Aquarium lighting – which aquarium lamp is good?

AquaristikThe aquarium lighting is the most important basis of your aquarium besides the right tank. The right lighting in the aquarium is the basis of life for most creatures. Especially plants, but also the fish need light for a healthy environment. So that you don’t let yourself be turned on by some expensive aquarium lamp, we explain here the different types of lighting and possibilities. We also show what can be done wrong and what is especially important. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we will be happy to answer them.

Imitating nature with the aquarium light

As always, it is the best way to imitate nature in an aquarium. However, you should not do without the aquarium lighting and place the aquarium in sunlight – that would be the wrong way. The sun is much too intense. It heats the water to unhealthy temperatures and rapidly accelerates algae growth. Why does this not happen in nature? Quite simple: in nature there are completely different conditions. The amount of water is much larger than in a pool and the light comes in from above and not from the side. In addition, currents, leaves and plants prevent direct sunlight. But you should still learn from nature and imitate light phases, for example.

Aquarium lighting duration

If you already have your light and no timer, you should quickly go back to the shop. To imitate the sun, seasons and weather conditions, at least one timer is required. With the timer you can simulate the beginning of the day – sunrise and the end of the day – the sunset. In addition, you should take a lunch break with the light to avoid stress. This serves to simulate clouds or bad weather.

If you like it even more professional, get a dimmer. With this one can not only copy the beginning and end of the day harmoniously, but also simulate clouds and the like. There is no fixed rule for the lighting duration, but there is a maximum room. You can try out a little bit and see how plants and animals react. If you look at the seasons, you will notice that the brightness and lighting duration of the sun is much longer in spring than in autumn and winter. But one should not look too much at the light conditions in Germany, but rather see where the plants and fish actually come from.

Those who do not have a dimmer can let their light run for 9-12 hours a day with a lunch break of 2-3 hours.

Lighting types for the aquarium

It is not only important to provide sufficient (but not too much) light, but also to buy good aquarium lighting. However, this does not necessarily mean that they have to be very expensive. If you take a little time and read up on the subject with us, you will be able to find the right lighting with less money, depending on your requirements.

First of all, we distinguish between different techniques:

  • Fluorescent Tubes
  • LED Lamps
  • Halogen lamps
  • HQI burner
]In addition to the different techniques, there are also different types of attachment, such as attachment as a pendant or surface-mounted
There are also a number of accessories such as matching reflectors, which significantly increase the efficiency of the aquarium lighting.

Well-known brands in lighting technology for the aquarium are:

  • Aquatlantis
  • Dennerle
  • Home
  • Giesemann
  • Jewel
]But also more and more newcomers and unknown brands are increasingly establishing themselves on the market. It is not always mandatory to choose a well-known brand. Sure, you have a kind of guarantee factor here to get a high quality and functioning product, but if you look at the prices and quality of some other manufacturers, it is worth looking left or right at some of them.

But let us take a closer look at the technology of aquarium lighting.

Fluorescent Tubes

It was impossible to imagine Grandpa's aquarium without the slightly violet fluorescent tubes, but the trend is moving more and more away from fluorescent tubes. These glass tubes have particularly thin glass and are therefore particularly susceptible to defects. Once a fluorescent tube breaks, chaos is inevitable. It will be difficult to find all the broken pieces again. The only thing that helps here is to replace the entire aquarium floor and clean everything. Otherwise the fish could be injured.

The glass tubes are brought under high voltage by a luminous gas to emit light. But we do not want to make the fluorescent tubes only bad. Most aquarium owners probably still have fluorescent tubes in operation. This is certainly due to the fact that they are not only extremely cheap, but also easy to replace. They also have a very long life span. Especially beginners often decide for this aquarium lighting for price reasons.

Here we distinguish between T5 and T8. It is important to replace the tubes after the end of the operating hours:

  • T5 10,000 hours
  • T8 20,000 hours

LED lights

LED lamps are becoming more and more popular and the technology is also constantly improving. They are a little more expensive than fluorescent tubes, but convince with an extremely long life span and some great extra features. In terms of luminosity, they can easily keep up with fluorescent tubes, but they are inferior to a halogen lamp or HQI burner. However, the luminosity is perfectly suitable for a normal aquarium (example: 200 cm long, 60 cm deep, 60 cm wide). We operate an aquarium with LED lamps ourselves and can't really say anything negative about lighting and plant growth. For deeper aquariums you should have a look at the other techniques.

By the way, LED lamps often not only have built-in dimmers, are especially flat and stylishly designed, but can also shine in different colors. But the latter is really not necessary and probably disturbs the fish more. In any case, red light for example would make the plants horny. By this we don't mean that the plant will jump at you the next time you visit the tank, but the shoots will become extremely long and the leaves will develop only narrowly or not at all. Green light, for example, cannot be absorbed by the plants at all. Therefore, as a conclusion to the colored LED lamps, we can say that this is rather a nice party gag.

Halogen lamps

Halogen lamps have an extremely bright light, which is directed only to a certain point without a reflector. Usually it is used to set light accents in certain areas. If you want to have a place in the aquarium especially bright, then this aquarium lighting is particularly suitable. If you want to enlarge the area, you should either use a different light source or work with a diffuser or reflector. But even with this, a large tank cannot be illuminated completely adequately. Halogen lamps also have a much higher power consumption than the latter lighting systems. If you have a shallow or not too deep aquarium, you should keep your hands off this illuminant, as it is much too bright.

HQI bulb

Now comes the brightest illuminant next to the sun. As the name suggests, this light burns and is not for small or standard pools. The HQI bulb is actually even brighter than a halogen lamp and really only suitable for professionals. Too bright light can cause a lot of damage and also damage the fish in their behaviour. Fish do not have eyelids and cannot squint their eyes, so too much light is an enormous stress factor. The HQI burner works with mercury vapour. Therefore you have to be very careful here and take some protective measures.

The big advantage of the HQI burner is its extremely bright light. The disadvantages are the cost-intensive constant replacement of the lamps and the high power consumption. Another factor that should not be underestimated is the enormous development of heat in the pool and the surrounding area. This must be taken into account. The HQI burner is used when an extensive lighting of especially deep pools is desired. The advantage compared to the halogen lamp is that not only one point is illuminated but a large area.


Our favorite for ordinary pools is the LED lamp. Sooner or later it will become the standard in aquarium lighting and take over the market. This is not only because of its low power consumption (which is getting more and more expensive), but also because of its longevity. If you don't have much money, you can also start with fluorescent tubes.

It is important for all lighting to be splash-proof. If you have a little more money, you can get dimmers to simulate rainy days, clouds and different times of day, but also moonlight. It should be said, however, that fish survive even in this way and an ordinary timer with the illuminant of your choice is not perfect, but perfectly sufficient. With the right lighting you can optimally control the biorhythm of plants and animals and thus influence their development.

For beginners there are starter sets, which sometimes cost more and sometimes less. Many large manufacturers take generous amounts for complete lighting systems. Therefore inform yourself sufficiently before you decide on a lighting system for your aquarium.

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