Fish tank lighting is an important part of your aquarium setup. However, things could really get confusing as soon as you need to make a decision on the best lighting for your tank. This is especially the case because there are a wide variety of light fixtures, different colors, types of bulbs, and more. Hence, it is important to make proper research before deciding on the best lighting for your aquarium. This decision would be based on different factors such as how much light you need, how you would like your fish to grow, how fast you want them to grow, how much time you can dedicate to the aquarium maintenance, and whether or not you would be injecting CO2 into the aquarium.
Care must be taken to avoid going overboard with the level of your aquarium lighting as very high lighting intensity can lead to the growth of unwanted algae and this could be really frustrating to handle. Therefore, low lighting would be ideal especially if you are a beginner. While the growth of your plants will be slower, it will be much easier to ensure they remain healthy. Most aquatic plants thrive well under low lighting and this will also mean less risk of the outbreak of algae, and less fertilization and CO2 required.
Types of Aquarium Lighting
There are different types of aquarium lighting and this may also make a beginner confused. However, the most common lighting systems for an aquarium are T5 and T8 fluorescent bulbs. LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lighting for aquariums is another lighting system that is fast taking commonplace. It offers fantastic lighting effects and low maintenance costs. The LED lighting system can last for up to 5 years or even more, making them a really good lighting choice.
While the T5 and T8 fluorescent bulbs are great recommended options, the T5 fluorescent bulbs offer more powerful lighting effects and are more suited to an aquarium with densely setup aquatic plants. A full length of T5 bulb is usually enough for most fish tank plants while plants that have high lighting demands may need two full lengths of T5 bulbs.
How much light is really enough?
Although several factors come into play here, a major determinant is the type of plants you have chosen for your aquarium. If you have decided to make use of “low maintenance” plants, 10-20 lumen (0.25-0.5 watts) per liter of your tank would be ideal. For plants that need moderate care, a 20-40 lumen (0.5-1 watts) per liter of the fish tank would be ideal while advanced plants would need more than 40 lumens (1 watt) per liter of fish tank to thrive.
The use of reflectors for aquarium lighting is very important as it will massively improve the lighting quality. Although many inexpensive lighting sets are delivered without reflectors, it is possible to purchase reflectors separately and mount them in most lamps. Reflectors can greatly improve the lighting quality, ensuring light reaches the tank as the reflection extends toward the water. The use of reflectors is never an issue for an aquarist that uses LEDs as they are designed to transport light downward. Most LED fixtures even show the angle of light spread.
Therefore, while aquarium lighting is a crucial part of the success of keeping your fish tank, it is never ideal to compensate weak lighting with extended lighting – it does not work that way. Always ensure the lighting is sufficient for the type of tank you have to avoid the risk of an algae build up in the tank.