Does Aquaponics need sunlight to thrive? (Aquaponics lights for plants)

What are the sunlight requirements for aquaponics systems

There are three essential living organisms in an aquaponics systems. This includes the plants to grow vegetables or fruit, the fish to create the ecosystem and/or to harvest and eat, plus the nitrifying bacteria. But does Aquaponics need sunlight for these organisms to live and thrive? Let’s take a look…

Does Aquaponics need sunlight to thrive - Aquaponics lights for plants

Does Aquaponics need sunlight to thrive in 10 seconds…

It is the plants in your aquaponics system that need at least 4-6 hours of good sunlight a day to grow well. But sunlight can be substituted with artificial light instead. However, whilst your fish do not need sunlight to grow as such, they do need both light and dark periods each day to thrive, without which they will stop eating and become lethargic.

Do aquaponics systems require sunlight to thrive

There are three living organisms required for an aquaponics ecosystem to work. Each organism relies on the other to create the perfect environment to grow and thrive. The three living organisms include:

  1. Fish: The aquaponic fish which live in the aquaculture part of this ecosystem or fish tank. The fish produce excess nitrogen in the form of ammonia and ammonium either excreted from their gills or in the form of waste as faeces. This is the beginning of the nitrogen cycle.
  2. Beneficial bacteria: Beneficial bacteria which are known as nitrifying bacteria convert or oxidise the nitrogen, which is in the form or either ammonia (NH3) or ammonium (NH4+), into into nitrites (NO2-) and then into nitrates (NO3-).
  3. Plants: The aquaponic plants that grow either vegetables or fruit take up the excess nitrogen from the ecosystem in the form of nitrates which is an essential part of plant growth and is necessary for photosynthesis.

But do all three organisms require sunlight to grow or thrive?

Now that I’ve identified the main three living organisms within an aquaponics system, lets’ take a look at whether each one requires sunlight to thrive.

Do aquaponic fish need light or sunlight?

Whilst your fish do not need sunlight or any form of light to grow as such, most fish require both periods of light and dark. Without periods of light your fish may stop eating altogether, become lethargic or become ill with insufficient lighting.

Some argue you’re better off not having any sun on your fish tank at all. This is because sunlight on your fish tank leads to algae growth. However, whilst this is true, you should provide light for your fish every day, which can be artificial light instead of direct sunlight.

More Reading: Can plants tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light?

Does nitrifying bacteria need light or sunlight

Light is not only unnecessary for the growth of the beneficial bacteria or nitrifying bacteria, but light can inhibit the growth of these nitrifiers.

This is particularly true of Nitrobacter, which are the bacteria that convert nitrites into nitrates. Therefore, it is essential that the beneficial bacteria are kept in the dark, as ultraviolet light can kill bacteria.

Do aquaponics plants need sunlight or or can plants use artificial light for photosynthesis?

As I’ve already explained above, the aquaponics plants take up nitrogen in the form as nitrates (NO2-). Nitrogen is found in all living cells and for plants is an essential component of plant proteins and chlorophyll. Therefore, without nitrates a plant cannot grow and produce flowers, vegetables and fruit.

Chlorophyll is necessary for the process of photosynthesis, which is a process whereby plants make their own food. However the key ingredient for photosynthesis to work is sunlight, as follows:


Carbon Dioxide (6xCO2) + Water (6xH2O) ==>(SUNLIGHT)==>Glucose (1xC6H12O6) + Oxygen (6xO2)

For your plants to grow well in an aquaponics system they need between 4-6 hours of good sunlight. That means the positioning of your aquaponics system is important. However, if you’re not able to position your aquaponics system in direct sunlight, will artificial sunlight work instead?

Can you use artificial light for photosynthesis for aquaponics plants?

The answer is yes you can use artificial light for photosynthesis for aquaponics plants. Photosynthesis uses photons for the chemical reaction to work. Sunlight produces photons as does any other light.

Man-made light also produces photons, and depending on the type and colour of the light, will depend on how well it will work to grow your plants.

Aquaponics lights for plants

Modern day LED lights, especially LED grow lights, are good for indoor plants and will work well for aquaponics plants. But of course the downside of using artificial light instead of sunlight is the added cost to your aquaponics system of powering these lights.

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Happy DIY aquaponics.

Does Aquaponics need sunlight to thrive? (Aquaponics lights for plants)

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