How to Balance Aquarium Lighting to Grow Healthy Plants (and Avoid Algae)
Although a new tank looks beautiful and clean, if it is not balanced, the same plants can become unhealthy and overrun by algae in a matter of weeks. Plants and algae both use the same resources- such as light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide – so the goal is to balance these resources so that the plants grow stronger and outcompete the algae. For instance, too much
too little light can cause algae growth, so we need to fine-tune it for optimal plant growth. Let’s now discuss how to adjust the lighting for the tank and plants you choose.
Remember that plants are living organisms and will take time to adjust to changes in lighting. Low tech aquariums that do not require CO2 gas injection should only make one adjustment at a given time. We recommend waiting for two weeks before making any further changes. Otherwise, if you make multiple changes all at once, you have no idea what worked and what did not.
Avoid placing your aquarium in direct sun to ensure optimal lighting control. You may need more sunlight than you think, especially if your plants are low-light. You also have to consider the unpredictable weather. It may be sunny one morning and cloudy another. Each season is different. Yes, some experienced hobbyists can manage planted tanks that get sunlight, but for most of us, the fluctuating changes make it difficult to balance the aquarium because the plants are getting widely varying amounts of light every day.
A light specially designed for aquarium plants will create the perfect environment for your underwater garden. Aquarium kits come with default lights that are too dim. Shop lights and other DIY lighting options may not be as effective or spread the light well enough to produce a pleasing color temperature. A planted tank light makes it easier to grow aquarium plants. The best lights have the right brightness, good spread that won’t shine into your eyes, and a natural color spectrum that makes fish and plants look their finest.
Use a timer to create a regular schedule for the light to turn on and off each day.
3. Light Duration
Your light will turn on and off every day at the same time if it is connected to an electrical outlet timer. Timers are far more reliable than people so your plants will receive the light they need, even if you go on vacation or get sick. For a new aquarium, we suggest that the lighting be limited to 6-8 hours per day. The plants need to adjust to their new environment. As the plants grow larger and require more light, increase the amount of lighting to 8-12 hours per day. Reduce the time if algae becomes too much. Many hobbyists prefer to divide the time between the photo periods with an “afternoon sita”. It turns on when you eat breakfast, shuts off while you go to work, school or home, and then turns back on at night.
As a reminder, do not leave the light on all night, not even in blue moonlight mode. The plants need to sleep every night in order to get oxygen and sugars. Even if you leave the light on 24/7, they will not photosynthesize during the respiration cycle, so algae will take advantage of the excess photons and take over your aquarium.
4. Light Intensity
Most planted tank lights nowadays are made with LED technology and are powerful enough to grow both low and high light plants. A light intensity of 100% may cause algae growth depending on the plant you choose and the tank height. Start with a lower light intensity around 20-40% brightness and gradually increase the intensity if there is no algae growth. Reduce the brightness if there is a large algae bloom. Also, if the light does not have a programmable dimness setting, then consider raising the light above the tank or blocking out some of the LEDs using black electrical tape.
Aquarium lighting available in various brightness levels and colors
Remember that aquariums can be ever-changing ecosystems so you may need to adjust the lighting intensity and duration. A newly planted tank needs less light since the plants are still small and growing. You may need to trim the plants or increase lighting if your mature tank has large plants. Jotting down your light settings in an aquarium journal or spreadsheet over time can help with balancing planted tanks so you can see which values work the best.
What is the Best Lighting for Plantted Aquariums?
There are many choices when it comes to aquarium lights. They can be very expensive or extremely high priced. You need to choose the features that are most important to your needs and the type of plant tank you want. Also, you want to pick a good quality brand that will last, rather than buying the cheapest option that has a very short warranty and LEDs that go bad after a few months.
We created our Easy Plant LED in our quest for a long-lasting, affordable light that would make plants look great. It includes all our favorite features, such as:
– The 3-year warranty and lights rated for 50,000 hours of operation – The high-quality, energy-efficient LEDs that bring out the stunning colors of fish and plants while reducing power usage by 10-50% – The highly water-resistant IP67 rating so it won’t fail from accidentally dropping in water or getting splashed by an air stone – The easy-to-use controller for changing between white Daylight and blue Moonlight modes – The dimmable light settings that allow you to adjust the brightness from 10-100% to grow both high and low light plants – The extra-long, 12-foot power cord so you reach even the furthest outlet in the room – The extendable sliding brackets to make sure you get a snug fit and prevent light from bleeding out – The thick aluminum frame to dissipate heat from the LEDs and prevent bowing in longer models
Our goal is to make the fishkeeping and planted tank hobby as easy as possible, which is why we created the Easy Plant LED as a dependable, all-purpose solution that produces excellent plant growth. The Easy Plant LED, in combination with Easy Green and Easy Root Tab fertilizers is the answer to creating an easy-to-manage aquarium.