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ADA lighting at Aqua Forest and nice low PAr values-who knew?

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  • ADA lighting at Aqua Forest and nice low PAr values-who knew?

    I just got back today from Aqua Forest's gracious event and demo. I took my PAR meter and Ian brought his as well to the event. Every tank I measured, the one that ranked 20th in the ADA contest last year in the wolrd ranking had no more than 150 micromol at the surface of the tank right near the HQI MH light. At the bottom all along the front, 35-40micrmol and near the window at noon time(north face), 50-55 micro mol.

    Gloss, HC, E tennellus, moss etc, no issues..............

    This is very low light overall.

    PAR meters do not care about brands, lux, lumens, funky nutty correlation tables, the water, reflections, distance etc, they can drop down and measure the parameter that makes the plant produce sugars via photosynthesis right at the surface of individual leaves.

    Someone said "there is a redder plant, measure there", so I did: no difference.
    On to other tanks, exact same trends, all very low, 30-50micromol ranges at the bottoms, 150 or so at the highest, did not matter if if was a 180cm, 120cm, 90cm, 60cm, 45 cm sized tank, all where pretty much lower light tanks in each and every case.

    I was a bit mythed about the ADA lights, they are really inefficient or set up that way to limit folk's from going wild with the lighting.

    Many think more is better, so reducing it down helps folks do better and have better luck with CO2, so many think the ADA lights are better.

    But not when tested...........

    Almost 1/2 of what my lights are at home.
    Much less.

    How might this influence what folks think and assume about CO2 and stability?
    How about nutrient demand and uptake?

    If you cut the light by 1/2, what do you expect?

    This was not some aberration, this was done in front of 50 plant hobbyists in the club here. I'm not pulling anyone's leg here with some baloney.

    This was not merely 1 or 2 tank,s this was 7 tanks and other folks' I've gone to to measure had similar values and results.

    I've heard about every crazed idea about measuring light that's out there, yet few have ever bothered to measure the one that matters the most in situ and compare. I have a bit more lately and the cost is not much now either.

    I have 2-3x as much light in some of my tanks, yet I also have no issues, but much faster growth rates.

    I also scale up the nutrients, and the CO2.
    If you don't, then you have a lot of issues.

    So keep light low, not high!
    BTW, the T5's rock and produce some of the best light and are very even. I like them, but.......I like HQI and ripples light real sun light too

    Tom Barr

  • #2
    World ranking 20:

    Local club members Leon and David chatting about plants

    highest light was at the surface right under the HQI light, 150 micromol, 30-40 averages along the front, 50 or so along the back near the window.

    This is a low light tank no other way about it.
    They grew a nice lawn of HC, too much trouble(I've been there and done that myself).

    Tom Barr


    • #3

      Thanks much for posting this. I was VERY curious what it took to grow one of these tanks

      What a beauty it is!

      So, with my 3x150 HQI at 6500k, new bulbs, 11.5" above the surface, I range from 150-510 just under the surface of the water, when positioned and moving around and under the 3 lights back and forth.

      Mid tank, at at the tops of L.inclinata cuba, 50-220 at about 12-14" below the surface..........Tips of l. aromatica range from 50-240 and I get about good size and color/shape throughout the range....Good growth at 30-50 easily for both these species from top to bottom. P. stellata has 4-6" diameter tips at 50-60, about 18" below the surface...........

      No algae anywhere...

      Dragging and stopping the sensor around the substrate from end to end in 1-2" increments (72" long), staying in the front 1/3 of the tank, lights are about centered, I range from 30-90.

      Nice to have something so awesome to use as a benchmark!

      Thanks again!
      Last edited by Gerryd; 10-27-2008, 04:56 AM.


      'When something's not right, it's wrong'. Bob Dylan

      Current 220 scape


      • #4
        Something that always makes me stop and wonder is that a tank like that one at Aqua Forest doesn't have much plant mass compared to what many of us have even when we start an aquarium. You can cover the whole substrate with HC without having a lot of plant mass. So, why don't those tanks have algae problems when first started?

        The general rule has been to "plant heavily from the start" with individual stems every inch or so all over the substrate, so the growing plants will use up any ammonia that appears in the water before algae sense it and start growing. But, obviously this tank wasn't started that way. Why does this work so well?

        Is it the lower light level?


        • #5
          Vaughn, yes.

          There's no stems blocking and competing for light either.
          So the light is fairly even and low.

          Tom Barr


          • #6
            This is thing that bothers me somewhat about this and the various folks that have come at me claiming that their tanks do fine with low CO2(they cannot test it very well for one thing-that was illustrated using the CO2 gas meter awhile back- and verified what I'd suggested and speculated all along) and no nutrients etc.

            Not that they have and can test well to begin with, but let us assume they have and can to be on the safe side, a few have and I do trust the data, errors and all.

            While you can measure a nutrient, and then try and relate it to your tank, then rattle on about how "there's so much we do not yet know about planted tanks" and "how there are many ways to do planted tanks differently to achieve the same result", I've always felt this is baloney and poor attitude.
            It's a cop out. This is the same garbage logic I hear from these holistic health scammers selling Hydrilla pills for virility and organ enlargement.

            They never seem to offer and reason why the methods may be different, they never measure the other parameters, big ones, like light and good critical measures of CO2. They never/rarely even suggest how to learn more and answer such questions, but they are sure full of plenty of criticism.

            Look: measuring NO3, PO4, K+ etc, those are easy.
            CO2, light, much less so. These two are highly variable in planted systems.
            Now if you have no clue about light in the system, the very factor that drives CO2 uptake and by proxy........all nutrient uptake for both algae and plants, you really do not have a leg to stand on. Since I know they have never measured the light, it's safe to assume they have little understanding and knowledge of what is really going on in their systems.

            I approached things from the upper bounds(light, CO2, nutrients- all non limiting) and the extreme lower bounds(long term non CO2 systems with low light, low nutrients and limited systems).

            If you have no, and are bouncing between limiting and non limiting, it's impossible for you to make much conclusion. Sadly, many have long forgotten Liebig's Law of the Minimum. And then use that for my leg to stand on when discussing plant growth.

            That's why EI is decent(no, not perfect- far from it with the trade offs), I can get away with all sorts of light levels without issues, different sediments etc and other sources offer a back up but they still provide non limiting conditions either way for most any light level. Same with higher CO2 ppms and good current to deliver the CO2 and nutrients to the plants.

            Tom Barr


            • #7
              So why might say ADA and EI's water column levels be so different, yet we have similar results, but I tend to be able to grow many species that some have trouble with and can grow them very rapidly?

              Likely more light and nutrients.

              The measured parameters certainly suggest it.
              The observed plant growth and health, algae issues are similar(more light still = more work).

              The difference is the rate of growth.

              This is why you can use less ferts, better CO2 stability and less algae issues.
              You have a corresponding lower amount of light. And logically, it makes a lot of common sense, as it does from a Botanical perspective.

              More light => more CO2= more nutrients. We see this no matter what in EVERY method.
              You can test it and see. Non CO2, Excel, CO2 enriched systems, low, med and higher light. Lean, medium or rich dosing, you name it. No, they are not that different, there are not mysterious little plant gnomes and hobgoblins that sprinkle magic on plants. What changes are the light levels and CO2. This changes the rates of uptake dramatically and thus explains why aquarist have differing rates of uptake and why some can get by with less than others. So this answers the defeatists critics who like to go around claiming "there's so much we do not yet know and that there are many ways to do things" without understanding or learning the very knowledge often they claim to seek.
              Irony at it's best.

              I'm not picking on any one person, at some point, many of us have thought that way. I did not know the light or how to measure it 15 years ago, not much of a clue, other than some reef folks carrying on about it. Over the years I've heard all sort of cockamaney about light and how to test for it etc from hobbyists. Using the meters, aquarists can answer their light issues/questions very easily, with far much less effort than measuring NO3 and PO4 etc. I wonder why the naysayers of nutrients and suggesting all aquarists should test and have these narrow ranges have never bothered to answer the most basic questions about light and measure those? I have to wonder if they are even that good at testing and if they can hope to answer anything particularly useful. If you test something, ask a good question, if you ask a bad question, you generally will get a bad answer or one that does not offer much use. I have been after CO2 and light for many years with good reason. I'm not going to buy on faith the reasons speculated by Paul Sears, Amano, Reimer/Walstad or anyone about why they think their system works or not. I need to look into it and see. But the goal here is really to put together a general model why all methods work and which component parts they change and how that relates to light, CO2 and nutrient uptake and ultimately, the rates of growth(algae and plants). That's a much larger useful goal to a unified model for aquatic plant growth than merely "how can I grow an ADA aquarium, or have as nice planted tank". Knowing the general model for all methods allows the aquarist to help anyone(newbies are the source of this hobby) with any goal concerning aquatic plants. That is where I am headed in helping folks in this hobby

              Tom Barr


              • #8
                quick question for a dummy here, how does micrmol compare to WPG for MQI or PC or T5's lights?

                Since the ada guys are able to grow nice tanks is low light, should we abandon all instances that say "you have to grow HC and the like in high light" or "the redder the plant the more the light"???


                • #9
                  Do ADA tanks use red plants, meaning really red plants, which seem to get that way largely in high light intensity? And, I wonder if the reputation for needing high light to grow HC comes from it typically being grown below lots of stem plants that block the light.


                  • #10
                    I think the reputation for growing HC under high light is because people tend to only use CO2 when they have high light. I can grow HC fine under low-medium light as long as I inject CO2, can't grow HC without CO2.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for sharing the excellent pictures.

                      Hi All,
                      Wonder if there's a minimum micromol required for different species of plants.

                      Like what was mentioned time and time again, WPG is only a rough guide for lighting in our tanks.

                      Is there a particular color (?) that is able to penetrate through the water?

                      I have 4 x T5 (156W) on my 50G. 2 x EI dosing. CO2.
                      I'm paying more attention to the HC as I'd really like to have a nice lawn.

                      My 2nd (easier tank) has 1 x 15W (6700K) on a 15G. Dosing EI and excel. Glosso grows like a weed.

                      IMHO, both plants have similar requirements but I'm still having some difficulty with HC.

                      This lead me to think that maybe light penetration had something to do with it. Somehow the 15G tank is getting 'stronger' light than the 50G.



                      P.S. I know that getting a PAR Meter should answer some questions. But I couldn't find any LFS that carries it. And it's too expensive to fly the Apogee to Singapore


                      • #12
                        Yes there are min light values and they will vary species to species.
                        Obviously if you have non limiting CO2, nutrients, good KH/GH etc.....clean low organic will be able to determine minimum thresholds, whereas other folks that have not provided non limiting condition(or assume that they have, when in fact, they have not- belief can get you into trouble here), will have to have higher light levels.

                        With this idea in mind, what condition do you think will allow less light and still have good growth:

                        Tank#1: 25 micromol + good rich CO2/nutrients/fishwaste and sediment nutrients
                        Tank #2: 35 micromol + non CO2 and sediment nutrients(only) and fish waste

                        I think many assume that non CO2 methods have the lowest light of all aquariums, but this is simply not true. They are not light limited, they are CO2 limited. The light is mildly limiting in a few cases, but generally, it's CO2 that is the stronger limiting factor. Also, the strength of the limitation for nutrients is pretty low since both light and CO2 are limiting(non CO2).

                        So if you wanted to try really low light, then you'd want CO2.

                        This provides the best combination.
                        It is not this malarky about Powersand, various little bottles of marketed snake oils, iron tabs etc, nor secret liquid ferts and ratios etc.

                        The ADA tanks are very low light, they can easily target CO2 and nutrients from any source, the ADA aqua soil is rich, folks dose the routine daily, they also do weekly 50% water changes, ........or more...............

                        Now some of those parameters start to make sense.
                        But Amano will never tell this At least it would surprise me if he did.

                        Tom Barr


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by phanmc View Post
                          I think the reputation for growing HC under high light is because people tend to only use CO2 when they have high light. I can grow HC fine under low-medium light as long as I inject CO2, can't grow HC without CO2.

                          Good point. It does seem that co2 is associated with high light tanks. People would be surprised how well plants grow in a low or moderately lit tank using co2.

                          Anotheter big advantage of lower light is that it makes it much easier to manage co2 levels.


                          • #14
                            This is a point I've been arguing for at least 12 years now.
                            You can have even lower light by adding CO2.

                            And you get great easy to care for planted tanks.
                            But folks always think they need more light and then later get CO2.

                            They should get CO2 first...........then if they want faster growth, consider, more light.

                            I think most all advice should focus there on adding CO2 before any of these other issues like high light.

                            I get sick if hearing and reading advice, post after post claiming "so and so" plant species requires high light, will do better etc. Then I come along and post a nice pic of a tank with this same plant, then they quickly dismiss it as some freak of nature and that I'm doing somethign special and when they tried it, they did have such luck etc and it only improved when they increased light etc.

                            Well, I've done it, clearly George at Aqua Forest did it, and ranked higher than any wind bag, so both research and scape folks both agree, what are the odds that these no nothings are right and I, claus from Tropica, Ole etc and Amano and the top ranking folks are not?

                            Pretty damn slim.

                            So I'll get in there with a CO2 meter and then that will be it.

                            Tom Barr


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by phanmc View Post
                              I think the reputation for growing HC under high light is because people tend to only use CO2 when they have high light. I can grow HC fine under low-medium light as long as I inject CO2, can't grow HC without CO2.
                              Tom has been a voice in the wilderness telling us that HC is not a high light demanding plant, but does need adequate CO2. On every other forum I read it is gospel that to grow HC you need very high light. In fact, people tend to specify their need for high light intensity by saying "...and I want a nice HC lawn."

                              Now, I'm curious: what are some of the plants that really do need high light intensity?