Different types of corals have different requirements of lighting. Based on the invertebrates kept in your aquarium (SPS/LPS/soft corals), you will need a particular LED reef aquarium light to meet their needs. The lighting demand generally decreases from SPS to LPS to soft corals and you have to choose the right LED light for all the corals you have in your reef aquarium. This article reviews some of the best LED lights for reef tanks that are intended for different coral types for you to choose from.
Best LED Light For Reef Tank Reviews
How To Choose An LED Light For Reef Tank?
Right Color Temperature (Kelvin Rating From 8000 – 20,000 K)
Without getting too much into the science of light, light is particles and waves. White light which is emitted from the sun is a full spectrum of visible lights including countless colorful lights from red to blue. Blue lights have shorter wavelengths (more energy) and red lights have longer wavelengths (less energy).
As sunlight travels through water, the longer wavelengths (less energy) are removed. From 15 feet the red spectrum has been removed, and by 50 feet of water, only the blue remains. Corals, which exist naturally at around 30-40 feet below the surface of the sea, mainly use blue lights as the power source for photosynthesis.
This means your corals need a light which can supply blue light (Kelvin rating from 8000 – 20,000 K) for photosynthesis. Unlike freshwater plants, which are commonly found in shallow water of rivers, use white light (6500 – 7000 K).
Different types of corals use different color spectrums for the photosynthesis, varying according to their natural habitats (how deep they live undersea). Using the right light will help to boost the health of your corals, so it is best to consider the light available to these creatures in their natural habitats. You should consider an LED light that can provide right color spectrums for all types of corals in your reef tank.
Provide Enough Light – PAR Values
PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) is the most exact and popular parameter used for choosing an LED light for photosynthetic creatures (plants, corals…). PAR designates the spectral range (wave band) of solar radiation from 400 to 700 nanometers that photosynthetic organisms are able to use in the process of photosynthesis (source).
For aquarium lights, PAR values of an LED light are usually given as a chart or table that includes PAR values of different positions in your aquarium, under the light. Following is an example of PAR from a ViparSpectra LED light fixture:
PAR measurement of ViparSpectra LED light
And following is the light demanding table by PAR of different types of corals:
Type of coral
soft corals, zooanthids, mushrooms, low light LPS
LPS corals, anemones, clams, lower light SPS corals
SPS corals, acropora monipora, hard corals
Now, could you image how PAR values are used in a reef tank? Let me give you a detailed example for you to easier to understand:
The PAR value of the 12-inch deep, 6-inch away positions under the light is 500 umol*m-2*sec-1. Based on the previous light demanding table, you can place the most light demanding corals (need PAR 200-500) in these positions for their properly growth. If aquascaping your reef tank with this application, you can create a perfect reef system in which each type of coral is supplied with enough lighting to flourish.
Other Factors To Consider
Besides choosing the light providing true and enough lighting for all types of corals in your reef aquarium, you should also consider these followings:
- Visual effect,
- Dimmable intensity,
- Heat dissipation system,
- LED bulb lifetime,
- Power consumption,
- Initiating and operating costs.
The great visual effect is also an important factor that needs your attention when choosing a reef LED aquarium light. Since coral requires blue light to survive, the problem with this is that an aquarium doesn’t look very nice when viewed under blue light. To make your corals grow but still have a nice looking aquarium, it is often best to combine blue LEDs with some other colorful ones. This gives the coral the required blue light while also bathing the aquarium in enough of the other color spectrum to look good. So give your attention to the visual effects provided by the light and make sure you love it before making your buying.
1. ViparSpectra 165 W LED Light For High Light Demanding Corals - Beautiful visual effects
Each Viparspectra LED light is fitted with 55 pieces of powerful 3W LEDs that are capable of producing high PAR output and enhancing light penetration to benefit the reef coral growth. The LED bulbs are equipped with 90-degree lens that ensure the lighting penetrates the depth of water and reaches the entire tank.
The PAR output of the Viparspectra LED light is higher than other lights making it an ideal choice for most types of corals, even high light level corals. Based on the previous PAR measurement, I recommend one fixture for a 20-30 gallon reef tank. If you have a 55 gallon reef tank, you should use a ViparSpectra 300W LED light. For larger tanks, more than one fixtures are recommended for the best coral growth.
With its two color channels, the light provides full spectrum light to achieve the balance between beautiful visual effects and the healthy growth and development of corals and fish.
- Channel 1 (blue channel): 420nm violet/indigo, 450nm royal blue, 470nm blue LEDs
- Channel 2 (white channel): 520nm green, 660nm red, 6500K neutral white, 12000K cool white LEDs
A built-in timer with remote control for you to adjust the intensity as well as on/off time of either of its two color channels separately.
It is very easy to program the controller of this LED light. For the first use, you need to set the clock to current time in your region, using the “clock” and arrow buttons. The LCD screen displays the time you set. Press “OK” to finish the setup. The rest buttons are for adjusting the on/off times and light intensities of two color channels separately. Adjust the lighting intensities by rotating the control knob on the timer controller.
- C1 ON: the time when you want to turn on channel 1
- C1 OFF: the time when you want to turn off channel 1
- C2 ON: the time when you want to turn on channel 2
- C2 OFF: the time when you want to turn off channel 2
This great reef aquarium LED light is equipped with a cooling system that includes quiet fans and heat sink to prolong its lifespan up to 100,000 hours (double other LED lights in the market). It also comes with two adjustable hanging kits for you to easily set the light above your tank.
2. OceanRevive® Arctic-T247 120W LED Light For Most Coral Types - Solid Light
The OceanRevive® Arctic-T247 LED light is developed by fellow reefers and recommended by the popular reefing forums such as Reef2Reef, ReefCentral, Nano-Reef… The PAR output is strong enough to support the growth of most corals, even the most demanding SPS.
The light consists of 48 pieces of 3W LEDs that are very bright and highly penetrating. The 90-degree lens are designed to promote the light penetration through the width and depth of reef aquariums. They are divided into two independently color channels (blue only and full spectrum) that are controlled by a built-in controller. Both of the time and intensity of the light are adjustable.
- Channel 1: 8 x Blue 470nm, 16 x Royal Blue 450nm
- Channel 2: 6 x UV 420nm, 2 x Red 520nm, 2 x Green 660nm, 6 x Cool White 10000K, 8 x 12000K
The remote control as well as the method to control the light is the same as that of the previous Viparspectra LED light. You only have to set the clock once at the first time. Use C1 ON (channel 1 on time), C1 OFF (channel 2 off time), C2 ON, C2 OFF buttons to adjust on/off times and intensities of two color channels separately to achieve the need of your reef tank. Rotate the adjustment knob at the right of the LCD screen (previous picture) to adjust light intensities.
This LED light is extremely power-saving and environmentally friendly. There is an effective cooling system including dual silent fans to keep the ideal operating temperature at 90-110°F.
For easy setup, the package comes with both hanging kit and extendable brackets. So you have two options to set the light above your tank.
3. Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light For Low Light Corals - Excellent Lighting
The Current USA Orbit Marine LED light includes dual white 8,000K/12,000K and dual actinic blue 445nm/460nm LEDs that provide eye-popping colors with vibrant shimmer. It uses 120-degree lens to provide a uniform and perfect color blend. The numbers of LEDs fitted in each size of Current USA Orbit Marine LED lights are provided in the following:
The PAR distribution of the light is given in the following table:
Follow the instruction from the manufacturer Current USA, the Orbit Marine can be used for marine fish, inverts, live rock, and soft/LPS corals that only need low light to grow. If you have low light corals such as soft corals, zooanthids, mushrooms and low light LPS that require PAR from 35 to 100, the Orbit Marine is enough to provide sufficient light for the tank.
This LED reef aquarium light features a Ramp Timer Pro with wireless IR remote for easy programming. Like other programmable LED lights, you only need to set the clock on the first time of use with the “SET CLOCK” button, and then enjoy countless wonderful modes of the product.
Firstly, the preset automatically lighting cycle with daylight, moonlight, sunrise, and sunset is the most handsome feature, which is for free-hand control. In the transition times between day and night, the light slightly changes its intensity to stimulate the sunrise and sunset effects like that of natural habitats of fish and corals. The timer controller allows you to freely adjust the intensity and duration of these modes separately.
The “M” (Memory) button allows you to program a custom color that can be called anytime you want. Besides, various preset lighting effects and weather modes are pre-programmed and ready to use. The new version of Current USA Orbit Marine now allows you to control eFlux wave pumps (buy separately) with the same remote while the old version doesn’t include these modes.
There are many fixture sizes for choice. Each product comes with adjustable docking mounts to fit various reef tank sizes.
Read the full review: https://lovefishtank.com/current-usa-orbit-marine-led-light/
4. Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro LED For Medium Light Level Corals - Amazing Light and Style
The Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro has many features similar to the Current USA Orbit Marine; however, it is specially designed to provide higher PAR output to grow more demanding photosynthetic corals (soft, LPS, low light SPS) and clams.
If you have high-light corals in your reef tank, the Current USA Orbit Marine Pro will provide enough light to make these photosynthetic creatures thrive. There are three available sizes for choice – 36, 48, and 72 inches. Each fixture comes with adjustable docking mounts to perfectly fit various aquarium sizes.
5. Kessil A160WE LED Aquarium Light For Deep Tanks - beautiful light
Unlike other aquarium LED light products with single LEDs along each fixture, LED chips of a Kessil unit are densely packed together according to a patented technique that results in better penetrating light and a wide coverage area. This makes Kessil LED lights ideal for deep reef tanks.
The Kessil LED light gives the true light with a proprietary blend of UV light for better coral growth and coloration. Thanks to Kessil technologies, emitting light colors are very well blended and uniform. The color and intensity of the light can be easily adjusted by rotating two dial controls on the unit. Color temperatures can be chosen in a range from 10,000K to actinic to match different types of corals from shallow to deep.
The light is able to create a beautiful shimmering effect that replicates the natural look of the ocean under sunlight that you can’t see with other LED aquarium lights.
The side of the Kessil unit is designed with holes for heat dissipation. The heat management system doesn’t use noisy fans, so it operates so quietly. This system maintains an ideal working environment for LED chips as well as prolongs theirs lifetime.
The product doesn’t comes with a timer; however, it is designed to work with a controller from Kessil. I strongly recommend this controller. It helps to automatically control the light follow an 24-hour lighting cycle that is adjustable about time points and intensities. There is also a preset mode for acclimating corals that is ready to use and can be modified. The controller with a vivid color display and touch sensitive navigation buttons is very easy to use.
Each unit is ideal for a nano reef tank up to 20 gallons. For larger tanks, use one more unit for every 24-inch length. If you have high light corals, use two to three units for every 24-inch length.
6. MarsAqua Dimmable 300W Full Spectrum Coral Reef Light - Very powerful
MarsAqua LED coral reef light is one of the best budget reef aquarium lights in the market. It is fitted with 100pcs of high-intensity 3W Epistar LEDs for extreme brightness. These LED chips are covered with high-quality acrylic 90-degree optical lens for better penetration (up to 1m), wide coverage and perfect color blending.
The LED chips are divided into two lighting channels (white and blue), which are powered by two separate power cords, for easy customization.
- Channel 1: Violet (420nm), Royal Blue (450nm), Blue (470nm).
- Channel 2: Green (520nm), Red (660nm), Neutral White (6500K), Cool White (12000K).
The fixture comes with two on/off switches for turning on/off each channel separately, which offers 3 lighting modes. You can use either white or blue channel, or both of the channels. Moreover, there are two dimmers for adjusting each color channel independently, offering full customization and countless color mixing.
The light fixture has dimensions of 32″ L x 7″ W x 3″ H and can cover an area of 32 by 24 inches when hung at 12-inch height from the water surface. One fixture produces enough light for a reef aquarium up to 55 gallons. For larger tanks, you should use more than one fixture for better performance.
The product features an aluminum heat conducting plate and high speed quiet fans to protect itself from heat damage and extend its lifespan up to 100,000 hours. The best thing is that you will get a 3-year authentic warranty for satisfaction when buying this great product.
7. Aquamana AQ LED 55x3W For Coral Reef And Saltwater Fish- Perfect light
The Aquamana AQ LED light comes with two color channels with 55 x 3W LEDs:
- Channel 1 (28 LEDs): 8 x Cool White 12,000K, 6 x Neutral White 7500K, 6 x Warm White 3500K, 2 x Red 660nm, 2 x Green 520nm, 4 x Violet 420nm.
- Channel 2 (27 LEDs): 7 x Royal Blue 450nm, 20 x Blue 460nm.
LED lens are made of famous brand acrylic for higher PAR output, high transmittance, perfect color uniformity, anti-aging.
This reef LED aquarium light is very simple to use. Two light intensity control knobs and two on/off switches on the back side of the light are for independently controlling each of two color channels. Turn on both channels for full spectrum.
You can adjust the intensity of each channel by rotating one of the dimmers. By this way, the intensity of each color channel is adjustable from 0% to 100%, meaning you can create countless color blends to meet your favorite ones. You can also adjust the dimmers to stimulate natural lighting effects such as sunrise and sunset in your aquarium.
The only drawback of this light is that it doesn’t include a timer for automatic lighting cycle and you have to buy one if you don’t want to turn on/off it daily by your hands. I recommend one light fixture for a 20-30 gallon high light or 20-55 gallon low light reef aquarium. For larger tank sizes, you should use more than one fixture for better performance.
How Do Corals Use Light To Survive?
The primary difference between a reef tank and a fish only marine tank is the presence of live corals and inverts that help to maintain a coral-suitable environment. The vast majority of corals maintained in home aquariums are photosynthetic. They convert light to nutrients and therefore essentially feed off the lighting available. This is accomplished through a symbiotic relationship between the corals and algae species called Zooxanthellae, which live inside the coral tissue and convert light into glucose through photosynthesis.
While many corals may also actively feed on plankton to supplement photosynthetic nutrient production, to varying degrees most require some minimal light output to survive. As a result, maintaining a reef tank requires the aquarist to pay particular attention to meet the needs of corals and other light-dependent invertebrates (like clams and anemones) by assuring the availability of light.
What is coral bleaching?
The Zooxanthellae live within the coral system and live off the waste of the coral, such as carbon dioxide and forms of nitrogen as a food source. In turn, the coral lives off the waste of them. If the coral’s environment is not kept as it should and becomes stressed, then it will expel the Zooxanthellae. This phenomenon is called coral bleaching and the bleached corals will probably die.
Coral bleaching happens when the corals are stressed that can be caused by a multitude of factors, including over lighting. Overlighting usually happens when switching from fluorescent light to LED light. That is the reason why you need a dimmer to acclimate your corals to the new LED light (many LED lights today include a dimmable feature).