Incandescent Lighting for an aquarium - lighting Tip 1

Incandescent lighting was, early on, one of the most important aspects of the aquarium equipment used in an aquarium system. Lighting is often used to highlight the brilliant colours of the fish.

It also provides the power the plants need to grow and thrive through photosynthesis. Finally, it must never be forgotten that another job of the lighting system is to illuminate the living picture for the people who are privileged to enjoy the beauty of the slice of life you have created.

Since the early days of keeping fish in the home became popular, back in the late fifties and early 1960s, the traditional type of aquarium lighting used for small aquariums was incandescent lighting with its filament bulb.


The fixture was cheap to purchase and quite readily available. Many small bowls and aquariums incorporate a Christmas light style 7 watt bulb as the aquarium lights.

Larger aquariums, usually between 5 to 20 gallons often incorporated what is termed the "showcase" style incandescent bulb. It is approximately a six inch tube using a "T" socket that was rated either 15 or 25 Watts.

There was also a 40 W showcase aquarium bulb, but why it was ever sold is a mystery to me. These bulbs burn so hot they often melted the reflector and plastic parts of most aquarium canopies.

Most aquarium were usually rated for a maximum 25W lamp, the 40 Watt bulb was not suitable for aquarium light fixtures.

The bulbs, themselves, burn quite hot. The bulbs, as they burn, can add a substantial amount of heat to the aquarium. An aquarium should have a specific day and night period.

Heat is added when the incandescent lighting is turned on. There is a loss of that heat when they are turned off. This means that the tank will rise and fall in temperature which can offer a lot of stress to the fish.

It's also quite inefficient in its energy consumption. Much of the energy consumed goes into wasted heat rather than light production in useful light spectrums.

Finally, in many cases their length of service leaves much to be desired.

As better alternatives have been offered to the market, incandescent lighting fixtures have become less and less common as the original equipment lighting in many basic starter kits.

Standard home lamps, with their inefficient incandescent globe bulbs, are slowly being changed over to the much more energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lighting - CFL Bulbs. The standard lighting fixtures for many newer aquarium starter kits and individual canopies are being replaced with alternative light types.

This is just as well, and a beneficial occurrence for the modern aquarium keeper. The incandescent bulb was never an ideal illumination source for the aquarium ecosystem to begin with.

Incandescent bulbs cannot manufacture UltraViolet rays as part of their output spectrum. This severely hampers their ability to be used to efficiently keep live plants thriving in the tank.

The spectrum was never very easy to modify. The only way to make it appear there was a change in spectrum was to change the colour of the glass in the bulb.

Tinting it did create a set of colour choices, classically red, blue, green, amber and clear. These tinted glasses did create different effects in the aquarium. But this is not the best lighting for the aquarium in any way.

When considering a starter kit, or aquarium set, the lighting you choose will be a part of the system for most of its active life.

In the long run an incandescent fixture, although apparently cheaper in the beginning, will cost more to operate it throughout its service life. The actual energy consumption is often much greater than its closest competition, the fluorescent bulb.

The bulb life is often quite short as well.

They must be replaced often.

Add to this the problems that incandescent lighting offers for keeping plants alive.

The repeated heating and cooling of the aquarium on a daily basis is a large problem for small aquariums. This is an unnecessary stress placed on the aquarium inhabitants.

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