Lighting, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects in keeping a planted tank. Plants use photosynthesis to make their own food. For photosynthesis to be carried out all the necessary components have to be there. Light is the most important of these.
What kind to use?
Well there are many different types lighting but the only kind I would recommend for tanks under 75 gallons are flourescent bulbs, either compact or regular. These are the cheapest and have the widest variety of bulbs available. You can get all the bulbs you need from your local DIY store such as Home Depot. Which ones you say though? Well there are many different things to consider:
Kelvin: This denotes the color of the bulb. The higher the Kelvin the more bluish it is and the lower it is the more reddish it is. Most aquarists use bulbs between 5000K and 7000K.
CRI: or color rendering index. This denotes how close to natural light the bulb is. The sun has a CRI of 100. Any bulb above 85 will be fine.
Lumens: This is the amount of light the bulb produces. Most flourescents are in the 2000 range. This doesn't matter too much though. As long as it is in this range it will be fine.
T-12, T-8, or Compacts? Good question. Really depends on your space available in your hood. T-12 and T-8 bulbs are basically the same only T-8's are more efficient but with a lower output. T-12 are the best choice in my opinion. Compacts are easily the best choice however they are more expensive in the short run. You can get a 55 watt, 22 in. compact flourescent bulb while you can only get a 40 watt, 48 in. regular T-12 bulb.
How much? The most common question asked. On average most plants will do just fine under 2 watts per gallon however plants such as java moss and java fern will do fine in 1-1.5 watts/gallon. For a really succesful tank 3-4 watts/gallon is needed. However with this high lighting CO2 will need to be injected.
Click here to see my DIY hood!
Have a question about this article? Discuss it on the board!