06-25-2010, 08:31 PM
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Salix, without live plants the only need for a light is for you to view the fish. I would not suggest turning it on and off all the time, it is better to have a schedule, but have it on when you are normally there to watch the fish and enjoy them. And make sure there is always light in the room when you turn the tank light on or off; never do this in a totally dark room, it can shock the fish.
The danger with too much light and no live plants is algae; algae will use the nutrients in the presence of light because there are no live plants touse the nutrients and light. Algae excess can be a problem.
With respect to planted tanks, have a look at the series of articles at the head of the Aquarium Plant section, they are entitled, "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium." Then, ask questions