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Lighting in the New Planted Aquarium

This article addresses lighting in the new planted aquarium and how to achieve the proper lighting.

Matt Helgeson's Tank
Matt Helgeson's aquarium pictured above and achieved by using our setup advice

Proper lighting in a new planted aquarium

When considering the setup of a planted aquarium from scratch, lighting must be one of your most important considerations. Aquarium plants need the right kind of lighting and the appropriate amount. Live plants utilize the reds and the blues primarily, which means you want a light with 6500-6700 Kelvin Temp bulbs. This will give you the right balance of colors needed. Go higher where there is not enough red and too much blue and your plants will take on a squatty look, go too low with too much red and not enough blue and internodes will be too far spaced apart.

Watts per gallon?

This is the old standard, however with good reflectors and High Output bulbs this negates the old standard of two to three watts per gallon. Less is more, both from the standpoint of balancing your planted aquarium so that plants and nutrients are not overdriven by the lights, and so that you experience less algae problems which comes with too much light, the result being imbalance with CO2 and nutrients needed by the plants because the photosynthesis is driven higher.

T-5, LED, or other?

LEDs are very attractive due to the small amount or no heat they put out, bulb life, energy costs. Unfortunately unless you are willing to spend upwards of eight hundred dollars, LED lighting is not sufficient for the plants needs in terms of intensity and colors. There is one LED system that says it is for planted aquariums that claims pretty high lumens, however upon observing this system, in my humble opinion it is very low light for plants. Also, T-5's come with built in reflectors to put the light where it is needed, which is down into the aquarium. I recommend the T-5 lighting like the ones here; Aquatic Life T-5 for planted aquariums Regular flourescent lighting that comes with aquarium kits in the form of a hood with no reflector is only good for very low light plants!

How much light and How Long??

For most aquariums two bulb T-5 fixtures are all you will ever need. And running those six hours the first two weeks, eight hours for the next two weeks, and then finally ten hours a day will grow your plants very well. If you need help with figuring out your lighting needs, contact me by email.

Aquatic Scapes
P.O. Box 1115
Faribault, MN 55021
Telephone: 507-331-5801
Fax: 507-384-3146

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