Light is the source of all life on earth because it allows reactions to happen within organisms.

Light itself can’t be converted into other things but it is essential for facilitating important biological processes which provide food to organisms at every level of the food chain.

Very basic aquariums do not require any additional lighting at all, the indirect sunlight in the room will be enough.

However, even without a functional purpose, aquarium lights can simply be installed because they look awesome. Aquarium lights really bring out the colors of your fish, giving your aquarium a beautiful shine. Lights also make it much easier to spot tank problems as well as helping to regulate the rest, sleep and eating of your fish.

If your aquarium is placed in a darker place, you may need to install some form of lighting so your ecosystem can thrive and prosper.

Some more complicated setups such as reef aquariums and planted aquariums require very high intensity lighting as the aquatic plants have a very high photosynthetic demand.

Freshwater lighting

There are many different types of lighting, the most common aquarium lights include:

  • incandescent
  • fluorescent
  • LED

Incandescent lighting is becoming less popular because it generates a lot of heat and uses a lot of electricity, LED and fluorescent bulbs often use much less energy without compromising the quality of lighting, allowing your aquarium plants to grow just as well. However, if you would like to raise the temperature of your fish tank this may serve as a benefit.

Metal halide lamps are another type of lighting that is usually used in higher-level large aquariums to promote vigorous plant growth. Metal halide lamps provide a wide spectrum of UV rays which is beneficial for different types of aquatic plants at all life cycles.

LED lights are a relatively new development that have become increasingly popular within the last few years. LED lights are by far the most energy efficient, generating little-to-no excess heat and have a very long lifespan. Because LED lights generate no excess heat, they are usually very small and compact, large bulky housing components (such as those used by some metal halide lamps) are not required for most LED setups, allowing LED aquarium lights to be very compact and easy to handle.

Are there any problems with aquarium lighting?

Too much algae is common problem with aquarium lights. Not only can excessive amounts of algae make your fish tank look dirty, it will also compete with other plants in the ecosystem for essential nutrients.

Some species of fish need periods of darkness to sleep. If the light is too bright, fish become overactive, they become more prone to disease, death and violence.

One way to solve this problem is by adding ornaments which provide cover from light into your aquarium.

How long do my fish need light for?

Light requirements between species have a small variation. Generally speaking, 12 hours on and 12 hours off should be fine for most species. Remember, the equator gets exactly 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light every day, the native region of your fish should give you an idea of the amount of light they’re used to receiving.

Should I turn off the lights at night?

Just like humans, all fish need periods of darkness, turning off the aquarium lights at night will mimic the natural conditions your fish have evolved in.

Some aquarium lights have a built in timer that automatically turns the lights on-and-off at set times everyday, if not you can simply buy a plug-in timer.


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