using the sun?
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using the sun?

This is a discussion on using the sun? within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> Hi, i was wondering if anyone could tell me if there was a plant setup that could use the sun instead of any artificial ...

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Old 05-12-2009, 06:27 PM   #1
 
using the sun?

Hi, i was wondering if anyone could tell me if there was a plant setup that could use the sun instead of any artificial lights? I was told using natural light will cause algae problems but is there a way to balance the ecosystem to be able to handle natural light?
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Old 05-13-2009, 11:56 AM   #2
 
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Whether you light the aquarium with artificial light or natural light, the principles are exactly the same. Using natural light will no more cause algae problems than using artificial light--but, it is easier to control artificial light and this is why some say natural light is not workable.

Plants in the aquarium need light in order to photosynthesize, which is their means of growing. The light has to be suitable in terms of its strength (the type of light) and duration (how long it is on). Along with light, plants also require nutrients, being CO2 (carbon dioxide) and trace elements (minerals). All three must be in balance. Algae will thrive when this balance is not present, as for example when the light the aquarim receives is greater than the CO2 and trace minerals available for the plants to balance the light. Also, plants can reach a point of oversynthesis with too much light, which literally wears them out. Photosynthesis is directly proportional to the intensity of light until a light saturation point is reached, so any light beyond that point is meaningless.

In such cases, algae will take over and use the excess light and nutrients to thrive. Algae are better able than plants to extract CO2 from carbonates, so they have an advantage over the plants when the afore-mentioned balance is out of whack.

Rhonda Wilson writes regular plant articles in AFI [Aquarium Fish International] and she frequently mentions some of her best plant growth seems to be in tanks with no artificial light but only natural daylight. But as I said at the start, it is more difficult for the aquarist to manipulate/manage natural light than artifical. The aquarim must receive sufficient light and strong enough light to enable the plants to carry out their photosynthesis, but not more so that algae won't take advantage.
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Old 05-13-2009, 12:19 PM   #3
 
is there a method for testing the balance? Like monitoring how much of the trace minerals and how much co2 is present in the water?
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Old 05-13-2009, 02:27 PM   #4
 
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Originally Posted by SinCrisis View Post
is there a method for testing the balance? Like monitoring how much of the trace minerals and how much co2 is present in the water?
One can obviously buy test kits to test CO2, and perhaps for trace minerals (I have seen iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese I think) but that still doesn't tell you how much is needed for a balance given your particular situation, and I suspect that is what you're really asking about. There are some guidelines though which several planted aquarium specialists have written about in the last few years. With artificial light, 1-2 watts of full spectrum light per gallon of water in the aquarium, on for 8-12 hours per day, is considered to be adequate to amintain healthy (but slower) plant growth with plants that are not "high light" in their requirements. If the light is increased to 3-4 or more watts per gallon, most aquarists hold that CO2 injection is required to balance the higher light. Other nutrients, trace elements and minerals like iron, can be added easily enough with liquid fertilizers in either scenario, and soimetimes as substrate additives, and the amount required is usually worked out by observation of the aquarist. Amano holds that daily fertilization is mandatory in high-light CO2 tanks. I fertilize twice each week, and I have 1 watt per gallon of full spectrum light (plus some diffused daylight in the room) and no CO2, and the lights are on 13 hours each day. You can see the result in my aquarim photos. I clearly have found the balance for my systems, as the plants are healthy and growing and algae is very minimal.

In the case of using natural light, something I didn't go into earlier is that the light must obviously be directed from the top in order to encourage plant growth vertically. Plants always grow towards the light source. There is also the matter of what the aquarium will look like. If the light does not come from above, viewing the fish will be different with light from the front, or if from the rear it will make the fish appear to be in shadow. Personally I would think using natural daylight alone would be harder to work out satisfactorily. And for the relatively low cost of fluorescent light (and moreso with the new compact lighting options) where one can regulate the light according to personal viewing schedules and plant growth, it hardly seems worth the effort. But that is my opinion.
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Old 05-13-2009, 09:45 PM   #5
 
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Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
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Old 05-13-2009, 11:49 PM   #6
 
what are you objecting to aquakid? so basically if i choose to go with natural sun, i need to experiment to find my balance? since i cant measure the sun's wattage. This leads me to a second question, one that does not ahev to do with aquarium plant life, but rather natural plant life in the wild. how are those ecosystems able to grow plants without having algae chocking the life outta them?
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:04 AM   #7
 
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Originally Posted by SinCrisis View Post
what are you objecting to aquakid? so basically if i choose to go with natural sun, i need to experiment to find my balance? since i cant measure the sun's wattage. This leads me to a second question, one that does not ahev to do with aquarium plant life, but rather natural plant life in the wild. how are those ecosystems able to grow plants without having algae chocking the life outta them?
Another forum I belong to recently had a question from someone with an aquarium in his solarium where it received plenty of light and he asked what he could do about the algae which was out of control. I and a couple others responded, and the gist of the advice was to use CO2 to balance the stronger light but that wouldn't solely solve the problem because one could never inject adequate CO2 to balance the sun without killing all the fish from excess CO2, so shading out the light was the second part of the equation. So yes, you would need to experiment to find the point at which algae starts to increase, and restrict the daylight accordingly.

As for what occurs in nature, I have noticed from photos and videos of natural ecosystems as in South America that the submersed plant life does have algae on it. It is also true that the sun rarely (perhaps never, I don't know) shines full strength on the river for 12 hours; there are overhead trees shading the water so the sun, when it is direct, is only direct for limited periods. Also, there is usually considerable floating vegetation that filters out direct sunlight. And, much of the rooted aquarium plants are bog plants in nature; Echinodorus species in SA and Cryptocornye species in SE Asia are frequently growing in bog (marsh) conditions for half of the year and become submersed during the rainy season. Nurseries normally cultivate them emersed which is why the leaves are a different shape when you buy them from the new leaves they grow submersed in the aquarium. The best aquarium plants are the species that do well submersed all the time, but in nature this is probably extremely rare; I have seen numerous articles on SA biotopes where the river is barren of any plant life. Stem (bunch) plants of course grow extremely rapidly and the lower leaves die off quickly as the plant reaches the surface, and either grows along the surface or up into the air (where it flowers). Nature does seem to have everything worked out--provided we don't interfere.

Byron.
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:19 AM   #8
 
That was very informative. Thank you so much. I think i will experiment and see how it goes and if its too hard to balance, ill go for artificial lighting
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Old 05-14-2009, 11:32 AM   #9
 
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Keep us posted on developments, and good luck. Best wishes, Byron.
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