Aquaculture Lighting

The Science of Aquaculture Lighting

It is well known that fish and other aquatic animals are sensitive to light in their environment. Each fish species, and each developmental stage within a species, has evolved a unique response to light. Light intensity, spectrum and photoperiod have all been found to have significant affect on fish physiology and behavior. Because of this, lighting can be a powerful tool for aquaculturalists. ONCE® has developed animal-specific LED lighting systems known as AquaShift®.

The Effect of Lighting Indoors

The light we see affects our mind and a wide variety of metabolic processes within our body. Eyes are undeniably one of our most important organs. It is where light penetrates the retina and stimulates multiple biological functions. The light we perceive is part of the electromagnetic spectrum our eyes can detect, known as the visible spectrum. There are several aspects of artificial light that is important:

  1. Spectral composition: The distribution of light wavelengths (indicates how much of each color is present)
  2. Photoperiod: The number of hours of light and dark in a 24-hour period
  3. Light intensity: The total amount of luminous power produced in the visual part of the light spectrum

Using an inappropriate artificial light, or simply improperly measured light intensities, will result in the illuminance (footcandle, lux) being too high or too low. The consequences of inappropriate lighting may affect health, production and welfare of your animals due to the abnormal light-induced biological responses.

How Fish Perceive Light

The eyes are the major light receptor organs for fish. Light in the environment stimulates photoreceptors in the retina of the fish’s eye, changes chemical signals into electrical ones that are interpreted by the fish’s brain.

However, as in many other vertebrate species, the pineal gland is also an important photoreceptor. The pineal gland is an ultrasensitive light sensor closely connected to the brain. The light stimuli it receives cues biochemical, physiological and behavioral activities of the fish on a daily and seasonal basis.

Additional Resources on The Science of Aquaculture Lighting

U.S. Aquaculture by the Numbers, a short video.

Improve Animal Welfare

ONCE® lighting systems are designed to minimize extreme changes in lighting and positively directing animal behavior to reduce stress and improve their livability and performance. Abrupt changes are shown to excite animals, increase mortality rates, cortisol levels and inhibit melatonin secretion—all of which have a negative effect on their well-being. Sunrise and sunset simulation eliminates the stress inputs of switching lights on and off abruptly, supporting an animal’s immune response. By offering LED fixtures that present uniform coverage and a consistent light pattern, corticosterone levels are minimized and animal welfare is improved.

Remembering back to the beginning, when it was a natural part of life for every living creature to experience a morning sunrise and an evening sunset, is the reason we focus on perfecting the science of animal-centric lighting with our mission to: Improve animal health through applied photo-biology.

Sunset and Sunrise

The circadian pacemaker consists of two component oscillators. One is entrained to dusk and controls the onset of melatonin secretion. The second is entrained to dawn and controls the melatonin amplitude. The natural daylight spectrum during sunsets and sunrises is different from natural light at noon. There are also significant seasonal variances in the spectral composition of sunset and sunrise light.

Birds react not only to seasonal changes in daylength, but also seasonal changes in the light spectrum. These facts add to the importance of considering spectrum in the addition of sunrise/sunset controls in artificial lighting choices. The second picture on your right illustrates the typical spectrum of a summer sunset.

In the spectrum charts below, daylight at noon is compared to daylight at sunset is compared.

Why Lighting is Important in Aquaculture

Why Lighting is Important in Aquaculture

Photoperiod manipulation via artificial lighting systems has been used in the aquaculture industry to enhance production for over 40 years. However, photoperiod is only one component of environmental lighting. The other two components, intensity and wavelength, have not yet been fully utilized because of the limitations of traditional artificial lighting sources in aquaculture.

LED lighting technologies have significantly progressed so that custom designed lighting for aquaculture species is now possible. With species-specific LED lighting, a farm manager can select specific wavelength, intensity and photoperiod in a single light source.


Photoperiods can be separated into three components 1) length of time there is illumination in a 24- hour cycle (photoperiod length); 2) the direction (increasing or decreasing) of change over time in the illumination period; and 3) the time increments involved in the change of illumination over a specific time.

Experience a Return-On-Investment

ONCE® AquaShift®  species-specific lighting systems for marine and freshwater operations are suitable for overhead or submersed applications. The Built For Your Barn® design will stand up to the harsh environments of aquaculture facilities. The science behind the lighting ensures that the light input has the desired effect on the animal while the LED lighting systems provides substantial energy savings in comparison to traditional incandescent and compact flourescent (CFL) lighting systems.

The Right Lighting Program

Studies have proven that choosing  ONCE® species-specific LEDs supplied with a recommended light schedule can have a major impact on the production and animal welfare of many aquaculture facilities.

Want to learn more? ONCE® has a team of experts who know the best solutions specific to you and your animals. They make sure you get a lighting layout with the correct light levels and placement of the lights, for free! They can also help answer questions about lighting schedules and surge protectors as well. Contact someone on our Layer team today to learn more about what the right lighting program can do for you:
+1 (763) 381-5621

Energy Savings

Switching from incandescent lighting to LED lighting with dimming can save you anywhere from 85 to 95% of your lighting electricity costs. Switching from compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to ONCE® LED lighting products saves from 45 to 50%.

Durable and Lasting Product Design

ONCE® animal lighting goes beyond traditional LEDs by offering a SOLUTION so both the animal and your bottom line benefit. By researching the science of light exclusively for the agricultural market, ONCE® is able to incorporate a robust design that is made specifically for harsh agricultural environments.

The Jelly Jar (JJ), Junction Box (JB), and Hard Wire (HW) versions are suitable for use in wet locations and are IP-66 rated.  Article 547 of the National Electric Code requires LED luminaries in agricultural building be suitable for wet locations. This is to prevent electrical shock hazard, reduce the risk of fire, and prolong the life of the equipment.

In addition to being wet-rated, ONCE® lighting systems are built to withstand the corrosive vapors from animal excrement and excessive dust accumulation. This prolongs the life and eliminates maintenance costs.