Lighting is one of the most important parameters in the hobbyist reef tank, but it is often forgotten. Reef tank lighting is much more than flipping your lights off an on. Recreating a natural lighting experience for your inhabitants will go a long way in the overall health of your tank.
Aquarium lighting has progressed significantly over the last decade. There are a multitude of options for the beginner, intermediate and advanced saltwater aquarist. This article will delve into the basics for the beginner.
LED lights have become increasingly popular and with good reason. They are highly customizable, easy to use and much more efficient than fluorescent lights. The other options include metal halide lighting system. The metal halide setup is an excellent choice for large aquariums and or aquariums with species that require powerful lighting.
My LED of choice is the Aquaillumination Hydra HD Series. It’s fully customizable to the needs of your tank. All of the colors are fully adjustable, which include Cool White, Royal Blue, Blue, Violet, UV, Deep Red and Green. Below is the custom setup for one of my nano tanks.
Another important factor in lighting is the PAR light measurement. PAR stands for Photosynthetically Active Radiation. For the purpose of basic lighting requirements, PAR represents light quantity distribution. This is important as various species of coral have different PAR requirements. Testing PAR requires a meter similar to the one pictured below. Using a PAR meter it will be possible to ascertain how much light is getting through the water column at varying depths.
The chart below is a basic representation of PAR and coral requirements. Please note that this is only a generalization. Some species of coral will have more specific lighting requirements.