Aquarium lighting timer

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When setting up a new tank, an aquarium light timer may be the last thing on your list of things to buy. However, lighting is one of the most important aspects of reef and planted aquarium systems, and without it, many organisms cannot survive.

Not only the actual light plays a role, but also the photoperiod – or the time during which the aquarium light remains switched on – significantly determines the growth of plants and algae.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about aquarium lighting timers, why you need one for your aquarium, and the top six products for all of your freshwater and saltwater systems!

What is an aquarium light timer?

An aquarium lighting timer works just like normal lighting timers: you set the desired time until the light is switched on. With the best aquarium lighting timers, you can even set the exact times for it to turn on and off and even switch between light modes.

An aquarium lighting timer is usually a device that plugs directly into a wall socket or the light cord. Some high-tech aquarium lights have Bluetooth capabilities. These settings and much more can be adjusted in an app. Other lights also offer their own timer for aquarium lighting via a different interface.

However, a traditional lighting timer for your aquarium can be useful for a number of reasons.

Do you need a timer for aquarium lighting?

While an aquarium timer isn't required for a successful tank, this is just another way to make the tank run much more efficiently and reliably.


There are many benefits to having a pre-set aquarium lighting timer in your system. Perhaps the best benefit is that you don't have to worry about turning your aquarium on and off. This is especially useful when you have an inconsistent schedule or just forget about it.

The second biggest benefit is that a natural day and night schedule ultimately leads to greater stability in the tank. Like most living things, fish, plants, corals and other invertebrates work in a circadian rhythm. These organisms rely on the alternation between day and night in order to carry out certain processes in certain periods of time. An irregular lighting schedule prevents the tank as a whole from falling into a routine. This can lead to stunted growth of plants and corals, and unusual behavior in general.


A lighting timer also has some drawbacks, but with long-term aquarium systems, the benefits definitely outweigh the disadvantages.

One of the biggest problems you are likely to run into is that these timers can be big and bulky. Sometimes they can cover multiple outlets to fit snugly, which can take up valuable space for other aquarium equipment.

It's also important to take into account that aquarium lighting timers add an additional cost. Fortunately, most high-end lights are Bluetooth enabled and no additional purchase is required. However, expect a little more for a reliable aquarium timer.

This also creates the possibility that these timers, like any other aquarium device, could fail. There is no way to know that your aquarium light timer will die / break until one day it just stops working. This can lead to prolonged photoperiods that can potentially lead to algae and other problems if not recognized immediately.

How to choose the best aquarium light timer

Like most other aquarium equipment, lighting timers can be as high-tech or as low-tech as you want in control of your aquarium and how much your budget allows.

Most basic aquarium timers have an analog or digital interface for programming the on and off times. Some timer devices may have multiple output channels for different devices, all of which can be set at different times. others are supplied as a complete socket strip with timed and timeless sockets.

The best 6 timers for aquarium lighting

While there are many light timers available outside of the aquarium area, this list mainly focuses on those that take aquatic life into account. These options are based on durability, customizability, ease of use, customer ratings, and price.

Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center


Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center

  • Up to seven time cycles per day, seven days per week
  • Grounded 3-pin plug with 3-foot power cord
  • Safety covers for sliding outlets protect unused sockets

The Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center is a power strip from a reliable aquarium brand with a digital interface for easy and accurate programming.

This device runs 24/7 and has a 91.4 cm power cord. There are eight outward-facing three-pronged outlets, four white sockets with permanent power, two yellow sockets during the day, and two blue sockets at night. Each socket has a sliding cover made of plastic that can shield unused sockets.

The Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center measures 31.0 L x 10.2 W x 5.1 H cm (12.2 L x 4.0 W x 2.0 H inches) and is designed for up to 1875 watts / 15 amps . This timer for aquarium lighting is compatible with all aquarium lights and does not have to be Coralife-specific. The buttons for day, hour, minute (MIN), clock (CLK), mode and program (PRG) control the LCD surface for precise times and easy settings.

Some reviews have found that these aquarium timers spontaneously reprogram themselves at any time, which can cause animals, plants, or corals in the tank to be stressed and possibly die if not corrected immediately. The overall design of the Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center does not allow for larger plugs and the space can be limited very quickly.

What we like:

  • Compact power strip
  • Highly customizable time periods for each day
  • Compatible with most aquarium lights
  • Several sockets for constant electricity, daytime electricity and nighttime electricity

What would be better:

  • Possibility of malfunctions and reprogramming and / or incorrect start and stop times
  • Limited space for larger plugs
  • Does not ramp up and down and can only switch devices on or off

Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light

Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light

  • Simulates a gentle sunrise / sunset, moonlight
  • Adjustable intensity setting, demand-driven color control
  • Plug and play, easy to use and program

If you already have a Current USA light, purchase the Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light for the best control over your photoperiod. These timers measure 8.0 L x 1.3 W x 5.1 H cm (3.15 L x 0.5 W x 2.0 H in) and allow for two 24-hour LED lighting channels for aquariums.

The current dual ramp timer light for the United States is designed to best reproduce natural light for fish, plants, and corals. It simulates a photoperiod of sunrise, sunset and moonlight. At the set times, this timer starts to run up and down for 15 minutes until the lights are completely on or off. The two different channels enable independent programming such as B. different ramp-up and down times as well as intensity and brightness. Moonlight can also be restored by showing blue light at a low level after a period of time.

Customer reviews have found this product to be expensive for what it is. Depending on the age of the LED aquarium light, it may make more sense to buy new equipment completely. Many reviews have also found that this timer stops working after just a few months. It is also unfortunate that this product only works with Current USA LED lighting and is not compatible with Satellite + LED lights.

What we like:

  • Easy and simple to program
  • Moonlight mode and sunrise and sunset settings rise and fall
  • Compatible with several current USA lights including TrueLumen Strips & Lunar Lights and Orbit Marine & Pro (Gen1)

What would be better:

  • Not compatible with lights outside of the current US
  • Tends to malfunction within the first year of use
  • Expensive compared to other aquarium timers and existing aquarium lights

Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer & Power Strip, White

The Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer and Power Strip, White, is another great option if you're looking for a 24-hour power outlet timer. While Zoo Med is primarily geared towards caring for reptiles, this light timer was made with aquariums in mind for a natural day / night cycle.

This white aquarium light timer measures 29.5 L x 4.6 W x 12.7 H cm (11.6 L x 1.8 W x 5.0 H in) and has eight inward-facing grounded sockets for three-pin plugs . Four of these sockets are timed, while the other four are continuously powered. Instead of a digital interface, the AquaSun Aquarium Controller is a mechanical timer with switches that must be fully clicked down to function properly.

While this product is generally reliable, some customers have had difficulty clicking the switches all the way down, resulting in inaccurate and delayed time settings. Similar to the Coralife power strip, this timer is also slot limited, and the inward-facing design often becomes an issue for many hobbyists with larger plugs. This outlet timer also does not offer any ramp up / down functions.

What we like:

  • Easy to use mechanical 24 hour timer
  • Four time-controlled sockets and four sockets with constant power supply
  • Compatible with all aquarium lights

What would be better:

  • Different times on different days cannot be programmed
  • It can be difficult to fully depress the switches, resulting in uneven photoperiods
  • Does not offer ramp-up / down functions
  • Does not include additional clips to hang or mount the device

NICREW Aquarium Light Timer, Aquarium Light Controller and Dimmer

Similar to the current USA Dual Ramp Timer lamp, the NICREW Aquarium Light Timer, the Aquarium Light Controller and the Dimmer are ideal for hobbyists who already have a NICREW lamp or an aquarium lamp with a standard power connection of 2.5 mm / 2 , 1 mm.

This light controller simulates sunrise and sunset to gently loosen your fish, plants and invertebrates into the day or night. This aquarium timer can also be used as a dimmer so that the intensity of the lights can be set to 1 or 100% brightness. The NICREW Aquarium Light Timer guarantees precise timing settings, even if the power fails, as it uses its internal memory to store pre-programmed settings.

For the great price of this device, it's one of the best aquarium timers for the confidence of having planned light durations. However, some hobbyists have found that the up and down periods are very quick and barely noticeable, which can even defeat the purpose of setting availability. However, one of the best things about this aquarium timer is that for the most part it is compatible with any aquarium LED or other light fixture that has a standard 2.5mm / 2.1mm power connector, although some features may be limited .

What we like:

  • Easy to program and compact digital timer
  • Offers ramp up, ramp down and brightness control
  • Relies on internal memory of preprogrammed settings
  • Compatible with many LED lights
  • Best price for quality and customizability of the product

What would be better:

  • Ramp up and down periods are usually short
  • Not fully compatible with all aquarium lights

Timer module for Beamswork or EVO Quad LED aquarium light

The timer module for Beamswork or EVO Quad LED Aquarium Light Fixture is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get more control over your photoperiod. This small and reliable aquarium timer measures just 11.4 L x 6.4 W x 2.5 H cm (4.5 L x 2.5 W x 1 H in) and has two simple buttons for programming hours and minutes .

This digital timer has two modes that allow different lights to be programmed to automatically turn on and off at different times. However, this device is only designed for certain Beamswork or EVO Quad Aquarium LED lights and will not work for all lights. Otherwise, customers have found the instructions a little unclear at first, but reliable and convenient once properly set up.

What we like:

  • Simple and uncomplicated programming for automatic switching on and off
  • Multiple channels to control more than one light
  • Compatible with many Beamswork and EVO Quad LED aquarium lights

What would be better:

  • Do not ramp up or down
  • Instructions can be difficult to follow and initial setup can be challenging
  • Not compatible with most aquarium lights

Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Timer

Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Timer

  • Automatically turns the light on / off so you don't have to
  • Works with all types of aquarium lamps
  • Including LED lamp display "and manual override"

If you are looking for an aquarium light timer with just one power plug, the Zoo Med AquaSun aquarium timer may be the best choice for you. This aquarium timer is similar to the Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer & Power Strip, but offers just one outlet timer instead of a whole strip.

This mechanical 24-hour timer has a grounded electrical outlet with three plugs. The time is set by clicking a certain number of switches based on how long you want the lights to be on. A red LED light indicator shows when the socket is being supplied with power and when the light should also be on.

This device is theoretically one of the simpler and more straightforward aquarium light timers, but many hobbyists have had difficulty interpreting the instructions and actually getting the correct photo periods. Once the times are set they also realize that the timing may be inaccurate and / or that the device makes noise and dies quickly.

What we like:

  • Simple mechanical 24 hour timer for controlling a device in the tank
  • Red LED lights to indicate when the outlet is receiving power
  • Analog interface that is easy to use once you are familiar with the settings

What would be better:

  • This device takes up a lot of space on the wall socket, which can lead to loss of use of the secondary socket
  • Tends to make chirping noises and is known to die off within the first year of use
  • It can be difficult to learn how to use


There are many reasons to get an aquarium light timer for your aquarium, such as: B. Establish a stable day and night cycle or not have to worry if you forget to turn the tank lights on or off. The best aquarium timer is easy to use, reliable and has the appropriate settings for your fish, plants and / or corals.

Unfortunately, many aquarium light timers can still be unreliable. Therefore, you should be aware of how long your aquarium light is on each day to ensure that the tank does not receive too much or too little. If you find that algae continue to grow in your aquariums, it may be due to too much or too little light. In this case an aquarium light timer is helpful!

If you have any questions about aquarium light switches, how they work for a reef or planted tank, or if you have any experience of trying different photo periods in general, don't hesitate to leave a comment below!


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