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As alluded to earlier, perhaps there are lessons that can be learned from
nature. Plants have been evolving for millions of years to exactly match
the environment in which they find themselves. Then we arrogant humans go
and yank them from their rightful place and plop them into our own little
suboptimal ecosystems, created by us as if we knew all the details.
A case in point is lighting. We exhibit great angst as we debate our CRIs,
Lux, PAR, Kelvin temperatures and spectral abberations. We discuss how
close to sunlight our 4700K (or 10000K) bulbs really are and how much
better the Phillps MPD32T/SG is compared to the GE SPX40/DY1. How can these
marginal simulations even begin to compare the Real Thing?
Thus I ask, "Isn't it true that aquatic plants would grow better if we
moved our aquariums outside where they could be exposed to nature's own
lighting?" Why worry about converting lumens to PAR, sweating details of
black body radiation and trying to figure spectral power density? Darn it,
just stick the aquarium in the sun!
An advantage is the natural shift of lighting, both in duration and
position (daily and seasonal). Plants have adapted to a moving point
source in the sky. I would certainly suspect that the movement they exhibit
as they maintain their orientation to the sun (what's the technical term?)
is equivalent to the excercise that we humans must endure to stay healthy.
I know of only a few aquariums that are set up to simulate the movement of
the light source. However, I visited a hydroponics store recently in search
of metal halide bulbs and noticed the current hot set up was (and I'm NOT
making this up) to have the MH fixture on a rail that allowed the motorized
fixture to move back and forth above the plants. The equivalent of plant
I also have been corresponding with a gentleman in Australia that has a
computerized simulation of the seasonal daylight cycles and, I believe, a
passable sunrise/sunset simulation. One hopes that this true-to-life
situation won't cause the aquatic annuals to shed their leaves and die in
Of course, there are some limitations to the proposed scheme. You would be
limited to plants that have adapted to your locale. Surely plants adapted
to tropical cycles would be fatally confused by time and positional
differences in a northerly or southerly latitude.
Likewise, having the tank outside may present problems in certain
non-temperate climates. One solution is to have the tank on a track so that
it could be moved ouside in the morning and inside at night where we could
enjoy the better growth achievable with natural daylight. This is a simple
Or, better yet, build a greenhouse (wethouse?) for the aquarium!
George Booth, Ft. Collins, Colorado (booth at frii_com)
Back on-line! New URL! Slightly new look! Same good data!