Choices In Aquarium Lighting



Aquarium lighting can be a tricky topic to learn for anyone new to the hobby of keeping tropical freshwater fish.  There are so many terms thrown around that just wrapping your head around them all can sometimes be enough to drive anyone crazy! Having a basic understanding of the major types of aquarium lighting can go a long way towards helping you choose the best source of light for your fish tank.  The four main types include incandescent, fluorescent, compact lights.

Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent lights have been popular in the fish hobby for a very long time now.  They are cheap, convenient, small, and come in a variety of color options.  Colors include red, green, blue, yellow, and you may be able to find even more!  This type of aquarium lighting is great for smaller aquariums.  You may see multiple incandescent lights in the hood of a 10 gallon aquarium, but they are able to provide up to 5 wpg of lighting in smaller fish tanks.  These should not be used for high quality planted tank setups but are good for basic planted aquariums as well as for basic aquarium lighting when no live plants are present.

Fluorescent Lighting

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Fluorescent bulbs excel where incandescent lights fail.  They are relatively cheap, have long life expectancies, and have a pretty stable spectrum of light emitted over the life of the bulb.  Like every type of aquarium lighting, fluorescent bulbs have a specific type of housing so make sure the bulbs you buy will fit the light hood of your fish tank.  These lights connect to the hood via a ballast.  Fluorescent lights are the best type of aquarium lighting and are recommended for most beginner and intermediate aquarium hobbyists.  Fluorescent bulbs last longer than incandescent lights, but it is still recommended to change them after 8 to 10 months to ensure your tank is getting the actual light spectrum that it requires.

Compact Lighting

Compact lights are also fluorescent lights, but have several distinct advantages over regular fluorescent bulbs.  These lights produce brighter light and bulbs are available in higher watt ratings (even up to 100 watts per bulb).  This type of aquarium lighting is best suited to planted aquariums that require high wattage for the specific species of plants.  The best feature is that many CF lights are able to be used for more than two years which means they can be replaced much less frequently than fluorescent or incandescent lights.

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