Much has been written about lighting for planted aquariums, a complex subject. But success can be achieved with simple setup and a basic understanding of the important aspects of light in the planted aquarium.
When shopping for a light for your planted tank, it’s not just about choosing a light that «does» pretty. You have to look for a led screen for the planted fish tank that provides the necessary light for the aquarium plants to grow strong and healthy. This requires searching for the best lighting for planted aquariums.
Today, there is no doubt that LED technology is the present of lighting for planted aquariums. There are many advantages that LED screens for planted aquariums provide over their predecessors, so there is no doubt that the best lighting for a planted aquarium is to be LED technology.
We are going to see the best LED screens for planted aquarium. We are going to try to make it easy to choose a led lamp for the planted aquarium.
Comparison of the best Led screens for Planted aquarium
Let’s see a comparative table with some of the best led lamps for planted aquariums. Not all of them are, but the ones that are are.
Most Popular Planted Aquarium LED Displays
Lighting for planted aquariums
Well, aquarium lighting has come a long way, and LED lights have long since taken over the lighting market. Lower consumption, greater power, smaller size, greater durability… they are all advantages.
Does this mean you can’t build a thriving planted tank with outdated T5 or T8 fluorescents?
Of course you can, if you want, you can do it. But still, LED technology has far surpassed its predecessors. And for those who prefer to take advantage of the latest technology in aquarium lights, we make this article.
We analyze the most important factors and we will explain everything you need to understand how to buy the most suitable led screen for planted aquarium.
There are two key components to what light is necessary for the planted aquarium:
The first is emission, measured in lumens. This is the amount of light energy reaching an area, helping us to more effectively respond to how much light a planted aquarium needs.
Today, LED technology is the most widely used in lighting for planted aquariums. The LED aquarium light fixture is more efficient in every way than any of its predecessors. And serious manufacturers always indicate how many lumens each LED lamp for planted aquarium emits.
For standard fluorescent tubes, more watts can be considered to be more lumens.
However, keep in mind that more efficient lamps like CFLs and T5s produce more lumens per watt than the older T12s and T8s.
The second aspect is the color spectrum emitted and the intensity of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) it contains. Essentially, PAR stands for the type of radiation or energy of the correct wavelength that plants can use.
Fortunately, most aquarists do not have to worry too much about these details of their led screens for planted fish tanks. Most hardy aquarium plants that require low to medium lighting will do well under a luminaire rated as a planted aquarium lamp.
Light intensity and emission in planted aquariums
Speaking of intensity in planted aquarium lighting, a good recommendation is a good high intensity LED.
The benefit of LED screens for planted aquarium is that they produce more lumens with less power and save on the energy consumption involved in planted fish tank.
In the case of Low Tech aquariums that do not add CO 2, make sure not to overdo the lighting.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that more lights, for longer periods, will make your plants grow better or faster. You will most likely encourage algae growth and do nothing else.
Plants absorb light for photosynthesis primarily in the red and blue areas of the spectrum. And they reflect the wavelengths they don’t use, mainly the green ones. Low intensity fish tank lights at these wavelengths will fail to grow good plants despite how bright they may appear.
Fortunately, most planted aquarium LED displays are suitable, and usually have a graphic on the box. This graph is the representation of the light spectrum and the amount of light of each wavelength that the bulb produces.
Those LED screens for planted aquariums with large peaks in the area of 430nm to 460nm of the blue spectrum and 645nm to 665nm of the red spectrum, will provide the correct colors for plants to grow well.
Another peak in the 500 to 600nm region of the yellow/green spectrum will produce a nice daytime effect in planted aquariums.
Photoperiod in the planted aquarium
If you ask yourself: How many hours of light does my planted aquarium need?
It is generally recommended that when you first set up your planted tank that you have a photoperiod with only 6 hours of light. After a couple of weeks, you can increase it to 8-10 hours of light.
To encourage healthy plants and prevent algae growth, a regular period of eight to ten hours of light, and an uninterrupted period of darkness of 12 hours, is recommended.
The regularity in the photoperiod of planted tanks is also very important. A lack of regularity could cause algae problems and serious disorders in some plants for planted aquariums. They could even die from large variations in the photoperiod.
It is highly recommended to purchase an automatic timer so that your plants have the same lighting duration every day.
For those of us who work during the day, splitting the photoperiod into two lighting blocks is an option. So you can enjoy the fish tanks planted in the morning and at night, when you are at home.
Each block should be at least three to four hours long. This is necessary to allow the plants to prepare for photosynthesis and have enough time.
LED Lighting for Planted Aquarium
We start from the basis that we need a specific lamp for the growth of natural plants. We already know that not just any lamp is suitable for this, some minimum requirements are needed for the plants to prosper.
But all LED lights for planted aquariums are not the same, they vary in intensity, colors and characteristics. When setting up a planted tank, make sure you get an LED light that is powerful enough for the plants to photosynthesize.
In the aquarium market there is a wide variety of LED screens for planted aquariums. From simple and cheap LED lamps like this lamp, to some high-end models like this one.
It is possible to maintain healthy and beautiful plants (even coral) with low end led lights. Yes, also with a cheap LED screen, but indicated for plants. Just watch out for the LED lights included in starter aquarium kits. These planted aquarium LED displays are often not powerful enough for plants to grow successfully.
Well, next we will answer one of the most frequently asked questions… How much LED light is needed for a planted aquarium? .
Now we delve into the subject, but do not forget that the reality is that each aquarium is unique. There are a number of variables that make it unique, and that must be considered when trying to estimate the correct amount of light for a tank.
How much LED light is needed for a planted aquarium?
The truth is that before thinking: How many LEDs do I need for my planted aquarium? You have to understand the needs of the plants you want in the aquarium.
It is the essential base, you have to know what kind of plants will occupy your aquarium, and what their needs are. Depending on the type of plants that occupy the aquarium, the demand for light will vary. If you do not take this into account, you can buy a planted aquarium LED screen that does not meet the needs of your plants.
Of the different plants that exist, they can be classified into three groups based on their lighting needs. Plants with a low light demand, plants with a medium demand, and plants with a high light demand.
For this it is necessary that you have knowledge about the type of plants that you would like to have in the aquarium. Before buying plants and LED planted aquarium lighting, it is essential that you have it clear.
Of course, there is no universal “magic amount” when it comes to setting the right amount of light, because every aquarium is unique.
But if it is possible to establish some generic references for an adequate orientation when choosing a light for the planted tank. We already talked about this in our aquarium lighting article. But we return to explain the traditional relationship of watts per liter, and the most appropriate reference of lumens per liter.
Watts per liter
The main error with this reference is that the watts speak of the power of electrical energy that the lamp needs/consumes. It is true that in general, the more a luminaire consumes, the more light it produces. But the reality is that with the W we do not talk at any time about the quality or quantity of light.
Therefore, this reference is not very accurate, and even less so with LED technology. Why? Why LED lights use much less power to emit a similar level of light as T5 or T8 fluorescents.
Trying to match the wattage/liter ratio of the old T5s with today’s energy efficient planted aquarium LED displays is not a good idea. You will most likely kill your plants and need welding goggles to look at your aquarium.
For all this, the Lumen is used, which measures the luminous flux. In other words, the lumen tells us about the amount of light, which interests us much more than the power of the lamp.
Lumens per liter in the planted aquarium
In a generic way, we are going to give some references for a global orientation:
- In those aquariums with plants with low light demand, it is recommended to provide around 20 Lm/l.
- For planted aquariums with plants with medium light needs, between 20-30 Lm/l is recommended.
- For light-eating plants, more than 35 Lm/l.
Please note that it is just a reference. The rest of the variables must be taken into account, such as the depth of the tank. Light does not spread evenly through every liter of tank. The deeper the light has to travel, the weaker it becomes.
Although lumens per liter is not perfect, it does serve as a starting point for gauging the needs of your plants and the amount of light in relation to your tank.
Because of this, most reputable manufacturers provide lumen ratings so you know where each model can be best used.
In the market you can find a wide range of possibilities when thinking about lighting your planted aquarium. You can find led screens, led tubes, led bulbs, led strips, led spotlights, reflectors, etc.
At the moment, we are going to see the most popular planted aquarium lighting among aquarists.
Tips for choosing the right LED
When trying to choose the right light for your aquarium plants there are several factors to consider. Here are some tips to make your planted aquarium lighting seem less confusing:
Type of plants
You have to decide if you want ground cover plants, or if you want a couple of larger plants scattered throughout the tank.
But be sure to check the compatibility of the plants with the other life in the tank. If you browse aquarium forums, it won’t be long before you can come across stories where sea snails eat newly planted aquarium plants before they can grow.
Make sure the plant and animal life get along.
Also, the size of the tank affects the range of the LED light. A larger tank means a need for more lumens per liter. Be sure to adjust the numbers to account for the size of your tank.
Many of the planted aquarium LED displays that come as part of a starter kit are not good enough to provide the necessary light for natural plants.
Other higher quality LED planted aquarium lights come with automatic 24 hour day/night cycles. They even include features like «storm lighting.» Check the customization options and other features before making a decision.
The light spectrum
In a nutshell we can say that daylight is generally made up of equal parts green, blue and red light. Daylight covers the entire light spectrum.
However, plants primarily use blue and red light. Green light is hardly used by plants, so they simply reflect it and thus we see plants as green.
Therefore, more and more plants are being grown in modern nurseries with blue and red diodes. As we said, it is because it is the spectrum of light that plants use for their photosynthesis.
As aquarists, we also need green light in the aquarium, to recreate the correct colors: without the green light, the aquarium would appear purple. Therefore, we recommend LED screens for planted aquariums with a color temperature of 5500 to 6500 ° K.
The color temperature is indicated in degrees Kelvin (°K) and specifies the color of the light.
For most planted aquariums, having the light operating around 6,500 to 7,000°K should be ideal to keep the plants growing well. It would also help the unit function as a natural light source.
Daylight has a color temperature of approximately 6,500 °K, so we recommend light sources with a color temperature in the range of 5,500 to 6,500 °K.
A high color temperature (greater than 8,000 K) gives off a bluish tint and should only be used for saltwater aquariums. While a color temperature below 4000 °K gives a yellowish or reddish hue, which corresponds to an old light bulb.
The color temperature also determines to a certain extent how well the natural colors of the plant are recognized. Many light sources have a CRI (color rendering index) value printed on them, which has a maximum value of 100.
The index indicates how well the lamp can generate a standardized color row. Choose a planted aquarium lamp with a CRI value of at least 90 to get the most natural colors of animals and plants in the aquarium.
Conclusions about LED screens for Planted Aquarium
When starting natural plant tanks, there is nothing wrong with choosing an inexpensive light that will work well with plants with low light needs.
But if you can afford it, it may be worth considering the higher priced options. These higher quality lights tend to last much longer and have extended warranties backed by the manufacturers.
They also come with cool features like the ability to adjust the color spectrum, dim the intensity, and mimic the gradual sunrises and sunsets seen in nature.