Germanium quantum dots (QDs) embedded in SiO2 or in Si3N4 have been studied for light harvesting purposes. SiGeO or SiGeN thin films, produced by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, have been annealed up to 850 degrees C to induce Ge QD precipitation in Si based matrices. By varying the Ge content, the QD diameter can be tuned in the 3-9 nm range in the SiO2 matrix, or in the 1-2 nm range in the Si3N4 matrix, as measured by transmission electron microscopy. Thus, Si3N4 matrix hosts Ge QDs at higher density and more closely spaced than SiO2 matrix. Raman spectroscopy revealed a higher threshold for amorphous-to-crystalline transition for Ge QDs embedded in Si3N4 matrix in comparison with those in the SiO2 host. Light absorption by Ge QDs is shown to be more effective in Si3N4 matrix, due to the optical bandgap (0.9-1.6 eV) being lower than in SiO2 matrix (1.2-2.2 eV). Significant photoresponse with a large measured internal quantum efficiency has been observed for Ge QDs in Si3N4 matrix when they are used as a sensitive layer in a photodetector device. These data will be presented and discussed, opening new routes for application of Ge QDs in light harvesting devices. (C) 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.