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Ask any seasoned aquarist about his on her thoughts on freshwater planted aquariums, and you’re bound to get very positive and encouraging answers. Plants not only enhance the overall look of a tank but also improve the ecosystem by keeping algae bloom in check, providing fish with places to hide, and promoting biochemical oxygenation. Each year, the Aquatic Gardeners Association holds a contest to showcase and recognize the most gorgeous examples of aquascaping from around the world, and the winners are interviewed about their techniques. In these interviews, the topic of lighting is often discussed at length. Not all plant species will respond to the same type of light, and trying to keep an aquatic garden under direct sunlight is more complicated than you think.
The Problem with Too Much Sunlight
All aquatic plants need light to stimulate the vital process known as photosynthesis. With this in mind, it’s easy to think of the sun as being the best source of light for this purpose, and this is correct, but you would need to be prepared to deal with excessive algae growth. If you see pristine planted tanks set against windows or in outdoor settings, you can bet their keepers are constantly on top of them with cleaning, scraping, frequent water quality checks, pruning, and various ecosystem adjustments. If you’re not able to dedicate many hours each week to aquarium maintenance, you should place the tank in a spot where it will only get a couple of hours of indirect sunlight each day. You can provide the beneficial artificial lighting for the rest of the daytime period.
Incandescent, Fluorescent, or LED Sources
Modern LED lamps made for planted aquariums have become the new standard of aquarium lighting, and this is what you should stick with. LED technology has advanced to the point of being far superior to its fluorescent and incandescent counterparts. Moreover, many LED lamps allow you to adjust color, tint, warmth, intensity, and even how many hours they should stay on so they simulate day and night cycles. While you may still be able to find old-fashioned, inefficient aquarium lamps that aren’t LED, there really is no good reason for you to do so.
Recommended Aquarium Light Intensity
For most rectangular tanks, you should stick with LED lamps that have a spectral output between 5,500 and 8,000 Kelvin. Fancy saltwater reef tanks tend to be taller, so they would need a minimum intensity of 10,000 to 12,000 Kelvin, which represents more of the ocean spectrum requirements. It’s more important to look for LED lights that have a dimming feature in case you find that excessive brightness is hindering plant growth. An excellent LED light for plants that’s very well-reviewed is the Fluval Plant Spectrum 3.0 Bluetooth LED Fixture:
Light Color Spectrum
This dimming factor is entirely up to how you want your tank to look because plants aren’t affected by it. If you planted water primrose or rotalas, red light will make them look great, but they’ll photosynthesize just the same. Most aquarists prefer a color spectrum that ranges from white to yellow in the daytime with just a touch of blue tint at night to simulate a few hours of moonlight.
Whether you need lighting or anything else to care for your planted aquarium, you can find what you’re looking for at Aquatic Warehouse, a trusted aquarium supplier located in Kearny Mesa. You can stop by our store to purchase what you need, or order your supplies from our website and have them shipped directly to you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 858-467-9297.