4 Different Types Of Reef Tank Lighting: LED, Flourescent, Hybrid, Metal Halide

What are the different types of reef lighting?

One of the most essential things for both the health and look of your reef tank is a quality lighting system. Appropriate lighting is important for both fish, coral, and water quality, so it’s important to have a good understanding of what’s out there.

Here are the four different types of reef lighting that you can choose for your tank,

Reef Lighting

types of reef aquarium lighting

There are 4 types of lighting used in reef tanks:

  • LEDs
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Metal halide lights
  • Hybrid lights

Here is more info on the different types of reef tank lighting.

1. LED Reef Tank Lights

reef tank lights
LED lighting is the most modern form of lighting used in reef tanks, and has quickly become a popular option.

The best thing about these lights is that they offer an excellent amount of light without heating up.

If you don’t want your reef tank being heated by lighting, use an LED lighting system. That’s not to say they don’t produce heat, but unlike others, LED lights produce and transmit the heat upward instead of sending it downward.

In fact, if you don’t check it regularly, the produced heat can reduce the LED’s lifespan.

The way to keep these bulbs from overheating is to install a cooling fan or another method of air circulation. An aquarium powerhead could help.

2. Fluorescent Reef Lighting


best salt water tank lighting

Fluorescent Reef Lights are generally long in size and can spread over a large area.

They come in various mix-ups of colors and can highlight your fish and corals quite beautifully. They are the easiest lights to operate and use on your reef tank.

These bulbs are not only made simply but also very easy to operate. Moreover, they generate very low heat and work perfectly in low temperatures.

Fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of sizes so that you can choose your preferred one easily.

3. Metal Halide Lights

reef aquarium light

These lights are well known for giving a more specific source of spotlighting that highlights the glitters on your aquarium.

Generally, these lighting types are referred to as HID (High-Intensity Discharge) system.

This kind of light is designed by protecting an inner bulb with an outer glass covering. When you activate the bulb, electricity starts to flow over an arc tube while getting into a reaction with the tube encased metallic salts as well as air releasing light.

The best thing about this kind of lightning is that you can get a lot of energy watts from just a single fixture. That means it takes only a few bulbs to produce a high illumination.

Considering the complexity of this lighting system, these bulbs are more suitable for commercial coral propagation rather than consumer-level hobbyists. But you can use them for your personal reef tank too if you think you can handle it.

The main thing holding the metal halide lights is that these bulbs can get really hot while raising the room temperature in certain cases. Buying an aquarium chiller can help you in the situation.

4. Hybrid Lights

saltwater fish tank lightThough this type is not very common among tank owners, no other lightning system can offer so bright illumination as hybrid lights do.

Because of their unique and variety of options, these lights are getting quite in demand among reefers.

Generally, most of their fixture is made with a combination of LED and fluorescent lights. You can guess what a spectacular illumination it creates with the efficiency of LED fixtures along with the accuracy and variety of fluorescent bulbs.

Color Options

The right color is really important for highlighting the beauty of your corals and fish in the reef tank.

You should know that every visible light has a measurement in nanometers between 390 nm and 706 nm.

According to experts, your reef tank should have a color combination of full-spectrum, 50/50 light, and actinic for a perfect setup.

A 50/50 bulb can create a combination of white and blue color for healthy coral growth while an actinic bulb can generate the spectrum’s blue end that can enter the water sooner than white lights.

Besides that, you should also consider the Kelvin rating for a healthy environment in your tank. A kelvin rating of or above 5500K can create cool light whereas a 3000K will produce a warm one.

The ideal full spectrum kelvin rating is considered 6500K in daylight.

So, whenever you are choosing a lighting system for your reef tank, make sure it’s healthy for the whole environment.

Saltwater Tank Lights

That depends highly on the size of your tank and the habitats you have in that.

Also, the season can be a factor too. If you are having chilling weather, then using a metal halide or LED light system will be no big deal. Otherwise, you will need a fan or air cooler to keep your reef tank at a normal temperature.

But to me, considering all the options and features, hybrid lights are the best option. In that way, you can choose the features you want from certain lighting systems and have the ideal one for your aquarium.

However, if you think hybrid lighting can be expensive for you, fluorescent lights can be the second option. Those are very easy to operate and produce very low heat.

Reef Tank Lighting

While a lighting system can increase the beauty of your reef tank to a great level, choosing the perfect lights can be a tricky job.

The best thing to do is to make a list of all your requirements and then find out which of the lights can fulfill all those.

Make sure you’ve also got a good protein skimmer and dosing pump for your system.


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