Choose the Best Lighting For Saltwater Aquarium

The selection of a proper light for a saltwater tank requires research. Light directly affects various aspects of a tank. Light and algae growth has a deep relation. Moreover, the saltwater lights are different from regular freshwater tank lights, i.e., they require higher penetration.
It also affects heat rejection and fish health.

In the following, you’ll learn all about lighting for saltwater aquariums, different types of available lights, their properties, and how to select a light for your saltwater tank.

saltwater light

saltwater light

Are LED Lights Good for Saltwater Aquariums

Yes, LED lights are the best for saltwater aquariums. They are energy efficient, long-lasting, and minimize the algae growth. Their spectrum customization option makes it usable for various aspects, i.e., plant growth, photosynthesis for corals, etc.

What Types of Light Can Be Used in Saltwater Aquariums?

When it comes to lighting for saltwater aquariums, you will get options for it. Some of the suitable options are as follows.

High Output Fluorescent Lights (T5HO)

These are a type of high-output linear fluorescent tube lamps. They are the same as T5 lamps but produce high luminance, i.e., 5,000, almost double T5. They are suitable for SPS corals and high-light requiring saltwater tanks due to their soft and diffused light. They provide a balance of intensity and spectrum. Their high luminance makes them suitable for various depths and various tank sizes. However, higher heat than LEDs is their downside.

Metal Halide Lights

Material halides are the other saltwater light option. They are high-intensity discharge bulbs that are famous for their intense illumination. They are suitable in higher-depth saltwater and coral reef tanks. High heat production and shorter lifespans are some downsides of these saltwater lights.

LED Lights

LED lights are the best choice for any saltwater tank. They produce higher light intensity without too much heat. Digital control for a wide range of spectra, multiple colors, and longer life make it suitable as a saltwater light. It promotes healthy plant growth, improves oxygen levels, and is easy for fish.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)

CFLs are the potential option as a saltwater light. They come in multiple spectra, especially blue, the most required spectrum for saltwater reef aquariums. They are also long-lasting, cost-effective, and globally available. However, you need to install them sideways as they lack reflectors to consume their full potential. Moreover, high heat production forces the installation of some heat rejection facilities in the tank, i.e., exhaust cooling fans.

lighting for saltwater aquarium

lighting for saltwater aquarium

Light and Algae Production

There are many studies regarding light and algae production. Many studies say that blue is an algae promoter spectrum. Another study reveals that the white spectrum is the highest algae, the blue at second, and the red spectrum is the lowest. So, it is a disputed study, i.e., which spectrum promotes algae growth. Use the balance spectrum to maintain your tank and minimize the algae growth.

What Is the Best Lighting for Saltwater Aquarium?

The well-balanced light combination is very crucial for a proper saltwater tank. There is a deep relationship between light and algae. So, here is a summary of different lights and their features.

Type Wavelength Color PAR (μmol/s) Intensity Luminance
Fluorescent (T5, T8, T12) 400-700nm Cool white, blue, actinic 10-20 Low-medium 200-400
LED 380-700nm Various spectra 20-100 Medium-high 50-100
Metal Halide 380-700nm White, blue, UHF 40-120 High 80-120
High-Output T5 (T5HO) 400-700nm Cool white, blue, actinic 30-60 Medium-high 400-600
Induction 380-700nm White, blue, UHF 40-120 High 80-120
light and algae

light and algae

The Best Light for Saltwater Aquarium

There are multiple types of saltwater tanks, and different type of tanks have their unique habitat. Therefore, it requires you to look at various aspects.

Type of Saltwater Tank

There are mainly three types of a saltwater tank, i.e., fish only, fish only with rocks, and reef tanks.

Type of Tank Purpose of Lighting
Fish-only To highlight the features of fish
Fish-only with Live Rocks It serves in

  • Enjoyment
  • Requires for fish to find food and interact with other fish
  • Promotes healthy growth of fish and other live elements
  • Create a day-night cycle
Reef Tanks Play a vital role in photosynthesis, i.e., 80 to 85% need of the coral

Light Parameters

Each light represents different light parameters. These parameters vary for different types of saltwater tanks. Here are some important parameters.

Light Spectrum

There are mainly three types of spectrum available for saltwater tanks.

  • Full spectrum: It mimics natural daylight. It promotes coral growth and creates vibrant hues.
  • Blue Light: It’s equally suitable for fish-only tanks and coral tanks.
  • Actinic Light (420-460nm): These deep blue or purple lights act like a night light and help to promote several hues in corals.

Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR)

This factor plays a vital role in coral tanks as they require photosynthesis. Here are suitable PAR ranges for different corals.

Type of Coral PAR
Soft Corals 50-150
LPS 100–250
SPS 200–400+


Provide the luminance with a 1-8-1 strategy, i.e., initial one hour for ramping up, 8 hours of steady light, and 1 hour for steady down lighting. Luminance varies with the type of plants in the tank.

Type of Plants Luminance per litter
Easy plants 10–20
Medium plants 20–40
Advanced plants 40+

Depth of The Tank

The light selection also depends upon the size of the tank. Its intensity varies with the depth of the tank. Here is a table to understand the light intensity for different types of saltwater tanks.

Depth (cm) Intensity of light (watt per litter)
Less than 30 cm with bare bottom tank 0.5–0.6 W
30-40 cm 0.7–0.8 W
40–50 cm Require to install metal halides or submersible light
Reef tank 4–8 watts per gallon

Best Light Options

Select an efficient, long-lasting light that matches your budget and has a customization option. For selecting such light, visit hygger store.

Key Takeaways

  • LED lights are good due to their customization and high efficiency.
  • You can install different types of lights, i.e., LED, T5HO, metal halides, and compact fluorescent, in your saltwater tank.
  • Any specific light spectrum is not associated with the fast algae growth in the tank. Therefore, provide a balance ratio spectrum light to your saltwater tank.
  • Selection of the best light requires looking at various aspects, i.e., the type and depth of the tank and various light parameters.

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