LED lighting is an upgrade over the standard fluorescent lighting found in many reef setups. LED lights use tiny, electronic light emitting diodes (hence “LED”) to provide energy efficient illumination. Setting up an LED aquarium light on a reef tank is just as simple as setting up fluorescent light, but it will be much more expensive to buy. It requires the same measurements and considerations as a fluorescent light set up.
Measure the length of the reef tank from end to end. This is the length of the LED light fixture you need, though it is typically appropriate for it to be about 4 inches shorter.
Multiply the number of gallons in the tank by a number between three and five to determine the wattage. Most coral reef tanks require approximately three to five watts per gallon, so a 55-gallon aquarium will need between 165 and 275 watts. Soft corals need around three watts, while harder corals need five watts.
Place the light fixture atop the tank’s glass canopy.
Connect the LED power chord to a lamp dimmer. A lamp dimmer will gradually increase or decrease the amount of light in the tank to simulate the rising and setting of the sun.
Light emitting diodes, or LEDs, are becoming a popular alternative to fluorescent lights for aquarium use. LEDs use less energy, maintain a consistent light and can be targeted to precisely the wavelengths aquatic plants can use. LEDs have not taken over the aquarium market because of the significant initial expense of installing the proper type of LED lights, which can easily come to over a thousand dollars for very large aquariums.
While any LED lights can be used to help illuminate an aquarium, the typical LEDs are useless in promoting plant growth. The most common types of LEDs simply offer a supplemental form of lighting. Lights designed for aquariums provide both illumination and support the ecosystem, primarily by encouraging healthy aquatic plant growth. To perform the latter function, special LEDs that are much more powerful are necessary. Even so, an aquarium-grade LED only uses a fraction of the energy of a standard fluorescent light.
Aquarium LED Cost
The primary drawback to LED lighting in aquariums is the cost involved. To get lights that accomplish all the functions needed, the cost is routinely in the hundreds of dollars for small aquariums and over $1,000 for large ones as of 2011. While you may often see LED lights advertised for aquariums at under $100, these are simply supplemental light LEDs that will provide illumination but cannot replace the function of fluorescent lights in supporting the ecosystem. Costs are falling rapidly as more enthusiasts use LEDs, but they are not competitive with fluorescent lights as of 2011.
Aquarium-grade LED lighting avoids creating energy that is wasted as heat. It also eliminates the need for cooling fans to dissipate the heat fluorescent lights generate. This will allow you to use standard heaters to control the temperature of your tank without fear of damaging the tank through the failure of a lighting fan or any other light malfunction.