Most corals are photosynthetic organisms and they need specific LED lighting for reef tanks to thrive. Although lighting is very important for the life of coral, not all aquarium LED lights can grow corals. Based on the invertebrates kept in your aquarium (LPS corals, SPS corals, anemones, or clams), you will need a particular aquarium light to meet their needs. In this guide, I will cover some of the best reef tank LED lights that are intended for different coral types for you to choose from.

What is PAR and how to use it for reef LED lighting?

The most exact and popular parameter used for choosing an LED light for a reef tank is PAR. Following are PAR values for different types of corals from low- to high-level light:

Light level Type of coral PAR (umol*m-2*sec-1)
Low soft corals, zooanthids, mushrooms, low light LPS 35-100
Medium LPS corals, anemones, clams, lower light SPS corals 100-200
High SPS corals, acropora monipora, hard corals 200-500

So what is PAR and how to apply it to a reef tank?

Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) is a measure of the light radiation in the 400 to about 700-nanometer wavelengths which are essential for photosynthesis. Consequently, light in this range is needed by the aquarium plants and the zooanthellic algae in the corals, clams, and anemones.

PAR values of an LED light product are usually given as a picture or a table that helps you know PAR values from different distances from the lighting source. Following is an example of PAR from a ViparSpectra LED light.

ViparSpectra LED light for reef tankViparSpectra LED light for reef tank

As you can see in the picture, the 24 inches deep position directly under the light gets the PAR 325; and follow the previous table, you can absolutely place high light corals in this position of your reef tank. With the same applies to other locations, you can create a perfect reef tank in which each type of coral can get its specific lighting need.

Best LED light for reef tank reviews

Euphotica programmable LED light fixture for saltwater, reef tanks

  • Euphotica programmable LED light5 star rating (5/5 by editor)Check on
  • LEDs: full spectrum with white, blue, violet/indigo, green, and red LEDs
  • Lens: 90 degree optic lens
  • Programmable: LCD control panel with remote for programmable lighting cycle, sunrise and sunset effects
  • Dimmable: digital intensity control (0-100%, fine tune to 1 percent increments)
  • Available sizes: 16″, 24″, 32″
  • Heat dissipation: fan system for the longer lifetime of the LEDs
  • Hanging kit: a hanging kit with two carabiner hooks and two hanging cables for easy setup
  • Others: an instruction manual for easy access.

LEDs and lens: The Euphotica LED light is fitted with white, blue, violet/indigo, green, and red LEDs that provide a full spectrum light for the stunning view and coral growth. It is equipped with 90 degree optic lens for maximizing coverage and optimizing PAR output.

PAR distribution of 16-inch Euphotica fixturePAR distribution of 16-inch Euphotica fixture

Lighting modes: The color temperature (Kelvin rating) is adjustable from 8,000K to 20,000K, helping you achieve your corals’ needs as well as the most pleasure view of the tank. Its digital intensity control offers the ability to fully adjust the light intensity from 0-100%. This is very helpful for you to upgrade from your current light and adapt the corals to the new LED light.

Programmable: LCD panel with capacitive (touch) control offers to set your own lighting schedule and the Euphotica LED light will automatically switch between daylight and moonlight (with sunrise and sunset effects) follow the set cycle.

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ViparSpectra Timer Control 165W LED aquarium light for most types of corals

  • ViparSpectra Timer Control 165W LED5 star rating (5/5 by editor)Check on
  • LEDs: total 55 x 3W LEDs, white channel (520nm green, 660nm red, 6500K neutral white, 12000K cool white LEDs) and blue channel (420nm violet/indigo, 450nm royal blue, 470nm blue LEDs)
  • Lens: 90 degree lens
  • Programmable and dimmable: a built-in digital timer for setting on/off times and intensities of the white and blue channels separately.
  • Dimension: 16 x 8.5 x 2.4 inches
  • Cooling system: quiet fans and heat sink
  • Lifespan: 100,000 hours
  • Others: 1 timer, 1 wireless remote, 1 user manual, 2 hanging kits, 1 x 6ft power cord (US standard 110V grounded 3-prong plug.)

LEDs and lens: 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.

ViparSpectra Timer-165W PAR value

Lighting modules: The full spectrum light mimics natural light to achieve the best balance for the healthy growth and development of your corals and fish. There are two channels: white (520nm Green, 660nm Red, 6500K Neutral White, 12000K Cool White) and blue (420nm Violet/Indigo, 450nm Royal Blue, 470nm Blue.)

Programmable: A built-in timer for you to separately program the intensity as well as on/off time for either of its two channels. It comes with a remote control allowing you to program and turn on/off the light without leaving the comfort of your sofa.

What comes in the packageWhat comes in the package

Using and lifespan: This great aquarium 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 an adjustable hanging kit to allow you perfectly set the light on your tank. One fixture is ideal for a tank measuring 24 x 24 x 24″.

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Current USA Orbit Marine LED light for low light corals

  • Current USA Orbit Marine LED light4.5 star rating (4.5/5 by editor)Check on
  • LEDs: Dual Daylight (8,000K/12,000K) and Dual Actinic (445nm/460nm)
  • Lens: 120-degree lens
  • Programmable and dimmable: automatic lighting schedules, preset lighting effects and weather modes ready to use.
  • Ideal for: marine fish, inverts, live rock, soft corals, LPS corals.
  • Available sizes: 18-24″, 24-36″, 36-48″, 48-60″
  • Adjustable docking mounts to perfectly fit your aquarium size.

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 PAR distribution of the light and others in the Orbit Marine series 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 lighting 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. If you have medium to high light corals, you should consider an Orbit Marine PRO or Orbit IC PRO fixture.

The Current USA Orbit Marine LED light features a Ramp Timer Pro with wireless IR remote for easy programming. The timer is able to automatically turn on/off the light follow a preset cycle for free-hand control. Moreover, the Ramp Timer Pro offers a time between the day and night modes in which the light slightly changes its intensity to stimulate the sunrise and sunset effects that mimic that of the natural habitats of fish and corals. You can also adjust the intensity and duration of blue and white channels separately to meet the lighting needs of your corals.

There are four preset cycles (timer M1/M2/M3/M4 buttons) which include two full intensity modes and two coral acclimation modes that are all ready to use. Besides, various preset lighting effects and weather modes are pre-programmed and ready to use. There are many fixture sizes for choice, the product comes with adjustable docking mounts to fit various reef tank sizes.

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Read the full review:

Current USA Orbit Marine Pro for soft, LPS, SPS corals and clams

  • Current USA Orbit Marine Pro5 star rating (5/5 by editor)Check on
  • Lighting modes: very flexible color adjustment and four dynamic preset effects.
  • Programmable: 24 hour on and off ramping simulates sunrise, sunset, and moonlight.
  • Dimmable: intensity can be adjustable.
  • High PAR for marine fish, inverts, live rock, corals (soft, LPS, SPS corals) and clams.
  • Available sizes: 18-24″, 24-36″, 48-60″, 72″.
  • Adjustable docking mounts to perfectly fit your aquarium size.

The Current USA Orbit Marine Pro has many features similar to the Current USA Orbit Marine; however, it is specially designed to provide higher PAR to grow most photosynthetic corals (soft, LPS, SPS corals) 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.

Galaxyhydro 55x3w LEDs for coral reef and saltwater fish

  • Galaxyhydro 55x3w LEDs for coral and fish4.5 star rating (4.5/5 by editor)Check on
  • LEDs: 55 x 3W LEDs (white, red 660nm, green 520nm, blue 460nm, purple 410nm, royal blue)
  • Lens: 120 degree optic lens made of high-quality acrylic
  • Dimmable: adjustable from 0% to 100% of the intensities of two color channels
  • Dimensions: 15.8 x 8.4 x 2.4 inches
  • Used for: 1 feature for a 20-50 gallon tank.
  • Heat dissipation: mute fans for lower noise than others
  • Others: 1 hanging kit, 2 power cords.
  • Lifespan: 30000 hours
  • Warranty: 1 year.

The Galaxyhydro LED light is fitted with 55 x 3W LEDs including cool white, warm white, red 660nm, green 520nm, blue 460nm, purple 410nm, royal blue LEDs. LED lens are made of famous brand acrylic for higher PAR output, high transmittance, perfect color uniformity, anti-aging.

Two dimmers, two switches, and channelsTwo dimmers, two switches, and channels

The light comes with two dimmers and two on/off switches for turning on/off separately each of two lighting channels:

  • Channel 1 (28 LEDs): cool white, warm white, red 660nm, green 520nm
  • Channel 2 (27 LEDs): blue 460nm, purple 410nm, royal blue
  • Turn on both 2 switches for full color.

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. One light fixture is recommended for a 20-50 gallon aquarium. For larger tank sizes, you should use more than one fixture for better performance.

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OceanRevive® Arctic-T247 120W LED light for SPS/LPS/soft corals

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LEDs and lens: The light consists of 48 pieces of 3W LEDs (Royal Blue 450nm, Blue 470nm, Cool White 10000K, 12000K, Red 520nm, Green 660nm and UV 420nm) that are bright and highly penetrating. The 90-degree lens are designed to promote the light penetration through the width and depth of reef aquariums. The OceanRevive® Arctic-T247 LED light is developed by fellow reefers and is 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 from soft to LPS/SPS.

PAR output of OceanRevive Arctic-T247 LED light

The light offers two channels independently (full spectrum or blue channel only) that are controlled by a built-in controller. The controller features a convenient remote for controlling both time and intensity of the light.

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. The package comes with both hanging kit and supporting bracket to make the setup process a breeze.

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Lightimetunnel 165w LED light for LPS SPS coral reef fish tank

Lightimetunnel 165w LED light for LPS SPS coral reef5 star rating (5/5 by editor)Check on

LEDs and lens: Lightimetunnel LED aquarium light includes 55 x 3w LEDs (high-quality 45mil Bridgelux white LEDs and 45mil Epistar blue LEDs) that are well known for extreme brightness (30% more lighting than other LEDs) and high light penetration to optimize the light efficiency. These LEDs are covered with the top quality acrylic 120-degree lens to offer ambient light efficiency as well as color uniformity.

Dimmable light and two channels

Lighting modules: There are two lighting channels (white and blue), which are powered by two separate power cords. There are also two on/off switches for turning on/off each channel. You can use either white or blue channel or both of the channels for the full spectrum. Moreover, there come two dimmable knobs for dimming each channel separately that offers full customization.

  • Channel 1 (28 LEDs): Cool white, warm white, red 660nm, green 520nm. The white lighting benefits the growth of aquarium plants while the red lighting makes your fish happy and more colorful.
  • Channel 2 (27 LEDs): Blue 460nm, purple 410nm, royal blue 450nm. The blue lighting helps to produce vitamin D3 that promotes the calcium absorption and the vigorous growth of coral.

Using and lifespan: You can use only the channel 1 if using this LED light for growing freshwater aquarium plants; however, in the economic term it is more suitable for marine reef tanks. It features an aluminum heat conducting plate and UL-approved fans to protect your lamps from heat and extend its lifespan up to 50000 hours. Its dimensions are 15.8″ L x 8.4″ W x 2.4″ H and one fixture is recommended for a 20-50 gallon reef tank.

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ICOCO dimmable full spectrum reef tank LED light for LPS/SPS corals

ICOCO reef tank LED lightICOCO reef tank LED light

ICOCO is a highly versatile LED light for reef tanks. It consists of 55 pieces of 3W LEDs (including blue, red, green, cool white and warm white LEDs). Red LEDs promote healthy growth of fish and make them look more visually appealing; blue LEDs decorate the water giving it the appearance of seawater and helps the corals to absorb calcium and vitamin D3 to promote their growth; and white LEDs that sterilize, disinfect and promote plant growth.

Lighting channels and controlling

Like most LED lights for coral, the ICOCO LED light also offer two channels (blue and white) with two switches and two dimmers. To prevent overheating that may negatively affect your fish or plants, the fixture is made of high heat dissipation material and is equipped with an ultra-quiet cooling system including 3 mute fans.

ICOCO cooling fan system

The LED bulb systems are high quality and will serve you for up to 50000 hours of continuous use. You do not have to worry about your electricity bills because the light is low consumption. All the materials used in the construction of ICOCO aquarium light are eco-friendly, no harmful lead or mercury.

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How do corals use the 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.)

How to choose an LED light for reef tanks?

Which types of lights are beneficial for growing corals?

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).


Visible light spectrum (source: wikimedia)

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 spectrum (8000 – 20000 K) for photosynthesis. Unlike freshwater plants, which are commonly found in shallow water of rivers, use white light (6500 – 7000 K) for the photosynthetic process.


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.

How much light does my reef tank need?

To answer this question you need a unit to measure the quantity of the light. Lumen (symbol: lm) is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. Lumen precisely refers to how much light a particular light source gives off rather than how much energy it consumes to provide light, which is measured by watts. Please note that there is no specific “watts per gallon” rule for LED lighting. This rule is only applied for fluorescent lights.

As a baseline consider the minimum lumen output suitable for any reef tank to be 1000 lumens per square foot of surface area for a shallow tank (no more than 18 inches deep at the location of corals). To calculate the square footage of your tank, multiply length times width in inches and divide by 144.

  • 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, the lumens should be approximately 4000-5000.
  • If low light clams are added, 6000 lumens 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.

IMPORTANT! You can use PAR instead of lumen when choosing an LED light for photosynthetic organisms. PAR is even a lot better than lumen.

What to consider when choosing a reef LED light?

When selecting a lighting system for your aquarium, besides answering two previous questions, you should also consider the initiating as well as operating costs, heat dissipation, power consumption and the lifetime of the light.

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.

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1 comment

  1. What intensity do you have the Viparspectra set to?