Updated: February 21, 2022 - By: - Categories: Equipment

One of the most important equipment you need to make your freshwater aquarium fully functional is the lighting. Aquatic plants need light for photosynthesis while fish need light to see each other as well as search for foods. In this article, we will look at some of the best LED lights with timer control that you can choose for your freshwater fish tank. There are many options for many types of freshwater tanks including fish-only and freshwater planted.

[Comparison table] Best freshwater aquarium LED lights

Model Our rating Ideal for Fixture sizes For tanks LEDs Modes Wattage
Mindak fish tank clip-on light editor's ratingMindak fish tank clip-on light #ad tropical fish, Bettas, shrimp, aquarium plants  clip light 3-8 gallon tanks 15 white, 3 blue inline-timer, blue + white, blue only, white only 7 watts.
hygger Advanced 24/7 Lighting Cycle LED Aquarium Light editor's ratinghygger Advanced 24/7 Lighting Cycle LED Aquarium Light #ad freshwater fish, most plant types 36-42 inches (12-54″ available) 30/40/50 gallons (36-42 inches) 76 White, 31 Blue, 11 Red, 8 Green, 32 RGB 6/10/12 hour timer, 24/7 light cycle, multi colors 36 watts
Hygger Auto On Off 48-55 Inch LED Aquarium Light editor's ratingHygger Auto On Off 48-55 Inch LED Aquarium Light #ad freshwater fish, most plant types 48-55 inches (17-55″ available) 55/75 gallons (48 inches) 140 White, 23 Blue, 12 Red, 11 Green, 62 RGB built-in digital timer controller for multi modes 72 watts
MingDak 24/7 Submersible Aquarium Light editor's ratingMingDak 24/7 Submersible Aquarium Light #ad fish, low light plants 7.5″ (7.5-23″ available) 9-12″ 18 pcs, full spectrum on/off timer, 2 daylight modes & 1 night 4 watts
BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum editor's ratingBeamsWork EA Full Spectrum #ad freshwater fish, low light plants 30 inches (12-72″ available) 20-gallon long or 29-gallon 25x 10000K, 6x Actinic 460nm, 3x Red 620nm, 2x Green 520nm Day/night, timer sold separately 18 watts total
Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 editor's ratingFluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 #ad freshwater fish, most plant types 48-60 inches (available 24-60″) 48-60 inches 366 total mobile app control for timing and dimming, many preset modes 59 watts
Current USA Serene Visual and Audio Aquatic Experience Kit editor's ratingCurrent USA Serene Visual and Audio #ad fish-only, cichlid, low light plants 24-36″ (24-72″ available) 20-50 gallons 36 white + RGB (main light), 18 RGB (background light) 24-hour timer, multi presets, natural audio sound 30W (main light), 8W (background light)
AquaIllumination Prime 16 Freshwater LED Fixture editor's ratingAquaIllumination Prime 16 Freshwater LED Fixture #ad medium-high light plants 24 x 24″ deep planted, 1 unit for every 24″ 10 x White, 2 x Blue, 1 x Photo Red, 1 x Green, 1 x Moonlight Bluetooth app control for light colors and schedule 55 watts
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 CRV editor's ratingFinnex Planted+ 24/7 CRV #ad medium-high light plants 36 inches (available 20-48″) 30-50 gallons daylight, 660nm red, green, blue 24/7 timer controller, multi modes watts
NICREW SkyLED Plus editor's ratingNICREW SkyLED Plus #ad freshwater fish, most plant types 30-36 inches (12-54″ available) 29/30-gallon 80 White + 15 Blue + 10 Red, Day/night, timer sold separately 30 watts
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus editor's ratingCurrent USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus #ad fish-only, cichlid, low light plants 48-60 inches 48-inch fish tank (55/60/75/90 gallon) 96 white + 48 RGB custom colors, weather effects, timer sold separately 30 watts

How to choose LED lights for freshwater aquariums?

Choosing the right type of aquarium light involves more than just your preference and budget. It’s about the kind of setup you have in your tank and also about the community of fish. Each tank setup has varying lighting needs, and you need to consider this when buying an aquarium light.

For freshwater planted tanks

10-gallon-fish-tank

Planted tanks have more demanding lighting needs mainly because live plants need enough light for photosynthesis to occur. There are two primary factors to consider (right type and enough quantity) when buying an LED light for planted tanks.

color-temperature

Color temperature (wikipedia.org)

For choosing the right type of aquarium light, color temperature (Kelvin rating) is used. The bluer the light is, the higher the Kelvin rating is. The redder the light is, the lower the Kelvin rating is. Aquarium plants can thrive in a wide range of color temperatures, but the white range from 5500 to 7500K works best for both plant growth and visual effect.

For quantifying, PAR (photosynthetic active radiation, unit µmol/m2/s) is best used. The PAR measures the amount of radiation that plants can use for photosynthesis and growth. Using this measurement, you can determine if a product can provide enough light for your planted tank.

Marineland planted LED light PARMarineland planted LED light PAR

Previous is the PAR measurements of a planted tank LED light. As you can see in the picture, further spots from the light get lower PAR readings. For plant growth, the higher the PAR value, the better. But not all plants require the same PAR. Low light plants need about 15 to 30 µmol/m2/s, medium-light plants between 35 to 65 µmol/m2/s, and high light plants between 65 to 120+ µmol/m2/s.

The ideal light should be bright enough to light up the tank and cater to your plants’ photosynthetic needs. You will need to place different light-demanding plants in different spots in your tank so that all the plants receive just enough light for their needs.

Go to the detailed page for planted aquarium lighting if keeping freshwater plants is the main purpose of your aquarium. https://portlandaquarium.net/planted-aquarium-led-light/

For freshwater fish-only tank

20-gallon-fish-tank

Freshwater fish-only tanks have the least lighting demands, just enough for you to see the fish as well as for the fish to search for food. Different kinds of fish have different needs of lighting and the type of light you choose will largely depend on the species in your tank.

Most freshwater aquarium fish are from shallow water streams covered by dense trees above, where they tend to receive 10-12 hours of shaded sunlight daily. An aquarium light with 5500-8000K white replicates this kind of light best.

Some aquarium fish are shy, and others like to hide. You need to consider this when buying the light. If the light is too bright, the fish might be uncomfortable. It’s vital to understand the lighting needs from the perspective of your fish before purchasing.

For tanks that have fish that love light and those that don’t, you can remedy the situation by having multiple dark, hiding places to keep the fish that prefer shading comfortable as well.

Freshwater aquarium LED light review

Mindak fish tank clip-on light with in-line timer

The Mindak clip light is suitable for a small planted Betta tank from 3 to 8 gallons. The clip-on mounting and flexible gooseneck make it easier to fit on a small-sized aquarium.

Light modes and timerLight modes and timer

It offers three lighting modes, two daylights (with/without blue) and one nightlight (blue only). Use the mode button on the inline controller for switching between the modes or turning the light off.  It includes 460nm blue to boost aquarium plants’ photosynthesis.

With “W” and “B” buttons on the controller, you can dim the intensities of the white and blue channels separately. The timer button allows you to set the lighting time to 6, 10, or 12 hours. So, you can choose the lighting time long or short based on the needs of the plant types in your Betta tank.

Hygger Advanced 24/7 Lighting Cycle LED Aquarium Light

This aquarium light comes with an expansive range of features that you can control using its inline controller. These wonderful features make it one of the best options for fish keepers.

Inline timer controllerInline timer controller

Firstly, you can set the lighting time to 6, 10, or 12 hours using the TIMER button on the controller. You only need to set it one time in the morning and the light will repeat your setting day by day.

7 lighting colors7 lighting colors

The color and intensity of the light are customizable and fully programmable. The second button allows you to switch among 7 lighting colors including full-spectrum, red, blue, green, orange, purple, and cyan. With the third button, the light intensity is adjustable in the range from 10% to 100%.

24/7 lighting cycle24/7 lighting cycle

Moreover, you have an option to use a 24/7 lighting schedule that is preset to automatically switch to different lighting colors and intensities at different times of the day. The goal of this feature is to replicate natural lighting conditions. It starts with a warm orange (mimic sunrise) at 6 AM, transitions into a bright white at mid-day, then a starry blue at night, and turns off at 22:30.

The reviewed version is a fixture extendable from 36 to 42 inches, which is perfect for a 30-50 gallon tank. There are other versions from 12 to 54 inches available for choice.

Hygger Auto On Off 48-55 Inch LED aquarium light

This aquarium light from Hygger is perfect for 55 to 75-gallon freshwater fish or planted aquariums. It has a rating of 72 watts and is packed with 140 white, 23 blue, 12 red, 11 green, and 62 RGB LEDs to provide you with flexible lighting solutions for your tank.

Easy-to-program digital timer controllerEasy-to-program digital timer controller

The light comes with a digital timer control unit built into its fixture. You can use the controller to set the light intensities, change its colors (6 single color + white), as well as program the timing schedule.

Automatic lighting cycle with sunrise, sunsetAutomatic lighting cycle with sunrise, sunset

Its automatic lighting cycle also features ramp-up and ramp-down periods between daylight and nightlight, which is critical in replicating the natural light cycle for the comfort of your fish and plants. A special feature is that you can choose another color for the moonlight, not only blue.

MingDak 24/7 Submersible Aquarium Light

This is a great choice if you’re looking for a submersible aquarium light that offers enough versatility of setup. This model offers three light modes: full-spectrum, white+red, and blue. This allows you to mimic the natural effect of sunlight so that your plants and fish enjoy adequate amounts of light during the day and get enough rest at night.

The intensities of the lights are also adjustable from 10%, 25%, and 50% to 75% and 100%. This aquarium light offers rich 460nm blue and 660nm red LED lights, ensuring that your plants receive the perfect range of light intensity they require to grow and thrive.

Another highlight of this model is its 3/8/12-hour inline timer, which lets you choose how long you want the light to stay on and not worry about your tank whether you’re at work or on the road. Easy to install, this light works well whether placed at the bottom of the tank, on top of the aquarium, or under the hood.

BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum

The BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum is a practical, minimalist LED light that works perfectly for beginners’ planted tanks with mostly fish and some plants to care for. The fixture is not big on customization ability but offers just enough of what your fish and plants need to grow.

It has a daylight mode with all the LED on, and a night mode with only the blue on. It is pre-wired for timer ready. However, you have to buy the timer separately. If you do, the timer should add some convenience and consistency in lighting cycles, which is vital for the healthy growth of your fish and plants.

The BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum has solid structural integrity. The shell is made from structured aluminum for durability and effective heat dissipation. It comes with extendable brackets that are easy to install.

This is an all-business kind of light. It doesn’t pack all the bells and whistles. But it focuses on essentials that will improve your chances of success with a freshwater aquarium.

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

The Fluval Plant Spectrum LED is a diverse and technologically rich light that eases the process of keeping an aquarium and maintaining a consistent environment for your fish. It features full-spectrum white enriched in blue and red for optimal photosynthesis and plant growth.

The light is compatible with a mobile app from Fluval that allows you to control and customize its settings. It connects with the app via Bluetooth. Using the app, you can explore many modes preoptimized for different freshwater habitats including Malawi lake, tropical, and planted.

fluval-led-light-color-channel

The app also includes a 24/7 light schedule for automatic control. The schedule is preset and ready to use, however, you are able to fully program its time periods, colors, and intensities to serve your tanks’ requirements. It is easy to customize the light with its 5 independent color channels.

This excellent product is rated at 59 watts and works for most planted tanks of between 48 – 60 inches. There are also other versions available for different tank sizes.

Current USA Serene Visual and Audio Aquatic Experience Kit

Take your aquarium experience to a whole new level with the Current USA Serene Visual and Audio Aquatic Experience Kit. The kit comes with a main light fixture, background light tube, background, translucent background film, timer, speakers, and remote control. Provided that when properly installed, the kit will bring the light and sound of nature into your fish room with its audio-visual function.

Color changing backgroundColor changing background

Remote controlRemote control

This unit is loaded with multiple features as you can see on the remote control. For visual pleasure, it offers 6 dynamic weather presets (left buttons on the remote) for the main light and four fade programs (right buttons) for the background light. There are two buttons (M & S) for you to create and save your own custom color and screen, too. For auditory pleasure, there are four ambient nature sounds for you to fully relax when viewing your fish tank.

Timer and 24-hour lighting schedulesTimer and 24-hour lighting schedules

Thanks to the timer with three connecting ports, everything can be automated on a 24-hour schedule. Using the remote, you can even choose between a schedule with sunrise/sunset and one without. You can also control the lights and speakers daily with your hands with the rest buttons (daylight, sunrise, sunset, sound off, power on/off,…)

“Magical” is indeed a word you can use to describe the experience this aquarium lighting kit has to offer. With its sleek, minimalist design, the Current USA Serene Visual and Audio Aquatic Experience Kit is surely one fixture you will not regret getting for your aquarium.

AquaIllumination Prime 16 Freshwater LED Fixture

The fixture boasts a total of 15 LED chips with a dedicated LED for moonlight. AquaIllumination has made improvements on the layout of the LEDs and had them more closely packed for better light penetration. The LEDs also come with custom-built TIR lenses which boost PAR output, light balance, and spread.

Boasting a peak PAR value of 86 at a depth of 24 inches, the unit provides enough light for almost any high-demanding planted tank, especially deep and large tanks. While this rating might vary depending on how high up the light is mounted, having the light mounted nearer the water will increase the PAR output.

The ‘myAI’ app from AquaIllumination is also incredibly easy to use and intuitive. It allows you to individually customize each individual setting. Its schedule setting allows you to collectively set different lighting intensities throughout the day, up to the minute. The manual mode allows you to set up different colors individually with the air of an intuitive Kelvin wheel. This mode will come in handy if you require specific color temperatures for different biotopes.

Finnex Planted+ 24/7 CRV Aquarium LED Light

This product is what we will recommend to every planted aquarium owner whether they are experienced or new. This product comes with a full spectrum of light and a 24/7 automatic lighting schedule so that your aquarium plants can photosynthesize just like plants under the sun.

24/7 feature24/7 feature

For people who do not know the exact brightness to use, they can easily turn on the 24/7 feature of this light fixture so that their plants will get the right amount of light at different times of the day. You can enter or leave the 24/7 mode and also customize your own with the remote control.

Remote controlRemote control

You can easily adjust the brightness of all color channels independently to create and save your own customized color in any of the four memory slots (M1-M4) on the remote control. Just make sure that you give your plants enough light for photosynthesis.

Another cool feature of this planted aquarium light is its preset weather effects with thunderstorms (flash of bright white lights), cloudy day (dimmed purple light made from combining red and blue lights), sunny day (very bright white light), and moonlight (dimmed blue light).

Nicrew SkyLED Plus full-spectrum aquarium light

The Nicrew SkyLED Plus with its full-spectrum light is a perfect option for planted tanks with its very competitive price compared to other LED lights for aquarium plants. The considerable PAR of 97 at 12-inch depth means it meets the need of most light-hungry plants.

The light is powered by 6500K white, 450Nm blue, and 660Nm red LEDs that work together to create a full-spectrum effect. The inline switch allows you to adjust the day and night color spectrums and the light intensity. You can adjust the lighting channels together or independently, which gives you even more color options.

Nicrew single-channel timer pro (sold separately)Nicrew single-channel timer pro (sold separately)

The light is timer-ready, with its standard 2.5mm/2.1mm power connectors. If you want to automatically turn it on/off in a timely manner, simply buy the Nicrew single-channel timer and connect it to the light circuit.

The product includes extendable docking legs that can extend from 30 to 36 inches for easy installation on 20-gallon long tanks as well as 29-gallon tanks.

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light

Talking about the LEDs, this aquarium light has white, green, blue, and red LED chips that have various uses. With the remote that comes with this product, you can use a specific color and even adjust its brightness.

You can make your own specific color combination by adjusting the intensities of different colors independently, and save the new setting with any of the four memory slots (M1-M4) available in the remote. Then, you can call a saved color just by only a single click on the corresponding memory button.

It also comes with cool weather effects such as a thunderstorm (flash of bright white light), nighttime (twinkling blue light), cloudy day (dimmed light), etc.

You can turn it off with the remote. If you want to automatically turn it on/off daily, a version with a 24-hour timer is also available for choice, or you can use a compatible timer (sold separately) from Current USA.

With its extendable mounting brackets, it will fit any aquarium that is a bit wider than the light fixture. If you buy the 48-inch version, the legs can fit an aquarium from 48 inches to 60 inches.

Aquarium light accessories

Although aquarium lighting technology is more intuitive than ever, it’s hard to find one light that offers everything without breaking the budget. That’s why you might need some accessories to help you get the most out of the light without leaving holes in your pockets.

Timer

BN-LINK 7 Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable TimerBN-LINK 7 Day Heavy Duty Digital Programmable Timer

BN-LINK Compact Outdoor Mechanical TimerBN-LINK Compact Outdoor Mechanical Timer

A light timer can save you the trouble of running your lights for too long or forgetting to switch them on every morning. The timer will run your light even when you’re away, saving you time and maintaining a healthy aquarium. A socket timer is easy to use and compatible with most aquarium lights in the market these days.

Dimmer

Nicrew dimmer & timer with standard 2.5mm/2.1mm power connectorsNicrew dimmer & timer with standard 2.5mm/2.1mm power connectors

If your aquarium is under constant attack from algae, it’s possible that your light is too bright. Instead of buying another light, you can buy a dimmer, which will lower the intensity of the current light. It’s more economical than buying a new light.

Risers

Aquarium light holder riserAquarium light holder riser

Light risers help to increase the distance between the light and the water in the aquarium providing a wider angle of illumination while keeping the light away from the moisture and its effects. They also work as a dimmer in case the light is too bright for your fish and plants.

PAR meter

Apogee PAR meterApogee PAR meter

When running a planted tank or a reef tank, the PAR measurements of your light is very important. Investing in a PAR meter not only allows you to confirm the performance of the light but also helps you better position your plants and corals inside your tank depending on their PAR requirements to guarantee vibrant growth.

Adapter

DC 12V Power Supply AdapterDC 12V Power Supply Adapter

Most aquarium lights come with their own adapters. Adapters ensure your aquarium light is receiving proper power from the outlet. Without an adapter, your light might not work properly. If your adapter breaks, just make a replacement, don’t need to change the entire lighting system. Ensure the adapter you choose is compatible with your light before making a purchase.

Hanging kit

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3.2ft light fixtures suspension cables kit for ceiling
3.2ft light fixtures suspension cables kit for ceiling

L corner brace bracket wall hanging with screwsL corner brace bracket wall hanging with screws

If you want to hang your aquarium light on a wall or ceiling, you can invest in a hanging kit. It will come with all the items you need to hang the light on. Drill small holes into the wall or ceiling to hold the hanging kit, and once it’s installed, you can attach the light to hang above the aquarium.

What is the best light schedule for a freshwater fish tank?

freshwater-aquarium-light

Aquarium light with timer control

After finding the right aquarium light, you have to figure out how to use it best to benefit your fish and plants.

Most freshwater fish and plants need about 8 to 12 hours of white light a day. It’s important that you have your lighting setup on a timer so your aquarium can get the same amount of light over the same amount of time every day. It’s important to note that darkness is just as crucial to your tank’s inhabitants as light.

The easiest way of achieving the right balance for your aquarium is trying to replicate nature. The following image is a schedule of a freshwater LED aquarium light that is great to follow.

Nicrew 24/7 lighting scheduleNicrew 24/7 lighting schedule

There are aquarium lights that come with a built-in timer with ramp-up and ramp-down periods, stimulating sunrise and sunset. These allow you to adjust the light intensity as it does throughout the day. Such options are perfect for freshwater aquariums.

Having a soothing blue moonlight (performed by several blue LEDs) and/or a dark period at night is important, too. Fish and plants need a balance of day and night to thrive. If you expose the aquarium to too much light, you could scorch the plants, stress the fish, or start having algae problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which is the best nighttime light for aquarium fish?

A: Low-intensity blue light is the best for both freshwater and saltwater fish. But it’s also essential to have a few hours of total darkness in your tank. Fish need this time to rest.

Q: LED vs. fluorescent, which is better?

A: Fluorescent tubes are old and inefficient technology. LED lights are more modern, come with more features to liven up your tank, consume less electricity, and produce less heat. LED lights are easily the better option for aquarium uses.

Q: Can you repair an aquarium light?

A: That depends on what is wrong. Some parts of the light like the brackets, cooling fans, remote control,… are replaceable. If any of the LED parts breaks down, replacing the light is recommended. It’s easier and safer.

Q: Do aquarium lights bother fish?

A: Yes, some fish prefer shaded areas or low lighting. If you notice some of your fish are struggling with the light intensity, having a densely planted tank or floating plants can help. You can also try to provide the fish with hiding areas. Dimming the light can also help to improve the comfort of the fish.

Q: Do aquarium lights heat the water?

A: Yes, it’s possible for aquarium lights to transfer some heat into the water. This is more so if you’re using old tech like fluorescents or incandescent bulbs that produce a lot of heat. On the other hand, LEDs have minimal impact on water temperature because they don’t produce a lot of heat.

Hello! Lucas here. Hope this article can help you a lot. Do you want to ask me some questions? I'm willing and happy to answer.

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2 comments

  1. When using a manual LED light dimmer on my Nicrew classic led plus light which is about 70 par, if I set it to be 50 % dimmed, would the par value be 35-ish. Or is it more complicated and less directly proportional than that ? Thanks !

    • Hi Donald. If the measured spot is not too deep, the PAR would be around 35.