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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

May 31, 2013

LED Lighting and Aquariums, an Update

By David Lass


In just a few short years, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have pretty much taken over as the lighting method of choice for the aquarium industry, with a couple of provisos. First is that retail pet stores initially are a little resistant to carry them because LEDs last for about eight to 10 years, and there are no replacement lamp sales to be made as there are with fluorescent lighting systems. The second condition is that there always will be hardcore reef geeks who will go to their graves clutching their metal halide lights.

Tank LED Lighting
In short order, LED lighting has taken over in the aquarium industry as prices come down and manufacturers offer multiple options. iStockphoto/Thinkstock
The two biggest and most recent changes in LED lighting are the significant price reduction and that major manufacturers of aquarium equipment now offer LED options, so they are available from the wholesale distributors. It turns out that many stores out there do not like to deal with specialty manufacturers with only a limited line of products.

For beginning hobbyists, the packaged kits are pretty much all LED lighting, and that is a no-brainer. Resistance to LEDs comes in with the serious planted-tank hobbyists and reefkeepers. With the LED options available a few years ago I could understand their skepticism. Today, however, LED technology has advanced to the point of being able to provide the proper lighting for nearly anything that lives in the water, fresh or salt.

LED lights now are available in Kelvin temperatures from 4,100 to 18,000 with very good actinic blues. There are standard aquarium reflectors now available with combinations of white, blue and red LEDs that work very well for most corals and plants. And, of course, there are LED lighting systems available with sophisticated control systems that can mimic the light of a typical day in the tropics.

These always will appeal to what I call "techno-twits” (no offense intended) who must have the latest, greatest and most expensive gadgets for their tanks. The problem with these LED systems, some of which can be accessed and controlled from a smartphone, is that it is very difficult for the local fish/pet store to compete with the Internet sellers.

So don’t go after that high-end market--there is plenty of excellent equipment and good money to be made from LED lighting systems that are now state-of-the-art for regular aquarium lighting. The extra cost of LED lighting is more than madeup for by the fact that they last for many years, radiate no heat and can provide the same (or better) lighting at a fraction of the cost to operate.

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