My mind is spinning


Junior Poster
Oct 10, 2007
Well I've been dabbling with a planted tank for about 2 months now, starting off with 2x15watt fixtures that came with my 55 gallon. I'm not growing anything crazy, just some crypts, egeria, java moss, java fern, echino xingu, a red plant that was given to me and another unknown green stem plant. My goal is to get a nice fast growing forrest in my 55 without spending $200 to make it happen.

My lighting journey is as follows, I found an old shop light that could hold two 40 watt T12's and found that my plants were still only surviving and not growing and most recently I've purchased a cheap 132 watt shoplight system with 4 32 watt bulbs at 6500K and CRI of 79. The lighting is tremendously improved and I thought I had done well for myself but now I'm starting to come across all kinds of posts on plantedtank about up-light and reflectivity and how shop lights are ineffective because a lot of light is spread out at an angle that makes water penetration ineffective.

I guess my questions are:
1. Would 132 watts of shoplight be equivalent to a 2x55 watt AH supply system?

My main concern is money. My shoplight system cost me about $70 to complete while a 2x55 watt system is going to cost me at least $140. On the other hand if I have to pour 30 dollars and 10 hours of time into the shoplight system to bring it up to par well...

Can anyone throw some advice my way?

EDIT: I totally forgot to factor in the cost of constructing a hood + proper tools to do so for for the AHSupply kit and my new estimate is at least $180. I've decided to completely scrap that AHSupply idea as it is too costly. However, I've left the above text intact so my position is clear.

My new question is, how can I improve the efficacy of my shoplight system?


Guru Class Expert
Feb 3, 2007
Dixon IL
Honestly without improving the efficiency of your shop light's you still should have no problem growing any of the plants listed. I can't say for sure about the red one but I know java moss, egeria, and the anubias will thrive under that light given the right conditions.

I have a 75 gallon with shop lights in the hood. 4 40 Watt bulbs. That puts me at less light then you per gallon and I have no reflectors. They are the cheapest shoplights I could find at Menards. I think I paid $7 each for them. I grow Ozelot swords, Anubias nana, java moss, rotala, moneywort, pennywort, pearlgrass, some kind of hygro, ambulia, and assorted crypts. I got rid of my wisteria and water sprite because it grew too fast and was running rampant.

I guess don't believe everything you read. I'm not disagreeing that they are not nearly as good as a AH supply kit but with the light you have you should be able to grow many plants. I trim about once every two weeks. I have some fast growing plants that need to be maintained almost weekly. For me it is a perfect setup. The growth keeps me interested and messing around with my tank but doesn't overwhelm and frustrate me. I read also on that forum that shoplights were useless, but the difference in cost was so large I had to try them. So far my experience has only been positive.

You didn't mention ferts or anything so I assume you are adding some. This is my regimen and I have had good results.

75 Gallon 48x18x20

160 Watts of T-12's
1/2 tsp of Seachem equlibrium once a week at WC
1/2 tsp KNO3 twice a week
1/8 tsp KH2PO4 twice a week
6 ml of tropica plant nutrition twice a week.
Seachem Excel dosed daily. 1.5 the reccomended dosage.

I did recently change my bulbs from regular 6700K daylight bulbs to two tr-phosphurous bulbs, and two GE plant an aquarium bulbs. They were more expensive but the plants seem to approve. I was however able to grow plants with the 6700K daylight bulbs also though.

I recently rescaped my tank. I'll try to post some pics some time this week.


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
Sacramento, CA
I use AH Supply lighting, and I am very pleased with it. But, light is light. All of the visible spectrum of light can penetrate the thickness of water we deal with, unless we start talking really big tanks. So, I never buy into the theory that you need something special to get light down to the bottom of a 2 foot deep tank. What AH Supply light kits do well is make use of almost all of the light emitted by the bulb, because their reflector is very good. A shop light doesn't do that. At least half of the light from a shop light doesn't get to the tank except after a small portion is reflected in the right direction from the white paint near the bulb. I would guess that for the same watts you get about twice the light into the tank with AH Supply lights compared to shop lights.

I'm using only 72 watts of AHS light for 45 gallons, and I can grow all but the highest light demand plants. For example, I have problems with my Ludwigia senegalensis, which grew much better with 110 watts. But, that is the only plant I have had to give up from dropping my light intensity.

My light is 1.6 watts per gallon. I would expect to need about 3 watts per gallon of shop lights to equal that in my tank. So, I think shop lights are very usable, but you do need more watts than with AH Supply lights, and a lot more watts compared to T5 lights with single tube reflectors.


Guru Class Expert
Jun 8, 2007
You can increase the wattage of your shop lights by overdriving them (just found out about this recently and I'm stoked). Do a search on ODNO and you'll see how to do it, you just need a new ballast.