Corals and other photosynthetic marine life require proper light intensity and quality to thrive in the home aquarium.
No matter if you’re keeping a nano reef tank or a mega reef system, high-quality lighting is nothing to skimp on.
But what’s high quality really mean? We’ll guide you through the latest reef-ready LED fixtures, so you’ll be able to choose the right light for your reef aquarium.
What’s the Big Deal About LED Reef Lighting?
Just in case you’re new to the hobby or jumping back into it, LED aquarium lighting has taken over as the lighting of choice for most coral enthusiasts.
Why? Here are the main reasons.
- Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are energy efficient. In the old days, reef lighting could boost your electric bill by $100 a month! That’s because old-fashioned fluorescent ballasts used a lot of energy.
- Unlike fluorescent bulbs, LEDs last for years. Even better, their output does not drop like T-5 and T-8 bulbs. You had to replace your fluorescent tubes once a year to keep the same output. If you ordered special reef bulbs by mail, you hoped none of them would be shattered in shipping.
- LED aquarium lights don’t add heat to the aquarium water like traditional reef lighting. With metal halides and fluorescent lighting, almost everyone had to have a chiller on their tanks just to keep the water safe for the corals.
- LED reef fixtures often let you adjust the intensity and color spectrum. Some reef fixtures even have automatic sunrise and sunset times that slowly adjust the lighting to match natural reef lighting cycles.
There are other features that we’ll look at as we review the top LED lights for reef aquariums!
Top LED Lights for Reef Aquariums
Ecotech Marine continues to push the limits of LED aquarium lighting.
Designed and built in the US, Ecotech Radion reef lights are considered top quality.
The new G6 Pro is designed for reef tanks 24 to 30-inches wide and deep.
The new HEI2 Optic System creates a 126.3-degree spread of light to reach into all corners of your reef. This ensures your corals are bathed in light and not in the shadows.
The new G6 platform uses 395 nm diodes to bring out more of your coral’s fluorescence.
A new color rebalance allows the Radion G6 Pro to mimic the spectrum of metal halides but at a fraction of energy use and heat output.
Like previous models, the G6 comes with pre-programmed sunrise and sunset modes.
The fully customizable light can be controlled with an app that runs on any smart device.
2. Kessil 160WE Tuna Blue
The Kessil 160WE Tuna Blue LED aquarium fixture is a pendant-style LED reef light.
The 40-watt LED array is a proprietary design unique to Kessil lights.
Multiple LED chips are laid out in a packed array and focused to provide a wide spread of light throughout the reef tank. The 160WE will penetrate tanks up to 30 inches deep and wide.
Color spread is even and natural-looking. The 160WE Tuna Blue uses the Kessil Logic color blending system.
The light has two independent adjustment knobs. One knob adjusts the color spectrum, and the other adjusts intensity. Color temperature coves actinic to 10,000K.
The Tuna Blue has lighting programs that have sunrise, sunset and acclimation modes for new corals.
The Tuna Blue will provide the right UV spectrum reef-building corals need for growth.
The light can be hung above the aquarium as a single unit or in multiples in a daisy chain.
You can control the lights manually or through automated programming. The control interface operates in the 0-10 V DC range and is compatible with a variety of automated controllers.
The optional mounting arm system is also available.
3. AI Prime 16HD
Aqua Illumination is a US-based maker of LED reef lighting. The Prime 16 HD is a mainstay among reef aquarists growing stony corals.
The fixture contains 17 Cree and Semiled LEDs, including green, UV and royal blue.
The Prime 16HD is suspended above the aquarium and will cover an area 24 inches wide and 24 inches depth.
The Prime HD driver allows each LED color to be individually dimmed or brightened.
When some LEDs are dimmed, the extra power is sent to the LEDs that need it. You won’t lose light penetration by making spectrum adjustments.
The custom 80° lens blends the colors and distributes the light evenly throughout the reef. This gives greater ability to illuminate your reef with no wasted power.
The 16HD is a compact fixture measuring 4.8 inches square and 1.3 inches thick.
Control and programming are easy. Use your iOS, Android, or internet-connection device to link with the myAI app.
myAI gives you full control over color, intensity and scheduling even when you are away from home.
A variety of mounting systems make it easy to use one or more Prime AI reef lights.
4. Hipargero A029 v2 Reef Light
The version 2 Hipargero LED fixture is a budget light designed for shallow nano reef tanks.
The plastic fixture has three arrays of lights, each containing three individual LEDs. The company says they use royal blue, blue and white LEDs for a total of 30 watts.
The recommended aquarium size of 18 inches wide with a maximum depth of 16 inches.
The three 90-degree lenses that cover the LED array are designed to spread the light throughout reef tanks of less than 20 gallons.
The A029 comes with a built-in timer for on-off control with sunrise/sunset dimming. The touch buttons allow you to manually control and dim the LEDs in 10% increments.
The Hipargero A029 comes with an adjustable mounting arm that attaches to the side of the aquarium. You may have to add a plastic or wooded shim to get a firm grip.
An automatic cooling fan cycles on and off as needed to keep the circuit board cool.
This LED fixture comes with a 1-year warranty and a 30-day return policy if you don’t like it. This light is best suited for easy-to-grow corals.
The VIPARSPECTRA V165W LED reef light is packed with features.
It’s designed with two channels of LEDs. One channel provides Violet(420nm), Royal Blue(450nm), and Blue(470nm). The second channel provides Green(520nm), Red(660nm), Neutral White(6500K) and Cool White(12000K) LEDs.
Each channel can be adjusted for intensity. The automatic timer allows you to turn each channel on and off. It does not have a sunrise/sunset feature.
The 90-degree lens provides adequate spread throughout reef aquariums up to 29 gallons. Light penetration is rated for up to 18 inches deep.
Quiet fans keep cool air flowing across the heat sink and away from your aquarium.
The kit includes a basic hand-held remote control. The V165W fixture does not operate with an app.
The light cannot be daisy-chained and work as one fixture.
The kit comes with adjustable cables to make it easy to hang the light over your reef tank.
You’ll have success with soft and stony corals with the Viparspectra V165W.
The LED reef lights in this review fall into two categories.
These fixtures get the job done but don’t have the benefits of daisy chaining, apps, and advanced programming. For many reef-keepers, these lights are perfect for their needs.
If you want to get the latest technology in reef lighting and plan on using several lights over your reef tank, the Ecotech, AI and Kessil reef lights are sure to satisfy you and your corals’ thirst for great lighting.