It’s so easy to get caught up in aquascaping design, plant placement, pH levels, fish selection, and tank maintenance that sometimes it can be easy to forget about some of the seemingly minor details. Lighting can be one of those oversights. After all, we kind of take light for granted. The sun provides us with plenty of sunshine every day, and we can summon light through the magic of modern technology with the flip of a switch.
Proper lighting for a fish tank isn’t quite as simple. We’ve got light bulbs spread throughout our house primarily because it’s convenient for us, but in the aquarium world proper lighting can literally make the difference between life and death. Aquariums are miniature, complete ecosystems that require every component to interact harmoniously with all of the other pieces. You wouldn’t expect your aquarium to survive without water would you? And how would do you think your aquatic population would do without food? Make no mistake: light is just as important.
Before you start shopping for lights, it’s imperative that you do research on the types of creatures you plan to put in your aquarium. Coral can be particularly tricky. They will die if they don’t have enough light, but much like a dish that you left in the oven for way too long, they can also get fried if they have too much light. Species that have homes near the equator need more light (that shouldn’t be surprising), while species that dwell closer to the poles need less light.
Freshwater aquariums have similar issues. They tend to focus on rampant plant life, which need a considerable source of light in order to grow. Light is like grub for your plants: the more you give them, the faster they’ll grow up to be big and strong.
There are a bunch of different lighting options, ranging from flourescent to metal halide lights. We’re not going to talk about those lights today, because it’s generally agreed upon that LEDs are the absolute best choice for aquariums. Here’s why:
1. Save on Your Electricity Bills
LEDs are one of the most power-efficient light sources on the market, requiring a mere 30% of the power that conventional light bulbs use. This efficiency offsets their comparatively high price tag. You may pay a little bit more upfront, but since you’ll be keeping these lights on all day you’ll probably end up saving more on power bills in the long run.
2. Don’t Boil Your Fish
Less electricity naturally means less heat. LEDs generate very little heat, which means that you don’t have to worry about your aquarium’s temperature rising to dangerous levels. Alternatively, you could go for the more tempting option of purchasing a non-LED lighting system, but that means that you’re also going to have to buy a cooling fan. Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish: invest in a good LED system on day one. Your wallet will thank you later.
Oh, no! Won’t somebody please think of the
3. The LED’ll Come Out Tomorrow
LED lights retain their brightness for incredibly long periods of time. They keep 95% of their brightness after 1,000 hours (about one month), and 70% of their brightness after 50,000 hours (About five-and-a-half years). Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Noticing a theme here?
LED lights are waterproof, and unlike conventional bulbs they don’t use glass. That reduces the chance of you accidentally breaking a bulb and sending a plume of deadly glass shards into your beloved aquarium. You think cutting yourself on glass hurts? Trying breathing in a shard of it through your gills. Ouch!
5. All the Pretty Colors
One of the coolest things about LEDs is that they can easily change colors. Most people aren’t too keen on regularly messing with the colors of their tank, but you might want to whip out more festive colors whenever one of your fish have a birthday, or to replicate the aurora borealis to make your northern fish feel at home.