Best LED Lighting For Reef Tanks 2020 Reviewed

Lighting is fundamental to owning a successful reef aquarium. The best LED lighting will provide your inhabitants with the light needed to grow and flourish.

To help you choose the best LED lighting for your reef tank, we’ve research what you need to consider before purchasing. And then we’ve reviewed some of the best LED light fixtures for you.

Overview: Top Pick Reef Tank LED Lights

The best LED lights for reef and saltwater tanks is the Current USA Marine Pro.

Top Pick: Current USA Fixture Orbit Marine Pro
Top Pick: Current USA Fixture Orbit Marine Pro
Specifically designed for SPS and LPS corals, the Current USA Orbit provides a high level of control at a reasonable price.

Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reef LED Lighting: What You Need to Consider

Before you go purchasing any old LED lighting, you need to consider these:

  • The longevity and build quality
  • Internal aesthetic appeal
  • External aesthetic appeal
  • Software and controllability
  • Cost per LED and color combinations

Longevity and Build Quality

You’re about to spend your money on a quality LED lighting fixture, so you’re going to want it to outlast your tank.

You’re not going to be pleased if it loses output or changes color spectrum on you.

That’s why LED lighting is such a great option. Unlike T5 and Halide bulbs, which lose intensity and color shift as they age, LED lights have power and spectrum stability.

Here’s what you should consider:

  • The quality of active cooling system
  • Brand or type of LEDs used
  • Power supply
  • Quality of design and materials used
  • Brand, warranty support, and available parts

Internal Aesthetic Appeal

This means good color blending, no visual hotspots, minimal disco ball effect, and a color you like.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What colors do you want to see in your aquarium?
  • Do you want to enhance the colors of your fish or corals?
  • Have you looked at other people’s tanks and taken inspiration from their color combinations?

External Visual Appeal

Where’s your aquarium located: Living room, den, office, or somewhere else you spend time?

You’re going to want it to look sharp.

It’s good to always think of your tank as a painting. It doesn’t matter how good it looks, it’s an eyesore if the frame is wrong.

In this case, the frame is what’s found outside your tank – including your LED lighting fixture.

This can be different for everyone. Do you want a sleek modern design that blends in with your tank?

Or do you like a bulkier fixture that make it look like a science experiment?

It’s important you determine what’s right for you.

Software and Controllability

Most reef LED lighting fixtures will come with software and programming options so you can control the lights.

Some will use simple remotes with buttons, others may support apps where you can use sliders etc.

More advanced systems will require the use of a computer and come with many customizations.

Different options for adjusting timing, light intensity, scheduling, custom color display, and more.

Do you want to have the ability to mimic the times of the day? Sunrise, midday, afternoon, evening, and moonlight. This can be an excellent feature if you’ve got inhabitants who like to stick to a schedule.

Cost Per LED and Color Options

Don’t take the upfront cost of the fixture into account alone. You should break it down. Look at the number of color options you get.

The more, the more flexibility and customization options you’ll have.

It’s a good idea to divide the total number of LEDs by the cost of the light. Knowing the cost per LED will give you a better understanding of the value compared to the other options.

As for running LED lighting, it’s cost-effective. You’ll never have to buy bulbs again – saving a lot of money and reducing maintenance.

They’re energy efficient, which is a bonus if you’re trying to lower your carbon footprint. And your average LED will last for around 50,000 hours.

That means if you run your LEDs for 12 hours a day, they’ll last for over 11 years!

Check out this table below (source):

Table comparing the costs of different light bulbs

Although LEDs have a higher upfront cost, the savings you make over their lifetime compared to others is unbelievable.

Brand, Warranty Support, and Available Parts

Buying from a well-known brand is always a good idea. Especially if you’re not the most tech savvy hobbyist.

You may find you need technical or warranty support a some point. An established customer support team who are happy to help you really adds value.

Having a good warranty is always a bonus. LED lights have some moving parts (fan) that can break.

This is why buying from a quality brand can really help. It’s likely you’ll be able to get replacement parts faster.

A good test is to call a company and ask about an old part. If it’s available, the representatives seem happy to help, and have the parts in stock, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a very good company.

What About Par/Light Intensity?

You might wonder why this wasn’t the first thing discussed here.

Well, if you’re looking to buy a good quality reef LED fixture, it’s extremely unlikely it’s going to come with insufficient PAR.

Our recommendations all come with more than enough PAR for a reef aquarium.

Best LED Lights For Reef Aquariums Reviewed

Let’s take a look at, and compare some of the best LED lights available for reef tanks.

1. Current USA Fixture Orbit Marine Pro LED Light

Purpose built for reef tanks, the light spectrum has be specifically designed for SPS and LPS corals.

It’s available in four adjustable sizes: 18-24”, 24-36”, 48-60”, and 72”.

8000/12,000k white and actinic blue LEDs create the light spectrum needed for marine fish, inverts, live rock, and corals.

120-degree lenses produce and even light with no visual hotspots or disco ball effect.

Featuring the Ramp Timer Pro, it recreates a realistic 24 hour light cycle. Using a slow ramp-up and down will acclimate fish – preventing light shock.

The kit includes a handy remote, which allows you to control everything with a press of a button.

You can even choose from four dynamic effects, including cloud cover, fading lunar, and lighting storms.

Pros

  • Advanced LED chip provides the full spectrum needed for reef tanks
  • Remote lets you control everything
  • Slow ramp-up and down
  • Easy programming
  • Comes with four automatic lighting presets

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a variety of single-colored LEDs for custom lighting
  • Instructions a bad (plenty of YouTube tutorials)
  • The remote is fantastic, but if you lose it you’re in trouble
Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light, 18 to 24-Inch
Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light, 18 to 24-Inch

    Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    2. BeamsWork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light

    BeamsWork has created a powerful full spectrum light at a great price.

    It comes in either a 20”, 24”, 30”, 36”, 48”, or 72” length. So lots to choose from!

    Be careful when you order, the legs can be pushed back in to make the base shorter, but they don’t extend out to make them longer. 

    I recommend carefully measuring your tank and getting a light listed as the exact length of your tank.

    It puts out 5000 lumens at 10000K and has white, red, green and blue LEDs.

    The fixture is slim and sleek and I really like the design of the clear legs. They’re much better looking than the typical black wire legs.

    You can add both a timer and a dimmer (sold separately) to this light so you can fine tune your photoperiod (how long the light is on) and the intensity of the light.

    Pros: 

    • Sleek design
    • Clear legs look pretty cool
    • Full spectrum light at great price
    • Dimmable 

    Cons: 

    • No fancy controller
    • Legs don’t expand
    Beamswork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Pent Freshwater 0.50W (90cm - 36')
    Beamswork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Pent Freshwater 0.50W (90cm - 36")

      Last update on 2020-10-14 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      3. VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control 165W

      Providing the full spectrum of light needed, the color lights are fitted in a unique criss-cross style among the white bulbs.

      This may seem odd or random, but Visparspectra state that this layout helps to maximize the health and growth of plants and corals.

      An inbuilt timer makes it easy to control – even if you’re not the most technical person.

      Using the handy remote, you’re able to program the blue and white LEDs independently.

      Two channels allow you to set separate intensities as well as on and off times.

      The fixture includes an adjustable hanging kit. Featuring lock assembly for a more secure mount.

      Available in two size: 16×8.5×2.4inches (ideal for 24×24” coverage), and 31.5 x 8.5 x 2.4 inches (ideal for 32×24” coverage).

      Pros

      • Uses full light spectrum
      • Remote control & built in timer
      • Program each channel separately
      • Easy to use
      • Durable build quality
      • LEDs last for 100,000 hours

      Cons

      • Only available in one size
      VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control 165W LED Aquarium Light Dimmable Full Spectrum for Coral Reef Grow Fish Tank
      VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control 165W LED Aquarium Light Dimmable Full Spectrum for Coral Reef Grow Fish Tank

        Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        4. Kessil AP700 LED Aquarium Light

        Always on the frontline of LED technology, Kessil have designed the AP700 to be the flagship light fixture.

        It offers all the features hobbyists look for in high-end quality lights.

        Kessil’s Dense Matrix technology (yes, Matrix technology), provides two arrays of 60 LED chips.

        Each consisting of multiple diode colors; including all of the color spectrums you need for your corals.

        And it’s ever so easy to program, as Kessil have taking all of the guess work out of the equation.

        To tune the LED color channels, all you have to do is select the color and intensity that you desire.

        Then all the LEDs will automatically optimize themselves to create the full spectrum of light. Promoting photosynthesis for your chosen color and intensity level.

        The AP700 uses Wi-Fi – making it even easier to program the light.

        You can use the dedicated iPad app (Android and iPhone apps currently in Beta testing), to customize your settings. You also get the ability to program stons, cloud cover, day cycle, acclimation modes, and the lunar cycle.

        It uses unique hybrid optics: simulating the effect of T5 and Metal Halide bulbs.

        It provides a realistic shimmer of a point source light and even coverage of fluorescent lighting. This is some of the best color blending you’ll find.

        Pros

        • Use the full light spectrum
        • Automatically optimizes the LED lights
        • Very easy to program
        • Hybrid optics produce outstanding color blending and shimmering effect
        • Built in Wifi. Can control everything from your iPad
        • Weather effects
        • Sleek modern design

        Cons

        • Expensive
        Kessil LED Aquarium Light
        Kessil LED Aquarium Light

          Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          5. WILLS LED Full Spectrum Aquarium Light

          The WILLS Full Spectrum LED has a high PAR output.

          It features both a white and a blue channel. Each one can be dimmed independently to fit your corals’ needs.

          It does, however, lack the fine tuning control that you can achieve with app controlled units.

          You can daisy chain multiple units together in order to light a longer tank and eliminate dark spots.

          This light mounts by hanging from the ceiling. It doesn’t come with an option to mount it directly on the tank.

          It also has crystal optical lenses that help the light penetrate the water more deeply, ideal for tanks up to 24 inches (60 centimeters) deep.

          Pros

          • Full spectrum light that has red, blue, green, purple and white LEDs
          • Adjustable blue and white channels, can be dimmed independently
          • Two dimming channels
          • 90° crystal lens
          • Daisy chain function

          Cons

          • Only one mounting option
          Aquarium Lights, WILLS 165W Dimmable Full Spectrum Planted Aquarium Led Lights for Freshwater and Saltwater Coral Reef Fish Tank, Blue & White Light
          Aquarium Lights, WILLS 165W Dimmable Full Spectrum Planted Aquarium Led Lights for Freshwater and Saltwater Coral Reef Fish Tank, Blue & White Light

            Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            My Final Thoughts

            Look, the Kessil AP700 is clearly the best. However, it’s unlikely the majority (me included), will have the budget.

            It’s also not necessary to have that level of quality in order to have a successful reef tank.

            Therefore, here’s my suggestion.

            The Current USA Orbit Marines Pro LED light is the best LED light for reef tanks. The range of options you get. the quality of materials, and the price you pay make it a no-brainer in my opinion.

            Top Pick: Current USA Fixture Orbit Marine Pro
            Top Pick: Current USA Fixture Orbit Marine Pro
            Specifically designed for SPS and LPS corals, the Current USA Orbit provides a high level of control at a reasonable price.

            Last update on 2020-10-19 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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