Home Lighting your Aquarium

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Aquarium Lighting PDF Print E-mail

 


Probably no other topic in reef keeping is as controversial or more hotly debated than aquarium lighting. Many articles are written about it and there is much confusion about it in the industry.

metal halide bulb

You could write an entire book on lighting alone. But we are going to tell you what works for us. It may not be the best solution and, but it's really works for us, and hopefully it will give you a starting point. And then later on, you can make any adjustments that you think are important.

The aquarium industry has developed special light bulbs that have led to the success of keeping corals in captivity. It is important to use these bulbs. You can use standard ballasts, as long as they match your bulb, but its important to use metal halide or VHO or T5 fluorescent light bulbs specifically made for the reef aquarium.

When you're looking at the type of lighting that you want to use you should first consider what type of live corals are going to keep. The soft corals don't require as much light intensity in general, and SPS corals require the most light. So if you're a beginner and starting off on soft corals and you can actually choose a wide variety of lighting, starting with some of the lower lights.

We've been surprised by how very low light levels can be used to keep our hardy beginner corals alive. We've even had corals such as mushrooms surviving and growing under 40 W fluorescent balls, although we don't recommend them. They do well in the compact fluorescent holds and metal halides. You have to be careful with soft corals that you don't give them TOO much light because they can reach a saturation point. This is the point where the coral gets too much light and starts to shut down because of oxygen poisoning.

 

 

 

There are two main things you want to consider when talking about lighting: intensity and the spectrum (wavelength or color temperature) of the bulb.

metal halide

Intensity

Intensity refers to how strong the bulb is. How much light it puts out.

A standard 40 Watt bulb is not going to give you any where near enough intensity to keep corals healthy. The minimum coral wattage for metal halides is 175 Watts . A typical 75 gallon tank would use at least 2 -175 watt bulbs at a minimum if keeping soft corals, and 2-400 watt bulbs if keeping SPS corals. A few really large tanks might us 1000 watt bulbs, but that may be overkill and running electricity for 100 watt metal halides is very very expensive.

Spectrum

Color temperature, or spectrum, is the wavelength that the bulb produces. Why is this important? Because photosynthesis in nature occurs primarily in the blue spectrum range, (which is the 427 nm range) so ideally you want to provide as much light in the blue range as possible. So why don't you just provide only blue light to your tank? Well, because the corals don't look natural that way, When you view them and they will glow like a poster under blacklight, which is not natural. And the aquarium is much darker to the eye. So we actually recommend a combination of blue light and white light.

The reason you can't use just a standard light bulb even if it has the correct wattage, is the spectrum. A metal halide bulb from Home Depot gives off a very yellow color, not blue, so it's not the correct spectrum and also doesn't have enough the right color temperature that helps corals photosynthesize.

Fluorescent Bulbs

If you're using fluorescent tubes , we like the ratio of bulbs to be 1 to 1. This means 1 white daylight bulb for each blue Actinic type bulb. This way you will be sure that you're getting the benefit of the blue wavelength, while also getting white light wavelengths so that you can view it normally. Tubes such as the VHOs (very high output) light are commonly found in the industry and highly recommended. You can also mix different types of bulbs such as fluorescent bulbs and metal halides bulbs as long as you use the correct ballast.

LED (light emitting diodes) are becoming more popular for lighting aquarium since they use so little electricity. Although the cost of the LED initially is very high, their usage of electricity is very low and we are hoping in the future that these become more common and the price comes down. That will allow us to reduce costs to grow out your corals.

Metal Halide Bulbs

The advantage of metal halides and is that they are widely available in many different intensities and color temperatures and they have the most available intensity of any light bulbs. Not only do you need the right color temperature but also some corals need a higher intensity such as the stony corals. We actually use a combination of metal halides and fluorescent bulbs on most of our tanks, but you can easily go with metal halides only if you wish.

We recommend either a 10,000K of 14,000 K bulb to start out. 10K refers to 10,000 Kelvins, which is a measure of color temperature, but all you need to know is, this is a bluer bulb than a 5500 Kelvin bulb. As you go higher up in the color temperature number, the bulbs become bluer, but they also become more expensive too.

You can buy a 5500 K bulb at a home improvement store about 20 bucks but the color spectrum, being so yellow, is not going to be advantageous for the corals. It cant be of use, because the PAR value of that light is not very high. 10,000 K seems to be the standard for the industry for the hobby currently and is readily available and fairly economical. You can also choose a bluer 14K bulb, or even 20 K which are very blue. Many people use 20Ks on SPS systems. On our systems we tend to use a combination of all three of these MH bulbs. In addition to using these, we also supplement them with actinic VHO bulbs which means a solid blue bulb in a very high output. We do this because we are looking for the maximum intensity and the maximum amount of grow out possible for corals.

Ballasts
You can use many different spectrums of light bulbs (5.5K, 10 K, 14K, 20K) as long as the Wattage (175 watt, 250 watt, 400 watt, 1000 watt) matches your ballast. So you arent locked into the color temperature when you buy a ballast. But you are locked into the Wattage (which determines the intensity)

Lighting is a topic that can be debated forever, but we try to give you some basics that will get you started in the right direction. Even if everything else is right in your system if you don't provide the correct lighting your corals will not do well. The source of all life on earth is the sun. And with your corals, the source of their life starts with the lighting you give them.

By giving them the proper lighting you'll be well on your way to provide an environment to allow them to grow up to be healthy and happy corals.

Lighting - VHO Ballasts
Lighting - Ballasts- General Info
Lighting- Metal Halide Ballasts ( 10k, 14k, 20
Lighting- Flourescent Ballasts
Lighting- Power Compact Ballasts
Lighting - Actinic bulbs
Lighting - Fluorescent bulbs
Lighting - Metal Halide bulbs
Lighting- VHO (Very High Output) bulbs


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Last Updated on Monday, 31 January 2011 20:44
 
 

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