Whether you are growing your aquaponics garden indoors or in a greenhouse, you need to be able to provide 100% of the light requirements needed by the plants to thrive. In setting up your indoor or greenhouse aquaponics system, it is essential to give grow light an important consideration. Failure to set up the right grow lights requirements suitable for your system could result in the waste of financial and physical resources you invested in building and planning your aquaponics system.
This article will discuss the lighting guide for indoor or greenhouse aquaponics systems to safely provide the right amount of light needed for your plants' optimum growth.
Without light, your plants will not grow well. Choosing the right indoor lights for your plants can be a challenge, as there are many options available, but in order to choose the right grow light. You need to know these few things.
How Much Light Does A Plant Need?
Both light and darkness are essential for the plant growth cycle. During the daytime, the sunlight helps plants produce energy through "photosynthesis," while plants break this energy down for the growth and flowering process called "respiration" during nighttime.
It is important to provide both light and darkness to your plants. However, different types of plants need different amounts of light. As a rule of thumb, vegetables and flowering plants need 12 to 16 hours of sunlight per day. Plants also need darkness, so you must also give plants at least 8 hours of darkness per day. You need to observe your plants to know if they are getting enough or too much light.
Signs that plants get too much light:
- Plants leaves look droopy or dried out with curled leaf edges.
- The entire plant looks weak.
- Leaves closest to the light have dead brown spots.
Signs that plants don't get enough light:
- Thin, uneven growth with tall spindly stems.
- The plant tends to lean more towards the light.
Figuring out how much light is needed in your aquaponic garden involves trial and error and observation. Still, the good thing about indoor aquaponics lighting is you can move or adjust your lighting to suit your plant's needs.
What Color Of Light Is The Best For Plant Growth?
The color of light is also important in plant growth. The color of light in plants refers to the color temperature of the light. Of all the colors in white light, the plants mostly use the blue and red wavelengths. Blue triggers the plant to make more leaves, while red triggers more flowers and fruits.
To get the plants to produce more leaves, give them a cool color temperature of around 6500°K, as this is where leafy vegetable plants grow best. If you want to grow flowering or fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, give your plant a color temperature of around 2700°K, which is in the warm red range. You can also give your plants both "warm" and "cool" bulbs using multiple-bulb housing to provide plants both red and blue color temperatures.
Lighting Choices For Indoor Aquaponics
There are several types of grow lights available, each with its own strength and characteristics. However, most aquaponics gardeners are looking for a full daylight spectrum light that is energy-efficient, low cost, and suitable to grow a wide variety of plants. Based on these factors, here is our list of the daylight-spectrum lighting options available for aquaponic gardeners.
1. T5 Fluorescent
T5 fluorescent is excellent for starting seeds and lighting rectangular beds. T5 fluorescent came in two versions, the High Efficiency (HE - lower power version) and High Output (HO - high power but lower efficiency). Select the high output one because it saves energy and gives more light. T5 fluorescents are low heat light. So you can put your bulbs closer to your plants, which makes T5's ideal for low ceiling growing spaces.
2. Compact Fluorescent (CFL)
Compact fluorescent lights are the newer form of fluorescent lighting and come in many wattages. CFL grow lights are a cheaper lighting option for small aquaponics gardens. They are low heat and produce a decent spectrum of light for growing plants. CFL should be used only as supplemental lighting to your indoor aquaponics garden when you can get at least some sun each day. In buying CFL, look for bulbs that are labeled as grow light.
3. High-Density Discharge (HID)
High-Density Discharge is another kind of indoor lighting that is brighter and more intense than other types of lighting. The HID system is composed of a socket, lamp or light bulb, ballast, and a reflector. The HID light has an awkward shape and is often used in conjunction with a reflector which directs the light down towards the plants.
HID grow lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights and a much better choice for more extensive and more light-demanding indoor plants. HID bulbs have a high light output level and are often used by commercial aquaponic growers.
4. Light-Emitting Diodes (LED)
Light-emitting diodes (LED) are the best in the market today, but it is a bit expensive compared to the other grow lights. The reason for this is that LED offers a distinct advantage over the other grow light choices. These are:
- Lack of heat - you can put the light closer to your plants without burning the leaves.
- LED grow lights only emit light that is usable to plants.
- Long life.
In using LED, there is no need to use ballast, reflectors, or running cables in between since all the electronics are within the unit. LED grow lights can be used in tight spaces and operate at a lower temperature, so you can control your grow room temperature easily.
One disadvantage of LED light is that it is expensive, but if you want to invest in a long-lasting, efficient grow light, LED lights are a great choice.
Grow Light Placement
Hanging or placing your grow lights over the plant beds is the best grow light placement, as it mimics the natural sunlight from overhead and exposes all the sides and leaves of the plants to the artificial light.
When you hang your grow lights, always consider the type of plant you have and how tall it can grow. Keep your grow light close to the plant as much as possible, but not too close that it will burn your plant.
Here's our guide on grow light placement in your aquaponics system:
- Fluorescent lights can be placed 12 inches over the plants.
- HID lights can be hung 12 to 48 inches above the plants, depending on your wattage.
- LED light emits less heat, so you can place them 6 inches over plants.
You can also research the type of plants you want to grow and their light requirements to determine how much light they will need. One thing you can do to test if the distance between your light and plant is right is to test by placing your palm down over your plants. If the top of your hand becomes hot, you need to adjust your light's placement. Too much heat will burn your plant, and your plant will also grow in height, so you need to check and adjust the placement of your grow light as your plant grows.
Grow lights are one of the most critical components and one that you should put much consideration if you're planning on growing an indoor or greenhouse aquaponics system. There are several types of grow lights that you can use, some cheaper and some more expensive. What is important is to choose the right grow light that is suitable for your growing environment, plants, and budget. Thank you for reading this article, subscribe to our email lists if you want to get the latest aquaponics updates.