March 14, 2017

Recently published research in a journal on “Environment and Behavior” confirmed something we have long thought to be true: that watching fish helps people relax. The study found that participants not only were in a better mood, but also had reduced heart rate and blood pressure.

This is great news for aquarium lovers, but it only holds true if people can actually see what’s inside the aquarium. For that reason, and many more, lighting plays a crucial role in aquariums. It not only illuminates the subject matter so people can enjoy watching the activity inside, but it also provides the light necessary to sustain life and promote growth.

The introduction of LED lights led to quite a revolution in the aquarium lighting industry, with the new, more energy efficient options emitting less heat. Luckily, though, manufacturers didn’t rest on their laurels after introducing LED lights.

“Significant improvements have been made in the lenses on the LED fixtures, giving the ability to spread light out more evenly,” said Karina Esquivel, senior brand manager at Central Garden & Pet. “We’re seeing other innovations in aquarium lighting as well, from wireless control to interactive abilities, bringing more versatility to the category.”

Options Abound
There are a lot of exciting trends in the aquarium category right now, and you’ll find a lighting option to fit each one. Capitalizing on the nano tank trend, Fluval has introduced lights specifically for these tanks with the Nano Aqualife & Plant Performance LED and the Nano Fresh & Saltwater LED. Designed for 5- to 10-gallon tanks, these lights are smaller and a little less bright than their counterparts designed for bigger tanks.

GloFish are another popular trend in the aquarium category, and Tetra has introduced a new GloFish Cycle Light to help highlight the colors of these bright fish. The light has four modes—sunlight, twilight, moonlight and midnight—all made up of blue, white and black LEDs. The sunlight mode makes the fish look even more vibrant, while moonlight makes the fish fluoresce.

“Lighting remains a critical component in the ability to transform the mood and look of an aquarium, which we have found to be especially true when we look at the terrific response we’ve experienced with the existing GloFish décor line,” said John Fox, division vice president of aquatic marketing for the Pet, Home & Garden Division of Spectrum Brands, Inc.

It’s not just fish that need light. Planted tanks are becoming more prevalent due to the introduction of more tissue-cultured plants, which puts lights that promote growth in high demand. The new Vivd+ fixture from Finnex combines features of two popular lines, the Stingray and the MonsterRay line, to create a fixture that supports plant growth while highlighting fish at the same time. This complements the Planted+ 24/7 SE LED fixture from Finnex that is equipped with two rows of intensive daylight and true red LEDs surrounded by a blend of red, green and blue to promote plant growth. Fluval also has lights designed specifically for planted tanks, with its Aqualife & Plant and Fresh & Plant 2.0 options.

Shining the Spotlight
Even as lenses improve, some aquariums still suffer from dead spots where light just doesn’t reach, especially in bigger tanks. Spotlights provide a great way to illuminate these areas, or just bring attention to a specific coral, pant or décor that begs for special attention. To combat these dead spots, Fluval recently introduced its Prism Underwater Spotlight. With a light that is completely sealed in ceramic housing to make it fully submersible, it comes with 80 color options and special effects, as well as a remote control to start up a lightning storm or switch colors with ease.

“I have found that on the coral side, a lot of LEDs have a lot of blue and white, so this provides a way to add color in one area to really make a show piece in a reef tank pop,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager at Rolf C. Hagen USA Corp. Another spotlight, the H2Show low-voltage LED spotlight from Hydor, is available in six different colors to provide an energy-efficient way to shine a light on your favorite coral or decorative piece.

Getting Interactive
Today’s lights do more than just brighten up the tank and promote healthy growth in plants and corals.

They also provide a new way for fishkeepers to interact with their aquariums, whether making them appear more lifelike with sunrise and sunset features or adding a wide variety of colors.

“Overall we’re seeing more programmability in LED fixtures and easier user interfaces,” Esquivel said.

Central Garden & Pet has integrated these features in its two newest additions, the Aqueon OptiBright+ LED lights and the Coralife LED Aqualight-S lights, both of which come with a remote control to adjust color intensity, change color and set the timer.

Fluval’s Wi-Fi module takes away the need for a remote control completely, allowing people to control up to two different lights through an app downloaded to a smartphone or tablet. Currently the device works with its 2.0 line of lighting.

“I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the future, as people look at the functionality of products as well as the light output,” LeRose said.

While lightning storm features, submersible spotlights and wireless controls are exciting, what is probably even better news for retailers and consumers alike is that all of these features are coming out on products at affordable price points.

“Lately we’ve been seeing a general improvement in quality, particularly at the lower price range,” Esquivel said.

This makes lighting more than just a necessity, and instead something customers will look to when upgrading or sprucing up their home aquariums.

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