Although many saltwater aquarium hobbyists have depended for years on fluorescent or Metal Halide bulbs for their main source of lighting, these old staples are taking a back seat to LED (Light Emitting Diode) systems, both because of the LED bulbs’ energy operating savings and the many choices of lighting spectrums available.
The primary characteristics making LED lighting so popular are their long life and the much smaller amount of energy used in lighting up LEDs. Although they can cost a lot more up front, an LED bulb for a saltwater aquarium can last up to five years or 50,000 hours in the right circumstances, and they use a tiny amount of energy compared to an incandescent or fluorescent bulb.
Also, unlike fluorescent or metal halide bulbs, LED bulbs do not use mercury as a key component for operation. Another advantage to LED lighting is that it produces less heat, making it easier to control the amount of heat released into your covered aquarium. However, the presence of excessive heat can reduce the lifespan of your LED bulb, so avoid marine aquarium lighting systems that place the much hotter running fluorescent or Metal Halide bulbs next to LED bulbs.
LED lighting has the added benefit of being able to dim the lights easily. Some LED systems come with automatic timers that automatically brighten or dim your bulbs depending on what time of the day it is. In fact, LED lighting can mimic natural sunlight, making your saltwater aquarium appear to be even more like a slice of the ocean.
When LED bulbs first became available in the aquarium trade, about the only color you could get was white, and the LEDs were used mainly to provide a moonlit mood in aquariums. Today, the LED has advanced to the point that you can buy bulbs in every spectrum you can imagine, from red to yellow to blue. These choices mean you can light up your aquarium to match your décor, or create a spectacularly lit centerpiece for your room.
LEDs have also advanced to the point that they are bright enough to create a high output source of light equivalent to Metal Halide. In fact, LED lighting has proven very effective in the raising of corals in a reef saltwater aquarium setting. Plus, the different spectrums available in LED bulbs allow you to experiment and find just the right color combinations to bring out the beauty of your corals and fish.
LED lighting has proven very effective in the raising of corals in a reef saltwater aquarium setting. However, if you decide to use LED lighting to raise coral, pay attention to the fact that LED bulbs can produce a very intense light. To avoid bleaching your coral, you should gradually introduce them to this new source of lighting.
Besides spectrum choices and high output lighting, other advances in LED aquarium lighting include the development of a new lens used over blue LED bulbs to produce a more accurate lighting dispersion. Also, some LED setups come in a configuration that is actually hidden from view. You don’t see the lighting fixture, but you do get all the glory of the bright LED lighting. Another development in LED aquarium systems is the ability to link up to four systems together into one unit.
However, the greatest advance in LED lighting for aquariums continues to be the color and intensity of the bulbs. Higher end LED systems now allow the choice of the exact wavelength of light, allowing the user to eliminate less valuable spectrums of lighting, such as the green/yellow spectrum. In fact, research and development of LED bulbs continues, and new advances in the industry occur all the time, making LED lighting for aquariums the wave of both the present and the future.