Lightings for Aquarium

Lightings for Aquariums

There are many people asking “what would be the best lighting for my aquarium?  The answer is, this depends on the type of aquarium setup that you have.  For both freshwater and marine tanks that does not have plants or corals, Just about any lights will do.  Freshwater tanks most of the time likes the red spectrum while marine tanks prefer the blue spectrum. Less intense lighting is required for fish only tanks.  This changes though if you have a freshwater planted tank and a reef tank. Lets discuss these two setups.

Planted Tank

Most of the time, if you want to grow plants in freshwater aquarium, you’ll need to consider 2 things; the light intensity and the light spectrum. Let’s remember that the intensity of light diminishes as the light goes deeper into the water.  Please see the guide below:

1. Recommended wattage for planted tanks is at least 2 watts per gallon (this does not apply to LED lights)
2. The color temperature should be in range from 6500K to 10000K (sometimes called as daylight bulbs)
3. T5 lighting is better than T8 bulbs
4. Metal Halide is highly recommended for tanks that is about 16 inches deep or more
5. LED lights are the best since it’s consumes less electricity and you don’t have to change the bulbs more often however this is the most expensive type of lighting.
6. For better coloration especially for tanks with red plants or red fish, a combination of red and daylight bulb is recommended.
7. If you’re fond of DIY and you can manage to create downlights on top of the aquarium, you can use Spiral bulbs probably (Philips, Osram or Firefly brand) as long as it is labeled as daylight or cool daylight. I have used    these bulbs and as far as instensity is concerned, it performs better than T5 bulbs.  I am using 2×30 watts Osram daylight bulb on a 25 gallon aquarium.

Reef Tank

Here’s the lighting guide for a reef tank:

1. I would say T5 lights are the minimum recommended type of lighting for a marine tank.
2. The color temperature should be between 10000K to 20000K.
3. Of course, Metal Halide is still one of the best if you talk about light intensity but you have to work on the heat it produce.
4. LED lighting is always the best, it produce less heat, consumes less electricity, only cons, the cost.
5. For reef tank, at least 3 watts per gallon is recommended (especially if you have soft corals or LPS only) but I have read in some articles and some forums that they can get as far as 10 watts per gallon without problems. 6. The recommended light spectrum is a combination of white and blue.

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  1. Hello…I’m stuck putting together a new freshwater tank. Tank size 20l 30″x12″x12″. I want plants like Dwarf Baby Tears, Staurogyne Repens, and Tall Hairgrass,. Fish like neons, zebras, and an angel. My problem is led lighting. So many to chose from so many tech details. I sure would like some suggestions on witch to chose from considering the 12″ depth of the tank. You can contact me on email with your thought if you want.

    Thanks in advance


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