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[AGA-Member] More on lighting than on undergravel heaters

I understand Dupla and Amano are both reliable but expensive on undergravel heaters.
Lots of websites I see have advised spending the money first on lighting and trying CO2 injection. I can swear to the results between that and balancing nutrients correctly--very impressive, though I'm still learning how to balance all that.

Re: your last question, I'm not sure of your tank's dimensions, so I can't advise you if inexpensive standard 4-tube shoplight at certain length (4' etc.) would work for you. Somebody round here can.
But if it's a standard 55, then there's commercial CF hoods (compact flourescent) or CF/MH combo (metal halide) hoods (pobalby with built-in fans) that can sit atop your tank, made by companies such as Coralife or Aquamedic.
See the HelloLights set of links at end of my message--they sell complete hoods made by those companies. Or you could get metal halide pendants from them.
Disclaimer: I don't work for any of these companies, I don't know them personally, no one in my family works for them.
(Saying I *wished* that they did just won't improve my tank hoods in the least, either.)

If you go with metal halide pendants, it' probably be easier to zap it with six times as much wattage as you've asked for, sooner than keep it down to 120 watts. (Also not cheap.) But you could raise the MH pendants higher off the tank to reduce the light intensity in the water, and thereby have an interesting stray light source for lovely houseplants too. I mean, if you have room around the tank.
No more technical advice from me on MH--I'd have to turn you over to the much more experts round here.

I like CFs, as they run cooler. Hotter than conventional flourescent.
But I'd go with T-8s in shoplights instantly if it would fit my tank (sigh, it won't.)
Either conventional flourscent T-8s (narrower bulb size) or CFs or MH can all be put into custom-built hoods.
Build your own hood as narrow as you want, using a light kit bought with lengths & wattage you want, with however many bulbs you can fit. CFs and MHs can be built in using preassembled wiring, "light kits". Feel up to building with simple directions?
Lots of info on the retrofit kits and how to build them, from the folks that I *think* invented the idea in the hobby.
(correct me if I'm wrong...) I had very good luck buying light bulbs (which ain't the easiest to pack) with these folks,as they came recc'ed by other hobbyists.
For example: Two 36w bulbs will fit nicely end-to-end under the 34.5"L x 4"W reflector or side-by-side under the 17.5"L x 7"W reflector. Bulbs must be ordered separately. *Note* that the 17.5"L x 7"W reflector will fit over a standard 10 or 15XH gallon aquarium for great mini-reef lighting.
You could also talk to them to get the parts, such as correct ballast and endcaps, to make it exactly the length and size you want.
I don't know if they could get you T-8 endcaps (as T-8 bulbs are cheaper and lower wattage and sturdier bulbs than CFs) but you could certainly ask.
They also sell finished enclosures in which you install your parts, or the correct light kit. For instance, note the width here:
*48" Black Enclosure*



Actual outside dimensions 48.25"L x 9.75"W x 3.45"H.

Another lighting supplier I've had good luck with:
How about a compact flourescent light kit with four 55-watt bulbs?
** Approx. Kit Dimensions w/bulbs: 36"L x 10"W x 2 1/4"H
*or you could do some metal halide pendants supported above the tank.
Both Coralife and Aquamedic 150 watt pendants are distributed by this company.
(two examples from a distributor that I've had good luck with--scroll down to see specs.)
150 seems to be their lowest standard wattage.
Either pendant would have enough clout by itself, but a very long skinny tank you'll probably want 2 or 3 pendants in a line.
You see what I mean about the great houseplants! And tank water is really great for watering with.
Hope this is some help!

Nora Charney wrote:

I'm setting up a 55gal. tank with an undergravel
heater. I can't seem to find anything but a no name
brand from Pet Solutions and am wary of spending 160$
on something I know nothing about. Does anybody have a
recommendation of a very reliable undergravel heater
and where I might get it. While I'm here I might as
well ask if anybody knows how long and at what temp.
you "bake" a piece of wood you want to use in your
tank that you found in the woods (to kill the bacteria
and whatever). Also how do you pack 120 watts of light
over a 12 inch wide tank? I guess that's enough for now!

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