Saltwater Aquarium – Lighting

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 75,674
    Marine Biologist Jim Karanikas demonstrates how to set up a saltwater aquarium and discusses lighting.

    Jim Karanikas: Hi, Jim Karanikas from Tropical Fish World. Want to talk to you a little about lighting for a marine aquarium. Now, if we have just a regular fish tank, usually you get a standard fluorescent light bulb that comes with it, and it's wattage varies, usually 24 inch one is about 20 watts. It's enough light to light up the aquarium, if you are going to have just a fish-only aquarium. A fish-only aquarium just need the light to showoff your tank to your friends and for you to see it and also for the fishes to see their food and swim around and they can feel like it's daylight. If you have a saltwater reef aquarium, lighting is very important.

    Now on a tropical reef, you go diving -- you're fortunate enough to go diving somewhere near the equator and you visit a real tropical reef, you'll find that the sun is very, very intense, and the water is extremely clear, which means that a lot of the light penetrates deep down in the water. This is allowed to creatures such as corals, sponges to evolve using the light and nutrients that are in the water.

    Now sunlight is amazing, you can see how bright it is here and we are using artificial light here. Sunlight is amazing, when you break it down to some of its basic components, there is something called kelvin temperature degrees, there is also lumens and there is also wavelength.

    Now I don't want to get too technical today, but some of those components are very important when we're talking about a reef tank, because we want to simulate the light that reaches these corals at about 30-60 feet deep in a reef tank. There is many light bulbs and brands out there available for you. We have the standard fluorescent lamps and higher wattages, for instance, this one is 20 watt light that is used for a fish-only tank. If we're going to use it for a reef tank, we would use what's called a VHO bulb which just means Very High Output. A very high output bulb is about 60-80 watts for the size light bulb.

    There is also available T5 lamps, they are just a thinner bulb, that have a little bit more intense lumens, and they are also available for aquarium use. I like these and they are very popular now because they are a little safer to use, you don't have to use higher wattage to get the same results.

    There is also what's called a Power Compact Bulb. A Power Compact Bulb has all the pins on one end. It is a fluorescent lamp, like these other ones were, except for it is stretched out and then curved around, so all four pins are all on one side. These are also available in a higher wattage, this one for instance is 65 watt light.

    In a fish-only aquarium about a half of watt or one watt per gallon is sufficient, but for a reef tank we want to get three to five watts of light per gallon. So you can see with our different choices here, we could either get a higher wattage bulb and put fewer of them one there or we can get a low wattage bulb and crowd the whole top of the tank up with light bulbs. That's not as safe when you crowd it up, it's not as safe. And also makes it really difficult to get in and out of the aquarium and your likelihood of getting the bulbs wet are greater. So I would recommend getting something of a little higher wattage to see a fewer bulbs.

    Now if you want to go to the extreme, we have metal halide lamps available, and that's what's glaring on me today here, while we are shooting this. There are two types of metal halide bulbs available, one is a mogul type, which is a screwing type bulb which we'll show you example of, and then also a double-ended bulb which is called HQI Bulb where it has two little ends, so very small bulb. These are available in about 100 watts to up to 400 watts, and you can get an extreme amount of light on your aquarium in a small space.

    Now the bulbs are also available in all different color temperatures. Most of the bulbs that we use for a fresh water aquarium are about 6500 kelvin. In a saltwater aquarium, you want to get a little bit bluer, so you are going to get close to 10,000 kelvin.

    Now there are some specially bulbs that are available that have some blue light and some white light.

    If you go to your local aquarium store, a qualified person there can help you decide which bulb is best for you.

    Now, I would like to talk to you a little bit about the equipment that we are going to need for your saltwater aquarium.