One of the most important equipment you need to make your saltwater aquarium fully functional is the lighting. Different types of saltwater tanks require different types of aquarium lights to thrive. In this article, we will look at some of the best LED aquarium lights that you can choose for your saltwater tank. There are many options for many tank types of saltwater tanks including FOWLR (fish-only with live rock), saltwater planted (lagoon), and reef.
- [Comparison table] LED lights for saltwater aquariums
- Saltwater aquarium lighting guide for choice
- Best saltwater aquarium light reviews
- Coralife Marine Aquarium Clip-On LED Light
- Kessil Tuna Blue A80 LED Light
- Fluval Sea Marine Nano Bluetooth LED 20-Watt
- Fluval Sea Marine 3.0 LED Light for Coral Growth
- Nicrew HyperReef 30 for nano reef
- NICREW saltwater aquarium LED light, budget option
- Current USA Orbit Marine LED light for saltwater fish
- Beamswork DA Marine FOWLR Cichlid LED light
- Lominie Nano Asta 20 WiFi Saltwater LED Light S20
- AI Prime 16 HD for reef tanks
- Hipargero A029 Nano Coral Reef Light With Timer
- How long should a saltwater aquarium light be on?
- Frequently Asked Questions
[Comparison table] LED lights for saltwater aquariums
|Model||Our rating||PAR||Ideal for||Coverage||For tank||LEDs||Mode||Wattage|
|#ad||50 @ 12-inch depth||FOWLR, saltwater plants, low light corals||16 x 16″||up to 20 gallons||60 pcs total||all on, blue on, all off||–|
|#ad||–||FOWLR, saltwater plants, low light corals||24 x 24″, adjustable 14″-24″||5-10 Gal soft/LPS, up to 20 Gal FOWLR||multi LED chips in a single array||adjustable colors 10,000K to Actinic, controller sold separately||15 watts|
|#ad||75 @ 12-inch depth||FOWLR, lagoon, low light corals||–||nano cube reef up to 15 gallons||100 pcs total||mobile app control with 24-hour light cycle & many preset modes||20 watts|
|#ad||63 @ 18-inch||FOWLR, saltwater plants, soft and LPS corals||48-60 inches (15-60″ available)||55-90 Gal||336 pcs total||app control, 24-hour light cycle, preset habitats||59 watts|
|#ad||58 @ 24-inch (higher PAR options available)||FOLWR, lagoon, soft, and LPS corals||18 x 18″ (recommended)||nano reef up to 10 Gal||18 LEDs from 405 nm (UV) to 660 nm (Deep Red)||blue and white channels, adjustable||30 watts|
|#ad||110 @ 12-inch depth||saltwater fish, live rock, macroalgae, soft and LPS corals||30-36″ (18-60″ available)||20-Gal long/29-Gal/30-Gal||57 x White, 48 Blue, 12 RGB – 2 channels||dual channel timer||32 watts|
|#ad||35 @ 15-inch depth||FOWLR, lagoon, low-light reef||48-60 inches (18-60″ available)||55+ gallons||54 actinic (445nm), 48 actinic (460nm), 35 (8000K), 54 (6500K)||remote control, 24-hour timer||48 watts|
|#ad||–||cichlid, FOWLR, lagoon||48 inches||55-90 Gal||104 x 10000K, 16 x Actinic 460nm||day/night, timer ready (sold separately)||60 watts total|
|#ad||–||FOWLR, macroalgae, low light corals||–||8″~18″ long tank||16 pcs, 4 channels||remote control for adjusting colors and intensities||20 watts|
|#ad||100 @ 24-inch depth||low-high light corals||24 x 24″ (max)||2 units for a 36-inch reef tank||17 LEDs, 7 color channel||Bluetooth app control for light colors and schedule||60 watts|
|#ad||–||most corals||10-18″||nano reef 5-10 gallons, 15-20 gallon cube||4 x Royal Blue, 1 x Blue, 1 x UV, 3 x White||on/off timer||30 watts|
Saltwater aquarium lighting guide for choice
For saltwater fish-only with/without live rock tank
Like freshwater tanks, saltwater aquariums also come with various setups that have varying lighting requirements. The most basic of these is the fish only or fish with invertebrates (shrimps, snails, and crustaceans) setup. This setup requires just enough light to see the fish and make the colors of the fish glow.
You should avoid white light to avoid algae problems. Blue light in the range of 8,000 to 12,000K is perfect for saltwater fish-only and fish with invertebrate setups. This range is blue enough to make saltwater fish glow and offer the most attractive view for enjoyment.
If you have live rock in your saltwater aquarium (FOWLR), it has slightly higher light requirements than fish-only tanks. Live rock is commonly used as a decoration and filtration system in saltwater aquariums. It contains living organisms like coralline algae, small inverts, and countless beneficial bacteria. Some need light for their living activities.
For reef aquarium
The reef tank usually features fish, corals, and other invertebrates. They have the highest lighting demands to cater to all living organisms, especially photosynthetic corals.
Unlike freshwater plants originating from shallow water streams in forests, corals reside deeper underwater where only blue lights with higher energy can penetrate. So, if you have a reef aquarium, ensure the light you choose can produce blue light anywhere from 10,000-20,000K.
For quantifying, soft and LPS corals have low-average light requirements but SPS corals demand higher light levels to thrive. The right aquarium light will depend on the type of corals you have in your aquarium.
More about reef lights: https://portlandaquarium.net/led-light-for-reef-tank/
For saltwater planted tank (lagoon/estuary tank)
This is a kind of saltwater aquarium that has live rock, macroalgae, some low light corals, and fish. Macroalgae and corals in the saltwater planted aquarium require light for photosynthesis. You can use a white or bluish-white LED light (7,000-10,000K) for growing macroalgae in a lagoon tank. If you have some corals in the tank, it is better to use a coral light.
For quantifying, a freshwater planted tank LED light for average light level plants or a lower output reef light works well for a lagoon tank. Species in this kind of aquarium usually require less light than those of reef tanks.
For saltwater refugium
Growing Chaeto algae in a refugium
Having a refugium containing macroalgae under the main tank is a great way to keep the nitrate and phosphate levels in your main tank low, which is very important for saltwater reefs. A refugium is also a great place to culture and export copepods (an important food source for saltwater fish) to the display tank.
Your main purpose is to grow, grow, and grow the macroalgae at the highest level. You don’t need to enjoy your refugium. So, choosing an LED light that is best for growing plants is all you need for a refugium.
Different macroalgae species have different needs for lighting (colors and intensities). Lights with more blue and red in the spectrum are proven to grow green plants (both terrestrial and aquatic plants) better than white lights. This results in purple/pink LED grow lights. The truth is that you use can an indoor LED grow light for a refugium that grows Chaeto. Chaeto (Chaetomorpha) is one of the most popular macroalgae used in refugiums because of its many benefits. This green macroalgae grows very fast if provided a light source with more in blue and red.
Best saltwater aquarium light reviews
Coralife Marine Aquarium Clip-On LED Light
- PAR: 50 @ 12-inch depth
- Ideal for: FOWLR, saltwater plants, low light corals
- Coverage: 16 x 16″
- For tanks: up to 20 gallons
- LEDs: 60 pcs total
- Modes: all on, blue on, all off
- Wattage: –
It’s not easy to find a reef light that balances convenience and efficiency these days, but the Coralife Marine Aquarium Clip-On LED light seems to have achieved such balance. This light has a coverage of 16 x 16 inches and is designed for tanks up to 20 gallons in capacity. It features a total of 60 bright LEDs with a blue spectrum for that deep-sea look you may be looking for.
Perfect for beginners, this light offers a quick three-way soft-touch control that lets you switch between turning all the lights on, just the blue lights, and shutting down the lamp. The model doesn’t come with a built-in timer, although it is timer-ready and will work with most third-party aquarium light timers.
The great thing about this light is that it’s very easy to install and use. You can easily mount it in a framed or frameless aquarium. It also comes with a minimalist design that perfectly suits nano reef tanks. If you’re looking for an affordable, simple, and functional saltwater tank light, this model is highly recommended.
Kessil Tuna Blue A80 LED Light
- PAR: –
- Ideal for: FOWLR, saltwater plants, low light corals
- Coverage: 24 x 24″, adjustable 14″-24″
- For tanks: 5-10 Gal soft/LPS, up to 20 Gal FOWLR
- LEDs: multi LED chips in a single array
- Modes: adjustable colors 10,000K to Actinic, controller sold separately
- Wattage: 15 watts
If you’re looking to upgrade your aquarium reef light, then Kessil is the way to go. You can never go wrong with this reliable brand. Here, we have the Kessil Tuna Blue A80 LED Light, which is a predecessor to the A160. It may provide only half the intensity that the A160 does, but it’s still packed with all the features you will need in a fully-operational saltwater aquarium light.
This model can cover an area of up to 24 x 24 inches. It’s designed specifically for tanks between 5 and 10-gallon tanks that house soft or LPS corals. It features multiple LED chips in a single array and offers 10,000K of color temperature for the proper growth of your corals.
The light color and intensity can be adjusted via two knobs found on top of the lamp. Installation of the Kessil Tuna Blue A80 LED light is straightforward. It comes with a fully-adjustable clip-on bracket and will fit various glass thicknesses. And in case you’re wondering, the A80 can be controlled via the Kessil Spectral Controller, which can be purchased separately.
Fluval Sea Marine Nano Bluetooth LED 20-Watt
- PAR: 75 @ 12-inch depth
- Ideal for: FOWLR, lagoon, low light corals
- Coverage: –
- For tanks: nano cube reef up to 15 gallons
- LEDs: 100 pcs total
- Modes: mobile app control with 24-hour light cycle & many preset modes
- Wattage: 20 watts
The Fluval Sea Marine Nano aquarium light has been receiving great reviews from users and for a good reason. It’s a programmable marine tank light that can be controlled via the FluvalSmart app on your mobile device.
Fluval Smart app #ad
Using the app, you can set the light to mimic sunrise, midday, sunset, and night times for your aquarium, ensuring optimal health for your fish and corals. The app also lets you choose from optional pre-set light configurations, allowing you to play with three attractive light settings: sunny reef, deep sea glo, and color burst.
This model features a total of 100 high thermal efficiency LED chips that allow the light to operate at high temperatures for longer periods and provides 850 lumens and a color temperature of 25,000 K. This results in a high performance needed by your marine tank to thrive.
With a PAR peak of 75, this light is ideal for FOWLR (fish-only-with-live-rock) marine tanks and tanks with low-light corals. It’s also suitable for lagoon-style aquariums. At 5 x 5 inches, the Fluval Sea Marine Nano is perfect for nano cube reef tanks of up to 15 gallons.
Fluval Sea Marine 3.0 LED Light for Coral Growth
- PAR: 63 @ 18-inch
- Ideal for: FOWLR, saltwater plants, soft and LPS corals
- Fixture sizes: 48-60 inches (15-60″ available)
- For tanks: 55-90 Gal
- LEDs: 336 pcs total
- Modes: app control, 24-hour light cycle, preset habitats
- Wattage: 59 watts
Maintaining a healthy marine aquarium can be challenging, but not if you have efficient lighting like the Fluval Sea Marine 3.0 LED Light. This aquarium light is specifically designed to promote vibrant growth in corals. It’s a full-spectrum marine and reef LED lighting that features actinic blue spectral wavelengths required to grow colorful corals. This unit comes with six LED arrays, including four special LEDs for producing blue spectrum light.
Fluval Smart app #ad
The Sea Marine 3.0 LED Light can be controlled via the Fluval app. You can adjust light intensity according to your requirements straight from your mobile phone. This model also comes with a programmable 24-hour light cycle that mimics gradual sunrise and sunset, as well as nighttime, to provide a natural effect for your reef tank. The multiple LED chips are designed in such a way that they provide not just optimal photosynthetic activity for your corals but also perfect viewing.
With its 120-degree light dispersion capability, you can rest assured that every spot in your tank receives adequate amounts of light at all times. And with its extendable mounting brackets, this marine tank light is easy to install and adjust to suit your needs.
Nicrew HyperReef 30 for nano reef
- PAR: 58 @ 24-inch (higher PAR options available)
- Ideal for: FOLWR, lagoon, soft, and LPS corals
- Coverage: 18 x 18″ (recommended)
- For tanks: nano reef up to 10 Gal
- LEDs: 18 LEDs from 405 nm (UV) to 660 nm (Deep Red)
- Modes: blue and white channels, adjustable
- Wattage: 30 watts
Reef lights are dreaded because of their high price tags. The Nicrew HyperReef aquarium reef light offers starting reef keepers an excellent option with a very affordable price tag. To keep up with a reef tank’s lighting demands, the light has 18 LEDs with an optimal output for dramatic color and supporting coral growth.
HyperReef 30 performance #ad
The PAR is 58 at 24-inch depth; the number is provided by the manufacturer. We estimate the PAR is around 150 at 12-inch. This is just enough for most soft and LPS corals in a 10-gallon reef tank. In case that you have higher-demanding corals, just choose a higher-output version – the Nicrew HyperReef 50.
Two color channels #ad
The white and blue channels are adjustable independently and individually depending on your desired spectrum and you can also use the smart touch control to adjust the light intensity.
The modernly designed light features an integrated smart fan for heat management. For mounting, it comes with a clip-on bracket. There is also a hanging mount option available, but the hanging mount is sold separately.
For an automatic lighting schedule with sunrise and sunset, you can use a dual-channel timer from Nicrew #ad (sold separately). Please note that this timer only works with the HyperReef 30, not higher-output models in the HyperReef series.
When you’re starting out and don’t want your budget to run out of control but want a light that will give your new tank a fair chance at thriving, the NICREW HyperReef will offer you the features and lighting you need without crippling your finances.
NICREW saltwater aquarium LED light, budget option
- PAR: 110 @ 12-inch depth
- Ideal for: saltwater fish, live rock, macroalgae, soft and LPS corals
- Fixture size: 30-36″ (18-60″ available)
- For tanks: 20-Gal long/29-Gal/30-Gal
- LEDs: 57 x White, 48 Blue, 12 RGB – 2 channels
- Modes: dual channel timer
- Wattage: 32 watts
Another option from Nicrew but specially designed for larger saltwater tanks. This LED light is not only cheap but also comes with everything you need for the setup, including a dual-channel timer to simulate sunrise/sunset effects.
NICREW saltwater lighting schedule #ad
It features a total of 117 LED chips and provides a PAR rating of 110 at 12-inch depth. This provides just enough light for most low-moderate light corals including most softies, mushrooms, anemones, LPS, and Zoanthids. That are all most saltwater starters want to have in a small reef setup.
The brackets of this aquarium light are adjustable and can accommodate tanks up to 36 inches long but not less than 30 inches in length. If you’re looking for a new saltwater aquarium light that offers value for your money, this one should be a great choice.
Current USA Orbit Marine LED light for saltwater fish
- PAR: 35 @ 15-inch depth
- Ideal for: FOWLR, lagoon, low-light reef
- Fixture sizes: 48-60 inches (18-60″ available)
- For tanks: 55+ gallons
- LEDs: 54 actinic (445nm), 48 actinic (460nm), 35 (8000K), 54 (6500K)
- Modes: remote control, 24-hour timer
- Wattage: 48 watts
Marine tanks have different lighting requirements from freshwater tanks. The Current USA Orbit marine tank is designed with this fact in mind. It’s an ideal light for saltwater fish and low-light corals and works for 55-gallon tanks and above.
To achieve the perfect lighting atmosphere, the light is fitted with 54 actinic (445nm), 35 (80000K), 48 actinic (460nm), and 54 (6500K) LEDs. The LED chips are separated into four independent color channels for easy configurations.
Remote control #ad
The light comes with a handy remote control that allows you to choose and customize its 24-hour timer as well as many other wonderful features. You can set on and off times and customize the spectrum colors and intensities of the 24-hour lighting schedule with the remote.
24-hour timer control #ad
You can explore various preset lighting modes and weather effects with the remote control. Moreover, you can build and save your own color in the memory slot (M button) to use at any time you want. The lower portion of the remote includes buttons for controlling Current USA wave markers if you have any in your tank.
Beamswork DA Marine FOWLR Cichlid LED light
- PAR: –
- Ideal for: cichlid, FOWLR, lagoon
- Fixture sizes: 48 inches
- For tanks: 55-90 Gal
- LEDs: 104 x 10000K, 16 x Actinic 460nm
- Modes: day/night, timer ready (sold separately)
- Wattage: 60 watts total
Definitely one of the most economical options on our list, Beamswork EA Marine LED light is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a decent light for your FOWLR or lagoon-style aquarium. It features 104 LED chips that provide 700 lumens and 10000 K of color temperature. It also offers 460 nm of actinic lighting, which is perfect if you’re keeping photosynthetic invertebrates in your tank. Not to mention that it makes your tank appear more pleasing to the eye.
The light is timer-ready and has a Day mode and Night mode. That said, you will need to purchase the timer separately. And yes, this model is compatible with the Beamswork Timer Module.
This particular model is 12 inches long, but with extendable brackets, it can accommodate tanks up to 18 inches in length. An energy-efficient lighting option, this aquarium light is easy to use and is an excellent choice for those who are just starting in the aquarium hobby.
Lominie Nano Asta 20 WiFi Saltwater LED Light S20
- PAR: –
- Ideal for: FOWLR, macroalgae, low light corals
- Max spread: –
- For tanks: 8″~18″ long tank
- LEDs: 16 pcs, 4 channels
- Modes: remote control for adjusting colors and intensities
- Wattage: 20 watts
This clip-on LED light is ready to use for a nano saltwater tank under 10 gallons. It is built with 16 LED chips, which are divided into four channels for independent and easy control with a remote. Thanks to the design, you can fully customize the light to reach your desired color and intensity.
Please note that it doesn’t have a built-in timer and the remote is only for color and intensity customizations. It is compatible with a Wifi controller (sold separately), which works with a mobile app to control many light units. The Wifi controller allows for timing, color adjusting, and features a few ready-to-use modes.
What I love best about this product is its setup ease and flexibility. It is very easy to set up with the bendable gooseneck, just slide it onto the back edge of your aquarium, then secure it with an included plastic screw. One unit is perfect for a nano saltwater tank from 8-18 inches.
AI Prime 16 HD for reef tanks
- PAR: 100 @ 24-inch depth
- Ideal for: low-high light corals
- Coverage: 24 x 24″ (max)
- For tanks: 2 units for a 36-inch reef tank
- LEDs: 17 LEDs, 7 color channel
- Modes: Bluetooth app control for light colors and schedule
- Wattage: 60 watts
The new AI Prime 16HD is a product from Aqua Illumination (AI). It is a compelling option to consider, as it incorporates 16 LEDs and an all-new TIR (Total Internal Reflection) optic. This enables the product to provide higher PAR values, and the improved optic design ensures a better spread and penetration of light in the tank.
This product is designed with ease of use in mind, and an excellent quality of life feature that this LED light has is the ability to control it via your phone. This can be done through an existing myAI app, which is free, simple, and easy to set up. The light connects to your smart device via its BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) onboard without an additional device requirement.
The app allows you to easily create a lighting schedule for your aquarium so that all the LEDs work in conjunction with each other. It also features an acclimation mode allowing you to set starting intensity for your livestock to settle in, which will then increase over time. It also allows for the period which you require.
The big drawback of this product is that it isn’t ready for the setup as it doesn’t include anything for hanging or mounting itself. Luckily, it is compatible with many hardware options from the manufacturer to serve different applications from mounting to hanging. These devices can work with many light units.
Hipargero A029 Nano Coral Reef Light With Timer
- PAR: –
- Ideal for: most corals
- Spread: 10-18″
- For tanks: nano reef 5-10 gallons, 15-20 gallon cube
- LEDs: 4 x Royal Blue, 1 x Blue, 1 x UV, 3 x White
- Modes: on/off timer
- Wattage: 30 watts
The Hipargero A029 Nano Coral Reef Light With Timer is another budget-friendly aquarium light on our list. It features carefully selected Cree LED lights designed to mimic the natural marine water environment. The Cree royal blue, blue, and white LEDs all help the color of your corals to stand out. These are 90-degree 3-in-one acrylic lenses designed to ensure superior light efficiency and color uniformity for your reef tank.
The A029 also features a blue light that helps promote Vitamin D3 in the tank that corals need for better calcium absorption. In addition, this model has a built-in timer and a sunrise/sunset feature that lets you automatically set the light so that it mimics sunrise and sunset.
The LED channels are dimmable, which you can adjust via the light’s touch control panel. Easy to use, this nano tank light is a plug-and-play aquarium fixture. And with its touch-control feature, dimming the lights or adjusting the intensity from 0% to 100% can be done with the touch of a button.
The unit itself is built using premium-quality materials. It features a slim design and is perfectly suited for nano marine aquariums. It also comes with two silent fans that help dissipate the heat and prolong the life of the lamp.
How long should a saltwater aquarium light be on?
Current Orbit Marine pre-programmed lighting schedule #ad
Most saltwater tanks need 9-12 hours of lighting a day, based on the intensity of the light. Like freshwater aquarium lights, you need to vary light intensity throughout the day and a fixture with multiple color channels and timer control will give a helping hand.
Most saltwater aquarium lights have multiple color channels like blue, red, pink, and white. Early in the morning (7:00 AM – 9:00 AM), corals in the ocean get lower intensity light than the noon. During this time, you can run the blue channel only.
You can run the light at its highest intensity at around noon (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM), with all the channels at maximum brightness. In the afternoon (3:00 PM – 6:00 PM), you can repeat the morning mode of lighting.
At night (after 7:00 PM), you can turn the light off or switch to a deep blue with low intensity as you prepare the fish for darkness. At midnight (12:00 PM), switch the lighting off.
If your lighting setup doesn’t have a timer, you can purchase one separately to ensure consistency in lighting and intensity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a saltwater aquarium light with UV good for corals?
Corals need UV in the right amount to properly photosynthesize. They also require UV if they are to produce those colorful pigments they are known for. One thing you need to realize, though, is that the pigmentations you see in corals are actually their protective response to UV-A and UV-B light.
That said, UV is good for corals, but too much of it can be harmful to them too. Your corals will also tell you when there’s too much UV in the tank. Discoloration and wilting are two of the earliest warning signs you need to watch out for.
This is the reason that it’s important to assess your aquarium before you go out and purchase a tank light. You’d want to be careful when using metal halide lights because they produce intense UV rays that corals may have a difficult time acclimating to. If you wish to use them, be sure that you have a glass canopy to regulate their intensity.
How much light (PAR) does a saltwater aquarium need?
PAR is short for photosynthetic active radiation. In aquarium lighting, it refers to the amount of radiation corals need for growth and photosynthesis. PAR is measured by μMol/m2/s (micromoles of light per square meter per second), and how much PAR your saltwater aquarium will need will depend on a few factors.
The PAR on a specific area inside your saltwater tank varies depending on that area’s distance from the source of light. In theory, the farther the area is from the light source, the lower the PAR rating on that area will be. Knowing this will give you an idea of where to position your corals inside your reef tank.
Different species in your tank will also have different PAR needs. For instance, low-light LPS corals require between 50 and 100 PAR ratings, while Acrocopa SPS corals need a PAR rating of over 400 in order for their colors to truly come out. You can refer to our guide for more details about PAR and how much of it your saltwater aquarium might need.
What is the best moonlight for saltwater aquariums at night?
Moonlight provides a more natural nocturnal environment to your reef tank. It triggers various biological activities among organisms in your aquarium, and the time your aquarium spends under the moonlight is just as significant as the time it does under daylight. It also allows you to enjoy a beautiful view of your tank at night.
Considering that moonlight intensity differs from night to night, there is no “perfect” moonlight for your saltwater aquarium. However, it’s still possible to set up the best moonlight to meet your needs.
One way to set up a good moonlight for your reef tank is to use low-intensity blue light powered by several blue LEDs. This low-intensity blue light is calm, which allows edgy fish to come out at night and encourages diurnal fish to rest.
If the effect is too bright, you can either dim the light or increase the height of the lamp. Using a light diffuser or an opaque plastic or glass sheet will also help reduce the intensity of the light.