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. Too much of a good thing can lead to too little.
too little light can cause algae growth, so we need to fine-tune it for optimal plant growth. This article will discuss how to balance lighting to ensure that the right amount of light is available for your tank and plant selection.
Before we begin, remember that plants are living organisms, so it takes time for them to react to lighting changes and show visible signs of improvement. We recommend that you make one adjustment per aquarium, and wait two weeks before making another. If you try to make several changes at once, it is difficult to know what worked and what didn’t.
You can control the lighting by not putting your aquarium in direct sunlight. The sun may be more powerful than you need, especially if you are growing low light plants. 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.
To create the ideal environment for growing an underwater garden, we recommend getting a light specifically designed for aquarium plants. 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.
To set a schedule for when the light will turn on and off each morning, use a timer.
3. Light Duration
You can set your light to turn on and off at the exact same time each day by connecting it to an 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. We recommend that you only light your aquarium for 6-8 hours per day when it is first planted. This will allow the plants to adjust to their surroundings. 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. Every night, the plants must rest by entering the respiration cycle to consume 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
Modern planted tank lights use LED technology. These lights can grow both low and strong 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. The brightness should be decreased if an algae bloom is observed. 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. Newly planted tanks require less light because the plants are still young and growing. However, mature tanks might have large plants that shade everything. In these cases, you may need to reduce the light or increase it. To balance planted tanks, it is helpful to keep track of your lighting settings over time in an aquarium journal or spreadsheet so that you can identify the most effective values.
What is the Best Light for Planted Aquariums?
There are many options available on the market for aquarium lights, with prices ranging from very affordable to extremely expensive. The key is to determine which features are most important to you and the type of planted tank you want to set up. 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 has all of 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.