Updated: September 28, 2021 - By: - Categories: Planted aquarium

The rise of LED technology in recent years has directly contributed to the convenience of raising aquatic plants in home aquariums. LED lights are usually effortless to set up and install. They also have a longer lifespan and can easily last you 5 to 7 years, if not more.

In this article, we have a look at some of the factors that must be considered when choosing LED lights for your planted aquariums, along with a review of a few products we found best. Read On!

Best LED lights for planted tanks, comparison table

Model Our rating PAR Ideal for Fixture sizes For tanks LEDs Modes Wattage
Finnex FugeRay Planted+ cliplight editor's ratingFinnex FugeRay Planted+ cliplight #ad 35 @ 12-inch depth nano planted with medium light plants clip-on 2.5-5 gallons daylight, 660nm red and blue Day/night 5 watts
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 ALC editor's ratingFinnex Planted+ 24/7 ALC #ad 117 @ 14-inch depth (48-inch fixture) medium-high light plants 24 inches (available 12-48″) 20 gallons daylight, 660nm red, green, blue 24/7 timer controller, multi modes watts
Hygger 24/7 aquarium light editor's ratingHygger 24/7 aquarium light #ad fish-only, most plant types 48-54 inches (18-54″ available) 55 Gal 106 White + 43 Blue + 15 Red + 8 Green + 43 RGB multi colors, on/off timer, 24/7 timer 42 watts
Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 editor's ratingFluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 #ad tropical fish, most plants types 48-60 inches (available 24-60″) 48-60 inches 366 total Mobile app control, many preset modes 59 watts
Current USA 18 editor's ratingCurrent USA Satellite Plus PRO #ad 155 @ 12-inch depth medium-high light plants 48-60 inches (available 18-60″) 48-60 inches 40 white, 10 red, 19 RGB 24 hour timer control, multi modes 65 watts
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus editor's ratingCurrent USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus #ad 35+ @ 12-inch depth (48-inch fixture) fish, low light plants 36-48 inches (available 18-72″) 50-55 gallons 72 white + 36 RGB custom colors, weather effects 25 watts
NICREW SkyLED Plus editor's ratingNICREW SkyLED Plus #ad 97 @ 12-inch depth (30-inch fixture) most plant types 30-36 inches (available 12-54″) 30-36 inches 80 White + 15 Blue + 10 Red Day/night 30 watts
Finnex FugeRay Planted+ editor's ratingFinnex FugeRay Planted+ #ad 121 @ 14-inch depth (48-inch fixture) most demanding, red plants 48 inches (available 12-48″) up to 55 gal (160) 7000K + (88) 660nm red + (16) blue Day/moonlight 48 watts
Finnex Stingray 2 editor's ratingFinnex Stingray 2 #ad 76 @ 14-inch depth (48-inch fixture) fish, medium light plants 16 inches (available 12-48″) 5 gallons 32 x 7000K + 8 x actinic + 8 x 660nm red Day/night watts
BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum editor's ratingBeamsWork EA Full Spectrum #ad 36 @ 12-inch depth (24-inch fixture) fish, low light plants 30 inches (available 12-72″) 20 gallon long/29 gal 25 White 10000K, 11 RGB Day/night 36 x 0.5W = 18 watts total
BeamsWork DA FSPEC LED editor's ratingBeamsWork DA FSPEC LED #ad 96 @ 12-inch depth (24-inch fixture) medium-high light plants 72 inches (available 12-72″) (up to 100 gallons) 102 white 10000K, 80 RGB Day/night 182 x 0.5W = 91 watts total
Kessil A160WE Tuna Sun Controllable editor's ratingKessil A160WE Tuna Sun Controllable #ad designed for penetration deep and large planted tanks 24″ surface diameter coverage 1 unit per 24-inch length remote control for lighting colors and schedule 40 watts

The PAR values of BeamsWork lights are from aquariumpardata.com, others from the manufacturers. Most PAR values are measured in the air, the real number will be lower in the aquarium water.

How to choose LED lights for planted aquariums?

planted-aquarium-light

There are many factors to consider when you are in the market for good quality LED lights for your planted aquarium. The most important things to consider are the color temperature (Kelvin rating) and PAR measurements of the products.

While the Kelvin rating ensures you buy the right type with white light for aquarium plants, the PAR measurements ensure the light provides enough lighting in terms of quantity.

The types of plants present in your aquarium and the sizes of the tank are also important factors.

Kelvin rating – choosing the right type

color-temperature

Color temperature (wikipedia.org)

The first factor to consider is the product’s color temperature, determined by its Kelvin Rating. Aquarium plants adapt to a very broad range of color temperature, a product that has a Kelvin rating of 5,500 to 7,500K is most desirable, as this range provides a simulation of a natural source similar to daylight.

PAR – enough quantity (most common and easy to use)

LED light manufacturers usually provide the PAR measurements of their products if they are intended for photosynthetic organisms like plants and corals. This value measures the amount of radiation required for photosynthesis and plant growth.

To understand what is PAR, take a quick look at the following picture. It is the PAR measurements of a Marineland LED light at different positions in a planted tank.

Marineland planted LED light PARMarineland planted LED light PAR #ad

Generally, a higher PAR value promotes plant growth. However, different types of plants need different PAR levels to grow correctly. It is recommended that the plants be placed in varying locations from the source as per their requirements.

So, how much light (PAR) do you need?

Since different aquarium plants require different levels of light to flourish, you must determine whether the plants in your aquarium are low light, medium light, or high light plants. The following information can serve as a guide for different lighting needs of aquatic plants:

Reference: plantedtank.net

How many watts per gallon for planted tanks?

In case you can’t find the PAR information of a light you are interested in, you can use our ‘watt per gallon’ guide for planted tanks. It is not as exact as the PAR but gives you a relative view of the light.

Based on the PAR of many planted tank LED lights on the market, we suggest the following table:

Plant type PAR @ 12-inch depth Watt/GAL
Low-light plants 15-30 0.4-0.5
Medium-light plants 35-65 0.5-0.7
High-light plants 65-120 0.7-1.1

The table is only true for LED lights. For old-tech fluorescent lights, you will need nearly triple wattages; 1W/GAL for low, 2W/GAL for medium, and 3W/GAL for high light demanding.

Planted aquarium LED light reviews

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ clip light

This small clip-on aquarium light features an advanced design to meet the light requirements of a nano planted aquarium that needs low to medium-light. It is one of the best light fixtures for small planted aquariums with a capacity under 10 gallons.

It offers two light modes: daylight and nightlight. It has deep red-light emitting diodes producing light with a wavelength of 660 nanometers, which is ideal for meeting the photosynthesis requirements of medium light-demanding plants.

It is built for long life. The aluminum circuit boards and plastic cover offer more longevity for LED bulbs. While the aluminum case permits effective cooling, the plastic cover protects the LEDs from moisture.

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ clip lightFinnex FugeRay Planted+ clip light #ad

The simple setup of the clip light makes anyone effortless to fix it over the tank. Just slide the gooseneck onto the aquarium wall and use a nylon crew (included) to fix it in place. The flexibility of the gooseneck allows setup flexibility but still ensure thorough light distribution.

Find other clip-on aquarium lights here: https://portlandaquarium.net/clip-on-led-light/

Finnex Planted+ 24/7 ALC – automatic timer control

One of the most specific products in this article is the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 ALC model with its unique 24/7 lighting mode that is automatic and hand-free.

24/7 feature24/7 feature #ad

This product advertises its new 24/7 mode, aiming to automatically simulate a day/night cycle for optimal plant growth. It also vows to give users more control over the color and intensity of the lights. It comes with a dynamic remote which enables you to enable the 24/7 mode.

Remote controlRemote control #ad

Besides the 24/7 automatic lighting cycle, it also provides the option to choose your preferred color combinations. It also gives access to four weather modes. To quickly determine one’s position while dialing in the custom settings, the product also incorporates a built-in sensor with 2 different color indicator LEDs to clear any confusion.

This particular model is popular for its added control and the ability to schedule the amount of daily light the plants receive, which can promote growth and development. The high-range PAR output makes the product versatile enough to handle most types of aquarium plants in the hobby today.

Hygger 24/7 LED aquarium light with inline timer

The light owns plenty of exciting features including an automatic on/off timer, a 24/7 lighting cycle, and various colors for choice. These are the default settings for easy use but some can be customized as per your preference.

Inline controllerInline controller #ad

If you only want the light to automatically turn on/off on time day by day, use the timer key. Set the lighting time to 6, 10, or 12 hours and the light will automatically turn off after that time. The light will repeat this schedule day by day.

Besides white light, the light comes with so many colors to choose from. You can pick one among seven different attraction colors – White, Red, Blue, Green, Purple, Orange, Cyan. The brightness is freely changeable with the Up/Down button. There is also an all-color cycle mode but you can’t adjust its brightness.

24/7 lighting cycle24/7 lighting cycle #ad

The most exciting part of the light is the 24/7 automatic lighting cycle. As per the 24/7 setting, the light starts with an orange gradient in the morning (from 6 to 8 am). It will turn to white most of the daytime (from 8 am to 6 pm). From 6 pm to around 10:50 pm, the light remains blue and will turn off after that.

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

One of the highest-rated products on the market is the Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 from Fluval. It also features a 24-hour light cycle and specific light effect settings, such as sunrise, sunset, midday, and night. This product includes six unique band waves for full spectrum results and features some optional pre-set habitat light configurations like Lake Malawi, Tropical, and Planted.

This product also has a Kelvin rating of 6,500K, and its Lumen value is approximately 4250. We can’t find the PAR information from the manufacturer, however, based on its wattage, we recommend the light for most types of aquarium plants. Read more our guide for this.

Perhaps its most convenient feature is controlling the light through your mobile device by downloading the companion app. This is different from many other products in the market, which rely on using a remote control to operate the lights. The mobile app is a quality of life improvement from this product that few can rival.

Current USA Satellite Plus Pro with timer, highest PAR

The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro brings all the bells and whistles to underwater planted aquascapes. For aquarists that love incorporating technology into their tanks, this will fit right in. The light put out a PAR rating of over 155 at 12 inches – the highest number in this article. It works for even the most sensitive and high demand plants.

High PAR outputHigh PAR output #ad

This LED light offers more light, better color radiation, and a ton of control features that allow you to adjust it to your lighting needs. If you’re running a planted freshwater tank, this light will ensure strong plant growth and brilliant colors with shimmer.

Remote controlRemote control #ad

TimerTimer #ad

The light offers a variety of lighting modes to keep up with the ever-increasing range of colors. These include some on-demand dynamic modes like moonlight, cloudy, stormy, and others. You also get a dynamic 24-hour mode that mimics real-world aquatic conditions from sunrise to sunset for the best plant growth conditions.

The build quality of the light is excellent in every aspect. The aluminum shell keeps the LEDs from overheating. The light comes with extendable mounting brackets for easy installation. The ultra-thin design makes the light easy to install even in the most space-constrained tanks.

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus

Another product to consider is the LED Plus Light from Current USA. This product offers multiple modes in light settings and realistic effects, aiming to simulate a real aquatic environment.

With modes that dim sporadically to create cloud cover effects, storm modes that feature lightning strikes that are sure to shock and awe, and imaginative evening modes such as lunar and dusk, the product provides an innovative take on aquarium lighting. All these features ensure that your aquarium will be a sight to behold!

It has a color spectrum of 6,500K. When talking about the PAR value, the product can provide a value of 35+ at 12 inches of depth, which is just enough for low light plants, so this is something to watch out for if your aquarium is home to more demanding flora.

This product is designed to be easy to install, ensuring you will face minimum hassle in the installation process. It lacks a 24-hour timer control feature, unlike the previously discussed product. However, you can use it with a common socket timer on the market.

Nicrew SkyLED Plus – budget option

The Nicrew SkyLED Plus with its very competitive price is one of the best options you can’t skip. It boasts LED lights designed to brighten up your aquatic environment, making it the ideal choice for freshwater and medium to high light level plants, as it has all the technical specs needed to support and grow plants.

This product boasts a feature called full spectrum flexibility, which enables it to cover the ranges of 6,000K to 12,000K for color spectrum, with the recommended setting being around 8000-9000K for planted tanks from the vendor.

Another cool feature is the adjustable day and moonlight color spectrum and intensity with the wired switch on the power cord, enabling the day and night lighting channels to be operated together or independently for infinite color modes.

Similarly, the PAR value also scales with the color spectrum, with the highest setting enabling a value of 97 at 12-inch depth (measured under a 30-inch fixture). This wide range makes this particular product a good option no matter what kind of plants are in your tank, as it is flexible enough in its possibilities to cope.

When installing this product, the adjustable docking legs allow quick and easy adjustments for various installations.

Finnex Stingray 2 aquarium LED light for plant growth

For its price, Stingray 2 is quite powerful. It has a PAR rating of 76 at 14 inches that makes it is an excellent option for aquarists that have plants with medium to high light demands in small to medium aquariums.

The Stingray 2 picks up from where its predecessor left. It spots a better and sleeker design feature, a razor-thin profile with an aluminum cover for better heat dissipation. The design also features adjustable brackets for frameless aquariums, a splash guard, and LED moisture-resistant coating to increase the longevity of the LEDs.

Its LED system includes (32) 7000K LEDs, (8) actinic blue, and (8) 660nm red LEDs. It also offers an exclusive 120-degree beam angle that helps to shine on every corner of your tank and not just under the fixture.

The light has a 3-way switch that turns all the lights on, off, or switches into moonlight mode with the blue lights only, to make maximum use of the tri-blend colors in promoting growth and showcasing the residents of your tank.

Although the light is shorthanded with a 6-month warranty, it offers good service and excellent lighting without tipping your budget.

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ with moonlight

For light-hungry plants and to make the colors inside your aquarium pop, what you need is the Finnex Fugeray Planted+ LED light. It’s a significant upgrade from the Stingray 2 on many levels.

It features the same ultra-thin design with an aluminum cover for faster heat dissipation, effective cooling, and longer LED life. But that’s as far as the similarities with the Stingray 2 go.

The FugeRay Planted+ boasts of an impressive 264 LED system in its 48-inch frame. It has 160 7000K LEDs, 88 true 660nm red LEDs for intensive plant photosynthesis, and 16 blue LEDs. The light has a dedicated switch on the cordless side that you can use to manipulate the moonlight mode and make the most out of the lighting colors.

This one of a kind light is not only ideal for high-maintenance planted aquariums but works for large aquariums as well. It is rated at 48 watts with a PAR of 121 @ 14-inch depth, which is quite impressive. With such a high figure, you might want to consider having pressurized CO2 to control algae growth inside the tank.

Although this is considered a budget option, the 40,000 hours of LED life say otherwise. The light’s build quality is outstanding with an adjustable clip that makes light work of mounting the fixture. Once up and running, the light promises a 120-degree beam angle that will light up as much of your tank as possible for lush green growth and vibrant colors.

Like other Finnex lighting products, this one also comes with a six months warranty. But you shouldn’t get fixated on that. There’s enough quality in it to last a few years if installed and used correctly.

BeamsWork EA Full Spectrum

The BeamsWork EA FSPEC LED light is not the coolest looking in this collection. But what it lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for in performance. For budget-friendly lighting, this light offers quite a bit.

This 30-inch light features 36 LEDs, each putting out 0.50W, which translates to 1700 lumens. Since it’s a full-spectrum light, it is perfect for plant growth and does wonders in producing vibrant colors, especially when you have cichlids in the tank.

You get two lighting modes with this LED light, day and night. It is designed to work perfectly with a timer module, which is sold separately to experience hand-free control.

Like the other lights we have reviewed this far, this one also sports an aluminum shell for durability and rapid heat dissipation. It has extendable brackets for easy installation on tanks of various lengths. It’s not as thin as the others, but it should fit in most tanks without a problem.

The BeamsWork EA FSPEC light has a PAR of 36 at 12 inches. It’s ideal for beginners venturing into planted tanks and working with hardy plants that don’t need a lot of light.

The light is an affordable option for aquarists setting up their first planted tank. It’s even better when you’re juggling a shoestring budget and want a light that balances quality and performance.

Beamswork DA 6500k LED Light

If you’ve tried the EA FSPEC LED from Beamswork and find it a little shorthanded or you want something that packs a heavier punch in terms of lighting, the DA FSPEC will tick on all the right boxes. This 72-inch long LED light is perfect for large planted aquariums up to 100 gallons.

While the EA FSPEC caters to entry-level hardy plants, the DA FSPEC provides higher PAR output for plants that have above-average lighting needs. With the light, you have a more flexible range of plants to grow while enjoying vibrant colors with shimmer inside your tank.

For the full spectrum effect, the LEDs come in different colors and wavelengths to support plant growth and produce vibrant colors from your tank. Together, they make up an excellent light show that works great for freshwater plants. If you have any cichlids in your tank, you will love how they look under this light.

It is fitted with a high-quality aluminum cover that pulls the heat away from the LEDs allowing you to run the light all day and night without overheating. For installation, it comes with extendable brackets that can work on most aquariums. The general design is much better with a thin profile that will easily fit in most setups.

Find other 72-inch LED light here: https://portlandaquarium.net/72-inch-led-light/

Kessil A160WE Tuna Sun planted tank LED light combo

If you have a deep or extra-large planted aquarium that requires a high output light with perfect penetration, you should take some time to research this special LED light unit.

The A160WE Tuna Sun is essentially designed for freshwater setups and does its best work growing plants. In total, the light puts out 40 watts of raw power that results in better penetration, spectacular shimmer, fabulous and vibrant colors. The light has a tubular design with an aluminum casing fitted with fans that help with heat management.

It comes with a compatible controller with some preset modes and an automatic lighting cycle, which allows you to custom the intensities of different times of a day. The controller has two ports for controlling at least two Kessil light units.

kessil-tuna-blue

Each light unit has two ports, one to connect with a controller, the rest to connect with another light unit using a cable. This means a controller can work with many light units, not just two. This feature is for install flexibility to serve broad applications of hobbyists and stores.

The light features two control knobs at the back end for adjusting the intensity and color, respectively. It offers a color spectrum ranging from 6000K to 9000K for you to choose from. If you have a tropical planted tank, just adjust to the range from 6000-7000K. If you have other types of planted tanks, consult a suitable color spectrum for the tank from aquarium forums like plantedtank.net.

The package comes complete with a gooseneck for hanging the light unit. Once installed, the light is low maintenance and high performance.

What is the best lighting schedule for planted tanks?

Fish and plants both require periods of darkness to simulate the day/night cycle. If you don’t know where to get started, just stimulate the nature lighting schedule in your aquarium.

Nicrew 24/7 lighting scheduleNicrew 24/7 lighting schedule #ad

The previous schedule is a great one to follow if your light doesn’t have a 24/7 automatic lighting feature. The schedule starts with a dimmed white light in the morning, then reaches the highest intensity at noon, slightly decreases in the afternoon, transitions to blue moonlight at night, and sinks in the dark at midnight.

If your light doesn’t include a 24/7 automatic control feature with different lighting intensities and colors at different times of a day, we would recommend the white light should be left on about 8-10 hours per day. You can choose your own time frame or one of these: 9.0 AM to 5.0 PM (8 hours), 7.0 AM to 5.0 PM (10 hours), or 8.0 AM to 6.0 PM (10 hours).

You can completely turn off the light after 6.0 PM or leave only blue LEDs on and turn off all the LEDs after 12.0 PM. There isn’t so much hassle with this. The blue moonlight generated by only a few blue LEDs is very soothing and will not harm your fish or plants because of too much lighting time.

Frequently asked questions

What happens with planted tanks without light?

In the absence of a light source, the plants will look for other sources to fulfill their needs. Every plant needs light to survive, but the amount required varies from one plant to the next.

For example, some plants with a lower light requirement can survive purely on the natural diffused sunlight in your house, while other plants with a higher light requirement require additional support.

Why use a light timer?

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

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

It is incredibly convenient to use a timer for your LED lights if you forget to turn them off. They can also come in handy if you are not around for an extended period. Previous socket timers will be compatible with most LED aquarium lights in the market these days. There are digital and mechanical options for you to choose from.

What happens if too much light, not enough CO2?

We can think of the relation of CO2 with light in an aquarium in a straightforward way. More light present in the tank will cause more CO2 to be required by the plants. However, if enough CO2 is not present, it can cause a breakout of algae in the tank, so it is imperative to find the right balance for your particular needs.

If, on the other hand, the amount of CO2 is increased without a corresponding increase in lighting, the plants will not photosynthesize well, and the CO2 level will reach such a level that it will become toxic to the fish and invertebrates.

More about CO2 supply systems here: https://portlandaquarium.net/co2-regulator/

Where to buy planted aquarium lighting?

The best place to shop for aquarium lights is on the Internet, as websites like Amazon provide many options, making it easier to compare products and identify what you are looking for.

Conclusion

The vital role LED lights play in the overall health and well-being of a planted aquarium is clear to all. It is also an essential part of decorating the aquarium and making it look like a true attraction. Choosing one of the many options available in the market takes some prior knowledge as well. We hope this guide will enable you to make the best choice for your aquarium. Have fun!

Lucas has been keeping successful fish, planted, and reef tanks for many years. He loves to collect aquatic organisms and keep as many aquariums as he can.

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