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Sunlight for Planted tank?


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I'm having a hard time understanding why the internet basically says "HECK NO!" to any natural light, especially direct, but "HIGHLY REQUIRED!" to full-spectrum high powered LED lights which seem to strive to reproduce natural light.  What am I missing here?

 

I'm starting a planted tank that will have emersed house plants coming out the top, and I'd like them to be able to grow nicely, without putting a light over them and shadowing the plants in the tank (this has been a challenge with another similar tank) or having to use multiple lights.  I have the perfect spot, but it gets about 2 hours of direct morning sun and bright indirect light for another 4 hours.  I plan to get a basic clip-on LED light to make sure the plants against the wall with less natural light will still grow, and so I can see the tank after dark, and know there will be some playing with the light timing to get things balanced, and that this will likely be on-going with changes in weather and seasons.  Is a tank that gets natural light doomed to have a massive algae issue like the entire internet seems to tell me?

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Not always. That's just the most common outcome. You seem to have done all the research you can. You know what the possible outcomes are, just have your tweak it plans ready. All factors (like windows, house position) are different for everyone. I have a large-ish tank in a similar spot as you described and have had zero issues with algae or green water. But this house has upgraded windows and glass slider. You won't know if it'll work for you till you try it. If it goes south you can always do some crafty things to the sides to minimise the amount of direct sun getting in. Such as covering it with a lace like piece of old cheap curtains. Lets in some of the sun but not all. Good Luck! Let us know how it turns out if you go ahead with it!

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I feel that usually when people say absolutely no sunlight, it's more of a generalized rule for newer aquarist. It stems from a "catch all" kind of statement. Another rule that comes to mind is the " 1 inch per gallon rule", I think nowadays people are a little more privy to nuances in fish keeping where that blanket statement isn't used as much anymore and I feel it falls within the same category with the use of sunlight.

The only concerns that I find in using it would be like you said that depending on seasons the amount of light you get will differ. To delve more into that topic most people tend to discourage using sunlight as it usually too strong and very inconsistent when trying to create a baseline or regiment for your tank. Often a problem I see is most people having a tank being beamed by direct sunlight all day, and that I find where usually the problem lies. But on the other hand I keep a 10 gallon plastic storage container outside under a tree and there is literally no algae present (I hardly dose, once every 2 weeks, no air or filtration either)

I am similarly in the same boat as you I just don't get direct sunlight, its very minimal indirect sunlight in my room and I have pothos and Japanese peace lily growing out of my tank. I have minimal algae in my tank mostly staghorn/blackbeard on the roots of my pothos but nothing that I would consider out of control. Sure you might have to figure out what kind of fertilizing regiment you need to do but simple fixes like slightly shading the windows or just closing them at certain times might be just enough to reach your desired goal.

You should definitely try it if you want, don't let the internet scare you away from playing around with your fish tank haha. I think half the fun is trying to work around mother nature and let her do her thing. After all, the sun grows more plants than any of us ever will.

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A lot of it comes down to control.  You have much less control from day to day how much light your tank will get with the sun.  

And one good way to get a whole lot of algae is an uncontrolled large amount of light hitting your tank.  You also have seasonal variability in how much sun a particular spot might get (more in the summer, less in the winter), and daily variation depending on your local weather (sunny days vs cloudy days vs stormy days).

The goal of many people is to minimize variables to make sure you can provide the best environment for the creatures we keep in our care, and that comes down to controlling stuff.  While you certainly can light a fish tank with natural sun light, it might end up being like trying to water a small flower pot with a fire hose.  With experimentation, you can probably make it work very well, but it will probably be a lot trickier, and take a lot more trial and error, than trying to get lighting right with a modern LED light.

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@Koi  Do you have pics of your tank with the plants?

 

I have some little peace lillies I've just rinsed off and put into the top of a tank - got a second hand plant for $5 that was massively root bound and split into a good chunk for an aquarium and a good bit of it in a pot as well.  I have pothos  and heart leaf philodendrons in a couple tanks, and transcendia in one.  This one I'm planning I think I'll either do golden or neon pothos depending which colours look best against the plants that end up in there... quite hard to get plants lately so it's a bit of taking what you can get and making it work and likely trimming things in other tanks a touch prematurely to fill it out.  It's a large fish bowl (3.5gal) and I've got it starting to cycle beside an existing tank but not loving the look... and it would fit perfectly in this one little nook in my kitchen.  I plan to use it as a grow out for baby endlers and hear that sunlight helps some fish develop their colours as well which would be a nice bonus.

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All my tanks have plants...haha just kidding here it is just ignore all the Indian almond leaves in there.

1574819357_japanesepeacelily.jpg.65be50bc901e31958f6ac0b38db56fae.jpg

So this part is ugly but I'm holding it up with a plastic cover until I find a better way to hold it in place.

plastic.jpg.b8604aa0cb1d48c0842936bd1c71aa33.jpg

So I can't say I know if this will work I was just repotting my peace lily and decided to rip some out and see what happens. I also potted an amaryllis that I cut out of a wax casing and once I get another plant from that, I'm gonna throw that in this tank too. I like your foresight trying to match terrestrial plants with the style of your tank. I' know absolutely nothing about houseplants and this is more so me throwing stuff together and seeing if it works.

I'm a firm believer that there are a lot benefits for fish getting to live out in the sun. I grow my guppies in my pond outside from spring to early fall and not only are they much more colorful, they get huge and breed well into the thousands. Also I feel like they are a lot hardier being exposed to the elements.

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Sunlight is just so powerful, if you aren't ready for it it can take you by surprise. My guess is the average plantless tank gets hit with some sunlight and algae explodes giving sunlight a bad rap, then that gets parroted a bit. I love natural sunlight on my tanks, plants love it, nothing else comes close, and it doesn't have to cause algae with the right tank balance.

Edited by TheDukeAnumber1
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@TheDukeAnumber1 Yes, I'm seeing that with so many things, that the internet is just a big echo chamber of folks all repeating the same opinions.  So glad to have this community.  Great to hear you're having success with sunlit tanks!  I'm planning for this tank to have some shrimp so hopefully they help with any seasonal/weather shifts that cause a bit of algae to flare up.  And of course there will be snails!

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Like so many people have said here, it is a matter of balance.  It is also about control and $$$  The fish and plants look better in natural sunlight, but sunlight duration and intensity is unpredictable where many of us live.  Artificial light allows us to control duration, intensity, spectrum etc.  It also allows us to put an aquarium anywhere. I have a tank on the east and west walls that get direct sun in the morning and evening. The only noticeable difference between the sunlit tanks and the tanks in the other rooms is a slight rise in temperature at these times.

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@Koi OH!  I have a solution for you - bendy plastic coated wire.  You can wrap it loosely around the base of the plant, and leave long ends to use as hooks on the side of the tank 🙂  I learned that trick from MD Fish Tanks on YouTube - he's got some lillies, ferns and philodenrons growing out the top of several tanks.  Previously I was just rooting plants in the top, but now starting to plan to keep them there permanently.  The roots are an interesting look and provide a different bit of colour.

Your tanks look great!  Just a tip for the marbled pothos you have in there since you mention it's newer for you - if it doesn't get adequate light, you'll notice the new leaves coming out mostly dark green (folks in the plant world call it "reverting"), if that happens, just move it so it gets more light 🙂 Leaves will come out darker so they have more chlorophyll to make more of the lower light conditions.

Edited by CanadaAmanda
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Like @Koi says 'no sunlight is a generalized rule.

I have 2 aquariums that both get quite a bit of sunlight, at least during the winter when the sun is much lower on the horizon.

This aquarium depends (almost) exclusively on sunlight.

2007394746_1930sAquarium.jpg.16219e81774

It is next to a south window and at this time a year gets 8 to 9 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Can sunlight cause green water and algae? Definitely! But you may have noticed that although most people on this forum do not expose their aquariums to direct sunlight, those aquariums are not entirely free of either algae or green water. Like @TheDukeAnumber1 points out it mostly just a matter of balance.

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Thanks @CanadaAmanda! Thats really helpful information now that you mention it, I can actually see the difference of light its been receiving looking at its leaves. That pothos has actually been there some time I grew it from a single cutting and it is actually twice as long as the picture indicates. 

I know this plant hates me cause I'm rather clumsy. Whenever I do maintenanceI I always manage to rip its older leaves off. You cant see if cause I keep shoving the vine deeper into my tank every time I do it haha.

 

@Daniel I totally misread your post at first! The tone of your post totally changes when you take out "Like". In my head I was thinking " I'm on your side man! " haha

 

36 minutes ago, Daniel said:

Like @Koi says 'no sunlight is a generalized rule.

I have 2 aquariums that both get quite a bit of sunlight, at least during the winter when the sun is much lower on the horizon.

This aquarium depends (almost) exclusively on sunlight.

2007394746_1930sAquarium.jpg.16219e81774

It is next to a south window and at this time a year gets 8 to 9 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Can sunlight cause green water and algae? Definitely! But you may have noticed that although most people on this forum do not expose their aquariums to direct sunlight, those aquariums are not entirely free of either algae or green water. Like @TheDukeAnumber1 points out it mostly just a matter of balance.

 

Just to add on to what you said about sunlight's relationship with green water and algae I think people are quick to blame sunlight but don't consider the heat that radiates from it. From my own tanks and ponds I've kept each and every one of between 60 and 85 degrees (my ponds is usually low 50's all the way to 90 depending on the seasons)and noticed that algae is much more prevalent in warmer temperatures. Wether it be that higher temps allow algae spores to populate much faster I'm not sure, just something I've noticed.

Another thing everybody should consider,  if sunlight is so detrimental, why aren't all ponds just giant green puddles? Often there are more factors at play and people tend to tunnel in on just one.

And I know I'm really over simplifying a lot of things here so don't slam me too hard guys

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I made one adjustment to let my cat look out the window:

IMG_2313.JPG.e26758d3934a9d2154237bb145b79749.JPG

And I grew this in my Askoll tank:

IMG_2312.JPG.8d6d53c3c640d5b6b60a6930ee3fa6b0.JPG

That tank is a few feet from the foot of my bed, and the window faces west.

My current Fluval schedule doesn't exceed 50% for any peaks, but sunlight was enough to change the balance.

I have a pair of windowsill shrimp tanks, where I recently removed all technology, and the light blockers from the windows. They seem to be stable because I am not combining lighting with the sun.

Edit: I think Valcour is finally watching the fish.

IMG_2315.JPG.9d2c8d47cb8510d73336830bbdf0a17f.JPG

Edited by Streetwise
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18 hours ago, Streetwise said:

I made one adjustment to let my cat look out the window:

IMG_2313.JPG.e26758d3934a9d2154237bb145b79749.JPG

And I grew this in my Askoll tank:

IMG_2312.JPG.8d6d53c3c640d5b6b60a6930ee3fa6b0.JPG

That tank is a few feet from the foot of my bed, and the window faces west.

My current Fluval schedule doesn't exceed 50% for any peaks, but sunlight was enough to change the balance.

I have a pair of windowsill shrimp tanks, where I recently removed all technology, and the light blockers from the windows. They seem to be stable because I am not combining lighting with the sun.

Edit: I think Valcour is finally watching the fish.

IMG_2315.JPG.9d2c8d47cb8510d73336830bbdf0a17f.JPG

How do you pronounce your cat's name? Valcour sounds like the name of the dragon from the never ending story, I'm not trying to be mean at all haha

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I actually thought about that name, but Falcor looks more like a dog-dragon than a cat-dragon. The pronunciation is the same except for the leading letter. Valcour is an island on Lake Champlain that was one of my favorite sailing destinations as a kid, where we would go snorkeling, explore the island, grill some burgers.

Valcour was a stray who kept coming by my apartment a few years ago. He was skinny and scarred-up a bit, so I earned his trust, took him in, got him neutered, checked out, and he became my best buddy to get through hard times together.

I think of it with a second meaning, if it was spelled Valcoeur: Valiant Heart.

Cheers

Edited by Streetwise
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