55 September 2017 Pet Product News International
BY E THAN D. MIZER
The aquarium lighting market has changed con- siderably over the past few years, with light emit- ting diode (LED) aquarium fixtures becoming
the most common type offered in pet specialty stores.
These LED fixtures continue to gain market share,
but for some niche areas of the aquatics market, other
lights are returning to popularity.
“Because of pricing, LEDs are probably leading in
sales,” said Kurt Lund, president of Aquarium Outfitters Carolina in Wake Forest, N.C.
Though LED fixture prices have come down as their
popularity and availability have increased, price point
can still be an issue.
“We’re selling a lot of the LEDs,” said Abraham
Jimenez, associate at Exotic Aquarium in Sacramento,
Calif. “Tube lighting and the bulb lighting are completely outdated. The only thing that keeps people from
These fixtures dominate the market for freshwater
aquariums, where many prepackaged beginner setups include LEDs. They are also popular for saltwater
and reef setups, but many reef aquarists still prefer
“I’ve always had people that prefer halides,” said
Douglas Yaxley, manager of Fishy Business in Long-
wood, Fla. “What it comes down to is that the people
who are really serious about growing coral want ha-
lides. The people who want to have the newest and lat-
est, they buy [LEDs]. … The best example is, looking at
coral wholesalers, generally speaking, if they want to
grow corals, they don’t put them underneath LEDs.”
Industry participants widely reported that LEDs
don’t offer the same level of support for reef aquar-
ium systems that metal halides do, and that demand
has shifted slightly in favor of metal halides, at least
“[Customers] are not getting what they wanted from
LEDs, especially with deep corals,” said Marc Rambod,
president of Hamilton Technology in Gardena, Calif.,
which manufactures both LED and metal halide light-
ing for aquarium use. “Many people are kind of upset
that they’ve spent so much money on these new fix-
tures … and they are not getting the result they want.”
He’s seeing demand increase slightly for metal ha-
lide systems, he noted, but was quick to add that he
isn’t discounting the role of LEDs in the hobby.
“[Customers] aren’t moving away from LEDs,” he
said. “There’s no question that … LEDs are the future.
Every year, they’re getting better in terms of efficiency and lumens per watt, and the cost is going down.
But the initial things that people expected [haven’t
One commonly cited issue with LEDs is that they
haven’t lived up to expectations of superior longevity.
This hasn’t hurt sales just yet, Rambod noted, but it has
impacted the reputation of LEDs with some customers.
“They don’t last, and [customers] get disappointed,”
he said. “I see their point.”
Brighten Up Lighting Sales
New fixtures continue to gain traction, but traditional offerings still play a role in retailers’ strategies.
New fixtures and bulbs continue to appear on the market, and both new LEDs and
metal halide offerings are available.
Hamilton Technology will soon release a new metal halide that is designed to
offer a higher photosynthetically active radiation value and slightly bluer light, said
Marc Rambod, president of the Gardena, Calif.-based company
Various LED setups have also appeared on the market. One such LED fixture, the
Orbit IC LED light with a Loop controller from Current USA, stands out for Douglas
Yaxley, manager of Fishy Business in
“I’ve been really impressed with that light,” Yaxley said. “Everything can be
controlled from one main hub. It makes corals shine, and it’s got a great price point.”
Integrated fixtures featuring controller options are increasingly appearing
on the market. Aquatic Life in South El Monte, Calif., is introducing a Wi-Fi
version of its Reno LED fixtures in the next few months, said Michael Elliott,
co-owner of the company.
These fixtures are designed to combine LEDs with wireless capabilities through
users’ smartphones, Elliott noted.
“Connecting people’s worlds is what’s hot,” Elliott said. “More than ever, hobby-
ists seek out aquarium products that integrate into a system and can be controlled
remotely using their existing devices.”
Other manufacturers noted the trend toward greater integration, and the
inclusion of more features in a given fixture.
“While many aquarists—particularly reef hobbyists—still use high-output
T5 and metal halide lighting successfully, the current trend in aquatics lighting is
toward programmable LEDs, both for freshwater and marine applications,” said
Karina Esquivel, brand manager for Central Garden & Pet Co. in Walnut Creek, Calif.
“Features such as built-in timers, dawn/dusk ramping, increased output, seemingly
unlimited spectral control and the ability to daisy-chain multiple fixtures to one
controller are becoming mainstream.”
Greater flexibility and a desire for more control are driving this trend, industry
“People want control of the lighting in meaningful ways,” said Sean Raines,
director of aquatic marketing for Spectrum Brands Inc.’s Pet, Home & Garden
Division in Madison, Wis. “They want help understanding the lighting needs of their
aquarium and, at the same time, want to be able to control the way their aquarium
A GUIDING HAND
Depending on the segment of the aquarium market that retailers focus on,
customers might be well versed in lighting options, or they could require a
great deal of help in making a selection.
“Typically, most people don’t know exactly what they come in to look
for,” said Abraham Jimenez, associate for Exotic Aquarium in Sacramento,
Calif. “We do have to educate them, especially about what lighting will
support what life.”
This varies substantially depending on the skill level of aquarists com-
ing in to stores. For example, many reef aquarists are very knowledgeable
about the technical details of the hobby. But other customers still need a
guiding hand, industry participants reported.
“We’re probably one of the larger shops in the state, and we get a lot of
people who have been in this hobby for a long time,” said Douglas Yaxley,
manager of Fishy Business in Longwood, Fla. “They really know what they
want, and no matter what I say, I’m generally not going to change their
mind, and then we get a lot of people that come in looking for advice.”
Ultimately, the best way to effectively educate customers in need of
assistance is to start a dialogue in store, and to make sure sales associates are well versed in livestock needs and lighting capabilities, industry