02-22-2011, 10:45 PM
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I owe pretty much all of my knowledge of lighting for planted tanks to Byron (I am eternally thankful!!!)... and he can probably explain this a lot more thoroughly if he sees this thread... but here goes.
Based on my understanding/memory of what he told me, you want to use lights that are as close to daylight as possible... 6-7000k is a good range to look for as far as spectrum. I got a 6500k bulb (in a 2pk at home depot for about $8 - much cheaper than pet store lights!) because he said 6500k is the colour that will give the plants the right balance of red and blue for photosynthesis, along with some green which helps the fish and plants to show their best colour. The intensity (lumens) of the light is also important because the water disperses (is that the right word?) the light so it's not hitting the plants as strongly if the lumens aren't high enough... I'm not sure what "high enough" is though. And the closer the light is to the water, the better (with glass in between it and the water so it doesn't get splashed). Long story short, the K rating and the intensity are important - moreso than the watts.
It is important to also have floating plants, rock caves, driftwood, etc. to provide darker/shady areas for the fish. Just as DKRST already said, fish come from low-light environments for the most part. This is something I have heard and read countless times, and have also observed in my own tanks (especially with my dwarf gouramis, loaches, and angelfishes). They spend most of their time under rocks or in the dark corners of the tank when the light is on.
I hope that helps, and I know Byron and many others here can fill in whatever blanks I left!