Submersible Pond Lights vs Downlights (& Pond Lighting Ideas)

Heather Clouse
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Submersible Pond Lights vs Downlights

Pond lighting comes in two main forms: submerged submersible lights and downlights.

Submersible lights are hidden under water and are sometimes detachable from the energy source. They are all waterproof and submersible. Algae overgrowth is usually a main downsight of this form of lighting.

Downlights, on the other hand, are specifically designed for larger ponds and aquariums. They are usually above the surface and attached to a glass canopy or similar to hold them up from the water.

Submersible pond lights are available in a variety of wattages and type. Some popular designs include the basic light, the mid-level light, the full-spectrum light, and the light with an ultraviolet sanitizer.

If you already have an existing pond with no lights, it’s better to install a submersible light instead of retrofitting your whole pond for downlights. However, if you are building a new pond and have the option, it’s really just a question of your personal preference of the angle you want the light to hit the water surface. Some people like the light coming out of the water with submersible lights, while other think it's better to install a downlight.

Ponds with downlights don’t require you to do any additional maintenance to make them function. They are sturdy, durable, and can be used for years without needing any attention as long as they are resistant to the elements and animals.

What Is a Pond Downlight?

A pond downlight is an underwater pond light that is designed to:

  • Make your pond and fish more visible.
  • Enhance the appearance of your pond.
  • Help you provide the natural environment your fish need.

A pond downlight may have a cracker, spreader, fiber optic or a linear LED light bar.

They can be fitted to any length or width of which they will be only be about 7-8 inches in depth. Usually they are custom designed for you application.

What the light does is create a unique light reflection that’s very pleasing in ponds.

If you are doing one big pond or multiple ponds scattered around your property, using downlights and light bars is a great way to complement the environment and add value to your home.

Here are a few more facts about pond lights:

  • There are no wires underwater.
  • Make sure pond downlight LEDs are waterproof.
  • The light tube and the LED strip can be installed and wired up by professionals in no time.

The main benefit of using a pond downlight is creating a unique watery ambience.

What Is a Submersible Light?

Submersible lights are the most common type of pond lights used for lighting up ponds and fountain environments.

They are designed to be submerged entirely in water and typically come with a power cord, inline transformer and mounting hardware. Submersible lights are a great option for lighting up shallow streams and rivers and they come in a staggering variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

Typically, they come with an underwater light bulb that is sealed inside the outside housing. Most come with a protective sleeve to prevent the bulb from breaking when it’s underwater, popping out of the metal base and to prevent the water from short circuiting the light’s power cord.

Submersible lights can be the best choice for lighting up shallow water areas because they do not cast light over large amounts of water.

As you add more water between your light and the pond bed, light becomes scattered and goes into the water area. However, submerged lights do make a power cord very visible underwater when retrofitted.

They are also a popular choice for illuminating decorative waterfalls. Some underwater lights come in multiple sizes, shapes and lengths that allow you to light up your water feature.

This is one of the most popular ones and the highest rated on our review page. Click to learn more.

Advantages & Disadvantages of LED Pond Downlights

When it comes to pond lighting it’s important to know the main differences between LED pond downlights and dedicated pond lights.

If you want to light up a small area of your pond, pond downlights are a practical choice. They are typically more affordable and offer a number of advantages over dedicated pond lights.

The first big advantage of LED pond downlights is that they are easy to install as long as you install them on a flat surface. If you want them to be hidden and flush with a surface, then you either need to retrofit a hole or hopefully are still in the planning stages of your pool lighting.

They also typically utilize thin, flat base LEDs which can be installed close to the water surface to provide lighting very close to the water and cover a larger area than underwater lights.

Considering the small footprint, pond downlights are also an economical choice.

But there are also some downsides to pond downlights. Their lighting angle is sometimes considered a little less impressive or spectacular. The light also isn’t very bright at the ground of a deeper pond as it doesn’t penetrate the deep areas of your pond very well and the light is also scattered.

This can make it tricky to see bottom-feeding fish, and even your plants and decorative objects. However, their maintenance is easier as they become less dull and aren't overgrown by algae as easily.

Advantages & Disadvantages of LED Submersible Lights

LED (light emitting diodes) lights are designed for outdoor use, and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are more energy efficient than incandescent lighting, cheaper to run, and they last longer. They also come with an automatic shut off so that the light will not burn out if you forget to turn them off when you go to bed.

Their small size makes them useful for decorating fish ponds, water fountains, and fountains or for establishing a perimeter around your pond. They can even be used to illuminate your pond in a desired color.

These waterproof housings keep the light from malfunctioning due to water splashes and allow them to be underwater without fear of them shorting out or getting damaged. Always double and triple check that the product you're using has the required ratings to go into a pond or pool for your own and others' safety

These spotlights can be attached by string, or simply set them in the fountain itself.

Tips for Pond Lighting

Pond lighting has become more sophisticated over the years. By using simpler on/off switches, there is no “accidental” turning off of pond lights anymore.

Of course, even the best pond light will not work without a power source. Many manufacturers offer solar powered lights these days. You can also buy LED light kits and run them on a timer for more convenience.

Unfortunately, these spot lights do not penetrate below the water’s surface. To illuminate areas beneath the water, you will need to use an underwater light.

Choosing the best pond light for your needs may seem a bit overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Generally, the higher the wattage, the brighter the light. The best wattage depends on your pond size, depth, and intensity of light that you need.