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Do Aquarium Plants Need Light? (Do they really need a special light)

Are you wondering, do aquarium plants need light.

You are in the right place.

In this article, I am going to answer the same question.

Besides, I will also tell you what type of light aquarium plants actually need to grow. And I’ll share with you some helpful tips to choose lights for your aquarium.

I will also share with you some lighting fixtures for your aquarium.

Let’s get into it.

Do Aquarium Plants Need Light? (Do they really need a special light) image

So, do aquarium plants need light?

Aquarium plants use light for the process of photosynthesis by which they produce their own food. That’s why light is very important for the proper growth of aquarium plants.

Do aquarium plants need special light?

The short answer is YES, aquarium plants need special lighting.

This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. The light spectrum that aquarium plants require is totally different than the light spectrum of normal fluorescent light. Generally, aquarium plants do better under full-spectrum light off 6500k to 8000k. So you will need to get fluorescent bulbs that are specially designed for or growing aquarium plants.
  2. Aquarium lights are specially tuned to enhance the look of your aquarium. So, if you keep your tank under normal lights then your aquarium will not look as good as it could be.

Though there are some instances when you may not need special aquarium lights for your aquarium.

  • If you are going to keep hardy aquarium plants like Java fern, Java moss or you already have those plants then you don’t need special lighting. Because these plants can survive and do well under any lighting as far as they are getting light! Though they will not look as good as they can under aquarium lights.
  • If you’re already using normal light in your aquarium and you are happy with the appearance of your tank then you don’t need to buy special aquarium lighting just to make it look better.

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How to choose light for your aquarium?

There are several things that come into play while choosing lights for your aquarium.

1. Plants

Not all plants are equal. Every individual plant has its own lighting requirements.

So you have to consider the lighting requirements of the plants in your aquarium or the plants you are going to keep in your aquarium while deciding lighting for your tank.

Basically, there are three types of aquarium plants

1. Low light plant

These are the plants that require low light of 15 to 30 micromoles.

2. Medium light plant

These plants require medium lighting conditions of 30-50 micromoles.

3. High light plants

These plants are very light-demanding and you have to provide them light more than 50 micromoles.

Overall, you will need to consider the light requirements of the plants you have in your aquarium or you are going to put in your aquarium and then choose the lighting accordingly.

Most beginner-friendly aquarium plants are not very light-demanding. And they do well under low-moderate lighting conditions.

The light intensity of an aquarium lighting fixture is measured in PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation).

Most aquarium light manufacturers won’t mention the PAR on the packaging or the sales page of the product. This is because the PAR of the light changes according to the height of the aquarium.

If the aquarium is long then the PAR will be lower whereas if the aquarium is short then the PAR will be high.

This brings us to our second point.

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2. Height of your aquarium

You will have to consider the height of your aquarium while choosing lights for your aquarium.

Basically, you have to choose the intensity of light according to the height of your aquarium.

For example, if your aquarium is too deep then you will require strong lighting so that the light can penetrate and spread across your tank.

If you have a shallow aquarium then you don’t need very strong lighting because the light can easily penetrate and reach your aquarium plants.

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3. The spread of the light

The third thing to consider while choosing lights for your aquarium is is the spread or disperse of the light on the surface of the tank.

Usually, most aquarium lights have one foot light disperse on the surface of the water of the tank.

So if you have a very wide aquarium say 18-24 inches then you will need two lights to cover all the water surface the aquarium. Or you can choose a high-quality lighting fixture that covers a lot of surface area.

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4. Types of lights for aquarium

Nowadays there are two popular types of aquarium plants available.

  1. Fluorescent light
  2. LED light

Fluorescent light

Fluorescent light comes into different types the fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting.

Both types of lights are the same. The compact fluorescent is as the name suggests is compact than normal fluorescent lighting.

The fluorescent lighting has been used in the aquarium for a lot of years and it is a time tested lighting fixture.

But now it is outdated because of LED lights.

If you are going to use fluorescent light in your aquarium, just make sure to choose the bulbs for the fixture that are specially made for the growth of aquarium plants.

You cannot use fluorescent light bulbs that you can find in a hardware store in the lighting fixture even if it fits into it. Because the light spectrum that plants require to grow is totally different than the light spectrum of normal fluorescent bulbs.

LED lighting

Nowadays LED lighting fixtures are very common in aquariums.

There has been a lot of innovation going on in LED lighting technology.

Besides, a LED lighting fixture offers a lot of features.

LED lighting is also very good and efficient at penetrating through light. It can easily penetrate 24 inches deep.

Besides, LED lighting fixtures are very cost-effective compared to fluorescent lighting.

If you ask me, I will highly encourage you to go for LED lighting because it has a lot of benefits over fluorescent lighting.

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5. Light intensity adjustment

There are are a few lighting fixtures for an aquarium that comes with a functionality to adjust the light intensity.

This feature is very helpful especially if you are a beginner. Because most likely you will not be able to figure out the accurate light intensity that you are aquarium plants require.

If the light intensity is insufficient for the plants then the plants will not grow.

On the other hand, if the light intensity is very strong then it can cause algae growth in your aquarium.

So in both cases, you will need to adjust the light intensity.

That’s when this feature comes in handy.

You can adjust the light! 

You can lower or increase the light intensity, wait for a couple of weeks, and see how your aquarium reacts. If necessary, you can again adjust the lighting.

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6. Timer

When it comes to lights for aquarium plants, consistency is as important as the lights.

What I mean by consistency is that you need to provide only specific hours of light every day to your aquarium plants. (We will talk about how much light you will need to provide to your aquarium plant later in this article.)

If you provide inconsistent lighting then it can cause issues.

If you provide less light consistently to your plants then your plants will not grow as fast as they should be. Worse, they’ll not grow at all.

On the other hand, if you provide a lot of light consistently or if you keep the light on for 24/7 then it will cause rapid algae growth in the aquarium. And you will not be able to see the plants due to the algae.

To cope with this issue there are some aquarium lighting fixtures that come with an inbuilt timer.

So the lights will turn on and off automatically every day at a specific time.

You can also get an external timer to do the same functionality.

This functionality is very useful on a day to day basis. And it is a lifesaver when you are on vacation.

Overall, you need to provide light consistently to your aquarium plants and you need to have some setup to do it automatically.

Besides the two features mentioned above i.e. timer and intensity at adjustment functionality, there are several other features that comes in LED lighting fixtures nowadays.

Though other features are not necessary I do consider the above two features essential.

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Best lights for aquarium

There are a lot of lighting fixtures available for aquarium plants.

And I know that it can be very overwhelming for a beginner to choose lighting setup for their aquarium.

That’s why now I will share with you some lighting fixtures that you can consider if you want to buy lights for your aquarium plants.

1. Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

Check the latest price at Amazon here

If you are looking for a reliable and fully customizable aquarium plant that is specially tuned for growth of plants in the aquarium then Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 is for you.

The Fluval plant spectrum LED 3.0 is a newer version of the old Fluval light which was 2.0 version.

Fluval light 2.0 was rigorously tested and is praised by many aquarium experts. And this light just got better with the new 3.0 version.

What makes this version different from the older version is that this version is specially tuned for the growth of aquarium plants.

Just like the older version this version is also fully customizable. And it even has some more options.

In the older version, you need to pay about 80-90 bucks to get access to the app and use the functionality whereas in the newer version it is totally free!

Besides, this lighting fixture comes in several different sizes so you can easily find the best suitable fixture for your tank.

Design and build

Just like its old version, the new Fluval Plant Spectrum LED 3.0 is very sturdy and doesn’t look like it is made from cheap material.

Design-wise the lighting fixture is very sleek and low profile.

The brackets of the fixture are very reliable and sturdy.

They sit firmly on the wall of your tank.

Overall the design and build quality of the Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 looks very sturdy and reliable.

Light performance

This is the most interesting and unique part of this lighting fixture.

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 is fully customizable with the Fluval app.

The app is available on android and iOS.

You can customize the lighting according to your likings. Or if you don’t want to mess with all the customization then you can choose one of the presets it has and move on with it.

Now let’s dive a little bit deeper and see what customization you can do with the app. 

You can turn on and off the light with the app.

This fixture comes with five lights.

  1. Pink
  2. Blue
  3. Cold white
  4. Pure white
  5. Warm white

You can fully customize the intensity of each light according to your liking by sliding the toggle from zero to hundred.

This feature is especially useful if you have fish that has a particular color.

For example, if you have Cherry barbs then you can increase the intensity of pink light so the fish will pop in your aquarium.

Besides, it comes with 4 sets that are:

  1. sunrise 
  2. daylight 
  3. sunset 
  4. night

These sets change throughout the day one by one automatically.

Each set is designed to emulate the natural environment of fish.

For example, the sunrise set is tuned to emulate the sunrise of the natural environment of 

fish.

The fun part is, you can even customize these sets according to your liking.

You can change the intensity of the lights.

You can even set the time so the set will start and end at a particular time.

For example, if you wake up at 6 in the morning then you can set the sunset to start at 6:00 in the morning till 8 or 9 am.

Besides, the app comes with three presets:

  1. Tropical river
  2. Lake Malawi
  3. Planted

Each preset is tuned to emulate the natural environment of the region.

You can customize these presets according to your liking.

You can even create your own preset.

Besides, you can also preview the preset you have created.

You can hit the preview button it will show you a 60 second preview of the preset from morning till the night.

The only area the new Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 is behind than the older version is in the PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation).

The PAR of the new version is lower than the older version.

This may be because there is a difference in the spectrum of both the fixture. The old fixture was 7500 Kelvin whereas the new version is 6500 Kelvin.

Low PAR will not be an issue if you are going to keep low to medium light plants in your aquarium.

The app

As Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 is fully controlled and customizable through the app, we can expect some new features in the future as the app get new updates.

Some people also noticed some glitches in the app. Hopefully, they will get resolved with the new updates.

Another thing to note that to customize the light settings you’ll need the app, you can’t do it manually.

You can only turn on or off the light manually. Also when you turn on the light manually, the light will be at max brightness.

Warranty

This is where Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 stands out from all the other light fixtures.

Fluval provides a 3-year warranty for Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 that just proves that Fluval has created a high-quality product and they stand behind it.

The price

This is where a lot of people complain. To get these all customization and high-quality build, you will need to pay a premium. And it is is one of the most if not the only expensive lighting fixtures.

You can check the latest price of this lighting fixture at Amazon here.

2. Finnex Stingray 2 aquarium LED light

Check the latest price at Amazon here

If you are looking for a high-quality aquarium light fixture for a reasonable price then this is the lighting fixture for you.

This lighting fixture comes from Finnex which is a very reputed brand in the aquarium industry.

Many aquarists praise the first version of Finnex Stingray light because of its reliability and effectiveness.  And Finnex Stingray just got better with this new version.

The new version features a sleek aluminum hood and more effective lighting with a moonlight option.

Besides, this lighting fixture comes in several different sizes so you can easily find the best suitable fixture for your tank.

Design and build

Finnex Stingray 2 aquarium LED light comes with a sleek aluminum hood which is very sleek and looks attractive. 

The lighting is so sleek that you will not even notice it from distance. And it has that modern touch because of the aluminum hood.

Besides, it comes with a moisture-resistant LED coating that increases its longevity.

It comes with easy to assemble brackets to put it on your aquarium. And the brackets are sturdier than the last version.

Lighting

One of the major differences between the previous version of Stingray and the newer version is that it has more lights!

In addition to the white lights this version also comes with blue and red lights.

This version features true 660 nm red and 7000k daylight LED that provides optimum lighting to your aquarium plants.

Besides, it comes with a 120-degree angle which spreads the light throughout your aquarium and brightens it up.

The new version is brighter than the old so you’ll notice better growth of your plants and your aquarium will look better under this fixture.

Finnex Stingray 2 also comes with a moonlight option.

You can switch to the moonlight option and it will create a cool ambiance so you can enjoy the aesthetics of your tank during the night.

It has a switch that has three positions- max, moonlight, or off.

Other Features

Along with effective lighting and high quality build Finnex Stingray 2 comes with a certified power supply that meets all the regulations and performance requirements.

Unlike other cheap lighting fixtures, it has audited components that drastically increases the lifespan of this lighting setup.

Overall, if you are looking for a high-quality lighting fixture for your planted aquarium then you will not regret buying Finnex Stingray 2 LED lighting.

The feature it lacks is that it doesn’t come with functionality to customize the lighting as per your liking.

It has just two lighting options, moonlight and daylight.

Besides, this lighting fixture doesn’t come with an in-built timer. But you can buy a separate mechanical timer and attach it.

You can check the latest price of this lighting fixture at Amazon here

3. NICREW classic LED plus planted aquarium light

Check the latest price at Amazon here

If you are looking for a budget lighting fixture for your aquarium with bright lighting and good build quality then NICREW classic LED plus planted aquarium light is ideal for you.

This lighting fixture comes with a very bright LED with two modes. And its build quality is very good as well.

Besides, this lighting fixture comes in several sizes so you can easily find the best suitable size for your aquarium.

Design and build

People complained about the cheap quality material used for the older version of NICREW classic LED. And I think, NICREW has taken it seriously. 

The newer version is now equipped with an aluminum alloy shell which doesn’t look cheap and looks durable.

Another complaint with the older version of this LED light was that it has it had very cheap brackets. And they have improved in this area as well with the newer version.

The new version comes with two sets of extendable brackets. Both looks sturdier than the older brackets.

You can install the bracket according to the thickness of the wall of your aquarium. Or according to the height you want to keep the light at.

Light performance

The NICREW classic LED plus planted aquarium light is equipped with energy-efficient LEDs that are brighter than the older version.

This lighting fixture is equipped with white, blue, red, and green LEDs which are specially tuned for the growth of aquarium plants.

This lighting fixture also comes with two modes:

  1. The daytime mode
  2. The night-time mode

It has a switch to switch between two modes.

When you choose the daytime mode, all the LEDs light up. And, when you choose night mode only the blue LED will light up and creates a very good ambiance.

Now I don’t recommend you keep night mode on throughout the night because it may cause algae growth in your aquarium.

The functionality that this aquarium plant lacks is you cannot adjust the light intensity.

Though you can reduce the light intensity with the NICREW dimmer switch that you’ve to buy separately. 

So after using this lighting fixture for a while, if you noticed algae growth in your tank then you can get the dimmer switch to reduce the lighting.

Another good thing about the dimmer switch is that it also works as a timer and it is not expensive. You can check its price here.

Though it would be nice if this lighting fixture comes with inbuilt dimmer.

Besides, this lighting fixture doesn’t come with an in-built timer. But you can buy a separate timer and attach it.

NICREW classic LED plus planted aquarium light is not the sturdiest and highest quality aquarium light.

But its build quality is good and it is very bright.

Overall, it is a budget option and it actually gives a lot without breaking the bank.

You can check the latest price of this lighting fixture at Amazon here

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FAQ

Do fish need light in aquarium?

Fish response to the circadian rhythm just as we do.

So to emulate the natural day-night cycle in your aquarium you should install a lighting fixture in your aquarium.

To create a low-stress environment in your aquarium you should not keep the lights on for more than 12 hours.

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What is the best light for aquarium plants?

  1. Nowadays there are two popular options when it comes to lights for aquarium plants:
    Fluorescent 
  2. LED

Among these two, I highly encourage you to choose the LED because there are a lot of benefits of LED lights over fluorescent.

There is also a lot of variety of lighting fixtures available with different functionalities in LED light.

If you are looking for a premium option with all the functionalities and customization options then you should go for Fluval Plant Spectrum LED 3.0.

If you are looking for a reliable option from a reputed brand without breaking the bank then you should go for Finnex Stingray 2 LED lights.

If you are on the budget then you should go for NICREW classic LED Plus.

What are the signs of too much light on aquarium plants?

Algae growth on the leaves of the aquarium plant is the prominent sign that you are providing too much light to your aquarium plants.

In this case, you should reduce the light in your tank.

There are several ways to do that:

  1. Some aquarium lighting fixtures come with inbuilt functionality to reduce the light.
  2. If your lighting system doesn’t have that functionality then you can put some floating aquarium plant on the surface of the water of your tank like Duckweed or Amazon frogbit. It will block the light going directly into the tank.
  1. Another way is to raise the height of the light from the top of the tank.

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How long should I leave my aquarium light on?

You should leave your aquarium light on for anywhere between 8 to 12 hours.

Exactly how many hours you should keep the lights on depends on the plants in your aquarium.

You should start keeping the lights on for 10 hours.

If you notice algae growth then you should reduce the hours to 9 or 8 hours per day.

If you notice that your plants are not growing fast then you can increase the lighting to 11 to 12 hours every day.

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Is blue light good for aquarium plants?

Yes, blue light is good for aquarium plants. Plants use blue light to create their own food by the process of photosynthesis.

Can I use grow light for an aquarium?

Yes, you can use grow light for the aquarium. You just have to make sure that they will provide sufficient PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) to your aquarium plants to grow.

Besides, your aquarium plants may not look as good under grow lights as they could under aquarium lights that are specially made for aquariums.

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Will aquarium lights work to grow plants?

Yes, aquarium lights contain various colors of lights that are tuned for the growth of aquarium plants.

So aquarium lights work to grow aquarium plants. You just have to choose the light intensity according to the plants in your aquarium.

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Conclusion

In a nutshell, aquarium plants do need light.

Plants create their own food by the process of photosynthesis and they require light for the process of photosynthesis.

That’s why light is very important for the proper growth of aquarium plants.

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you do, please share it.

Happy aquascaping!

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