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As I mentioned in another thread, I hijacked my 3 yr old daughters 10 gallon aquarium :D . The aquarium is about 6 months old. I bought some swords, not sure what kind, from one of the local pet superstores, that are still surviving and about 2 months ago bought a bunch of Wisteria which are thriving. About once in 2 weeks, I have to cut those that grow over the water level and replant them.

I have been reading, reading and reading everything I could on this site since I joined 2 days ago. That lead to 2 very important questions.

1. I only have gravel for now. Do I need a different substrate ? I can get Flourite from one of the stores here. This would be a perfect time for me to redo everything this weekend as some of my new plants came in today, I have a lot more arriving tomorrow. I don't want to plant everything now and realize later that I made a big mistake. As I mentioned above, I have been able to keep my plants alive in the gravel for around 6 months now. :) One thing for sure, it would be a lot easier to plant in Flourite.

2. Light - The aquarium came with a 15 watt lamp attached to hood. From what I gathered from reading here is I need around 3watt per gallon, ie, a 30 watt. I am getting Rotala Indica, Alternanthera Reineckii, Kleiner Bar amongst other plants. I think all of these need more than 15W light for them to show any color. I have also read some saying they go and buy so and so watt compact lamp from Walmart. I didn't see any 18 inch lamp at walmart's site. How are they attaching these compact lamps to the hood ? Where do I get 18 inch 30w fluroscent tube ? There was also mention of XXXX K , is that something I need to be concerned about ? What other options do I have , other than planting low light plants ? I don't want to spend a whole lot of money on this as this is just a test to see if I can have a well planted aquarium, then I can go to 60 gallon or something.

I am sure this is just scratching the surface of my questions :D

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

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1) I think you have answered your own question. But no you do not need a specialty gravel for plants. You do want the gravel to be between 2-3mm in size. If yours is a lot larger or smaller then this I would recommend changing it out.

2) In the long run the light that came with the setup will not be enough to substain the plants. You will not be able to find a higher wattage bulb, because regular flourescents only come in 10 watts per foot. So getting another light fixture is about your only option.

The bulbs you are talking about are screw in compacts. If you want to use these you will need to find a fixture that accomadates that type of bulb.

The K rating has to do with the color spectrum that is useable by the plants. Plants can use any where between 5500-10000K. With 6500/6700k being the most common offered bulb.

Here is a article on the "minimum light threshold" that you should read... http://www.rexgrigg.com/mlt.html
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Thanks a bunch for breaking it down for me.

The gravel is more like decorative pebbles,surely bigger than 2-3 mm. The plan was to have a few fish for my daughter to look at. So maybe getting some kind of substrate is a good idea. My biggest worry now is trying to find a replacement for my light so I can keep the plants alive.
 

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FYI, I too am a newb to plants, but for what it's worth, I've discovered that 6500K-6700K which is what you're going for tends to be marketed as Daylight or Sunshine bulbs at Home Depot, Lowe's and the like and are much cheaper than the specialized aquarium lights. I've also had success so far by mixing really high K ratings, 9350 and above with lower, redder ones for plants, like the plant and aquarium bulbs sold at the big box hardware stores, they are 2700K, I think. I had some amazon swords that got way out of control under only soft white light bulbs.

I've also learned to increase my lighting by putting aluminum foil in the hood as a better reflector. And as for substrate, I've found that it depends on the plant, some roots have an easier time grabbing a hold on larger substrate than others and some presumably need more water flow than tightly packed sand will provide.

Again, that's offered for what it's worth, I'll leave it to someone more experienced to confirm or refute that.
 
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