4 Factors that Affect Aquarium Lighting

4 Factors that Affect Aquarium Lighting

fish tank with light

Aquarium lighting is crucial for both the aesthetic of the aquarium and the survival of the creatures inside. It adds beauty to your room and helps your fish and plants live.

However, figuring out the right amount of light can be tough.

How Much Light Does Your Aquarium Need?

Here’a a small handy table for reference:

Average aquarium10 hours daily
Tropical fish and plants12 hours daily
Cold water fish and plants8 hours daily
No plantsLess light is needed

Factors Affecting Aquarium Lighting

The amount of light needed in an aquarium depends on several things. Here are the four main factors:

  1. Plants: If you have live plants in your aquarium, they will need more light to grow well.
  2. Room Lighting: The amount of light already in the room can affect how much extra light your aquarium needs.
  3. Fish Species: Different types of fish need different amounts of light.
  4. Algae: If there’s a lot of algae in your aquarium, you might need to reduce the light to control its growth.

In general, you should plan to have your aquarium lights on for about 10 hours a day, but this can change based on the factors above.

1. Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants, similar to land plants, need light to make food through a process called photosynthesis. They use light to change carbon dioxide and water into food.

This light can come from the room or from extra lighting in the aquarium.

If you have live plants in your tank, you may need to leave the lights on for up to 12 hours a day. The exact time differs based on the type of plants and your tank setup.

But, if your tank doesn’t have live plants, you only need light for the fish.

It’s a good idea to match your plants to your fish. For instance, use tropical plants for tropical fish tanks and cold-water plants for cold-water species tanks.

Also, choose light levels that mimic the plants’ natural environment.

Tropical plants like the banana, amazon, java, and water fern plants do well with about 12 hours of light each day, all year round.

Cold water plants like anubias species and tiger lotus prefer changing light levels with the seasons.

When you add new live plants to your tank, it helps to leave the light on longer. This helps the plants take root and grow well.

Important Things About Aquatic Plants

True aquatic plants need to be kept wet all the time because if they dry out, they might perish. Do not wash them under tap water as the chlorine in it can harm the plants.

If you notice a white slimy substance on the plants, don’t worry. This is good bacteria that fish eat. It’s completely natural and helps maintain a balance in your aquarium.

Make sure that your live plants are firmly planted in the aquarium gravel or sand. Avoid planting them too closely together. They need space to grow and they need light to reach all their parts.

Your fish should have enough space to swim around and through the plants without any difficulty.

Some aquarium plants like vallisneria increase their numbers by themselves. They grow new plants under the gravel or sand, which sprout next to the parent plant.

If you want, you can cut these new plants off and plant them elsewhere in your aquarium.

2. Ambient Room Lighting

The amount of light your fish tank needs depends on the light already in the room. If the room is bright enough, like a sunroom with many windows, you might not need extra light.

But usually, you’ll need to turn on the aquarium lights each day. However, a well-lit room won’t need the aquarium lights on for 12 hours.

In winter, when days are shorter, keep the aquarium lights on for longer. This helps the plants in the tank grow better. When the days get longer, you can reduce the lighting time.

3. Fish Species

Aquarium lighting is mostly for us to see the fish, not so much for the fish. Most fish get more light in an aquarium than in the wild, and they don’t mind it.

Some fish, like cichlids and tetras, like less light. Too much light can be bad for them.

Think about where the fish come from to decide how much light they need. Tropical fish from places with about 12 hours of daylight might need the same in an aquarium.

For fish from places with changing daylight hours, like goldfish and zebrafish, you might want to change the light amount over the year.

Try to mimic the fish’s natural light conditions in the aquarium.

4. Algae

Having too much light in your aquarium can cause algae to grow more. If you’re seeing a lot of algae, it might be because your aquarium lights are on for too long.

Try turning them off earlier, so they’re only on for about eight hours each day. This can help slow down the growth of the algae.

However, you need to find a balance. Your aquarium plants need light too, so don’t turn the lights off for too long.

Where your aquarium is located can also affect algae growth. If it’s near a window where it gets a lot of sunlight, this can cause more algae to grow.

But it also means you might not need to use the aquarium lights as much.

So, keep an eye on how much algae is growing. This can help you figure out if your aquarium is getting the right amount of light.

How to Control Aquarium Lighting?

If you have a fish tank, it’s tough to remember to turn the lights on and off at the same time every day.

But here’s a nifty solution: buy a lighting timer.

You plug your aquarium lights into this timer. Then, you set the time when you want the lights to turn on and when you want them to turn off.

This way, your fish get the right amount of light every day. It’s a simple and cheap fix that every fish tank owner should use.

Effects of Heat Produced by Aquarium Lighting

Aquarium lights can generate heat along with light. Certain types like incandescent, vho-fluorescent, and metal halide lights can increase the water temperature in your fish tank, especially if it’s small.

This can be harmful and even lethal to your fish and plants. So, if you have these types of lights, you need to keep a constant check on the water temperature and not leave the lights on all night.

Standard fluorescent lights are a safer option for most aquariums as they produce cooler light. They can be left on for longer without causing harm.

Many tropical fish and plants do well under these lights. Additionally, LED lights are another good option. They come in different colors, are cheap to use, and don’t generate much heat.

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