3-02-2020, 17:12
8 057


For decades, the most popular form of lighting available to aquarists has been fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent tubes in sizes such as T12 (diameter 1 ½"), T8 (diameter 1") and T5 (diameter ⅝") were very effective for lighting fish and for plant or coral cultivation.

An alternative to fluorescent tubes has now appeared - LED tubes. It must be said that fluorescent tubes have not disappeared from the shelves. If you have T8 or T5 tubes installed in your aquarium, you may still purchase them. Just make sure that they are the same length in mm, check their wattage, and they will operate without any problems. But progress isn't standing still, and fluorescent bulbs will be phased out completely in the coming years. They will be replaced by LED tubes.

LED bulbs are mercury-free, so they're easier to dispose of than fluorescent bulbs. They emit more light with the same wattage as fluorescent bulbs, which translates into lower running costs. On top of that, some of the LEDs can be controlled by changing their brightness, as well as the colour emitted.

LED lights for aquariums

Switching to LED aquarium lighting

So there are several advantages to replacing fluorescent tubes with LED lights. But how can this be done? And what happens if the old T8 or T5 fluorescent tubes are built into the aquarium lid? Fear not, there are many solutions...

If you wish to keep your aquarium cover as it is, without changing the internal wiring, the sockets and the lighting fittings, then you need to find structural analogues to the fluorescent tubes. The closest modifications are the LED lamps produced by Arcadia and Aquarium Systems. They have the same length, the same diameter, the same pins at the ends and can run on the same ballast as your old T8 or T5 bulbs. Just make sure you choose the correct model to replace the T8 or T5.

If the old ballast has failed, then there are options to purchase LED bulbs from AquaEl and TMC. These LED lamps are available in the same sizes as fluorescent lamps and contain a ballast, either built into the bulb or as a separate unit. This makes it possible to use old lamp sockets without problems.

High quality LED lighting

If you have a saltwater aquarium and intend to keep demanding corals in it, you should consider installing high power LED lighting.

The fan-cooled models from Kessil and Aqua Illuminations can be installed on open aquarium covers and are controllable, allowing for spectral control, automatic dimming and synchronisation of light cycles with the time of day. These lights even have the option of remote control via the internet, via an app installed in a smartphone.

LED lights for aquariums


Can I reuse the reflectors from my fluorescent lamp?

You do not need reflectors for the LED lights because all the light they emit is directed down into the aquarium

How long do LEDs work?

LED bulbs can last up to 50,000 hours, depending on the make and model, which corresponds to five years of continuous use, but check what the manufacturer claims and keep the purchase receipt before you buy.

Another big advantage of LED bulbs is that their brightness does not diminish over time as with fluorescent bulbs.

Are all LED bulbs controllable?

No, so check before you buy. All lamps can be switched on and off with a simple plug-in timer (not included) but not all can be dimmed.

Most of the inexpensive LED lamps have the lowest light output and are the least controllable, while the more expensive ones are the brightest and most functional.

What colour LED bulbs should I choose?

LED bulbs, like fluorescent tubes, are suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums and promote plant or coral growth.

If you are limited to only one LED bulb, a universal model, for freshwater or saltwater aquariums, is suitable for you.  If your budget allows, you can buy a lamp with a controller, e.g. Aqua Illuminations, which is capable of reproducing all colours of the rainbow.

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