Why is Lighting Important for Aquariums?

In its most basic role, aquarium lighting allows hobbyists to observe aquarium inhabitants. But more importantly, proper aquarium lighting provides vital energy to photosynthetic plants and animals. As the primary light source (and in most cases, the only light source), proper aquarium lighting is essential for any system that contains photosynthetic organisms such as plants, anemones, or corals. Lighting also influences fish behavior and physiology and is vital for the overall health and well-being of the entire aquarium.


Different Light Bulbs and Light Fixtures for Different Setups
There are a wide variety of lighting options for aquarists. This diverse selection allows hobbyists of all levels to provide the right lighting conditions for their particular aquarium inhabitants. Aquarium light fixtures are generally grouped into four general categories (from oldest technology to most innovative): Normal output fluorescent lighting, compact fluorescent lighting, and high intensity metal halide lighting, and LED (Light Emitting Diode) systems.


Normal Output Fluorescent Lighting

These versatile lighting systems are the easiest way to illuminate an aquarium. Fluorescent light fixtures are a great choice for fresh and saltwater fish-only aquariums. The wide selection of bulbs available for these easy-to-use, affordable, and energy-efficient light fixtures allows hobbyist to customize aquarium lighting. Use different bulbs to provide the right light for your aquarium inhabitants.

Compact Fluorescents
Are higher light output versions of standard fluorescent light systems. Instead of single tube bulbs, compact fluorescent systems incorporate dual or quad tube bulbs for greater light output from a single bulb. A single compact fluorescent light fixture easily does the job of two standard fluorescent fixtures. This space-saving feature makes compact fluorescent systems a great choice when upgrading from standard fluorescent systems. Fortunately, compact fluorescent light systems are no more difficult to operate and maintain than standard fluorescent light systems. These self-contained lighting systems are easy to operate and since they are a type of fluorescent light system, it has all the benefits of fluorescent lighting. For example, low operating cost, lower heat emission, and a wide selection of bulbs with color temperatures ideal for both freshwater and marine applications.

Metals Halides
Are high intensity discharge (HID) lighting systems popular among many advanced aquarium hobbyists. Metal halide bulbs are comprised of a main glass bulb with a series of wires connecting another glass bulb (arc tube) within it. When electricity passes through the arc tube, the gases and metal salts contained within the tube produce light. Unlike other high intensity discharge lighting systems (e.g., sodium or mercury vapor lights), the light spectrum and the color rendition produced by metal halides is suited for aquarium use. Metal halide fixtures are ideal for aquariums, such as reef aquariums, with inhabitants that require high lighting conditions. Metal halide systems are also used for very large aquariums or aquariums deeper than 24 inches where other lighting systems may not be powerful enough to provide adequate illumination.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)
As a relative "newcomer" to the world of aquarium lighting, LED light fixtures are often subject to confusion and misconceptions. LED technology employs a radically different approach to light generation. LEDs emit light as energized or exited subatomic particles pass through a semiconductor material. This distinct process of light generation called electroluminescence requires FAR LESS energy to produce brilliant light for an energy-efficient choice to aquarium lighting.


Source: Doctors Foster and Smith catalog

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