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The Saltwater Aquarium Lighting Guide

The Saltwater Aquarium Lighting Guide

There’s no denial of the fact that light is the most authoritative source in the earth. From controlling our food growth to warming our planet, there’s hardly anything related to the lifecycle that isn’t dependent on the lights.

The case is similar to the saltwater aquarium. As all the expert aquarists understand, proper lighting in the aquarium is much more than for aesthetics only. It helps to control the tank temperature and control fish growth.

That’s being said; the saltwater aquarium lighting isn’t about going to the nearest hardware shop and pick your favorite lights.

Instead, it needs a lot of consideration, such as what type of aquarium you have (fish only or planted), which light you want, and many more.

We are going to reveal all these in the saltwater aquarium lighting guide in a detailed manner. So, are you up for it?

Saltwater Aquarium Lighting Guide: Understanding the Basics

All saltwater aquarium relies heavily on the proper lighting for the fish and plant (if it has any) to thrive in the environment. There are prominently various types of lights that you can get for the saltwater fish tank.

However, before we dive deep into the saltwater aquarium lighting, you need to realize a few lingoes of the light.

Don’t worry; we have kept them simple for you.

The Spectrum:

Most of us think that light in the fish tank is for aesthetics purposes only. If you are one of them, well, you are half right and more dangerously, half wrong.

Oh, ho, how dangerous!

Well, then you should realize that the color spectrum or the position of the light in the frequency based on its wavelength control the entire photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is largely attributed to the plants; in this case, corals, ability to absorb chlorophyll. And saltwater plants such as corals will thrive in Chlorophyll A. And it is linked with two light spectrums-

Violet: 440 nm wavelength.
Red: 675 nm wavelength.

However, not all corals will absorb only the red and violet colors. Thus, we have enlisted the light spectrum affinity of various corals.

Kelvin (K) Rating:

It determines how human eyes perceive different light colors. To put it simply, the ardently higher the Kelvin rating, the bluer the light will be, and the lower the score, the warmer the light will be.

Ideally, the saltwater aquarium needs a higher kelvin rating as blue lights have better penetration capacity. It helps the light reach the deepest part of you’re a fish tank.

Kelvin Rating Range

Characteristics

Less than 2000k

Dim glow light similar to candlelight.

2000k-3000k

Yellow appearance with a soft white glow

3100k-4500k

Bright white light

4600k-6500k

Bright blue and white

Above 6500k

Bluish hue

Nanometer (Nm) Rating:

It is used to refer to the wavelength of lights. Since lights wavelength often has shorter distance, it is measured in a nanometer (Nm). The wavelength for visible lights to human life ranges between 400-800nm. When it shrinks below 400nm, it is called UV lights, and anything above 800 nm is referred to as Infrared (IR) lights.

Types of Saltwater Aquarium Lights:

Aquarists mostly combine more than one type of light with the right intensity level and spectrum to achieve better results in the aquarium. Thus, you must realize varieties of light options available for saltwater or reef aquarium.

LED Lighting:

LED reef light consists of a series of diodes in an electronic circuit board. It comes with multiple options to choose from, such as floodlights, pendants, complete fixtures, tubes, or rails.
You can customize the intensity and spectrum level if you are ready to spend a few more bucks.

Price: The LED lights are available as low as $10 and as high as $2500.

Trusted manufacturers: Ocean Revive, Marineland, and Coral Life.

Advantages:

  • Produces the least heat.
  • Lasting performance
  • Energy efficient
  • Color ration adjustability
  • Doesn’t require frequent changes

Disadvantages:

  • A bit pricey for the initial stage.
  • Not ideal for the fish-only aquarium

Standard Fluorescent:

If you are a fish hobbyist or don’t want to spend much on an aquarium lighting setup, the conventional fluorescent is your best option. It generates minimal heat and much energy-efficient compared to the regular incandescent.

It has a wide range of Kelvin ratings between 3000K-10000K, and color variation will fall between 15W to 40W.

Price: It starts at $6 and goes up to $900.

Trusted manufacturers: Aquatic Life, Aqua Medic, and Blueline.

Advantages:

  • Ideal for fish-only tanks.
  • Low heat production
  • A wide range of alternatives
  • Convenient use

Disadvantages:

  • Short life
  • Adds up to cost in future

Compact Fluorescent:

The compact fluorescent light brings much more intensity and heat production in the paly compared to the standard ones. It is ardently best suited for small to medium aquarium setups and provides you customization.

It has a Kelvin rating of 5000K-10000K with a power range of 10W to 100W.

Price: You will get it at a low $8, and the highest spec light is gettable at $650.

Trusted manufacturers: Zoo Med, Aquatic Life, and Corallife.

Advantages:

  • Extreme intensity
  • Ideal for small aquariums
  • Multiple alternatives with customization

Disadvantages:

  • Generates medium heat
  • Hood and fan incompatibility

Metal Halide:

Metal halide lights are mostly seen in the reef aquarium that comes with broader color variations and high intensity.

It generates considerable heat, so you might need to attach a small fan near it to minimize the heat effect in the aquarium. Also, due to its incredible intensity, aquarists combine the metal halides with standard fluorescent lights.

It comes at 175W to 1000W while the Kelvin range hovers around 5000K to an unthinkable 20000K.

Price: Almost similar to LED lights that start at $7 and touch $2750.

Trusted manufacturers: Aquatic Life, Aqualight, Blueline, and Corallife.

Advantages:

  • Color temperature range
  • Extreme intensity
  • Suits reef tanks

Disadvantages:

  • Heat generation
  • The least energy-efficient

Choosing the Right Light for Various Saltwater Aquariums:

When it comes to picking the light for saltwater aquariums, you need to realize that there’s no perfect light for the saltwater tanks. Instead, you will need to mix up a variety of lighting types depending on the aquarium conditions.

The aquarium conditions include fish species, presence of plants and corals, and so on.

Fish Only Aquariums:

This is the simplest of all aquariums with the fish as only inhabitants. The bare tank doesn’t need much light since it can easily illuminate the tank from top to bottom. However, if you want to help the algae growth in the fish-only aquarium to boost the fish’s health, you might need to choose lights with higher intensity.

Thus, fluorescent lights are perfectly okay for the fish-only aquariums. But with the cost-effective and energy-efficient feature of LEDs, you might find some interest in combining it as well. It will also give the tank a soothing ambiance.

Planted Aquariums:

If you want to use some natural plants in the fish tank, the lighting conditions need to be in perfect condition. Choose the wrong lamp, and the plant will start dying. So, we recommend you to choose an actinic light with a natural daylight alternative.

For those who don’t know what is an actinic light, here’ a quick insight on it. Actinic light facilitates photosynthesis and will stimulate plant growth. Also, intensity needs to be higher for the lights for planted aquariums.

Reef Aquariums:

Reef tanks are a combination of fishes, corals, anemones, and invertebrates such as shrimps. Naturally, the ref tank requires the highest light conditions with such variety. Remember that every coral has its affinity of different light spectrum and color warms.

Also, you need to find the right combo of wavelength and intensity for the corals to live and thrive in the aquarium. You can choose one actinic light with a combination of a few standard daylights.

Coral Species

Light Intensity

Water Level

SPS Coral

High intensity

Top

LPS Coral

Medium to high intensity

Middle

Soft Coral

Low to medium intensity

Low

Anemones

Low to medium intensity

Bottom

Zoanthids

Low to medium intensity

Low

Conclusion

So, this is all about the saltwater aquarium lighting guide. I sincerely aspire that now you have a clear idea of how to decorate the aquarium with the right lighting setup. Thus, don’t worry about the lighting necessity while fulfilling the aesthetics demand and vice versa.

The guideline has focused on the tank’s light necessity as well as the eye-pleasing decorations as well. So, you get everything. Rejoice!

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