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February 1, 2016

Cloudy or partly sunny skies, bright noonday sun, soft glowing sunsets, cool moonlight–for fish living in their natural environments, the light they experience changes throughout the day. For fish owners striving to make their aquarium environment as natural as possible, lighting is a key ingredient in the overall design.

“When it comes to lighting for aquariums, the goal is always to replicate the natural light of both the sun and the moon,” said Phil Bartoszek, research and development product manager for Elive Pet. “Whether it was with fluorescent lights or now as people are moving into more LED lights, it helps that designers are all working toward the same goal.”

A Customized Approach

The increasing affordability and popularity of LED lights is making it easier for aquarium owners to customize their lighting and create a more natural appearance.

“Gone are the days of a simple on/off switch,” said Bryan Lowe, account executive at Finnex. “Consumers now are interested in fixtures that allow the manipulation of colors as well as light intensities.”

Many LED strip lights give people the ability to customize according to their own specific preferences. Whether called pods or chips, LED strip lights can hold a number of different, small LED lights, allowing for total customization.

For example, Elive Pet’s series of LED track lighting includes interchangeable pods, so customers can choose to stick with the standard lighting mix or change out red, white or blue lights for different colors or intensities. Color can also be manipulated without having to change pods. Elive’s track lights include a blue-channel dimmer to regulate light intensity, and Current’s Satellite Freshwater LED+ and Orbit Marine LED+ light systems let aquarium owners control through a remote which color chips are on or off, which in turn customizes the light’s color and intensity.

One goal fish owners have with customization is finding the perfect combination to really highlight the inhabitants of the aquarium. Whether the tank holds tropical fish, a coral reef or lush plant life, the lighting requirements for optimum viewing pleasure and to promote the appropriate growth vary. Current’s product line includes lighting specifically for freshwater or saltwater environments. Elive Pet has introduced a line called High-Def Color, a specially tuned RGB LED pod that is designed to make the reds, greens and blues of the aquarium pop without compromising any of the other colors.

Another benefit of customization is the ability to mimic the natural environment of the fish. Brand new for 2016, Aqueon has introduced the OptiBright+LED Light that includes the ability to program sunrise and sunset modes to replicate a natural day/night cycle. In addition to day and night, owners can also control the “weather.” The aquarist can simulate cloud cover by dimming the lights, or Current’s Satellite and Orbit lines take it a step further, with preset weather features including cloud cover and lightning storms.

Minimal Distractions

With aquarium lighting, it is not just the light output that is an important consideration.

“While lighting is essential in the overall health of the environment, it also provides a better viewing experience for the hobbyist, which means aesthetics are an important factor in new lighting designs,” said Karina Esquivel, senior brand manager for Central Garden and Pet, makers of the Aqueon brand.

Customers are not just looking for systems that illuminate their aquarium at optimum standard—they are also looking for slimmer designs that keep the focus on the aquatic environment, as opposed to a bulky fixture. Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice light quality when slimming down the fixture. Fixtures from lines such as Current’s TruLumen and Finnex’s Ultra Slim tout high output even with the minimum amount of hardware.

It’s not just bulky fixtures that can serve as a distraction for aquarium viewing. Every thing that goes along with keeping fish—filters, heaters, pumps and anything that goes in the tank—each has its own cord and plug. Current is working on a product that will integrate all of these features into the lighting control, eliminating some of the clutter associated with aquariums and further improving the viewing experience.

“We’re known for lighting, but we’re also looking for ways to make tanks more aesthetically pleasing,” said Tara Robertson, sales manager for Current. By integrating all the systems needed for an aquarium into one place, the aquarium will look more streamlined and less cluttered.

The Future Looks Bright

One of the great things about the aquarium lighting category is that it is constantly changing and improving. While fish owners usually do not go out and buy a new light for their tank as often as they might buy things like food and decorations, the new features and better-quality products available help make lighting products more than just a one-time purchase. New offerings from manufacturers will also go a long way toward enticing those impulse buys from customers.

One thing to look forward to is some of what are now considered high-end features becoming more affordable, like Wi-Fi or software controlled features. As work continues on LEDs, more colors and improved efficiencies will make these products even more appealing to the customer. For now, more products come with remote control, which allows customers to control the lighting in their tank without ever leaving the couch—making for a fun, more interactive viewing experience.

“Overall, a nice aesthetic and better viewing experience goes a long way toward making fish owners happy,” Esquivel said. “And the happier the hobbyist is with their set up, the longer they will stay in the hobby!”

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