Though fish are definitely some of the most low-maintenance pets to keep at home, they still require the appropriate care and environment to live happily and healthily, and light plays a huge factor in this.
Remembering to turn your tank’s light on and off at the appropriate time can be difficult for many, or a chore to those who prefer the convenience of an automatic function, which is where a timer comes in.
We’ve fished around for five of our favorite timers, some being simple and others with more features to fine-tune your aquatic routine, with an option to suit the majority of pet owners and budgets.
Reading our all-important Buyer’s Guide demonstrates the importance of regulating your aquarium’s light, why a timer makes that easier, and features to look out for when selecting a high-quality product that’s built to last.
Any remaining queries, concerns, or doubts may be allayed by the Frequently Asked Questions section, where you’ll find answers to the burning inquiries of other fish owners seeking the right timer for them.
OUR TOP PICK
Our favorite from the bunch, we recommend this highly-favored timer from BN-LINK to all customers seeking a new timer they can rely on, without the time to spend comparing and contrasting products.
Automatically turning your appliances on and off with a 24 hour clock, each pin on the easy to use, built in dial allows you to set up to 48 different programs, as well as being used as an interval timer.
Saving you both energy and money, whilst keeping your fish accustomed to a natural day and night cycle, you won’t need to worry about remembering to turn off those lights before you go to bed any more.
Unlike competing timers, this one doesn’t feature any small, removable parts, just one large pin dial: toggle the pins down for turning ON and keep them extended upwards for turning OFF.UL listed and the product of rigorous industry-standard testing, it’s a safe, reliable grounded timer outlet that won’t cause a fire hazard, but will make your life a whole lot easier, and keep your aquatic animals and plant life happy.
- Incredibly affordable, yet efficient
- Lightweight - only 5.4 ounces
- Easy-read, manual pin dial for settings
- Safety regulated for peace of mind
- Slight ticking noise when in use
Simulating sunrise and sunset in order to create a natural day/night cycle for fish and plants both, this NICREW digital aquarium timer is perfect for those looking for a switch with an in-built dimmer.
Just one instance of setting will allow your lamps to turn on and off automatically, but the dimmer can also be adjusted manually from a brightness range of between 1 and 100 percent to suit changes in ambient room light.
An internal memory is great for storing pre-programmed settings in the event of a power cut failure, so there’s no need to worry about your fish tank or its inhabitants, as their lights will still work as normal when power is resumed.
The easy-read, bright LED screen makes adjusting the 24 hour clock as simple as pressing a couple of buttons, though it cannot control two independent lights at once - just one set up.
Suitable for use with a NICREW Classic LED, LED Plus, BrightLED and all other lights with a standard 2.1/2.5mm connector, it’s a 24/7 timer you can depend on, but make sure it’ll fit your tank’s power cord!
- Digital, instant set up at the touch of a button
- Internal memory to store all cycles
- Dimmer switch manually or automatically adjusted
- Simulate the natural environment of aquatic life
- Limited to certain tank power adaptors
Allowing you to maintain a healthy, thriving aquarium with power management and timed equipment control, the Digital Power Center from Coralife is a fish-lover’s best friend when it comes to monitoring and adjusting the tank.
Automatically switching between daytime and nighttime outlets, the 24 hour mechanical timer has fifteen minute interval settings for creating as specific a time cycle as you want for your aquarium.
Boasting enough room for up to seven different time cycles every day, seven days a week, the LCD display allows you to create and store on/off times for your tank’s light with no hassle, so there’s no excuse for forgetting lights out at bedtime!
Safely grounded, the 3 pronged plug is UL listed, has three feet of cord and is sure to be long enough for the largest tank setups, while the sliding safety covers protect any outlets not currently in use.
A limited twelve month manufacturer’s warranty protects customers from defective purchases and allows access to a replacement product of your satisfaction without additional cost or inconvenience.
- Six different outlets for all of your aquarium setup
- Capable of remembering seven cycles every day of the week
- Digital LED screen and easy button-press settings
- Grounded, UL listed plug for safe usage
- No built-in dimming capabilities
If you’re looking for a simplistic, easy-to-use timer that monitors your aquarium’s light, turning the lamps on and off so you don’t have to, look no further than the Aquasun timer from Zoo Med.
Providing a natural day/night cycle for your fish and plant life, this 24 hour timer is programmable in fifteen minute increments, with an LED ‘lamp on’ indicator and manual override switch for easy observation of its function and quick shut down.
The grounded, three pronged plug is safe to use, won’t be a fire hazard and larger than other offerings on our list, which happens to have the plus of making the typically tiny numbers on the dial easier to read!
Incorporating a drip loop, which prevents water from running along the power cord and potentially damaging the wall outlet or the timer itself, you’ll find it’s even safer than its competitors.
One year of limited manufacturer’s warranty is provided with every purchase, to ensure full customer satisfaction and allow you to get a refund or a replacement if necessary once it arrives.
- Simple, but gets the job done
- Grounded plug and GFCI receptacle
- Easily programmable 24-hour clock
- One year warranty with every purchase
- Bigger and bulkier than other offerings
Another timer from our friends at BN-LINK, the 7-day heavy duty timer is the bigger, better brother of our first listing, and even more programmable, with up to eight on and off program settings for the two grounded outlets.
Allowing you to select your own individual days or choose from a range of convenient pre-settings, as well as an easy switch to daylight savings mode, you’ll save on your electricity and keep your fish happy to boot!
The long-lasting backup battery allows your settings to be preserved even in the event of a power cut or widespread outage, so there’s no need to worry about having to redo everything over again every time.
Going on vacation? Protect your home with the ‘random’ holiday mode, which makes your home look lived in even when you’re away by continuing to adjust the lights without your presence.
Thoroughly tested and controlled for safety and quality, the timer is UL and ETL listed, reliable and safe to control both outlets simultaneously, with a one minute minimum ‘on’ time to be as precise as you want.
- Dual outlet for multiple plugs
- Eight settings per day, for all seven days
- Energy saving, efficient timer
- As short as one minute increments
- No dimming capabilities
Best Aquarium Light Timer Buying Guide
Light And Your Aquarium
Though you might believe its primary purpose is to be aesthetically pleasing, the light in your aquarium is there for the benefit of not just the fish (and other creatures) inhabiting it, but the plants growing in there too.
First and foremost, you may remember from middle school Biology classes that photosynthesis, the process of producing nourishment for all plants, requires plenty of light to be successful, allowing the plants to grow successfully and thrive.
If your tank contains aquatic plants (that aren’t decorations of course), particularly tropical plants, the light you provide will determine not just the happiness of your fish, but the growth opportunities of those plants too.
In terms of your fish and other sea creatures, the light is primarily for your benefit, allowing you to watch them swimming around to your heart’s content, because the room the tank is in should provide enough natural light.
How Much Light Does My Tank Need?
Knowing how many hours of light a day your tank requires to create the optimum living conditions for your aquatic pets is difficult, as this is determined by a variety of variables:
- How many live creatures/plants the tank is home to
- The species or breed of each inhabitant
- Algae levels inside your tank
- What level of light is produced in that room already
Ten hours of light daily at least is recommended for an average aquarium, though if placed by, for instance, an especially sunny window, or there are no plants in the tank, this can be reduced.
Tropical fish usually have access to around 12 hours of sunlight in the wild, whereas cold-water species can see their daylight dip throughout the season, so may benefit from a reduction to eight hours in accordance with their real-world experience.
Algae can be a real bee in the bonnet of those who keep aquariums, and if you find there’s excess growth on your tank, it’s likely that too much brightness is your culprit, and reducing the number of hours of light will lead to a reduction.
This is actually a good way for you to monitor the number of hours of light you provide - too much growth and there’s definitely a need for turning things down a tad, but eradicating light altogether will affect your fish and plants.
Features To Look Out For:
You’ll find that timers are either automatic or manual, with the former being controlled by a digital timer and the latter requiring physical set-up before use, but neither is any better based on that.
Likewise, fancier designs might boast a built-in dimmer switch that gradually reduces the brightness of your light as opposed to going from on to off in one fell swoop, which feels more natural and recreates the environment of your fish and plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay to leave a fish tank light on all the time?
In a word: no. Not only will you disrupt the attempt to mimic the natural aquatic living conditions of the tank’s inhabitants, but you’ll also increase the rate at which algae builds up, which ranges from being a pain to clean up to dangerous for your fish.
Using a light in your tank allows you to observe your fish, but regulating that light will ensure their sleeping and eating patterns stay in the correct pattern, to prevent illness and keep your finned friends as happy and healthy as possible.
You should mimic the natural cycle of the sun and turn off the light during the night, making sure it’s back on and ready to go in the morning, which is why a timer proves so beneficial, as it completely removes your need to remember!
What time should I turn my tank light off at night?
You should adjust the time that your tank light turns off in accordance with the seasons, turning it off earlier in the summer months and leaving on for longer during the winter, when the sun sets before you’ve gone to bed.
It’s best if you can gradually reduce the light as though it is a tiny sun in your tank, which is possible with a dimmer switch, though not all light timers will have this capability built in to their function.