Can LED Lights Get Wet In An Aquarium? [What To Do About It?]

Image of an aquarium with waterproof LED lights

LED lights get wet in an aquarium due to condensation, incorrect installation of aquarium hood, and placement of aquarium on an uneven surface. Wet-rated LED lights aren’t harmful if they get wet. However, non-waterproof LED lights cause a short circuit and other mishaps on getting wet.

Let’s talk about this in more detail.

4 Ways How Aquarium LED Lights Get Wet

LED lights are widely used in aquariums due to their long life and low energy consumption.

However, they get wet and damaged due to numerous reasons.

Following are some of the prominent reasons due to which LED aquarium lights get wet.

1. Condensation

Condensation is the primary reason for aquarium lights to get wet.

Heat condensation occurs in the aquarium when warm evaporated water collects on the cooler surfaces.

It then returns to its liquid state and falls back onto the surface as drops or mist.

Moreover, if your aquarium has an air pump, you may see bubble condensation.

This is because the air pump causes the bubbles to break on the tank water surface.

The water thus splashes on the aquarium hood, causing condensation and dripping.

2. Uneven Surface

An uneven surface is another reason that can wet the LED lights.

If the aquarium is placed on an uneven surface, it causes leakage.

Water can leak from the various parts of the aquarium and wet the lights.

Other reasons for water leaks are improper installation of the aquarium, cracks in the glass, faulty gaskets, etc.

LED lights get damaged if there is water leakage in the aquarium.

3. Water Splash

Fish can splash water, especially if they are large. The splashed water can wet the aquarium LED lights.

This causes a short circuit if the LED lights are not water-resistant, which can prove fatal.

4. Dripping Light Hood

Aquarium lights also get wet due to dripping from the light hood.

It happens when the aquarium light hood is not installed correctly.

If the light hood is not sealed properly, water drips on the aquarium LED lights.

This can also happen if the light hood is incorrectly repaired.

So a good seal is essential to withstand high pressure without leakage.

Alright! Now that you know how the aquarium LED lights get wet, let’s also learn whether the aquarium lights are waterproof.

Are Aquarium Lights Waterproof?

Aquarium lights are completely waterproof nowadays with an IP68 rating due to the technology used in sealing them.

This means you can use them safely underwater.

Moreover, some waterproof aquarium LED light fixtures can be concealed underwater near the edges of an aquarium.

You can use a LED light with an IP68 rating underwater.

However, the rest of the lights other than the IP68 rating are not meant to be submerged in water.

If such aquarium lights are exposed to water for too long, the LED circuit boards get damaged and even corrode.

What Does Wet-Rated Mean?

Wet-rated means the product is designed to operate in environments where the possibility of water exposure exists.

Wet-rated lighting fixtures are suitable for aquariums as they handle direct exposure to water.

For lighting fixtures to work when exposed to moisture, they need to be designed accordingly.

Water shouldn’t enter the light’s internal parts, where it causes short circuits or corrosion.

As the LED aquarium lights run on electricity, there’s always a risk of an electric shock or fire if the lights get wet because water is a good conductor of electricity.

So it’s crucial to know whether the LED lights used in the aquariums are wet-rated or not for safety purposes.

Equally vital is to be aware of the IP (Ingress Protection) rating given to the LED lights.

An IP rating is an internationally accepted guideline for electrical equipment.

This rating is given to only those products that have undergone special testing by a certified independent company.

IP68 means the product is fully waterproof. On the other hand, an IP67 certification means it’s not entirely waterproof.

It means it will withstand short-term exposure to water up to 3 feet for no longer than half an hour.

What Happens When Non-Waterproof LED Light Strings Get Wet?

LED lights that are waterproof are resistant to water and hence don’t get damaged when exposed to water.

However, if LED lights are not waterproof, they are prone to damage when they get wet.

LED lights that are not rated waterproof are not meant to be used in aquariums or other outdoor places where they can get wet.

Following things can happen if non-waterproof LED strings get wet.

1. Cause electric shocks.

The first thing that can happen when the LED light strings get wet is that they can give electric shocks.

This is because the non-waterproof LED strips are usually not sealed properly.

So water easily drips into them, causing electric shock.

This can be fatal, especially if any of your tank inhabitants touch the light strips.

So if you notice any strip getting wet, you should immediately switch off the power outlet to avoid any mishaps.

2. Lead to a short circuit.

Apart from electric shocks, a short circuit can happen if the LED light strings get wet.

When the light strips get wet, the power that flows through the light gets converted into heat.

This causes the light strips to melt and eventually burn out. This also leads to overheating of the entire fixture.

So it’s imperative to ensure that the non-waterproof LED light strips are kept away from water.

3. Corrode the components.

If the LED strips get wet, they can start rusting when exposed to water.

Also, as water contains all sorts of chemicals and minerals, it increases the chances of bacteria and microbe growth on the LED strings if they are not dried immediately.

Corroded metal leads to malfunctioning of the LEDs and eventual failure.

4. Weaken the adhesive.

Exposure to water can weaken and loosen the adhesive used to stick the LED strip on the surface.

In addition, water also affects the adhesives used in the construction of some LED strips.

If the LED strips become loose from their mountings, they fall out and break.

So you may need to replace them before they fail entirely.

5. Affect light quality.

The quality of lighting can get affected if the light strings become wet.

For example, you may notice a color change or a change in the intensity of the light due to exposure to water.

Light also gets cut off due to water leakage. There could also be condensation on certain areas of the lights.

So you must ensure that there is no water leakage on the surface of the light strings.

Moreover, you need to wipe and dry the light strings properly if they get wet before re-using them.

5. Decrease the lifespan of the light strings.

LED light strings are widely used as they offer better performance compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.

Besides, they last longer.

However, if the LED lights get wet, it adversely affects their lifespan.

As a result, they may not last long and work with the same efficiency.

Most of the time, the entire lighting doesn’t get affected by water.

Only a couple of color spectrums get damaged, affecting the brightness of the lights.

While some aquarists may not bother and continue with the same lights, others don’t like to compromise on the color quality and brightness of the lights as it lessens the aquarium beauty.

What To Do If LED Light Strings Get Wet?

LED lights are sensitive to water if it leaks into them.

Even a small amount of water damages them, especially if they are not wet-rated.

If a wet-rated LED string gets wet, you need not worry as the moisture will not cause any damage.

However, if the light strings are not wet-rated, then they need to be dried immediately.

Also, how well the LED lights are sealed will determine whether they will withstand exposure to water.

Follow the below-mentioned steps if your LED light strings get wet.

  • Firstly, you need to remove the light fixture from the power socket. You need to be very careful and shouldn’t come into contact with a live wire.
  • After removing the LED strings, you need to wipe the water and dry the light strings thoroughly. After that, you can place the strings in the dry sun for a couple of days to ensure no moisture is left behind.
  • Once you are sure that the light strings are completely dry, you can test them by connecting them to a power source.
  • If they are working fine, you can continue with the same strings. However, if the light strings are not working, then they are probably damaged and need replacement.


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