Planted Aquarium Lighting

For ornamental aquarium fish, the illumination characteristics are not very important. The natural change of day and night is enough for most of them. Then why are aquarium owners trying to correctly calculate lamp wattage? Why do they buy lamps of a certain spectrum, a certain intensity? The answer is simple: proper lighting is essential for the life of aquatic plants and the process of photosynthesis.

Planted Aquarium Lighting

Planted Aquarium Lighting Functions

If there is no vegetation in the aquarium (there are some), then a certain light is selected in order to most favorably emphasize the beauty of the fish against the background of the corresponding decorations.

However, in the vast majority of home and office fish ponds, vegetation is always present, which performs a number of important functions.

The most important function is the “production” of oxygen necessary for the life of aquarium inhabitants. Of course, air can also be supplied through an aerator, but a natural biotope, which aquarists usually strive to create, does not know forced aeration, and oxygen enters the water as a result of natural photosynthesis of plants.

The next function can be called just the creation of the environment for the fish as similar to the natural conditions as possible. Their behavior, reproduction, diet largely depends on this. For example, in many cases, shading areas are created with the help of water thickets, where fish like to hide and rest.

How Does Light Affect Vegetation?

In short, aquatic plants are the most important element of the aquarium, and proper lighting is the most important condition for their existence. Thus, light actively participates in creating the necessary balance of a closed aqua system, which is precisely the aquarium.

They try to bring artificial daylight hours as close as possible to the natural one, both in terms of the spectrum of light and the duration of illumination. For example, daylight hours in the tropics and at the equator are roughly 12 hours, and tropical aquarium owners know this.If you reduce the duration and reduce the intensity of illumination, then tropical vegetation will gradually begin to degrade, its growth slows down, and some types of aquatic flora lose their leaves.

And vice versa, an excess of light will not in any way positively affect the cultural “aquatic vegetation, but the rapid growth of green and blue-green algae will be ensured.

Types Of Planted Aquarium Lighting

At the dawn of aquarism, the issue of artificial light sources was not acute: aquariums were usually placed near windows. Then people began to use incandescent lamps, but soon abandoned them due to the high heat transfer.

There were fluorescent lamps , which turned out to be perfectly suited for small artificial reservoirs. Economical, with low heat transfer, of various shapes and powers – these lamps instantly gained immense popularity in the aquarium hobby, becoming irreplaceable light sources for a long time.

Currently, in addition to ordinary luminescent devices, manufacturers of special aquarium equipment produce lamps of various other types: mercury organic, metal halide, LED and others. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which lamp is right for a particular aquarium, and in this case, several factors must be taken into account:

  • the volume of the “can” and its depth;
  • types of aquatic plants that are planted in a home pond.

If the aquarium is high enough (50–70 cm), then it makes sense to use a mercury-organic light source, the rays of which reach almost the very bottom. This is very important for the development of the vegetation landscape. Such lamps have a high light output, but there is also a drawback: a long period of ignition and reaching a stable mode. Manufacturers produce these lamps in two types: with a power of 125 W and 80 W.

Read Also: How To Decorate An Aquarium

Metal halide lamps are used when it is necessary to illuminate an aquarium up to 1 meter deep. They have a higher light output (up to 90 lm) and intensity, excellent color rendering, but they are also more expensive than the previous type of lamps, not to mention conventional fluorescent lamps.

Separately, you should consider the requirements for lamps, depending on the type of cultivated plants.

Recommendations For Choosing Lamps For Aquarium Vegetation

There are aquatic plants that don’t like intense, powerful lighting. If, for example, the Cryptocorynes of Blass, Griffith, Javanese moss , Cryptocoryne cordata or Bolbitis fern are planted, then the lamp power of 0.3–0.4 W / l is quite sufficient.

When you need to create a tropical forest landscape, it is enough to install a lamp (or several lamps) with a power of 0.4–0.5 W / L. In this case, the vegetation will stretch upward towards natural light.

For most aquarium plants, luminaires with a wattage of 0.5 W / L to 0.8 W / L are used. It is in this case that they develop normally, acquire their inherent color. By the way, there are many types of aquatic flora that change the color of the leaves depending on the power of the light source.

If the aquarium is densely planted with vegetation (the so-called herbalist), then it is better to use a lighting device with a power higher than 0.8 W / L.

Of course, these are general recommendations, and in each specific case, you need to choose a certain type of luminaire. Conversely, if you have purchased an aquarium with a built-in lighting system, then you should choose such plants that will feel comfortable in it.

Many experts say that a phytolamp (a special lamp for aquarium plants) is the best solution for a herbalist. Osram, Sylvania, General Electric, Philips produce a wide range of similar devices. Given the specific features, you can choose an excellent option in which the vegetation will develop normally and live for a long time in your aquarium.

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