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Light Spectrum and Plant Growth
Lights as they apply to aquarium use have evolved/changed considerable since I have been in the hobby & professionally employed in aquarium set-up & design.
We often used "hardware store" warm white T12 fluorescent lights, just in larger "quantities" to make up for the poor "quality" of light, even while planted freshwater could be kept, not so with ANY photosynthetic reef life.
Early on lights such as the "Aquarilux" came out which still was heavier on the "warm" colors, it also had more blue.
Later the Trichromatics & Triton lamps came out with spectrums focusing on the daylight 6500 Kelvin temperature, these made growing planted aquariums easier with less lights to do the same job as earlier lights.
We also had actinic blue lights become available, these mixed with other lights made it possible in the beginning to keep some photosynthetic reef life, although initially these did not thrive. Later T6 & T5 advancements along with Metal Halide lights allowed us to not only keep delicate photosynthetic reef life, but for this life to thrive.
We now have T2, SHO, & LEDs of which the later have lowered considerably the input energy for the quantity of output energy of light that we need for our aquarium keeping applications.
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The reader should note from all the information written above, that when deciding what lighting to get for your aquarium that the watts used is only one third or less of the equation in deciding what lights, what size and how many should be used. I will admit that I still will use the watts per gallon as a starting point with SPECIFIC lights comparing apples to apples; however specimen placement or tank depth, lighting type strengths and weaknesses must be considered too.
Do no compare apples to oranges; such as SHO to T12, or High Output LED to low output LED such as Marineland LEDs. Or even comparisons of a super premium high PUR per wattage input LED to other high end LEDs but that still require a higher input wattage for the same results due to energy loss as heat, less than optimum PUR, use of current reduction technology instead of optimum PWM technology (example the AquaRay AquaBeam to the still excellent but higher wattage requiring Maxspect and ZetLight LEDs)
Please note that besides years of personal fresh and saltwater keeping experience, MUCH more of this information I have written here comes from research OUTSIDE the aquarium industry. Much of what I have learned (and I am STILL learning) comes from this constant research of as many lighting tech research as I can read often from horticulture or other outside sources as noted earlier.
Some examples include the lack of information in the aquarium industry/hobby that must be found elsewhere includes the SHO or T2 lights that are often superior to more commonly recommended bulbs in the aquarium hobby,
There is also good evidence that correct lighting benefits ALL fish as well, including salt & freshwater fish. I have observed better disease resistance in marine fish in loosely controlled studies when lighting is upgraded to higher intensity, high PAR/PUR lights. Proper lighting may play a role in nutrient assimilation, improved Redox, lower incidence of Brown Diatom Algae. Studies in humans that show an impact of lighting on health, may have strong implications for fish (this may be a factor in my studies that showed higher disease resistance when lighting is improved).
Lighting that as closely duplicates the sun (not necessarily light that is most pleasing to us) is important for ALL life, although more noticeably for corals and plants. Fish too are part of this chain of life. Basically if you take away the sun and the energy it provides, you take away life itself and I do not think if you are trying to achieve the best environment for your fish whether fresh or saltwater, you are doing them a favor by depriving of this source of energy, so duplicating this is one more part of your "aquarium keeping puzzle".
I should point out that obviously, some fish prefer subdued light, but this is easily handled by hiding places, caves, plants (live or artificial), products such as Peat, Pillow Moss, or Indian Almond Leaves that "color" the water, and simple placement of lights where as some areas of the aquarium are better lit than others with plants/corals placed in way that benefit the most in these areas.
As I noted earlier, I am STILL learning after being in the hobby since the late 60s and professionally employed in the aquarium industry since 1978.
who will shoot down the science that is explained here because it does not fit their view and the fact that they are unwilling to learn.
What is amazing to me, is that often many simply confuse what they like with the known facts of science.
Example; just because you might like green and yellow LED emitters, does NOT mean that these wave lengths are as efficient as source of energy for an acropora coral or aquarium plant.
Another act of scientific malpractice I have often noted is the simple fact that energy lost as heat is energy that is not going to light energy, which all lights are guilty of, but to widely varying degrees, yet many choose to ignore this most basic principle of science when comparing lights.
FINALLY, another example would be moon or lunar lights. I myself prefer blue lights for this, as have most of my clients, but this still does not make moon light blue, as the facts are it is NOT!!
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All electromagnetic radiation travels through a vacuum at the same speed, called the speed of light. Its speed in any given medium depends on its wavelength and the properties of that medium. At the surface between two media, like any wave, light can be reflected, refracted (its path bent), or absorbed. What occurs depends on properties of the surface and the wavelength of the light. When shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) is absorbed in matter, it can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells. However, because X-rays can travel through soft body matter for some distance but are more rapidly absorbed by denser matter, particularly bone, they are useful for medical imaging. Photovoltaic materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency. This phenomenon is used in barcode scanners and “electric eye” systems, as well as in solar cells. It is best explained using a particle model of light.
Wholetones: Healing Frequencies Music Project by …
Based on email I get, forums I regularly read, & YouTube videos (for DIY LED Aquarium Lights), many seem to make this very INCORRECT assumption about emitters, drivers, PWM, wasted heat energy, etc.
This has resulted in a plethora LED lights flooding the market that are non reef capable, marginally reef/planted capable or very reef/planted capable, BUT often requiring 3-4 times the input wattage for EQUAL efficient PAR!
Basically one is back to the high energy input of a MH, but now in a LED.
It is NOT that many of these LEDs cannot keep photosynthetic life as we know these lights can and do quite well from practical experience, these are simply less efficient due to wasted heat energy, use of more of the less efficient, yellow, amber, green, or binned emitters; QUITE SIMPLE!
This aquarium light type uses semiconductor technology as its light source.
What is noteworthy is that these are "light emitting diodes" NOT bulbs! What difference does this make?
The answer is; A LOT!
As with any electronic circuit these must have an exact voltage to run correctly/optimally.
As well, these are essentially light emitting electronic devices being placed of your aquarium and should be treated as such including good ventilation and high IP water resistance ratings, which unfortunately most LEDs are lacking in IP ratings!
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Aquarium Lighting Information Guide | Reef Planted | …
The picture above depicts both full solar radiation that reaches the earth as well as how a few different man-made light sources fit into the visible/PAR aspect of this spectrum.
What is noteworthy is how much radiation falls outside the PAR, in particular the longer frequency wave lengths going into radio waves. There is much that we also do not know, since photosynthetic plants, zooanthellic algae, etc. might also be using radiant energy we do not know about. What we do know is that since UVC is not reaching the earth's surface and that even UVB only reaches in small amounts (if at all during certain times of the day and seasons), that it is likely this is mostly useless for our application.
Light dictionary definition | light defined
For this reason it is noteworthy that while any light within the PAR range can be used, providing light energy outside certain proven/evolved aspects of PAS can result in poor growth or allowing of less desirable algae to out compete plants or coral we are attempting to cultivate. This why it is a FACT that while certain lights may keep photosynthetic life, less than optimum spectrums found in many of the inferior lights will either produce lessor results and/or require more input light energy for the same results as say a high PAS & PUR light such as the AAP AquaRay.
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Most photosynthetic marine invertebrates should be kept with lamps of a daylight Kelvin temperature from 6400-14,000 K (higher Kelvin with deeper specimen placement, not necessarily tank depth). 20,000K daylight lamps can also be used for deeper tanks (over 22 inches) and/or supplementation with more blue lights (400nm- 490nm).
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