Can I Use LED Strip Lights in a Fish Tank

Can I Use LED Strip Lights in a Fish Tank?

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Popular among aquarium enthusiasts is using LED strip lights in a fish tank for brilliant lighting. They are affordable, energy-efficient, and come in a variety of colors. However, there are some limitations to using LED strip lights in fish tanks that you should be aware of before making a purchase. In this post, we will discuss the pros and cons of LED strip lights for fish tanks and provide some tips on how to get the most out of them.

LED strip lights are flexible circuit boards populated with LEDs. The LEDs are connected via a circuitry of soldered joints and wiring. If exposed to water, the solder joints and wiring can corrode and release chemicals harmful to fish or other animals. Only LED strip lights that are fully water proof and capable of withstanding long-term submersion should be used in aquariums.

Let’s go a bit deeper and explore:

  • What are IP ratings?
  • Which LED strip lights are waterproof?
  • How to choose LED strip for fish tank?

What are LED IP ratings?

First thing you might be wondering is: “What does IP mean?”

IP is an acronym for “Ingress Protection.” This refers to the Ingress Protection Code that grades a mechanical casing or electrical enclosure on its resistance to solid and liquid particles.

The name “Ingress Protection” stems from the definition of “ingress” which is the action or fact of going in or entering. So “Ingress Protection” is the prevention of allowing something to enter, which in this case is solid or liquid particles.

IP ratings will be displayed as “IPXX” where the “XX” is 2 numbers. The first number represents the resistance to solid particles while the second is for liquid.

The first digit, for solid particle resistance, ranges from 0-6 with 0 being no protection and 6 being resistant at the highest level not even allowing dust particles to enter.

The second digit, for liquid particle resistance, ranges from 0-8 with 0 being no protection and 8 being able to resist against water at permanent submersion up to 13 feet.

Here is a table to easily understand IP ratings:

1st DigitSolid Particle Protection2nd DigitLiquid Particle Protection
0 Zero protection 0 Zero protection
1 Stops solid objects larger than 2 inches 1 Withstands water drops
2 Stops solid object larger than 1/2 inch 2 Withstands water drops at angle
3 Stops solid objects larger than 1/10 inch 3 Withstands water spray
4 Stops solid objects larger than 1/25 inch 4 Withstands splashed of water
5 Stops enough dust to prevent harm 5 Withstands water jets
6 No ingress of dust 6 Withstands water jets and rough seas
7 Withstands temporary submersion (1/2 hour @ 3 FT)
8 Withstands permanent submersion in water (up to 13FT/4M)

Which LED strip lights are waterproof?

LED strip lights with an IP rating of IP68 are waterproof and can be used in fish tanks. These lights are designed to withstand long-term submersion and are safe for use around fish and other aquatic animals.

Any LED strip lights with an IP rating below IP68 should not be used within aquariums. If exposed to water for a long enough period of time, an LED strip light with rating below IP68 will corrode overtime.

You want to avoid this at all costs as the breakdown of an LED strip light will release chemicals into the water that will be harmful to living organisms. For example, LED strip lights are connected using a technique known as soldering.

Soldering is the connecting of wires using melted metals. These melted metals can be of different varieties but more often than not contain lead. Lead is very harmful to all living organisms. You do not want your fish or other aquatic life to be exposed to this or any other corrosive materials.

How to choose an LED strip for my fish tank?

When choosing an LED strip light for your fish tank, it is important to consider the following questions:

  • Where to place LED strip in fish tank?
  • Can LED strip be exposed to water in fish tank?
  • Can LED strip be submerged in water?

Where should I put LED strip in fish tank?

  • Outside tank: along top edge (using adhesive side of strip)
  • Outside tank: along top edge (using electrical tape)
  • Inside tank: underside of aquarium hood
  • Inside tank: along top edge
  • Inside tank: along substrate (fully submerged)

LED strips can take an otherwise boring fish tank or aquarium and transform it into the centerpiece of any space. Nothing will make the fish and aquarium plants pop quite like some added LED light with some color. When it comes to actually installing the LED strip in the fish tank you have options to choose from for location.

Attaching the LED strip along the outside top edge of the aquarium, preferably on the side of the fish tank that will be against the wall. You can either use the adhesive side that comes on most LED strips to attach it to the fish tank, or use electrical tape.

If you use the adhesive side of the LED strip the light will be directed away from the tank. As long as this side is against a wall it will reflect back into the tank. Using electrical tape to aim the LED strip light into the tank will give a brighter look as the light will be direct.

Installing LED light strips inside an aquarium will always expose your light strip to water. Even if the strip is affixed to the underside of the aquarium hood, the level of humidity that the strip is exposed to is enough to cause corrosion if the “IP” rating is not high enough.

When putting LED strip lights under a fish tank hood you can use the adhesive backing of the strip or use a bracket. Over time the adhesive will be compromised by the humidity in the aquarium. If you want a longer term solution, drill holes in your aquarium hood and install a bracket to hold the strip in place.

If you want to install LED strip lights under water in fish tank you have a couple options for how to hold it in place. Adhesive can be used, but be sure to buy an adhesive that is made for permanent submersion in water. Anything else will not withstand the exposure overtime.

To install LED strip lights under water without adhesive in an aquarium you will have to use the weight of rocks or some substrate to hold it in place.

Can water get on my LED strip in fish tank?

Only LED strip lights with an IP rating of IP68 should be used in aquariums.

IP ratings from IPX1 through IPX7 can withstand exposure to water, but are not designed to withstand over a long period of time. LED strip lights of lessor “IP” ratings can be used to illuminate fish tanks, but should be affixed to the exterior only.

If you got water on your LED strip light by mistake, be sure to do the following:

  1. Unplug LED strip
  2. Dry off visible water using towel
  3. Roll up strip and place in container with rice (optional)
  4. Wait 24 hours before plugging in to test

Can I put LED strip under water in fish tank?

Yes, LED strip lights with an IP rating of IP68 are designed to withstand effects of permanent submersion in water (up to 13FT/4M). Installing an LED strip with an IP rating of IP68 in an aquarium will not harm fish.

Anything less than IP68 and you are putting living organisms at danger within your fish tank. LED strip lights work if submerged under water, but over time they will begin to corrode. Corrosion will release harmful chemicals and metals like lead severely damaging the ecosystem.

Check out this video to see what happens when LED strip lights are in water:

Parting Thoughts

LED strip lights made for water and permanent submersion will hold up over time. If you want to add brilliant light to your fish tank using LED strip lights don’t settle for anything less.