Everyone has their opinions on lighting. How much is really necessary depends upon your style of fish keeping.
If you are keeping plants for example your lighting considerations might be different than mine.
I attack the lighting dilemma from two fronts: What is necessary for the fish vs how much money do I want to spend to light my tanks.
What is necessary for the fish?
I think of the species of fish I'm keeping and try to adjust the lighting to match. For example, my Vieja's and Carpintis come from areas where they should experience a generous amount of light for around 12 hrs per day. I try to match the duration of light my fish will receive as a result.
Think about the type of light your fish get in nature vs what you provide in your aquarium. I make the following assumptions about the environment of Vieja types in Southern Mexico: I expect that they receive approximately 12 hours of light and that this light is not always direct and varies in intensity throughout the day. The Viejas in the average aquarium receive only direct light, the duration of which may vary greatly from the natural environment. Think about trying to match the natural habitats type of light. While there's no way you can exactly duplicate nature, you can mimic nature and do your best to provide your fish with some semblance of a day/night cycle.
The Whitney Fish Room Lighting Scheme
My Viejas are in a nearly pitch black room all night. From sunrise until 4pm they get light filtering in from the basement windows. While this is indirect light, it does allow them to see quite well. At 4pm, I have a slightly brighter light begin to light my room to prepare the fish for full direct lights on. At 5pm on the dot, all banks of lights in my fish room come on at once. The entire room remains lit with this direct light until 9:30 pm when the slightly dimmer moonlight comes on. At 10 pm all of the direct lighting banks shut down simultaneously leaving the room bathed with a dimmer moonlight. 1/2 hour later at 10:30 the entire room goes dark until the cycle begins again at 7am the next day.
Here is a picture of some of the working parts of my lighting scheme. First, I take power off the main panel that is the dedicated power for the fish room and feed it into the industrial time at the left of the panel.
This is a close up detail of the industrial timer that controls all of the main bank lighting. This timer allows me to adjust the on/off time of the entire room simultaneously giving me complete control of the main bank lighting:
Each row of tanks has a dedicated outlets that the tank lights plug into:
Here's the simple moonlight that begins and ends my lighting scheme for the day:
Using these simple tools allows me to simulate a normal day in the life of these fish.
How Much Money Do You Want To Spend On Lighting?
The 2nd thing I consider is the amount of money I want to invest to light the fish. Fortunately the typical fluorescent
tubes that are typical aquarium lights are already pretty efficient. But even lighting 50 tanks with this type of light gets costly so I try to save energy two ways:
1) As I explained in the first part of this post, I have complete control over the duration of the lights. Why light the fish if no one is there to see them, especially if the fish don't need it? I have the main banks come on at 5pm because that's when I'm most likely to be in my fish room. It also allows 5 hours of direct light on the fish which keeps them in cycle and provides the necessary light for their health. Also I figure at least 40% of their day in nature would have direct light and the 5 hours I expose them is perfect as it is about 1/3rd of their daytime in my fish room. I'd bet a lot of aquarists burn their lights for far longer by turning them on in the am and off late at night. I save major $$ by burning the main banks for only 5 hours per day.
2) the second way I save money is by using compact fluorescent bulbs. Here is a pic of two I use to light a rack containing four - ten gallon tanks on my fry rack:
These two bulbs use only 13 watts of power each and produce 130 watts of equivalent light. If you figure 18 watts per regular fluorescent fixture times the four tanks, you have 72 watts used versus the 26 total watts I use for the same amount of tanks. Now multiply that 46 watt savings by the 50 tanks I light in my fish room and you can see that the savings add up and have a definite impact on the electric bill.
The Sum Up
As a frugal aquarist I am always looking for ways to save money without negatively impacting the fish. Providing the correct amount of light while mimicking the fish's natural day/night cycle is a win/win situation. Installing a few outlets and an industrial timer is a cost effective way to provide correct lighting while having complete control over your room. Think about adding compact fluorescent bulbs to replace your older fluorescent fixtures and reducing the amount of time you light up your fish to capture some savings in your electric bill. Your fish and whoever pays your electric bill will thank you!
You can save money while having the perfect fish room.
By Kyle May
2 posts • Page 1 of 1