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Best LED Aquarium Lighting for Plants: 6 Top Kits and How to Choose

For some aquarists, keeping plants is just as much fun as keeping fish. If you think about it, this makes total sense; they’re living organisms, very attractive to look at, and they require special care to allow them to thrive.

If you’re trying to simulate a natural environment as closely as possible, live plants are an absolute must. However, you cannot have them without light. Cave fish there may be, but cave plants there are not.

That’s why you need the best LED aquarium lighting for plants.

The best LED aquarium lighting for plants, written beside a photo of a heavily planted tank
© Wizard – stock.adobe.com

Since aquariums and windows don’t really mix (the sun has a way of heating things up!), if you plan to have plants, plan to have artificial lighting, too. To make your search for the best lighting kit a little easier, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

Read on to learn why plants need light, what kind of lights are best, and why we think LEDs are a great choice. Plus, we’ll review 6 of the best LED aquarium lighting kits on the market today.

At a Glance: Our 6 Top Choices for Best Led Lighting for Plants

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Best LED Aquarium Lighting for Plants – Our Top 6 Picks

Sure, we’ve armed you with the knowledge you need to make your own decision. To save you time, however, we’ve gathered 6 of the best LED aquarium lights available today right here. Read on to check out our reviews!

Finnex Fugeray Planted+

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights, 30-Inch

Available in 7 different lengths, there IS a FugeRay to fit your aquarium. It blends a traditional look with simple, sturdy installation. What matters most, though, is what it can do for your plants. With loads of 660nm true red LEDs, they will receive plenty of the radiation they love best.

This is a fixture for growing plants effectively and efficiently, plain and simple.

What We Like

  • Adjustable legs hold tight to the aquarium with clamping screws
  • Provides lots of 660nm red light
  • Moonlight effects for night viewing

What We Don’t Like

  • No remote control
  • Not programmable
  • Looks like a fluorescent ballast

Best Suited to:

  • Tanks with awkward edges/lip
  • Medium light plants
  • Refugium sumps
  • People with kids/pets

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You have high light plants
  • You want to “set it and forget it”
  • You want to simulate different lighting conditions

Final Thoughts

The Finnex FugeRay is an excellent, no-nonsense option for a planted aquarium. It’s not as showy as others on the market, but it does the job it needs to do. This is an especially good choice for a refugium, or for any tank that’s focused more on growing than showing.

You can get up close with this excellent light with one click.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Finnex Planted+ 24/7

Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED, Controller, 30 Inch

A sleek offering from Finnex, this is an automated LED array that’s rich with features. If you like to set up and walk away, then you won’t be disappointed. One of the main features is an automatic day/night cycle including a cool sunrise transitioning to a blazing 7000K midday sun, followed by a crimson sunset and a cool midnight blue.

You’ll have even more fun, though, using the four memory buttons to make custom settings for creating different moods. You can even simulate a thunderstorm at the touch of a button! This fixture invites creativity and rewards anyone who likes to put on a show.

What We Like

  • Adjustable legs hold tight to the aquarium with clamping screws
  • Remote control
  • Simulates a variety of conditions, including auto day/night cycle

What We Don’t Like

  • Have to create different colors with R, G, and B – no preset colors
  • IR remote sensor could be blocked, preventing communication
  • Never goes fully dark in 24/7 mode

Best Suited to:

  • Tanks with plants and fish (for all night observation of fish)
  • Medium to high light varieties
  • Tanks with awkward edges/lip
  • People with kids/pets

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You like total darkness at night (e., if the tank is in your bedroom)
  • Your tank is tucked in an awkward spot the remote might not reach

Final Thoughts

The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 aquarium LED light offers a lot of fun features to help you get the most out of your display tank. It also provides plenty of the right spectrum for growing lush plants. There are five sizes to choose from, so there should be one that’s right for your tank. This unit is a great step up from simpler lighting arrays.

For pictures, a video of the day/night cycle, and to order yours now, follow the link provided.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Current USA Satellite Freshwater Led+

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light for Aquarium, 48 to 60-Inch

If you like remote controls with plenty of buttons, you’ll be in heaven with this full-featured aquarium light.

It’s highly customizable, and also comes with numerous preset colors and lighting conditions including intermittent clouds, and varying degrees of stormy weather. More than just a toy, though, this unit shines bright with 6500K white lights and full-spectrum RGB.

It’s an incredibly sleek fixture, so you’ll hardly even notice it’s there. You could even add a second strip with room to spare. Four memory slots allow you to save your favorite color settings, and you have nearly infinite control over the RGB and white LEDs.

What We Like

  • Remote control
  • Preset colors
  • Varying weather modes

What We Don’t Like

  • Adjustable legs look flimsier than others we’ve seen
  • IR remote signal could be blocked
  • Using it at the widest expansion could leave you with inadequate coverage
  • Not programmable

Best Suited to:

  • Low to medium light varieties
  • People who are home a lot and don’t need automatic programs
  • Tanks 12” deep or less

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You have high light varieties
  • You have a very deep tank
  • You are busy and don’t want to remember to turn the unit on and off

Final Thoughts

Stepping up from a basic light to the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED+ opens up your possibilities, and should provide you with a lot of fun. An excellent choice for basic plant setups, and beginners who don’t want to start at the bottom. Choose from four sizes to suit your set up.

To see a demo video, get full specs, and to send for yours, this link will take you right there.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Coodia Aquarium Hood Lighting

COODIA Aquarium Hood Lighting Color Changing Remote Controlled Dimmable RGBW LED Light for Aquarium/Fish Tank, Extendable Upto 28 inches (for Fresh and Salt Water)

We all have to start somewhere, and that includes growing aquatic plants. If you’re new to this aspect of the hobby, you may not want to invest a lot of money. Still, you probably don’t want to pass up all the cool features available, right? This budget-friendly LED array won’t break the bank, but it also has enough bells and whistles to keep you busy.

There are four different expandable sizes available, but none of them adjusts more than 9 inches, meaning you’ll get good coverage even at maximum extension. You get a wireless remote with preset color choices, dimming, and a variety of lighting modes. Plus, they’re wide, meaning all that 7000K goodness is shared back to front.

What We Like

  • Remote control
  • Preset color modes
  • Very sturdy looking legs

What We Don’t Like

  • Not programmable
  • Remote looks cheap
  • Flash and strobe modes are short-lived novelties

Best Suited to:

  • Low to medium light varieties
  • Kids’ tanks
  • Smaller tanks

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You’re growing high light varieties
  • You have a very large tank
  • You want programmable settings/cycles

Final Thoughts

It’s tough to beat the COODIA LED aquarium hood light when it comes to bang-for-the-buck. It has numerous features normally found only in more expensive products.

For anyone not looking to invest heavily in their aquarium, but who still wants to put on a good display, this is a strong contender.

More details and pictures are waiting for you at the other end of this link, plus you can skip the wait and order one right now.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Aquatic Life Edge Led Aquarium Light Fixture

Aquatic Life LED Aquarium Light Fixture, 48-Inch

Here’s a bright idea: an LED fixture that’s super bright! The 48” version of this array has 87 white LEDs ranging from 6000K to 10,000K. This means you’ve got lumens to spare! Widely and evenly spaced, you’ll get good lighting in every part of your tank, including right down to the bottom. You’ll see consistent growth at every level.

It’s a very sleek, modern looking light, and they are slightly adjustable, though you need to get one as close to the right size for your tank as possible. That’s best for even lighting, anyway. All this, plus it’s programmable, allowing you to set a full day of lighting from sunrise to sunset and a moon glow at night.

What We Like

  • Delivers a high percentage of light in the useful blue wavelengths
  • Programmable timer for 24 light cycle including sunrise/set and moonlight
  • Battery backup for programs

What We Don’t Like

  • Offers less in the red spectrum than we prefer
  • No remote control
  • Timer programing is clunky

Best Suited to:

  • Anyone who wants an automated full-day cycle
  • People who lose remote controls
  • Middle to high light plants

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You have trouble setting things like alarm clocks and PVRs
  • You want dimmer lighting
  • You have a shallow tank

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to like about the Aquatic Life Edge fixture, and it gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up – even without the remote control. This is suitable for beginners and advanced aquarists alike and should provide years of plant-growing satisfaction.

If you buy one (and you can by following this link), you’ll appreciate the how-to video for programming the timer. Give it a click!

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Marineland Aquatic Plant Light

Marineland Aquatic Plant LED Light with Timer, 24- to 36-Inch

For those who are really into growing lush aquatic gardens, you’ll want a high-end light that offers the best conditions for your plants. This fixture delivers powerful 6500K light, plus the blue and red wavelengths that foster fullness and growth.

Even at 24” deep, the MarineLand LED provides more PAR than some fixtures offer at half that depth. Expect to grow truly thriving vegetation under this light. While you don’t get fun sunrise, sunset or cloud features, those are more for show than they are for the benefit of your plants.

What We Like

  • Lots of good blue and red wavelengths
  • Programmable timer
  • Dispersion lens for even lighting

What We Don’t Like

  • No remote control
  • No sunrise/sunset mode or “fun” settings

Best Suited to:

  • Any type of plant, but especially middle and high light
  • Dense plantings
  • Plant-only tanks/aquascaping/commercial plant growing

Other Options Might Suit You if:

  • You have basic, low light plants
  • You’re a casual aquarist
  • You don’t like programming timers

Final Thoughts

It costs more than many others on the market, but it delivers a superior growing experience. If you’re all about the aquatic plants, the MarineLand LED unit may be worth the investment.

If an underwater garden of Eden is in your plans, click on over and grab one today!

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Why Plants Need Special Lighting

As you might recall from biology class, plants convert sunlight into food via photosynthesis. Without going into detail, this is an absolutely essential process. Without proper light, a plant cannot survive.

Despite the severity of the situation, it turns out plants can still be fussy; only certain kinds of light are suited to photosynthesis.

Leafy plants prefer blue light. Yes, light comes in colors (and I don’t mean like colored Christmas bulbs). If you’ve ever seen an old incandescent bulb shining next to a modern LED bulb, you’ve seen this in practice. That yellowy-looking hue isn’t great for growth.

Some bulbs also generate heat. Anyone who’s tried to change a bulb without letting it cool down learned this the hard way. All that heat can burn a plant if it’s too close.

What Happens if Aquarium Plants Get Too Little or Too Much Light?

Too much isn’t so bad for the plants themselves, but it may encourage more growth than you want. It will also contribute to algae growth, and you really don’t want too much of that.

Too little will prevent your plants from filling out. They might survive, but they won’t flourish. You can read more details in our guide to lighting for planted aquariums.

There are many ways to measure the quantity of light, and it can get very confusing. One of the most common terms you’ll come across is “lumens.”

A lumen is a unit of measurement for light. A candle puts out about 12 lumens. A 100W incandescent bulb provides about 1500 lumens.

Different plants require different levels of lighting. For the sake of simplicity, it’s easiest to follow the “lumen per gallon” rule. It breaks down like this:

  • 60 lumens per gallon for low light varieties
  • 110 lumens per gallon for medium light plants
  • 150+ lumens per gallon for high light varieties

You’ll need to either do some research or talk to an expert at your aquarium store about the amount of light you’ll need for the plants you want.

What if They Don’t Get the Right Spectrum of Light?

Giving your plants the right spectrum of light is just as important as giving them the right amount.

As we mentioned earlier, light comes in different colors. Warm light is a yellowish hue like you might see from that candle I mentioned in the last section. Cool light is bluish, and you’ll see that emanating from some modern indoor bulbs.

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin, usually written as just the letter “K”. The lower the number, the warmer and redder the light is. Higher numbers indicate a cooler, bluer spectrum.

For example, the aforementioned candle measures about 1900K. A clear blue sky looking towards either pole may be as much as 27,000K.

Your average ambient daylight measures about 6500K. For that reason, fixtures that emit between about 6000K to 7000K is just right for aquarium plants. Don’t worry about being too precise, though; being a little outside these parameters won’t make much difference.

Plants tend to grow best with a broad spectrum of lighting. A mix of warmer and cooler light promotes not only leaf growth, but also stem growth. Plus, it looks great, too! Sources that lean towards the blue/green spectrum will make green leaves appear to pop with color. Warmer colors will accentuate any red parts of your plants.

PAR for the Course

A very important acronym to know in the world of aquarium lighting is PAR. It stands for Photosynthetically Active Radiation. PAR is radiation that a plant can use for photosynthesis. This radiation comes from light in the visible spectrum between about 400nm (nanometers), which is down in the violet part of the spectrum, and 700nm, which is up in the red zone.

Plants get most of the radiation they need from the outer edges of the spectrum. Green and yellow light, found in approximately the 500-600nm range, provides little help to plants. In fact, they reflect most green light, which is why they appear green to our eyes.

Knowing the PAR value of a light can help you choose what’s best. Low light intensity plants require something in the 15 to 30 range; medium light varieties need a PAR value from 35 to 50; and anything over 50 is suitable for high light plants.

If this is all getting a little too science-y for you, don’t worry! It’s not necessary to understand it all to have success growing aquarium plants. But, if you’re looking to become an expert, there is a lot to learn about lighting. If you really want to stretch your brain, have a go at this well researched and written forum post.

Why Choose Led Aquarium Lights Over Other Types?

LEDs aren’t your only option when it comes to aquarium lighting. Fluorescent lights for planted tanks are also popular, and, yes, even incandescents are still out there. So why are LEDs so great?

Ease of Use

LED fixtures for aquariums are easy to install. Many have remote controls and are programmable for light cycles, meaning you won’t have to worry about making daily adjustments.

Lifespan

Generally speaking, LEDs last longer than fluorescents and much longer than incandescent bulbs. So while you might spend a bit more in the beginning, you’ll save on replacement bulbs down the road.

Efficiency

LEDs use much less energy than other kinds of lights. That’s important when you consider they’ll be on probably 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week. That starts to add up before long! Unless you’re off the grid and generating your own solar power, you’ll see the savings.

Temperature

While it’s a myth that LEDs don’t generate heat, they certainly don’t create as much heat as other kinds of lights. Part of this is because they use less energy, and partly because they are designed to dissipate heat efficiently. This is good news for the aquarist because you don’t want to overheat your water or scorch surface plants.

How to Choose the Best LED Lights for a Planted Tank

In a bit we’ll share our top 6 picks for LED aquarium lighting for planted tanks. First, though, let’s review some of the criteria you should be looking for if you’re shopping for a new fixture.

Correct Spectrum

Be sure the fixture you choose can generate light in the crucial 6000K – 7000K range. Some fixtures output a spectrum over 10,000K, and there are ones that focus on the blue end of the spectrum that makes coral reefs look incredible! What they don’t do, however, is provide the rays plants need to photosynthesize.

When you’re checking numbers also look for wavelengths around 600nm – 700nm for the red light plants crave.

Features and Ease of Control

There are many features available that make an LED lighting array not only practical but also fun to own. For example, having a timer will make your life so much easier, and provides your plants with a consistent day/night cycle.

The ability to display different colors can help set the mood in the room or show off certain colors of plants and fish. Moonlights, the deep blue often seen in reef tanks, allow you to see your fish at night without interrupting their sleep or nocturnal habits.

Some lights even have the ability to mimic different conditions such as cloudy days, or even thunderstorms. What an amazing way to create a truly realistic environment for your plants and critters!

Ease of Installation and Replacement

The bar you choose should be easy to fit to your tank. Look for adjustable legs to fine-tune the fit. You might prefer a model with clamps to be sure it won’t be knocked into the water – this is an especially great feature if you’ve got rambunctious kids or pets in the house.

How Much Light Your Plants Need

Not all plants require the same amount of light to thrive. As mentioned before, you can break species down into three categories of intensities: low, medium, and high light loving. It’s important to know what kind you want to grow and then provide them with what they need.

Tank Size and Light Intensity

If possible, check the PAR value chart for the fixture. It should show you how much radiation penetrates to different depths. You can then decide if enough radiation will reach the parts of your tank where plants will be based on the dimensions of your tank.

You can also go with the lumens per gallon rule mentioned above as a guideline for how much light you’ll need in your tank.

Planted Aquarium LED Lighting FAQ

Some commonly asked questions regarding LED lighting for planted tanks. As we receive any related questions, we shall add them with answers here.

Is LED Light Good for Aquarium Plants?

LED fixtures are an energy efficient choice for planted aquariums. However, it is important to choose a model that provides enough light for plant growth. Many are only suitable for low-light plants, or just to make an unplanted tank look pretty. Choose an LED fixture that provides at least 7000K.

How Much LED Lighting for a Planted Tank?

Physically, the LED fixture should be large enough to provide light across the entire tank. This will allow you to plant wherever you like.

Be sure the fixture provides at least 7000K and an average of 100 lumens per gallon. You may wish to opt for a high-output LED. These fixtures provide as much if not more light than the T8 and T5 tubes favored by many aquaculturists.

For a downloadable aquarium lumens per square inch (LSI) calculator, follow this link.

How Many Lumens do I Need for a Planted Tank?

The lumens, or level of brightness, you need to grow plants will depend on what kind of plants you’re growing. On average, expect to need about 100 lumens per gallon.

Some simple plants require just 40-80 lumens per gallon. More light-hungry plants will need as much as 150 lumens per gallon, or more.

Check with your aquarium store to learn the requirements for the plants you want. For an in-depth look at lumens and lights, this is a great article.

How Long Should Aquarium Lights Be on for Plants?

Planted tanks should receive 8-12 hours of light per day to allow plants to thrive. Tropical plants, like Amazon sword, need to be at the upper end of that range. Cold-water plants, such as the popular Anubias nana, will do better at the lower end.

New plants may need even more light until they are well established. Too much, however, can encourage algae growth. New aquaculturists might want to start at 10 hours and adjust as necessary.

Do LED Aquarium Lights Cause Algae?

Any light can cause algae to grow, regardless of the source. If your LEDs aren’t strong enough to allow plants to thrive, algae will out-compete them for nutrients and become a problem.

Providing sufficient light for plant growth will allow your plants to take control of the tank, leaving algae without enough nutrients to survive in large quantities.

That Light Bulb Moment

Feeling a little less in the dark about the best LED aquarium lighting for plants?

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re looking to replace your old fluorescent lighting from an existing setup, switching to LED makes a lot of sense. It really is a bright idea!

If you liked what you read, or if you have any comments or inquiries, we’d love to hear what you have to say! Drop us a line, in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you. We’d also love to see your planted aquarium pictures, so share them with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for choosing us to help you live your life aquatic.

Happy fish keeping!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.

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