4 Best Types of Lighting Systems for Planted Aquariums

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
The right lights on your aquarium can not only make your tank shine, but it’s also necessary component for plants to thrive.

When it comes to cultivating a thriving planted aquarium, what is the most important requirement? Lighting. Without adequate lighting, your aquarium plants will not have the energy they need to grow. Choosing the right lighting for your planted tank can be tricky, however, since there are so many options to choose from. In this article you will learn about the best lighting systems for planted tanks and you will receive some tips for making your choice.

Related: Watts Going On With Your Aquarium Lighting?

How Much Light do Plants Need?

Without light, the live tanks in your plant will not only fail to thrive, but they will slowly die off. Light is a form of energy for plants and they use it to power the process of photosynthesis through which they convert carbon dioxide absorbed through the leaves into simple sugars – oxygen is a byproduct of this process. Although lighting is very important for live plants, there is such a thing as too much lighting. You should only plan to leave your aquarium lights on for 10 to 12 hours per day. If you leave the lights on for too long it could cause excess algae to grow and the algae will start competing with your plants for nutrients. Your best bet is to place your lighting system on an automatic timer so it will turn your lights on and off at the right intervals.

Related: Can You Sustain a Planted Tank Without a Filter?

Best Planted Tank Lighting Systems

There are many different options to choose from when it comes to lighting for the planted tank. Below you will find an overview of some of the most popular planted tank lighting systems:

Compact Fluorescent: As an alternative to standard fluorescent lighting, compact fluorescents offer greater intensity and higher wattages. Compact fluorescent bulbs are smaller than standard fluorescents but they come in wattages between 10 and 130 – they also have a longer lifespan of up to 28 months. This type of lighting is ideal for freshwater planted tanks, though you may need an aquarium chiller or auxiliary fan to prevent the tank from overheating because these lights produce a lot of heat.

T-5 High Output: Also known as T-5 HO lighting, T-5 high output lighting is another type of fluorescent lighting system. This type of lighting produces high-intensity light and the bulbs are even more compact than compact fluorescents. T-5 HO lighting comes in wattages from 24 to 54 and the bulbs can last for 2 years. This type of lighting is best for freshwater planted tanks under 24 inches deep.

Very High Output: Also known as VHO, this type of lighting comes in wattages between 75 and 165 and they can last as long as 18 months. These bulbs are perfect for larger planted tanks, though they do produce a lot of heat so you may need to use an auxiliary fan or aquarium chiller to keep the tank from overheating.

Metal Halide: This type of lighting system is one of the most powerful options available and it is preferable for freshwater planted tanks more than 24 inches deep. Metal halide lighting system offer wattages up to 1000 and it is high-intensity, wide-spectrum lighting. Bulbs can last for 18 months and they do produce a lot of heat, so keep this in mind – you will need to use an auxiliary fan or an aquarium chiller with this type of lighting.

Now that you understand the basics about aquarium lighting for planted tanks you should be equipped to select the right lighting system for your own tank. Just keep in mind the recommendations for how much lighting live plants need and choose your lighting system accordingly.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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