LEDs with programmable lighting options score big with hobbyists
looking to customize their aquarium environments.
BY ETHAN D. MIZER
The market for aquarium lighting has shifted in recent years, with LEDs taking the lion’s hare of sales. While other types of fixtures
still have a place on the market, the technology
offered by the latest LEDs is winning over hobbyists who are looking for more ways to control
and customize their tank lighting.
“Mostly everybody wants LEDs,” said
Mathew Amaro, owner of Lil’ Shop of Reef’s
in Woodland, Calif. “They last way longer, and
they can pretty much adjust the color spectrum
the way they want nowadays.”
Though industry participants echoed this
sentiment, a few retailers reported recommend-
ing other types of lighting, and, for some, T5 fix-
tures are still popular.
“Everybody’s moving toward LEDs, but hob-
byists that are growing the SPS corals and stuff
like that, they do want the broad-spectrum light-
ing so that corals can color up nicely,” said Anise
Jamal, owner of That Aquarium Place in Spring,
Texas. “You still get color from LEDs, but it takes
a little while longer versus a T5 shooting out the
Other types of lights, once popular, are now
all but extinct from the hobby.
“Metal halides are pretty much ancient now,”
Amaro said. “No one asks for metal halides. It’s
too expensive to run them.”
Instead, customers have embraced modern
LED fixtures, and, increasingly, they are looking
for integrated control options and other pro-
“Consumers are demanding more flexibility
and programmable lighting options for aquari-
ums,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division man-
ager at the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.
“Consumers want lighting that allows them
to program full lighting cycles specific to their
While controller features are typically associ-
ated with reef-keeping applications, retailers re-
ported seeing more freshwater-planted tank hobbyists seeking them
out as well.
“Integration is a big selling point,” Jamal said. “Having the sun-
rise-sundown modes, having the different spectrum, shooting them
at different times, are all popular features. Controlling each LED sep-
arately is a big draw for light sales.”
CUSTOMIZABLE AND CONNECTED
Several new lighting fixtures have caught retailers’ and hobbyists’ attention
More hybrid features are appearing on the market. On the freshwater
side, fixtures for smaller setups and planted tanks are popular.
“For freshwater applications, we like the Fluval LED lights, the plant
spectrum lights that they came out with,” said Anise Jamal, owner of That
Aquarium Place in Spring, Texas. “Those were really good.”
Hagen’s latest release is the Fluval 3.0 LED lighting series. The range
includes the Marina, Freshwater and Planted fixtures, and it features
linear LEDs with sizes ranging from 18 inches to 48 inches designed for
traditional aquariums as well as nano setups.
“All are fully programmable via Bluetooth connectivity,” said Chris
LeRose, aquatic division manager at the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.
“Gone are the days of flipping the lights on in the morning. What started
with timers turning lights on and off has evolved into connective lighting
for specific types of aquatic settings.”
Some customers have moved back to high-output T5s to promote
growth. Aquatic Life recently introduced a hybrid fixture that allows T5
fluorescent and LED bulbs to be combined in a single unit.
“Aquatic Life’s T5 hybrid is a beautiful fixture,” Jamal said. “You can
drop your LEDs in between the T5s along the side, which gives you a broad
spectrum of lighting.”
The hybrid fixture can help hobbyists get the most color out of their
corals while using T5s and LEDs, said Michael Elliott, owner of South El
Monte, Calif.-based Lifetime Products, maker of Aquatic Life branded
“Our T5HO Hybrid fixture is a fluorescent fixture that includes different
universal brackets to hold the hobbyist’s favorite brand of LEDs between
the two T5HO fixtures,” Elliott said. “We’re seeing [hobbyists] realize that
with all LED fixtures, they aren’t getting the colors out of the corals they
used to see with the metal halide and T5HO fixtures. However, they have
spent money on their LED fixtures, so they are looking for an affordable way
to add T5HO fixtures back into the lighting mix.”