Pond Lighting 101: How to Pick the Right Lights

If you’re like us, you love your daytime pond, but, a lot of the time, you work late and don’t get home until dark.

That’s where pond lighting comes in.

The nighttime pond, when it’s all lit up, is so different from the daytime pond. You can light up your waterfalls; you can see the fish swimming around in front of the light.

Just a little bit of lighting here and there throughout the pond makes a world of difference.

Pond owners today have a wonderful selection of underwater lighting fixtures available to them that are very simple to install and offer an incredible experience at nighttime. Many of these lights are also suitable for outside the water, so you can use them to illuminate your trees or pathways as well.

Your lighting setup can be as big or complex as you like, but everything starts off with the same basic system.

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At a Glance: Lighting Your Nighttime Pond

  • Most modern pond lights are low-hassle LEDs.
  • A basic pond light setup includes a transformer, splitter and however many lights you want.
  • You have a variety of light sizes from which to choose.

The Basic Pond Light Setup

60-Watt Transformer with Photocell

60-Watt Transformer with Photocell

A few years ago, lighting systems were a little more complicated. You had to worry about voltage drop and line size and things like that. Today, everything is LED, which means everything is very easy to use, and you don’t have to worry about those calculations.

At the heart of all of our lighting systems is a basic transformer. The wattage of the transformer determines how many lights you can hook up to it. A 60-Watt unit, for example, can handle up to 60 Watts of lights: ten 6-Watt lights, twenty 3-Watt lights or sixty 1-Watt ones – that’s a bit much, but it’s possible! Most of our systems start with a 60-Watt transformer. You would need a lot of lights to need anything bigger.

The transformer plugs into your house current and takes the 120 volts coming in and knocks it down to 12 volts. That power comes out of the transformer through a cable, which is where you’ll plug in your lights.

The transformers we use have a photocell that senses darkness, giving you the option to have your lights automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn.  There’s also a timer switch on the back if you prefer to have your lights on only at certain times. Most of our

6-Way Splitter

6-Way Splitter

customers set the timer so the lights come on at 7 or 8 p.m. and turn off at midnight.

So you’ve picked out a few lights and a 60-Watt transformer. What else might you need? If you plan on having more than one light, you’ll need a splitter, which is a small device that simply plugs into the end of the transformer and gives you space to plug in additional lights. You can also buy an extension cable if you have an extra large water feature or need to reach landscaping 30 or 40 feet away from your pond. For a small or medium pond, though, you’ll do fine with the extra long cable that comes standard with most lights.

Once you have all your equipment, installation is as easy as putting your lights where you want them and plugging it all in.

Which Lights are Right for My Pond?

1-Watt Bullet Light

1-Watt LED

Let’s talk a little more about the lights themselves. You have 1-Watts, 3-Watts, 6-Watts, white lights, color-changing lights … How do you know which is right for your yard?

Our most popular unit is the 1-Watt bullet light. We use it in just about every water feature we build. These little lights are great for adding just a bit of accent lighting directly under a small waterfall. If you were to put this light in a pond that’s 3 feet deep, however, hoping to get light shining 6 feet away, you would be disappointed.

In that application, you would want to switch to a 3-Watt light. These bigger lights are perfect for larger waterfalls that you want to light up from 3 to 5 feet away. They can also go deeper in the water – 2 to 3 feet – and give you 10 to 12 feet of light shining through your pond. For a 10-by-15-foot pond, two or three 3-Watt lights would offer great general illumination.

Color Pond Lights

Do you have a larger, deeper pond – maybe 4 feet deep and 30 feet across? Then you’ll probably want to include some 6-Watt lights as well.

Most pond lights also work great for the rest of your landscaping. A few 1-Watt bullet lights work wonderfully for shining up a small tree like a dogwood or ornamental evergreen. These little lights provide just enough illumination to highlight the branching without being overwhelming.

You can also use pond lights on bigger trees. We have a 120-foot black walnut behind our personal pond. A 3-Watt light at the base of that really illuminates the trunk very nicely.

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