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Best aquarium lighting for fish color [it’s easier than you think]

Who doesn’t enjoy watching vibrantly colored fish playing in an aquarium? Some fish are most definitely more colorful than others. Some fish will show different colors based on the lighting provided for them. Some fish just pop when the right lights are turned on. Depending on the fish they will need a certain part of the light spectrum to make their colors show more than usual.

The best aquarium lighting for fish color will be dependent on what type of fish you have. We will look at how different types of lighting affect the colors of your fish so you can make an educated choice when selecting lighting for your aquarium.

What Kind of Lighting Do Fish Need?

This Koval LED aquarium light is definitely a contender for a quality light. Check it out on Amazon or keep reading.

First off let’s explore what kind of lighting an aquarium fish actually needs to have a healthy and happy experience while a pet in your tank. Honestly most fish do not really require much lighting. Lighting is most beneficial to a freshwater live planted tank and a marine tank that is housing corals and other species that require the lighting for photosynthesis. We will stick with the main topic of this article though and focus on the best lighting for fish color.

Best Lighting to Show Fish Colors

All lighting will show fish colors, it’s just that some lighting depending on brightness will bring out certain colors more than others. Like this Orbit Marine LED light on Amazon. It’s a powerhouse of light.

A very bright light spectrum as a 10,000k light will tend to showcase shimmering shiny or fluorescent on your fish as well as any shades of blue should really start to pop. The blues will show even if you never noticed them before with this brightness of light. German Rams and Neon Tetras will look incredibly beautiful under this light just to name a couple freshwater fish.

A warmer light spectrum of 6500k to 8000k will help colors like orange’s, browns, greens, reds and yellows pop. Quite a large percentage of freshwater fish will have some of these colors even in very small amounts. When you have the correct lighting for your fish you will be amazed at the fish’s colors that start to show. You might not of even noticed previously if your old lighting was a bit too dull and maybe an older fluorescent bulb.

LED lights are starting to take over the aquarium hobby because of the wide array of lighting options. Some LED’s can highlight the white spectrum or blue spectrum or turn them on to full spectrum and get ready to be blown away.

An added benefit of using LED aquarium lights is they won’t heat up the tanks water like an incandescent bulb will.

Don’t Forget About Your Bottom Dwellers

When choosing lighting for your aquarium don’t forget inhabitants that may not enjoy having bright lights shining down on them. Some fish or other species might prefer to stay in a darker aquarium.

If you are mixing fish that enjoy the bright lights and have the colors to show with bottom dwellers I do recommend you provide plenty of hiding places as well as some live plants for a freshwater tank. This gives your bottom dwellers places to hide out in the dark. These fish species will most likely come out more at night when your lights are turned off.

So What Light is Best for Fish Color?

Again this will depend on what kind of effect you want to achieve with your fish and aquarium. Some lighting can be adjusted to display different parts of the light spectrum to enhance different colors in the tank. Some lighting will provide a shimmering effect in the water which is very enjoyable to watch. Other lights will do those things and will slowly fade in when turned on and fade out when turning off to replicate how the sun would rise and set.

Aquarium lighting like the following LED lights are not only bright enough to enhance fish colors but are also in the right spectrum to help grow live plants if you ever choose to do that. It is an affordable light in all of the different sizes it comes in.

Here is an excellent article on enhancing fish color, with so many ideas. Make sure to check it out. 

Bonus Related Questions for Best Lighting for Fish Colors

While doing a bit of research I came across more aquarium lighting questions and decided to take the time to answer these great questions below.

What is Actinic Lighting?

Actinic lights are the blue spectrum in lighting. This spectrum isn’t in normal lighting but can be found available for the aquarium hobbyist. When a light says full spectrum it should have the blue light which always ads the wow factor when you watch your fish under this light.

White or Blue Light for Aquarium

I already answered this question under best lighting for fish colors. If it wasn’t clear in that section I just want to add that white lighting as bright as you can afford is a must for colors to pop. If you purchase a full spectrum light that has 10,000k you should have the blue light spectrum as well. Hope that helps.

Best Lighting for African Cichlid Tank

This is kind of a random question to answer but figured it was a good one as Cichlid’s colors are some of the most beautiful in our hobby. There are so many different varieties of Cichlid’s with just as many different colors to be displayed.

I would go for a 50/50 actinic bulb for a Cichlid tank. Something bright white in the 6500k to 10,000k range. This one on Amazon looks to be a good one and very affordable. Deckey aquarium fish tank light.

Do Led Lights Hurt Fish Eyes?

This is a great question when you look at how bright some aquarium lights are. I don’t know if there have ever been any sort of test done on fish for bright lights. I would just say though that fish are found out in the wild under the full rays of the sun so my feeling is this probably isn’t a problem.

If you are concerned about how bright your lights are you can try to dim the lights or have some floating plants and or tall plants. Another option is to make sure you have enough hiding spots for the fish so they can escape from the bright lights if they are bothered.

Do Fish Like Colored Lights?

A tough one to answer. I would say though that depending on the color of the lights as well of the brightness you might notice your fish acting out of character. If they seem like they are stressing at the same time you have switched the color of the lights I would put the color back to how you had it when the fish was calm.

I did come across some more questions regarding lighting for fish but wasn’t sure they were really related to lighting for fish colors so left them out.

I have a recommended aquarium lighting page you should check out if you are still not sure on what light to get.

Related Aquariums-at-Home Articles.

Are LED lights Okay for Fish?

Is It Okay to Leave the Fish Tank Light On?

Do Aquarium Fish Need Darkness?

How to Bring Out Color in Cichlids