Determining what aquarium light bulbs you need


For newcomers to the aquarium hobby, determining the type of aquarium light bulbs needed for any given fish tank setup can be a confusing process.  The basic types of aquarium lighting include incandescent bulbs, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights, and metal halide.  Other factors that are important to the type of aquarium light you need are the type of fish tank, and the size of your tropical fish tank.  The purpose of this guide is to help you decide which type and wattage of lighting you need for your fish tank.

When it comes to figuring out the aquarium light needs of your tank, the first step involves narrowing down to the type of light your fixture can accomodate.  The easiest way to determine this is to look at the information package that came with your canopy (the lid of your fish tank).  It should explain what type of light bulbs it uses.  If you are unsure, look under the hood and there should be information printed there.  If you have not yet purchased a lid for your fish tank, then use the information below to decide what type is best aquarium light for you.

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Incandescent bulbs are basically a special type of regular light bulbs you have around your house.  For an aquarium, light bulbs are usually long and narrow to provide the biggest area of coverage possible.  Incandescent light bulbs are best suited to small fish tanks that are less than 10 or 15 gallons, or other aquariums such as fish bowls.  You should also know that incandescent bulbs aren’t ideal if you are planning on having a planted tank full of healthy aquarium plants.

Fluorescent aquarium light is best suited for any medium to large fish tanks.  This type of lighting is ideal for planted aquariums and deeper tanks because the amount of light is higher than that given off by incandescent bulbs.  Many fluorescent bulbs are designed to provide the exact spectrum needed by most aquarium plants.

Metal halide bulbs are best suited for reef tanks.  This type of aquarium light ideal for your reef aquarium because it emites high intensity light needed by your corals and other reef inhabitants.  Fortunately, metal halide aquarium light bulbs are very energy efficient, so you don’t have to worry about padding your energy bill!

Now you know what type of light is best for your freshwater fish tank or marine aquarium.  A quick note about wattage is appropriate.  If you have a fish-only tank, then the wattage is not extremely important.  For planted tanks, your goal should be 4+ watts per gallon to ensure that most of your aquarium plants grow vigorously.  For reef tanks, your best chance at ensuring healthy inhabitants is with 4 to 6 watts per gallon of water. Hopefully this aquarium light bulb guide helped answer some of your questions about lighting your fish tank.

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