When it comes to aquarium lighting you have a wide variety of options to choose from. You may be tempted to think that one light bulb is the same as any other, but the truth is that selecting a lighting system for your aquarium is not a decision that should be taken lightly. The type of lighting you use in your tank and the size of the bulb could make a difference not only in how your aquarium looks but how it functions as well.
Purpose of Aquarium Lighting
The difference between your aquarium looking dull and lifeless or vibrant and colorful can sometimes be achieved through a simple change like installing a high quality lighting system. Aquarium lighting serves to illuminate your tank as well as your tank inhabitants, making them stand out and enhancing their natural colors. While the aesthetic function of aquarium lighting is not to be overlooked, aquarium lighting serves a practical purpose as well. Photosynthetic organisms like plants require light as an energy source in order to grow and function. Without proper lighting, your tank could not only look dull but your plants and other tank inhabitants could be negatively affected.
Types of Lighting
The most basic type of aquarium lighting is the standard fluorescent bulb. These lights are easy to use and come in a variety of sizes suitable for virtually any tank. One step up from the standard fluorescent bulb is the compact fluorescent. These bulbs are smaller and more powerful than standard fluorescent bulbs but they are still energy efficient and affordable. If compact fluorescent lights are not powerful enough, consider a T-5 HO or VHO lighting system. Both of these systems utilize fluorescent bulbs and both produce light of a much higher intensity than standard fluorescent bulbs.
T-5 HO, or T-5 High Output, bulbs are typically about 5/8” in diameter and are highly recommended for planted tanks. VHO, or Very High Output, lighting produces light up to three times more intense than standard fluorescent bulbs and they are available in a wide range of sizes. The main difference between these bulbs is that VHO bulbs run very hot and may require a chiller or auxiliary fan while T-5 HO lights do not. The most advanced type of aquarium lighting available is metal halide lighting. These bulbs produce wide-spectrum light and come in sizes up to 1000 watts. One more type of lighting that is still a fairly recent addition to the aquarium hobby is LED, or Light Emitting Diode, lighting. This type of lighting utilizes miniature bulbs that put out light from the blue and white end of the spectrum which creates a shimmering effect in the aquarium. Many LED lighting systems also incorporate lunar lighting, a type of lighting designed to mimic natural moonlight ideal for nocturnal species of fish and invertebrates.
Tips for Aquarium Lighting
When selecting an aquarium lighting system for your tank you need to choose not only the right type of lighting but the right wattage as well. Tanks housing fish only require no more than 1 or 2 watts of light per gallon while planted tanks need between 2 and 5 watts per gallon. To find out how many watts per gallon any given bulb will provide, simply divide the total wattage by the tank volume. You should also keep in mind that some lighting systems are better for planted tanks than others. Most fluorescent bulbs - including compact fluorescents, T-5 HO and VHO bulbs – are sufficient for planted tanks. If you have a very large or deep tank, however, or a densely planted tank, a metal halide lighting system may be the best choice for you.
While aquarium lighting is very important, it is only one aspect of maintaining a healthy aquarium. Keeping the water quality in your tank high and performing regular water changes are also necessary to keep your tank running smoothly. In order to make your job easier, consider installing an EcoBio-Stone in your aquarium. EcoBio-Stones are made from porous volcanic cement that has been infused with beneficial bacteria. Once released in your tank, these bacteria will work to maintain the nitrogen cycle, helping to keep your tank water clean and clear. These bacteria will also help to keep the phosphate levels in your tank stable by breaking down accumulated waste. If the phosphate levels in your tank spike and you are using a high-intensity lighting system, you could experience a sudden increase in algae growth which could affect your water quality.