February 13, 2018

Things are changing in the world of lighting, and these days, the pace of change is pretty fast. It all started with the advent of LED lighting, which brought big changes to the aquarium industry. At first, change was slow, and the cost of LEDs when they were first introduced made the products out of reach for some consumers.

But as technology improved, LED lights became more affordable, allowing more fish owners to take advantage of these energy-saving fixtures that don’t emit as much heat as traditional lights. Since then, LED lights have seen continual improvements, with programmable features, remote control options, Wi-Fi-enabled apps for smart devices and sleeker designs all giving customers a reason to upgrade their light fixtures and add some pizzazz to the aquarium.

Getting Smarter
Much like gaming consoles, where new features and better graphics entice  customers to constantly upgrade, lights have become the high-tech centerpiece of the aquarium, with new products providing different options and giving customers a reason to purchase new fixtures.

“When it comes to LED systems, it seems like once you release one, there’s already new technology out there,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager of Hagen Group.

The latest craze to hit aquarium lighting is the integration of Bluetooth technology or Wi-Fi to allow fixtures to communicate with apps on a smart device.

Hagen’s new Fluval LED 3.0 series has Bluetooth integrated into the light, so there’s no need to purchase a separate component. Three choices—Plant, Marine or Aqua Sky—allow customers to get the right type of lighting for their particular aquarium, each with the ability to program settings from a smartphone or tablet.

“You can control everything with your app, making your aquarium totally custom,” LeRose said. “We really focused on color variations to give hobbyists more to tinker with.”

The Fluval Smart App also allows more than one device to be programmed at a time. In addition to the integrated Bluetooth technology, other upgrades to the 3.0 series include a lighter, sleek aluminum frame and a 100 percent waterproof fixture.

JBJ Aquariums is also striking new ground, offering the first all-in-one aquarium with Wi-Fi controllable features on its 28-gallon Nano-Cube.

“What you’re able to do is have realtime control of three channels on the lighting hood, and the ability to set up 10 different timers on the canopy,” said Manny Mandalia, sales manager. “The response has been phenomenal at shows, as it’s a pretty neat feature to add to aquariums.”

The Wi-Fi enabled lighting will be rolled out on JBJ’s other nano-cubes later in 2018.

Design, Color Trends
Slim, low-profile designs are another sought-out feature for aquarium lighting, allowing the focus to be on the reef, plants or fish in the aquarium rather than on the fixture itself. The Orion SL series from JBJ provides a contemporary look with casing that is only one inch in height and comes in lengths up to five feet. For the all-in-one customer, Aqueon’s Ascent kits feature angled tops with built-in, concealed LED lighting.

“These tanks sport clean, polished lines and an ultra-modern look,” said Lenitra Friend, brand manager for Central Garden & Pet.

The new innovations in lighting follow current trends popular with aquarium hobbyists, helping retailers provide products their customers are looking for, with lights specifically designed for the marine reefs or planted tanks that are growing in popularity.

“Marine reefkeeping has driven the majority of innovation in high output LED aquarium lighting in recent years, but lately more attention is being directed to freshwater planted aquariums also,” Friend said.

Aqueon’s OptiBright and OptiBright+ LED lights are both designed for freshwater but are ideal for live plants. Other options include the Fluval 3.0 series, which has a fixture for planted aquariums that features six unique LED band waves for full-spectrum results. The series also has a marine fixture designed specifically for the light needs of corals.

In addition to marine reefs and planted tanks, bright-colored neon aquariums are also popular. From fish that glow to neon decor, bright colors are bringing excitement to aquariums for both young kids and serious hobbyists. The lights are an important feature of glowing aquariums, and Aqueon’s new NeoGlow LED Aquarium Kit features blue LEDs that make the fluorescent highlights of the gravel and plants literally glow.

Profitable Upgrades
LED lights have a reputation for being energy efficient and lasting longer than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. For many retailers, the growing popularity of LED lights meant the fear of the loss of foot traffic for purchasing replacement bulbs. But with the innovations and continuing technological developments in the lighting category, it seems any loss of sales from bulbs can be more than made up for in upgrades to equipment.

“Purchasing new fixtures makes sense because not only are replacement parts for fluorescent hoods hard to find, but the new equipment is more user friendly and makes the aquarium experience more interactive,” LeRose said. “There have really been some big changes in lighting, and it’s helping attract people, whether they’re tech-savvy people looking to tinker with their aquarium or they just like the fact that LED lights add more color variation. When you walk into a store and see cool color variation in a tank, it really sparks the interest and might be helping attract new people to the hobby.”

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