Aquarium Lighting


This section will be dedicated to an important element of aquarium keeping; that of lighting.  This area of aquarium care can be the difference between life and death in certain applications, and the difference in long-term aquarium success, and growth.

There are two important decisions to be made before the aquarium lights are to be purchased, and installed.  One of which, of course, is the lighting requirement of the aquarium to be set-up, and the other one is cost.

Most aquariums do very well with standard fluorescent or incandescent lighting.  However, with the advancement of technology, and the recent popularity of the saltwater reef, and freshwater live plant aquariums, lighting demands are high, and deciding on the proper type of lighting is key.  One needs to check the lumen, and light spectrum requirements of the specimens or fauna to be kept.  From here one can determine the lighting requirements of the aquarium.

Cost is a factor always, but especially when one is looking into a high-tech metal halide,  compact fluorescent, or combination lighting systems.  Make sure the lights are not only affordable now, but also in the future as bulbs will wear out, and need to be replaced.  Check to see what the cost is of replacement bulbs, and how often the manufacturer recommends replacement.  Most aquarium bulbs need to be changed about once a year to year and a half, as a generalization.

Always, always  have the aquarium specimens in mind when purchasing aquarium lighting.  Certain common aquarium inhabitants can easily be stressed and/or killed as a result of incorrect lighting decisions.  Long-term stress and/or death may occur from slight misjudgments in certain aquarium applications. Specimens that photosynthesize, or feed off light, with perish for sure without the proper lighting conditions.

This section will discuss the four major types of aquarium lighting, and go into them in depth.  Select the type of lighting to the right to view more detailed information.  There are other alternatives to aquarium lighting, such as natural sunlight.  This is only an option though, for limited aquarium applications, and only recommended for advanced aquarists.  However, we will be covering the major artificial light sources used in aquaria today. 

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Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent lights have been used on aquarium applications for many years now.  They offer high lumen output, relatively long lives, and low cost.


Fluorescent lights offer an energy efficient, cool running, and inexpensive lighting alternative.  These are the most widely used types of aquarium lights on the market today.  


Compact lighting offers the benefits of high intensity, broad spectrum lighting with fairly low heat production, and energy efficient.


Metal halide lights offer very intense, high lumen lighting that requires care in use.  They mimic sunlight by putting off a dancing luminescent glow that is unique to aquarium lighting.

Fluorescent Lighting

Compact Lighting

Metal Halide Lighting

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