Aquarium LightingPutting together a nice home aquarium takes a bit of a commitment but is a very rewarding hobby that is not as time consuming as you may think! They key to a successful fish tan is proper maintenance and care of the tank and fish. Having adequate aquarium lighting is good for your tank and lets you see your fish better!
Aquarium LightingLee Dobbins
Your fish and plants will need around 12 hours a day of light to best simulate their natural environment and make them feel right at home. Think about putting your lights on a timer in order to be consistent as too much, too little, or inconsistent lighting may stress your fish and cause health problems.
While most aquarium's come with hoods that have lights included, you can buy different types of lights depending on your needs. In most beginner situations, the lighting that comes with your aquarium (if it is flourescent) will be sufficient for fresh water tanks.
If your tank came with incandescent lighting, you should be able to easily screw a flourescent bulb into the hood in place of the incandescent. Saltwater tanks, especially reef tanks require different lighting which I will discuss briefly below. Not all tanks come with hoods - hoods are highly recommended to cut down on water evaporation, prevent fish from jumping out (and other things from getting in) and to house your lighting.
Flourescent vs Incandescent LightingAquarium Plants Require Broader Lighting
Flourescent lighting, although a bit more expensive than incandescent lighting, is your best bet for aquarium as it more closely simulates that natural light of the sun and will show off your fish colors. In fact, incandescent lighting (including halogen lamps) should be avoided since it will throw off a lot of heat and could cause the water in your tank to be too warm resulting in loss of fish. It is recommended that you have around 3 watts of lighting per gallon of water, if you notice that green algae is taking over your tank then you probably are using too much light, but if you can keep fern like plants alive then it is probably enough light. Your aquarium lights will become weaker over time and should be replaced every 8 months, even if the light still seems to be working fine!
Do your aquarium plants die after a couple of months?
Aquarium lighting for tanks with plants is different than for all fish tanks. Aquarium plants can last as long as house plants if cared for properly. While you may be able to keep some fern like plants with regular flourescent aquarium lighting, most plants require a full spectrum flourescent bulb or tri-phosphor tubes which concentrate on the red, blue and green spectrum ranges.Designer Lighting
You can add interest to your aquarium lighting with dramatic laser light. Showy laser lights in different colors can be placed strategically in your tank. You can even buy a simulated coral reef with a fascinating display of color and light. While this type of aquarium lighting may be cool to look at, I'm not so sure your fish will enjoy it as much as you will so use if infrequently. This lighting should not be used to replace your flourescent lighting.Saltwater Tanks
For a saltwater fish only tank, the flourescent lighting outlined above should be sufficient, however sooner or later you will want to add some live corals or rocks so it is best to be prepared and purchase am aquarium lighting fixture that can use 2 tubes, that way you won't have to buy a whole new hood when you want to expand in the future. While some lower light corals can survive with aquarium lighting around 4 watts per gallon range, other corals will need 5-8 watts per gallon.
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