Please visit our Sponsors
FAQs about Coral et al. Cnidarians System Lighting Costs

Related Articles: Coral System Lighting, Light/Lighting For Marine Systems, Coral Feeding, LPS Corals, True or Stony Corals, Order Scleractinia, Propagation for Marine Aquarium Use

Related FAQs: Electricity 1, Electricity 2, Electricity 3, Energy Consumption/Conservation, Electrical Consumption Measure, Electricity Back-up/Generation, Lighting Costs, Pump Energy Use, Heating/Chilling Costs, Shorts/Shocks, Dangers! Grounding Probes, Power Outages, GFCIs and Marine AquariumsSurge Devices, Grounding Probes,   Coral Lighting 1, Coral Lighting 2, Coral Lighting 3, & FAQs on Coral Lighting: Science/Application, Designs/Fixtures, Lamps/Bulbs, Quality, Duration & Intensity, Night-Time, Troubleshooting/Fixing, Makes/Models/Manufacturers, & Lighting Marine Inverts 1, Lighting Marine Inverts 2, Lighting Marine Inverts 3, Lighting Marine Inverts 4, Lighting Marine Inverts 5, Lighting Marine Inverts 6, & LR Lighting, Fluorescent Light 1, Actinic Lighting, Compact Fluorescents, Metal Halide Lighting, Lighting Marine Invertebrates Growing Reef CoralsStony Coral IdentificationStony Coral Behavior,

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Hi Bob,
I have kept marine fish for a number of years, and my question relates to lighting in my large reef tank. It is a 7ft aquarium and I currently have 3x150watt halides with some fluorescent tubes to support them. My electricity bills have doubled recently and I am really getting to the point where money and the cost of running the system is becoming a financial nightmare as electricity prices keep going up in this country.
The room that the aquarium resides in has a flat roof, and I was pondering whether it would be possible to incorporate natural daylight into the lighting of the setup. Maybe introducing a large skylight?!
I may be completely wrong but are their any products available in the marine trade that could help utilise sunlight in the best possible way?
Many Thanks

<Energy concerns are valid'¦ and to me, a bit of a mystery that they don't get discussed more, particularly on the initial, design side of folks putting up aquatic systems. Metal halide lights are gorgeous and functional, but do consume goodly amounts of electrical power, producing much in the way of useful photonic energy, unfortunately with a concomitant degree of waste heat'¦ There is not much one can do to save on electrical consumption in lighting reef tanks'¦ re cutting back time period or number of watts in most scenarios. The leaving less lighting on, or lowering the amount of time of daily use, results in drab organisms of lessened beauty and growth.             Skylights, the use of natural sunlight can be a boon in many less-equatorial regions, and there are specialty 'tubes' that can/do concentrate and direct ambient light into a living space. The one downside of using 'olde Sol' is unreliability. Can we rely on our sun daily, or even weekly to provide sufficient light energy for any given application? There are often data available for given regions for how much incident insolation you're likely to experience, be able to use. This, coupled with the initial cost of installing whatever type of skylight you have in mind, need to be considered in your overall design/performance model for lighting your system. Of course, I would leave your present lighting as back-up and for extended day/night viewing.

            Energy in all forms is almost assuredly going to cost more and more in future. Determining (and agreeing with) the initial and ongoing costs for operating our aquarium systems, particularly lighting and pumping is very important.

tank restructure. Saving (mostly electrical) cost on SW sys. op.    9/8/10
Hi there
<Howdy Ian>
I have at present a 2700 litre marine reef set up. My display tank is 2700mm x 1200mm x 800mm in size. Due to huge costs for electricity (which has gone up by 100% over the last five years and set to double again over the next three)
<Too likely so>
as well as chemicals, equipment and ongoing replacement of fish etc I am seriously thinking of either changing to, a) fresh water system same size or b) a same size marine fish only system. I need to drastically reduce my costs if I am to remain in the hobby and can only do this if I reduce the pump and lighting load. The other option is simply to close down completely.
I have also looked at downsizing but this would not suit me in terms of the visual aspect inside the house. I could I suppose retreat to the garage and keep something going there. All quite sad but I have to do something and I was wondering whether you would be able to in a nutshell tell me which set up would be the most cost effective way to go?
<Have seen a friend's talk (James Fatherree) on reducing costs of operation/maintenance of marine systems recently... Metal halide lighting is out, and the cost of LEDs too high to switch out presently. I'd look into T 5 fluorescents... and what they'll accommodate at depth... moving higher intensity light-need invertebrates higher up in the water column.
Pumps should be checked for "draw" electricity-wise (not just their rating) and replaced with either high efficiency (lower pressure, moderate pressure), like the Sequence line, and/or internal "prop" type pumps... see WWM re Vortech. These are the major sources, but there are other savings to be realized by reading about such on WWM, the Net in general. Bob Fenner>
Thanks for your help.

Large System Re-evaluation -- 10/19/2009
Hi Guys
<Hey Ian! JustinN here!>
For the last 5 yrs I (and my visitors) have been enjoying my tank.
I have a total 2500l setup (main tank: 2500mmx1200mmx800mm) and trying to house a full reef system. I say trying because I have had various successes with corals, soft and hard. The costs to run this size setup are quite high with food, water, replacing lights, fish and corals etc.
<Absolutely understood -- that's quite the volume of water!>
The government in South Africa however are proving to be my biggest challenge! In many different ways but now I have a serious problem. The cost of electricity has already increased over the last year by 35% and is set to increase a further +-40% per year for the next three years!!!!! This is needed to pay for a couple of power stations which no one seems to know when will be on line. It's the usual story about mismanagement of a national resource but of course it's nobody's fault.
<Ahh yes.>
The electricity cost to run this setup I have is about 60% of my total monthly electricity bill so it is becoming quite an issue. It is already more than the acceptable minimum wage!
Rather than shut down the whole system I am looking to restructure the tank in such a way that these costs can be dramatically reduced and somehow still keep the visual appeal.
<Understood -- lets see what we can do.>
* Do I just go much smaller? Problem is I have this huge purpose built void in the wall to fill so will look a little silly. However I imagine a 700l tank would be manageable in terms of costs.
<I wouldn't -- if power is your main concern, see the next commentary.>
* To maintain the size I imagine I have to remove all the live rock, all the corals so that I can cut right back on the amount of light. At present I have 8x T5 39watt tubes as well as 4x 25watt MHalides which I have just changed down from 400watt MHalides. I imagine and hope fish only do not require anything special? The moment the light is for the Aquarium trade it seems to be 3x the price!!
<Just in Metal Halides, we're already looking at 1600 watts of power draw -- this doesn't include the 312 Watts of T5 lighting. If you are no longer planning on keeping the corals, just remove the Halides from the system...
Even if you kept all the T5's active, you'd still be looking at 1600 watts less draw per hour running. Fish only tanks do not require any kind of special lighting -- the light is purely for aesthetics in these configurations. The same goes for live rock -- you might not get some of the stellar growths off your live rock like you can with full reef lighting, but this does not affect the efficiency/function of the live rock, only the colorful aesthetics.>
* The main electricity thieves are the pumps. How much do I need? At the moment I have 1x .75KW running 24hrs as a main pump for circulation, 1x .75KW running 16hrs a day as the extra wave/turbulence as well as a .45KW running 24hrs on the skimming. Various smaller pumps running all the other bits and pieces.
<This is largely subjective -- you won't need as vigorous of a flow in a fish only tank, but this is all your personal tastes... I wouldn't personally drop the skimmer, but perhaps the wave generation can be dropped?>
* Or do I look at keeping fresh water and try doing something completely different?
<You could -- if you chose to go with a planted tank in this situation, you'd be still looking at a lot of the same costs at the end of the day though.>
Please advise on how best to cut out all these crazy costs and yet still allow me to participate in this wonderful hobby.
<Well Ian, based on your commentary, my thought is for you to move to a fish only tank -- you can easily reduce the overall flow, and definitely reduce the lighting -- the lighting here only needs to be enough to complete your aesthetics, so you can see your livestock and enjoy it. Good luck! -JustinN>
Re: Large System Re-evaluation -- 10/19/2009

Hi Justin
<Hey again!>
Thanks for the advice.
<Glad to provide it>
I have been thinking along those lines, fish only, but wanted to get another opinion. The lighting I understand. What do you recommend regarding the water flow? As you said I could drop the wave generator pump, what could I do about the other pump which at present is pushing out about 20 000 LPH. However the actual volume returned to the tank is less, perhaps half that?
<Hmm... Now I'm a bit confused -- are you performing a balancing act, per se, between the tanks? Pushing water from the display to the sump with one pump, and returning it with a separate pump? I apologize if I'm densely misreading this, but if this is the situation -- this is a configuration destined for problems... There should be an overflow of some sort to accommodate the drainage from the tank, simply by using the reliable powers of gravity, and this outflow is then returned via the sump pump. If you're doing the balancing act here, removing and replacing both mechanically, that alone could be a great savings in power. Unfortunately, as big of a volume as you've got here, I'm not sure there's many solutions for circulation outside of using larger pumps -- traditional powerheads are clearly going to be fruitless, and even the newer propeller-drive style powerheads, like Hydor Koralia's, would likely be relatively weak with this size. There's always the option of slowing down the output from the tank to the sump, and likewise the return to the tank, but I'd say you're in about the optimal range if you're moving 20,000GPH.>
What return volume would you say I need to keep
the tank healthy? Would I have to get rid of my anemones, the clowns will be heartbroken!!!
<They'll find something else to 'host' -- they always do. My black and white Ocellaris has been having a long-term affair with my in-tank Tunze nano skimmer -- just don't tell his day-girl, the frilly mushroom! ;)>
My system also has a 200L refugium, another 100L tank filled with fine sand and of course the sump at 300L.
<Excellent -- hopefully my previous fear here is unfounded...>
How important is the control of Temperature in a fish only? Would they panic if the fluctuation was say between 24-29 deg C? Because then I can cut out my chiller.
<That's a pretty hefty shift in temperature daily -- if you can maintain this to a 1-2 degree max shift, you should be ok... stable is always better though.>
Thanks for your time, much appreciated.
<Glad to provide it! -JustinN>

Wattage measurement 11/20/08 Hello <Ed> I was always under the assumption that the wattage measurement on an aquarium was an accumulative value of all the bulbs above the tank. <Tis.> I was recently informed that is not correct. Two 96 watt CF bulbs are only putting out 96 watts, not 192. Is there any truth to this? <If you mean one bulb that has twin tubes, yes. Many of the CF bulbs have multiple tubes connected at the plug-in.> Ed Raasch
Re: Wattage measurement 11/20/08
Thank you <Welcome.> Glad to know I'm not completely stupid. edr <Heee, we all have those moments! Scott V.>

MH v Fluorescents, power consumption   1/10/06 Hi WWM Crew, <Hello Steve> I was reading one of the FAQ's when I came across a minor mistake and thought I would correct it. The WWM crew was asked if 150 watts of MH consumed the same amount of power as 150 watts of fluorescents and the answer was yes a watt equals a watt which is true but watts = amps x volts and a 150 watt MH light will consume more power or energy whilst supplying the same amount of watts, i.e.. more amps. The extra power is dissipated as heat from the ballast. <This particular answer may be dated.  The efficiency (power factor) of a system depends on the ballast.  Electronically regulated ballasts will be more efficient than a tar ballast and so on. This will also relate to light intensity somewhat.  On a 48" tank, two 150 watt HQI's are going to be more effective than 400 watts of fluorescents and generate less heat into the tank.  So now we are looking at light intensity versus wattage being used.  More than just watt for watt has to be considered here.> I hope this helps, regards, Steve. <I hope this helps also. James (Salty Dog)>

Ultimate low power consumption saltwater aquarium Greetings WetWeb crew, I have accepted the challenge of designing my new home to run entirely on solar power at the urging of my wife. <Great! Have seen a marine enthusiast's home here in San Diego that made this investment... some days their electrical meter runs backward! The f/utility pays them back to the extent of their charges!!!> In researching the possibilities I was faced with either giving up my reef-keeping hobby, or finding a way to make it work with a 12 volt DC electric system. I am sharing some of my plans with the hope of getting constructive criticism. <Mmm, there are inverter technologies... to change to 120 V AC>      I currently have a 20 in. deep 37.5 gallon soft coral reef set up. I am planning on running 2 pumps with a sumpless set up. One pump will power a custom H.O.T. protein skimmer of my own design, while the other will provide water movement within the aquarium. I am contemplating using small 12 volt boat bilge pumps to accomplish the above tasks. <These pull/use a BUNCH of amps... do more research here>      Lighting is a bit more tricky however. I was originally considering using power compact lighting, but it is going to use way too much electricity. Instead I have decided to look into using light emitting diodes (LEDs) to light the aquarium. <A "wave of the future"> I have acquired some extremely bright white LEDs for testing. In some initial tests the LEDs seem to be the perfect solution. They produces a very blue color light somewhat similar to 50/50 lighting. They emit almost no noticeable heat, and when aimed through a rippling surface they produce much desirable reflections similar to metal halide. The "bulb" life is estimated around 100,000 hours. I am beginning to wonder why one would light an aquarium with anything else. <Mainly the current challenges of "quality"... Take a look here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/lighting/index.htm> With that said, I am planning on building a lighting hood with an array of 100 super bright white LEDs. If anyone has attempted this before please advise on results. <There are a few folks, companies working on LED's for aquarium use... their data is not public domain> Based on my initial calculations this array should use around 680ma at 12 volts, perfect for use on a 12 volt DC system. I am estimating the light production of this array to be similar to two 55w power compacts, which is what has been lighting my soft coral tank happily for several years. After I build the lighting system I will test it, and write an article based on my findings. <Maybe get a PAR meter... study up re CRI, incandescence... need intensity AND temperature similar to the wild>      With filtration, water movement, and lighting taken care of, I need to focus my attention to temperature control. With recent power outages caused by hurricanes I have been fortunate (or not) to have the opportunity to monitor my aquarium's temperature with no air conditioning or heating running. In the heat of summer for an eight day stretch with no additional heat from lighting, my aquarium maintained a temperature range of 74-78 degrees, coldest at around 4:30 am and hottest around 1:30 pm. <Yes... water is the standard for "heat"...> Normally, I would run a heater to keep it around 78 constant and my central air offsets the heat from my power compacts. My problem is I have not come up with a good method of heating on a 12 volt system. Most aquarium heaters are designed for large amperage high wattage alternating current. I need some suggestions on heating water on 12 volts, safe enough for my aquarium's population. If anyone knows of a good DC submersible water heater please advise. I might just have to have something custom made. <Look into "heat exchangers"... there are means (esp. for large volumes) to "take" heat from/to the air...>      That about wraps up my ideas on solar powered aquariums at the moment. If anyone is interested, I will send updates on my progress. If I have overlooked anything important please advise, also know I am only in the early stages of planning this project. Thanks -Randy <Bob Fenner, who has been involved in such challenges in putting up collecting facilities in out of way places... Start looking into deep cycle (marine) batteries... You're soon to be an investor.>
Re: Ultimate low power consumption saltwater aquarium -suggestion, LEDs
Bob, I was reading about this man trying to light his soft coral tank with LED's. There are a few tanks which use them on the nano-reef.com forums! www.nano-reef.com/forums is the address, a simple search is all that is needed here. So far I think the tanks have been running good. Also, I believe there is a step by step in one of the threads, so.... If he needs help wiring them up, It's all there for him. Hope that helps Daniel Babcock. <LEDs are indeed going to "hit the aquarium market" soon... as you had stated, due to low operating costs (electricity, replacement of fixture). They have the intensity (have seen a million candle power unit in operation), and issues of other aspects of light quality are being worked out. Bob Fenner>

Lighting and electricity cost Hi there Crew!! <Joe> Just want to make a statement about the pitfalls of halide lighting. I talked my wife into letting me get an AquaSpacelight dual 250 10000k and 150 20000 k system. a really nice light. well, we got our first electric bill since hanging this bad boy and holy cr-p!!!. Almost twice as month as this time last year!! I assume it is the light that is costing the extra $60.00 per month in juice. How do you calculate the energy used with these fixtures?? <Multiply the volts (likely 110 if you're in the U.S.) times the amps consumed (either can be read off of spec.s, or from the ballast/s, or measured with a meter...) and the number of hours used per day... times thirty or so days in a month... divide by one thousand (to give you kilowatt hours)... and multiply this times the charge your utility company is billing you per kilowatt-hour. Voila! Yes, energy use outdistances all other costs combined in the reef hobby eventually. Bob Fenner>

Re: Aerofoamer skimmers... Love getting responses from you Anthony, always a laugh, haven't I seen you at a comedy club?, <heehee... I just can't help myself sometimes :) > I can understand all your points, but for $250 u.s with the mag12 >I'm sure anyone would jump on it, <absolutely agreed... in fact, if power wasn't so dear here I would have bought it too, perhaps> must say though, have no clue how to set this thing up, he's coming back for another $50 to set it up for me, still a great buy, <agreed... and the $50 setup was a great idea... well worth not having to suffer the hardest part of the learning curve. Like most skimmers, its very straightforward once tweaked> BTW you guys pay 30 cents U.S per KH for hydro?, <actually... in some states like Cali, it is much more. 400 watt Metal Halides over a 180 gallon aquarium can cost $300-400 in electricity. The heat from pumps and some such skimmers (plus chillers for extra heat, etc)... make such equipment unaffordable. Such a bummer> geez, I pay 4 cents Canadian for it and I thought my bills were high, have a great day....Riot..... <4 cents is like a dream :) I love snow too... Canada sounds nice <G>. Best regards, my friend. Anthony>

Electricity Consumption Hello All! My wife has noticed that my electric bill has doubled since starting this hobby.  I am ok with it but am a little concerned because I have not yet put into service my 2 X 150 MH lights.  Here is where my question originates...Can I run my MH for 3 or 4 hours and let two 40 watt actinic lights provide the morning and late afternoon light?  Is the photo period sufficient for soft corals (I don't have any yet)?  I currently have a button polyp, mushroom anemone, a candy cane coral, and a Trachyphyllia. Can I run one for a shorter period while one runs longer?  Or, should I simply use the lights and buck -up about it? <You'll have to buck up and light those metal halides up. Remember, these produce heat, so your heater won't run at all during the day (unless it's REALLY cold where your tank is. I'll bet your heater is 200-300 watts, as are the metal halides. A wash during the day. Your corals need twelve hours of light a day. Lower or higher light levels cannot be equated with shorter or longer photoperiod. Also, should I re-evaluate the pump I am currently using (Aqua-Medic 2500)?  Any insight would be appreciated by my wife and by default myself... Scott from Colorado <I don't know Scott, you don't provide tank volume, size, etc. Reefs require anywhere from 10 to 20 times total volume turnover, if your pump is too much for this, then it is possible to downsize. I would compare power usage for any pumps you consider, and figure how long it would take to pay back the replacement cost using any possible power savings.  Craig>

Lighting timers Hello Craig! Comment vas tu? Could you please recommend a timer that will work with my Jalli 2X55 W PC retrofit system.  Thanks in advance.  Mimie <Hi Mimie! Of course!  Any electric timer will work with your 2 X 55 watt retrofit. Most household timers are rated for 120 volts, 20 amps, and usually about 1850 watts capacity. Make sure it has a grounding prong outlet so your ground fault protection still works. (You do have a ground fault outlet for your aquarium like in your bathroom, right?) They are fairly inexpensive. Enjoy!  Craig>

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: