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Dennis,

I was able to grow virtually anything I wanted with a 16" All-Glass Aquarium fluorescent strip light (made specifically for a 5.5-gallon standard tank). It holds a 15" 14-watt bulb and the coverage is, at least in my opinion, quite good. Then again, I wasn't trying to grow glosso or anything extremely light-demanding... Unfortunately for you, maybe, you might find that this is going to give you the same effects as running a strongly-lit tank. If you don't have your ferts balanced, you will end up with algae that grows fast and furiously - BBA and green spot crusted on anubias if CO2 is not sufficient. However, you'll find that a 13-watt PC will probably be even worse in this respect.

Before I bought the All-Glass strip light, I also purchased a Perfecto hood for this size tank, and yes, they come with a measly 8W lamp. So I was a little worried when I ordered the All-Glass light.

If you want to get a GOOD 8W replacement lamp, I highly recommend Sylvania brand (#20820) F8T5 Daylight. I ordered mine from Service Lighting. It took them a while to get it to me (because they didn't actually have this lamp in stock). It arrived on Saturday, and it was worth the wait. You can get them for half of this price from GoodMart.com, but you'd have to buy a case of 24 of them. What happened was, I bought my 12" strip light for my 2.5-gallon tank back around 2001 or so. Well, for about a year, things were growing in this tank like gangbusters. Suddenly, my plants were languishing and of course it probably had a lot to do with the light. So I replaced it with a Colormax, and I couldn't even tell if the light was on or not! But I just continued to use it and my plants continued going south. Then I switched to an incandescent strip light with a screw-in PC bulb. Waste of money, lots of algae, horrid color, BAD distribution... Went back to my fluorescent, but replaced the bulb with a Power-Glo (18,000K) - good color, very happy algae. Took the tank down and e-mailed All-Glass to find out what bulb came included with their 12" strip lights. They tell me it's a Sylvania, of all things! So after going through hell to actually *get* this bulb for over a month, it finally arrived on Saturday, and I already love it for the good lighting and lack of any obvious "hues." It's 6500K, 76 CRI, 350 Lumens (I think). It'll be a while before I can say whether or not it's good for growing plants, but if it's indeed the same bulb that came with the fixture, it should be good.

Sorry for the long rant... If you *truly* want a low-maintenance low-light tank, sticking with the 8W may be the best option. The tricky part is finding the right bulb, and I think you'd be happy with the Sylvania. Hope this helps.

-Naomi
 

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Dennis, what brand bulb did you use? If it's a Coralife Colormax, it's not going to be bright at all. Like I said, when I first replaced my bulb with the Colormax, I couldn't tell if it was on or off. It's a really crummy lamp. Before you decide against the 8W, at least make sure you're unsatisfied with the BEST bulb you can find.

But Rob is right that if you're looking to put something grassy in a corner, you'll probably need more than "low lighting." Even under the best of conditions, something like Sagittaria subulata (one of the more "tolerant" of grassy plants) probably won't grow too well with less than 2 WPG. At this point, it's not really what I'd consider "low-maintenance," although that's always subjective...

I wasn't sure if you meant a low-growing grassy plant or something somewhat tall to go in a back corner... A foreground grassy plant would be something like Lilaeopsis novaezelandiae (which probably also needs a min. of 2 wpg - unless you don't care that it'll never spread). I think you'll need to at least provide Excel, too.

I feel for ya, Dennis... I'm sort of facing a similar situation right now. I want to convert my 10-gallon to a low-light low-maintenance tank. And I mean LOW maintenance...

Oh, on the issue of "bulb color" I think you'd be surprised with the variety of normal-output lights there are to choose from. I was VERY happy with the one that came included in my 16" strip light. All in all, I've been pleased with All-Glass products, including bulbs (except the screw-in PC one). They now have a line of bulbs, PC and normal-output fluorescent. They're 8000K but my understanding is that they're a tad bit on the pricey side. Somebody on the forums here always raves about ZooMed lights - FloraSun Max, I think it's called. I believe they're something like 8500 or 8800K and I bought a 14-watt one, but I just haven't gotten around to switching out either of my old ones. ZooMed bulbs are relatively inexpensive, too.

Okay - good luck whatever you choose to do. I still think it's better to stick with normal-output fluorescents, but that's just me ;) .

-Naomi
 

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Remember that the wpg calculation changes when you factor in PC and reflectors. With a really good reflector, a 13W PC would be equivalent to about 19-20W of normal-output fluorescent lighting. At this point, you wouldn't be looking at a "low-maintenance" tank. Putting two of these together over a 5.5-gallon would be a VERY VERY strongly-lit tank. You'd probably either be pruning every couple of days or yanking out/scraping algae as often if you're unlucky.

-Naomi
 

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I was offering a suggestion that would enable him to grow hairgrass in the corner of the tank as he desires. Maybe that is where the contradiction lies. I'm not sure a "low-maintenance" tank can be achieved using hairgrass, if by low-maintenance one means not performing regular water changes.
Yeah - I think if Dennis is talking about actual hairgrass, then "low-light, low-maintenance" is going to be difficult. I won't say "impossible" since I've heard of somebody being able to grow a lot of higher-light-requiring plants with less than 1 wpg by providing a lot of CO2. But once you get into the realm of "requiring CO2 injection," at least how *I* see it, it's not technically "low-maintenance" any more.

As for the wpg calculation to which you referred, I have found that tanks 10 gallons and under in volume generally need a higher wpg than larger tanks. I would not consider 13w PC over a 5.5 gallon to be a high-maintenance tank. For instance, here is a link to my 3 gallon tank (http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/gallery/showimage.php?i=1135), which is illuminated by a 1 x 13w PC fixture. I add CO2, fertz, and change 90% of the water once per week. I don't consider it to be high-maintenance, but it is more maintenance than a tank for which no regular water changes are made. Maybe that is what you had in mind as low-maintenance.
Absolutely - I think we just don't see "levels of maintenance" the same way. Your plants are beautiful and healthy-looking, BTW. I LOVE how the leaves of the Glosso (?) remain small and very consistent in size. I'd call yours "regular maintenance." By "low maintenance," at least in my mind, I think of 20% water change every three weeks to month, no CO2 supplementation required, fertilization from feeding fish, and pruning no more than once every 3-4 months. Yes, I'm a lazy butt ;) .

-Naomi
 
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