Lighting plays a critical role in aquarium design, as indeed it does in many other design situations, such as home interiors. Several aspects of aquarium lighting require attention:
• Aesthetic value: Light is obviously needed to allow people to see into the aquarium. Since it is rare to be able to illuminate with natural daylight, artificial lighting is installed above the tank. Lighting can be of two types: fluorescent or metal halide. Manufacturers produce both types, and some also make combination units. Fluorescent lighting predominates in most equipment packages because the initial cost of metal halide lighting is considerable.
• Coral growth: Lighting must be sufficiently intense for the needs of corals and other photosynthetic invertebrates living in the aquarium. For larger aquariums, metal halide lighting is absolutely required to provide enough light for proper coral growth. A single lamp provides enough light to illuminate four square feet of water down to a depth of eighteen inches.
• Engineering: Not only must aquarium lighting provide sufficient intensity and good color rendition, it has to fit the tank. Lighting equipment generates heat, and this must be dealt with to avoid overheating. Protecting the lighting equipment from water must also be accomplished, both to avoid electrical hazards and to prevent damage from corrosion and water spots. All of this, not to mention cost, must be taken into account when engineering an aquarium lighting system.
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