Best Light for Planted Aquarium: Giving Your Fish Tank A Curb Appeal

best light for planted aquarium

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.

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Freshwater Tropical Aquariums

Freshwater Tropical Aquarium

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

how to clean a fish tank

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

marine aquarium

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

brackish water aquarium

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?

2. How Is the Light Spectrum Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

3. How Are Control Modes/Features Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

4. How Is Installation Ease Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

5. How Is LED Durability Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

6. How Is Ventilation Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

7. How Is a Splash Guard Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

8. How Is the Kelvin/Lumen Rating Useful in Picking the Best Light for Planted Aquarium?

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

best light

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

  • Mingdak LED Aquarium Light
  • Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights
  • Current USA Satellite Plus PRO LED Light
  • KOVAL INC. Aquarium Lighting Fish Tank Light
  • COODIA Aquarium Hood
  • Beamworks 6500K 0.50W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light
  • GloFish Blue LED Aquarium Light
  • NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light
  • VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series LED Aquarium Light
  • OceanRevive® Arctic-T247 Full Spectrum Dimmable 120W LED Aquarium Reef Light
Mingdak LED Aquarium Light for Fish Tanks,18 LEDs,7.5-Inch,Output 12V/0.5A Brighter Than 5V/1A,White Lighting
  • 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

Features

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.

Pros

  • Price
  • Adequate lighting
  • High user satisfaction

Cons

  • No splash guard
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights, 48-Inch
  • 48" Unibody Ultra Slim High Output Planted LED
  • TRUE 660nm intensive photosynthesis RED LEDs
  • (180) 7000k + (96) 660nm RED + (12) Blue Moonlights
  • 35.6 Total Watts

Features

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.

Pros

  • Splash guard
  • Powerful lighting
  • Built-in heat sync

Cons

  • Tends to condense moisture if kept near the water level
  • Price
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

Current USA 24"-36" Satellite Plus PRO LED Light
  • 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.

Features

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.

Pros

  • Unique features such as storm and cloud cover modes
  • Dual Ramp Timer allows for sunrise and sunset simulation
  • Great PAR outputs

Cons

  • Price
  • Remote reception sometimes unreliable
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

Koval 156 LED Aquarium Light Hood with Extendable Brackets, 45-Inch to 50-Inch
  • 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

Features

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.

Pros

  • Moonlight mode
  • Price
  • The total amount of LEDs

Cons

  • No timer
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

COODIA Aquarium Hood Lighting Color Changing Remote Controlled Dimmable RGBW LED Light for Aquarium/Fish Tank, Extendable (for Fresh and Salt Water)
  • 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

Features

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.

Pros

  • Variety of color options
  • Price
  • User-friendly remote

Cons

  • No timer
  • Multi-color features may not be good for fish/plants
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

Beamswork DA 6500K 0.50W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light Freshwater Plant Discus (80cm - 30")
  • Lumen: 4800
  • LEDs: 80x 0.50 watt
  • Config: 64x 6500K, 16x Actinic
  • 2 Modes: All on / 16x only
  • Timer Ready

Features

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.

Pros

  • Price
  • Built-in programmable timer

Cons

  • Runs hot
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

GloFish 29014 LED Aquarium Light, 8-Inch, Blue
  • In-Frame 8 inch LED Light
  • Add to your aquarium to create the ultimate GloFish Environment
  • Clips easily to the front of aquarium frame
  • Brilliant blue LED lights
  • Use with any light hood or glass canopy

Features

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.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Doesn't support healthy growth of fish/plants
  • Only one color
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light, Fish Tank Light with Extendable Brackets, 48-Inch, 32 Watts
  • Super bright, energy efficient and long lasting LEDs to produce amazing shimmer to your aquarium
  • Adjustable metal brackets to fit aquarium tank from 48 inches to 52 inches
  • Two lighting modes: White & Blue LEDs for daylight and Blue LEDs for nightlight
  • Light Fixture: 46 in L x 4 in W, Fixture w/ Brackets Extend: 52 in L x 4 in W
  • This product is recommended for use over panel or glass-covered aquariums

Features

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.

Pros

  • Adjustable
  • Both day/night modes

Cons

  • No timer
  • Price/feature ratio
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control 165W LED Aquarium Light Dimmable Full Spectrum for Coral Reef Grow Fish Tank
  • 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.

Features

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.

Pros

  • Built-in timer
  • Dims
  • Advanced heat dispersion system

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Not programmable
  • Price
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

OceanRevive Arctic-T247 Full Spectrum Dimmable 120W LED Aquarium Reef Light with Built in Timer, Bracket and remote control (48*3W, 90deg Optical Lens)
  • 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.

Features

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.

Pros

  • Adjustable mounts
  • Slim design
  • Built-in legs
  • Time and intensity control

Cons

  • Price
  • Light output can burn corals
  • where to buy
  • Warranty

Amazon

The Verdict

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.

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