When it comes to selecting a lighting system for your saltwater tank, you cannot simply go to your local pet store and purchase the first lighting system that fits your tank. There are a number of factors to consider when buying a lighting system for your tank and if you don’t choose wisely your tank inhabitants may fail to thrive. It is important to choose a lighting system of the right size, wattage and type – before you buy, take the time to learn the basics about lighting a saltwater tank so you can make an informed decision regarding which is best for you.
Requirements by Tank Type
If you have ever kept a freshwater aquarium, you probably already know that certain tank inhabitants like live plants require more lighting than do aquarium fish. The same is true for saltwater tanks – certain organisms have greater needs for light than others. In the saltwater tank, fish generally do not have specific requirements for lighting, though some tend to prefer more dim lighting than others. If you plan to keep photosynthetic organisms like corals in your tank, however, you will need to install the proper lighting system to support those organisms. Light provides energy for photosynthetic organisms like corals and marine algae – without adequate light, these organisms may fail to thrive and it could impact your whole tank environment.
Not only do you need to consider whether or not you will be keeping corals in your tank when selecting a lighting system, but you also need to think about what kind of corals you plan to keep. Reef tanks supporting low-light corals may only require 4 to 6 watts of light per gallon whereas tanks with corals that require more light may need between 10 and 12 watts per gallon. Do not look for “watts per gallon” on the package when comparing lighting systems and light bulbs at the pet store because you won’t find it. In order to determine the watts per gallon given by any light you must divide the total wattage by your tank capacity. For example, a bulb that produces 200 watts would provide a 50-gallon tank with 4 watts per gallon.
When shopping for a lighting system for your saltwater aquarium you have to think about more than just watts per gallon – you also need to consider what type of system you want. Some of the most popular lighting systems for saltwater tanks are LED, fluorescent and metal halide. LED lighting systems consist of numerous small bulbs that put out high-intensity light. These systems are very energy efficient and can also be adapted to provide dim lighting at night for nocturnal tank inhabitants. Fluorescent lighting systems come in a variety of forms including normal output, power compact and very high output (VHO). Power compact bulbs produce as much light, or more, than traditional fluorescent bulbs without taking as much space. VHO lighting systems produce high-intensity light that can be three times as bright as normal output bulbs. Metal halide lighting systems are also very powerful and they provide light that is intense enough to penetrate deep water in large tanks.
One thing to keep in mind when shopping for tank lighting is that high-powered lighting systems may produce a great deal of heat. Metal halide systems, for example, can produce so much heat that they may end up overheating your tank. To prevent this from happening you may need to install an auxiliary fan or aquarium chiller to maintain the water temperature in your tank. You should also be aware that tank lighting comes in different colors. Full-spectrum lighting is ideal for fish-only aquariums but tanks housing corals and other photosynthetic organisms do best with actinic and 50/50 bulbs.
In addition to equipping your saltwater tank with a high-quality lighting system, you may also want to think about installing an EcoBio-Stone or using some EcoBio-Pebbles in your tank filter. These products are designed to boost the biological filtration in your tank by adding live beneficial bacteria. After introducing one of these products into your tank, the beneficial bacteria will rapidly multiply, working to remove toxins and to maintain the nitrogen cycle. Clean water is just as important as quality lighting in a saltwater tank and installing an EcoBio-Stone is a simple way to achieve it.