Do Aquarium Plants Need Light? (5 Plants That Survive In Low Light)

Image of light falling on aquatic plants

Live plants beautify an aquarium and make it a pleasant dwelling place for your pets. However, you cannot enjoy the benefits of a planted aquarium without paying close attention to all the needs of your aquarium plants. And just like in the case of terrestrial plants, their lighting deserves special attention. So, do aquarium plants need light?

Yes, all aquatic plants need light to prepare food through the photosynthesis process. While sun plants need intense light for active photosynthesis, shade plants can manage with less light. Nonetheless, all aquatic plants need light for survival and will perish if their lighting needs are not met.

With that said, let’s now take a look at the lighting needs of aquatic plants.

What Are The Light Requirements Of Aquatic Plants?

Different plants have different lighting needs. Some plants need intense light to grow and thrive.

For instance, stem plants need intense light. Meanwhile, plants like ferns can flourish in low light.

So, you will have to plan your lighting arrangements and placement of plants in the aquarium according to their specific lighting needs.

Now, you should keep in mind that light does not penetrate water very well.

So, you may have to use an artificial light source to satisfy the lighting needs of your aquatic plants.

If you use a single light source, you can place the most demanding plants in the center of the aquarium while growing your shade plants along the edges.

Even if you place your aquarium near a sunny window, you may still have to use artificial lighting.

You should also remember that sunlight will promote algae growth.

Hence, placing an aquarium in full sun is also not a good idea.

Do All Aquarium Plants Need Light?

Although different species have different light needs, all aquatic plants need some amount of light to survive.

Without light, they cannot perform photosynthesis and produce food for survival.

When there is enough light, the chlorophyll pigment needed for photosynthesis in their leaves is activated.

With carbon dioxide from the water, they can produce food.

Without light, photosynthesis comes to a standstill, and the plants will ultimately die.

Generally, plants that need intense light are more difficult to manage.

Not only will you have to invest more in your lighting setup, but it will also involve more maintenance.

Sun-loving plants are more likely to grow profusely. Hence, regular pruning is often necessary to keep the growth under check.

Recommended Further Reading:

Aquarium Plants That Do Not Need Light

Technically, all aquarium plants need light to survive. However, some plants can tolerate low-light conditions.

If you are new to keeping aquatic plants or want a low maintenance planted tank, choose such plants. Here are some options to consider:

  • Anubias Barteris,
  • Java Moss,
  • Java Fern,
  • Rotala Rotundifolia, and
  • Moneywort.

Different Types Of Aquarium Lighting

When it comes to aquarium lighting, you have the following options:

  1. Incandescent Lights: Although these lights were a common choice for aquariums in the past, they are no longer popular. Incandescent lights are inefficient at penetrating deep into the water. They also tend to heat up, do not last long, and are expensive in the long run.
  2. Fluorescent Lights: These are the most common types of lights in aquariums. They are energy efficient and easily available. However, fluorescent lights are not very strong. Hence, they are not the best choice for planted aquariums.
  3. Compact Fluorescent Lights: These are smaller than standard fluorescent lights. However, they supply stronger light and are good for planted tanks. The only concern is that compact fluorescent lights produce heat. So, they overheat the tank.
  4. Metal Halide: These are strong lights that penetrate deep into the water. Hence, they are suitable for large tanks. However, metal halide lights also produce a lot of heat.
  5. T-5 HO Bulbs: They are good for planted aquariums as they are fluorescent and do not produce much heat. However, T5 HO bulbs do not penetrate to great depths and may not be enough for deep tanks.

When you choose the light for your aquarium, you should consider the following factors:

  • Size of the tank,
  • Placement of plants,
  • Type of plants, and
  • Depth of water.

You should also consider how long the bulb will last and your budgetary constraints to make a wise choice.

For large tanks with bushy rooted plants, you need high-intensity lights. However, most strong lights produce heat.

To offset the heating effect, you will have to install auxiliary fans at an additional cost.

LED lighting is ideal, especially if you have exotic plants in your aquarium. You can quickly set them up with very basic fixtures.

The light will also penetrate deep into the water and encourage better plant growth.

Apart from the standard lighting fixtures, there are other types of lights like UV lights and colored lights that are used in aquariums.

Let us talk more about them.

Related Further Reading:

What Are UV Lights For Aquariums? Do Aquarium Plants Need UV Light?

The main purpose of UV light in an aquarium is to sterilize the water. UV radiations target free-floating parasitic microorganisms in a water tank.

Apart from destroying parasites like bacteria, they also reduce the occurrence of algae in aquatic settings.

However, they will not kill organisms attached to aquarium inhabitants like fish.

They will only eliminate organisms that are floating freely in the water.

UV lights come in the form of UV sterilizers that can be conveniently installed in an aquarium.

They can either be a stand-alone unit or a fitting that you can hang or attach to the aquarium wall.

For UV sterilizers to be effective, the aquarium water should be clear.

Turbid water affects the penetration of UV light and makes it less effective in killing parasites.

While aquarium plants will benefit from growing in a clean and germ-free environment, they do not need UV lights for their survival.

This light does not promote their growth directly and hence is not a requirement, especially in small tank settings.

Are Colored Lights Good For Aquarium Plants? Do Aquarium Plants Need Blue Light?

You may already know that white light is formed of different colors.

Of all the colors in the light spectrum, blue light has profound importance in the growth of plants.

Blue light drives photosynthesis and promotes plant growth.

For aquarium plants, blue light is helpful because it easily penetrates the water and reaches deep into it.

So, it can reach ground cover plants as well and improve their growth potential.

Aquarium plants can perform photosynthesis in white light.

They do not need blue light specifically. However, there are benefits to using blue light in aquatic settings.

It will encourage growth, and the plants will look thick and bushy.

Since fish and other fauna in aquariums are not affected by the wavelength of light, you can vary the light setting to suit your plants.

By increasing the blue component of light, you can encourage your aquatic plants to grow thicker and faster.

Interesting Further Reading:

How Long Do Aquarium Plants Need Light?

Most aquarium plants need light for eight to twelve hours a day.

In a room with ambient lighting for most of the day, you will need additional lighting for just a few hours every day.

Nevertheless, you will most likely have to supplement natural lighting with focused aquarium lights.

By switching on aquarium lights for at least a few hours, you can help your aquatic plants grow fast and thick.