LED vs Fluorescent vs Metal Halide Comparison of Aquarium Lighting

When it comes to glowing aquatic plants (or land plants), the most crucial equipment is the light. Currently, you have three choices. LED, fluorescent light, and metal halide lamp. In many countries, LED is prevailing the other two due to its revolutionary energy-efficient system. However, is LED the best lighting system for aquatic plants? In this article, I will be comparing the three types of aquarium light based on the growth of aquatic plants and price.


1. LED

LED is unlike any other kind of light. It changes the electricity directly to the light energy while fluorescent light uses filaments. Therefore, it uses less energy and has less heat. 

So, here are the advantages and disadvantages of LED

ADVANTAGES

  • Plenty of colours to choose from 
  • Energy efficient 
  • Relatively small and light
  • Lasts much longer than other lights

DISADVANTAGES

  • High-priced
  • Doesn’t include much wavelength which is necessary for plants

When LED was fist introduced, aquarists believed that it cannot be used as aquarium light because it did not include enough wavelength. However, that is not the case in 2020. Just like Solar RGB, AQUASKY RGB, and Sol Stand RGB from ADA, some LED lights are capable of covering three primary colours for light. Even though AQUASKY G (ADA) is inferior to those with RGB LED chip, it is totally fine for glowing plants.

If you are planning to choose LED, I highly recommend you to purchase from reliable aquascaping brand because most LEDs they sell are customised and adapted to a certain wavelength which plants can use for photosynthesis.  

ADA AQUASKY G 451

2. Fluorescent Light

Fluorescent light brightens a larger area than LED. For many years fluorescent lights used to be the most popular light for aquarium, so generally speaking, it is the most reliable lighting system for growing plants. 

ADVANTAGES

  • Low-priced
  • Covers the wavelength which plants need
  • Many light bulbs to choose from (brightness and colours are adjustable)

DISADVANTAGES

  • You need to change the light bulbs regularly 
  • Some brands are stopping to sell fluorescent lights since LED is becoming more common 

Fluorescent light is the most reliable light because it is used by tons of aquarists, and proved its ability to cover appropriate wavelength for photosynthesis. Unlike LED, fluorescent light throws light on a large area and makes fewer shadows. While LED aquarium light is customised to a suitable wavelength, fluorescent light itself already has the ability to cover it. Therefore you can purchase it at any electronic store at very low prices. However, in order to use it safely, make sure it is waterproof. 

ADA Solar 2

 

3. Metal Halide Lamp

  Metal halide lamp (MH) has been used for occasions which brightness is required such as baseball stadium or headlights for a car. It is also traditionally used for growing indoor plants. It is said that the wavelength of MH is the nearest to that of sunlight. Therefore MH is perpetually the best light for aquarium. However, some disadvantages are so crucial that many of you might want to reconsider purchasing it.

ADVANTAGES

  • Bright
  • Natural lighting
  • Waves and shadows reflect on the substrate 
  • appropriate wavelength and intensity for photosynthesis 

DISADVANTAGES

  • High-priced
  • High electronic bill
  • Produces heat 

I would say that MH is the best lighting system for Nature Aquarium because its purpose is to recreate a real nature in your tank. MH looks as bright as the sunlight, and the reflection of the wave on the sand is truly stunning. On the other hand, beginners might find handling MH a bit difficult. Since it is relatively heavy and produces heat, you must hang the lighting

unit from the ceiling or use a stand.  

ADA Solar I

Overall

Personally speaking, the best light for aquascaping is definitely metal halide lamp. I am currently using ADA Solar I for my aqua terrarium, and it is unlike other tanks with LED. The colours of fish and plants are incredibly natural. However, considering the circumstance that LED is becoming more common among aquascapers, MH would not be the best choice in 2020. If you are having difficulties in deciding which light to buy, the safest option is LED. In fact, almost all lights sold at aquarium shops are now LED.  But if you are an advanced aquascaper or a crazy plant glower like me, MH will totally be up to your liking.


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