The Effects of Lighting in the Freshwater Aquatic Enviroment

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The Effects of Lighting in the Freshwater Aquatic Environment

This is an original study preformed by Dadio. I have been given leave to recreate this study by him, to use in a compare and contrast study of my own with a few new variables added. All rights to the original creation of this study go to him.

In this study I plan on answering an often debated question on the best way to light an aquarium, how long, and possibly what type as well. I will be doing this by recording the effects of different lighting situations on plant, fish and invertebrate health, coloration, growth, and behavior, as well as changes in the nitrogen cycle, if any. These studies will be completed in 4 week cycles on a five gallon newly planted betta tank, and a 20 gallon sparsely planted community tank. The cycles are listed below as follows:

5g Beta:
  • 24 hours of fluorescent white daylight lighting
  • 24 hours of blue moonlight LED's
  • 12 hours of white fluorescent daylight lighting, and 12 hours of blue moonlight LED's
  • 12 hours of white fluorescent daylight lighting, 6 hours blue moonlight LED's and 6 hours of complete darkness.

20g Community:

  • 24 hours of white LED lighting
  • 24 hours of blue LED lighting
  • 12 hours of white LED lighting and 12 hours of blue LED lighting
  • 12 hours of white LED lighting, 6 hours of blue LED lighting, and 6 hours of complete darkness.

I have designed these cycles as a way to see what really is the best lighting cycle for fish, plants or invertebrates. Why ideally this would be tried with two identical tanks, this is the best I can come about that will allow the testing to be done on multiple species of fish, and invertebrates. I would also like to look into trying red lighting but at this time I am not focusing on it. Nor did I include incandescent bulbs, because I know that most people switch to the fluorescent ones. Especially in planted aquariums. As the world of lighting becomes more advanced, different coloration of LED lights, such as RED, and BLUE, and White spectrum's have been used to not only increase the growth of plants in indoor nursery like settings during colder months, but also has been used for health benefits as well.

As fish, like humans have been proven to have their own circadian rhythms like humans and other mammals, it is not hard to go out on a limb and say that with regular exposure to both daylight and moonlight will offer many more health benefits.
Circadian rhythms are defined A daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24-hour period and influenced by regular variations in the environment, such as the alternation of night and day.

Circadian rhythms include sleeping and waking in animals, flower closing and opening in angiosperms, and tissue growth and differentiation in fungi. The circadian rhythm, present in humans and most other animals, is generated by an internal clock that is synchronized to light-dark cycles and other cues in an organism's environment. This internal clock accounts for waking up at the same time every day even without an alarm clock. It also causes nocturnal animals to function at night when diurnal creatures are at rest. Circadian rhythms can be disrupted by changes in daily schedule. Biologists have observed that birds exposed to artificial light for a long time sometimes build nests in the fall instead of the spring. While the process underlying circadian rhythm is still being investigated, it is known to be controlled mainly by the release of hormones. In humans, the internal clock is located within the brain's hypothalamus and pineal gland, which releases melatonin in response to the information it receives from photoreceptors in the retina. Nighttime causes melatonin secretion to rise, while daylight inhibits it. Even when light cues are absent, melatonin is still released in a cyclical manner.
(The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.)

By adding more regulation in the fishes aquatic environment, we could see an increased behavior in nocturnal creatures, healthier plants with more vibrant growth, and more active fish as their day and night settles in a more predictable stress free rhythm. It has already been proven that light both from the moon, stars and sun, to an extent reach below the surface of the water. So this means that lighting from both the sun and moon effect many of these aquatic species natural cycles, as well as any bacteria present in the water as well.

These studies will be preformed independent from each other in four week blocks, at the end of the study, both results will be compared for a conclusion. In this way I hope to find truly what is the best lighting option for healthier, happier fish and plants. Starting with the two most extreme for a common base for the the rest.

What I would also like to see, is this study replicated using different species of fish and plants, to see if the results are aquatic wide, or there are any species variations. If anyone is interested in joining this study, and using their own fish aquariums please contact me. I will be happy to add your own study link to this page so they can all be kept together. It would be interesting to once this is completed, to see an article written on Aquatic lighting because it could very much end up changing the world of fish keeping. Please also feel free to chime in your thoughts on the subject on anytime. It is only by creative discussion that we can better ourselves.

Dadio testing can be found here:

Disclaimer: In the event the fish, plants or invertebrates seem overly stressed in any way, shape, or form, I reserve the right to shut down the study regardless of the week it is in. Once the fish. invertebrates and plants have recovered the study will move to a new cycle the old one concluded. It is not my goal to harm in any way shape or form any fish, invertebrates, or plants.

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  • #2
Introducing Environment 1

About the Aquarium:

  • Brand: Aqueon MinI Bow Desktop Aquarium Acrylic
  • Dimensions: 14.25" L x 9.75" W x 13" H
  • Gallons: 5 or Liters: 18.93
  • Filter: Tetra HOB 5 -10g Filter [Possible Upgrade coming]
  • Heater: Tetra Preset Heater [78*F] [Another Upgrade being looked into]
  • Substrate: White Sand
  • Current Lighting: Aqueon 50/50 Daylight/Blue Light Bulb 10 watt lamp [1.893 watts per liter or 2 watts per gallon of water]
  • WC = 50% weekly and a top off mid week. Water Dechlorinateer API Water Conditioner

About the Fish:

  • 1 male half-moon betta about a year old. Recently recovering from a tail biting episode.
  • Schedule: Fed once a day with Betta Color Granules by Alive. Amount: 2 -5 granules or as much as he can eat in about 30sec to a minute. Occasional blood-worm treats. Fasted on Sunday.

About the Plants:
  • Assorted Anubis broad leafed, Wisteria, Narrow Leaf Java Fern, Green Cryptocoryne, and Telanthera Cardinalis.
  • Schedule: Monthly API Root Tabs, Weekly dose of API Leaf Zone, and daily infusions of API CO2 Booster.
  • Planting arrangement will probably end up being changed by my next water change, as I planted them quickly late at night, so that they would be in the aquarium before starting this test the following morning.

Cycle 1: 24 hours continuous fluorescent light.

Background: It is not recommended by many in the fish keeping world to leave the fluorescent daylight lights on for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is due to the fact that too much light could make the fish shy and even dampen their color. It is also believed that the fish and plants in question need a period of darkness to be healthy. It can also promote excessive algae growth which in turn can choke out your plants. The Fish and plants can also become stressed with no set day and night cycle as this disrupts their natural rhythm. This extreme is one base that will be looked at for future study cycles. Please refer to my disclaimer if you have doubts, at any time if I feel this stress if shown, is too much the study length will be cut short.

Hypothesis: I expect that why the plants might thrive on the 24 hour lighting, I will also have increased algae growth that will need to be combated. I also expect for my fish to possibly become more skittish when exposed to 24 hour light, to minimize this effect, there is a cave like piece of decor in the environment to offer it a shaded area of respite. It will be interesting to see how much the fish goes here for refuge.

  • Day 1: 3/23/2015

Morning: (5:14am)
I set up the study when I woke this morning, I allowed the betta one last night of darkness before beginning this study. The fish had been rested up front and swam immediately to the top of the tank for feeding. A picture and a minute video snippet was recorded. These will be done twice a day both morning and evening, to note any behavioral changes/environment changes, along with physical observation. I will look into posting these daily if anyone is interested, or when a change is noted/at the end of a week.

For the purpose of this study daily water quality tests will be taken and recorded to make sure there is no out laying influence other than lighting. This will also be used as a basis to see if lighting has any control on the nitrogen cycle. I will also try to post a daily article that I think is interesting or relates to my study. Though temporarily I will not be able to to nitrite and pH tests as my testing supplies need to be replaced. Next trip to the store will remedy this. I might look into getting GH and KH tests as well.

Interesting Article: Fluorescent Plant Lighting (
Summery: this article compared different lighting to see the pest results on non-aquatic plants, as well as how the bulb color spectrum plays into effect on plant growth. It also talks about the degrading of fluorescent bulbs.

Daily Testing: Ammonia is at 0ppm, Nitrates is at 0ppm. A water change was preformed yesterday evening when I put the plants in real quick so this is not to be expected. Testing is done fifteen minutes after the feeding and observational period every morning.

Evening: (8:45pm)
The betta appears to be hiding in the tree stump ornament that resides in the center of the aquarium. However, it is not any part of the ornament he is resting in, bit the darkest corner. He has not been out and swimming about for the last 20minutes and seems to be resting. There are no change noted in the plants.

In other notes, I have decided that at each weekly summary, I will include one video or picture that shows any interesting change or behavior. I will be doing observations at random times, as well as over night, or morning full recordings until I can get something else set up.

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Day 2: 3/24/2015

Morning: (5:27 am)
The betta was out swimming around about 4am this morning. This behaviors is a bit different than before. As I normally go in about 11am every day and usually feed him between 7 or 8. This is also the usual time I turn on the tank light. With the exception of this week as I am covering for someone else at work so am having to be up earlier. No other change in behavior, or appearance is noted. He did appear to have a good appetite when fed. There are also no noticeable changes in any of the plants accept for the Telantheea Cardinalis. A few of the leaves seem to be more pinkish red and less green.

Interesting Articles: Lighting and how it effects fish

Daily Test Results: pH is 7.4 - 7.6, Ammonia 0ppm, Nitrites 0ppm, Nitrates 0ppm

Evening: (9:33pm)

The betta was bedded down in the tree stump ornament when I began active observation. Within a few minutes he came out and began to swim around rather actively for about 5-8 minutes before going back into his cave and staying there. This is another small behavior change I have noticed from his normal evening behavior. It seems that 48 hours in he is beginning to become a bit confused. His color though is still good. No cha he in plants, and except for a few diatoms no appearance of algae either.
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  • #4
Day 3: 3/25/2015

It was not until several minutes after I began observation that he swam put of his cave. This was all done before feeding. When I did place the food in the tank, he swam around a bit before eating. He actually ate less today than the other mornings. After that he rested on a few plant leaves, before going back in his cave. In fact if there is no activity in front of his tank or in the room that is where he has been sitting all morning. Other than behavior his color and the plants appear unchanged from last night. Another interesting note is I have an ammonia reading for the first time in a year and a half since cycling this tank. I will recheck it tonight, and the morning, If still present I will do a 50% WC.

Interesting Articles:Nirtfying Bacteria and Lighting
SummaryI found this not only a good read on the bacteria all together, but also interesting a out how they are photsenstive to blue and UV light. Especially if free floating in the water itself. It makes me wonder if this could be the cause of my ammonia spike as this is a 50/50 daylight, blue light bulb that has been on now a little over 48 hours.
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  • #5
Day 4: 3/26/2015

Morning: (5:36am)
So I goofed and have no evening observations of last night, I guess that happens to the best of us sometimes. I also have no articles today as I am still looking into the topic of ammonia production and stress in fish. The betta now stays in his aquatic cave 24 hours a day unless something interesting is going on outside his tank. Even then he tends to stay under a large leafed plant. His color has gotten darker than yesterday, and his black marking are more prevalent. I also still got a ammonia reading this morning. I will be doing a 50% water change and use amquel +. With the reading I am getting you would think my tank was not cycled bit it has been established for a year now. I am also going to pull out some extra biomedia I keep in my community tank filter and put it in with my betta and see if this will change anything.

No change. Everything has pretty much been the same as it has the last two nights.
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  • #6
Day 5: 3/27/15

Morning (5:30)
He has defiantly darkened, more of his black markings are showing through instead of his normal turquois color. He comes out long enough to eat, swim, check out his tank from a look out perch and then hides back in his cave. He is taking a lot of his cues from me, since there is no light to cure him in. He is also not eating with as much gusto. Though this morning he is swimming around more, perhaps he is adjusting?. In the environment I noticed my diatoms have spread and I now have a few streaks on the front viewing glass. Though my crypts have seem to have grown a little under the increased light. As I reformed a water change yesterday and put stuff in there to bind the ammonia, I will wait till this evening to test my water quality again. It is also Friday, so I plan on doing a 24hour observation tonight.


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  • #7
ammonia is gone. The water though looks a bit less clear now that the increased light has gone in a out a week. I would not call it cloudy, or tinted but it gives the appearance as being not as clear.

sorry I have not posted in a day or two. My grandfather had a scare and scared us. Hopefully he is on the path to recovery now.
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ammonia is gone. The water though looks a bit less clear now that the increased light has gone in a out a week. I would not call it cloudy, or tinted but it gives the appearance as being not as clear.

sorry I have not posted in a day or two. My grandfather had a scare and scared us. Hopefully he is on the path to recovery now.

Hope all's well.

We had some not good news either last week. Our niece has a form of lymphatic cancer and she's 6000km's away on the other side of the world almost. They had to remove all the reproductive system and she wanted kids. Her eggs have been kept so there is still hope. Their health care system is far better than anything in NA and she's young so all the chances are with her. She's embraced it and she's a fighter so all we can do is send love and hope.
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  • #9
no change from last post this is day 6 or 7.
I did add a snail to the environment however so we can get some.results on invertebrates, it is a mystery snail as they are the only thing my betta boy tolerated.
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  • #10
Hope all's well.

We had some not good news either last week. Our niece has a form of lymphatic cancer and she's 6000km's away on the other side of the world almost. They had to remove all the reproductive system and she wanted kids. Her eggs have been kept so there is still hope. Their health care system is far better than anything in NA and she's young so all the chances are with her. She's embraced it and she's a fighter so all we can do is send love and hope.

that is kind of what went on here, my grandfather is a three time cancer survivor he just beat it back into remission again (3rd time) this time it was in his intentions. The scare tissue was messing with him digesting food properly. They had to enlarge the opening again and when they did so, they thought they poked a hole and would have to do emergency surgery and rushed to get him ready. His chances were not good going in a 50/50 chance at bet but probably less since he was weak from cancer drugs, and weight loss. He had not been eating properly and had been on straight IV for a week in a half. Luckily a new test showed some irritation but no holes. Still very weak though and they are working on getting him on solid food again. If the irritation does not go away however we are still looking at possiable surgery. So we are playing the waiting game.


  • #11
Cancer, grrrrr. Too many people around have been taken by this garbage. Best wishes to you and family during this time.
  • #13
Sorry to hear about your family, thoughts and prayers are with you!

Adding this to my system should be pretty interesting:

This would be the ultimate setup. Being able to replicate nature or natural environments with precision control. IMO, this is the perfect world. I've achieved this somewhat with more manual intervention while yes being automated and controlled remotely. This truly takes it high tech. The only thing is the time involved for the setup which would be minor in comparison tot he rewards.

My electronics background screams ripoff in understanding the cost of the build, yet I also recognized the people behind it. Building an apex compatible unit would probably cost a third maximum in materials.
  • #14
I didn't have time to build one right now, I am a network engineer and I'm currently working on a co2 probe. If you have some time this guy has posted everything including the code for arduino


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