Plant Lighting Requirements in Community Aquariums

mini aquatic plants landscape for sale

Much has been written on the unique substrate, fertilizer requirements, and water conditions required to cultivate healthy aquatic plants. The truth is that with the appropriate lighting and easy-to-grow plants, any aquarium can have wonderful live plants without any effort. It's a different story if you want to grow exotic, unusual plants, but with the typical growth-oriented aquatic plants detailed in this article, no particular knowledge is necessary.

  • 01 of 07

    Good Lighting Requirements

    LED lighting is great for aquarium plants

    All aquarium plants require light for photosynthesis, which is vital for their health and growth. Plants may absorb the carbon dioxide emissions that the fish exhale with proper illumination. The emergence of tiny life known as algae is caused by too much light. With too much light, a sort of floating algae can bloom, turning the water green; with too little light, plants suffer; but with just the perfect amount of light, little spots of green algae appear on the surface of rocks and along the walls of a glass tank. Some algae is good since it attracts fish and adds to the natural appearance of a healthy community aquarium.

    If an aquarium is located near a sunny window, it may only require 5 hours of artificial light every day. However, even without any artificial light, algae development will be out of control in direct sunshine. An aquarium should be positioned in a location where direct sunlight never touches it for optimal benefits. Artificial lighting should be on for at least 8 hours each day, but can be left on for up to 12 hours if the enthusiast prefers better seeing in the evening.

  • 02 of 07

    Replace Incandescent Lighting

    If you are using old-fashioned incandescent lighting, the lighting should be about 25 Watts per square foot of aquarium water. However, incandescent lighting is obsolete for several reasons:​

    • Incandescent lighting is inefficient at penetrating the water below 12 inches in most cases and does not evenly light the aquarium.
    • It causes excessive heat and can warm the water above the temperature you have the heater set to maintain, then allows the water to cool when the lighting is turned off.
    • Incandescent lighting is very expensive to operate compared to fluorescent and LED lighting.
    • Incandescent lighting bulbs have a very short lifespan, and can even break if splashed with water while turned on.
  • 03 of 07

    Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights are two more types of aquarium lighting options. If you're using a fluorescent light fixture, be sure the bulbs are rated for aquarium plant growth. The light spectrum required for plant development differs significantly from that of a fluorescent bulb used in kitchen or workplace lighting. Use fluorescent light bulbs from a hardware store instead; while these may fit in the fixture, they are not suitable for growing aquarium plants.

    Even the most inexpensive LED fixtures specifically made for aquariums will be adequate for successful and healthy plant growth in a community aquarium. LED lighting has made amazing progress in the growth of exotic plants with some higher-end fixtures, but even the most inexpensive LED fixtures specifically made for aquariums will be adequate for successful and healthy plant growth in LED lighting is the most effective for three reasons:

    • Superior light penetration to as deep as 24 inches without special attention
    • The light spectrum of LED encourages plant growth even with the most common and inexpensive fixtures
    • The cost to operate most common LED lighting fixtures is less than 10% of the cost to operate the average incandescent lighting fixtures, and less than 30% of the cost to operate most fluorescent aquarium lighting fixtures.
  • 04 of 07

    Specialty lighting can be fun for effect within a community aquarium.

    • One type of LED lighting for aquariums comes in a water-proof glass tube which allows it to be placed underwater, anchored by suction cups and behind plants. This can give a mysterious glowing effect to viewers, casting unusual rays of light coming out from behind plants and rock features.
    • Another specialty light available to aquarium hobbyists is a spotlight effect. Some are used above the surface to highlight one plant or piece of décor. Other types of “spot” effect lights can be anchored underwater shining up at a plant or feature creating interesting effects.
    • With the constant innovations coming from , comes a remote-controlled version that allows an infinite variety of colors and intensities.
    • Commonly available within standard LED lighting fixtures made for aquariums is a “moonlight.” These lights are used in the “night time” cycle and allow the hobbyist to view fish behavior in the dark. The wavelength that creates the blue color can be seen by humans but does not interfere with fish sleep cycles or the nocturnal activities of the catfish cleaning crew, shrimp, and other things that come out in the night.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    It's best to use a timer to switch lights on and off at regular intervals throughout the day. Plant growth and the development of a normal life cycle in fish require consistency. Is it possible to leave lights on all day without harming your fish? Yes. Is it ethical or even compassionate to do so? No! It is ideal to leave the lights on for at least 8 to 12 hours every day, depending on the viewers' home schedule. Set the light cycle to be on when viewers are most likely to be in the room, since the communal aquarium is there for your viewing pleasure.

    Is it permissible to switch on the lights if a visitor arrives at an odd hour and want to see the community aquarium lit up? Yes, it is OK on sometimes, but keep in mind that the fish will take 20 to 30 minutes to properly "wake up" and become as active as they are during a typical light cycle. It's crucial to remember that a well-run community aquarium is as near to nature as possible. The sun rises and sets on a daily basis in nature, and it does not rise or set in the middle of the night. Keep this in mind when turning on the aquarium light at the end of the cycle. It's OK on occasion, but it's not natural for your fish or their lives.

  • 06 of 07

    Why Plants Die
    • If the roots get too hot compared to the water temperature. This could happen if the aquarium is over a floor heating register. It is never advisable to have an aquarium near or over a room's heating source. When the roots are too hot compared to the plant itself, the plant can turn yellow and die.
    • A light source that is too weak in intensity for proper aquatic plant growth (old-fashioned screw-in bulbs for instance). If the tank itself is too deep for the lighting fixture you have chosen, make sure to tell your dealer what size aquarium the lighting fixture is for. Different intensities are available for different depths of the aquarium.
    • The aquarium water pH is too acid.
    • Not enough fish to provide carbon dioxide and “fertilizer.”
    • True aquatic plants were allowed to dry out before planting in the aquarium.
    • Too many plants in the aquarium and the foliage at the bottom of the aquarium are being shaded from the growth-generating light by the plants above it.
    • Remember that plants with red or reddish colors require special lighting and fertilizer to thrive. Avoid these as a beginner. Refer to the list of suggested plants for the community aquarium listed below.
    • The aquarium is not yet established, so there is not enough “fertilizer” from the fish built up yet. This can be remedied by adding commercially available aquarium plant food in liquid or tablet form.
  • 07 of 07

    Recomended Easy Plants

    This list makes no attempt to be exhaustive or to cover all species of each plant mentioned. Some plants have roots, whereas others are bunch plants. The plants on this list all have one thing in common: they're all easy to cultivate and attractive!

    • Acorus
    • Amazon sword plant
    • Ambulia
    • Anacharis
    • Aponogeton undulatum
    • Cabomba
    • Cryptocoryne becketti
    • Cyptocoryne willisii
    • Hair grass
    • Hygrophila
    • Indian fern
    • Ludwegia
    • Madagascar lace
    • Myriophyllum
    • Nitella
    • Nuphar lilies
    • Sagittaria
    • Vallisneria

Read More on Growing Aquarium Plants

Many enthusiasts find aquarium plants to be an important part of their hobby; there are aquarium plant groups, as well as books and websites dedicated to the delights of raising aquarium plants.