What Are the Types of Aquarium Lighting?

Different aquariums need different types of light strength. On one end of the spectrum there is red light, which can only penetrate a short distance. At the other end is blue, which can go further into the water. Most fish are fine with yellow or green light; however, many aquarium plants need blue light to help them grow. There are several types of lighting available on the market for your aquarium.

Normal Florescent Bulbs
Normal Florescent or NO usually comes with a regular aquarium tank. This is enough for a fish-only setup. The NO bulbs tend to be cool and efficient; however, they are the least penetrating fluorescent bulbs. In aquariums with plants, they might be used as supplemental lighting.

High Output Bulbs
High output (HO) lights are available as T5 bulbs, which are smaller than the normal fluorescent. They emit more heat than the NO bulbs, but they usually come with a built in system to cut down on heat.

Very High Output Bulbs
Very High Output (VHO) comes in a variety of sizes; one of the most common is the T12. Although these bulbs emit heat, they don’t emit as much as a metal halide bulb. You get a more powerful light than the standard fluorescent. Unlike the metal halide, you get an even light source throughout your aquarium tank.

Power Compact Lights
These bulbs are designed slightly differently from the rest of the fluorescent bulbs. They have only one end cap attachment rather than the standard two, and the bulbs are available in different shapes from twin to square and triple. The bulbs are more efficient and powerful than other fluorescent bulbs. Power compact lights are smaller than normal fluorescent lights.

Metal Halide
This is a high intensity aquarium bulb that produces a focused light. The bulbs are used in freshwater and saltwater aquariums with plants and coral reefs. You will need to use a water chiller with these lights because they heat the water up and you might need a UV shield to cut down radiation. The bulbs are expensive and should be handled with care.

LED Lights
LED is not technically a light, but a light emitting diode. It is good for night time viewing of nocturnal fish.

LEDs are used increasingly commonly in aquarium lights. Particularly for reef aquariums, LED lights provide an efficient light source with less heat output to help maintain optimal aquarium temperatures. LED-based aquarium fixtures also have the advantage of being manually adjustable to emit a specific color-spectrum for ideal coloration of corals, fish, and invertebrates while optimizing photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) which raises growth and sustainability of photosynthetic life such as corals, anemones, clams, and macroalgae. These fixtures can be electronically programmed to simulate various lighting conditions throughout the day, reflecting phases of the sun and moon for a dynamic reef experience. LED fixtures typically cost up to five times as much as similarly rated fluorescent or high-intensity discharge lighting designed for reef aquariums and are not as high output to date.

LED aquarium lighting is most commonly used for nighttime lighting but has recently gained traction as being the main light source. Using an aquarium moon light has many benefits, especially for reef tanks. Moon lights complete the day/night cycle and can be synced with a timer to match the lunar cycle. Doing so can stimulate coral spawning and create great nighttime viewing. In addition to creating a cool shimmering moon light effect, LED lunar lights give you a window into what your nocturnal pets do at night. Using LED lighting as the main light source also has many benefits. LED bulbs are extremely energy efficient and last up to 5 years (50,000 hours). LED lights produce very little heat, are highly customizable and among the most handsome (and small) fixtures on the market today.

Coral Feeding Tips

Corals belong to a group of animals called Cnidarians. The Phylum Cnidaria consists of over 9,000 species of animals which are found exclusively in aquatic environments, and then mostly in marine habitats. Other types of Cnidarians are Jellyfish, Anemones, Sea Pens, and Box Jellies.

The simplest form of a coral is a polyp, which consists of a basal plate that is used to attach the coral, a digestive sac, and a mouth surrounded by tentacles with cnidocytes (or nematocysts) – stinging cells used to catch prey (see below diagram). These polyps reproduce asexually to form colonies of genetically identical individuals. These colonies are what is normally found in the home aquarium and can be extremely varied in both shape and colour, even within the same species of coral.

Corals, like all other animals, are either herbivorous (plant eating) or carnivorous (animal eating) and prey primarily on plankton (ie those organisms that are too small to swim against the currents and tides). Plankton can be separated into 3 main groups – Zooplankton, which consists of animals like copepods, amphipods, rotifers, and also larval forms of fish, crabs, and other corals; Phytoplankton, which consists of plants and algae like Tetraselmis, Nannochloropsis, Isochrysis; and Bacterioplankton, which consists of those bacteria which are responsible for breaking down organic material.

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Some corals also host within their cells a symbiotic (meaning “living together”) algae called Zooxanthellae. This algae is responsible for the primary brown colour attributed to a lot of corals. The more zooxanthellae a coral is hosting, the browner the coral becomes. This relationship is a mutualistic one, meaning that both organisms benefit from the association. The algae receives a fairly safe place to grow and reproduce, with a steady supply of “fertiliser”, while the coral receives a portion of the energy that the algae converts from the surrounding light.

It is this relationship which has led many aquarists into believing that corals only require a decent light for them to obtain the necessary energy to survive. Recent reports and studies have shown however that by providing a range of both phytoplankton and zooplankton to your reefs, not only will corals become more colourful (as they are reducing the zooxanthellae in their tissues and utilising the energy in the food they are hunting on themselves), they will grow faster, be more resilient to disease and predation, and we have also heard reports of corals actually spawning once plankton has been introduced into the home aquarium.

Obviously there is no miracle fix for growing corals. A wide variety of both abiotic and biotic factors influence how healthy corals will be. However if you do plan on keeping corals in your aquarium, you will be amazed at the difference the addition of plankton will have.

There are a variety of readily available plankton specifically designed for reef aquariums. Live zooplankton such as rotifers, copepods, artemia (newly hatched and also ranging through to adults), and amphipods are commonly available. Phytoplankton like Nannochloropsis, Tetraselmis, Isochrysis, Pavlova and Thalassiosira weissflogii are also available in concentrated amounts that are stored in the fridge, making it extremely easy to keep a variety of highly nutritious algae to feed to your animals. Products like Phyto Diet are an accumulation of individual species, allowing a well rounded diet to be easily added to the aquarium. Also products like Coral Diet mimic the zooplankton allowing aquarists to feed their reef without the need for culturing live plankton.

The right aquarium lighting can extend the health of your fish and encourage aquarium plant growth

The right aquarium lighting can extend the health of your fish and encourage aquarium plant growth, too. The wrong lighting or too little lighting can stress fish and even disrupt their life cycles. Aaron Hill explains, “Lighting not intended for aquariums lacks wavelengths of the daylight spectrum important to the health of your organisms, while including wavelengths that promote algae growth.” Focus first on creating the right lighting for your aquarium by considering the fish, plant or coral’s requirements and then add extra lighting enhancements to create unusual aquarium lighting for your observation pleasure.

Create a plan to address all the lighting needs for your fish and other aquarium life. Responsible fish owners will aim to simulate the natural environment as much as possible and use unusual lighting as an enhancement for observation but not as a main source unless the unusual lighting selected simulates the natural habitat.

Research the natural light requirements of your particular fish, aquarium plants and corals. Also consider the depth of your tank–deeper tanks may need stronger lights to penetrate into the depths of the fish tank.

Decide on the unusual aquarium lighting effect you are looking for: to enhance the color of your fish, to change the look of the water, to create a shimmering water effect similar to shallow waters outdoor or to add some light colors to the tank just for a fun effect. You may be able to achieve the effect you desire when you match up the right lighting with your particular fish or aquarium life. For instance, many fish lights that replicate night will cast a cool blue glow into the tank, which will enhance the colors of some fish.

To enhance the boldness of stripes or color contrast of your fish or to make light-colored or white fish stand out against a dark wall, backdrop or dark plant life, add a light fixture with a clamp to shine a black light bulb into the tank.

To replicate the shimmering water effect found in professional saltwater displays using metal halide lights, set up an LED lighting system instead. Unlike metal halides, the LED light system does not generate much heat, requires no cooling fans and and can help replicate the night and day cycle.

To create other colors in the tank or to cast other colors on white or light-colored fish, use an LED aquarium light system that can be fitted with white, blue, green and red lights and fully submerged in the fish tank for total control on where the light is cast. Or add additional light fixtures with clamps that hold incandescent bulbs in the colors you desire. Just remember that incandescent lights are great for color effects in your aquarium, but do not meet the natural day and night lighting your fish need.

Set up an aquarium light timer to go off every 12 hours so that you are reminded to manually change the lighting to create a natural lighting cycle. You can substitute an alarm clock for the timer.

Grow Aquarium Plants Tips

LED lighting is a fairly new development in the world of fishkeeping, but its affordability, energy efficiency and ideal light spectrum make it a perfect choice for aquaculturists. LED light fixtures give aquariums a marine-like, blue-violet ambiance similar to moonlight; in fact, these fixtures are commonly used as night-lights for saltwater aquariums. Unlike fluorescent and metal halide bulbs, LED bulbs are subtle and relatively dim. However, because of their high-wavelength light spectrum, LED bulbs are surprisingly useful for growing plants of all kinds, including notoriously temperamental species like red African hygro.

Set up the LED fixture so the light shines over a broad area of the tank. Do not light the aquarium from the side or corners; this may provide an interesting effect, but it doesn’t provide adequate light for photosynthesis.

Select plants that are appropriate for your aquarium’s size and chemistry. Recognize that most aquatic plants will not thrive in a saltwater or brackish environment. Easy-to-grow plants for beginners include water sprite, java fern, java moss, anubias and duckweed. These aquatic plants effectively increase dissolved oxygen in the water and help to remove nitrates; however, they are undemanding and thrive with little care.

Root the plants in a quarter of an inch of gravel (or the smallest amount necessary for keeping the plants in place). Understand that aquatic plants tend to rot or die prematurely if they are rooted too deeply.

Leave the LED aquarium lights on for 14 to 18 hours per day while the plants acclimate to their new environment. Reduce the amount of light at a rate of one hour per week until the tank is lit eight to 12 hours per day; this range is ideal for most fish and aquatic plants.

Check levels of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia at least once per week to ensure the health and vitality of your fish and invertebrates. Note that thriving plants generally reduce levels of these pollutants. Remove any dead or decaying plant matter from the tank promptly to prevent toxin buildup.

How to Use LED Aquarium Lights

LED lighting is an upgrade over the standard fluorescent lighting found in many reef setups. LED lights use tiny, electronic light emitting diodes (hence “LED”) to provide energy efficient illumination. Setting up an LED aquarium light on a reef tank is just as simple as setting up fluorescent light, but it will be much more expensive to buy. It requires the same measurements and considerations as a fluorescent light set up.

Measure the length of the reef tank from end to end. This is the length of the LED light fixture you need, though it is typically appropriate for it to be about 4 inches shorter.

Multiply the number of gallons in the tank by a number between three and five to determine the wattage. Most coral reef tanks require approximately three to five watts per gallon, so a 55-gallon aquarium will need between 165 and 275 watts. Soft corals need around three watts, while harder corals need five watts.

Place the light fixture atop the tank’s glass canopy.

Connect the LED power chord to a lamp dimmer. A lamp dimmer will gradually increase or decrease the amount of light in the tank to simulate the rising and setting of the sun.

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