Aquarium Technology: Fish Tank Lighting

Proper fish tank lighting is a crucial part of setting up a fish tank. It is essential for the good health and growth of aquarium inhabitants. Take some time to learn about tank lighting before devising a lighting plan for your aquarium.  This article will help you in choosing the right lights for your aquarium.  Let us get acquainted with the following important terms.

  • Light spectrum: it is simply a combination of colors that produce white light. Kelvin (K) is the unit used to measure these spectrums.
  • The intensity of light: intensity refers to the concentration of a light source. Intensity decreases as the distance increase from the light source.
  • Color Rendering Index: a CRI can be described as an ability of a light source to show colors in comparison to a natural light source. It is measured on an index from 1 – 100 with 100 being the equivalent to sunlight.

Types of Fish Tank Lighting

LED Lights

LED lights come in different colors to imitate natural hues of tropical fish. These lights emit very little heat and last as long as 13 years. This type of lighting is usually more energy efficient than other forms of tank lighting.  The price tag can also be a little expensive.  LED lights are very versatile. They can be used as ascent lights, supplemental or a primary source of light for your aquarium.

Incandescent Light

Incandescent light gives off a lot of heat. They are usually used to boost plant growth. They have a heavy red spectrum and color temperature of 2700 K. incandescent lights are usually used for small fish only. It is a preferred choice for beginners.

Fish Tank Lighting Placement

In- hood

In-hood lights are fitted in the hood of the tank. You can control the light intensity by dimming the lights when required.


Hangover lights are suspended above the tank using a suspension kit. You can increase or decrease the intensity of hangover lights by adjusting the distance.  The amount of light needed in a tank depends upon the kind of inhabitants. Make sure you know the specific light needs of your fish while planning the tank lighting.  Like fish aquatic plants also have different light needs.  Generally, it has been observed that planted aquariums require a broader range spectrum to flourish. It is a common practice among hobbyist to mix bulbs for planted aquariums. It helps in creating an ideal light spectrum

Simulating Real-World Lighting

Although the individual light requirements vary from fish to fish, most fish need periods of light and darkness. Your aim should be to mimic a natural living environment for the fish.  Using Light timers is an easy and effective way of regulating light in tanks, especially reef tanks. Some hobbyist goes as far as stimulating storms in a reef tank to provide a natural environment. You can stimulate a storm using LED light flashes. Increase the intensity of light as the storm develops. In the end, mimic rain by integrating tubes that drips water like rain.  The whole cycle lasts about 8 minutes.

So what lights are you going to get for your tank?

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