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Most students in North America learn about photosynthesis pretty early as part of their scientific education. We associate this botanical process with the light of the sun, but then we learn about species growing at the very bottom of the ocean. These are aquatic plants that lack chlorophyll and don’t have a reasonable use for sunlight. Plants that typically grow in aquariums can certainly appreciate getting direct sunshine, but this would bring up a problem with regard to algae overgrowth. Unless you’re willing to establish a freshwater tank that requires constant maintenance to avoid algae bloom, you’ll need to purchase an artificial source of light from a trusted aquarium supplier like Aquatic Warehouse—come see our massive array of planted varieties on display!
Aquarium Lighting Systems
The first commercially available lamps for aquariums featured incandescent bulbs. You can still find these filament-burning bulbs for aquarium lighting systems, but they’ve fallen out of favor because of their low energy-efficiency factor and heat buildup. High-output fluorescent bulbs are far more efficient, and they’re still very popular. But the most efficient and inexpensive option would be LED, which are currently the most popular among aquarists.
Not All LED Light Systems Are Adequate for Aquatic Plants
Inexpensive freshwater starter kits will likely include LED lamps plus some filtration options. Most of the time, these starter lighting systems are for illumination and not for optimal plant growth. The plant species best utilized for these kits for beginners tend to be Java fern, Anubias, and Java moss, which are known to thrive in low-light conditions. Later, if you wish to add more colorful species such as Rotalas, these starter lamps wouldn’t be adequate.
Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR)
Plants are able to carry out photosynthesis even during cloudy days because they don’t depend on photons. What they actually need from the sun is radiation. For this same reason, plants cannot complete photosynthesis at night. By the time the moon reflects sunlight to the terrestrial surface, all the required radiation has been absorbed. Hydroponic gardeners who grow indoor plants are very familiar with using PAR as the metric they need to get the right lights.
Selecting the Best LED System for Your Aquarium Plants
Not all LED lights will produce the adequate PAR your plants need, and fixture manufacturers rarely include a PAR rating for aquarium systems because the industry has selected lumen per square meter (lux) as its standard of measurement. Lux denotes illumination or intensity, but it’s easier to use lumen and convert to watts. Assuming you want to keep exotic plants that need plenty of light, you’ll want 40 lumen, which is equivalent to 1 watt, per gallon. For example, a 40-gallon tank planted with lush Vallisneria and Christmas moss would do fine with 1,600 lumen worth of LED illumination.
At Aquatic Warehouse, we carry only the highest-quality LED lights for you aquarium’s needs. You can also find all of the other essential fish tank supplies, whether you need an aquarium temperature controller, beneficial bacteria, filtration, or feeding implements. Stop by our store located in Kearny Mesa, order your supplies from our website, or reach out to us at 858-467-9297 if you have any questions.