Best Automatic Light Timer

I am pretty sure that by now it has become a well-established fact that lights in an aquarium are not just some posh aesthetic additions but a complete necessity. But what about automatic light timers? Are they necessary or they just yet another marketing ploy to rip into your pockets? In what conditions should you buy them? Heck, what exactly is an automatic light timer?

In this article, we will be talking about exactly that. We will be looking at automatic light timers for your aquariums, what benefits they could have for you, the options available to you and we will in great detail tell you about the best like timers in the market so that it becomes easy for you to choose one- if you decide to buy one.

So, let’s just dive in.

What exactly is an automatic light timer?

I think it couldn’t be any clearer from the name itself. These are devices, simple controllers that let you turn on and off your aquarium lights in a pre-programmed scheduled way.

Why do you need it?

When we talk about aquarium lights we must not forget that darkness is just as important as brightness in a tank. This skipping between the lights being switched on and lights being switched off mimics the presence of sun during the day and the absence of sun during the night in the natural habitat of the fish. Thus you cannot always let your lights be switched on. This seems like a straight forward task when you have a tank in your living room, just switch the damn lights off!

One thing we must not forget is when we talk about aquariums is these are not just limited to our homes. You could have an aquarium in a public space like a bank, office. In such settings, the aquarium flight requirements can drastically vary from homes. Even in aquariums that are kept at homes the placement, and exposure to direct sunlight define how much time the lights must be switched on and switched off.

And that is exactly where the automatic light timers come in. These devices remove the possibility of human error of forgetting to switch off the light or the complications caused by the absence for a long time. Too much light catalyzes algal growth in a tank. You could just forget to switch off your light or you could go on a vacation and have no control over your lights. This is where the timers help you. They turn off and turn the lights back on as pre-programmed saving you from having algal growth or fish diseases caused due to under or overexposure to lights.

Best Automatic Light Timer

Let’s just say, that we are some sort of veterans when it comes to aquarium equipment. We have personally tried, researched, noted several automatic light timers that are available in the market. And from our expertise, we bring you 5 best options discussing their features in detail.

Bn-link heavy duty digital programmable timer

You will see quite a lot from BN-LINK on our list, and also everywhere else when you search for a timer. And that’s because this equipment just fits the bill. These are very widely used for lights, fans, and all kinds of appliances.

The 7 day Heavy Duty Timers are no more than 8 ounces in weight and are small compact units at 3.1 inches × 3 inches × 3.2 inches.  These are meant to work on 115 Volts and 1725 watts of power, so you have no qualms of the device suddenly blowing out of work if you get a high surge of power.

You can use this to control your lighting system each day, several days a week, or even several times in a single day. It is versatile and programmable enough to do all that.

It lets you have the option of setting 8 different on and off schedules per day. That means you can choose to have your lights switch off and on 8 separate times within 24 hours. And even more astonishing is the fact that the minimum on time is one minute. This means that you can program your lights to switch off at 4 AM in the morning then switch on once again At 4:01 AM of the same day! Ultimate customizable machine.

Apart from that it also lets you have separate times for separate days. For example, if you are going out of town for vacation, you check the weather and you realize that it is going to be sunny for two days and dark clouds with heavy rains are going to come on the third day. You can program your lights two remains switched off for the first 2 days during the day and then switched on during the day for the days after that providing your fish with adequate lighting each day. This is a great way to promote healthy growth not just of your fish but also your plants.

It has a 3 prong grounded outlet that fits the most common plugs in our households. There are dual outlets meaning that you get two outlets for two separate light sources. This is particularly useful if you have a large tank that needs two separate LEDs for uniform lighting. The BN-LINK 7 Hour Heavy Duty comes in handy here as you can use it for both simultaneously.

It also has a battery backup. The backup battery is not a second-grade quick fix but it is a formidable assurance that you stay on schedule even after a power outage. It has an internal battery that lasts three months when not plugged into an electric source. When it needs to be recharged, you just plug the electrical source and allow it to charge for 30 to 45 minutes and you are good to go for the next three months. After the timer has been truly balanced, use a small pin to push the small reset button to turn on the display.

Just in case all these features were not enough it also lets you switch to daylight savings mode with the press of a button. And in case you are in a hurry, it also lets you select pre-programmed installed convenient pre-set combination days. It also has a random vacation mode to randomize your programmed lights. And it is also highly efficient and saves costs on electricity.


  • It has dual outlets that let you plug in two lights at the same time with the same settings.
  • The switch on/off time interval is merely one minute!
  • It lets you schedule the on and off times 8 different occasions in a single day.
  • It has a battery backup in case your main line goes out. The battery backup is rechargeable and long-lasting.


  • The dual outages follow the same timing and doesn’t allow you to time two lights for different timings.

Nicrew aquarium light timmer

Our second product comes from a very popular and very trustworthy name in the lights department, NICREW.

Think of this as your regular laptop charger, but only smaller in size. The package comes with the timer and a relay cord or adapter. The timer has a simple rectangular settings panel with an LED screen and two cords coming out of two sides. It is 2.7 inches in length and 1.5 inches in height. Fairly small. It also is an inline timer which means that it is connected to the cord that supplies the power itself and you don’t have to attach the timer separately to something else. It makes it handier and easy to keep while in use. As we said earlier, it has two cords on each side. The ends of each cord have power connectors, one end has a 2.1 mm female connector whereas the other end has a 2.5 mm power connector. Fairly common sizes of power connectors which make it easy to use with almost any light. Now, the 2.5 mm male power connector attaches to the adapter or relay cord which in turn attaches to your aquarium light. Meanwhile, the other 2.1 mm female connector attaches to the plug that connects the timer with the power source. It is easy to set up.

The timer as previously said has a simple shape and an LED screen. It has four buttons underneath the screen that are well and enough to handle all the workings. You have the on and off button, the setting button, the “Minute” button that has a “– “sign below it, and the “Hour” button which has a “+” underneath it. Now, this light timer comes in two basic varieties. You have the Single Channel Timer Basic and the Single Channel Timer Pro. Both of them have the same build and same functionality except some features that the Pro has and the Basic doesn’t.  Both of them have intensity adjusters meaning that not only can you time when your lights go on and off but also you can control how bright or dim your lights glow. Both of them are single channeled as you can see from their names. Now, these come with ramp up and ramp down times which lets you slowly increase your light settings to the preferred intensity when switched on over a certain period of time and slowly decrease the lights to ore set intensity when switched off. However, Basic has only 15 minutes and a single programming block. It means that when you switch on your lights, this timer slowly increases the lights from zero to the pre-set intensity over 15 minutes of time instead of just glowing outright. And the same thing happens when switched off. The lights slowly go down over 15 minutes of time. This mimics the sunrise and sunset in the natural habitat. But, the Pro version allows you 15 or 30-minute ramp up and downtime with up to 6 programming blocks. In Basic, you can only switch on and off the light slowly over 15 minutes. While in the Pro you can slowly keep raising the light intensity in three-level and decrease the light intensity in three levels over 15 to 30 minutes of time. However, the Pro will cause you extra bucks. Both of them also have memory backups that take your light settings to last set up time in case of a power outage. Both of them also have 0 to 30 V and 4-ampere max input voltage.


  • It allows you to slowly ramp up your light intensity instead of suddenly switching up or switching off your lights.
  • Apart from a timer, it also has the feature of an intensity controller.
  • Easy assembly, easy setup and even easier usage. All at a minimum price tag.


  • Many customers have complained that the time setting memory feature actually doesn’t work always.
  • When you press the buttons on the timer, you can actually feel and see the buttons push inwards. Makes you question the build quality.

Bn-link 24 hour plug in mechanical timer grounded aquarium

Our second BN LINK product on the list and not for nothing. This is a well thought, well built and simple timer.

It is 4.8 inches × 3 inches × 3 inches in dimensions. It may not look bulky or big for normal things but it will block your entire socket or plug and you won’t be able to use the plug for any other connections. It has a rated voltage of 125 Volts, 60 Hz and the max loading is at 1875 Watts, 15 Ampere Tungsten, and resistive. It comes with a 15 months warranty from the purchase date.

It has a red-colored switch type on and off button on the left side. A socket or the cable from the power source on the back and a three-pronged socket for a plug that goes into the lighting units in your aquarium. Above the three-pronged socket, it has a dial with calibrations and small push plugs around it. The central circular dial is the clock dial and it is divided into two parts by the colorations. The black part represents the 12 AM to 12 PM hours while the White part represents the 12 PM to 12 AM hours. There is an arrow drawn on the dial. The arrow represents the present time. There are push pins that surround the central dial. As with every other timer of similar design, the push pins here are also very small and require pens for operation. Each pushpin represents 15 minutes. You press the pin down, it corresponds to being “On” you push them up, that’s “Off”. The socket is only intended to be used with a grounded device.

It gives you an option of 48 different on and off program settings. Unlike the NICREW above, it allows you to break your lighting times in many various slots. These programs repeat every 24 hours unless changed. All in all, it is a very capable and well-built timer.


  • You can set the two different schedules as close as 15 minutes, which may not be necessary for an aquarium but it dies to provide you with the option.
  • It has 48 different on and off schedules allowing you to customize your time accordingly.
  • You don’t have to program your lighting schedules daily, the timer remembers it for you.


  • It is a flat out timer. You cannot increase or decrease the intensity gradually.
  • The push pins are too small for quick use. You will need to pay close attention.
  • The working, like with every dial and push pin type of timer, can be a bit difficult for a newbie.

Fosmon indoor 24 hour mechanical outlet timer

Our next product on the list comes from a relatively new but reliable company Fosmon Inc. Established in 2007 in Minnesota, Fosmon manufactures a whole host of electronic accessories from audio and video gaming to automation products. So even for their ripe age, their expertise can be seen in their Indoor 24 Hour Mechanical Outlet Timer.

It is a nice looking almost square in shape, expanding 3.9 inches × 4.8 inches × 3.1 inches and weighing just at 9.2 ounces. It has a three-pronged plug on its backside that is situated more towards its upper side. This allows you to fit the Fosmon outlet timer as well as another 2 pronged plugs in the same socket albeit it will be a tight fit. It has a sliding type of timer switch on the top. Slide it to the right to turn it on and left to turn it off. Then on the body, you have a central dial as we have seen in the two BN-LINK products we have reviewed in our list above. Half the dial has black parts corresponding to the night time hours of 7 PM to 5 AM in the morning, whereas half of them are white corresponding to the day time hours of 6 AM to 6 PM. Also like the BN-LINKs, these have switch pins around the central dial. A bit unlike the BN-LINKs the switch pins are larger and are in single file. When you get these timers, these pins are all pushed down. Make sure you push them up before setting up the time. When the pushpins are pressed down, the appliance connected to the timer is turned on while pulling the pushpins down switches off the appliance connected. Every single pushpin represents 30 minutes. Turn the dial one full revolution and put the black arrow in the current time. If you haven’t previously used these types of timers, it will take a bit of time to get used to it.

Another great thing about the Fosmon is that it is the first product on our list that has dual outlets. There are three-pronged outlets on either side of the timer and you can run two appliances at the same time. However, you cannot separately time them. There are 24 different on and off schedules in this per day with as much as 30 minutes of the interval between two different schedules. Talking about the specifications and ratings it has 110 – 120 Volts AC Outlets which are ETL listed and controlled for quality and safety. Ratings are 125 Volt, 60 Hz, 15 Ampere resistive. Every other information and user’s guide manual is included in the package and is very easy to follow.


  • It provides you with 24 different on and off settings with as little as 30-minute gaps between two schedules.
  • Each unit has two power outlets allowing you to use two appliances at the same time.
  • The push pins are larger and can be easily pressed as compared to other similar push pin designed timers.


  • Whenever you turn the dial to your preferred time, it always requires you to reset it back.
  • Many users also have complained that the timer doesn’t switch on or off the appliances at an exactly preset time and that the timing is little off each day.
  • Doesn’t have gradual intensity increase or decrease function and the light goes on and off suddenly.

Bn-link 8 outlet surge protector with mechanical timer

As we said very early on the list that you will see a lot from BN-LINK on our list or for that matter any light timer list and here we are, with our third BN LINK product on the list and this one is here solely because of its functionality and not because of the brand name.

Now, The BN-LINK 8 Outlet Mechanical Timer looks a lot like your regular multi-plug because it is one. It was primarily designed so as to cater to users who want an option to connect their numerous electrical appliances and also want to control the timing of the power supplied. For this reason alone, the BN-LINK 8 Outlet Mechanical Timer stands alone in its category. It may not have been manufactured keeping solely aquarium keepers in their minds, but it is just the perfect product to have for your aquarium because it lets you connect all your equipment to one spot eliminating the clutter of wires.

It is long and has the circular dial with push pins around it like any other traditional timer. However, the push pins are small and require careful pushing down to supply the power to the aquarium light whereas pull up to discontinue the power to the lights. The black portions indicate the PM and the white portions the AM. The arrow in the center circle is to be pointed to the current time but only in the clockwise direction. Each pin represents 15 minutes. You have the power switch on the right-hand top side. It is transparent and has an indicator light with overload protection. Basically, it switches off itself when there is a surge in power, hence the name “Surge protector”. Below the power switch is the on/off slide switch for the timer.

It has eight outlets, four inside the red box, and four inside the green box with their own green and red lights on top of them. You have the option of either switching on only the non-timer-controlled power outlets inside the red box or both the timer-controlled as well as nontimer controlled power outlets. It means that 4 outlets in the red box are always going to be on. Thus it acts as a timer, a multi-plug as well as a surge protector. It lets you have 48 different setting schedules with as much as 15 minutes of the interval between them. However, since this isn’t made specifically keeping in mind the aquarium hobbyists in mind, it lacks the feature of slowly glowing or slowing dimming down as well as intensity control features that the Single Channel BN-LINK had.


  • It provides 8 outlets, the most among any other timers on our list.
  • Apart from 8 outlets, it protects the appliances from a sudden power surge.
  • You can time your aquarium lights to switch on and off schedules as near as 15 minutes. 


  • It doesn’t have intensity control for just dimming down your lights and also lacks the ramp up and down features.
  • For all its good features, it makes a lot of sounds because if the ticking push pins.

Our top pick

Our top pick is the BN-LINK Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer. It is the ultimate customizable device from BN LINK. It allows you 8 separate lighting schedules in a single day. And the time interval between each schedule can be as low as 1 minute! And it doesn’t stop there, you can set up, in advance, different timings for different days up to 7 days. Another great feature is that it also has a battery back up and it keeps on working even in case of a power outage.


  1. How long should I let my lights on?

The importance of darkness in the tank is as much as the light. The whole concept of having light in an aquarium is to mimic the natural environment for the fish. In nature, days are followed by nights. So there is your answer. You should let your lights on as long as the days in the natural environment and switch down the lights as long as the nights. This also depends upon what kinds of plants you have in the tank. Many light timers allow you to dim down your lights so as to mimic the moonlight.

  • How to set up a light timer?

Most light timers are very easy to assemble and set up. Especially the ones on our list. What you need to keep in mind the most, according to us, is that you need to check the compatibility of the outlets and pins in the plugs. Apart from that, every timer is quite easy to set up. Just plug into the power source, next cord to the lights. If you have a digital timer like the NICREW simply push the set up button and put the time of on/off in. If you have push pin types of timers you will have to push all the pins up before you set the time. Depending upon the brand, a single pin may represent 15 or 30 minutes and you will have to push down the time you want the lights to go on or off. Then rotate the central dial to the present time.

Always, follow the manuals. Granted that some manufacturers have unclear and confusion manuals, you can always have a look at YouTube too.

  • What things would I need to consider before buying an aquarium timer?

First of all, look at all the available options. See which brand and which product offers the most features you need. See if the products offer just switch on and off times controllers or intensity control of the light too. Many products allow you to ramp up and ramp down your light slowly mimicking sunrise and sunset instead of suddenly glowing on or shutting down. Also, keep in mind what kind of tank you have. Do you have a reed tank, heavily planted tank, or a normal tank? Depending upon that you may need timers that give you multiple on/off lighting schedules. If you have more than one tank, you may want timers with multiple outlets. Also, consider the prices.


Light Timers eliminate the risk of human forgetfulness and business. It is very important to look over the brightness your tank is getting and the light timers do that for you. That is precisely why we made this article. We used many of the aforementioned products, researched and took into consideration thousands of reviews by normal customers and came up with this list of easily available yet reliable light timers in the market. Our goal was to give you enough information so that you could choose the best product for your tank and I hope we have succeeded in that.

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