Lighting Systems Selection Guide
Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff

 Bulb Type Watts
Bulb
Life


Kelvin
Rating

Benefits Limitations Typical Use
 
  Incandescent 7-25 2-4
months
Varies
with color
of bulb
Inexpensive;
multiple colors
Narrow
spectrum;
lower light
intensity;
high heat
Small fish only;
beginner's startup
kits
 
 
  Standard
  Fluorescent
15-40 6-18
months*
3,000°-
20,000°K;
actinic
Wide range of
colors, sizes;
aesthetic;
efficient; cool;
inexpensive
Not ideally
suited for
photosynthetic
plants or
invertebrates
Fresh or saltwater
community
aquarium or mini or
micro reef with
low light corals and
plants
 
 
  T-5 HO
  Fluorescent
24-54 16-24
months
6,000°-
11,000°K;
actinic
Longevity;
high intensity;
small size; cool
running
Not ideally
suited for
aquariums
more than
24" deep
Reef less than 24"
deep; freshwater
planted
 
 
  VHO
  Fluorescent
75-165 4-18
months*
10,000°K;
actinic
Large selection
of sizes; longer
bulb life than
standard
fluorescent
Higher heat
- may require
a chiller
Reefs less than 24"
deep; freshwater
planted
 
 
  Compact
  Fluorescent
10-130 12-28
months
5,000°-
10,000°K;
actinic
Longevity;
high intensity;
wide spectrum
range;
compact
May produce
higher heat -
may require a
chiller
Reefs less than 24"
deep; freshwater
planted; marine
aquariums
 
 
  Metal
  Halide
70-
1000
6-18
months
4,000°-
20,000K°
Highest
intensity; wide
spectrum
range
Higher heat
- may require a
chiller; possible
UV radiation
Reefs or freshwater
aquariums more
than 24" deep;
photosynthetic
corals and
invertebrates
 
 
  LED Moon/
  Lunar Light
Approx
1 watt
N/A (Not
a light,
but a
Light
Emitting
Diode)
N/A** Low wattage;
recreates
nocturnal
lighting
conditions;
great for
viewing
nocturnal
inhabitants
Requires
one unit per
every 24" of
aquarium
length
Reef or freshwater
aquariums
 

*Depending upon ballast type

**Blue light in the 455-470 nm range depending on model