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Aquarium Lighting - Overview

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Aquarium Lighting - Overview

When choosing lighting for your aquarium (especially Reef or Planted Freshwater), there is much
more to consider than watts per gallon. The 2-3 watts per gallon for a reef or freshwater plant
, less for fish, more for hard coral; is a VERY basic start but that is very general and quite
out dated due to the variety of lumens per watt lights with very different wavelength, PAR output.
As you will read more later in this article a watt is simply a measurement of energy NOT light output
or even quality.

There are other factors effecting lighting for your aquarium than just watt output. For example: You
cannot compare the output of a 150 watt Metal Halide to a 150 watt outdoor floodlight. Nor an 85 watt
standard incandescent to a 85 Watt 6400 K SHO Bulb. What I am trying to say is sometimes it comes
down to comparing apples to oranges.

Other considerations besides energy used (watts) are PAR (and other wavelength needs of the
aquatic environment), Lumens per watt and the amount of space a bulb will occupy which allows for
more or less lights depend on the size of the bulb. For example a SHO that uses 105 watts yet is
only 10” and placed into a reflector will be very efficient as per wattage and space utilized for this.
Another example is a T-2 bulb that only takes up a small space (7 mm diameter) can be a very
productive bulb as per lumens per watt (73 lumens per watt!), PAR and space used.
For example I would recommend a pair of 19 inch/13 watt/ 6400K T-2 over a pair of 18 watt standard
(T8 or T12) for a 20 gallon planted tank; the reasons are higher lumens per watt (73 vs. 40-50) and
correct temperature/PAR (6400 K vs. 2100 -4500).

Another note with freshwater plant light requirements is that the 3-4 watts per gallon general rule
applies to medium to high light plant requirements, not low light such as Java Moss, or in the case of
Reef Aquariums stony corals such as Acropora.

This overview is just an brief explanation, please read further for more in depth discussion (and I do
not assume this article is the end all of aquarium lighting discussion, I will add a lot more as time
goes on as newer information that explains or corrects the subjects contained in this article better).
It is important to note that aquarium lighting is complex subject, and this article has both more depth
information as well as some basics (in the summary recommendations), however this is a subject that
 simply reading one section of this article will yield incomplete information. For this reason I
recommend reading the whole article (as well as links provided) for a more thorough understanding
(it may take more than one reading as well )

The three most important criteria in determining the light you need are:
Lumens per watt
PAR (this is important to understand)
Watts (or watts per gallon, however this term is way over used/simplistic)
However the above is an over simplification, so an understanding as best possible of other aspects
as well as the positives and negatives of each lighting type (including types that the often 5-10 years
behind technology aquarium industry ignore such as SHO, T2, or Induction) are important as well.

(article by Carl Strohmeyer:Aquarium Lighting

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