Freshwater Aquarium Lighting – Tips and Tricks You Must Know

No freshwater aquarium is complete without the proper lighting. This is often overlooked. Not having adequate lighting could end up being a costly exercise.

Without the correct lighting, plants and fish will wither and die.

You also need to consider that all lighting generates heat. The more powerful lighting systems will obviously generate more heat and would require greater temperature control than less powerful lighting.

There is a vast choice of lighting.

Selecting the right lighting for a given situation is important. These are three basic but different styles of freshwater aquarium lighting.

There is the basic standard fluorescent light. This is often used in smaller tanks where no plant life will reside. This type of lighting is quite adequate for fish but not sufficient for plant life.

Next you have the compact fluorescent light. This can be used in tanks that contain upward of 55 gallons or more. You can safely add plants when you use this type of lighting.

The third choice is the VHO or Very High Output. This freshwater aquarium lighting is suitable for tanks that contain 100 gallons or more. If you want to have plants then this type of lighting is suitable for them.

There are four criteria to consider regarding lighting for a freshwater aquarium:

  1. The number of lumens per watt
  2. Lumens per watt
  3. PAR and
  4. Watts

As a basic rule of thumb here is a general overview of which lighting is suitable for various conditions:

  • The recommended lighting for fish-only aquariums: Standard or power compact fluorescent systems. These use a minimum of 2-3 watts per every gallon of tank water.
  • For freshwater planted aquariums: Standard fluorescent, T-5HO, power compact and metal halide/HQI. These take a minimum of 4 watts per gallon; a higher ratio is best.
  • For marine reef aquariums: T-5 HO, VHO, Power Compact, Metal Halide/HQI. Reef tanks require a minimum of 4-6 watts per gallon and if your tank contains Coral, Anemones or Clams then increase it to 8-12 or more watts per gallon

It is important that you know which Kelvin Rating to make use of:

  • For fish you will need 5,500K to 20,000K depending on the species. Deeper tanks will require actinics.
  • For plants you will need 6,500K to 18,000K.
  • For reefs you will need 9,000K to 20,000K with actinics.

Many enthusiasts recommend 10,000K. They say they are the safest choice. These lights provide an excellent crisp bright white that looks amazing. Most aquarium owners feel this is the best choice for viewing. Having a freshwater aquarium is regarded as a hobby and you will derive great pleasure from having a tank that looks attractive and has functional and attractive lighting.

If you duplicate natural lighting conditions it will greatly increase the survival and growth rates of your aquatic life. Creating as close to realistic an eco-system as possible will enable your plants and fish life and all its organisms to survive in an environment that is as close to nature as possible.

You will get great pleasure watching your freshwater aquarium grow and prosper.