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Getting Started with Fish Tank Lights

Getting Started with Fish Tank Lights

When setting up an aquarium, it’s easy to focus on the tropical fish you want, the size of the tank or even the decorations you want to put in. However, if there’s one key aspect of an aquarium that aquarists often overlook, it’s lights.

Fish tank lights are not just about making your tank bright enough to see, they play an essential role in building a thriving ecosystem, especially if you are planning on keeping live plants. In this guide, we’ll explore the importance of lighting in an aquarium, and how proper lighting can keep your aquatic friends healthy and happy.

The Essential Role of Lights in Tropical Fish Tanks

Aquarium lights do so much more than just illuminate your tank. They play a fundamental role in the health and well-being of your aquatic ecosystem. Lighting can affect everything from plant growth to tropical fish behaviour and even their vibrant colouration.

Just like the sun in nature, fish tank lights facilitate essential processes like photosynthesis for plants and the biological rhythms of the aquatic inhabitants. 

What to Consider When Buying Aquarium Lights

Today’s fish tank lights typically use LEDs thanks to their energy efficiency, consistent colours, and long lifespan. While the most basic types of aquarium lights are pretty affordable, the cost can go up if you’re looking for lights with more advanced features. 

To help you choose the right light for your aquarium, consider the following factors:

Light Specifications

Light specifications may seem complex at first glance, but it’s all about understanding two key terms. 


Lumen measures the total amount of visible light emitted by a source. In simpler terms, it is the brightness of the light. Smaller and shallower fish tanks need lower lumens for illumination, while larger and deeper aquariums will require higher lumens to ensure the light is able to reach the bottom of the tank.

If your goal is to grow live plants, look for lights with higher lumen values as they provide the intense brightness needed for plant growth. 

Colour Temperature (Kelvin)

Colour Temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), refers to the hue of the light. Lower Kelvin values, around 2,000K to 3,000K, produce a warm, yellowish light, ideal for highlighting the warm tones in certain fish and creating a soothing ambience. Higher Kelvin values, like 5,500K to 10,000K and above, give off a cooler, bluer light, mimicking natural daylight and promoting healthy plant growth.

Type of Mounting Style

Aquarium LED lights come in different shapes and forms. Each caters to different tank sizes and aesthetics.

Clip-on Lights

Clip-on LED lights are perfect for smaller fish tanks or nano aquariums. They are easy to install, usually clipping onto the side of the tank, and provide adequate light for basic setups. Their compact design makes them an unobtrusive choice, especially for those who prefer a minimalist look.

Overhead Lights

For medium to larger aquariums, LED lights that mount on top of the tank's sides are a popular choice. These lights often come as sleek bars that sit across the tank, providing even illumination throughout. They are ideal for fish tanks without a hood and can be adjusted or moved easily for maintenance.

Pendant Hanging Lights

Pendant or hanging LED lights are suspended above the aquarium, offering a broader spread of light and a dramatic, professional look. They are particularly suitable for deeper tanks where the top of the tank needs to be unobstructed in order to carry out aquarium maintenance.

Advanced Features

Some LED fish tank lights offer advanced features such as companion apps that allow you to control different aspects of your lighting. This includes dimming the brightness, changing the colour or colour temperature, as well as setting timers to turn the lights on and off. These features can greatly enhance your fishkeeping experience by allowing you to customise your aquarium environment. 

Using Lights to Replicate Natural Conditions in Fish Tanks

Once you’ve selected the type of lights you want to use in your aquarium, it’s time to learn how to use it to replicate a natural environment. One of the easiest ways to do so is to get an automated timer to turn your lights on and off at specific, consistent times throughout the day to mimic a natural day-night cycle. 

Tropical fish also have specific lighting needs that affect their health and behaviour. Certain bottom feeder species like the Bristlenose Pleco, or the Kuhli Loach are nocturnal, and will hide away in caves or under rocks while your lights are on. 

Finally, if you have a planted tank, aquarium lighting is one the main factors that affects live plant growth and algae control. Proper lighting is needed to support photosynthesis and healthy growth in freshwater plants, but at the same time, too much light can cause you to encounter algae issues. The key is to balance light intensity and duration to optimise plant growth while minimising algae. 

Illuminate Your Aquarium with East Ocean Aquatic's Expertise

Starting a new aquarium is less daunting with the right support. At East Ocean Aquatic, we specialise in helping you find the perfect lighting for your tank. Whether you’re looking for general fish tank lighting, or an LED aquarium light for your planted tank, our friendly team is equipped to guide you.

Our extensive range of lighting solutions caters to all enthusiasts, from those just starting to seasoned hobbyists looking to enhance their existing setups. Visit us in-store or online to discover our selection of aquarium lights. Let us light up your aquatic world, ensuring a vibrant, healthy, and visually appealing aquarium in your home.

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