Blog, Lighting

How to Choose the Right Lighting for Your Reef Tank

Most reefers combine several lighting to achieve an ideal spectrum and intensity in the aquarium. An example is combining a metal halide with an Actinic fluorescent bulb. However, many hobbyists prefer the latest technology – LED lighting – because they are very cheap to set up. Moreover, mixing up colours is now easier than ever.

This article is a guide to helping you choose the right lighting for your tank. Let’s get into it!



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Why is Lighting Important for Reef Tanks?

In simple terms, lighting is good for plants and animals to thrive. It serves as a source of energy for tanks that contain photosynthetic organisms. In the hobby, lighting helps reef tank owners to observe their fish and corals. In addition, it improves the overall wellbeing of the entire reef inhabitants.

The Intensity of the Lighting

When choosing the right lighting for your tank, it’s essential to also consider one whose intensity fits the size of your aquarium. You want to select one with moderate intensity. If the light is too harsh, you risk the health of your corals. Similarly, if the intensity is too low, you deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive.


Types of Lighting System

Metal Halides

Metal halide lights are bright intensity lighting systems that are well-recognized among hobbyists. Characterized as high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting, they’ve by full colour spectrum and colour temperature.

Unlike other HID systems, metal halides provide the ideal light source required by corals to thrive. They are perfect for reef tanks that have inhabitants that demand high lighting conditions.

Metal halides are available in two different types;

  1. Mogul – has a screw-in connector like a standard bulb.
  2. HQI – has connectors at both ends and it snaps into a socket.

Although metal halides have features that enhance the growth of corals, they do have their cons. In addition to consuming a lot of energy, they produce so much heat that might make the water unbearable for your fish. Also, in the long run, the overall cost to maintain metal halides is relatively high.

Compact Fluorescents

These are one of the series of standard fluorescent light systems. Powered by dual or quad tube bulbs, they usually produce higher light output. As a result, single compact lighting can do the job of two standard fluorescent bulbs.

In addition to their efficiency, their compact size is also an appeal. Moreover, they are easy to operate and maintain. Unlike HID systems, they have lower heat emissions and a lower operating cost.


Over the years, LED lighting has become one of the reefers’ favourites. Coupled with the fact that they are fairly inexpensive, you will never need to replace their bulbs for many years. This helps you save cost on maintenance issues, unlike their Halides and fluorescents counterparts.

LED lighting is also a very energy-efficient system for your reef tank. They consume low energy and will not increase the temperature of your aquarium water. Obviously, this intensity of light works great for fish and they can live comfortably.

One major disadvantage, however, is that they lack the plug-and-play feature like Halides. In fact, some reefers report that they can be complicated to use.

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