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

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Tom Barr, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    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:)



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    World ranking 20:

    [​IMG]

    Local club members Leon and David chatting about plants
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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).


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  3. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Tom,

    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!
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    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. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Vaughn, yes.

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

    [​IMG]

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    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.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    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.:cool:

    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;)

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. ccLansman

    ccLansman Guru Class Expert

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    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. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    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. phanmc

    phanmc Lifetime Charter Member
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    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. Chiya

    Chiya Prolific Poster

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    Tom,
    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.

    Comments??

    Regards,
    Ryan


    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. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    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 waters.......you 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.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. Henry Hatch

    Henry Hatch Guru Class Expert

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    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. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    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.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    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?
     
  16. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    For the record, here is this exact same tank with HC lawn:
    [​IMG]

    Same light everything.
    Oh my my.

    and here is a 60 cm tank with the same low light values:
    [​IMG]

    Oh my, how is this possible if what the other sites claim to be true?;)

    Seems like a simple case of their claim being falsified.
    See? Be careful before claiming something needs this or that, leave it open.
    Do not fall for the BS that no nothings often try and fill other folk's head's with.

    Unless you test and explore the ranges and do so while taking the other issues like CO2, nutrients etc into account, and you actually test, you really are just guessing and not learning a damn thing.

    This does no diservice to me, only yourself:)
    I already know.

    If you look at my history of going after myths, you will find I explore both the higher and lower ranges, not just the middle ranges or the few ranges that might "work for me".

    This way I know the entire ranges, and can apply these to my tanks, others I help, the general hobby etc. I am not merely concerned with what is optimal, I want to know how much NO3 is required before we see Crystal red shrimp start dying or Altum angels or Discus, or cardinals, or amano shrimp etc. I want to know how much is excess PO4 and how much is required to induce algae in a well run CO2 enriched tank, or a non CO2 aquarium.

    No nothings often say they "want to learn" and " are exploring new ways to keep aquatic plants" and how "old methods are myths, these are new and specific to the individual needs of your aquarium".

    Sounds all nice and furry but often is just horse manure.

    Repacking of what was done before.
    I'm more interested in seeing what things are important, what are not, how each method relates to the others, can we say some things in general, folks had low light before the late 1990's.

    Folks could get away with less ferts and less CO2.
    Folks used sediment based ferts in many cases.
    Folks also made other claims such as excess nutrients(K+, NO3, PO4) cause algae.

    Not everything was worthless nor wrong, just some of it.
    ADA is not any different.

    They have some good products and excellent materials.
    But not everything is great etc.

    The light issue goes a long way to explain much of what has been said and led folks on many a wild goose chase.

    Some will even question my test and PAR data, that's fine, you can also question 50 other folks that where at the meeting as well. You can also buy a light meter and test several ADA light set ups with well scaped examples for support if you have doubts.

    Somehow I do not think no nothings will pass such muster and do this, and even if so, their egos are too fragile to admit they where "wrong". Heck, I was wrong, but I tested it and now it makes a lot of sense.

    I assumed the light would be as high, even though everything else I knew did not agree. So with that question in mind, now I know and tested it.

    Now I do not need to go test for the rest of my life every few days the light PAR values. So while I do test, I answer big questions and then we can all learn a lot from it and no more need for that much testing thereafter.
    EI was the same type of thing.

    I do go after the "no nothings" arguments aggressively, but when I've tested it, and know they have not, it is fun watching them try every trick in the book and not owe up to the truth. And they rarely if ever test(2X in the last 20 or so years by my count- not a good statistic).



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    As good testing and research will always suggest, more questions come from one answer. So where there was one answer, now we have 5 more questions.
    Quackery and fuzzy wonder talk never leads to this type of intense curiosity and questioning.

    I might be in the wilderness when it comes to hobbyist, however, as far as research and plant biology, not hardly. I was way out there with PO4,certain species are "hard", CO2, light, NO3, toxicity and breeding, shrimp, fish species, current etc. There was good agreement in ecological systems and general plant biology I drew from.

    But just not with hobbyists...I have never been the type to come and Kiss Amano Ring or whomever's the "King" or oligarchy. I need more critical proof and understanding.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  18. evandro.carrenho

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    Tom,

    Do you have comparative values for Arcadia T5 lamps? i.e. how more efficient they are compared to ADA lamps? I am asking that because I use Arcadia 24w bulbs, and although I am on 0.9 w/gal I have no idea on the PAR readings.

    Thanks,
    Evandro.
     
  19. luismoniz

    luismoniz Prolific Poster

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    Hi Tom,
    I have one ADA MH light, NAG model, so you say they are weak compared to other brands? Maybe I need test another brand to see the grow diference.

    Thanks for share this!

    Regards,

    Luís Moniz
     
  20. Chiya

    Chiya Prolific Poster

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    Very nice tanks :)

    I'm beginning to see the limiting factor clearer.

    The pictures are proof that HC do not require high light.

    However, there shld be a minimum light (be it wpg or micromol) which triggers lawn-like growth vs tall skinny stems.

    That's why people going around spreading stuffs like, "HC needs high light!! Use >2WPG!!"

    I see a difference when I changed from my 2 x 24W T5 tubes to 1 x 15W Tube on my 15G.
    Within 1 day, glosso grew taller and slimmer. All other factors remained unchanged (IMHO)

    Side note, what is the micromol reading for an average fluorescent room light in the fish tank?

    I'm worried that Tom might show us one day we are capable of growing plants with our room lights!! Just by managing our CO2 and nutrients!! :D

    Regards,
    Ryan

    Note to self : Get a PAR meter ASAP!
     
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