How To Choose And Set Up An Aquarium Light Timer?

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Leaving your aquarium light on for too long can lead to an algae bloom. It is easy to forget to turn off the lights if you have a busy schedule. Thanks to automated timers, you don’t have to worry about when you are at work or on a vacation. A timer helps to automatically turn your light on or off at specific times saving you a lot of troubles. In this article, we will discuss aquarium light timers and the method to choose as well as set up a suitable one for your aquarium.

How To Set Up An Aquarium Light Timer?

Most of the aquarium light timers are easy to setup notwithstanding that the process may differ from one model or brand to another. However, most aquarium timer will require you to follow the following procedure:

Step 1 – Choose An Appropriate Light Timer

First of all, choose an appropriate timer that is compatible with your aquarium light. Check your aquarium light model and search for a timer from the same manufacturer. If the manufacturer doesn’t produce a specific timer for the light, check the type of the power connector of your light and find a suitable timer with the same connector in the market.

Following are some popular light timers in the market and their compatible LED lights that you can refer to.

Very Nice and Amazing - Editors Choice
  • perfectly enough for plants to grow
  • Simple and easy to use
  • lights is perfect for your aquarium
Fantastic And Reliable - high quality
  • Easy To use
  •  very convenient
  • Very simple to understand
Fits Like A Charm - Best Value
  • lights up the tank beautifully
  • it has an amazing lights
  • perfect for lighting the tanks
Satisfying Product - Highy Recommended
  • Amazing timer with awesome fade in/fade out effects
  • It turns on and off exactly when it is needed
  • Satisfying Product to use

Step 2 – Connect The Timer To The Light

installation guide

Timer Installation Guide

Connect the timer to the light and its power adapter following the order in the above picture. Most aquarium LED lights in the market use standard 2.1 x 5.5mm barrel plugs. If the plug connectors of your light are different from your timer, you may need additional connectors (A and B in the picture).

Step 3 – Program The Lighting Period


Program the light depending on the fish and plants you have in your aquarium. If you use the timer for your planted aquarium, lighting 8 hours per day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) is recommended. Two much lighting doesn’t add some help to plant growth but causes so many problems of algae. However, a fish-only aquarium can get a lighting period up to 12 hours daily based on the kinds of fish. If you notice that the algae is out of control, just reduce the lighting period.

Best Aquarium Light Timer Reviews

1. Nicrew Aquarium Light timer - Very Nice And Amazing


  • Dimmable: brightness adjustable from 1 to 100 percent
  • Sunrise/Sunset: 15 minute sunrise/sunset
  • Connectors: 2.1 x 5.5mm barrel plug, include two 2.1 to 2.5 mm connectors
  • Used for: Nicrew LED fixtures, any lights with standard 2.1 x 5.5mm or 2.5 x 5.5mm barrel connectors.
  • Manual: download here.

This timer works with 2.1 x 5.5mm barrel plug connectors, which are the most common size used for modern aquarium LED lights in the market. It comes with two 2.1 to 2.5 mm connectors for use with 2.5 x 5.5mm barrel connectors. This makes it suitable for Nicrew LED aquarium fixtures and any lights with standard 2.1 x 5.5mm or 2.5 x 5.5mm barrel connectors.


2.1 to 2.5 mm connectors

This digital timer is easy to program with a very detailed instruction manual from Nicrew. You can always refer to the manual if you run into any trouble.

Briefly for programming the timer. It haves four buttons – HOUR/+, MINUTE/-, SET, and POWER. “HOUR/+” and “MINUTE/-” buttons are for setting hours, minutes, and brightness. “SET” is for saving a setting before going to another. “POWER” is for manually turning on/off the light, and for activating the brightness setting.

lighting schedule

Sunrise/sunset and straight on/off lighting schedules

The most admirable feature of this timer is its ability to simulate the sunrise and sunset giving your fish the feel of a natural environment. This gradual change in the lighting cycle helps to reduce the stress on your fish and give them the time to adapt to light or darkness unlike when a bright light is suddenly introduced or withdrawn.

Pro Tip

You have full customization options if using the sunrise/sunset mode. There are 6 different programming blocks (L1 to L5 and L-OFF) in this mode for you to set different light intensities (off to 100%) at different times of a day. The timer also comes with an internal memory that stores your set settings in case of power outages.

The timer also offers you so many other options. You can choose either sunrise/sunset or straight on/off lighting schedule. You can also turn the light on or off whenever the need arises with the “POWER” button. You can use it as a dimmer only with its manual dimmer option.

2. zoo Med AquaSun Aquarium Timer - Fantastic And Reliable


  • Type: socket timer
  • Includes: LED lamp indicator
  • Used for: any kinds of aquarium LED lights.

This is the most versatile aquarium light timer because it works with all kinds of aquarium lamps. Because it is a socket timer, it also works with other aquarium equipment such as air pumps, solenoid valves of CO2 regulators


Look at to the product picture, could you imagine how to program it? I think it is not easy to understand if you have never used a mechanical timer before.

If you know the black circle around the dial containing small tabs that can be pushed down to set on time, the work is now much easier. Each black tab represents a 15-minute period, four tabs create an hour. To set on time, push down the tabs adjacent to the times you want to power the plug socket.

After you’ve programmed the times of activation, turn the dial clockwise until the black triangle arrow points to the current time of day to set present time. Ensure that the bypass switch on the right side of the timer is set to “Timer” to activate the timer. Now you have successfully set the timer and it is ready to plug and play.

Pro Tip

The bypass switch on the right side of the timer is also for manually turning on the light if you want. Just switch it to “ON” whenever you want to turn on the light against the programmed period. Switch it to “Timer” to return to your set timing schedule. You can also reset or turn off the timer by pressing on a switch button on its bottom side.

The downside of the Zoo Med AquaSun aquarium timer is that it feels bulky and can occupy a space for two power outlets. You can’t simulate sunrise/sunset effects with this timer, too. However, it remains a great option if you have a light fixture that can’t work with any timer in the market.


  • Dimmable: brightness adjustable from 10-100%
  • Connectors: two-pin barrel plug
  • Used for: Koval LED aquarium fixtures.

This digital timer is designed with two-pin barrel plug connectors. It is intended to use with LED light fixtures from Koval only.

It has an LCD display, which makes it easy to program and use. It uses a 24-hour clock system, allowing you to set the time from 1 minute to 24-hours. You can increase the time by pressing the (+) button or decrease the time by pressing the (-) button. The red digital display allows you to monitor the time.

Pro Tip

It also comes with a dimmer function. This allows you to set the aquarium light to ten brightness levels to meet different growth requirements of your aquarium fish and plants.

It comes with two suckers that make it easy to stick to the exterior of your fish tank.

4. Current USA Single RampTimer - Satisfying Product 


  • Sunrise/Sunset: 15 minute sunrise/sunset
  • Connectors: 2.5 x 5mm barrel plug
  • Used for: Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED light fixtures
  • Manual: watch the video from the manufacturer.

This timer is intended to use with Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED light fixtures. It plays the role of a 24-hour lighting controller that simulates the natural lighting cycle of a day with sunrise and sunset. These are 15 minute periods at which the light gradually changes its bright intensity. This helps to reduce stress on aquarium life caused by the sudden change of light intensity.


If you don’t like to use the mode with ramp up and dim down periods, you can set it to instant on/off. You can also turn your light on or off at any time by pressing the HOUR + button. The corresponding ON or OFF will display on the LCD. Press the MODE button to resume the normal lighting cycle controlled by the timer.

Affiliate links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2022-09-11.

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