Aquarium Lighting Timers

Jennifer Doll

Jennifer Doll


aquarium lighting timers

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When setting up a new tank, an aquarium lighting timer might be the last thing that comes to mind 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 fail to survive.

Not only does the actual light matter, but the photoperiod–or the amount of time that the aquarium light is left on–largely determines plant growth as well as algae growth.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about aquarium lighting timers, why you need one for your fish tank, and the six best products to have for all your freshwater and saltwater systems!

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What is an aquarium lighting timer?

An aquarium lighting timer works the same way as regular lighting timers do: you set a desired amount of time for the light to be on; the best aquarium lighting timers even allow you to set the exact times to turn on and off, and even to switch between light modes.

An aquarium lighting timer is usually a device that is directly plugged into a wall outlet or into the light cable. Some high-tech aquarium lights have Bluetooth capabilities and these settings and much more can be adjusted on an app; other lights also provide their own aquarium lighting timer through another interface.

However, a traditional lighting timer for your fish tank can be handy for several reasons.

Do you need an aquarium lighting timer?

While a timer for aquarium purposes is not required for having a successful tank, it is just another way to make running the tank much more efficient and reliable.


There are many benefits to having a set aquarium lighting timer on your system. Perhaps the best benefit is that you don’t have to worry about turning your fish tank on and off; this is especially handy if you have an inconsistent schedule or if you’re just plain forgetful.

The second biggest advantage is that a natural day and night schedule eventually leads to greater stability in the tank. Like most living things, fish, plants, corals, and other invertebrates work on a circadian rhythm; these organisms depend on the change between day and night to perform certain processes during certain time periods. By having an irregular light schedule, the tank as a whole can’t fall into a routine. This can lead to stunted growth in plants and corals and odd behavior in general.


There are a few disadvantages to having a lighting timer as well, but for long-term fish tank systems, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

One of the biggest problems you’re likely to run into is that these timers can be large and bulky. Sometimes they can cover multiple outlets in order to fit snuggly, which can take up valuable space for other aquarium equipment.

It is also important to consider that aquarium lighting timers are an added expense. Luckily, most higher-end lights have Bluetooth capability and the additional purchase isn’t necessary. However, expect to pay a little extra for a dependable timer for aquarium purposes.

This also leads to the possibility that these timers can fail, just like any other piece of fish tank equipment. There isn’t really any way to know that your aquarium light timer is dying/breaking until, one day, it just stops working. This can lead to elongated photoperiods, which could potentially lead to algae and other problems if not realized 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 much as you want to have control over your fish tank and how much your budget is willing to allow.

Most basic aquarium timers will have an analog or a digital interface for programming turn on and turn off times. Some timer devices may have multiple outlet channels for different equipment that can all be set at different time periods; others come as a complete power strip with both timed and untimed outlets.

The best 6 aquarium lighting timers

While there are many light timers available outside of the aquarium scope, this list mainly focuses on those with aquatic life in mind. These options are based on durability, customizability, ease-of-use, customer reviews, and price.

Coralife 05152 Digital Power Center

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

This device runs on a 24/7 schedule and has a 3 foot (91.4 cm) power cord. There are eight outward-facing grounded three-prong-plug outlets, with four white constantly powered outlets, two yellow daytime outlets, and two blue nighttime outlets; each outlet has a plastic sliding cover that can shield unused outlets.

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

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

What we like:

  • Compact and all-in-one power strip
  • Highly customizable time periods for each day
  • Compatible with most aquarium lights
  • Multiple outlets for constant power, daytime power, and nighttime power

What could be better:

  • Chance to malfunction and reprogram and/or have incorrect starting and stopping times
  • Limited space for larger plugs
  • Does not ramp up and down and can only turn equipment on or off

Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light

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If you already have a light by Current USA, then you might want to consider purchasing the Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light for the best control over your photoperiod. These timers measure 3.15 L x 0.5 W x 2.0 H inches (8.0 L x 1.3 W x 5.1 H cm) and allow for two 24-hour aquarium LED lighting channels.

The Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light is designed to best replicate natural lighting for fish, plants, and corals, and simulates a sunrise, sunset, and moonlight photoperiod. At the set times, this timer will begin to ramp up and ramp down for 15 minutes until the lights have fully turned on or off. The two different channels allow for independent programmings, like for different ramp up and down times as well as for intensity and brightness. Moonlight can also be recreated by having blue lights at a low level after a certain 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 be more worthwhile to buy new equipment entirely. Many reviews have also found that this timer malfunctions after only just a couple of months of use. It is also unfortunate that this product only works with Current USA LED lighting and is not compatible with Satellite+ LED Fixtures.

What we like:

  • Lightweight and easy to program
  • Moonlight mode as well as sunrise and sunset ramp up and down settings
  • Compatible with several Current USA light fixtures, including TrueLumen Strips & Lunar Lights and Orbit Marine & Pro (Gen1)

What could be better:

  • Not compatible with lights outside of Current USA
  • Has the tendency to malfunction within the first year of use
  • Expensive in comparison to other aquarium timers and existing aquarium lights

Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer & Power Strip, White

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The Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer & Power Strip, White is another good option if you’re looking for an all-in-one 24-hour power strip timer. While Zoo Med is first and foremost geared towards reptile care, this light timer has been manufactured with aquariums in mind for a natural day/night cycle.

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

While this product is generally reliable, some customers have had difficulty fully clicking down the switches, which has resulted in inaccurate and delayed time settings. Similar to the Coralife power strip, this timer is also limited for plug space, and the inward-facing design often becomes a problem for many hobbyists with larger plugs. This outlet timer also does not offer ramp up/down capabilities.

What we like:

  • 24-hour easy-to-use mechanical timer
  • Four timed outlets and four constantly-powered outlets
  • Compatible with all aquarium light fixtures

What could be better:

  • Cannot program different times on different days
  • The switches can be difficult to fully press down, leading to uneven photoperiods
  • Does not offer ramp up/down capabilities
  • Does not include additional clips to hang or mount the device

NICREW Aquarium Light Timer, Fish Tank Light Controller and Dimmer

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Similar to the Current USA Dual Ramp Timer Light, the NICREW Aquarium Light Timer, Fish Tank Light Controller and Dimmer is ideal for hobbyists who already own a NICREW light fixture or an aquarium light with a standard 2.5mm/2.1mm power connector.

This light controller will simulate sunrise and sunset to gently ease your fish, plants, and invertebrates into the day or the night. This aquarium timer also has the capacity to be used as a dimmer, allowing the intensity of the lights to be adjusted to 1 or 100% brightness. The NICREW Aquarium Light Timer guarantees accurate timing preferences even when the power goes out as it uses its internal memory to store pre-programmed settings.

For the inexpensive price of this device, it is one of the best aquarium timers for trusting to have scheduled light durations. However, some hobbyists have found that the ramping up and down periods are very quick and barely noticeable, which may even defeat the purpose of having the setting available. One of the best things about this aquarium timer though is that it is mostly compatible with any aquarium LED or other light that has a standard 2.5mm/2.1mm power connector, though 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 the internal memory of pre-programmed settings
  • Compatible with many LED light fixtures
  • Best price for quality and customizability of product

What could be better:

  • Ramp up and down periods tend to be short
  • Not completely compatible with all aquarium lights

Timer Module for Beamswork or EVO Quad LED Aquarium Light Fixture

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The Timer Module for Beamswork or EVO Quad LED Aquarium Light Fixture is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to get more control over your photoperiod. This small and reliable aquarium timer only measures about 4.5 L x 2.5 W x 1 H inches (11.4 L x 6.4 W x 2.5 H cm) and has two simple buttons for hour and minute programming.

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

What we like:

  • Simple and straightforward programming for automatic on and off timing
  • Multiple channels to have control over more than one light
  • Compatible with many Beamswork and EVO Quad LED aquarium light fixtures

What could be better:

  • Does not ramp up or ramp down
  • Instructions can be difficult to follow and initial setup can be a challenge
  • Not compatible with most fish tank lights

Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Timer

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If you’re looking for an aquarium light timer with just one outlet plug, then the Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Timer might work best for you. This aquarium timer is similar to the Zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Controller Timer & Power Strip, but only provides one outlet timer instead of a whole strip.

This 24-hour mechanical timer features one grounded three-prong-plug outlet. The time is set by clicking down a certain amount of switches depending on how long you want the lights to be on. A red LED lamp indicator is used to show when power is being run through the outlet, and thus when the light should also be on.

This device is one of the more simple and straightforward aquarium light timers in theory, but many hobbyists have had difficulty interpreting the instructions and actually getting the correct photoperiods. Once the times have been set, they also find that the timing can be inaccurate and/or that the device will start making noises and quickly die.

What we like:

  • Simple 24-hour mechanical timer for having control over one piece of equipment in the tank
  • Red LED light to indicate when power is running through the outlet
  • Analog interface that is easy to use once familiar with settings

What could be better:

  • This device takes up a lot of space on the wall outlet, which can result in the loss of usage of the secondary outlet
  • Tends to make chirping noises and has been known to die within the first year of use
  • Can be difficult to learn how to use


There are many reasons to get an aquarium light timer for your fish tank, like to establish a stable day and night cycle or to not have to worry if you forget to turn the tank lights on or off. The best aquarium timer will be easy to use, reliable, and offer the appropriate settings for your fish, plants, and/or corals.

Unfortunately, many aquarium light timers can still be unreliable, so it’s best to be aware of how long your aquarium light is on every day to make sure that the tank doesn’t receive too much or too little. If you find that your fish tanks keep growing algae, it could be due to either too much light or too little light, in which case, an aquarium light timer would come in handy!

If you have any questions about aquarium light timers, how they work for a reef or planted tank or have experience with trying different photoperiods in general, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!


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