Pond/garden lighting

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Last updated October 2014
Are you making the most of your (fish) pond?

Why have pond/garden lighting?
Simple to install and inexpensive to run
Practicalities – electrical supply
Installing low voltage lighting
Installing mains voltage lighting
Solar lighting
Plenty of choice
Koi keepers – take care
Checklist for choosing pond/garden lights

Why have pond/garden lighting?

Whether it’s a mild evening in spring or autumn, it’s always pleasant to be able to linger as long as possible outside in the garden after completing all your chores. During colder evenings, a little lighting reveals a view through the window from your indoor warmth.

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Simple to install and inexpensive to run

However, other than motion-detecting security lighting, you don’t see many ponds and gardens lit up after dark, which is partly because many people mistakenly think that it’s too complicated to do, or the running costs will be high. But with many low voltage systems available, you don’t need to be an electrician, and as most bulbs have such low wattage (10 or 20 Watts) that they consume very little electricity. Combine that with the fact that they’re only switched on for a few hours at most, and not necessarily every evening, and you can see that your bill won’t be pushed up too much. It’s also possible to have solar-powered lighting that gains energy from any level of daylight so costs nothing to run.

Strategically positioning one or more lights within your water garden converts an area into a highlight from dusk to dark, enhancing whatever you choose, from the dappled pond surface and the flash of colourful fish (especially Koi), to various plants and ornaments. Lights don’t take long to set up, either, with most set-ups only requiring a few simple connections before you’re ready to press the on switch and let the light show begin.

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Practicalities – electrical supply

Before buying electrical lighting, check out the practicalities of installation – mainly the length of cable you’ll need. Most transformers should be used indoors, so make sure that the low voltage cable from the transformer, plus any extra cable to the lamps, will reach your pond. If there’s not the option of extending the reach with extra low voltage cable, it means you’ll have to extend the mains supply – and that means paying an electrician. Alternatively, consider Oase’s Lunaqua 10 system that uses a submersible transformer connected to a 10m (32ft) mains cable and plug.

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Installing low voltage lighting

Low voltage lighting is simple and safe for non-electricians to install. Simply clip the special cable unobtrusively to fences and walls, or bury it beneath paving and flower beds. But if you bury it, be sure to mark where it is to avoid cutting through it when gardening – although you won’t electrocute yourself, you will have to replace the cable. Next, position the lights, plug in the transformer (ie..a lump of electrical wizardry that usually forms part of the plug and reduces the voltage from the mains supply to a lower level) to a convenient mains electric socket indoors, and switch on. If the indoor socket is too far away, use low voltage extension cables – don’t be tempted to use extension leads designed for the indoors. Or you could fit a special outdoor socket and mains cabling that is all weatherproof (from Bradshaws Direct, our online garden centre and Pondkeeper).

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Installing mains voltage lighting

Mains voltage weatherproof lighting is also available. It’s just as quick as low voltage to set up, but you do need to make sure that the cables are well protected from possible damage. An earth leakage circuit breaker is essential at the mains socket or your consumer unit (where the mains comes into your premises) to protect you by cutting off the supply if you do cut through the cable.

Fuses
Whether using low or mains voltage, if you fit your own plug for the mains connection, make sure that it contains the correct size fuse to protect the set-up. Most separate plugs are sold with 13-amp fuses fitted – these are not always suitable.

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Solar lighting

The main consideration for solar-powered lighting is where to fit the solar panel so the maximum daylight can reach it, but so it is unobtrusive. Some lights have a housing that incorporates the panel, and others have a cable connecting the panel to the lamps, so ensure that the cable length suits your planned siting of the lights.

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Plenty of choice

Pond and garden lighting is widely available, with most of the manufacturers of water gardening equipment including at least one type of light in their list. Both Bradshaws and Pondkeeper stock a range with brands such as Bermuda, Blagdon, Hozelock, Lotus, Oase, Pondkraft and PondXpert providing a wide selection for different situations and budgets.

Your choice depends on whether you’d like submerged, floating or fixed lights (or a mixture), a glow or a spotlight, plain white light or colourful effects, single lamps or multiples in a rope, line or cluster, the option of adding further lamps later, and versatility of use in the garden as well as the pond.

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Koi keepers – take care

If you’ve seen pond lighting you’ll be aware of the stunning effects created by emphasising the water movement in streams and fountains, highlighting plants and revealing fish. But when it comes to Koi, you’d be right to be cautious about the creatures grazing themselves on new obstacles. If you can’t install the lights before stocking, to be on the safe side, it may be better to use above-water lamps fixed around the pond, in pots or on the ground.

However, Koi keepers can submerge lighting without worry in header ponds and other fish-free features, such as pebble fountains, bog gardens and mini-water gardens. Whether you start off with one lamp or a simple set, you’ll be hooked before you know it, eagerly anticipating dusk…

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Checklist for choosing pond/garden lights

  • Solar is the simplest
  • Low voltage is easier than mains for us amateurs, but is the cable long enough?
  • For mains systems, is the cable long enough to reach your pond?
  • Versatile? Can lights be submerged, floated, clipped together in a group formation, or used as external garden lighting? If a multi-lamp set, can the lights be used individually or only together?
  • Can lamps be placed at any point along the cable?
  • What options are there for anchoring the lamp(s) to a support such as a weighted base or other objects – pipes, pumps etc?
  • Clear and coloured lenses included or easily available separately?
  • Swivel fitting to adjust direction?
  • Adjustable angle-poise beam for simple feature spotlighting
  • Adjustable spread of light from spotlighting to general illumination?
  • Bright lamps for maximum illumination in their setting – submerged lamps need to be brighter than garden lamps to be effective
  • Easy-to-install additional lamps
  • Tool-free snap-fit connectors for positioning the lamp cables (check how strong your fingers need to be)
  • Small, unobtrusive or easily disguised lighting unit?

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