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Aquarium lighting with fluorescent lamps and other light sources


Lighting in the aquarium plays one of the key roles for the normal existence of plants and the fish themselves. With the right light mode, the natural habitat is recreated. How to choose the right lamp, their power, which set the light mode. We will consider all these issues in this article.

General characteristics of aquarium light

The main characteristic of aquarium lighting is power. It is necessary to start with determining the correct lighting power. As you know, power is measured in watts (W). There is a special calculation of lighting power depending on the volume of the aquarium.

Lumen (Ln) - using this unit of measure, the amount of light is determinedthat the lamp emits.

Another characteristic of the lamps is color temperature (K). Only the sun gives a full light spectrum of illumination, it consists of waves, which in their combination give yellow or white light.

But if you separate them, they will have different colors. Many aquarium lamps have a parameter of 5500K, 6500K, 10000K, 20000K. This is their color temperature.

It is not recommended to choose lamps with a color temperature below 5500K. Since their blue red rays contribute to the growth of algae.

If you have a shallow freshwater aquarium, you should pay attention to 5500-10000K lamps. Lamps over 10000K have a very high lighting intensity and are used only for deep aquariums.

Spectrum (Nm). For aquariums, 2 narrow spectral ranges are used: blue-green (440-470 Nm) and red (660 and 700 Nm).

Is a natural source needed?

Natural is daylightIt is used as an additional stimulation of the growth of aquarium plants and during fish spawning.

IMPORTANT! It is not recommended to install the aquarium in a place that is exposed to constant sunlight. Sunlight is an excellent incentive for the growth of green algae.

At the moment, there are many types of artificial lighting. For aquariums are used:

  • incandescent lamps,
  • LED lamp,
  • fluorescent lamps,
  • energy-saving lamps,
  • special professional light sources

Incandescent lamps

They are rarely used, due to the availability of a more economical and effective alternative. However, they are used in aquarium because their spectrum is as close as possible to natural light. But this lighting device has a very low efficiency and many incandescent lamps are needed to grow aquarium plants.

A large number of lamps will produce a lot of heat, which can negatively affect the aquarium climate and water balance.

LED modules and tapes

Fairly expensive, but more efficient lighting. Aquarists often use them in combination with energy-saving lamps. LED lamps have low power. And often they are not able to independently provide large aquariums with enough light.

However, high power LED bulbs began to appear on the modern market, which over time can find wide application in the world of aquariums.

Energy saving

Gaining popularity among fans of aquariums. Their use in backlighting helps to save energy, helps to achieve optimal light conditions. These lamps have high light output, so two or three light bulbs with an output of 18-20 W will be enough to illuminate an aquarium of 150-200 liters.

Special light sources used in professional aquariums. These lamps can have a certain light spectrum, selected for a certain type of aquarium and plants.

All lighting options can be done with your own hands. There are many videos on this subject. Here is one of them:

Daylight hours and control options

For harmonious operation of the aquarium, it is necessary to correctly determine the regime of daylight hours. The light must be turned on according to the schedule and for a certain number of hours. The optimal daylight hours are between 8-10 hours. For herbal aquariums, it can be 12 hours.

There are special instruments for monitoring daylight hours. This is a timer or timers. They are electrical and mechanical. Using these devices, the lighting in the aquarium is automatically turned on and off.

Night lighting, in principle, is not required, you can use it only for beauty, and when you turn it on is up to you. If your light bulbs cease to shine, then repair will not cause difficulties. Usually this problem is solved by buying a new one.

Result of irregular lighting

If the calculation and selection of lighting for the aquarium is incorrect, the results can be disappointing. With insufficient lighting, the growth rate of plants will slow down or stop altogether, and photophilous plants may die at all.

A yellow coating may appear on the walls of the aquarium, this is a sign of the appearance of diatoms. With an excessive amount of light, aquarium plants can stack leaves, an outbreak of green algae can occur. This all significantly affects the appearance of the aquarium. From such effects as algae, it is sometimes very difficult to get rid of! Therefore, it is very important to initially choose the right lighting and fertilizers.

How much is needed for plants?

For photosynthesis and growth of aquarium plants, it is especially important to choose the right lighting and soil. Here for each aquarium an individual approach. The power, spectrum and other parameters of the lamps will depend on the whims of the plants.

IMPORTANT! The main thing to follow is the rule: the plant must receive the necessary amount of light.

Underwater vegetation has a different need for the amount of light. Therefore, the flow of light can be controlled using reflectors (reflectors). Without them, 20% of the heat disappears. Often plants need a brighter light than fish, so the fish hide in the shade of leaves and spend a sick part of the time at the bottom. Also consider the height of your aquarium.

At the very bottom, it is better to plant unpretentious plants to the light, others there may die. Most plants come from the tropics and the daylight hours for them are 12 hours. This must also be taken into account. With the right choice of lighting, growth and healthy appearance of aquarium plants will be observed.

What is the best lighting method for you? It all depends on the inhabitants, size and depth of the aquarium.

Lighting function

Light plays an important role in the production of oxygen by plants necessary for the proper functioning of fish and other aquatic animals. Only in the presence of light do plants synthesize organic compounds from simple inorganic substances. In fish, light regulates basic life processes, such as food activity or spawning. An additional function of lighting is a visual representation of the aquarium and its inhabitants.

Under natural conditions, the amount of light entering the reservoir depends on many factors: the angle of incidence of the light rays, the nature of the reservoir, the transparency of the water (affects the number of absorbed and scattered light rays in the water), and the number of obstacles encountered. Colored stripes (which are part of the sun's rays) reaching the plants are also important. Plants need red and blue light.

3. Types of light sources used in aquariums

A natural light source used as a complement to artificial lighting. If the sun were the only source of light, then during the winter months its deficit would occur, vegetation would decrease, and, consequently, fish too. It is not recommended to use sunlight or put the aquarium on the windowsill, because it accelerates the growth of algae and temperature jumps between night and day.

Mercury (high pressure) lamps (HQL)

They are characterized by high efficiency and low operating costs (unlike fluorescent lamps, they do not lose light intensity so quickly). Recommended for use in aquariums with a water level above 60 cm. Designed mainly for open aquariums (they should not be installed directly above the water level). When using strong light sources, the water in the aquarium should be enriched with carbon dioxide.

Metal Halide Lamps (HQI)

They are more suitable than mercury because of the more favorable color of light. Designed also for large tanks, but requires additional spot lighting. They quickly wear out and heat up (but the water does not significantly heat up with them). When using strong light sources, the water in the aquarium should be enriched with carbon dioxide.

4. Lighting for plants

When it comes to plant breeding, it’s no secret that 400-450 nm and 650-700 nm are the best for correct photosynthesis, while waves around 550 nm are useless. The graph below shows the dependence of the photosynthesis process on the wavelength of light:

There are many fluorescent lamps on the market that are commonly used for plant breeding, for example: Philips Aquarelle, Osram Fluor, Sylvania Grolux, Hagen Aqua Glo, but their price is not the lowest. Let's see if it is worth investing in this type of fluorescent lamp. Let's start by determining which light parameters are most important.

4.1. Lighting options.

Fluorescent lamps have the following parameters:

    Index color rendition (RA or CRI) the maximum value of RA is 100. RA = 100 is the ratio of the sun. With RA from 80 to 90 we have good color rendering, and with RA over 90 - very good color rendering. RAs of less than 80 are rare. The following is a comparison of color accuracy between RA = 70-100 and RA = 30-50. You can see how RA = 30-50 changes the color of the flowers.

The RA parameter, brightness and color temperature are not very important for plants, and the widespread belief that the lamp should have a low color temperature is just a myth. The second myth is that aquarium lamps are better than ordinary fluorescent lamps. Aquarium lamps are beautifully packaged and have fantastic names, but they are made using the same technology and their parameters are very similar to ordinary fluorescent lamps. However, a significant difference will be noticeable in price. It is true that there are better and worse fluorescent lamps, but I want to draw your attention to the fact that there are no fluorescent lamps that are not suitable for the aquarium and which can harm plants or fish. All of them have a rich spectrum, and if the plants grow poorly in the aquarium, factors of this state of affairs should be sought in the parameters of water, access to nutrients (provided by fish or artificially grown with the help of special fertilizers or compressed into a bottle of carbon dioxide) and the lighting power, installed in the aquarium. It is enough to ask the manufacturers of aquatic plants which fluorescent lamps they use, and you will see that most of them use the cheapest ones.

5. The color of the lighting depends on the color temperature of the fluorescent lamps.

If you are interested in which tint fluorescent lamps have different temperatures, the following spectral diagram is useful for you.

Aquariums are presented below, after lighting fluorescent lamps of various brands, appearing in our market with different color temperatures.

As we see, the color of the light coincides with the colors on the spectral diagram. If someone would like to get a pleasant effect of some color in the aquarium, then you can easily go to the store and buy a fluorescent lamp with the desired color temperature. You can mix two different fluorescent lamps and get a combination of colors.

ATTENTION!. Some fluorescent lamps cannot be used separately, since they can affect the growth of algae, therefore, mixing of two fluorescent lamps with different color temperatures is used.

6. Fluorescent tubes T5 and T8. Which to choose?

Both T5 and T8 fluorescent lamps are available on the market. I will try to present the differences between them:

  • They differ mainly in diameter T8 26 mm and diameter T5 16 mm.
  • Length, for example, T5 with 24 W has a length of 55 cm, and T8 with a power of 25 W has a length of 74 cm.
  • T5 has a longer run time compared to T8
  • T5 has greater efficiency, i.e. more energy efficient
  • T5 is more expensive than T8, depending on the manufacturer, from 10% to even 130%
  • T5 requires a special electronic ballast, which is not cheap, which increases the cost of the entire installation. The advantage of this ballast is energy saving and no flicker.

It follows that buying a T5 is a good choice in terms of performance and benefits - small size, high efficiency, long life. However, the price difference compared to the T8 is significant. Therefore, before you buy, you will think about it. When choosing, remember that T8 fluorescent tubes T5 fields are saved in terms of the light spectrum, and the ratio RA. They have slightly lower viability and effectiveness, but also give good colors to fish and cause plant growth.

7. Ballasts - types and advantages

The following ballasts are available on the market:

  • Magnetic balancers, also called induction, are mainly used for T8 fluorescent tubes in combination with starters (also called starters). Their main advantage is the price. They are several times cheaper than electronic ballasts.
  • Electronic ballasts have been used for T5 fluorescent tubes and more recently also for T8 fluorescent tubes. Electronic ballast does not require the use of starters. The advantages of electronic ballasts in comparison with magnetic ones are, first of all, energy consumption (about 15%), they eliminate the effect of flickering light, increase the working time of pigeons up to 50% and emit less heat during operation.

8. Designations 865, 965, 840, 930, what is it?

These markings have an RA coefficient and color temperature encoded in them. for example, Philips 840 means that RA is greater than 80 and less than 90 (number 8), and the color temperature is 4000K (number 40). Another example of 965 means that RA is greater than 90, which is very good, and such fluorescent lamps cost more than eight, and the color temperature is 6500K. Sometimes there are slight differences, such as the NARVA BIOVITAL 955, which has a color temperature of 5800K and not a number representing 5500K. Therefore, for an accurate estimate of the temperature coefficient of temperature and RA, please refer to the fluorescence documentation or the manufacturer’s website.

9 . Determination of the required lighting power

There are different rules for determining the required lighting power. The old Ringwald rule says, for example, that for 1 dm 2 of the bottom of the tank there should be 0.75 W of fluorescent lighting or 2 when lit with incandescent lamps (this applies to a 30 liter tank). Another rule says that 1 liter of water requires a lighting power of 0.5 watts. In fact, it all depends on the depth of the aquarium and on what we will grow in it. For densely populated aquariums, it was assumed that the lighting should be about 0.6 W / l of water. It is very important to maintain the right balance between lighting power and the amount of nutrients available to plants. We will waste extra light if we do not provide enough nutrients for plants.

When choosing lighting, one should not offer the number of lumens that the light source gives, since the number of lumens does not reflect the actual number of emitted photons and only the subjective impression of the human eye. The more lumens, the human eye notices that the light is brighter. The human eye, however, can be tricked, and not always brighter light means that the number of emitted photons is greater. To determine the amount of light needed, you need to take into account another parameter - the number of watts or the power of light. You can also use reflectors to reduce losses. These are aluminum mirrors with a high mirror finish for fluorescent lamps, which direct all the light down, while maintaining the least loss. Thanks to this, you can use less light power up to 30%. These are not expensive toys, and the effect they created is visible to the naked eye :). You must also make sure that the surface of the water is not static, because it will act like a mirror reflecting light and cause loss. Filters and aerators that form air bubbles that break and set in motion a water mirror are the best.

Note. When using strong lighting, it is necessary to provide plants with carbon dioxide and nutrients in large quantities. However, care must be taken not to upset the biological balance. With an excess of nutrients not used by plants, algae will grow.

10. Some tips for installing lighting

To keep the lighting in the aquarium as close to natural as possible, it is recommended to use mixed lighting (for example, red and blue fluorescent lamps, fluorescent lamps with warm and cold light). It is important that the aquarium is illuminated for 12-14 hours for 24 hours. We fix the light source (s) in the aquarium housing (purchased at a pet store or made by hand), insulate its interior with aluminum foil, paint it with white paint or install it inside a mirror (reducing light loss). The length of the fluorescent lamps should be shorter than the aquarium only by attaching them to the lid. Lighting stronger (with more power) should be in front of the aquarium (plants will lean towards the glass of the aquarium). Replace fluorescent lamps with new ones from time to time due to burnout (reduced light intensity).

Why do you need light in the aquarium

In the absence of lighting devices, it will not be possible to provide sufficient, proper lighting to pets. Under natural conditions, this time is 12 hours.

For each type of fish, aquarium lighting is selected: soft, diffused light, bright rays.

It is also necessary if you have planted live plants. Without it, the process of photosynthesis will not take place, oxygen in water will become scarce.

Lamps are divided into types characterized by energy consumption, power.

  • Glow. The only pet this aquarium lighting is suitable for is the land tortoise. An incandescent lamp overheats water too much and generates heat, does not interfere with the propagation of algae and pathogenic bacteria. Good quality lamps are energy consuming.
  • Luminescent. This is not the best way to properly illuminate the aquarium, but for unpretentious creatures it is quite suitable. It has low power.
  • Metal halide. These lamps are a good option for aquariums. They are not energy-consuming, have small dimensions, long service life, and large light output. Metal halide lamps are similar to natural solar radiation, which is good for the well-being of the inhabitants.
  • LED light. Suitable for most pets. Comfortable in the degree of aquarium light, durability, have a wide range of glow. The downside of these lamps is the high cost of quality products. It is produced not only in the form of lamps, but also with LED panels and spotlights.

More information about the types of lamps, lamps for the aquarium, their characteristics are described separately.

Characteristics of aquarium lighting

The main power standards of lighting devices:

  • 0.1-0.3 watts per liter of aquarium. Preferred maintenance of inhabitants with a nocturnal lifestyle, catfish. Of plants, weak power is suitable for Javanese moss, wallisneria.
  • 0.4-0.5 watts / liter. In such a reservoir, plants will grow slowly. Shade-loving plants should be planted, because other species will be drawn to the source of light, become thin, weak.
  • 0.5-0.8 watts / liter. This is the best option for a standard aquarium. Plants grow well, do not lack aquarium light.
  • 0.8-1 watts / liter. This power is suitable for fish, plants living in constant direct sunlight. Another such indicator is necessary for aquascaping, aquariums with the number of plants exceeding the scope.

In addition to watts / liter, another unit of change is also used - lumens (lm), which are now more accurate than watts / liter. Because Watt / l does not take into account the characteristics of the lamp, but they differ too much.

Another main characteristic of illumination is power. With insufficient power it will not work to grow healthy plants, other inhabitants.

In a tank without plants, illumination is not very important, fish are undemanding to it.

Time and light mode

When lighting the tank, it is important to follow the rules so as not to harm the pets.

  • The developed daily light mode. It must turn on at a certain time, turn off at a certain time. Under natural conditions, the duration of the day / night is approximately constant, but in containers due to the fault of the owners, the searchlights are often turned off / on at different times. Such failures in the mode will lead to imbalance, stress in fish, vegetation.
  • Slow rather than abrupt transition to darkness. In nature, the sun does not set instantly, and it is desirable to create similar conditions in a fish tank. In order not to annoy the fish, first turn off the aquarium equipment, leave the room for a few minutes. Only then turn off the remaining appliances.
  • The duration of the light mode. It is 12 hours. Less or more time in the aquarium is harmful to the underwater inhabitants.

Colour temperature

The color temperature, its saturation, it is important to consider when preparing equipment at home for fish. For most fish, a comfortable temperature range is 6–20 thousand Kelvin, but you should give preference to a range above 10 thousand Kelvin, because the color temperature becomes familiar to white fish. The larger the tank, the richer the color temperature should be.

Daylight Control

Daylight hours should not fluctuate every day. To ensure proper control of daylight hours, purchase inexpensive sockets with a timer that will turn off automatically after a lapse of time.

They are mechanical and electronic. Mechanical ones are more resistant, durable, but electronic ones are better tuned, failures rarely occur.

Lighting Choice

  • When choosing equipment, select the intensity, saturation of light. For this, the characteristics of the reservoir are taken into account: the number of fish, plants, the volume of the reservoir, the salinity of the water, the amount of water.
  • Choice of lamp type. The effect on fish and cost depends on this choice.
  • Choose underwater inhabitants and greens with approximately the same light requirements. But you should focus on vegetation, it is it that releases oxygen into the water.

Underwater light

With a lack of light or additional illumination of the parts of the tank, underwater lighting is used for the aquarium - spotlight. The backlight on the aquarium consists of a hermetically sealed container and a source of bright light inside. It happens white, blue, red. Most often used for decoration, intentional lighting of underwater figures or other decor.

Volume selection

Having built the lighting based on the volume, you can change it under other conditions. It is important to take not the volume of the tank itself, but the volume of water, without air, soil.

0.5 to 0.8 watts is required per liter in a standard tank. This value varies from the needs of fish and vegetation.

Depth Selection

Selecting the depth of the aquarium lighting is problematic, because every 10 cm of water absorption of light occurs - 50% of the photons scatter, do not reach the next layer. With good lighting, only a small amount of light will fall to the bottom. Therefore, the deeper the aquarium, the more powerful its lighting should be.

What aquarium plants need

They forget about lighting for an aquarium with plants or consider that they do not need special care, certain living conditions. To create a comfortable environment, knowledge of the basics of biology is useful.

For life, plants need inorganic, organic substances, carbon dioxide, light, water.

Light wavelength

The white wavelength is 5500 Kelvin. This is a comfortable indicator for most herbs. Oscillations in different directions from this indicator are possible - cold light (6000–18000 Kelvin) or warm light (1200–3000 Kelvin).

Lighting duration

The lighting duration is selected the same as it was in the homeland of fish. Most species in pet stores come from tropical countries. In the tropics, daylight hours are 12 hours. This is an optimal indicator: at 8 hours, the plants will not have time to synthesize the obtained substances, and at 15 hours the plants get tired, stop absorbing light. And also too long a period of illumination contributes to the prosperity of algae on the walls, leaves.

Plant growth under different types of lamps

The health of the greenery also depends on the type of lamp selected. The best option is metal halide lamps. They are most similar to natural radiation and do not heat water. Under ordinary incandescent lamps and fluorescent lamps, herbs live well, but these lamps also have disadvantages. And under an LED lamp it is better not to contain plants at all. LEDs do not give enough light to plants; high-quality LEDs are expensive.

Common mistakes

Beginning aquarists often choose the wrong time for lighting the aquarium, forcing the inhabitants to experience a light excess or lack. To avoid this, the basic mistakes of beginners are described below:

  • Choose white color - it is more comfortable for fish and greens than blue and red spectrum. These colors are used as backlight.
  • If the lighting is too long, the thread, beard and other algae begin to multiply abundantly.
  • Choose metal halide lamps or combine different types of lamps.

The light in the aquarium is one of the first characteristics that should be taken into account when arranging a house for fish and vegetation. Approach his choice responsibly, choosing high-quality equipment.