bulbs and my plants loved it!! they are strong enough to penetrate to the bottom of even the most heavily planted tanks. cut through water like nobody's business and their prices just keep coming down to the truly affordable range. you can even get some with built in timers and blue LED night lighting, with only one cord to plug in, SWEET!!!

    L.E.D. or Light Emitting Diode- these are the newest of the bad boys in lighting. the technology has been improved to the point where they are starting to become affordable. they are also a very popular do-it-yourself project. if anyone needs a link to a Do It Yourself led lighting project, just let me know and i will post one. Honestly, i don't know much about this technology, because i haven't used them, yet. But many people on the planted tank forum and a few on this one, swear by them. the one thing to remember with led tech, is that it is directional light. where it points, is where it shines. however, they are coming out with broader and broader spreads on these to increase coverage. the added advantages to LED's are the longevity of the bulbs (some manufacturers claim 10,000 hours), and low energy usage. definitely worth looking into.

    keep in mind that ALL lighting systems will give off heat. some will emit quite intense heat, like incandescent, while others, like the led throw off almost 0 heat. fluorescent is in the middle, with cfl's throwing off the most heat of the lot.

    now, light spectrum. i kept mentioning that and i'm sure you are curious about it. the light spectrum for growing live plants, whether it be aquatic, marginal or terrestrial, is roughly 5000k to 7500k. the ideal range being 6500k-6700k. this is the perfect color temperature for photosynthesis. you can grow plants with higher and lower temperatures, but growth will be slow, and some plants may not even grow at all.

    as always, what i have missed, other members will add. as i said in the construction materials thread, no one person can know everything......lol

    Happy frogging everyone and let's see those plants grow!!!


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    Default Re: Lighting Basics and Types

    I have a question, the bulbs that help plants to grow, duo they also help our little ones with vitamin d production or is that a different range?

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    Default Re: Lighting Basics and Types

    needs to have UVB output for the vitamin D growth

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    Default Re: Lighting Basics and Types

    Thank you for responding. UVA is for the plants, yes? So a light needs to hit both to benefit both the plants and the little ones?

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    Default Re: Lighting Basics and Types

    Exactly, for example I am just to purchase this for my RETF vivarium
    https://zoomed.com/t5-reptisun-led-uvb-terrarium-hood/

    This combines high output LED's with a T5 UVB source, a bit pricey but I think it will prove worthwhile.

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    Default Re: Lighting Basics and Types

    Thank you for the link! This looks line just the sort of lighting I need, but, yeah it's definitely out of my price range at the moment. I'm also going to have to see if it's available outside of a hood bc it won't work with Lydia's house(a storage container.)

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