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Fish Tank Forum • View topic - Lighting Your Marine Aquarium
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Lighting Your Marine Aquarium

Articles on general fish keeping

Lighting Your Marine Aquarium

Postby Barry » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:41 pm

When lighting a fish only aquarium two fluorescent tubes should suffice, however if you have invertebrates in your aquarium then your lighting will become far more important to maintain a healthy tank.

Most corals and anemones rely on algae (known as zooxanthellae) for there food source. The main requirements of zooxanthellae and micro algae such as caulerpa is good water quality and a high intensity light at the correct wavelength. A fish only aquarium with very low light will not grow zooxanthellae but in a reef aquarium the correct lighting is of great importance.

Light Intensity
The electrical power from a lamp is measured in watts, but the intensity (brightness) of a light source is measured in lumens. This may be shown on the side of the packaging and may be quoated as lux (lumens per square meter). Most fluorescent tubes are between 5,000 - 6,000 lumens and some are far lower. You can get metel-halide lamps which emit in excess of 10,000 lumens.

Colour Temperature
The colour we see coming from a lamp is made up of many different colours each with there own wavelength. This is called Colour Temperature and is measured in °K (degrees Kelvin). The low level °K will produce a "warm" light, mainly red in colour and the higher the °K a "cool" white light appears. A lighter flame has a colour temperatur of about 1,800°K, a white fluorescent tube would be about 4,000°K and a bright metal-halide lamp could produce as much as 14,000°K.

Wavelength
wavelength.jpg
Different wavelengths of light can penetrate water at various depths. Red light will begin to fade in water at about 10m, Ultraviolet which is invisible to us can reach a depth of around 100m but Blue light will not begin to fade until around 250m.

Lighting Types
tubes.jpg
There are several types of lighting you can use but the most common are fluorescent tubes. The standard fluorescent tubes (T8) are used in most places across the world and not just for aquariums. The narrow bore fluorescent tubes (T5) provide a higher intensity for aquariums and use less space than the standard tubes. The biax tube is a dual fluorescent tube, containing a folded tube and a double headed fitting which will save more space and provide a higher output for your aquarium. Metal-halide lamps are fitted into a housing and suspended above the aquarium where they provide a very bright light. With this system it is recommened to have some space around the unit for ventilation because of the heat it will generate. Using a combination of white and blue fluorescent tubes within a metal-halide lamp gives the fishkeeper the ability to create a separate day and night effect and a highlight area for the chosen invertebrate life in the tank.

When the aquarium lights are on you will lose light and heat from the lamps. The light is emitted in all directions and reflecting and/or refracting from the water surface so best to use a reflector to help redirect the light back into the aquarium. Beneath the water surface are particles which will absorb large amounts of light. The wavelength of light changes as it passes through water altering and reducing its intensity as it coverts to heat energy. Marine life at the bottom will receive a small amount of the light but remember corals and invertebrates need a high levels of light to live in your aquarium.

Lighting Times
times.jpg
As every aquarium is different there are no rules in place for the length of time the lights should be on. The best way would be to replicate and learn from nature. Full sunlight will be out for about 12 hours a day around the equator whereas the further away the less full sunlight will be.
If you are using fluorescent tubes you should try a 12 hour full day sunlight period and metal-halide lamps should be about 8 hours full day sunlight period because of the heat they generate.
Start with a low brightness tube (Blue is the most common) first for about 1 hour 30 minutes then switch on the high brightness (bright white) tube as well. After your full day sunlight period has ended switch off the high brightness and leave the low brightness for the last 1 hour 30 minutes creating a dawn and dusk enviroment. So at the start of the day the blue lamp goes on before the white lamp and at the end of the day the white goes out before the blue lamp. This will create a more natural feeling for the fish and cause less stress.

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Barry
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