Light is essential for robust plant growth as well as your ability to view your aquascape and fish.
ADA lighting systems are elegantly designed to complement the overall aesthetic while providing easy access to the tank and maximum light penetration.
Some of the lighting systems come with hanging cables constructed to be suspended from the ceiling. You may also opt to use ADA light stands. ADA light stands are made of high-quality solid stainless steel, gracefully curved to put the light exactly in the centre of your tank.
Wider Nature Aquariums (120 cm) will need one light stand on the right and one on the left.
Understanding Lighting Basics
Watts are a measurement of the energy consumed by the light bulb. The higher the number, the more money you pay to operate the light bulb. In the past, planted tank enthusiasts came up with the rule of two watts per gallon, based on the standard aquarium depth of 18 inches (45 cm).
Today we use lumens to measure light because modern light bulbs produce the same amount of light intensity but use fewer watts. Lumens are the measure of total visible light emitted by a source. For example, 1600 lumens is equivalent to a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. You will need approximately 3950 lumens per square metre. Notice that we now use square area rather than volume because modern aquarium sizes come in different dimensions.
Kelvins measure colour temperature. 3000K is the traditional colour shade of an incandescent light bulb, and has a yellow/orange tint. 6500K is the colour of the sun at noon on a clear day. 20,000K has a slight blue tint and is what most marine reef aquariums use to simulate how you actually see things ten metres underwater.
Different colours of light have different energy levels. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy a colour has. The highest energy light is at the purple or violet end of the scale, where wavelengths are shortest. The red end has the longest wavelength, and the lowest energy production.
The colour you see when you look at an object is the colour that the light is reflecting back at your eye. Plant leaves (usually) look green to us because they are reflecting green. This means that they are not absorbing the green light – they are absorbing the other wavelengths. The ones that give the plant the most energy are at the purple end of the spectrum. (They still get some energy from the red end, but not as much.)
Using 5,000K to 6,500K colour temperature produces a very warm tone that makes plants look yellowish. However, it is in this colour temperature that plants grow fastest.
Using ADA 7800K colour temperature bulbs produces very natural looking aquariums – the plants look greener and livelier.
Tank lights should be on for six to ten hours a day. Eight hours is recommended. Any less time, and the plants don’t photosynthesize for long enough to flourish; any more time, and your tank may have unwanted algae growth.
Lighting Your Tank
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) produce more light using fewer watts. CFLs use only 23 watts to produce the same amount of lumens as a 100-watt incandescent light bulb.
CFLs produce very bright light but lack intensity. Their use is limited to low-height tanks only (less than 45cm).
ADA light fixtures that use CFL lights are the Solar Mini, Solar II and Grand Solar II.
Solar Mini is made for Nature Aquariums 30cm to 45cm in size.
Solar II is made for Nature Aquariums 60cm to 75cm in size.
Grand Solar II is made for Nature Aquariums 90cm to 120cm in size.
Metal Halides (MH) generate very intense light and can be used for deeper tanks (up to 60cm). They produce a shimmering light across the tank floor caused by the ripples of the water on the surface. This intense shimmering light enhances growth for both corals and plants. Colour temperature of MH bulbs can range from 3000K to 20,000K. Reef aquariums use 10,000K to 20,000K colour temperature, while planted aquariums use 6,500K to 8,000K.
ADA light fixtures that use MH bulbs only are the Solar I and Grand Solar 250.
Solar I uses 150W MH bulbs and is made for Nature Aquariums 60cm to 90cm in size.
Grand Solar 250 uses 250W MH bulbs and is made for Nature Aquariums 120cm or larger. This kind of light is essential for tanks more than 60cm in depth.
Combination CFL and MH produce the best lighting effect for planted aquariums. The CFL soft light effect cancels out the dark shadows of the halide bulbs.
Takashi Amano observed that, in nature, plants only get direct sunlight for a maximum of three hours (when the sun is directly above). The rest of the time, plants get angled or indirect sunlight. Amano also observed that excessive light (such as when MH bulbs are turned on for a long time) causes algae blooms and plant hyper-growth, resulting in too much maintenance work.
The ADA light fixture that uses both CFL and MH bulbs is the Grand Solar I. It is the flagship ADA light fixture, and Amano strongly recommends this choice because it most closely simulates the dawn-to-dusk photoperiods in nature. The CFL and MH bulbs in ADA Grand Solar I are designed to be turned on independently. This will allow you to mimic a dawn-to-dusk effect by turning on the MH bulb for only three hours of the entire eight-hour photoperiod provided by the CFL.
Both CFL and MH bulbs should be replaced after one year’s use (at eight hours a day or 3000 total operating hours) even if the bulbs are still working. This is because the bulbs’ intensity deteriorates and they lose the lighting concentration required for plant growth.
Light Emitting Diodes (LED) technology is the latest innovation in light bulbs. LEDs use a fraction of the energy of ordinary incandescent light bulbs, but produce just as much light intensity. For example, a 7-watt LED light fixture can be as bright as a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. Furthermore, most LED lights will last for more than 25,000 hours of operation, which is close to eight years of eight-hour daily use.
ADA Aquasky 602 offers twin LED light fixtures for maximum brightness, which will promote healthy plant growth.
Click on the icon below for ADA literature on lights.