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Is Upgrading To LED Aquarium Lighting Worth It

When you go to your local fish store to buy a replacement bulb you may often notice other alternatives to the T5 or T8 tube which you are replacing. If you have a keen eye and are lucky enough to have a good range in your local store then I am sure you will have spotted the range of LED lighting available and will always be aware of when other see said products as you will hear the gasps of breath and questioning of the extreme price tag which this type of lighting seems to fetch.


I personally took the plunge to LED lighting some time ago now and was sold in to the idea in the store by being told it will save money over the lifespan of the unit due to reduced electricity usage. It seemed like a great argument at the time however lets evaluate the complete scenario so it is clear what is involved in this form of money saving.

First off we need to be sure we are comparing like for like. Having experienced T8 lighting tubes and TMC Aquaray lighting units I will be comparing these 2. Putting this comparison in to context I will be comparing the standard lights which ship with a 240 litre tank which was 2x 42inch 40W tubes. These were replaced with 4x TMC Aquaray lightbeams rated at 12W each.

If we take the longest period of time these lights will last then we can work out the total cost over that period of time. The Aquaray Aquabeam Ultra 600 is rated at 50,000 hours which at 13.7 hours per day, 365 days per year is 10 years of lighting (Although the unit is only guaranteed for 5 years). A T8 light tube should be replaced every year so for the 10 year period you will already have to replace this tube 9 times to ensure you have the full benefit of the light in place. This is due to LED lights not diminishing in output frequency and UV level as traditional T8 tubes do. Therefore total cost of product alone (based on RRP’s) over a 10 year period is:

Traditional T8 tube => 10 (years) x 2 (tubes) x £18.99 (cost per tube) = £379.80

TMC Aquaray 600 Beam Lights => 1 (10 years) x2 (sets of lights) x £199.99 (cost per pair of lights) = £399.98

It would be fair to say that the hardware costs are roughly the same over a 10 year period, it is also worth mentioning that it would be possible to run this tank with just 2 light beams rather than 4 however I wanted increased light output so 4 beams in total were purchased in this instance.

Now we move on to the running costs of the units. I would like to base this on a cost of 12 pence per kWh (correct at time of writing). Total wattage for each is as follows:

Traditional T8 tube => 2x 40W = 80W

TMC Aquaray 600 Beam Lights => 4x 12W = 48W

We have already said lights are on for around 14 hours per day so we can work out the running costs per year as follows:

Traditional T8 tube =>
(80 Watts × 14 hours/day × 365 days/year)  ÷  1000 = 408.8kWh
408.8kWh × 12p/kWh = £49.06 per year
Over 10 years = £490.60

TMC Aquaray 600 Beam Lights =>
(48 Watts × 14 hours/day × 365 days/year)  ÷  1000 = 245.3kWh
245.3kWh × 12p/kWh = £29.43 per year
Over 10 years = £294.30

Total cost of ownership over 10 years works out as:

Traditional T8 tube => £379.80 + £490.60 = £870.40

TMC Aquaray 600 Beam Lights => £399.98 + £294.30 = £694.28

So to summarise, for more powerful lighting with the added benefit of no hassle of changing the lights and more effective lighting it is cheaper but with a larger initial outlay. The sales guy in the shop was right – LED lighting does work out cheaper!