Aquarium LED Lighting Comparison

Do LED Aquarium light fixtures really cost more than other lighting fixtures?
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This particular comparison takes into account the initial setup, and continued cost of lighting a beautiful aquarium tank over a 1-2 year period. It will eventually show that LED’s are actually the least expensive to keep and maintain.

Currently fluorescent lighting fixtures (VHO) are the least expensive to purchase while LED is the most expensive with Metal Halide (HQI) somewhere in the middle.

The first thing to be considered is light bulb replacement. The VHO and HQI bulbs need to be replaced every year, as the LED lasts 7 -10 years.

The second consideration is heat. You may not think of heat when referring to lighting, but heat is an issue regarding aquariums. HQI produce so much high temperature that chillers are often used to help lower aquarium temperatures. This often requires an extra pump to help run drinking water through the chiller itself. VHO fittings in general do not produce enough high temperature to require a chiller but some of the high output fixtures that use electrical ballasat, will also produce heat. LED fittings have little to no temperature, so no heat transferred to the aquarium.

The last consideration is power. Electricity runs all of the lighting fixtures, but by far the most energy efficient is the LED, then your VHO, and then the HQI.

I actually myself had an HQI fixture upon my 260 gallon fish tank. I switched to standard (VHO) lights, and then to LED, which I presently use and like. My electrical bill dropped by half, from a budgeted amount of $900 / 30 days, to a current $450 /month. I actually eliminated the chiller, and two sump pumps used for the refrigerator and skimmer.

One additional aspect to consider other than cost is the effects on the aquarium inhabitants. For instance, the VHO bulb gives an even light distribution along the entire bulb, giving the tank a constant light throughout the entire aquarium tank. The HQI gives a more concentrated beam of light, more like the sun, has a lot more natural shaded areand a shimmer effect on the surface of the water. LED’s furthermore give a shimmer effect to the surface area of the water and can be setup to simulate cloud cover, dawn, and sunset.

All together, the overall benefits of LED light fixtures make up for initial cost in future savings. When you add in the cost of replacing bulbs every year, extra pumps, chillers, and the electricity it costs to run this kind of devices the clear winner will be the LED fixture.

Thank you for reading our article, I hope it helps you in choosing the right lighting fixture for your aquarium tank.

Jeffery P Mey is an aquarium enthusiast with over 40 years of experience. He can provide additional information about lighting fixtures and bulb replacement.