Aquarium Lighting Basics: Their Purpose and Types

Choosing the right aquarium lighting can be a challenge because of the range of choices available. A good way to limit your choices is to learn about some of the reasons for installing aquarium lighting. Once you learn about them, you will have a better idea of which lights to get.

There are several reasons for installing aquarium lights. You can install them for aesthetics, to increase visibility, and to ensure photosynthesis for the survival of reefs and coral. For aesthetics purposes, aquarium lighting can be used to highlight certain areas or aspects of your tank. So if you have fish or tank decorations that you want to display, aquarium lighting can help you do that. Aquarium lighting always makes the view from outside the glass only more interesting.

Increasing visibility can also be part of aesthetics, but its main function is to make monitoring easier. If the fish is visible, it’s easier to keep track of its health conditions and notice whether there are problems with the fish through its eyes, color, and movement. For example, you can easily see sick fish and address the problem before it gets worse.

For some tanks, the right lighting is essential. For tanks that have corals and fish, right lighting ensures that photosynthesis occurs. Corals and reefs need light of higher intensity. You need to have lights that provide exactly that.

Other considerations would be the size of the tank, the number and type of fish you have in the tank. For example, you may want to put in lights that mimic sunlight for tropical fish. Now that you have an idea of some of the reasons for installing aquarium lights, here are the types of aquarium lights available for you. These differ in the lights that they provide, the purpose that they serve, and the advances in lighting technology.

Incandescent lights are the traditional aquarium lights. They are not expensive, but if you add their operation and care to the total cost, they can cost more in the long run. They burn hot and break down easily. Also, these lights eat up a lot of electricity.

Speaking about better light and energy efficiency, fluorescent lights fit the bill. These lights last longer, consume less electricity, and give out brighter lights. Aside from that, fluorescent lights also come in different types so you have more choices for your aquarium lights.

These lights are the lights of choice for people who own reefs and corals. Since these lights produce light at a specific wavelength, you can get a light that emits the right wavelength to induce photosynthesis. The only disadvantage is that these lights also heat up fairly quickly. You may need to install a cooling fan to keep the lights from overheating. Another thing to consider is that these lights can also heat up the water temperature; you might also need a chiller for your tank.

Next on list are metal halides. These give out lights of stronger intensity and of a specific wavelength. This makes it a good choice for people who have corals and reefs in their tanks. Since you can find the right wavelength for your needs, ensuring the health and survival of the corals and reefs are assured. Just be aware that these lights burn very hot and can consume lots of energy. You may need to install cooling fans beside the lights and chillers in your tank to maintain the correct water temperature.

Guss Fitzgerald is a hobbyist who has kept aquarium fish for many years. He has gained much of his knowledge of the different types of aquarium lighting from studying books and his own personal experience. To find out more about keeping a fish tank consider visiting