Best Lighting for Coral Reef Aquariums – 2024 Review Updated

Coral reef aquariums are naturally beautiful because of their vibrant colors and shapes, but lighting the coral for display requires excellent LED lighting kits. With great lighting, the colors and textures of the coral simply pop.

We’ve put together a complete coral-lighting guide using our top picks for aquarium LED lights, and you’ll get all the information you need to make a fully informed decision before buying your next lighting kit for your coral aquarium.

Let’s get your coral reef aquarium LED ready.

Top Rated Coral Reef Aquarium Lighting Reviews

In these reviews, you will find a summary of each aquarium lighting option that we consider the best, complete with a summary and product overview of each. Discover the pros and cons of each lighting product and decide which is ideal for your aquarium needs.

1. Best Overall: Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light

Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light    

If you really want one of the best LED lights for aquariums or reef tanks, this Current USA Orbit Marine aquarium LED light model is our top pick overall. Based on thousands of satisfied customer reviews, it’s the best of the best. Current USA Orbit has multiple sizes of LED lights for aquariums to choose from, so you can select the size of light your tank needs.

The Current USA Orbit Marine aquarium LED light has a loop remote controller so you can remotely control the lighting. You can also purchase a separate wave pump, which the remote can control, to match the wave intensity to the lighting programs. The light provides different color effects, such as cloud cover, storms, and lightning strikes. You get a full spectrum of light coverage with adjustable light intensity to suit your coral tank’s requirements.

The best LED lighting option provides brighter colors with remote-controlled programs, and it gives a realistic glow with white and blue lights and wide-angle dispersion for even tank illumination. All reef tanks can benefit from the light spectrums. This light fixture is simple, realistic, and so easy to install!

Pros:

  • The Current USA Orbit Marine is the best LED reef light fixture overall
  • Multiple modes for various lighting effects
  • Remote control operated Orbit Marine series
  • Loop remote control for wireless operation
  • Lighting programs are realistic and easy to operate

Cons

  • The lights create amazing effects, but they do not necessarily promote coral growth

Why We Like It

We love the Current USA Orbit Marine aquarium lighting system because it is simple and effective. You can control the Orbit Marine aquarium LED light with a remote, and there are several modes to get the best LED lighting look for soft corals and aquatic life.


2. Viparspectra Timer COntrol Aquarium Light

Viparspectra Timer Control Aquarium Light    

The Viparspectra Timer Control Aquarium Light is the best LED lighting setup for coral growth in aquariums. It offers a full spectrum of aquarium LED light that promotes coral growth and is ideal for frag tanks, plus it operates with remote control.

This light design provides some of the best coral tank light fixture solutions on the market. The iron light offers more than just light; it also maintains the PAR balance for both output and coverage to spur coral growth and provide a safe environment for aquatic life and soft corals. It improves coral photosynthesis, though introducing the light on a dimmed setting requires slow acclimation of new corals to the light.

A 1-year warranty covers this LED from the Viparspectra timer control series, and it has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. The light offers a dimmable feature that lets you adjust two channels individually (simultaneously) with varying brightness levels. You can also use an internal timer for automatic timing, turning off specific lights at different times or all lights after a determined time.

Pros:

  • Dimmable feature for two separate light channels
  • Full spectrum white and blue colors plus more in this LED aquarium light
  • Remote control operated with timer capabilities
  • Promotes coral growth if you make sure to acclimate new coral
  • Covered by a 1-year warranty

Cons:

  • The mounting solution requires a bar or top beam above the tank, and the light is only suitable for a large-scale aquarium
  • There are no ramp-up settings to increase light intensity when turned on gradually

Why We Like It

We love that this light provides an efficient way to stimulate and enhance your coral, and you can even leave the light on for a prolonged time. It is one of the best LED lights and makes our runner-up and the best light for coral growth pick because of its versatility and adjustment capabilities.


3. Budget Pick: Hipargero Aquarium Lights-100-watt 5 Channels Sunrise Sunset Moonlight Reef Lights

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This light is simple to operate but effective, making it one of the best LED lights in this price range. The light can combine with other units for larger aquariums, with a master light that enables more straightforward operation of the different settings.

The light has five channels that can synchronize for different lighting effects and dimming levels, including a 1% precision level of light intensity. The other lighting channels stimulate nutrient absorption by the corals, and the blue light stimulates Vitamin D3 production in corals. Corals can absorb calcium better with balanced nutrient production for bright and brilliant colors.

This is not a fancy high-end model, but it is safe for your aquatic pets and works well for a lower price point model. We are impressed with this LED reef light’s functionality. The OLED screen lets you easily adjust the different light channels and create the light spectrum your corals need.

Pros:

  • Professional light intensity design
  • Best LED aquarium light at a budget price
  • Remote operation for LED light intensity adjustment across different channels
  • Boost the health of life and plants in the aquarium
  • Connect other lights in a master-slave setup for larger tanks for more effortless operation

Cons:

  • The unit has an ideal light area of 16-24 inches, so larger tanks require more than one light

Why We Like It: We love this LED light for the budget-friendly quality and high-functioning results it produces. This affordable LED system is suitable for different coral reefs, and while it’s a little big for nano tanks, you can adjust the light intensity to make it work. It’s perfect for medium to large saltwater aquariums.


4. NICREW 150W Aquarium LED Reef Light

NICREW 150W Aquarium LED Reef Light    

This NICREW 150W Aquarium LED Reef Light is available in four sizes, ranging from 30 – 150 watts. Your corals will thrive with the full light spectrum that includes blue, red, green, violet, and UV bandwidths. Each light covers a maximum area of 30 x 30 inches, so if your aquarium is bigger, you will need more than one unit to provide ample and consistent lighting.

The LED lights are far superior to fluorescent lights in some competitor models. And your corals will better absorb the light rays and produce the necessary nutrients to help their growth and development. 

One of the best features of this light is that it comes equipped with a cooling system that includes fans to help cool the unit and prevent overheating, which usually causes other lights to break.

Operate light channels individually, and the touch control is convenient for changing light settings. Dim lights incrementally since you can select an intensity level to suit your tank residents. 

The mounting bracket fastens to the side of the tank, but the included suspension brackets allow you to hang the light more centrally over your aquarium. Install several units together and link them with a HyperReef controller for easy light selection.

Pros:

  • The light offers a full spectrum of light, ideal for corals, fish, and plants
  • Establish a PAR rating of 305 at 28 inches of water depth for medium to large tanks
  • Includes mounting kit and mounting bracket
  • Touch control or use a HyperReef controller for remote control
  • Dual channel timer is available if the controller doesn’t sync up

Cons:

  • The light is quite chunky, creating a sizeable visual footprint
  • The shimmer light function isn’t very bright

Why We Like It:

The light is good quality and customizable for your unique tank needs. While you need to purchase the controller to operate the light without controlling each light, it’s well worth the extra few dollars as the controller lets you customize your lighting programs and set lighting schedules.


5. NICREW 30W Reef LED Aquarium Light

NICREW 30W Reef LED Aquarium Light    

The NICREW 30W Reef LED Aquarium Light is ideal for smaller tanks that need enough light to stimulate reef health and coral growth. This light is a round clip-on light ideal for nano tanks or a specific area of your tank if you only have a small coral colony in one part of your tank. 

Despite the small size, this light can offer 100 PAR at the light center up to 24 inches in depth. The light intensity drops to 38 PAR at 12 inches from the center. The light has a full spectrum of lights, including green, red, blue, and ultraviolet color bands and UV light. With the light size, it has the capacity to cover an area of 18 x 18 inches, which is sufficient for a nano tank or a small to medium tank. 

Clip the light to the side of the tank with a gooseneck clamp, or suspend it with the mounting kit above the tank. Use the control to set dimness, light bands, and which channel you’d like to use (or use different channels together).

Pros:

  • Affordably priced
  • Ideal for small to medium tanks
  • 100 PARs at 24 inches depth, making it suitable for soft corals
  • Heat dispersal technology to prevent overheating

Cons: 

  • Only blue and white light channels are adjustable
  • Need to purchase a separate controller for better adjustability

Why We Like It

The light is affordable, offers decent quality at this price, and you can achieve all your tank’s basic lighting requirements. Fair coverage has reasonable depth penetration for the size and price.


6. Fluval Plan Spectrum Sea Marine Bluetooth LED

Fluval Plan Spectrum Sea Marine Bluetooth LED    

Our next choice of best models for coral reef lighting is from Fluval. There are four sizes, so select the size you need to provide sufficient LED output and the right area coverage when you order. Control the light via Bluetooth, setting different light spectrums from your phone.

The overall design isn’t complicated, but the build quality is highly rated and provides different light spectrums to suit various coral types in the saltwater tank. However, the light will also suit other types of tanks, providing adequate plant growth radiation levels. 

The lights are mounted in a stylish black box and use only 32 watts for the 24 to 34-gallon tank sizes, making it quite economical to operate. Accessing the Fluval smart app or website allows you to control the light usage of the unit according to your needs.

With an IP67 rating, you can mount the lights directly above the water without fear of the light shorting out because of moisture penetration. The mounting brackets allow the light to custom fit any size aquarium from 15-60 inches, depending on the model type.

Enjoy the visual benefits of different color temperatures and even add a cloud cover or a shimmer effect with the Bluetooth controller to simulate real-world lighting conditions.

Pros:

  • Control color options through Bluetooth via your phone
  • The frame is improved to be smoother and lighter with updated expansion features
  • Provides corals and aquarium habitats with growth and light spectrum needs
  • Use pre-set configurations or change them up as you please
  • The lighter and smoother updated design concept

Cons:

  • While the light is great the app software is not the best, but luckily there is a timer for backup power control.
  • The connection settings often struggle with connectivity to your phone, and the cycle settings get deleted

Why We Like It

While the technology and control functionality could use some improvement, we love that this manufacturer has updated the device’s construction and improved the controls and quality of the fixtures. Your corals and plants will get the light spectrum they need for photosynthesis, and you can enjoy a wide choice of gallery image lighting.


7. WILLS Aquarium Lights Dimmable Full Spectrum 165W Fish Tank LED

WILLS Aquarium Lights    

The WILLS Aquarium Lights light offers good functionality, even though the technology is a little dated. The light spectrum or intensity is adjusted with two dials, while the on-off switch is a rather ugly flip switch. 

However, you pay for the quality of the lighting, and this light offers 858 PAR at 24 inches of depth, which provides better value for your reef. The recommendation is only to use this light for tanks up to 57 gallons, but this depends on the dimensions of your tank. 

Ideally, this light provides a balanced PAR to lumen output for 36 x 36 x 36 inches. The LEDs are high quality, and your tank enjoys a full light spectrum of blue, red, green, and white. The blue and white channels can be dimmed from 0-100% to allow your tank occupants to adjust to the light when first introduced.

You can connect up to five lights with the same power cord for a neater visual appearance for large tanks. Note the fans will produce a quiet hum while cooling the lights.

Pros:

  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Highest-quality SMD LED lights 
  • Two cooling fans prevent overheating 
  • It can be connected with up to five lights as a set
  • Two channels are dimmable 
  • Great PAR production at 24 inches depth

Cons:

  • Limited blue spectrum lights, which are what you need for corals
  • Blue and white lights turn on and off together

Why We Like It:

Despite the budget-friendly price and somewhat “old-fashioned” finishing, the light delivers outstanding PAR balance for reefs, and it offers a broad enough light spectrum to keep fish, plants, and corals healthy.


8. Phlizon Dimmable Full Spectrum Aquarium LED Light

Phlizon Dimmable Full Spectrum Aquarium LED Light    

This option from Phlizon Dimmable Full Spectrum Aquarium LED Light is ideal for reefs and saltwater aquarium choices. This is a well-built model with a stainless steel finish. Several units are needed for large tanks, but the light penetration is exceptional.

The LED fixture is a complete spectrum light that protects fish and corals and provides the required growth. Two channels can be adjusted simultaneously, providing dimming solutions across two color bands. 

You can use it for a nano reef, depending on the size model you select. These lights can even be connected with others for a cascading or chain effect. Each unit comes with a hanger kit and the necessary power cord for functionality.

Pros:

  • It comes with all you need to set up the light
  • Quality aquarium light with dual dimmable settings
  • Designed to stimulate the healthy growth of plants, fish, and corals
  • It can be connected to other lights for an increased light area
  • Strong service background from this company

Cons:

  • The lights do make a slight noise, similar to fluorescents
  • The power supply for the blues and whites is not separated

Why We Like It:

This is one of the most versatile aquarium light solutions because it offers dual dimming and can be connected to light the whole aquarium, regardless of overall size. Its features are comparable to every other popular type of light on the market, and the quality is on par with other industry-leading products.


9. Finnex Stingray 2 Aquarium LED Light

Finnex Stingray 2 Aquarium LED Light    

The Finnex planted Stingray 2 is an up-and-coming LED light model worth consideration. This affordable LED light model ranges in sizes 12, 16, 20, 24, 36, and 48 inches. The multicolor light is listed as pencil thin, so it is another slim design that won’t take up excessive space. It attaches directly to your tank, so you don’t have to worry about mounting hardware or hanging brackets.

The light has built-in red, blue, and white LEDs, and you can easily adjust the settings according to your tank preferences. The Finnex is ETL listed and has all of the regulated safety features, which distinguishes the light from many of its competitors. The light offers short circuit protection, overcurrent protection, and over-voltage protection, and it gives a cooler operation that stops the lights from overheating.

Set functionality with a 3-position switch that also gives you the ability to select a moonlight setting. The design features a sleek aluminum build that is lightweight and durable. With the sleek and slim build, you will barely notice the light above your aquarium, but you will undoubtedly see the stunning glow it illuminates it with.

Pros:

  • The sleek and slim overall design
  • Attaches to the aquarium; no mounting required
  • Three position switch and moonlight setting
  • Multiple lengths to choose from so you can get the right fit
  • It has almost no space footprint thanks to the slim build that makes it almost invisible

Cons:

  • Some users had issues with the moonlight features not working after a time
  • This light is not fully waterproof, so you will need to take precautions to keep it dry

Why We Like It:

This option makes the list due to the slim and sleek design that almost makes it invisible when you view the tank. The LED lights are effective, and you have control of the brightness and the different light settings.


10. Aqueon Aquarium Clip on LED Light

Aqueon Aquarium Clip on LED Light    

For our final selection, we bring a simple clip-on solution that works well for small tanks. With Aqueon Aquarium Clip on LED Light, you can choose different lighting settings for planted or coral aquariums. This solution is affordable and straightforward. It is plastic (so it won’t rust) and just clips on the side of a tank (preferably 20 gallons or less). But the light is effective, and it works like a charm.

This is a simple solution that offers some bang for your buck. It features a 3-way soft touch control for the LED lights for simple light selection. You can choose all lights on, blue on, or all off to suit your needs. The clip-on mount allows for versatility in setting up your light and makes it compatible with both framed and frameless aquariums.

There are 60 total lights on this small light, including white and blue, providing a shimmer effect for your viewing enjoyment. The light is ideal for planted aquariums of up to 20 gallons, and it will boost vitamin D production thanks to the blue LEDs. The construction is solid and the quality is top-notch. It is a highly-rated choice for smaller tanks.

Pros:

  • Clip-on light for up to 20-gallon tanks
  • Touch control settings
  • Blue and white LED lights
  • Easy to use and versatile
  • High-quality materials

Cons:

  • The downside to the clip-on light is lidded tanks may not open with the light in place
  • Sometimes the light gets warm to the touch

Why We Like It:

This particular best reef LED light is here because we like the simple clip-on attachment. Finding simple solutions for small tanks can be challenging, and this light works quite well. It’s bright and reliable, and while it may not be perfect, it is a simple but versatile solution.

Also Read: 7 Best 30 Gallon Fish Tank Kit


Buyer’s Guide for Reef LED Light Solutions

coral reef aquarium

Consider the best reef light for your aquarium needs, as there are some things you should think of before clicking “buy.” There are many different reef tanks available, and many lighting options to choose from fill the market. Some options are simple, while others have remote control operation and multiple settings.

We’ve put together a simple buyer’s guide to help you understand what you may want to consider when deciding on the best LED aquarium light for your needs. Check out these pointers before you select the LED aquarium reef tank light that works for you!

Quality & Durability

Firstly, these lights are not cheap, so you don’t want to replace your light six months after purchase. If you’re going to get an LED light for your reef tank, it needs to be reliable in terms of both quality and durability. Ideally, an LED aquarium light should last even longer than the tank it is lighting.

This doesn’t just mean the operation of the light but also applies to the color spectrum of the bulbs and light intensity. The LEDs need to be consistent quality, and they need to maintain power without dimming (unless, of course, you dim them by choice).

How does the system track up to these factors:

  • Is there support or a warranty should something go wrong?
  • What are the power supply requirements?
  • What type of LEDs are used in the light?
  • Is there a cooling system within the light?
  • Are the material quality and the quality of the design sufficient to last?

How Does It Look?

You’ve probably heard that looks aren’t everything, and they aren’t. But when it comes to your reef tank’s setup, looks mean a lot. You want to consider both the internal and the external appearance.

First, consider whether the light provides your aquarium with an aesthetic appeal. When you step back, do the colors blend well in the tank? Do you notice spotlights or possibly hotspots that don’t look as nice? You want to avoid things like a “disco ball” effect or overly bright spots compared to really dim areas.

Consider things like the colors of the lights. What colors do you really want to see displayed by this light? Do you want specific colors added, or do you just want to emphasize the brilliant and natural colors of the items in the tank? Most of these things are beautiful, and soft colors like white and blue accentuate their beauty.

Draw inspiration from what other people have done in terms of color combinations and use their ideas to make your LED aquarium pleasing to look at.

Now, consider the environment around your tank. We’ve talked about making the inside nice with your light choice, but you want the outside to match this. Where in your home will your tank be set up? An aquarium is an artwork that needs to fit in your home.

Consider whether the room you place it in has bright halogen lights or is it a neutral light pallet, allowing your tank’s lights to become a firm feature?

Consider the mounting and setup of the LEDs and whether these will look ugly above your tank.

Software & Controls

Next, let’s talk about the light itself. Many of these lights can be programmed or at least allow you the versatility of varying features you can control as you see fit. You will want to keep functionality in mind. What kind of software does the light you are considering use or require, and what type of control or programming capabilities do you have, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, or remote controllers?

There are models with remote controls and a full array of settings. There are also lights with elementary and practical settings, such as a simple touch button. The choice of which works is up to you. Choose something that works with your tank and your lifestyle.

Cost and Versatility

Finally, consider the overall cost and the versatility of the unit. You can determine the cost per bulb or color to know if your price is worth it. LED lighting is a cost-effective solution, but what you pay for the light can be expensive. 

Calculate the value of the light by dividing the number of LEDs by the total cost and estimating what you are paying per light. Then compare that cost to other options with a light-by-light breakdown. You might also pay more for varying colors and lights you don’t intend to use.

The Benefit of Using LED Light for Reef Tanks

First, we want to discuss some benefits of using LED lighting for a reef tank. While you certainly can consider other types of lights, LED has proven to be the best for a number of reasons. Here are a few reasons why you should consider an LED reef light.

Brightness

LED lights are known to be long-lasting and bright without being harsh. This unique combination allows for a fantastic view while using less energy. The light is not harmful or harsh to plants, corals, fish, or your eyes. Most LED lights allow you to adjust intensity, colors, and timing and provide unique features.

Safety

LED lights are much safer than alternative light options like fluorescent lights. Those old lights have halide in them, and the effect is a harsh light that might not be safe for your aquarium. With an LED aquarium reef tank, you get lights that don’t produce toxins or gasses, making them a much safer alternative.

Additionally, some LED lights for reef tanks are water-resistant, and with improved technology, the functionality improves.

Heat Control

The older types of lights produced a lot of heat and often became pretty hot to the touch as well. With LED aquarium lights, you might feel some heat, but it won’t in any way affect your tank.

Growth Impact

Finally, regarding the benefits of an LED aquarium for reef tank needs, the LED light can better stimulate growth and maintain healthy organisms within the aquarium. These lights can have a positive effect on the species within your tank. After all, you want your corals, plants, and fish to enjoy perfect health supported by light, which is what LED lights provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best lighting for a reef tank?

We recommend always using LEDs. Our top choice is the Current USA light that you can find in our best overall review. Current USA is top quality with a lot of great features where LED lights are concerned.

2. What is the best lighting for coral growth?

LED lighting typically stimulates coral growth. Soft blues and whites are the best options for this purpose.

3. What color light is best for aquarium plants?

Aquarium plants and most corals do best with blue and white LED lights. However, red and green can also be suitable for plants, so if your aquarium includes plants, you may consider these colors.

Conclusion

We hope that you have found this guide to be a valuable resource for choosing reef LED lights so you can set up your LED aquarium light with optimal color and visibility and stimulate your plants and aquatic creatures.

There are several great options, so use our buyer’s guide to help you select a light that works for you. What’s your favorite reef aquarium light?

Expert Tip

If you don’t have plants in your aquarium, you really don’t need extra colors like purple, red, and green—blue and white work best when reefs and animals are the primary inhabitants.

Did You Know?

Aquarium light has continued to improve throughout the years. Fluorescent lights pose a safety hazard because the metal halide, and the toxins within the bulbs would poison your tank if something were to happen to the light to damage it.

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