Do Aquaponics Plants Need Sunlight?

The most striking thing about the aquaponics plants system is the fact that it does not require soil. However, it is worth asking what else it needs for the plants to thrive. Have you been wondering whether aquaponic plants require sunlight? If so, you have come to the right place.

The Requirements Of An Aquaponics Systems

As a rule of thumb, there are a set of living organisms required in any aquaponics system. Thanks to these components, the plants can thrive. The following are these live organisms we are referring to:

how aquaponics works

1. Beneficial Bacteria

Also called nitrifying bacteria, beneficial bacteria oxidize or convert the nitrogen from either ammonium or ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.

2. Fish

Fish live in the aquaponics fish tank, the aquaculture section of the ecosystem. These creatures generate excess nitrogen as ammonium and ammonia. They are produced in the form of gill excretion or feces. This marks the start of the nitrogen cycle.

3. Plants

Aquaponics plants, either fruits or vegetables, absorb the excess nitrogen present in the ecosystem. This is essential to plant growth since it is a requirement for the process of photosynthesis.

These are the basic requirements of any aquaponics system. The question now is whether sunlight is required in the setup. Let us tackle this matter one by one.

Do Aquaponics Fish Require Sunlight?

The fish do not require sunlight or other forms of light to live, although many fish thrive better in dark and light periods. If they stay in the dark for too long, they might stop eating completely, become lethargic, or get sick.

It is true that sunlight exposure can result in algae growth in the aquaponics fish tank. Despite this, the fish will be healthier if they get daily exposure to light. This does not have to come in the form of natural sunlight, as even artificial light will do the trick.

Does Beneficial Bacteria Require Sunlight?

In general, light is not necessary when it comes to the growth of nitrifying bacteria. As a matter of fact, the light might limit the growth of the nitrifiers. Keep this in mind, especially if you are using Nitrobacter. These are the bacteria that turn nitrites into nitrates. It is important to keep the beneficial bacteria away from light since ultraviolet light is known to kill bacteria.

Do Aquaponics Plants Require Sunlight?

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that nitrogen is necessary for photosynthesis. This element is present in every living organism. When it comes to plants, it is a vital component of chlorophyll and plant proteins. If there is no nitrate, plants cannot produce and grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, which is the process that allows plants to create their food. Sunlight is a requirement for the process to take place. Aquaponics plants will need a certain number of hours of light exposure per day to ensure proper growth. It is important to consider the position of the aquaponics system for this reason. If plants do not get enough light exposure, they will grow thin, leggy, and weak. Some might become stunted and squat instead.

However, natural sunlight is not always accessible. This has some people wondering if they can instead rely on artificial lighting for their aquaponics systems.

Will Artificial Light Suffice For Photosynthesis Of Aquaponics Plants?

Do not worry if you don’t have access to natural sunlight because artificial light will also work. After all, photons are utilized by plants during photosynthesis. Sunlight is not the only form of light that produces photons.

Any kind of light will do the trick. Modern LED lights are going to work for both indoor plants and aquaponics plants. Grow lights are the best option in the market. However, this will contribute to a higher cost of the system compared to the natural alternative.

Aquaponics Sunlight

How To Use Artificial Lights For Aquaponics Plants?

When you have an indoor aquaponics system, you do not have to be at the mercy of mother nature. This is especially ideal in the summer or winter. Some people prefer growing indoors for security, lack of outdoor space, or ease of access. Aside from temperature, you can also manage light exposure with better control.

Ideally, you will mimic natural sunlight with the use of artificial lights. Check out the following factors to take into consideration when you are shopping for artificial lights for your aquaponics system:

Handling Heat

Plants figure out the season by the length of the day, temperature, and light spectrum. Plants that are too hot or too cold might undergo “thermal dormancy” and refuse to germinate or grow well.

Some kinds of plants need complete darkness to germinate, although others need light. Metal halide and high-pressure sodium lights can produce too much heat. If your plants show signs of burning, crisping, or heat stress, you should elevate the light, turn down the heat, and circulate the area using fans.

Sun Color

Throughout the day, the sun goes through a big color spectrum. Just imagine how different it is at sunrise, high noon, and sunset. Clouds also contribute to this. Light also changes as the season’s change.

Make sure to pick the appropriate light fixture for your aquaponics plants. Vegetative plants thrive in the blue spectrum, while fruiting crops and flowering plants prefer the red spectrum. We recommend full spectrum light bulbs that have a wide light color range.

Sun Seasons

The longest day of the year is the summer solstice. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the shortest day is the winter solstice. The length of the day varies based on latitude. Fall and spring equinoxes are equal in the length of day and night, usually with similar temperatures as well.

All vegetating plants can consume anywhere from 12 to 20 hours of light, while fruiting and flowering ones require 10 to 16 hours to complete the lifecycle.

Light Intensity

It is important to remember that the level of sunlight also differs. It can be bright, cloudy, low, or high depending on different factors. This is yet another consideration you must take into account when you buy artificial light for aquaponics plants. With the exception of LEDs, grow lights tend to be less effective after some time. Do not forget to replace the light bulbs once it has used up the number of light hours.

It is impossible to deny that the use of grow lights, and artificial lighting can be costly. However, these tools let you grow and progress production regardless of the time of the year. You can determine the right options for your conditions by researching energy consumption, bulb replacement costs, initial costs, ventilation, and more. If you can mimic natural sunlight and extend growing capabilities, you will see a better response from your aquaponics plants.

Kinds Of Artificial Lights On The Market

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options you have. Here are the most popular artificial lights used for aquaponics plants systems:

High-Intensity Discharge Grow Lights

These are suitable regardless of the plant variety you are growing. Also called HIDS, they are typically more efficient when compared to fluorescent lights. They are better suited for demanding and extensive indoor aquaponics systems.

This kind is typically used with a reflector that points the lights towards the aquaponics plants. The setup usually involves the use of interchangeable reflectors, bulbs, and ballasts that can be mixed and matched to suit any budget or style.

Aquaponics Grow Light

Fluorescent Grow Lights

In general, this kind is relatively affordable than the other options. However, fluorescent grow lights are only sufficient for low-profile plants such as leafy greens. They are ideal if you want to light rectangular beds as long as 4 inches or seed starting. These artificial lights are low heat, so there is no need to be concerned about having the bulbs close to the aquaponics plants. This makes it ideal if the growing spaces have low ceilings.

LED Grow Lights

Most people use Light Emitting Diode or LED grow lights in their aquaponics system. The manufacturers have control over the light spectrum emitted by the fixtures through the LEDs themselves. On top of that, these lighting fixtures are also more energy-efficient than the two alternatives mentioned above. This can help growers save money in the long run. It is not difficult to understand why this is the most popular option on the market right now.


Light is one of the biggest considerations when you grow aquaponics plants. But what should you do when you do not have easy access to natural sunlight? The good news is that the sun is not the only source that you can use. There are many alternatives on the market in the form of LED, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge grow lights.

Interestingly, aquaponics plant growers sometimes find artificial light even more beneficial than natural light. In the end, the best setup depends on your specific situation. We hope this guide has helped you find a solution to your aquaponics problem!

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