Fluorescent Aquarium Lighting

There are four main types of fluorescent aquarium lighting:

With all linear fluorescent lamps, the wattage always increases as the lamp length increases.

The main factor to consider when selecting aquarium lighting is the photosynthetic requirements of the aquarium inhabitants and asthetics, while color spectrum and lumen output will have the most significant impact.

Normal output, also known as standard fluorescent lights, are generally suitable for fish only aquariums and will not provide enough photosynthetically active radiation to support robust and vigorous growth. For plants and animals that use photosynthesis as their source of energy you will want to consider using compact fluorescent, very high output T12, high output T5, or metal halide lamps.

Aquarium fluorescent lamps are labeled according to the diameter, for example T5, T8, or T12. The number following the T refers to the diameter in one-eighth inch increments.
T5 = 5/8" diameter
T8 = 1" diameter
T12 = 1 1/2" diameter.

Fluorescent Lighting System Components

With the exception of normal output fluorescent lighting, the basic components used for all VHO, T5 HO, and compact fluorescent aquarium lighting systems include:

  1. Fluorescent lamp
  2. Ballast
  3. Lamp sockets and mounting brackets
  4. Reflector


Compact Fluorescent

Compact fluorescents, sometimes called power compacts, are brighter and more energy efficient than normal output fluorescent bulbs. Read More »

Normal Output Fluorescent

Normal Output bulbs are standard wattage bulbs that usually come with many stock aquarium hoods. Normal Output bulbs come in varying lengths, including but not limited to, 18", 24", 36", 48", and 72". Read More »

VHO Very High Output Fluorescent

Very High Output bulbs allow you to fit fewer bulbs over your tank and provide considerably more lumens as compared to NO bulbs. All VHO bulbs are 1.5" in diameter (T12). VHO's, like all linear fluorescents, distribute the light evenly across the water surface, unlike Metal Halides which is a single point of light. Another advantage to using VHO lighting is that they generate less heat as compared to Metal Halides. VHO bulbs generally will need to be replaced about every six months, or as according to the manufacturers recommendation. VHO bulbs require a 1500ma VHO ballast to operate. Read More »

T5 HO Fluorescent

When purchasing T5 aquarium lighting, ensure that you are getting High Output T5 (T5 HO). All T5 bulbs must be run on an electronic ballast. T5's have a higher lumen output than a VHO, generate less heat, and are more energy efficient. It has also been reported that T5's last considerably longer, between 2-3 years, with less degrade in lumen output. At only 5/8" in diameter, more bulbs can fit under your tank's canopy. Read More »