An introduction to LED Lighting

What is LED lighting?

LED (light emitting diodes) are available in a variety of colours and, just like normal fish tank lighting, different coloured bulbs are available. For example, actinic blue LEDs will be able to bring about the deep, vibrant quality of the marine aquarium, which is perfect for replicating the natural underwater environment, without causing evaporation of aquarium water through heat transfer.

But most importantly to the average aquarium keeper, LEDs allow massive cuts to be made in running costs of the aquarium, electricity bills and vastly extended working life of the lights.

How does LED lighting differ from normal lighting?

As mentioned above, there are three primary reasons why LED lighting has become so popular for use with aquariums. Unlike metal halides or fluorescent lighting, LEDs give off minimal amounts of heat, have an exceptionally long life span and are still able to deliver the essential light photons required by coral and plant life in order to thrive, while being much cheaper to run.

LEDs are not only bright, they also capable of giving off the exact spectrum of light required by aquariums. Minimal heat transference from LED lighting means that, unlike fluorescent lights which can rapidly heat up and evaporate the aquarium water, aquariums fitted with LED lighting won’t make you worry about the bulbs heating up, no matter how many you install.

Another major selling point of LED lighting is the ability of the light to penetrate deep into the aquarium water. While other forms of aquariums lighting will simply reflect off the the top of the water, LEDs are able to create a highly attractive shimmer effect inside the aquarium.

Does LED lighting last longer than other methods?

LED lighting should last longer than traditional aquarium lighting, such as metal halides or fluorescent lights. But despite lasting for much longer, LED lighting still uses far less energy. Although LED lighting may initially cost more than alternative lighting methods, it should definitely be viewed as an investment.

On average an LED light have a life of approximately 50,000 hours, while also offering the added advantage of not requiring annual replacement, as you would need to with both fluorescent and metal halide lighting. This makes for a more economical and efficient light source for your aquarium.

Do LEDs have any effect on aquarium fish?

LED lighting allows the light rays to penetrate deeply into the aquarium water. This means that the highly attractive colours of aquarium fish are highlighted and immediately enhance the look of the aquarium. LED lighting units are also available in different blends and colour temperatures, which allow you to tailor the look and of your aquarium.

For example, the Arcadia Eco-Aqua LED Daylight is a blend of both actinic blue light and bright white, this creates the vivid daylight colour for maximum illumination of the aquarium.

Are LED light bulbs compatible with traditional light units?

Due to the high popularity of LED lighting in aquariums there are now a range of LED lamp types. This also means that LED lighting strips have now been developed to fit in perfectly with existing T5 light units and are available in a variety of sizes to suit most light units.

For example, the range of TMC Aquabeam Strips allow you purchase a range of accessories and attachments that allow them to be securely fitted into a T5 and T8 light unit. LED light bulbs are now also able to be dimmed without damage to the bulb. This makes them ideal for use with light control units and allows fishkeepers to simulate the natural dusk to dawn lighting conditions of the fish in their natural environments.

LEDs can also be used as a secondary light unit alongside more traditional lighting methods. For example the TMC AquaBeam 1000 HD range of LED tiles are compact enough to provide high density light, but more than one tile may be required for larger aquarium.

Is LED lighting good for corals and plants?

Just like with traditional aquarium lighting, LEDs emit the photons required by plant and coral life. The important thing to remember is that the photons of light given off by an LED are same as those given off by a metal halide or T5 light, but with the LED there are simply more photons provided per watt of energy.

A common mistake when using LED lighting with corals is to think that it will somehow not be strong enough to support their growth. This could not be further from the truth, since LED lighting provides such sharp light penetration the corals must be allowed to acclimatise to the new light source gradually. If after switching, corals are simply exposed to the same amount of light from LEDs, as they were with other lighting methods, the corals may suffer an adverse reaction.

Although the art of aquarium husbandry allows every aquarium keeper the chance to personalise their own tank, it can’t be denied that LED lighting is a huge step forward in aquarium lighting. By providing exactly the same results of now out-dated fluorescent and metal halide units, the LED is matching and outperforming alternative methods.

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Georgina is a member of the Swell UK marketing team and has been keeping tropical fish for a number of years now. Her favourite fish being the stunning, male Siamese Fighting Fish. She is also looking to expand her existing collection to include keeping saltwater fish as well. Her other pets include Bengal cat, Walter, and Labrador and Rottweiler cross, Presley.


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