Thinking about having an aquarium brings a plethora of questions including the type of aquarium you want, the type of fish used in your chosen aquarium type, the aquarium decor, the tank size, and the best light for planted aquarium. Different aquarium types include freshwater, tropical, cold-water, marine, and brackish, and we'll look into each briefly.
Freshwater Tropical Aquariums
Freshwater tropical aquariums are the standard for hobbyists and are easy to maintain, which is why they are the best for beginners. The temperature of the water ranges between 72-84 degrees Fahrenheit and requires no chemical additives other than those used to condition the water such as chlorine removers. Fancy light fixtures or complicated equipment is unnecessary. Tropical fish are less expensive compared to marine fish although there are several tropical fish species that are rather pricey. Also, freshwater fish are stronger than marine fish regarding water conditions.
Cold-water aquariums are colder freshwater aquariums with temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and one of the most common fish used in cold-water aquariums is the goldfish. Cold-water fish can be a tad more expensive when looking at other fish types besides goldfish such as Koi fish.
Marine aquariums use saltwater, and saltwater fish are higher in price when compared to freshwater fish. Marine fish are also more sensitive to water conditions, need specialized diets, and are sometimes hard to find suppliers/stores for. The equipment needed for marine aquariums is quite expensive because you need to keep coral.
Brackish aquariums aren't common, and brackish water is a mixture of fresh and saltwater. The selection of fish available for this type of aquarium is low compared to other aquarium types, with the most common fish being the Pufferfish.
Lighting for your aquarium plays a larger role than just illuminating the tank. It provides oxygen and energy to the fish and also aids in the growth of plants, coral, bacteria, and basically all the life inside the aquarium environment. Different ways lighting is measured include wattage, lumens, Kelvin, and PAR (photosynthetically active radiation).
Wattage is the amount of energy used, lumens is the brightness, Kelvin is the color, and PAR is useful for plant and beneficial algae growth. The different types of lighting include fluorescent, T-5 HO fluorescent, and LED. Regular fluorescent is the most common type and the least expensive. It works well with freshwater and planted aquariums. They are tubular shaped and can be inefficient since a portion of the light reflects upward away from the aquarium.
T-5 HO fluorescent lights are a more advanced type, and their bulbs are close to twice as bright as regular fluorescents. They are best used in bigger aquariums that need brighter and deeper penetration. They generate more heat, therefore it's imperative to monitor the aquarium's temperature routinely and turn them off when necessary.
LED lights are new to the aquarium scene but are fast becoming a favorite with their slim design, cool operating temps, low operation cost, and the colors and shimmer effects. They come in a wide variety of types and sizes and provide consistent color throughout their lifespan, unlike fluorescents which shift their color over a 3-6 month time-frame.
The amount of lighting required differs on the type of tank. Planted tanks need 6500-7000 Kelvin, 15-30 PAR (for low light plants), 30-80 PAR (for medium light plants), and greater than 80 PAR (for high light plants). Fish-only tanks need 550-6500 Kelvin, and unlike plants, fish don't actually require light. Marine reef tanks need 300-500+ PAR for both hard and soft corals.
Figuring out how much time to use the lighting is important in providing the fish and plants the lighting they need. The average is around 10-12 hours per day. Using a timer or buying a tank with an integrated timing unit makes it easier since you can just set it and then forget about it without worrying. Algae loves light, and if you notice algae growth, cut back on the lighting time or leave the lights off while away from the house, using the lights only when home.
Another factor to consider is whether you need a glass canopy over your aquarium. If the lighting is exposed, moisture will affect the lighting unit and decrease its life-span. We will review different types of lighting options to aid in your choice of the best light for planted aquarium.
Frequently Asked Questions
When buying a lighting unit for your aquarium, picking the right one not only adds beauty to the tank, but it will provide the light required to help aid in the growth of the plants and fish. What are some factors used for purchasing the best light for planted aquarium?
1. How Is the Reliability of Brand Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
When buying the best light for planted aquarium, consider the brands available. Picking the correct brand is important since there are different models for each brand. When doing a model comparison, choose a reputable brand versus an economy or generic brand, and you can learn a lot by checking out the product description.
- Choose a reputable brand
- Read product description
2. How Is the Light Spectrum Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
An important factor when choosing the best light for a planted aquarium is the light spectrum so that you get the correct output required for plant growth. The correct spectrum includes as many colors as possible, ensuring plants receive the lights promoting the best photosynthesis process.
- Ensures plants get the best photosynthesis process
- The correct spectrum includes as many colors as possible
3. How Are Control Modes/Features Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
The control modes/features available in the different models include lights that simulate sunrise, sunset, and night time. Using these modes allow you to switch between the different options giving you the most out of the lights making sure you're nurturing the life of the plants and giving your room a nice ambiance.
- Simulates real-life situation such as sunrise/sunset and night time
- Easily switching modes ensures plants are nurtured
4. How Is Installation Ease Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
The ease of installation is always important because you don't want to become frustrated. More complex lighting models will make the installation more complicated, so choosing a model with easy steps is better. There are models that come with adjustable frames and legs allowing for less time when fitting it onto the tank. Reviews from users are helpful in picking a model that will be easy to install.
- Reading user reviews helps in picking the best lighting source that is easy to install
- Pick models with features such as adjustable frames/legs ensuring less time to install
5. How Is LED Durability Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
The durability of the LEDs depends upon the materials used in the unit and the LEDs used. LEDs may work great in the beginning but burn out in a short amount of time, and knowing the durability of the LEDs means you won't end up with a model that won't deliver consistent performance.
- Using durable materials in both unit and LEDs
6. How Is Ventilation Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
Lights generate heat that builds up over time, and having the proper ventilation is an important feature you will want the model to have.
- For heat dispersion
7. How Is a Splash Guard Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
The lighting unit needs protection from moisture and water contact; therefore, pick a model that has a splash guard to prevent these situations.
- Protection against moisture and water contact
8. How Is the Kelvin/Lumen Rating Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?
The Kelvin/Lumen rating is perhaps the most important feature you will want in your lighting unit. These two measurements are important in knowing the output of the lights regarding both color temperature and total visible light. Most aquariums having lights operating in the 6500-7000K is ideal for keeping the growth of plants going well and helps the lighting unit perform as a natural light source.
- Ensuring proper growth of plant and fish life
- Simulates natural light
How We Reviewed
The following products were reviewed in conjunction with Consumer Reports based on parameters including features, pros/cons, price, where to buy, and warranty to give you the best information aiding in your choice for the best light for planted aquarium.
Overall Price Range of Aquarium Lighting Fixtures
The overall price range of aquarium lights depends on a lot of factors. The higher priced lighting fixtures offer more LEDs in several color options and greater flexibility, whether it be submerged or hung.
What We Reviewed
- Output 12V/0.5A Brighter than 5V/1A
- Great for night viewing,Great night light and tank illuminator,cool White LEDs add a shimmering effect to your reef
- Mingdak's fish tank litht bar brings the light to the inside of your aquarium. The in-frame mounting allows you to see the light without seeing the fixture
- All are fully submersible and come with suction cups to give you endless possibilities on how to use these systems.Super water resistant
- Safe and low voltage:LED lights is 20% brighter and is designed for reliable, long-term performance
The Mingdak LED aquarium light comes with an in-frame mounting which lets you view the light not the fixture and is fully submersible. This unit comes with suction cups ensuring endless possibilities regarding placement.
- where to buy
The Mingdak LED Aquarium Light has a limited one-year warranty.
- 45. 5 - 48" Unibody Ultra slim high output planted LED
- True 660Nm intensive photosynthesis Red LEDs
- (160) 7000K + (88) 660Nm RED + (16) Blue moonlights
- 48 Total Watts
- With legs can extend to 48" Aquariums
The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED light plus moonlights comes in an ultra-slim design featuring a series of LEDs promoting marine refugium and freshwater growth. This lighting unit has an evenly spaced LED alignment ideal for aquariums needing low to medium light. The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ series has true 660nm red LEDs which have been found to be an effective wavelength for plant photosynthesis.
The Finnex FugeRay offers moonlight via a separate switch that can be activated at night, giving the tank a pleasing, moonlit feel. The unit comes with a splash guard to prevent water mishaps and moisture. LED bulbs are durable with a life-span of 40,000 hours and a spread of 120 degrees. In order to extend the longevity of the LED bulbs, the circuit board is built with high-quality aluminum, and the fixture acts as a heat sync, enabling excellent heat dispersion and ample cooling.
- where to buy
The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED light plus moonlights has a 6-month warranty.
- SUPER BRIGHT- 6500k White LEDs and RGBW LED's come together in an amazingly sleek fixture that's dialed in for freshwater Aquatics like nothing before
- MULTIPLE MODES- With modes that dim periodically to create cloud cover effects, storm modes that will blow you away complete with lightning strikes and innovative evening modes that include lunar and dusk – it’s sure to add excitement and intrigue to any aquarium.
- EASY INSTALLATION- Sliding docking legs allow quick and easy adjustments for a wide variety of installations. This system also makes adding multiple fixtures a snap.
- REALISTIC EFFECTS- Beyond the world of white and blue light, the Satellite LED also features effects that mimic real-world aquatic conditions.
- WIRELESS CONTROL- Now you can wirelessly program and control just about everything! Seeing dynamic weather effects over your tank is just the beginning! With the integrated 24-hour timer function, you can also program what time to start a gradual sunrise, gentle sunset and both the color spectrum and intensity of your daylight and moonlight.
The Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED Light produces more light with higher color rendition and more control features. This lighting unit is designed especially for freshwater aquariums and with the adjustable full light spectrum, so it's an optimal choice for strong plant growth and gives off immense shimmer effects and vivid colors.
The integrated 24-hour timer allows you to program what time to start a gradual sunrise/sunset and/or dynamic weather effects. This lighting unit programs easily with a wireless IR remote controller or touch keypad with features including 24-hour on/off time with a 15-minute ramp-up time useful for the gradual sunrise/sunset tone, an adjustable daylight/moonlight color spectrum, and 6 weather effects and presets such as cloud cover, storm/lightning, and fading moonlight.
There are four freshwater preset colors and two locations for memory giving a custom color spectrum. The higher output light offers a fully adjustable color spectrum and keeps the aquarium on a 24-hour light cycle. This unit comes with a 120-degree reflector that spreads light evenly, providing superb color blending. The docking mounts are adjustable allowing for quick adaptability and fit many types of aquariums.
- where to buy
The Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED Light has a one-year warranty.
- Bright LEDs with 5 colors, full spectrum LEDs and makes phycophyta vivid
- Extendable bracket makes LED light fits different size aquariums in extendable range
- High-quality LEDs, can be used at least 50000 hrs
- If one of the LEDs is not working by being misused, the others would not be affected (But other cheaper ones will be extinguished lots of LEDs and can't be used any more)
- High efficiency, low energy dissipation, save cost, extend LEDs life span
The KOVAL INC. Aquarium Fish Tank Light features 156 LEDs in 5 colors including white (132), blue (12), green(4), red(4), and pink (4). These high-quality LEDs have a usable lifespan of 50,000 hours, and if one stops working, the others won't be affected. The lighting hood gives full-spectrum light, ensuring healthy growth of corals, plants, and fish. The additional moonlight mode gives your aquarium a nice blue hue for an amazing night-time effect. This lighting unit features a lightweight aluminum alloy shell which is durable, coming in three sizes, and also includes extendable brackets fitting many sizes of aquariums.
- where to buy
The KOVAL INC Aquarium Lighting Fish Tank Light offers a hassle-free return policy for 30 days after purchase and if there are manufacturer defects, they will replace the product for free or a full refund.
- Multiple colors and multiple lighting modes.This light is beneficial to grow plants.
- With extendable bracket to adjust the length to fit your fish tank,fits tank 28inch--36inch in length
- Dedicated and professional power supply design, more energy-efficient,over 10000 hours lifespan
- 2.4G remote technology is updated on July 15, no longer requests point the remote straight to the receiver. You can even control the light through a wall. High bright LEDs and dimmable with remote control
- Easy to use, just put it on the top of fish tank and plug into the power. Ideal for freshwater and seawater
The COODIA Aquarium Hood offers sufficient light so not only can fish/plants have higher visibility, they get the energy required for healthy growth. Also, having proper light can influence the physiology and behavior of your fish. This lighting unit comes with a 2.4G remote control, allowing you to change the color and brightness of your lights. The aluminum housing of the hood delivers better dispersion of heat and the LEDs come in green, red, and blue, giving an ideal wavelength for the overall health to the ecosystem. Extendable brackets enable the hood to fit a variety of aquarium sizes.
- where to buy
The COODIA Aquarium Hood warranty information could not be found.
The Beamworks 6500K 0.5W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light isn't the most powerful aquarium light on the market, but its low cost is attractive for those who have less demanding fish/plants. This lighting unit supports low to mid-level plants and is a good choice for 90% of planted aquarium hobbyists. It's a perfect choice for beginners just getting into the aquatic hobby. The Beamworks lighting unit comes with a built-in programmable timer, allowing the user to set the lights to turn on/off automatically.
- where to buy
The Beamworks 6500K 0.5W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light warranty information could not be found.
- AQUARIUM LIGHT: Easily convert an aquarium into a stunning home for your GloFish fluorescent fish.
- BLUE LED LIGHTS: Suspend GloFish LED Aquarium Light over your aquarium cover to enhance your tank.
- FOR UP TO 10 GALLONS: Add to your 10-gallon aquarium to create the ultimate GloFish environment.
- UNIVERSAL USE: Fits aquariums up to 30 inches long – use with a glass or clear plastic canopy.
- Use one for 5-10 gallon aquariums; use two for 20-55 gallon aquariums.
The GloFish Blue LED Aquarium Light is waterproof and can be used with all glass canopies or light hoods. This lighting unit features clips fitting into the frame of your aquarium and each light set includes a low-voltage transformer, two cord routing clips, a frame clip, a light switch, and a blue LED light. GloFish lights are not a good lighting source for plant growth and are best used for supplemental light.
- where to buy
The GloFish Blue LED Aquarium Light have a one-year warranty.
- Super bright, energy-efficient and long-lasting LEDs promotes healthy, vibrant growth of fish and aquatic plants, to produce brilliant lighting to your aquascape
- Two lighting modes: White & Blue LEDs for daylight and Blue LEDs only for nightlight, created especially for freshwater aquariums
- Adjustable metal brackets to fit aquarium tank from 48 inches to 54 inches, Light Fixture: 46 in L x 4 in W, Light with Brackets Extend: 54 in L x 4 in W
- Compatible with NICREW Single-channel timer and Single-channel timer Pro, gradually turn the light on to simulate sunrise, and to dim the light to simulate sunset
- A glass or acrylic canopy is highly recommended to extend the life of the unit by preventing moisture from affecting it
The NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light offers the proper lighting required for the photosynthesis process, keeping plants looking their best. It's also needed for the influence of fish behavior. This model was designed to make your fish feel comfortable while still benefiting plants and is adjustable enabling this unit to fit a variety of aquarium sizes. It offers both daytime and nighttime modes.
- where to buy
The NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light offers a one-year warranty.
- VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series V165 LED Aquarium Light is scientifically engineered to keep the balance of the PAR output and coverage.
- Internal timer allows you to turn the light on or off automatically and separately. Dimmable feature can be used to adjust two channels brightness individually.
- V165 is full spectrum with our proprietary layout, which is contributed by thousands of ReefCentral members, has had years of success.
- Suitable for all photosynthetic corals, be sure to acclimate your tank or new corals to the new light by slowing increasing its exposure/intensity to the light.
- 1 year local warranty plus 30 days satisfaction or return guarantee.
The VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series LED Aquarium Light comes with a built-in timer, full spectrum layout, advanced heat dispersion system, dimming ability, and is designed to provide the perfect environment for your aquatic creatures. The built-in timer has two settings with one for blue and one for white. The advanced heat dispersion is done via the high-speed fans and upgraded aluminum heat sinks. This lighting unit comes with a remote control and adjustable hanging kits.
- where to buy
The VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series LED Aquarium Light offers a three-year local warranty.
- OceanRevive Arctic-T247 Aquarium LED unit is ideal for both fresh and marine aquatic applications, aquatic ecosystems and marine organisms, specialized for SPS/LPS/Soft corals and reef fish.
- Built-in controller controls TWO channels independently (blue and full spectrum channels) for both Time and Intensity.
- OceanRevive Arctic-T247 and the support services earned numerous positive reviews and reputation on the popular reefing forums Reef2Reef, ReefCentral, Nano-Reef, and our Addictive Reef Keeping US Based Support is unparalleled.
- Special Full Spectrum layout was developed by fellow reefers of both the US and International reefing community: Royal Blue 450nm, Blue 470nm, Cool White 10000K, 12000K, Red 520nm, Green 660nm and UV 420nm, creating the natural reefing light to reflect vivid color from the corals and fish. 90 degree optics help light to penetrate to the required depth of water.
- It comes with both supporting brackets and hanging kits to fit any type of fish tank. Specifically designed to expand the coverage on depth and width.
The OceanRevive Arctic T-247 Full Spectrum Dimming 120W LED Aquarium Reef Light is a great option for high-end aquarium lighting. It is ideal for both planted and reef tanks with two built-in independently controlled channels for time and intensity. This lighting unit also offers supporting brackets and a hanging kit, ensuring that both the depth and width are covered efficiently.
The OceanRevive Arctic T-247 comes with two dual cooling fans that help with thermal management and the programmability via the remote buttons that glow during the night, and it is a nice convenience option for controlling the various settings. The suspension mount is easily accomplished if you follow the steps provided by the manufacturer and includes the brackets and hardware required for the task.
- where to buy
The OceanRevive T-247 Full Spectrum Dimming 120W LED Aquarium Reef Light offers a one-year warranty.
Our verdict of the best light for planted aquarium is comprised of the Mingdak, KOVAL, Beamworks, and NICREW models. The most pressing factor was the price; however, each model had their own unique attributes helping with the decision. The Mingdak lighting unit had high user reviews, and the fixture was fully submersible. The Beamworks model came with a built-in programmable timer and is the perfect choice for beginners as well as 90% of aquatic hobbyists. The NICREW is adjustable with both day and night modes; however, this model seemed best for the photosynthesis process and for keeping your fish healthy and happy. The Koval has a plethora of LED lights in 5 color varieties with a long lifespan at 50,000 hours. The Koval also came with the additional moonlight mode found on more expensive priced aquarium lights.