For the longest time, standard and compact fluorescent bulbs have been the stars of aquarium lighting because of their decent light intensity and little heat output, plus the lights are often built into aquarium hoods.
Even so, LED (light-emitting diodes) lights have, in the recent past, made an entry into the market and are giving fluorescent bulbs a run for their money.
LED lights are arguably cooler than fluorescent and metal halides, with more pros than cons compared to all aquarium light option in the market.
But, are LED bulbs good enough for use in aquariums?
Well, the short version of it is, YES.
And the long-version is they out-compete both standard and compact fluorescent and metal halides. LEDs also hand-down defeat any advantage that traditional incadescent lights may have.
Overall, LED lights use less energy, come in multiple colors, and have a longer lamp life. They also have a low heat output, and adjustable light intensities..
Read on for more insight on LED aquariums lights, when and how to use them in your fish tank.
Do Fish Like LED Aquarium Lights?
Your fish won’t suddenly start talking and express their gratitude if you add LED lights in your tank, but they sure as hell like LED lights.
For starters, the lights are adjustable, meaning you can have different light intensities in your fish tank depending on the fish you have.
Most tropical species prefer longer light hours and get quite agitated every time the lights go out. Whereas, those from temperate regions and the Amazon ecosystem, where the water is a little darkened, appreciate moderate to low light settings.
Also, many bottom-dwelling fish love the darker side of things because they are made to live in deep waters where light penetration is low.
As much, some aquarium fish, and inverts like snails, are more active at night, this is the time they forage the substrate looking for scraps to feed on, and thus will appreciate a low-light setting whenever possible.
Ajustable LED aquarium lights will let you accommodate all the different species in a community without having to keep your lights on longer than they should be. You also won’t need to turn the lights off prematurely.
Another reason why your fish will appreciate LED lights is because of the bulb’s low heat output. The lights don’t heat your water like metal halides do, which albeit being perfect for aquarium plants, make the water column uncomfortably warm for your fish.
Having said that, please note that fish are not as reliant on aquarium lights as plants.
The lights are probably even more useful to you than they are for the fish because you want your aquarium to stand out at all times, whether it’s during the day or at night.
Thus, in the next section, let’s consider how good of a display LED aquarium lights create!
LED Aquarium Lights for Fish Color
Apart from a breathtaking display, fish colors also indicate your fish overall-health, with faded tones warranting concern.
Good aquarium light will enhance your fish colors and even make them pop, and LED bulbs are particularly suited for this task. The lights are bright enough to properly show your fish colors as well as provide a kind of shimmer effect on the scales.
Red, blue, green, and white LEDs temperatures are often preferred because they best enhance the colors of objects inside the tank. White light help fish with orange, red, and yellow shades to stand out, while blue LEDs give other blues, greens, and reds a subtle pop.
Moreover, LEDs come with adjustable light intensities, such that you can vary the spectrum to get the best display of your fish tank even at night when you would otherwise need the lights to be off.
Moonlight LED bulbs give out a calm blue light, which makes your aquarium glow, and is not too stressful for the fish while they try to sleep or rest.
Led lights are also bright enough for your nocturnal fish to feed. The dim blue bulb can be left on all night to simulate moonlight and allow your nightly fish to venture out and feed, without causing alage.
Can You Use LED Lights for Aquarium Plants
A question most aquarists ask in regard to LED aquarium lights is whether they are good for planted aquariums.
Yes, LED lights are good for plants, but there is a caveat. Compared to metal halides, LED lights are inferior for growing plants that require high-light intensity, but they are perfect for low and moderate light plants.
Metal halides are also full-spectrum, meaning they produce a better tropical light range that sustains photosynthesis for aquarium plants. However, this comes at a huge power cost and a lot of heat, and that’s where LEDs gets the upper hand.
LED aquarium lights run much cooler than both fluorescent and metal halide bulbs and are customizable for intensity and colors, which can be tailored for different aquarium plant needs.
The lights are also sold by spectrum so you can choose your preference. For instance, white spectrum LED bulbs, which are readily available, will advance photosynthesis in your plants, same as blue LEDs or a combination of white and blue.
Do LED Lights Cause Algae in an Aquarium?
LED aquarium lights are not any more likely to cause algae growth than fluorescent bulbs, with some hobbyists even convinced that an LED bulb will actually discourage algae growth.
For this argument, the more important thing to note is algae growth in fish tanks is more than anything else encouraged by too much light regardless of the light source. The general ‘algae’ rule is if the intensity is too high, algae will soon start creeping from the edges of your fish tank.
Leaving your aquarium light on for more than the recommended eight (8) to 12 hours will also result in an algae problem; fluorescent, metal halide or LED bulbs notwithstanding.
On the other hand, the argument LED aquarium lights seem to deter algae growth is premised on the fact that most LEDs have a lower light intensity than metal halide bulbs. However, compared to fluorescent tubes, an LED bulb will have more or less the same light intensity as the former, of course depending on the bulb you have, and as such, the argument is no longer true.
One fact that’s entirely true though is that not all LED lights are full spectrum, which closely replicates the normal daylight and encourages algae growth. Instead, LED bulbs are purchased with varying intensities that can be tailor-made to provide a specific environment in the fish tank.
For instance, assuming a white spectrum LED light encourages algae growth, you can always opt for a blue LED, which will still support plant growth with a lesser algae burden than the former.
Finally, note that while every LED light is different, the output of fluorescent tubes is fairly constant, meaning with LEDs, there isn’t any common ‘algae’ rule that can be applied across the board. A bulb may lead to either more or fewer algae in your tank depending on light intensity and not so much the light source.