How to Purchase the Best Lighting for your Fish Tanks (Complete Buyers’ Guide, FAQs & More)

It’s hard to disagree with you when you say that buying lighting for your aquarium can quite possibly be the most important thing you do for it. 

Many different factors are involved when getting lights for your fish tank and the lighting equipment can make or break the look of your aquarium. 

In today’s post, we’ll be discussing the things you should look for when investing in lights for your fish tank. 

How to Purchase the Best Lighting for your Fish Tanks (Complete Buyers' Guide)

The important factors to keep in mind are: 

1. Type Of Light Source

Depending on the type of fish and plants you have, you’re going to want to make an informed decision on the type of lighting you want to invest in. There are mainly three types of aquarium lights: 

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights are the most basic and common form of lighting that you can get your hands on for your aquarium. 

They are beginner-friendly as they are easy to set up and don’t require any installation or customization. These lights lean a little bit towards the blue color spectrum which is ideal for coral growth and the white light is generally pleasing for the human eye. 

These lights have a couple of drawbacks. One disadvantage is that they don’t have a long life. You will find yourself replacing these lights at least once every year. This can prove to be expensive if you have a large aquarium that requires a larger number of lights. Another disadvantage is that they use a lot of power and aren’t energy-efficient.

High-Intensity Discharge Lighting

If you have a deep fish tank, this type of lighting is ideal for you. These lights are basically a container that consist of halide salts and gas. When electricity is passed through them, this tube starts to illuminate and produces an extremely bright light that passes through water mercilessly. It is common for deep-water fish tanks such as reef tanks to have HID Lighting. 

A drawback of HID Lighting is that they too lose their intensity after some time and you may find yourself replacing them within a year. Another drawback is that with the intense amount of light that this system produces, it also produces a great amount of heat. So, you’ll want to invest in a chiller. Otherwise, the room in which this lighting system is set up will become extremely hot.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is an option that’s quickly gaining traction and by the looks of it, will soon overtake fluorescent lighting as the most popular light source for aquariums. 

LED lighting offers a much higher level of customization, they produce little to no heat and have an unmatched lifespan when compared to other forms of lights. 

One thing that puts people off of buying LED lights is their initial cost. We have to stress on the word “initial” here. Yes, LED lighting can be more expensive to get than other forms of light but in the end, LED lights will pay for themselves because they’ll stay functional for a much longer time and they will utilise power much more efficiently.

2. Heat Produced By Light

Light fixtures can be very deceiving in their potential to give off heat. You might bring home some lighting for your aquarium without accounting for the heat it will produce. 

This would be a huge mistake because the heat it gives off will not only heat up your room but also the aquarium water which can be extremely harmful for your fish. 

You can counter this heat by investing in a chiller but they are also a form of equipment that don’t come cheap. 

In general, LED lights are the type of lighting that give off the least amount of heat and we recommend that you do your research to find out what brand among LED lights is the best for this purpose if you are investing in LEDs.

3. Light Fixture Size

In general, fish and live rocks don’t care too much about the exact size of the light as long as they are getting the correct duration of it every day. 

However, aquarium plants and corals do care. If you have plants that require a certain intensity of light, we strongly recommend that you do your research and buy a light fixture that is of the appropriate size.

4. Intensity Control

If you have lights that are customizable in their intensity and color spectrum, this is a very good utility to have. Being able to control the intensity of your light helps you avoid light shock in your fish when you are introducing new ones to your aquarium. 

Being able to micro-manage the blues and whites in your light is also something of great value as you can set the ideal color that is most beneficial for your fish, plants and corals.

5. Timer

A timer is something that most fish-keepers think they don’t need. While this may be true in some cases but in most, having a timer will save you from a lot of anxiety. 

Fish need a very specific amount of light each day. You may forget to turn the light off or on someday and this might lead to disastrous results such as stressed out fish or an algae breakout. Having a timer eliminates the need for you to remember and ensures your aquarium gets the appropriate amount of light consistently. 

6. Size Of Your Aquarium

How to Purchase the Best Lighting for your Fish Tanks (Complete Buyers' Guide)

It goes without saying that this is a very important factor that you have to consider. 

A lot of brands give their lighting a rating which helps you determine how well they can illuminate a certain area. 

Many lights are great for smaller tanks but if you have a big, deep tank, you might want to look into lights that can illuminate the water all the way to the bottom without losing their intensity.

7. Build Quality 

The build quality is paramount when it comes to buying lights for your aquarium. 

You should look at the reviews of the product you’re getting in order to make sure they have a long life and don’t blow out too quickly. 

It is also important that the outer cover of the lights is hard, sturdy and can withstand constant encounters from water as it’s going to be near your aquarium at all times. 


Size of your lighting matters but so does your plan, intention and setup. A lot of people tend to get the cheapest lights they can get their hands on but we hope we’ve been able to shed some light (pun intended) on how this can be an enormously bad decision.

Let us know in the comments what lights you’re using for your fish tank.

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