THE BASICS OF FISHKEEPING
One of the most confusing aspects of setting up your tank
is the lighting to use. Today there are many types to
choose from, including the Incandescent, Fluorescent and
the Metal Halide.
In this section I will give a brief description of each
type and then some of the aquarium uses for each.
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This is the type lighting that you see around your home.
Incandescent bulbs are used in lamps, desk lights and
spotlights etc, these lamps give a natural pleasing light
but are useful for only the smallest of aquariums. They
give off a lot of heat and are not energy efficient.
This is the most widely used aquarium lighting. They come
in all lengths and wattages. They also can be made to any
color spectrum from the Red to the Blue-White. These bulbs
can be used on Freshwater plant tanks to Salt water
Mini-Reef set ups. The fixtures for these bulbs are as
diverse as the bulbs . There is the simple one bulb
fixture, the multiple bulb type, where you can mix and
match different color bulbs for that custom look. You can
also purchase the components at any hardware store and
design your own fixture.
- Full spectrum or Daylight bulbs
Full spectrum or Daylight bulbs try to closely imitate the look of natural sunlight. They provide a wide spectrum of Red, Yellow, Blue and Green light. These type bulbs are a good choice for use in most aquarium applications. These bulbs are also used at the same time with the Actinic bulbs used in Salt water set-ups. Full spectrum and Daylight bulbs offer a natural appearance and provide a good source of light for Freshwater plants. Some brand names to look for.
- Phillips Ultralume
- Coralife Trichromatic
- Aquarium products Beauty light
- Duro Vita Lite
- G.E. Chroma 50 and Chroma 75
- Actinic bulbs
Actinic bulbs provide their spectrum in the range required for the the Photosynthetic process and health of Marine corals and Invertebrates and to a lesser extent freshwater plants. Actinic bulbs should not be used alone , but in conjuntion with other full spectrum bulbs. Actiic bulbs are heavy in the blue light and can give everything a bluish tint. Some brands to look for.
- Phillips Actinic 03
- Coralife 7100K actinic and Magtinic
- Aquarium products Blue Moon
- Duro Vita lite Aquatinic
- Voltarc Actinic
- Other bulbs
There are also available many hybrid bulbs which contain a mix of full spectrum and Actinic Phosophors, these can be useful where you have a light fixture that can hold only one.
The new kid on the block, Metal-Halides are the ultimate in
aquarium lighting (and price). They are the best lights for
Freshwater plant tanks as well as Saltwater mini-Reefs.
These bulbs produce a very bright, high quality light. They
come in the the most varied of color temperatures ranging
from 4000o to 20000o Kelvin and the
Actinic 03 needed by Reef tanks.
Metal Halide fixtures are designed to either hang above the
fish tank or be mounted in special tops, in order to
disperse the light and the amount of heat radiated to the
aquarium. Although the ultimate in lighting, due to their
high cost and special safety requirements I do not
recomemend them for the beginner.
There are four main aquarium lighting situations.
- A Freshwater tank with no live plants.
- A Freshwater tank with live plants.
- A Saltwater fish only tank.
- A Saltwater Reef or semi Reef tank containing live
corals and invertebrates as well as fish.
#1 Freshwater tank with no live plants
- This type aquarium can be lit with Fluorescent lamps
designed with color enhancement or simple shop lights
available at the hardware store. The number of tubes and
the duration of the lighting are not critical, as you only
want to see your fish. Incandescent bulbs can be used on
smaller set ups under 10 gallons in size. One drawback to
this lighting is that as water quality goes down the growth
of the undesirable brown and black algae becomes a problem.
#2 Freshwater tank with live plants
The options and choices involved in this type set up are a
little more diverse. The plants in the tank need more high
quality light for Photosynthesis. Here you can use two
different types of systems.
- Metal Halide systems provide the best lighting for
aquarium plants. These lights provide intense high quality
light without the need for multiple tubes. Metal Halide
systems are very costly and are out of the reach of most
- Fluorescent systems can provide enough light for
plants, but you will have to use multiple tubes. The bulbs
chosen should be full spectrum to allow for photosynthesis,
the so called aquarium plant lights sold are not the best
Fluorescent lamps come in different types the normal output
(NO) or the very high output (VHO) are the most common. The
VHO bulbs produce much more light than the NO bulbs but
require a special
to ignite them. Multiple fluorescent tube fixtures
are the best choice for the beginner.
#3 Saltwater fish only tanks
- These set ups can be lit with multiple full spectrum
fluorescent lamps in either the normal output or the vho
system. Although the light is not required for the fish you
want to make sure that is of a quality that will promote
the growth of the Green algae that some marine fish relish.
Insufficient light will promote the growth of the
#4 Saltwater reef and semi reef set ups
- These set ups need very intense high quality lighting.
Smaller tanks can be lit with multiple fluorescent tubes,
while the larger tanks will need VHO or Metal Halide
systems. Proper photosynthesis can only happen with intense
full spectrum lighting. Improper lighting in reef aquariums
will cause the Zooxanthellae in Anemones and corals to die
and they will shrink to nothing. It is important to know
that lighting in a reef tank is more important than