Lighting your saltwater aquarium is one of the most difficult tasks for new hobbyists. Many people buying their first saltwater aquarium are affected by analysis paralysis. They get stuck trying to figure out what light fixture will be best for their aquarium.

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Its 2010, there are only a few lighting types you should consider. If you plan to keep only fish, you can be fine with the standard stock lighting which comes with your aquarium. If you plan a reef tank with living coral, then think of the following options.

Power Compact was the most popular lighting solution from 2000 to 2005. It provided a better upgrade from the normal output lighting. It is still used on many tanks today, but there are better and more cost effective choices.

V.H.O. or Very High Output lighting, don't even think of buying this type of light. The technology is completely outdated. Parts and replacement light bulbs are difficult to find.
Metal Halide Lighting is still a popular option. It provides an eye-catching shimmering effect that allows you to grow any type coral. The negative of Metal Halide lights is the amount of energy needed to run the fixture and the heat they produce. These lights are expensive to run more than ten hours per day, and you will have to buy a chiller to keep your aquarium cool.

T5 Lighting has become the top choice for saltwater aquarists. The bulbs are as intense as Metal Halide, but use half the energy. They also generate less heat and each bulb needs to be replaced once a year. Another major benefit is that you can control the color of the light spectrum because you have many bulbs that can be replaced to make the aquarium bluer or whiter.

Finally, you have the fast growing and famous Aquarium LED Lighting. This technology is still a little expensive for the average hobbyist. It provides the shimmer and power of metal halide without the heat, and the can control the color of bulbs like T5 Lighting. However in the next ten years, LED lighting will be the norm in the saltwater aquarium hobby.