If you want your aquarium to thrive, you need to provide your freshwater plants with a decent amount of sunlight. Unfortunately, sunlight from a window and water don’t really mix, since the temperature could skyrocket.
That is why you need to find the right kind of aquarium light for the task. You may be considering LED lights—and that’s an excellent choice. Why? LED aquarium lights have been proven to accelerate the growth rate of plants in fish tanks.
Buying the best LED aquarium lighting for plants takes a little research. That is why we aim to answer all your questions concerning LED aquarium lights, such as what the benefits are, how you choose the best LED aquarium lighting, and whether LED lights are good for plants. We also provide you with our top-rated LED aquarium lighting picks, so you know what to look for when it’s time to make your purchase.
Let’s get started.
Benefits of LED Aquarium Lights For Plants
There are a couple of reasons and benefits to choosing an LED aquarium light. For example, unlike fluorescent lighting, which is another popular choice, LED light penetrates much deeper, meaning that plants receive more artificial light for photosynthesis.
Aside from that, the best LED aquarium lights for plants (and fish) will come with the following benefits:
Ease of Use
LED lighting fixtures are incredibly simple to install. Most come with programmable light cycles, timers, and even remote controls. You won’t have to worry about making adjustments to the settings every day, either.
Another thing that increases the ease of use is whether the entire unit is waterproof or not. Some units will have special metals that prevent them from being damaged by splashing water. Others may be water-resistant but the cords could be susceptible to water damage. Be sure to pay attention to that feature!
Compared to other forms of lighting, LED uses the least amount of energy and lasts twice as long. This means that you could run the lights for 8-10 hours every single day for a year and spend way less than you would with fluorescent aquarium lighting. If you want to cut the cost of operating your aquarium, choose LED.
Although LED lights do generate heat, it is negligible. Part of the reason LED lights barely create heat is due to their low amount of energy usage. Also, they were crafted to dissipate heat more efficiently than other kinds of bulbs. This is ideal for fish tanks, because you won’t have to worry about surface plants getting burned or the water overheating.
Most people know by now that LED bulbs last way longer than other options, incandescent bulbs included. You can keep an LED light for many years and never have to worry about replacing it. Ideally, you want something that is going to last for at least 15,000 hours, but there are lights coming out that will last up to 50,000 hours. This means you get the most bang for your buck.
Top Choices For The Best LED Aquarium Lighting For Plants
Now that you know a bit more about LED lighting for aquariums, it is time to have a look at our top picks. Each of these have been reviewed and are of excellent quality.
1. Marineland Aquatic Plant LED Light With Timer
Marineland is a well-known brand, and so you shouldn’t be surprised when this LED aquarium light works extremely well. The LED light has 6500K white and RGB bulbs.
Further, the color combination both feeds your plants with the appropriate spectrum but also brings out the natural vibrancy of the foliage. As per the night, the light has a timer, a daylight and lunar setting, and can set start and end times for each setting separately. Medium and high light plants thrive with this light.
- Built-in timer
- Slim design
- Brand is known for having extremely good customer service
- Two lighting modes
- Dispersion lens for thorough lighting, front to back
- No customization options
2. MARS AQUA 300W LED Aquarium Light
If you are planning on running the LED lights throughout the night and day, then you need a light that is up to the task. The MARS light has advanced cooling and copper thermal conductivity to stay bright without getting hot.
It also has a double universal cascade for enhancing lighting throughout the whole tank, so even the substrate gets enough light. Reviewers note that construction is top-notch and that customer support is excellent.
- Two working modes—day and night
- Advanced cooling
- 3 year warranty
- Has a 100,000 hour lifespan
- Easy to adjust and install
- Rather expensive
- Cords are very long and can be difficult to organize
3. Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Freshwater Plant Extendable
Here is a LED aquarium light that is best suited for plants that thrive in low light or aquariums with shallow water. It has two modes: night and day. For night, you can switch to blue light. During the day, it emits white light.
Although the fixture comes pre-wired for a timer, the timer is sold separately. However, if you are looking for a supplemental light to help your low light plants thrive, this is an inexpensive alternative.
- Comes ready to be used with a timer
- Two light modes
- Slim design
- 10,000K white light and RGB
- No color customization
- Does not come with a timer
4. Current USA Satellite Plus Pro LED Light
Here is a feature-packed LED aquarium light that is bound to give you everything you need for a beautiful tank. The Satellite Plus Pro comes in several different sizes and is adjustable.
It is designed specifically for freshwater tanks, comes with light customization, and even weather effects, moonlight, sunrise settings, and much more. The light also has a 24-hour timer that lets you choose when it turns on and off throughout the day.
- Comes with customizable timers and two memory slots
- Fully customizable light settings
- Adjustable light intensity settings
- Ramp up/dim down feature
- Weather effects, such as storms and cloudy conditions
- Remote controller available
- Challenging to set up and has a learning curve
5. Finnex Planted+ 24/7 SE Fully Automated Remote Aquarium LED Fixture
Aquarists love the Finnex Planted+ Remote Fixture for a couple of reasons. First, it is low-profile, slim, and has extendable “legs” that set it securely in place, so you never have to worry about it coming loose.
The light also comes in 5 sizes, with the largest being 48 inches. As you may have guessed, this LED light has a 24-hour automated night/day cycle. You can use the included remote to select a time of day for the lights to switch on and can be scheduled.
- Has a built-in 24/7 day and night cycle
- Has memory slots for color customization
- Adjustable brightness
- Has narrow housing
- 7000K white and RGB lights
- Comes with weather effects
- 24/7 cycle cannot be customized
- Some reviewers said that the 24/7 cycle was too short
- Remote control may not work
6. Hygger Blue White Clip-On Aquarium Lights LED
Immediately you will notice that the Hygger LED aquarium light is designed differently from the majority of lights on this list. Although it is constructed with a gooseneck clamp, the amount of light it delivers, along with the intensity, cannot be matched for the price.
The light has a particularly long lifespan of 30,000 hours and is made to promote fish breeding and plant growth, so if you are breeding fish, this is ideal. You can choose between 30 LEDs (13 watt) or 45 LEDS (21 watt).
- Produces a shimmer effect that is healthy for both fish and plants
- Comes with two lighting modes—day and night
- Splash resistant alloy shell
- Gooseneck clip fits on both rimmed and rimless aquariums
- You can change the angle and height of the light by adjusting the gooseneck
- May not fit on the rims of some smaller tanks
- Lamp head has been called “delicate”
7. Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus
The contemporary design of this lights makes it a wonderful choice for those who want a lot of effects without adding bulk to the aquarium. The lights promote growth for both marine and freshwater plants and has evenly spaced LED for refugium purposes.
Low light plants will also thrive under this light. Many users have noted that their plants grow much faster under this light, especially since the presence of special red lights.
- Built for plants that require a high light output
- Sleek housing
- Ideal for planted tanks
- Ultra slim body
- 660nm photosynthesis red LEDs
- 7000K white and RGB light
- Can sometimes give off too much light and promote algae growth
- Moderately expensive compared to other models
- Not programmable
8. Coodia Aquarium Hood Lighting With Remote Control
When you are starting out, you probably don’t want to invest in super expensive fixtures right yet. That is where this light by Coodia is the best budget-friendly option.
Not only is this light packed with awesome features, it comes at a low price, four expandable sizes, a wireless remote, and various lighting modes. The lights are also wide, so the 7000K illumination penetrates the entire tank. However, it is best suited for smaller tanks with low and medium light plants.
- Sturdy design
- Comes with preset color cycles
- Packed with plenty of features to keep new aquarists happy
- Doesn’t break the bank
- The remote looks like a toy
- Strobe and flash settings are novelties and have little effect
- Not programmable
9. Zeiger Eco LED Long Size Aquarium Light
The Zeiger Eco LED light is available in several sizes and varieties, so you can choose the one that will work best with your fish and plants in freshwater and saltwater tanks.
That said, each light has similar features and construction. The most notable feature is the full spectrum of light—white, blue, red, and green. The whole aquarium gets bathed in light, creating a healthy environment for all the inhabitants.
- Comes with a 1 year warranty
- Adjustable metal brackets that can fit a number of tanks
- Two light modes—day and night—with a total of 126 LEDs
- Great for tanks containing freshwater and saltwater plants, fish, and even reptiles
- Very bright white light can replace fluorescent bulbs
- Not suitable for high light plants
- Does not illuminate the entire tank
- Produces some heat
10. Koval Aquarium Lighting Fish Tank
This light is popular with fish keepers who want high quality without spending too much money. This durable light comes with a full spectrum and can be used for up to 50,000 hours.
The LEDs come in 5 different colors, providing a natural spectrum of light that is ideal for all kinds of fish and plants. You also get 3 color modes. The extendable brackets enable you to position the light a number of ways and fit it to most tanks without a problem.
- Provides a natural look to tanks
- Power cords are waterproof
- Economical cost
- Efficient light with minimal energy consumption
- Up to 8000K temperature range
- May not produce enough light for larger tanks (50+ gallons)
- Some reviewers noticed that the alloy shell is not sealed completely
How To Choose The Best LED Aquarium Lighting For Plants
Having seen examples of the best LED aquarium lighting for plants, you may have seen some recurring themes. Keep those features in mind when checking over the recommended features, such as:
Choose a fixture that generates light between the 6000K-7000K range if you have green plants. Fixtures with an output of 10,000K and over will focus on the blue end of the light spectrum and are ideal for coral. Also, check for wavelengths between 600nm-700nm, since that provides red light—another color plants love.
Ease of Control and Features
LED lighting is more than just illumination. The colors that are displayed can brighten your tank and make the tiny world inside look incredible. Some lights can be programmed to mimic weather patterns, too, such as clouds, thunderstorms, and even day and night cycles.
For example, moonlights provide a deep radiant blue for reef tanks that allows you see inside the tank but doesn’t disrupt your fishes’ nocturnal habits or sleep cycles.
Look for lights with an adjustable fit or clamps to prevent the light from getting knocked into the water. Installation should be simple, not frustrating.
Tank Size and Light Intensity
Look for a PAR value chart. This shows how far radiation will penetrate. From there, you can calculate just how much radiation you need to reach all the plants in your tank. Otherwise, you can figure out how many lumens per gallon.
The lumens you need depends on the plants in the tank. Low light plants will never require as much light as species considered “high light.” Here are general guidelines for choosing lumens:
- Low light plants: 10-20 lumen (1-2 watt per gallon)
- Medium light plants: 20-40 lumen (2-4 watts per gallon)
- High light plants: 40-80 lumen (4-8 watts per gallon)
How Long Should Aquarium Lights Be On For My Plants?
The minimum is around 7-8 hours, but you may need more once you see how your plants react to the lighting. However, you shouldn’t exceed 12 hours of continuous light.
So, which is the best LED aquarium light for plants? It depends on which plants you have in your tank, how much light those plants need, and even the size of your tank.
That said, you want a light that is going to illuminate every corner to the tank and give your plants a full spectrum of colors to promote healthy growth. Keep in mind the features available, as well as the cost, and you should be able to find the right LED aquarium light to suit your needs!