Getting the Most out of Your Aquarium Light

Aquarists spend a lot of money and expend great effort choosing the perfect light for their aquarium. With larger aquariums, the lights are usually the most expensive piece of equipment. It only makes sense that you do what you can to make sure that your high-tech lights are functioning as they should so your corals or plants can remain healthy, and all the money and effort you put into your lights does not go to waste. Here are a few ways to keep your light functioning at its best.

Clean Your Light Fixture - When the lenses on your light fixture get covered in dust or salt creep, it can significantly reduce the amount of light getting into the aquarium. Rinse and scrub the lenses to ensure that they're clean. Use white vinegar to clean hard water stains if needed. If your tank has a glass top, it's basically another light lens. So clean it as well. Make sure your light fixtures are clean of dust so the fans cooling the light run properly. Use a moist rag or compressed air to clean dust from around and inside your lights. Clean as often as you can and make it part of your regular maintenance. It's a good idea to do it monthly with your water changes or set a reminder every three months. You canít clean too often.

Keep Your Water Clear - When your water is dirty or tinted it can significantly cut down on the amount of light reaching your plants or corals. Use a protein skimmer, ozone, carbon, or other chemical media to ensure that the light is passing through the water freely. You will get the added benefit of having a cleaner, better looking aquarium. The simplest way to improve water quality is with a high-quality carbon such as Inland Seas Carbon. Another option is to use a carbon with resin such as the Blue Life Clear FX Pro, or Chemi-Pure. If your aquarium doesnít have a surface skimming filter, add a surface skimmer will clear up the detritus on the surface of the water. The Ista Multi-Surface Skimmer connects to the inlet of a filter, and the OASE CrystalSkim Skimmers are stand alone surface skimmers.

Replace Your Light Bulbs - Fluorescent and metal halide bulbs should be replaced at least once a year to ensure they're producing the correct spectrum and quantity of light. Old bulbs may still light up but they can decline in output by 30% or more and shift color, resulting in more algae and less light for your corals.

Place Your Light at the Proper Distance from the Aquarium - If your light is one that needs to be suspended, make sure the light is not so far away that you get light spillage. Light spillage occurs when light fills the room instead of the aquarium. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for light height. If no recommendations are given, then visually make sure that the light is getting in the aquarium and not spilling over the edges. Keep in mind that a light too close to the water is going to get splashed and damaged.

Put Your Lights on a Timer - Manually turning your light on and off every day at the correct time is very difficult. Having a timer ensures that the light goes on and off when it is supposed to. For a simple solution use a timer. Advanced lights, such as the Kessil Lights, Ecotech Marine Radion, and Maxspect Jump, have a variety of options for controlling when the light turns on and off (and the intensity over time). Consistency is the theme of all great tanks, and a light timer is a simple and easy way to add more consistency to your aquarium.

Experiment with Color and Intensity - Whether your light is controllable or not, experiment with the color and intensity of your light. With LEDs, such as the Kessils, the spectrum can be easily adjusted. Try different settings and see what your corals or plants like the best. Unless the results are obviously negative, give it at least a couple of weeks before passing judgment. If you have a fluorescent or metal halide fixture, then try different bulbs to see if you can get better color and growth. In general, bluer actinic or 20,000k bulbs will give better color, but whiter 6,700k or 10,000k bulbs will give better growth.