Best Lighting for Freshwater Aquarium Plants

Grow healthy live aquarium plants in a freshwater aquarium by choosing aquarium lighting that suits the needs of aquatic vegetation.

Decorating with an aquarium? A small fish tank can become a multifaceted environment for fish and plants. Fish tanks that have live plants are a diverse and beautiful addition to a living space, but they do need to be maintained. When live plants are part of a fish tank, light becomes an important factor.

Why Do Freshwater Aquarium Plants Need Light?

Plants need light to grow. Like all plants, aquarium plants make their own food through photosynthesis. Light is an essential part of this process. While some plants naturally love low light levels and thrive in them, other plants are best suited for medium or high light levels and will die without sufficient light.

Natural Light for Aquarium Plants

It seems odd to choose an artificial light for an aquarium full of natural, living plants. While some natural light can be beneficial for aquatic plants, the natural light regimes of the fish tank can be challenging for aquarium plants. A small tropical fish tank cannot completely replicate the dappled light that would exist in a natural freshwater tropical river or lake. Also, many people in temperate zones keep fish tanks, and daily light levels on cloudy winter days can be quite minimal. In the summer, a tank placed in intense light can easily get too hot, and algae may bloom vigorously inside the tank. A tank placed in a low light area may not have adequate light levels for the plants. Indirect light complemented by an artificial light is a good choice for an aquarium owner who wants some natural light for aquatic plants.

Different Aquarium Plants Need Different Levels of Light

To choose a fish tank light for the home aquarium, research the light levels that each plant requires. In a small tank, choose plants with similar light requirements. Mixing plants that require high light levels with those that need little light is asking for at least one plant to be unhappy in the aquarium. A tank full of low light plants can sometimes do well with indirect light from windows, complemented by a small aquarium light.

Choosing a Fish Tank Light for Aquatic Vegetation

Fluorescent light bulbs are the bulb of choice for many beginning aquarists. While they are not the perfect bulb for plants, they are energy efficient, do not generate a lot of excess heat, and are suitable for easy care aquarium plants.

For those who are looking for the next level in aquatic plant care, a full spectrum or daylight bulb is ideal for aquarium plants. These bulbs provide light that mimics that of natural daylight.

New metal halide bulbs are expensive and need special precautions because they can be hot. They require special light fixtures that may hang above the aquarium. These bulbs have high quality light, but they are not for the beginner.

Place Aquarium Lighting on a Timer

It can be hard to remember to turn the lights in a fish tank on and off, and plants suffer if neglected for too long. Placing lights on a timer that turns on and off automatically can help aquarium owners manage the light levels in the tank, even when on vacation. Fish in the tank will also appreciate the regular light and dark periods in the aquarium, since constant light can be stressful for fish.

Growing live aquarium plants can be an interesting and educational addition to an aquarium hobby, and it is also a way to add beautiful, living cover and food for aquarium fish. Some live aquarium plants can be remarkably vigorous and easy to grow. Choosing the correct light for an aquarium is one step towards creating a healthy environment for aquatic plants and fish.



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