LED Aquarium Lighting: The Buyer’s Guide

Yup, it is time to learn all about LED Aquarium Lighting! Yeay!

If you have not heard about the benefits of using LED lighting for you aquarium then you are definitely in the right place. LED lighting is becoming one of the most popular choices for aquarium hobbyists. Aquarium LED lighting can be used in marine, reef and freshwater aquariums.

The guide below will (hopefully) help you choose the best LED lighting for your aquarium.

LED Aquarium Lighting Buying Guide

Not long ago, LED lighting was simply used for moon lighting for aesthetic appeal, or it was used as a supplementary lighting source. Now LED lights have been developed into an adequate and sufficient source of lighting for all types of aquariums.

New LED lighting has even surpassed the impressive and powerful metal halide system. LED lighting is in a constant state of progression. Technology is rapidly improving and the best thing about this is that LED lights are becoming more affordable!

Selecting the Right LED Lighting for Your Tank

It might be overwhelming at first to choose the right LED lighting for your tank because there are many things to consider. Here are some things to look for in order to make the process easier and stress free.

Note: It’s not just about the brand of lighting because every tank’s needs will be different.

We are going to focus on a structure that you can use to come to a decision that is right for you and your tank inhabitants.

1. Plan of Action

One of the first things you will want to do is to set up a plan and budget. Your $100 might turn into $300 or more in no time if you don’t have a proper plan of action and you see all the options available. Try not to consider anything above your original budget.

If you’re really running out of options then perhaps your budget was too low to begin with, you will need to be realistic and be prepared to spend the money required to get an effective and long lasting LED lighting system.

Now that you have your budget, here are some important factors to look for when choosing your LED Aquarium lighting. The following list will be different for everyone based on preferences and how important each factor is to you.

2. Longevity and Build Quality

You will want to choose an LED lighting system that is designed to last. In order to make sure that your dollars are well spent, choose LED lights that are not going to break, lose output or change color spectrum in the long run. It is also important that you choose products designed with quality in mind. Make sure the materials used are durable and strong.

It might cost you more upfront to get better LED lights that will last longer, but it will save you money down the road because you will not have to fuss with buying new parts and bulbs each time something breaks.

3. Internal Visual Appeal

You should also focus on the internal aesthetic appeal of your aquarium.

  • Which colors do you want to see in your tank?
  • Has someone else’s aquarium inspired you to go out of the box with color combinations?
  • Do you want to bring out the colors of your fishy friends?

Choose something that will create great color blending and no visual hotspots.

LED Aquarium Lights In Action

Here are some aquariums with super cool LED aquarium fixtures for you to be inspired.

Try to avoid the disco ball effect (unless you want to break out some Saturday Night Fever moves). The disco ball effect is when colors get split up when entering the water and display patches of individually colored lights that appear as if they are ‘dancing’ on your tank floor.

Tip: Trying a different spectrum or reducing the surface tension will cure the disco ball effect.

If you’re still unsure about what type of lights you think will look great in your tank then getting inspiration from Pinterest or YouTube videos could help you with your decision.

4. External Visual Appeal

Where will your aquarium be? In your office, living room, bedroom or hallway?

Make sure that your aquarium will be aesthetically pleasing from the outside and not be viewed as an eyesore. Having big and bulky equipment and frames outside of the tank can make your aquarium look more like a science project than a piece of art.

When choosing your LED setup, try to opt for smaller equipment that won’t take up too much room.

5. User Friendly

Most LED lighting systems have software included and programming options for controllability. Choose a system that has a wide variety of options that are user friendly.

Some setups will come with a simple remote with sliders and buttons and others will require the use of a computer and come with many different options for adjusting timing, light intensity, scheduling, custom color display options and more. Some advanced LED systems will even allow for different intensities for different potions of the tanks, which is great for corals!

There are also options to utilize different colors and intensities to mimic different parts throughout the day like sunrise, midday, late afternoon, sunset and nighttime. You can even set up your LED lights to display shimmer lines and pulses.

6. Cost

This may be the number one factor on your list when searching for LED lighting for your aquarium. Try not to just look at the dollar sign per system but break it down by the cost per LED. This way, you can use the formula to compare different setups and know exactly where your money is going. This will also help you see where the fixture ranks in value compared to the other products on the market.

The average lifespan of LED’s are 10 years, or 50,000 hours but these estimates are based on lab conditions. In order to get a full life cycle out of your LED’s, keep the lights cool and use lighting safety features to prevent overheating.

Check out this handy breakdown of the average cost of aquarium lighting over 50,000 hours.

By looking at this chart, it’s easy to see that, although it might cost you more initially to get your LED lighting system up and running, in the long run, the savings are unbeatable.

Be sure to also look for what types of colors are included in this cost. More colors will represent options and flexibility. If you know you want multiple colors then see if it would be more cost effective to buy the colors together or separately.

7. Ease of Upgrading

LED technology is constantly changing and progressing. If aquaria are a big hobby of yours, you will probably own your tank for a long period of time.

It’s important to have the option to upgrade your LED lighting system in case you ever needed to: add more lights, experiment with new colors, get a bigger tank, get new fish or corals that need certain forms of lights etc.

Ask yourself if you can make changes in the future to your LED lighting system if the need arises. Look for lighting setups that come with upgrade kits and add-on equipment.

8. Parts and Warrantee

Another important piece of information to double-check is the warrantee and availability of parts of the equipment.

One question to ask yourself is, how is the company at dealing with parts breaking and getting back to you when you need assistance? Feel free to call and ask companies for an old part and see the type of response that you get. If they are available and eager to help and they have the parts in stock, then you will know that this company is loyal and will be there to help you out.

9. Light Intensity

What types of inhabitants are in your aquarium? Some LED systems provide more PAR output than you will ever need.

Make sure you are able to reduce the output incase your lighting is too intense. Too much light intensity can be deadly for certain types of tank inhabitants!

Lighten Up!

One fixture will never be the exact same as the other, but which one is the best? That’s up to you; requirements and budgets are different for everyone.

As you are now aware, the LED lighting options are endless and there are many things to consider before choosing a system that will suit your needs the best. Hopefully this guide will help you take a list of endless options and narrow them down to something that is aesthetically pleasing, functional and long lasting.


2 Responses

  1. Really great read… I have a 55g, had it for a year and now I am just now understanding more of direction from reading your articles. Now I have to look into what LEDs I want.

  2. For those on a very limited budget. Considering the LED lighting designed for normal domestic use, there are lots to choose from and with different light spectrums. Look for a ‘warm white’ which will contain some of the necessary red frequency that plants need. There is, of all things, an LED fitting with around 20 LEDs that is designed to fit around your parasol pole in the garden. I have used several of these, they are much, much cheaper than purpose made aquarium lights and are easy to adapt to fit over your tank. I have had good results with plant growth with these. Most of them are powered just by batteries, but there are some with input for plugging in a low voltage power supply, or you could just buy a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries, swopping them as needed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.