An aquarium only comes to its rights when it’s beautifully lit, and the best lighting for aquariums also provides all your fish, plants, and corals’ requirements. LED lights dominate the aquarium lighting market, making it challenging to know what light best suits your tank and budget.
Thankfully, we’ve done all the hard work and compiled a list of the best LED aquarium lighting available for your consideration. With our handy buyer’s guide, we demystify LED lights so that you can make the best choice.
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Top LED Aquarium Lighting Review
It’s time to flip the switch and see what LED aquarium lighting units are available and which would work for your aquarium. Consider these pros and cons to make the most informed buying decision.
Let’s take a look!
1. Best Overall: Nicrew Classic LED Gen 2 Aquarium Light
The best option and our top pick overall is a simple and affordable solution that comes in various sizes. The Nicrew Classic LED Gen 2 Aquarium Light is the 2nd generation of the popular LED light. Some updates from the original LED light make this a stunning LED light. This is the best Nicrew LED lights aquarium model, and it is high quality and beginner-friendly, too.
Choose from the four different sizes, ranging from 12-60 inches. The light has white and blue LEDs, a remote control operation, a timer with a ramp-up over 15 minutes, and preset timing schedules.
The Nicrew Classic LED 2nd Gen aquarium light is 50% brighter than their previous model. It comes with extendable brackets so you can more easily mount your Nicrew LED light to your aquarium.
This LED light is energy efficient and lets you program with a dual-channel timer and enjoy sunrise and sunset effects. It’s ideal for any tank with fish and plants requiring medium to high lighting. The blue light makes it suitable for coral reef tanks, too.
- Various lighting modes that you can control
- Limited spectrum LED aquarium light design featuring blue and white lights
- Works for freshwater aquariums, marine aquariums, planted aquariums, reef tanks, and more
- The best aquarium light overall and perfect for beginners
- Bright light enhancement so the light penetrates the water better
- Reasonably priced
- The lack of red light makes this light less ideal for sensitively planted tanks that require more photosynthesis assistance
Why We Like It:
No matter your lighting needs, this LED aquarium lighting system will provide great primary light. It’s straightforward and compatible with freshwater fish tanks, reef tanks, and other aquatic uses without rapidly increasing energy costs.
Related Review: BeamsWork LED Aquarium Light
2. Budget Choice: MingDak Submersible LED Aquarium Light
When you are on a budget and have a smaller aquarium, the MingDak Submersible LED Aquarium Light is ideal. It’s fully submersible, which makes it an excellent choice for some underwater light magic.
It has a blue and white spectrum, and you can choose whether you want each color individually or combined with the three channels. It’s a great light for some theatrical effects in your tank, and it provides excellent light for fish and coral reefs. The white light also contributes to some plant growth (though you may is ideal.need to add a secondary light with a red spectrum if you want more growth).
The light has a built-in timer with preset schedules for 6, 10, and 12 hours, which is great when you are traveling and can’t get home to switch off the light at night. While the LEDs are really bright, you can easily adjust this with the channel dimmers in 10% increments to full brightness.
Attach the light with suction cups or secure it in your tank among some decorative tank elements for extra effect. And at a great price, you can even get two for a larger tank.
- Available in four sizes: 4 inches and 4 watts up to 18.5 inches and 11 watts
- Very affordably priced
- Includes wired controller for on/off, dimming, channel selection, and timer
- The suction cups are removable for extra mounting options
- Full IP68 waterproof coverage to ensure no leaking
- It can be attached to the exterior of the tank
- When submerged, algae and silt may deposit on the light’s glass housing
- The suction cups easily detach from the tank
Why We Like It:
The quality and price of this submersible aquarium light is great value for money. The light has limited capability with no fancy settings (other than dimming), but it’s a great essential light and ideal to combine with other lights to submerge and create in-tank uplighting.
3. Best for Reef Lighting: Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light
If you’re looking for the best LED lighting for a reef tank, look no further than this Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED lighting solution. The Current USA Orbit marine aquarium lights are as bright as fluorescent lights without the harsh effects or heavy energy costs. The light has many light effect options to better illuminate and entertain.
This LED strip light is great for saltwater aquariums with coral reefs and provides the best light solutions for corals and fish. The light has a broad color spectrum with a higher proportion of blue light, which assists corals in synthesizing vitamin D3.
You’ll enjoy the adjustable mounting bracket, and the Current USA Orbit Marine aquarium LED light is energy-efficient without compromising on light quality. Some stunning lighting effects are lightning strikes, cloudy skies, moonlight, sunrise, and sunset.
The loop controller is super adjustable, and you can easily program different lighting effects into the day with the timer. It’s ideal for keeping your fish on a more natural light cycle when you’re not home. The remote control helps simplify the operation of the light.
- This is an improvement on the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED light with the ability to be used for a saltwater aquarium as well
- A premium fish tank light with five different sizes to choose from
- High output SMD LEDs provide LED light for extra brightness and lasting quality
- Day and night settings, as well as different types of light functions
- Program designed to provide a realistic effect in a 24/7 or 24-hour-per-day cycle
- The daylight features are not quite bright enough for some users compared to other lighting products
- Not suitable for planted tanks that require red spectrum light at a much higher output
Why We Like It:
The Current USA Orbit Marine LED aquarium lighting system is one of the best LED lights in quality and versatility. We love that it offers 24-hour cycles, so you don’t have to manually adjust the LED fixture settings. The loop controller also makes controlling the light much more convenient.
4. Best Planted Aquarium LED Light: Finnex Planted 24/7 HLC Aquarium LED Light
If you want the type of light that offers more than just basic blue and white, the Finnex Planted 24/7 LED light is a great option. It’s effortless to install and gives you 24/7 light cycles and different light modes. It provides all the necessary lighting for a planted aquarium, ensuring plants thrive.
The light offers some adjustability in the mounting brackets, but this is limited to the larger models. The water-resistant coating and splash guard of the light helps to minimize the risk of water penetration. With an ETL listing, the LEDs will last longer due to the care taken in the design of the electrical light.
The remote control enables programming up to 14,641 color combinations, with four memory slots to save your programs for future use. Programming an accurate 24-hour daylight cycle to encourage plant growth and fish health is possible.
You can even set lighting modes for sunrise and sunset for your aquarium light intensity. Day and night features are very nice if you ensure the settings are correct. With the super slim hood, the light provides excellent lighting without making a bulk above the tank.
- The color spectrum of the LED light provides an accurate daylight simulation and is fully programmable
- Users mention that the night light mode is gorgeous in a freshwater tank
- It can be used for freshwater tanks and marine tanks, though limited benefit to corals
- Lighting modes are easy to adjust with the handy remote control
- Unit is water resistant as well as energy efficient
- Some remote controls restart when the power has been cut and may need to be reset
- Verified product reviews tell us that programmed settings may reset with any dip in power
Why We Like It:
This LED lighting aquarium model has a slim LED strip lights design and high-quality LED aquarium lights. The aluminum alloy shell is water resistant, and you get a range of lighting cycle control features with various color mixing options. There are several size options to select a suitable size for fitment.
5. Best Heavy Duty LED Coral Light: Vipar Spectra Timer Control LED Aquarium Light
Sometimes, it’s hard to use aquarium LED light systems with brackets or heat sink mounts because they don’t fit all aquarium sizes. This LED aquarium light from Vipar Spectra is a high-quality LED aquarium light mounted by hanging for optimal light distribution. The unit is energy efficient and will cover an aquarium size of 24 x 24 inches. For more light coverage, additional units can be used.
The LED lighting design balances the PAR output and coverage so that the lighting fixture provides adequate light for plant and coral growth. This LED lighting system is simple to operate and won’t raise your energy bill excessively. Simply plug in the light, hang it at the optimal height, and enjoy excellent LED light for your aquarium.
The LED spectrum is optimal for reefs, and the cloud cover effects are pretty neat. The LEDs offer a full light spectrum, and the timers on the blue and white channels are super helpful to manage your reef’s light requirements.
- The white and blue channels can dim and work on a timer
- Multiple color customization options
- Includes daylight LED, sunset effect, and various control modes for aquariums
- Promotes photosynthesis in plants and vitamin D3 production in corals for excellent growth
- Covered by a 1-year warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- It can be challenging to set the LED light aquarium settings or colors, and the owner’s manual is not very helpful
- No ramp-up feature to gradually increase the brightness during the day
Why We Like It:
We love this LED aquarium light because the LED lights offer a full spectrum of options, and you have channel control capabilities with the dimmer and timer. Mount the light for permanent use by suspending it above the aquarium to ensure quality tank lighting.
6. Best Affordable Freshwater LED Light: Aquaneat LED Aquarium Light Full Spectrum
The Aquaneat LED Aquarium Light Full Spectrum is available in six sizes, ranging from 12-54 inches. The light has a white, blue, green, and pink spectrum. It helps low-light plants grow, but plants requiring more light will need more red light.
The overall light value is 6,500K, which makes for a bright light that illuminates the tank beautifully. There is no timer, so an external timer and dimming unit would provide these features. However, the general light quality is outstanding, making it an ideal beginner aquarium LED light.
- Features adjustable mounting brackets
- No restriction on tank edge thickness
- 45 LEDs in total
- 1,050 lumens brightness
- 8,5 watts for energy efficiency
- Splash guard included
- Affordably priced
- The light is not waterproof, so avoid dropping it in the tank
- Some water still penetrates the light with placement near the filter
Why We Like It:
Overall, this is a plain light with few features, but the light quality is excellent, and it’s super affordable. For a basic light setup, this light is perfect.
7. Best Basic LED Hipargero LED Aquarium Light with Touch Control
This LED aquarium light from Hipargero gives you another strategic spin on lighting design. This model has violet, blue, and white LEDs, offering an excellent light spectrum for coral reefs and the general lighting of the tank. This aquarium lighting system is energy efficient and operates with touch control.
Enjoy two dimmable channels that operate on the white and blue spectrum. It’s straightforward to operate with touch, and the lights offer excellent color combinations to stimulate marine life growth. The expandable clip-on bracket helps disperse light above the tank’s desired height.
Ensure the clamp can fit the glass thickness of your aquarium, as some tanks with black plastic edging are too thick for the clamp.
- Simple LED lights with whites and blues and some violet
- These aquarium lights have a 1-year warranty and 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- Great solution for rimless tanks where a regular mounting bracket won’t fit correctly
- Made from premium materials that last
- It works well for marine tanks and gives you simple color combinations for your aquarium environment
- There is no timer or ramping dimmer, but you can use a ramp timer pro or other timing solution with the light
- The arm on the mount may interfere with lidded tanks
Why We Like It:
This aquarium light offers a simple solution with dimmable reef colors. It is touch-controlled, and you can also set it up with a remote timer. Since it’s a clip-on, you can easily mount it to most tanks that wouldn’t be suitable for other lights.
8. Most Successful Planted and Marine LED Light: Pawfly Aquarium LED Light
The Pawfly Aquarium LED Light is the new kid on the block everyone is talking about. It’s not quite as proven because it’s new, so we’re not ready to call it number one (yet). However, the early indications are that this light is absolutely AWESOME.
It’s available in 12-18 inch and 18-24 inch with 9 and 12 watts respectively. It has a real full spectrum light powerhouse on board, and you can enjoy 6,500K white light, 660nm red light, and 450nm blue light, making it suitable for fish, plants, corals, and more.
At 9 and 12 watts power consumption, it’s energy-efficient, and you won’t have to pay a whole lot extra to operate the light. Choose between daylight and nighttime mode with a single button, letting you best simulate natural lighting conditions.
There are six intensity levels that you can use to dim the light in daylight and six in nighttime modes. The lights are ETL certified, ensuring your safety and protecting the unit against overload.
The aluminum rust-proof shell lets heat quickly escape the light, protecting the light from overheating. The shell is silicone-sealed with an IP rating of 67. Mount on your tank rim with the telescopic handles that are extendable, or remove the handles and mount it by hanging.
- Shockingly affordably priced (possibly an introductory price)
- Excellent full spectrum light provided by three rows of LED lights
- Ideal lighting for a planted tank, marine tank, fish breeding tank, etc.
- Great basic layout
- Wired controller
- There is no timer, so an extra timer unit is needed
- No special lighting effects
Why We Like It:
We like this light because it simply looks amazing on any tank, and the quality is phenomenal. It’s not fancy, but you can dim the light intensity in each channel, and it doesn’t break your piggy bank.
9. Best Corded Controller for LED Light: Hygger Auto On-Off LED Aquarium Light
The Hygger Auto On-Off LED Aquarium Light must make the list. In fact, an LED lighting list would only be complete with at least one Hygger making the cut.
This unit has a corded controller with an LCD screen, making programming and operation super easy. It’s available in six sizes (12 – 54 inches), with a watt rating from 14-42 watts.
Accurately simulate natural light with the WRGB (white, red, green, and blue) light spectrum to encourage plant growth and ensure healthy fish. The light doesn’t support marine aquariums. The light is flicker-free, making it better suited to maintaining a peaceful environment in the tank and protecting your eye health.
The timer is innovative, with an on/off selection and eight periods in the DIY mode, where you can set dimming, light channels, and more for each period. It’s ideal for the frequent traveler who isn’t home enough to set their light daily.
The light has an IP rating of 68, making it waterproof, and while it’s not meant for submersible use, it won’t break if it falls into the tank. The aluminum body easily lets heat escape to prevent overheating.
- The light offers excellent lighting capacity
- Waterproof light
- Great mounting bracket is extendable
- Can set a full 24-hour schedule with different light channels and dimming modes for each period
- Two channels for daylight and nighttime modes
- Fairly priced
- The instruction manual isn’t very reader-friendly
- The timer seems to malfunction at times when there’s a zone overlap
Why We Like It:
The light has good quality construction, is sturdy, waterproof, and has excellent light capacity. We love how it looks over the tank, and the different channels are helpful to cover all basic lighting needs.
10. Most Efficient LED Light: Wills Aquarium Lights
The Wills Aquarium Light is a real stalwart in LED lighting. It’s not the prettiest light, but you save a wad of cash by using a light that offers all the benefits of a great set of LEDs. The light is available in three sizes, from 15.7 to 28 inches.
While the light is plastic and steel painted in a stainless steel finish, it is protected from excess splashing since you mount it above the tank by hanging it. When hung as recommended, the light provides a PAR rating of 858 at a depth of 24 inches, some of the industry’s best ratings.
The advanced full spectrum is what this light is all about and why you should seriously consider it for a larger-size tank. The white, warm white, red, green, and blue spectrum is perfect for planted and marine tanks. Control the light with two channels, a blue and a white channel that can dim from 10-100% with manual dials.
Control the white and blue in the tank by working them jointly or separately, and enjoy the best light quality for your plants, fish, and corals. And never worry about replacing individual LEDS with the highest quality SMD LED chips used for this light to ensure longevity.
If your aquarium size is more than the recommended 36 x 36 inches that one light covers, you can easily connect additional Wills lights (up to five lights) in a daisy chain, operating all units from the same master light.
The light has dual fans to cool the unit, and the noise from this is at a normal conversational tone, so it is probably not a great choice to use in your bedroom or office.
- High-quality LED light chips
- It can be used with additional units for larger tanks
- True full and advanced light spectrum
- Affordably priced for the quality lighting
- Easy to use light with no fancy light programming needed, ideal for beginners
- No special light settings like daylight, etc.
- No timer or ramp-up function
Why We Like It:
It’s a simplistic light that offers massive lighting functionality for your aquarium. Most of this light’s competitors would cost several hundred dollars, yet the Wills light remains nicely priced below $100.
Having seen our favorite LED aquarium lights on the market, it’s time to help you choose the right one. Aquarium lights come in different shapes and sizes (just like people) to fit different and unique tanks. Use the different light features to improve your plant, coral, and fish growth and make your aquarium look beautiful.
Before spending your hard-earned money, research the technical specifications of the different lights, and choose a light that works for your tank. We hope you make an educated decision so you will enjoy your LED aquarium light purchase. Here are the primary considerations that will help you decide:
LED Lights Vs. Fluorescent Lights
Do you want to switch to LED or try to decide which one is better? Fluorescent lighting tends to be more harsh with uneven shadows. It is not ideal to enhance or promote the life within your aquarium. Fluorescents generate light only with little focus on providing special light spectrums.
Fluorescents contain metal halides, and they are not as safe. In fact, they are becoming harder to find and harder to maintain because most lighting options are changing to LED lights. The shift is visible in vehicles, homes, and many other things.
The fluorescents can quickly overheat, blow out starter motors, and even explode, which might harm your aquarium if pieces fall into the tank.
LED lights are by far the most popular aquarium lights out there. They are affordable, don’t generate excessive heat, and are easy to maintain and care for. LEDs tend to be bright without harshness, a step from their counterparts. There are so many LED light options. LEDs have become the new lighting standard.
In the past, four main types of aquarium lights existed. Those include:
- LED Lights
- Normal fluorescents
- Compact fluorescents
- Metal halide lights
LED lights are now the most commonly used aquarium light. Some people mistakenly prefer metal halide when it comes to reefs because these produce heat and light, which are said to stimulate healthy growth. But LED lights are far better at stimulating reefs and planted tanks while costing less energy. LED is the way to go if you want safety and quality in any aquarium use.
The size of your aquarium light (in terms of its output and coverage area) is essential when considering different LED options. Knowing what size light you need to cover your aquarium (based on the tank dimensions and volume) is critical to help you make the right decision.
So, you need to know your tank size. The tank size isn’t just how much water it holds but also its overall floor space and depth. Even though there are expandable light options and many light sizes, your choice should sufficiently light the space your tank occupies, and the light should mount securely, no matter your aquarium’s dimensions.
Consider the length of your tank but also the depth. If you have a deep tank (more than 24 inches), you need very powerful lights to penetrate the substrate without losing all power (this is known as the PAR of the light).
You can determine the lighting requirements with this information:
- Tank depth
- Tank length
- Tank floor space
The contents of your tank may also influence the type and size of light you get. Tanks with coral reefs may require a more considerable blue spectrum light. Planted tanks need a more diffused light that has a red-and-white spectrum to encourage growth. The type of plants in your tank also influences the brightness of the lights as some plants are low light, others medium light, and others require high light.
Different aquarium setups need specialized lighting power. Your tank is unique, and the light intensity used by a friend in their similar tank may not work correctly for your tank because your tank has other elements. When it comes to aquariums, the tanks are all different.
Lumens per liter is how we explain the power and intensity of the light and decide how much your tank needs. Remember that the light may not spread evenly because of the depth of your tank (and light refraction if you have a strong wave maker), so you may need additional intensity for your plants to really receive the full light spectrum.
As a rule of thumb, tanks need 10 lumens (0.25 watts) per liter of water. This converts to 2-3 watts per gallon of water. When a tank is deep, it may need twice that much. A freshwater aquarium needs 1-2 watts of light per gallon, marine tanks need 2-5 watts, and reef tanks require 4-8 watts of light per gallon.
If your tank has your prized collection of specialized corals or plants, you should consult with your supplier and ensure you meet their unique light requirements (power).
Each LED light offers unique features that make us want them. Some of the features may not work for your tank, but others are useful for your aquarium. Some of the nice features can satisfy your wants and needs, while others you could easily do without (and not pay for).
Here’s the thing—you usually pay extra for the “nice to have” features. Things like Wi-Fi capabilities, touch controls, remotes, and more all add to the final cost. You must consider valuable features such as dimming and whether you need sunrise or sunset lighting. The features can be amazing but also unnecessary.
Some of these lights offer timers, while others have special channel programming. Check out each product to know just what features it has. Before your heart belongs to a fancy light, consider which features will actually benefit your tank and which you might not even use.
Save some money if you don’t need all the bells and whistles by choosing a basic lighting design. A mid-range product will work just fine if you want some simple features and one or two nice features. Figure out where you fall and go from there.
Cost & Budget
If you haven’t noticed, the price range of LED lights is quite broad. You can find $10 and $20 light solutions, but you can also find $200 – $500 solutions. Remember that the price is often determined by product quality (a good buy) or by a fancy array of (not so-useful) features.
You may want something other than the cheapest light, although some really great budget finds might serve you better than the premium options ever could. Before you start your wish list, consider your budget and then make an effort to stay within your budget when you make a decision.
It’s OK if you can’t spend $200 or more on light and setup requirements. Everything we shared here, even the budget solutions, are high quality, and you won’t be disappointed, even if you can’t use a remote for fancy light settings.
The point we’re trying to make is to buy within your budget and know that you can get quality even if you have less to spend. Don’t pay extra for features you don’t need or want; it could save you money.
Finally, aquarium lights come in different color ranges; what you need depends on your aquarium. You might be able to work with a simple white light for a small nano tank, or you may need a full RGB spectrum. It all depends on the fish, corals, or plants in your tank, so know what light your tank requires. Here is some information about each color.
- White Light
White light is a neutral light and is the most popular light spectrum. White LEDs feature prominently in LED lights. White can feature a warm glow or a cool shade, which reacts with colors differently, making them pop.
Using white light is great for fish like guppies, goldfish, Tetra, bettas, and more. Having dimmable solutions will also enhance the light quality.
- Blue Light
Blue light is an ideal spectrum for corals and marine tanks. Dimming it makes it suitable for soft corals, while increased intensity may benefit hard-shell corals. Blue light also adds to moonlight lighting effects, and using blue light at night adds softness to the tank aquascape.
Lights have dark or deeper blue and pale blue (which has more white light). Deep blue light is perfect for Tetras and cichlids. Using blue on coral reefs enhances vitamin D production, allowing corals to absorb more calcium for better growth.
- Red Light
In aquariums, red light stimulates plants’ photosynthesis, helping them grow. Red light also deepens the green of leaves, helping to treat pale leaves. Adding more red light can also control algae bloom, helping to reduce the contamination of the tank by this invasive plant.
- Magenta Light (Violet)
Magenta is a shade of red or purple that is popular. It is beautiful with pink, red, blue, and green, making these look exceptionally brilliant in the water. It’s a soft color that isn’t harsh and blends well with other colors. Magenta emphasizes reds to make them stunning. You can make magenta with your light settings if you have blue, white, and red.
- Green Light
Green can be really awesome for corals in a reef aquarium. Not only does it make their colors more brilliant, but it can help to stimulate growth and healthy color for your coral. Green promotes photosynthesis by providing proteins that brighten a planted reef’s natural color effect.
If you have a reef aquarium, you definitely want some green involved. The effects are amazing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Choose your lights carefully based on the size and contents of your tank. You need to create a personalized solution for YOUR underwater environment. Your tank’s depth, volume, and occupants will determine what LED light will best suit the tank.
LEDs are one of the best lighting solutions. For so long, aquarists thought that metal halide and fluorescents were the answer, but LEDs can replace either of these and probably outdo them in the end.
An LED light is much safer and has a far less harsh light scheme. LEDs don’t put out excessive heat, which can help stabilize the water temperature. Versatile LEDs are the perfect answer to your aquarium needs. They are simple, safe, effective, and require little maintenance or upkeep.
LEDs are the best solutions, far outdoing the versatility of other types of lighting. Using LEDs makes sense.
For most fish, blue and white are the most appropriate colors. Some fish benefit from red or purple, and these require a magenta effect. Research so you know which light is best for YOUR fish.
Lighting an aquarium is an essential part of the care of one, and there are so many ways to do it. The goal is to make your aquarium look spectacular and function effectively for the tank occupants so you don’t have to worry about whether they will thrive.
If you have a deep aquarium, use a light mounted close to the water surface and with more power so that the light can reach the tank depths more easily.
Did You Know?
Green lights stimulate the proteins in corals and reefs, making them grow and making the reef colors more naturally bright for a visual feast.
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