What is the best LED light for your fish tank will depend on the type of aquarium that you plan to have. It could be saltwater, freshwater, fish-only, reef, or planted. This leaves quite a large range of aquarium light types on the market that means you have more change to end up making a wrong choice. Of course nobody wants to buy a wrong thing that can’t be used for any purposes. So I have compiled this complete guide to help you know how to choose the right LED lights for different types of aquariums.
Best Aquarium LED Light Reviews
You don’t have to invest in a very expensive LED light if your stocking options are only fish and fish. Nicrew LED light is a cheap option that meets most of basic requirements for lighting a fish-only tank both fresh or saltwater. The light features a 3-position switch that offers three modes daylight, nightlight, and off. All the LED bulbs (both white and blue) are on for providing daylight while only the blue LEDs are on for the night mode.
There are various sizes available for different aquarium lengths. Moreover, the product comes with adjustable metal brackets that are extendable to perfectly fit your tank. It also comes with a user’s manual for you to easily access and install the light. It is a great choice for starters’ tanks with fish and several plants to care for.
Deckey Extendable LED Light For Freshwater Or Saltwater Tank - Unique Design
This is a very inexpensive LED light for fish tanks that contains either fresh or saltwater fish. The light is beneficial to grow aquarium plants that makes it an ideal choice for starters’ aquariums with fish and several low light plants. It comes with white and blue LEDs for day and night lighting modes. There is switch button on the fixture for you to switch between daylight, moonlight, and off.
There are various fixture sizes for choice. Besides, the light comes with extendable brackets to make it perfectly fit for various fish tank lengths that fall into these ranges: 12-20″, 19.7-27.6″, 28.3-35.4″, 37.4-45.2″. Please note that it is not water-proof, so you should not put it into the water.
It is recommended to set the light on the top of your fish tank, above a clear glass or plastic canopy, to protect the light from damages by water and moisture. If you have a fish tank with some plants to care for, the Deckey extendable LED light is a cheap and reliable option.
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light - Multiple Modes
This is a powerful equipment for freshwater fish tanks that you have to know before buying an aquarium light. The Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus light is fitted with 6500K white LEDs and RGB LEDs that provides various lighting effects that you can’t see in other aquarium lights. It comes with a single 32-key customizable remote which offers the ability to fully customize the light to get the color you want.
The remote features 32 buttons which include:
- 6 pre-set color buttons that are optimized for freshwater tanks
- 12 dynamic effect buttons including: cloud cover, fading lunar, storm, lightning, dusk…
- 8 increase/decrease color buttons for adjusting the intensity of separate colors (red, blue, green)
- 4 memory buttons for remembering your own color blends
- 1 pause/play and 1 power buttons.
What I love best in this LED light is the 6 pre-set color modes (the first 6 buttons on the top left of the remote) that are optimized and ready to use for different types of freshwater tanks. Follow the color guidefrom the manufacturer Current USA, there are colors optimized for community tanks, heavily planted tanks, Betta fish tanks, SA Cichlids, African Cichlids, Goldfish, shrimps… Besides, you can customize the preset colors to build your own colors and save them in 4 memory buttons (M1-4.) By this way, you can create countless color blends from which you can choose the best one for your aquarium.
The Current USA satellite LED Plus can be used for not only fish-only tanks but also planted tanks. Follow the information from the manufacturer, it is a great choice for planted tank with low-medium light level plants. The light can also be used on marine tanks with the main purpose of keeping fish.
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED With Controller - Fully Automated
If your tank is a planted tank with various plants to care for, there is no choice better than the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 fully automated aquarium LED light with controller. It comes with a 24/7 feature which automatically switches between different lighting colors for different times in a day.
A day in the aquarium using the Finnex Planted+ starts with a cool lit dawn light, transitioning into a warm sunrise morning, followed by an intense color blazing high noon, scaling down to a red sun drowned sunset and finishing with a starry night blue moonlight. This is better for the aquarium inhabitants because the gradual lighting changes provide them transition periods to acclimate.
If you use the 24/7 automatic mode, you only need to set the current time of your region at the first use and the controller will do the rest work to provide an appropriate lighting cycle for your aquarium. If you don’t want to use the 24/7 automatic lighting cycle, there are also other preset modes and four custom modes for you to choose.
Read the full review here: https://lovefishtank.com/finnex-planted-plus-24-7-led-light/.
Another important feature making this LED light ideal for planted aquariums is its bright white 7000K LEDs which provide high output lighting for growing most types of freshwater aquarium plants, even high-light plants.
If you have a planted aquarium and want to make your plants gorgeous, check my guide for choosing the best LED light for planted tank.
Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED For Low-Light Plants - Two Mode Operation
Beamswork is well known with its LED lighting products that are reliable but usually come with prices nearly cheapest on the market. Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED is also a very cheap and reliable LED light that is ideal for starters’ planted tanks with low maintenance plants like anubias, bolbitis, ferns, mosses…
There is a timer from Beamswork (sold separately), which is specially designed for this LED light, helps you to control when the daylight is turned on or off. You should buy the timer to automate this process. Again, if you are planning for a low tech planted aquarium, the Beamswork LED light is a great choice for the money.
Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light For Marine Reef Tank - Super Color
Most corals are photosynthetic organisms and they need a proper LED light which can provide particular ranges of spectrums to thrive. Based on the invertebrates added in your aquarium (LPS corals, SPS corals, anemones, or clams,) you will need a particular light to meet their needs. The Current USA Orbit Marine LED light is designed to help the growth of the low-medium light corals such as Soft and LPS corals. Besides, it can be used for a saltwater fish tank with only marine fish and live rock.
The most feature that makes the Current USA Orbit Marine different from other LED light for reef tank is its programmable ability. It comes with a Ramp Timer Pro with remote control allowing to automatically control the light follow a pre-set cycle. Moreover, there are various lighting effects available to use, as well as you can adjust and save your own custom schedules.
The light intensity can be dimmable from 0 to 100% that is very helpful in acclimating your corals to the new LED light when updating from old fluorescent lights. There are various fixture sizes for different aquarium sizes. The adjustable docking mounts are also included to make the fixtures perfectly fit for your aquarium.
How To Choose A Right LED Light For Fish Tank?
Basics Of Light And Colors
To begin with a simplified model, most scientists currently agree light is a combination of particles and waves. Different colors have different wavelengths along the spectrum ranging from approximately 400 to 700 nanometers (a nanometer is 10-9 meters.) Blue light has the shortest wavelength on the visible spectrum and occupies the 400nm end. Red has longer wavelengths in the 700nm range.
This is important to understanding the nature of the light that reaches corals or plants. As light penetrates water, it is reflected, refracted, diffused and absorbed by the dense medium and any particulate matter in the water. The longer red wavelengths are the first to be affected and do not penetrate very deep through the water. Shorter blue wavelengths penetrate far deeper. That is why everything looks blue deep under sea. The water is clear, it’s the light that is blue.
What this means? It is that fish, plants or corals that live in shallow, clean water are acclimated to full spectrum lighting – light containing red wavelengths, blue wavelengths and everything between. By contrast, corals from deep or dirty waters are accustomed to more blue lighting (actually less red.)
How does this translate to an aquarium light? Primarily through temperature ratings. Presently, most manufacturers will provide the temperature rating on their light bulbs. It is usually given in degrees Kelvin which refers to the type of the light.
Choosing A Right Lighting Color By Kenvin Rating
When choosing a light for your fish, your goal is to mimic their natural environment so that the fish are not stressed. To choose the right aquarium light, take your attention to the Kelvin rating of the light. Kelvin rating (or color temperature) indicates the temperature to which an efficient radiating object must be heated to emit a certain color. When the radiating object is heated to a relatively low temperature, it burns red. At a higher temperature, it turns whiter, and then finally blue.
- The 2700K would look dim white with the presence of a lot of green, yellow and red. It would look like a low quality desk fluorescent.
- The 6700K would look like the color of daylight.
- The 10,000K would have a bright blue cast.
- The 20,000K would have a distinct blue tone.
Choosing the right lighting plays an important role to boost the health of your fish, plants, corals, etc. When you are looking for a lighting system for your aquarium, it is best to consider the light available to the creatures in their natural habitats.
- If you have freshwater fish and/or plants which naturally exist in extremely shallow rivers you will need a 6500 – 7000K LED light, which provides daylight like one from the sun.
- If you have saltwater fish and/or corals, the most natural lighting would use 8000 K light for shallow water species and higher rated light for deeper water species (12000 – 20000 K).
How Much Lighting Do My Aquarium Need?
To measure for the quantity of a light source, lumen is a great value. In fact, ultimately lumen is the primary determinative factor for the growing of plants and corals rather than watts. Although, manufacturers usually provide only the wattage of the lights.
Lumen (symbol: lm) is a measurement of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. Lumen refers precisely to how much light a particular light source gives off rather than how much energy it consumes to provide the light measured by watts.
Most aquarium fish can tolerate to a wide range of light intensity from low to high. So, for a tank with only fish, without photosynthetic organisms, it is recommended to choose a light that provides proper colors for all of the fish and is bright enough to lighten up the entire tank.
For planted tank, the light you need will depend on the types of the plants in the tank.
- Low light plants need about 60 lumens per gallon (10-20 Lm/L).
- Average or medium light plants need about 110 lumens per gallon (20-40 Lm/L).
- High light plants need over 150 lumens per gallon (> 40 Lm/L).
For coral reef tank:
- To maintain a tank with only low light corals, 1000 lumens per square foot is acceptable but 2500 would benefit the livestock.
- If light dependant LPS and soft corals are added, it should be approximately 4000-5000 lumens square foot.
- If low light clams are added, 6000 lumens per square foot should be provided.
- For SPS corals, anemones and maxima or crocea clams, at least 7000-8000 lumens per square foot are required and 10,000 would not be overkill.
Remember that you can’t apply the rules “1-3 watts per gallon for planted tanks” or “3-5 watts per gallon for reef tank” for choosing an LED light. These rules are only true for compact fluorescents.
What Fixture Length Should I Need?
Based on what is claimed by the manufacturer and the length of your fish tank to choose a proper fixture length. If you can’t remember your aquarium dimensions, the following table containing the dimensions of various standard sized aquariums can help you.
Fixture length (inch)
For tank size (gallons)
under 10 gal
20 gal high
20 gal long/29 gal
over 125 gal
Benefits Of Using LED Light For Fish Tank
LED lights are more energy-efficient and provides brighter light than other lights. They generally cost more to buy, but they last longer and conserve more energy. LED lights produce only a little heat and make no noise during operating, and it can last for a decade that is far longer than other light types available in the market today.
It is easier to customize an LED light to fit various aquarium needs than other lights because the LED light fixture includes many LEDs which can be separately adjustable. It is easier to create night-time or lunar lighting using LEDs because the diodes can be segregated by colors and are easily dimmed. Plus, with the node-like, colored LEDs, the owner can create fun, aesthetic lighting effects.
LED lights provide several wavelengths of light that are essential to the photosynthesis of aquatic plants or corals in an aquarium. Using LED lighting for a fish tank is a reliable and energy-efficient way to provide sufficient light for the life-forms inside any aquarium.
LEDs do not have glass tubes, and they contain no mercury. If they were to accidentally fall into the aquarium, there would be minimal damage done to the life inside. Some LED lights are even designed to be submersed in water that offers various lighting effects for enjoyment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What light should I use for my aquarium?Some people think that aquarium fish don’t require artificial light to survive but they do. Using an appropriate light with right color spectrums can boost the health, happiness, and coloration of your fish. Some fish species like low light conditions while others like high light. Make sure you research about your aquarium livestock before choosing the light. Always use the lights which are designed for aquarium use, and if your aquarium is a high one, consider to use a more powerful light for the height of the tank.
How long do aquarium LED lights last?A high-quality LED light can retain 70% of their initial output for over 50,000 hours, depending on operating conditions and other factors. Your aquarium need to be lid up 10-12 hours per day that means you can use the LED light for over a decade (ten years) – many times as long as incandescent lights.
How long should I leave my aquarium light on?Fish, plants, and corals which derive from different places will need different light cycles to thrive. For most fish aquariums, a 10-12 hour of lighting per day is enough, and lunar light or darkness for the rest time. If you have more plants in your aquarium, the tank should be lit 12 hours a day.
Turning off the light at night will provide a time for your aquarium creatures to rest. When turning the aquarium light on or off, it is beneficial to have the room light on for at least 30 minutes to not make sudden changes and stress the fish.
How to hang aquarium LED lights?If you buy a LED aquarium kit, it usually comes with extendable brackets or arm mount bracket for hanging. If your light doesn’t include these hanging equipment, you need to buy one. To use extendable brackets, your aquarium lid should be made of clear glass or acrylic, hang the brackets on the left and right sides of the aquarium, over the lid. To hang an arm mount bracket, simply attach it to the back aquarium wall.
How to convert aquarium light to LED?For converting from an old aquarium light to LED light, you should choose a right type that has the same Kenvin rating with the old light. Plants, corals, and fish can only adapt to gradual light changes. And because the intensity of LED light is usually stronger than other lights, you should acclimate your aquarium inhabitants to the new light. To do that, you should dim the LED light and then gradually increase its intensity. This procedure should take 3-4 weeks.
How to dim LED aquarium lights?There are some ways to dim an aquarium LED light, they include: raise your fixture, use window screen or shade cloth, and the easiest method is to use a dimmer. It is ideal to choose a LED light with dimmable feature if you want to convert from the old aquarium light.