LED Aquarium Lighting: 11 Great Fixtures for Freshwater, Planted and Reef Tanks

A properly illuminated aquarium creates the illusion of depth, highlights your aquascaping and brings out the color of your fish.

If you raise live aquatic plants you know that light quality is very important to sustain growth.

Live corals depend on the proper light spectrum and intensity in order to remain healthy in reef aquariums.

TL;DR

Keep reading for more details and other options!

Best rated LED lighting Reviews

No matter what kind of aquarium you have, modern LED lights are the way to go. We’ll explore all the benefits of LED lighting and review the best LED lights for freshwater and marine tanks.

What’s so great about LED aquarium lighting?

What to look for when selecting a freshwater LED aquarium light

Reef aquariums and LED lighting

What to look for when selecting a LED light for a reef aquarium


Best LED Aquarium Lighting Reviews

1. AquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD Reef Aquarium LED

Aquaillumination, a leader in the LED reef aquarium light field, has released an updated version of the AI Prime fixture.

The AI Prime HD uses a new LED driver system that makes the lighting more efficient.

Here’s how it works. Instead of dimming all the colored LEDs, the new HD driver system dims the colors you don’t want and sends the power to the LEDs you want, so they're brighter.

The HD driver system provides greater customization and optimization of the light without sacrificing intensity.

The Prime HD uses an array of 13 Osram, Cree and semiLED diodes. The fixture includes a green and UV LED to boost photosynthesis of zooxanthellae inside reef-building corals and other inverts. Each LED uses an 80° lens for even color blending and PAR distribution under the aquarium light.

The Prime HD measures 4.8 inches square and 1.3 inches thick. This is perfect for nano aquariums that require a compact light fixture. Multiple fixtures can be used over larger reef and saltwater aquariums.

AI Prime HD lights require a mounting kit. You have three options, ensuring the light will work with any aquarium. There are three mounting styles:

  • Prime Tank Mount – A ridged arm mounts to the aquarium and holds the light in a fixed position.
  • Prime Flex Arm – A mount secures the flexible arm to the aquarium while allowing a single Prime HD to be aimed by adjusting the arm.
  • Prime Hanging Kit –A wire suspends the fixture above the aquarium while a ball-joint allows the fixture angle to be adjusted.

The AI Prime HD is a “smart” LED aquarium light. You can control one or more Prime HDs with any iOS, Android or internet-connected device with the myAI app.

The Prime HD is available in black or white finish.​

Pros

  • Specially-designed for reef aquariums but can be used with saltwater fish tanks.
  • Small footprint for nano tanks or multiples over large aquarium.
  • The app provided control of color, intensity and scheduling.
  • Online access from anywhere there is a connection.
  • Wi-Fi-enabled.
  • Three kinds of mounting systems for any application.
  • 100 PAR at 24” height.

Cons

  • No cons if used on shallow aquariums.

2. Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light

The Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light is the first marine LED light to incorporate dual daylight and dual blue actinic-style LED chips into one light fixture.

This LED light has been specially designed for marine fish aquarium and especially reef tanks with live corals.

The combination of 8,000K/12,000K white LEDs along with 445nm/460nm actinic blue LEDs recreates the light spectrum necessary for marine fish, inverts, live rock, and corals.

The Orbit fixture uses 120-degree lenses that spread the light throughout the aquarium so all areas of the tank are illuminated. Lighting can be controlled with the wireless remote control.

The Ramp Timer Pro feature creates 24-hour gradual sunrise, sunset and moonlighting for a natural rhythmic light cycle. The timer provides a slow ramp up that prevents light shock, gently acclimates fish to bright lighting.

The adjustable mounting legs fit aquarium widths of 18-24 inches, 24-36 inches, 36-48 inches, and 48-60 inches.

Pros

  • Advanced LED chip design provides full spectrum reef lighting.
  • Remote control lets you control the lighting from your sofa.
  • Slow ramp-up and down prevent light shock to fish and invertebrates.
  • Easy programming.
  • Comes with four automatic lighting pre-sets.

Cons

  • Does not have a variety of single-colored LEDS for custom lighting.
  • Poor instructions on how to set-up the lighting programing.
  • Not as bright as some other marine LED lights.

3. EcoTech Marine Radion G4

Ecotech Marine, a US-based reef equipment manufacturer, is well-known for their Radion series of LED aquarium lights.

Ecotech updates their line of LED fixtures when new technology adds significant value.

The G4 (generation 4) is their latest update to the Radion family.

There are three versions of the fixture. The XR15w Pro (~95 watts max) contains one LED array. The XR30w Pro (~190 watts max) model contains two LED arrays. The XR30w (~150 watts max) has a cluster with six channels.

All models feature efficient aluminum heat sinks and a super-quiet cooling fan. Both Radion Pro models have eight adjustable color channels. You’ll have complete control of every colored LED.

The Radions use top-quality CREE, OSRAM and Semiled diodes for accurate, consistent color for each color diode. This also ensures multiple fixtures all produce the same quality and quantity of light.

Ecotech designed their own HEI (Hemispherical Edge Illumination) lenses for improved color blending and even spread of PAR light throughout the tank. Both aquarium lights are compatible with EcoSmart Live (ESL). EcoSmart Live gives you wireless control and programming of Radion lights along with VorTech pumps.

Pros

  • Independently proven to grow corals.
  • Silent cooling.
  • Many ways to mount or hang one or more lights.
  • PAR charts are available.
  • Compatible with EcoSmart Live control system.
  • Ability to control 8 channels of light.

Cons

  • None.

4. VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series LED Aquarium Light

Vipraspectra is a manufacturer of LED lights for hydroponics and indoor growing. The company’s tag like is “Good light is not that expensive.”

They’ve recently introduced two LED lights aimed at the reef aquarium market.

The V-165 fixture (165 watts) provides 24” by 24” coverage. The T-300 fixture (300 watts) has provides 32” by 24” coverage.

Both models have channel and timer controls. The Vipraspectra aquarium lights allow you to adjust the blue channel and the white channel intensity, to dial-in the color balance. The timer controls the blue and white channel separately.

Settings can be controlled by an IR remote control or directly on the fixture itself.

The Vipraspectra lights are meant to be suspended above the aquarium and include a wire suspension kit.

Viparspectra V-165 Specs

Viparspectra T-300 Specs

Both lights come with a 6-foot power cord, remote control, built-in timer, manual and hanging kit.

Pros

  • Company provides PAR measurements at various tank depths.
  • Simple channel controls.
  • Built-in timer.
  • Economical entry into reef LED lighting.

Cons

  • Possible longevity issues with LEDs.
  • Channels sometimes turn on and off.
  • Industrial look.
  • Power cord is on top of fixture.
  • Can’t be daisy chained.
  • No automatic sunrise, sunset or moonlight.

5. Kessil A360X Tuna Blue LED Aquarium Light

The Kessil A360X is the latest in the Tuna series. Slimmer and even brighter than previous versions, the A360X features proprietary LED arrays assembled at the Kessil factory in California.

A new high-efficiency “sunflower” heat sink quietly dissipates heat, adding longevity to the fixture. Like previous models, one knob controls overall intensity and another controls blue/white LED color mixing.

But the full power of the new fixture is unleashed using the wired Kessil Spectral Controller X.

The controller gives you full access to all the fine-tuning features including program modes, color blending and intensity.

The A360X can be daisy chained in a network, but each light can be controlled independently. The A360X series has a smoother dimming curve for more natural sunrise and sunset effects. The light spectrum produced spans 10,000K to actinic blue. The LED fixture is designed to be hung from a bracket or ceiling mount.

This LED aquarium fixture is intended for reef aquarium lighting. The Kessil A360X comes in a blue-light Tuna Blue model for reef aquariums and a full spectrum Tuna Sun model.

Pros

  • 25% brighter than previous versions.
  • Limitless light tuning and intensity.
  • Smaller fixture design.
  • Better cooling than previous versions.

Cons

  • Expensive compared to other brands.
  • Requires hanging from brackets or ceiling.
  • Power supply is a separate component that must be hidden from view.
  • No wireless control

6. Aquatic Life LED EDGE

The Aquatic Life LED light is available in a freshwater and reef design.

The 36“ freshwater aquarium LED fixture contains (21) 6K White, (21) 9K White, (24) 10K White, (7) Blue, (11) Red, (3) Blue Lunar LED's.

The five colors of 0.5 watt LEDs have a 120-degree dispersion that creates full-spectrum light throughout the aquarium.

The lunar LEDs are used at night to replicate moonlight in the aquarium.

The sleek fixture design is only 0.5 inches wide and 4 inches high. Programmable sunrise and sunset functions enable the LEDs to be easily programmed to slowly turn on or off in 10-minute increments over a two-hour period of time.

The Aquatic Life EDGE LED feature a simple 3-Channel timer makes programming the timer and customizing the light output quick and easy.

The Aquatic Life EDGE LED Fixtures are available in three sizes.

  • 24-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 23.5 Inches and 26.25 Inches
  • 36-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 35.0 Inches and 38.25 Inches
  • 48-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 47.0 Inches and 50.25 Inches

The Aquatic Life Reef Edge LED fixture is similar in size to the freshwater version.

The LED array is designed to provide more blue light, mimicking the type of light that penetrates the coral reef. The LED light contains (21) 9K White, (52) Blue 454nm, (4) Blue 440nm, (3) Violet 420nm, 3) Violet 400nm, (4) Red LEDs.

The timer is similar to the freshwater model. The Aquatic Life Reef Edge LED fixture is available in two sizes.

  • 36-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 35.0 Inches and 38.25 Inches
  • 48-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 47.0 Inches and 50.25 Inches

Pros

  • Easy to program timer and lighting effects.
  • Good customer service.
  • Comes with an internal battery back-up that saves timer settings in case of power failure.
  • A dense array of LEDs for even lighting throughout the tank.

Cons

  • Reef Edge not available in the 24-inch version.
  • The light fixture cannot be hung over the aquarium.
  • Instruction manual could contain better instructions on setting the automated functions.

7. Nicrew Classic LED Aquarium with Extendable Brackets

The Nicrew LED aquarium light is a basic LED light fixture for freshwater aquariums. It combines blue and white LEDs.

The lighting modes are white light for normal illumination of the aquarium and blue for the moonlight effect.

The white daylight mode actually blends the white and blue LEDs together. The night time blue color is dimmer.

This LED aquarium light is controlled by a rocker switch with three positions. You can select off, daylight or moonlight. The Nicrew does not have a programmable timer or dimming function.

The intensity of the light or color cannot be changed. This LED light comes in three widths and is mounted onto the rim of the aquarium. The mounting frame width is adjustable and slides out of the light fixture.

The plastic “feet” have a “U-shaped” channel that is a ½ inch wide and drops down onto the top of the aquarium. The U-channel greatly stabilizes the light fixture and prevents the light from being accidentally knocked into the water when performing aquarium maintenance.

The Nicrew LED Aquarium Light comes in three widths: 11-19 inches, 20-27 inches, and 28-36 inches.

Pros

  • Simple to use LED aquarium light.
  • No programming needed to use the light.
  • Economical price.
  • Provides adequate light for live plant growth.

Cons

  • No integrated automatic timer.
  • Cannot be hung over the aquarium.
  • Uses power adapter and jack, not hard-wired.

8. AquaIllumination Hydra TwentySix HD

The Aquaillumination Hydra TwentySix HD represents the latest innovation in the Hydra series.

The HD designation is based on the fixture’s ability to use power from un-used LEDs (colors) to boost the output of the LEDs that are being used throughout the 24-hour light cycle.

The Hydra TwentySix HD used 80-degree focusing lenses for a good balance of light spread and focusing power.

The Hydra draws 90 watts at full power. The aluminum fixture housing acts as an efficient heat sink so the aquarium water stays cool.

The lights use name-brand LEDs from Cree, Osram and SemiLED. The Hydra fixtures do not need an external controller. They can be manually configured or wirelessly controlled by smart device or computer through the myAI app.

Pros

  • Uses high-quality LEDs.
  • Connects wirelessly to computer or smart device.
  • Able to daisy chain.
  • No separate controller needed.
  • myAI app is easy and functional.

Cons

  • Expensive compared to other brands.
  • Require hanging from brackets.
  • Power supply is a separate component that must be hidden from view.

9. Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED

The Finnex Planted+ is designed for planted freshwater aquariums.

The fixture is constructed of lightweight extruded aluminum. This provides a sturdy fixture with heat-dissipating properties.

The aluminum fixture sits on top of the aquarium on acrylic legs. The legs have thumbscrews for securing the light to the frame of the aquarium.

The Finnex Planted plus features high-quality 7,000K daylight plus red LEDs that boost light in the 660-nanometer range. This slight increase in the red spectrum stimulates plant growth.

The programmable 24/7 feature starts with a cool lit dawn, transitions into a warm sunrise morning, followed by an intense color blazing high noon, scaling down to a red sun drowned sunset and finishes with a starry night blue moonlight.

The remote control selects presets such as a Thunderstorms, Cloudy Days, Sunny Days and Moonlights with a click of a button. There are four empty programmable presets that can save customized color combinations and lighting intensities.

The Finnex Planted + LED aquarium light is available in 20", 24", 30", 36", & 48" lengths.

Pros

  • Slim lightweight design.
  • Specially designed for freshwater planted aquariums.
  • Easy to operate remote control.

Cons

  • Power cord is too short.
  • Remote control feels poorly made.
  • Short one-year warranty.

10. Kessil A160WE Controllable LED Aquarium Light

The Kessil A160WE series is designed for freshwater aquariums.

The light spectrum, 6,000-9,000K, is ideal for raising aquatic plants.

The proprietary Kessil LED arrays create the light shimmer effect, duplicating the look of an Amazonian stream.

The LED fixture is designed to be hung from a bracket or ceiling mount.

Like the saltwater version, the A160WE uses the two-knob Kessil Logic adjustment feature. Users can select the perfect spectrum and color with one knob and then adjust the intensity with another other.

When daisy-chained in series the first A160 acts as the master light, using its settings to control all other lights in the chain. The A160WE can also be controlled by several stand-alone aquarium controllers.

The A160WE comes in a blue-light Tuna Blue style and a full spectrum Tuna Sun model.

Pros

  • LED arrays are manufactured in USA.
  • Easy two-knob spectrum control.
  • Able to daisy chain manually.
  • Works with popular external controllers.

Cons

  • Expensive compared to other brands.
  • Requires hanging from brackets or ceiling.
  • Power supply is a separate component that must be hidden from view.

11. Marineland Reef LED Strip Light

The Marineland Reef LED strip uses 14K daylight LEDS and blue LEDS that blend together for reef aquarium lighting. The fixture has an integrated timer for on and off settings.

The light can be set to turn on and off at the designated time. Individual colors cannot be adjusted.

The Reef LED strip lights are intended to be placed on top of the aquarium.

The adjustable mounting legs fit aquarium widths of 18-24 inches, 24-36 inches, 36-48 inches, and 48-60 inches.

Pros

  • One-watt LEDs are brighter than other aquarium lights.
  • LEDs are covered with focusing lenses.
  • Simple start-up, easy to use.
  • Sleek low-profile design.

Cons

  • Limited automation and timer settings.
  • Does not have individual colored LEDs for customized lighting.
  • Mounting legs allow the light to slip into the aquarium by accident during maintenance.

Light intensity and PAR

How many LED Watts per gallon?

How long should I leave the lights on?

Aquarium LED Lighting Recommendations

For a freshwater fish tank that does not need sophisticated dimming, color customization or a remote control, consider the Nicrew light.

The economical price and simple operation make it an attractive replacement for an old fluorescent-style aquarium light or when setting up a new aquarium. Unlike the Marineland LED, which can easily get knocked into the aquarium water, the Nicrew LED fixture gets locked onto the top of the aquarium frame, providing a secure light mount.

Since the Nicrew does not come with a timer, consider the Zoomed AquaSun Aquarium Timer. The timer is easy to set up and can even be bypassed if necessary. A red LED indicates when the outlet is turned on.

If you’re raising live aquatic plants or maintaining a reef aquarium, you’ll probably want a few more options when it comes to light color and timer control.

The Aquatic Life LED, whether in freshwater or marine style, will give you features entry level LED aquarium lights don’t have. The variety of different colored LEDs and three channels of automation provides more control for the advanced freshwater aquarist or reef-keeping enthusiast.

The slim design and on-tank mounting system fit into any decor. The Aquatic Life fixture is a blend of simple operation with a nice set of programming options for freshwater and marine aquarists.

For a high-tech planted aquarium containing sensitive Amazonian plants, consider the Kessil A160WE. The controllable light spectrum and intensity works hand-in-hand with carbon dioxide injection, providing optimal conditions for aquatic plants.

The 6,700K lighting is ideal for stimulating freshwater photosynthesis. The shimmer effect makes the aquarium look like a tropical stream, enhancing colorful fish and aquascaping.

Reef enthusiasts are especially concerned about providing the correct amount and quality of light for their corals. Aquarists also want value and reliability from light manufacturers. There’s a LED light fixture for every reef aquarist. Here’s what we like.

The Vipraspectra LED lights have basic control functions in a simple housing. You won’t be able to incorporate it into an automated aquarium system, but the fixtures do provide enough PAR to support coral growth.

The company has had an issue with some LEDs malfunctioning but this can be corrected with tighter quality control in future production runs.

The Vipraspectra lights have a generous three-year warranty, which gives peace of mind should you need warranty support.

Take a close look at the Vipraspectra series if you’re on a tight budget and don’t need a high-tech LED light over your reef tank. These lights would be an excellent way to get experience with LED lighting on a nano reef or smaller aquarium containing SPS and LPS corals.​

If you’re looking to upgrade lighting over your reef and you want an automated control system, the Radion XR Pro series is a strong contender. The lights provide eight channels of control, solid build quality and a proven track record for stimulating substantial coral growth.

The US company provides skilled customer support out of their Pennsylvania facility. If you need help getting the lights talking with the EcoSmart Live system, you’ll be able to speak directly with an expert who can walk you through it.

For deep, wide or long reef tanks, take a look at the AquaIllumination Hydra TwentySix HD or the larger Hydra FiftyTwo HD.

The rugged construction and name-brand LED circuits make the Hydra series a reliable and powerful lighting option. The Hydra LED lights will provide the proper light spectrum and intensity needed by reef-building corals.

The myAI app allows you to control the lights with smart devices or computer from anywhere in the world. The app even syncs the Hydra light with the earth’s lunar cycle. The myAI app will also allow you to view your aquarium with a Nest camera!

If you have any questions or comments, please, post them below!

Comments:

  1. Craig

    Nice write up and some good options there, I personally use the Marineland Strip Light on my home set up and it works great, not had a single issue with it since getting it a year ago.

    Keep up the good work and best wishes for 2017.

    Reply
    • Bob Flickerton

      Hey Craig, thanks for the comment! All the best, Bob.

      Reply
  2. Dave P

    I AM STARTING A 6FT 120 GAL REEF TANK AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF LED LIGHTS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?

    Reply
    • Bob Flickerton

      For a large reef aquarium full of corals you’ll want a reliable LED lighting system with solid performance. Consider
      the AquaIllumination Hydra TwentySix HD+. You’ll have bright, controllable lighting from a reliable manufacturer. If I were building a reef tank that large I would spare no expense to get a proper lighting system. Take a look at the TwentySix series or any of the AquaIllumination fixtures. You won’t be disappointed!

      Reply
  3. Bill

    Really great in-depth article. Just goes to show how much you really need to make sure you have the right led lighting for you fish tank

    Reply
    • Bob Flickerton

      Hey Bill, thanks a lot for taking the time to leave this message! Best, Bob.

      Reply
  4. Joshua Lira

    The xr15 and xr30 are not 15 and 30 watts. They are approximately 95 and 185 watts from the wall

    Reply
    • Bob Flickerton

      Thank you Joshua for pointing that out, I have fixed the article.

      Reply

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