Last Updated on April 25, 2023 by Coral Realm
After the actual fish tank itself, choosing an appropriate aquarium light is the most important thing. Not only are aquarium lights responsible for illuminating the tank so that you have the best visual experience, they are also responsible for providing sufficient light for plant or coral growth. Both aquarium plants and corals use light for photosynthesis to convert sunlight to energy. Proper aquarium lighting is a key part of both freshwater and saltwater tank setups.
Maintaining a healthy and vibrant planted aquarium requires proper lighting, and LED lights have become a popular choice for their energy efficiency and customizable options. However, with so many options on the market, finding the best LED lights for a planted aquarium can be overwhelming. In this article, we will guide you through some of the top-rated LED lights designed specifically for planted aquariums, and explore the factors to consider when choosing the right lighting for your aquatic plants.
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If this article is too long to read, please take a look at the lights below, we’ve vetted them and gone into detail below on why these are suitable lights for a diverse set of tank environments, regardless of if you have saltwater or freshwater tanks. If you’re looking for something more specific, read on.
Why Choose LED Aquarium Lights
Using LEDs in a planted tank is essential for the health and growth of aquatic plants. Unlike traditional lighting options, LED lights provide a full spectrum of light that closely mimics natural sunlight, which is necessary for photosynthesis. Additionally, LED lights are more energy-efficient and long-lasting than other options, making them a cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. With the right LED lighting, planted aquariums can thrive, creating a beautiful and natural ecosystem that benefits both the plants and the fish that call it home.
Some of the best aquarium lights are LEDs; that’s just a fact in 2023. While there are several types of aquarium lighting available, perhaps the best overall are aquarium LED lights, although this of course depends on the individual tank setup. Fluorescent lighting offers simple illumination, and whilst bright, and cheaper, doesn’t offer the range of features that LED lighting can. Fluorescent light can simply be turned on or off.
Aquarium LED lights offer a range of price points, and features that are tailored to different aquarium setups. Some are cheap, simple offering tank illumination, while others are specifically tailored for planted tanks, or coral reef tanks. The spectrum of light that is emitted is designed to be in the range that corals or plants need for optimal growth, enabling the healthiest tank possible. LEDs also function at a low heat, which can prevent the tank from overheating.
There are also a whole range of features that LED aquarium light can offer that fluorescent lighting simply can’t. These include different colored lighting, mood lighting, and a range of lighting effects, such as simulating weather patterns. Many aquarium LED lights offer daytime and nighttime modes, with the nighttime modes simulating moonlight and the passing of storms.
How to choose the best led lights for planted aquarium
In order to choose and purchase the right aquarium LED lights for your personal tank setup you need to keep a few things in mind.
First of all, what kind of tank setup do you have? Depending on whether you have a freshwater or saltwater tank will instantly change what to look for in an aquarium light.
Next, what are you intending the lights to do? If you have a freshwater tank and you want it to be a planted tank, then you need to ensure that the LED lights provide enough light to enable growth and maintain the health of your plants. You also need to consider the species of plant you want. Some species only require low light, and will be able to have less intense lighting from a cheaper more standard LED aquarium light, while other plants require high intensity lighting which will only be provided by more specialized units.
The same can be said about saltwater tanks. If you have a FOWLR tank (fish only with live rock), then you only need to illuminate the fish. However if you want to have a coral tank with LPS and SPS corals, you need to provide more specialist lighting which provides corals with the spectrum of light they need for photosynthesis. Most soft corals have lower light requirements; for instance Xenia coral absorbs nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate directly from the water column to further supplement nutritional needs.
Also keep in mind how deep your tank is. The amount of light that reaches the bottom of the tank is very important. If you have a very deep tank and want to grow plants or corals, then you will need a powerful LED aquarium light which will produce intense light which will reach the bottom. However in a shallow tank a less powerful light is needed as the light has less water to travel through. For instance a 10 gallon fish tank which has a depth of 12 inches needs less intense light than a 100 gallon tank with a depth of 24 inches.
As you read our reviews of the best aquarium LED lights keep these things in mind and you will be able to pick the perfect aquarium light for you!
Best LED Aquarium Light Reviews
In the following section we will review the best LED aquarium lights that are available at the moment. All of these lights are extremely good, but offer different functions that you may be looking for.
A planted aquarium is not just a home for fish, it is a living ecosystem that requires proper lighting to promote the growth and health of aquatic plants. While traditional lighting options have been used for years, LED lights have become a popular choice for their energy efficiency and customizable options. In this article, we will guide you through some of the best LED lights for planted aquariums, and explore the factors to consider when choosing the right lighting for your aquatic plants.
The best LED lights for planted aquariums provide a full spectrum of light that closely mimics natural sunlight. This is because plants require a range of wavelengths for photosynthesis, the process by which they convert light into energy. LED lights that provide a full spectrum of light promote healthy photosynthesis and growth in aquatic plants, creating a lush and vibrant aquatic environment.
When choosing the best LED lights for a planted aquarium, it is important to consider the intensity of the light. The intensity of the light is measured in lumens per gallon, and the ideal range for planted aquariums is between 20 and 40 lumens per gallon. LED lights that are too intense can cause algae growth, while lights that are not intense enough can result in poor plant growth.
Another factor to consider is the color temperature of the LED lights. Color temperature is measured in kelvin (K) and refers to the color of the light. The ideal color temperature for planted aquariums is between 5000K and 7000K, which closely resembles natural daylight. LED lights with a lower color temperature can cause plants to appear yellow or brown, while lights with a higher color temperature can make the aquarium look too blue.
Size is also an important factor to consider when choosing the best LED lights for a planted aquarium. The size of the LED lights should match the size of the aquarium to ensure even lighting. It is also important to consider the number of LED lights needed, as too few can result in uneven lighting and poor plant growth.
Now that we have explored the factors to consider when choosing the best LED lights for a planted aquarium, let’s take a look at some of the top-rated options on the market.
NICREW SkyLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light
The NICREW SkyLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light is a new LED light system from NICREW. It is designed specifically for freshwater planted tanks, and produces strong and intense light which allows even high light intensity needing plants to grow. There are two modes, daylight and nighttime, to choose from, with six levels of light intensity adjustment to choose as well.
Perhaps the best thing about this aquarium LED light is the price tag. For the features and color spectrum that it carries, it is extraordinarily cheap. This isn’t to say it is bad quality; it is produced using an aluminum alloy shell that’s incredibly durable and optimizes heat dissipation. There are also a wide range of size options to allow mounting on tanks from 12-52 inches wide. Each unit has adjustable mounts for extra sizing adjustments.
The NICREW SkyLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light includes bright white LEDs that produce 6,500K illumination, which is the color temperature of sunlight for a natural feel in your tank. There are also 450nm blue LEDs for moon glows for nighttime viewing and 660nm red LEDs for enhanced colors. Most importantly these blue and red LEDs also produce light in the spectrum that plants primarily use for photosynthesis. This allows for plants to grow to their full potential and for their colors to be enhanced.
With spectrum and light intensity flexibility, you can choose the best lighting settings for your specific tank setup. It is recommended that you have the white LEDs on 100%, and the blue on 60%. This produces light of 9000K which will enhance the colors of your fish and plants, and provide plants with enough PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) which they need to grow.
Current USA Satellite Plus Pro
The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro is a fantastic light which offers amazing lighting effects, fully customizable daylight and moonlight color spectrums, and a customizable 24 hour lighting program. Not only this, but the color spectrum produced is designed specifically for freshwater tanks, enabling growth of even high light intensity plants. The PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) values are brilliant, with the light able to penetrate the water column to promote photosynthesis.
Firstly, the lighting effects are very cool. There are six dynamic weather effects which include cloud cover, fading lunar, storm, and lightning. These effects are available at the touch of a button on the remote control, and really add an extra layer of uniqueness to this LED aquarium light.
The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro contains 6,500K white LEDs which produce light to mimic the color of the sun to properly illuminate your aquarium in a natural way. Also embedded in the unit are RGB (red green blue) LEDs which produce red, green, and blue light to promote photosynthesis of your plants. Plants use red, green, and blue lighting to fuel all of their processes. As an extra boost, the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro also has 660nm red LEDs to further generate red light in the exact wavelength which plants use for photosynthesis. All this enables many plants, even high intensity needing plants, to be grown and maintained successfully in your fish tank.
There is a built-in 24 hour timer which enables you to fully customize the color intensity and spectrum of both the daylight and moonlight programs, as well as the start times of a gradual sunrise and gentle sunset.
Overall, this is a brilliant freshwater aquarium light system. The only negative thing to say about it is the price tag, but if you are keen on successfully keeping a well planted freshwater aquarium then it is worth every cent. Check out a storm in the video below!
Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro Dual LED Aquarium Light
Another top-rated LED light for planted aquariums is the Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED Light. This light also provides a full spectrum of light, including white, blue, and RGB diodes. The Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED Light features customizable color settings and multiple lighting modes, including sunrise, sunset, and moonlight modes. Additionally, this light is adjustable and can be programmed to simulate a natural day and night cycle.
The Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro Dual LED Aquarium Light is another fantastic top of the range aquarium LED light from Current USA. Whereas The Satellite series is designed specifically for freshwater plants in mind, the Orbit Marine series is designed specifically for saltwater reef aquariums and for coral growth.
The Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro produces a vibrant and full color spectrum using not just one, but dual LED fixtures. Using dual fixtures delivers up to twice the amount of light to your tank. There are also amazing features in this LED aquarium light, such as weather effects, a 24 hour fully customizable biorhythmic light cycle, adjustable light spectrums and intensity, and built-in wave pump control.
A powerful blend of dual actinic blue 445nm/460nm LED light, dual daylight white 6,700K/10,000K color temperature lighting and RGB LEDs produce the spectrum of light required by corals for growth and photosynthesis. Notice how extra blue LEDs, rather than red LEDs on the Satellite series, are included. This is because corals utilize more of the blue spectrum of light rather than the red that plants use more of. This means corals are provided with the light spectrum they need.
Combined with 90° spherical optical lenses, the Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro delivers the perfect blend of light for strong coral growth and brilliant color rendition, allowing full visuals of corals and fish.
The 24 hour biorhythmic cycle has a fully customizable on/off time which includes being able to set timings for a gradual sunrise, sunset, daylight, and moonlight. Of course you can also fully adjust the color spectrums and light intensity for each of these settings. You are also able to choose between six weather effects to see clouds, storms, and lightning roll across your aquarium.
What is brilliant is that you can have control over up to 3 aquarium wave makers using the wireless LOOP control. Using the control you can control flow mode, flow rate, and most useful in our opinion, use the feed mode, which stops the wave makers for 10 minutes allowing you to feed your corals and fish without incident.
The LOOP control allows you full control over every aspect of the lighting in your tank. IT also allows you to choose clean mode, which changes the lighting to highlight algae and debris so that you can easily find it to clean it!
While the Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro Dual LED Aquarium Light is expensive, it is the best aquarium light for saltwater reef tanks. If you have a smaller tank, the standard Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light is a cheaper option which has all of the features of the Pro model.
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Series Aquarium LED Lights
One of the best LED lights for planted aquariums is the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED Klc Aquarium Light. This light provides a full spectrum of light, including red, green, and blue diodes, as well as infrared and UV. The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED Klc Aquarium Light is also adjustable, allowing you to customize the lighting for your specific plant species. Additionally, this light features a 24/7 automated lighting cycle, which simulates a natural day and night cycle for your aquatic plants.
The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 series of aquarium lights are brilliant. There are four different models in this series; the HLC, ALC, KLC, and CRV. All have been designed for planted tanks, and allow for the growth of any plant species, from low light requirement plants to high-intensity requirement plants. With 5 size options available for each of these lights, you can be sure that there is one to suit your tanks needs.
Each Finnex Planted+ 24/7 aquarium LED light model has a programmable 24/7 feature. This starts with a cool gently lit dawn, which then transitions to a warm sunrise morning and an intense color blazing high noon. This is then scaled down to a red sunset and finally finishes with a starry blue moonlight night. Using the controller you are able to fully customize each of these lighting modes to your specifications.
The HLC and KLC models have bright white LEDs alongside RGB LEDs. The white lights produce a great natural looking light to illuminate your fish tank, while the RGB lights produce light in the spectrum needed for photosynthesis.
While these lights are brilliant, the CRV and ALC models take it further. The CRV model has the same white and RGB LEDs, but also has true red LEDs as well. These true red LED light fixtures produce the exact spectrum that lights primarily use for photosynthesis, further enhancing growth and health. The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 ALC model gets rid of the RGB LEDs, and instead goes with white, true red, and then separate green and blue LEDs. Having each color separate means that the spectrum and intensity of light emitted is exactly what plants require, meaning that they will be as healthy as they can be.
In all the models the PAR values are very impressive, enabling plants to grow even in large deep tanks. The ALC model has the best PAR values, with light penetrating the deepest of the four models.
Hygger LED Aquarium Light
The Hygger Full Spectrum LED Aquarium Light is a brilliant aquarium light. Firstly, it is very affordable. It might seem quite expensive, but it is on the low price end, and it comes with many great features that you would only expect on much more expensive units.
The light spectrum that is emitted is designed to enable plants to grow happily in the tank. It will enable photosynthesis and will enable the growth of even high-intensity light requirement plants.
Not only does the spectrum emitted enable plant growth and health, but it will fully illuminate the tank and your fish. At max power it is super bright and will light up any aquarium. Also important to note is that the Hygger LED Aquarium Light has a color rendering index of 89. This is a score out of 100 which notes how closely to sunlight the light emitted is. 89 is incredible for an LED, and means that the light is less likely to hurt your eyes, won’t create a flashing mobile screen when taking pictures, and most importantly, means a more natural light for your fish.
There are six different size models available, which suit fish tanks from 12 inches wide to 55 inches wide. All models have an extendable bracket on each side, so that there will definitely be a Hygger LED light which fits your aquarium.
The Hygger LED aquarium light also comes with many great features. Not only can daylight and nighttime modes be programmed, but the brightness and color and also be changed. The default setting is for full spectrum white light during the day and blue light in the evening. Daylight full spectrum lighting is pre-programmed for 06:30-18:30, and the blue light evening period is programmed for 18:00-23:30, after which the light will turn off.
These start and end times are fully customizable, as are the nighttime colors. There are six colors to choose from; dark blue, green, purple, cyan, yellow, and red. Very cleverly, the brightness of the Hygger LED aquarium lights will gradually become brighter throughout the day then dimmer towards evening to simulate the natural passing of the sun.
There is also a DIY lighting mode that you can choose to fully customize the lighting programme for fish and plants. There are 8 time stages to choose from, and 10 brightness settings. Stages L1-6 are optical light, while stages L7 and L8 are blue light. The 10 brightness settings are from 10% – 100% brightness. You can set the timing of each lighting stage and the brightness of each stage.
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Aquarium Light
The Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Aquarium Light is designed for aquarists who are trying to set up a freshwater planted aquarium. The Fluval 3.0 is designed and guaranteed to maintain a thriving planted tank environment. There are some brilliant features that make this aquarium light absolutely fantastic.
The Fluval Plant 3.0 produces white light at 6500K to fully illuminate your tank. This temperature of light simulates sunlight, so you get a natural feel to your tank. The LEDs produce a 120° spread of light to illuminate every part of the tank and not generate any dark or dead spots. Not only are there white LEDs, but blue and red as well. These colored LEDs generate light in 6 unique band waves which encourage plant growth and offer a range of features.
An app is used to control the Fluval Plant 3.0. There is a fully programmable 24 hour lighting cycle which includes sunrise, mid-day, dusk, and night. This contour mimics the natural light cycle of the sun, and allows your plants and fish a much more natural tank environment.
You can also fully control the color of the light which is produced according to the needs of your specific tank. The available color options are pink, blue, warm white, cold white, and pure white. You are able to program each of the colors to be at anything up to 100% during each cycle. While you can create a custom lighting habitat for your aquarium, you can also choose one of three pre-set lighting habitats. These are Lake Malawi, tropical river, and planted.
The construction has also been upgraded, with a lighter frame reducing weight by 50%. New generation H.T.E (High Thermal Efficiency) LEDs are utilized which function at a higher operating temperature. These lights provide improved long-term light output and performance.
While these features are brilliant, the major downside is that the app can be a bit finicky, while the lack of weather effects is a shame at the price point.
The Fluval Plant Spectrum LED Light remains a top choice for planted aquariums. This light provides a full spectrum of light, including red, green, and blue diodes, as well as infrared and UV. The Fluval Plant Spectrum LED Light features customizable color settings and multiple lighting modes, including sunrise, sunset, and moonlight modes. Additionally, this light is adjustable and can be programmed to simulate a natural day and night cycle.
Fluval Sea LED Marine 3.0 Aquarium Light
The Fluval Sea LED Marine 3.0 Aquarium Light is the saltwater equivalent to the Fluval 3.0 Plant. It has been designed with saltwater reef tank needs in mind, specifically coral growth. The features that it possess enables a thriving and healthy reef ecosystem. There are three different size options available to fit different size aquaria, and there is also a nano version available which is suitable for small nano tanks, such as 5 gallon fish tanks.
The most important feature to speak of is the inclusion of 7 unique LED band waves which fully supports strong coral growth. These bands are 400nm, 420 nm, 440nm, 460nm, 480nm, 10000-13000K, and pink lighting. The light spectrums that are produced are perfect for encouraging coral growth and health.
You also have full control over the spectrum emitted; you can independently control pink, cyan, blue, purple, and cold white lighting. There are three pre-set light configurations that you can choose from as well, which are sunny reef, deep sea glow, and color boost. Along with being able to control the color spectrum emitted, you can also program a 24 hour lighting cycle which includes sunrise, mid-day, dusk and night. This emulates a natural 24 hour light rhythm so that your fish and corals are comfortable.
All of these features can be controlled on your phone on the Fluval app. This makes it very easy and convenient to change and set up the aquarium light according to the needs of your specific tank setup.
Fluval Aquasky LED Strip Light
The Fluval Aquasky LED Strip Light is suitable for freshwater tanks and fish only saltwater tanks. The spectrum that is emitted can grow low light plants, but isn’t suitable for coral growth, hence being suitable only for FOWLR (fish only with live rock) saltwater tank setups.
A fully programmable 24 hour lighting cycle emulates sunrise, mid-day, dusk and night. This creates a natural and realistic environment so that your fish feel most comfortable. The Aquasky LED Aquarium Light pairs super bright 6500K white LEDs alongside tri-colored RGB LEDs. This combination provides an adjustable light spectrum capable of replicating various wild aquatic environments. There are also various weather effects that you can control to fully immerse yourself in the lighting experience.
As with the Fluval 3.0 the Fluval Aquasky can be fully controlled via bluetooth from the Fluval app. This is extremely useful and makes customizing the light intensity and spectrum nice and easy. There are also three size options available for different sized tanks.
Marineland LED Aquarium Light
The Marineland LED Aquarium Light is a brilliant basic aquarium LED lighting fixture. While it is on the lower end of the price spectrum, it still has three modes of operation. These are on for daylight effect, blue for a moonlight glow effect, and off. While there isn’t an included timer, you can use a separate timer if you want automated control.
The LEDs create a natural shimmer light which will enhance the colors of your aquarium and allow for growth of low light plants. With upgraded white LEDs the light produced is 25% brighter than in previous models as well. The blue moonlight is a great feature which allows you to enjoy the evening and have lovely blue light which won’t disrupt your fish.
This aquarium light is designed to be used over a glass canopy. Don’t use it directly over the water as you may run into problems down the line due to water and splash damage. Rubber feet are found on the base to prevent the LED light from slipping on the glass. The Marineland LED Aquarium Light is suitable for aquariums of up to 30 inches long.
BeamsWork DA FSPEC Aquarium LED Light
The BeamsWork DA FSPEC LED aquarium light is a brilliant mid range unit designed for freshwater tank setups. There are six size options available which suit aquariums from 20 inches to 72 inches in length.
This model is an upgrade from the BeamsWork EA model. The BeamsWork DA FSPEC has 10000K white LED lights that illuminate the tank with very bright and beautifully colored light. There are also actinic 460nm, red 620nm, and green 520nm LEDs as well. Not only do these colored LED lights create a more natural effect, but they also generate light in the wavelengths that plants use for photosynthesis. This enables plants to grow to their full potential.
There are two operational modes that allow for full power during daylight hours and for a moonlight effect during the night. While there is no built-in timer, the BeamsWork DA FSPEC can be fitted with a separate timer module to enable this.
Perhaps the biggest downfall with this light is that it might be too bright. While this sounds a bit strange, not being able to dim the light intensity can lead to excess algal growth. However limiting nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate, and using a phosphate remover or chemical filtration media to remove these plant fertilizers can help. Many users have had great success with a separate dimmer switch as well.
COVOART Underwater LED Aquarium Light
The COVOART Underwater LED Aquarium Light is a little different to the rest of the aquarium LED lights on this list. It is fully waterproof, and is designed to sit below the waterline in the fish tank itself!
While it can be used as the main light in small tanks this isn’t really what it is designed for. It is mainly designed to be used in conjunction with another main lighting unit. The main lighting unit will produce the light required by plants or corals, and the COVOART aquarium light will create the ambience.
With 19 modes and 12 frequently-used colors, there are plenty of options to choose from. The colors that it produces will make your aquarium come to life, and can really take a tank to another level!
In conclusion, choosing the right LED lights is crucial for the success of a planted aquarium. The best LED lights provide a full spectrum of light that closely resembles natural sunlight, promoting healthy photosynthesis and growth in aquatic plants. It is important to consider factors such as intensity, color temperature, and size when selecting LED lights for a planted aquarium. With the right lighting, a planted aquarium can thrive, creating a beautiful and natural environment that enhances the well-being of both the plants and the fish.
Ensuring that you get an appropriate LED aquarium light is just as important as having the right filtration system or protein skimmer. If you try to have a planted tank, or a saltwater reef tank with corals, with the wrong lighting they won’t grow to their full potential and may even become unhealthy and die.
To make sure that you have a healthy tank, and that you can gain full enjoyment from your fish tank, making sure that you have made the right aquarium LED lighting decision is vital.
So hopefully this article has given you some insight into what LED aquarium lights there are out there on the market! If you have any questions at all or want advice on your specific tank, let us know in the comments!
Feature Image Credit: Dornenwolf (Flickr)