Whether you already have your indoor aquaponics system or planning to have one. One of the critical things you need to consider is what kind of grow light to use. Grow lights in indoor aquaponics systems are essential for plant growth as they provide the artificial spectrum that help facilitates photosynthesis.
Many artificial lighting systems are available, but choosing the best aquaponics grow lights is necessary for optimal plant growth. Using the wrong grow light can ruin your system by stressing the fish, limiting plant growth, and possibly killing the nitrifying bacteria. This article will discuss the best grow lights for indoor aquaponics systems and the considerations you need to make in setting up artificial lighting.
The Importance of Light to Indoor Aquaponics Systems
Grow lights affect plants, fish, and bacteria differently, which we will discuss below.
Plants need sunlight for photosynthesis to happen. If plants do not have enough light exposure, they will grow thin, stunted, and weak. However, if natural sunlight is not accessible, artificial lighting can also be used to provide the required proton.
Different fish species require different light conditions. Some fish need light for normal and healthy growth, while others thrive in darker conditions. However, most fish species thrive better in dark and light periods. If they stay in the dark for too long, they might become lethargic, get sick, or might stop eating completely.
Light is not necessary for the growth of nitrifying bacteria. In fact, blue and ultraviolet lights can negatively affect the growth or kill these bacteria.
How Much Light Does A Plant Need?
Both light and darkness are essential for the plant growth cycle. The sunlight helps plants produce energy during the daytime through photosynthesis, while plants break this energy down for the growth and flowering process called "respiration" during nighttime.
It is essential to provide both light and darkness to your plants. However, different 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 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 limp 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.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Grow lights for Aquaponics
Grow lights or artificial lights serve the same purpose as sunlight in aquaponics. There are many types of grow lights available, and your choice will depend on your personal preference and the type of fish and plants you are growing. Consider the following factors when choosing the best grow light for your aquaponics system.
1. Type of Light
The primary types of grow lights used in aquaponics are:
- Red light - this light is suitable for the fruiting stage of plants.
- Blue light - This light is needed for the foliage phase of the plant to achieve healthy leaves.
- White light - this light is the artificial sunlight that is suitable for the overall growth of plants.
- Visible light is also called photosynthetic active radiation (PAR), the most suitable light for plant growth. Most plants grow well in this kind of light.
2. Light Intensity and Distribution
Light intensity is measured in lumens, and it refers to the brightness of the light. One lumen can illuminate one square foot of your growing area, so the number of lumens you need will depend on the growing area of your system.
Light distribution is also important to ensure all plants receive a uniform amount of light. You need to strategically position your grow light above your growing area to do this.
If cost is an issue, you can do some research before buying your grow light to identify the ones that fit your budget.
4. Installation and Maintenance
An aquaponics system requires regular care and maintenance, and you don't want to complicate it by buying grow lights that you cannot fix on your own. So consider the installation, operation, and maintenance of the grow light you're planning to buy.
Some grow lights (LED light is an example) have timers or control knobs that you can set up to fit your needs.
Best Grow Lights for Aquaponics
These are the best grow lights for aquaponics systems.
1. Light Emitting Diode Lights (LED)
Led grow lights have become very popular aquaponics grow lights over the past few years and are considered one of the best grow lights. This grow light facilitates plant growth because of its full spectrum. Below are reasons why LED is regarded as one of the best aquaponics grow lights.
- LED lights produce very little heat, emitting limited harmful wavelengths that can dry or burn plants.
- They are very durable, which lessens replacement expenses.
- LED lights have no harmful content like mercury, so they are environmentally friendly.
- LED lights use less energy than the other types of lights.
The downside of using LED grow lights is the initial cost. However, LED lights are more energy-efficient and need to be replaced less often than the other types of grow lights, which can help aquaponics growers save money in the long run.
2. High Intensity Discharge Lights (HID)
Also called HIDS, these lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights and are suited for aquaponics plants requiring more lights. HID lights have a lower initial cost and can be customized according to the grower's needs and budget. This is because its bulbs, ballast, and reflectors are interchangeable. Although the bulb needs to be replaced every year, it is still considered one of the best grow lights for aquaponics systems. Below are the reason why:
- HID works well in growing plants.
- They can be used 24 hours a day without affecting the system's temperature.
- They emit limited harmful wavelengths that can cause the plants to dry or burn.
- It has no harmful content like mercury.
3. Fluorescent Lights
Using fluorescent bulbs in your aquaponics systems is the most affordable option. Fluorescent is very common and can be purchased in most hardware, garden centers, or DIY stores. They provide a full spectrum and are great for small systems with confined spaces as the bulb can sit just a few inches from your plants. Here are some reasons why fluorescent is one of the best grow lights for aquaponics.
- Fluorescent lights are affordable.
- These grow lights produce low heat, so there is no need to worry about bulbs being too close to the plants.
- They last longer than ordinary bulbs.
- Fluorescent lights are energy efficient.
- They are readily available in local and online stores.
Choosing the best grow lights is one of the critical decisions you should make if you plan to build your own indoor aquaponics system. Many grow light options are available in the market, but the best lights are LED, HID, and fluorescents. Choosing between these three best grow lights will depend on your preference, budget, and specific situation. We hope this article has helped you choose the best aquaponics grow lights that fit your particular need.