planted aquarium led light

The best planted aquarium LED light is one that not only provide right light spectrum but also enough amount for all types of aquatic plants in the aquarium it is used for. So not all aquarium LED lights can benefit to grow plants and this review is written to help you choose the right one for your planted tank.

How to choose the best LED light for aquarium plants?

Kelvin Rating (K) from 6500 to 7000K

There are so many parameters of a LED light that makes you a headache to choose the right one for your planted aquarium. Firstly, make sure you use the right type for aquarium plants by considering the Kelvin Ratings of the light. The most appropriate light for planted aquariums is about 6.500 – 7,000K (Degrees Kelvin), which takes into account the color rendering property similar to natural daylight source from the sun.

planted aquarium led light

Make sure you don’t buy LED lights that are used for reef tank, which usually feature a Kelvin Rating range from 8000 to 20000K. That sounds like a stupid mistake; however, I have met someone do that.

PAR values for low/medium/high light plants

An important parameter for choosing a LED light for aquarium plants is the Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR). This is a measure of the light radiation in the 400 to about 700 nanometer wavelengths which are essential for photosynthesis. PAR values of a LED light are usually provided by the manufacturer. For example, the PAR values of the Current USA Satellite LED Plus PRO is provided in the following picture.

Current USA Satellite LED Plus PRO PAR outputCurrent USA Satellite LED Plus PRO PAR output

As you can see in the picture, the farther positions from the LED light, the lower PAR values they get. Different kinds of plants have different lighting needs.

  • For low light plants: 15-30 micromols of PAR, CO2 is not needed, but is helpful to the plants
  • For medium light plants: 35-50 micromols of PAR, CO2 may be needed to avoid too many nuisance algae problems
  • For high light plants: more than 50 micromols of PAR, pressurized CO2 is essential to avoid major algae problems.

Reference: http://www.plantedtank.net/

Based on that rule, you can place high light plants directly under the LED light to get the highest PAR output, and put low light ones in peripheral regions of the tank.

Lumen values for low/medium/high light plants

Another value that precisely measures for quantity of a LED light is the lumen (Lm). Based on the light demand of aquarium plants, there are three types:

  • Low light plants need approx 60 lumens per gallon (10-20 Lm/L).
  • Average or medium light plants need approx 110 lumens per gallon (20-40 Lm/L).
  • High light plants need over 150 lumens per gallon (> 40 Lm/L).

If you use fluorescent light, there is a thumb rule using watts per gallon:

  • Low light demand plants need approx 1 watt per gallon.
  • Average or medium light demand plants need approx 2 watts per gallon.
  • High light demand plants need over 3 watts per gallon.

Reference: tropica.com.

For LED light, it is hardly to figure out a specific number of how many watts of the light per gallon of your aquarium without the luminous efficacy (lm/W) provided by the manufacturer. Luckily, you can use either lumen or PAR value to determine which is the best LED light for your planted tank.

Based on fixture length and your tank sizes

Because most LED light manufacturers today will provide you which types and sizes of the aquariums supported by their products, you can choose a proper LED light based on your aquarium length. Just read which types of plants the LED light is used for and make your right decision.

Fixture length (inch) 10″-20″ 24″ 30″ 36″ 48″ 72″
For tank size (gallons) under 10 gal 20 gal high 20 gal long/29 gal 30-50 gal 55/75/90 gal over 125 gal

Bright LEDs and light amplification lenses

Although each LED bulb is very bright if we directly look at it, their light-emitting area is considerably small. In order that your entire aquarium could be adequately lit up, the light fixture should include more intense LED bulbs as well as there are lenses that amplify the reflection angle of each bulb. So you should also consider the bright intensity and light amplification of the LED light before buying.

LED controller/timer

A planted aquarium should be provided at least 10 to 12 hours of light per day for the healthy growth of the plants. A LED light with controller/timer is a great choice if you don’t want to turn on/off the light daily by yourself. If your LED light doesn’t include any timer, you can easily buy one separately.

Heat dissipation and long life time

It is generally said that the heat emission of LED lights are low. However, it still emits heat when it converts the electric energy into light and higher-intensity LED lights emit a considerable amount of heat. Poor heat dissipation leads to a shorter lifespan of LED bulbs and other electronic components.

Best LED lights for medium-high demanding planted tanks

Finnex Planted+ 24/7 fully automated aquarium LED with controller

  • Finnex Planted+ 24/7 fully automated aquarium LED, controllerEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 7000K/multi-color blend for plant growth
  • Modes: 24/7 feature for free-hand lighting cycle, four customizable color channels, dimmable
  • Timer/controller: a controller included for free-hand control of the light
  • Ideal for: almost aquarium plants that need low, medium or high light to thrive
  • Legs: clear legs are designed to perfectly fit various aquariums in various sizes and shapes.
  • Available sizes: 20″, 24″, 30″, 36″, & 48″

As you know, underground plants as well as aquatic plants only use light at daytime for the photosynthesis and they needs an alternate mode between day and night to thrive. Over lighting doesn’t help to grow plants, vice versa it can stress and kill the plants. The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED fixture with its controller provides your aquarium plants with a lighting cycle that mimics the natural sun rise and sun set lighting to make the plants thrive.

24/7 feature24/7 feature

The Finnex Planted+ owns a 24/7 feature, which allows for repeat lighting cycle without daily turning on/off the light by your hands. The 24/7 feature mimics the natural sunrise and sunset effects that start with a cool lit dawn, transitions into a warm sunrise morning, followed by an intense color blazing high noon, scaling down to a red sun drowned sunset and finishes with a starry night blue moonlight.

Automated aquarium LED controllerAutomated aquarium LED controller

There are four buttons on the remote that allows you to activate day elements such as Thunderstorms, Cloudy Days, Sunny Days and Moonlights by click on each of them. There are also dimmable Red, Green and Blue LEDs and four memory slots accessible via the IR controlled remote that allow you to customize and save your own countless color combinations and lighting intensities if you does not want to use the preset mode.

Size # of 7000K Daylight LEDs RGB Cluster LEDs Watts Recommended for tanks
20″ 32 16 16.8 10 gallons
24″ 48 24 24.5 20 gallons
30″ 56 28 29 30 gallons
36″ 72 36 35.8 40-50 gallons
48″ 96 48 46.2 60 gallons

For larger tank with many high light plants, you may need multiple fixtures.

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Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED light with controller

  • Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED lightEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 6500K LEDs with high PAR output for growing most types of plants
  • Modes: adjustable daylight and moonlight, various weather lighting effects
  • Controller/timer: 24 hour on/off timer with transition periods, fully controllable
  • Ideal for: the most demanding planted tank
  • Legs: adjustable docking mounts
  • Available sizes: 18″-24″, 24″-36″, 36″-48″, and 48″-60″.

The Satellite Plus Pro is a wonderful LED light suitable for most types of aquarium plants. It is designed to produce better light, higher color rendition and offers more controllable features compared to its predecessor. Its high output 6,500K white LEDs is ideal for growing even the most demanding plants while offering vivid viewing from your aquarium fish and plants.

Size # of white LEDs # of RGB LEDs Watts Lumens PAR @ 12″ depth
18″-24″ 14 6 20 1500 100+
24″-36″ 20 9 30 2000 100+
36″-48″ 30 14 45 3100 100+
48″-60″ 40 20 60 3800 100+

Information from: http://current-usa.com

Its controller offers incredible programmable ability allowing you to control almost everything to do with the light. It comes with an IR remote control and included touch keypad for easy programming. An integrated 24-hour timer function works even better than only turning on/off the light because it allows you to program when to begin a gradual sunrise and gentle sunset effects. That provides transition periods between day and night for your plants to acclimate with the light changes, and certainly it is better for your plants. Moreover, this LED light allows you to fully customize the color spectrum and intensity of its daylight and moonlight with color adjustment buttons.

You will also appreciate the six dynamic preset weather effects from the Satellite Plus Pro including fading lunar, cloud cover, storm and lightning for the realistic aquarium environment. There are also two memory buttons on the remote for memorizing your own custom color effects for later use.

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Finnex FugeRay planted + aquarium LED light plus moonlights

  • Finnex FugeRay planted + aquarium LED light plus moonlightsEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: high output LEDs for growing aquarium plants
  • Modes: daylight and moonlight
  • Ideal for: low-medium light plants, refugium sump system setups
  • Heat dissipation: High quality fixtures for superious heat dissipation
  • Lifetime: 40,000+ hours
  • Available sizes: 12″, 16″, 20″, 24″, 30″, 36″, 48″.

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ aquarium LED features a slim design giving your aquarium a sleek and attractive appearance. It offers two lighting modes, daylight and moonlight. The daylight with 660nm RED LEDs is ideal for growing aquarium plants. It is specifically designed for medium-light aquarium plants. Beside to the daylight, it features an innovative moonlight technology that gives off an elegant light for evening or night time enjoyment. The moonlight mimics the realistic light from the moon at night for the health and vitality of your aquarium creatures.

Finnex FugeRay planted +Finnex FugeRay planted +

Its construction with high-quality aluminum is strong and durable. The aluminum construction offers not only good protection but also excellent cooling ability. It functions as a heat sync to dissipate heat away from the inner working space. An included splash guard works to keep the light fixture safe when it contacts moisture or splash of water. It comes with two adjustable legs that work greatly for most types of aquariums or sump tank setups.

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Finnex Ray2 aquarium LED daylight for high light plants 

  • Finnex Ray2 aquarium LED daylightEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 7000K Dual LED Strips with high PAR for growing high light plants
  • Modes: daylight
  • Ideal for: high light aquarium plants, promoting marine and freshwater growth, refugium sump
  • High quality fixtures for superious heat dissipation
  • Lifetime: 40,000+ hours
  • Available sizes: 18″, 24″, 30″, 36″, and 48″.

Finnex Ray2 provides stronger lighting than other LED lights in the market and can grow various types of aquarium plants from low to high light ones. Its dual trips of 7000K LEDs provide high PAR output for growing even the most highly demanding plants in your planted aquarium. It comes in a variety of sizes to fit the needs of various aquarium types and sizes.

The Finnex Ray2 is equipped with durable LEDs capable of serving you for up to 44000+ hours. To extend the lifespan of the LED bulbs even further, the light features circuit boards made of high-quality aluminum and the unit construction acts as heat sync for reliable cooling and heat dissipation. The light also features a moisture resistant PC splash guard to protect it against water mishaps.

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Beamswork DA 6500K 0.50W series LED light

  • Beamswork DA 6500K 0.50W Series LED LightEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 0.50-watt LEDs including 6500K white LEDs and actinic LEDs
  • Modes: daylight, nightlight
  • Ideal for: medium high light aquarium plants
  • Available sizes: 24″, 36″, and 72″.

The Beamswork DA 6500K is high quality and energy efficient LED light fixture from Beamswork. This is one of the most affordable LED lights for aquarium plants currently in the market making it an ideal choice for those new to planted freshwater aquariums. It is equipped with versatile 6500K LEDs that provide high lumen output for medium to high light plants.

Size # of 6500K LEDs # of actinic LEDs Lumens
24″ 52 8 3100
36″ 84 16 5000
72″ 144 32 8000

It is currently available only in three sizes including 24″, 36″, 72″ for small to large planted tanks. It is pre-wired for use with an optional timer from Beamswork (buy separately) that allows you to program on and off times of the light for free-hand control.

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Marineland aquatic plant LED light with timer

  • best-aquarium-led-grow-lightEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 6500K high output LEDs for growing aquarium plants
  • Modes: daytime and lunar settings
  • A timer allows for turning on/off the light automatically
  • Ideal for: low light demanding planted aquarium, refugium sump system setups
  • Mounting legs can be adjustable for a secure fit
  • Available sizes: 18-24″, 24-36″, 36-48″, 48-60″.

Lumen and PAR information of this LED light is available for you to calculate what and how many fixtures are perfect for your planted aquarium. Based on the PAR information from the manufacturer, you can consider that the light provides enough light for high light aquarium plants in the middle section of the tank (see following picture).

Marineland aquatic plant LED light PAR outputMarineland aquatic plant LED light PAR output
Size # of 1W White LEDs # of 3W Blue LEDs Lumens
18″-24″ 18 3 1740
24″-36″ 23 4 2240
36″-48″ 36 6 3480
48″-60″ 46 8 4480

The 1 watt 6500K white LEDs provide your plants with the correct light energy for photosynthesis. The 3 watt RGB LEDs that provide 460nm blue which encourages the growing of freshwater plants, 660nm red which encourages “reaching”, and green which bring out the natural beauty of your aquatic plants.

Wonderfully, you’ll never have to worry about your plants when you have a long day travel because the integrated timer of the lighting system allows you to control when the RGB and 6500K LEDs turn on and off. Besides, you can manually turn each on or off with a single button. With this light, aquatic plants undergo photosynthesis more vigorously and grow healthier.

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Best and cheap LED lights for low light aquarium plants

Finnex Stingray aquarium LED light

  • Finnex Stingray plant aquarium LED lightEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • LEDs: 7,000K daylight LEDs, actinic blue LEDs and 660nm red LEDs
  • Modes: daylight and moonlight
  • Ideal for: anubias, bolbitis, ferns, mosses and other low light plants
  • Legs: clear plastic legs and a pair of mounting clips for flexible uses
  • Available sizes: 10″, 12″, 16″, 20″, 24″, 30″, 36″, & 48″.

The Finnex Stingray is the best choice for low light plants such as anubias, bolbitis, fern, mosses and other aquarium plants belonging to this category. Its spectrum is the combination of three different light colors to achieve great viewing and plant growth benefit. The 7000K LEDs provide bright white light to lighten up your entire tank while the 660nm Red and Actinic Blue LEDs enhance the color of your aquarium inhabitants. The 660nm Red LEDs are proven to provide true wavelength for photosynthesis activity of aquarium plants.

It is very flexible for you to set up the the Finnex Stingray LED light. It comes with clear plastic legs for attaching it on the top of your aquarium and a pair of mounting clips if you want to place it inside a hood. The Finnex Stingray is available in different sizes for small to large tanks making it easy to find one that fits your aquarium.

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Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED light

  • Beamswork LED Aquarium Light Freshwater PlantEditor's rating: Check on Amazon.com
  • Modes: day and night
  • Ideal for: low light freshwater plants, cichlid fish tank
  • Extendable brackets
  • Available sizes: 18″, 24″, 30″, 36″, 48″, 60″, 72″.

Beamswork is known with its LED lighting products that are reliable but usually come with prices nearly cheapest in the market. Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED is also a very cheap and reliable LED light that is ideal for starters’ fish tank with low-light plants. The lumen information of different fixture lengths is provided in the following table.

Size 18″ 24″ 30″ 36″ 48″ 60″ 72″
Lumens 1000 1200 1700 2000 2500 3000 3600

There is a timer from the same manufacturer (sold separately) specially designed for this LED light which helps you to control when the day light or is turned on or off. You should buy the timer to automate this process.

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Plant aquarium LED light FAQ

Why choose LED light for aquatic plants?

Among various growing conditions for aquarium plants in nature, such as substrate, nutrient salt concentration and presence of water flow to mention a few, the most important condition is light. This can be seen from the fact that no aquatic plants are distributed in deep waters where underwater light intensity is so low that plants are unable to perform photosynthesis.

LED light for aquatic plants

Unlike in the air, selective absorption of specific wavelengths is significant in underwater environment. Red wavelengths are rapidly attenuated in water while blue wavelengths can reach deep water without being subjected to high attenuation. Based on this fact, it is believed that aquatic plants use blue light to effectively perform photosynthesis in water.

Modern LED aquarium lighting contains more blue wavelengths of the spectrum than ordinary fluorescent lamps based on this concept. With this Lamp, aquatic plants undergo photosynthesis more vigorously and grow healthier. Besides, LED lights are high brightness, consume less energy and live longer than other lights make them great choice for planted aquariums today.

What happen if the light is provided too much?

Green plants, including those of an aquatic nature perform respiration as well as photosynthesis. If their photosynthesis process is undertaken in low-intensity lights, the energy produced from photosynthesis is exhausted by the plants’ respiration activity and will not be used for their growth. The light intensity where the production rate during photosynthesis and the consumption rate during respiration are equal is called the light compensation point. Plants cannot grow if the intensity of available lighting is not higher than the light compensation point.

The light intensity where the plant reaches its maximum rate of photosynthesis is called the light saturation point. Even if the light intensity exceeds this light saturation point, the rate of photosynthesis will no longer increase but rather, it may decrease due to photo-inhibition. When growing aquatic plants in an aquarium, the light intensity must exceed the light compensation point and preferably, it should be as close as the light saturation point for better growth of plants.

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