Best LED Lights for Planted Tanks Reviewed & PAR Tested (2021 Guide)

When it comes to owning a successful planted aquarium, proper lighting’s essential.

Without good enough lighting, your plants won’t get the energy they need to thrive and grow.

Choosing the right LED light for your planted tank can be tricky. There’s a lot of options. That’s why we’ve done the research for you.

In this article, you’ll learn about planted aquarium lighting 101, don’t worry, there’s no complicated stuff, just simple guides.

Then I’ll recommend some of the best LED lighting for planted aquariums currently on the market.

Overview: Top Picks For Planted Tank LED Lights

The Fluval Fresh & Plant 3.0 is the best led lighting kit for planted tanks after testing. It’s the most powerful, reliable, and easiest to program and customize.

The Hygger Aquarium LED lighting fixture was the biggest surprise and is my choice for the best budget option. It’s not as good as the Fluval, but at a much lower price point, you’re getting an excellent piece of kit at this price point.

Preview Product
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches
hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode, Adjustable Timer Adjustable Brightness Fish Tank Light with Extendable Bracket 7 Colors for Planted Tank hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode,...
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with Wireless 24 Hour Remote Control Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with...
BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20 24 30 36 48 (36' - 40') BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20...
NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater Plants, 36 to 48 Inch, 27 Watts NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater...

Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How The Lights Were Tested

Here’s how I tested each of the LED lighting kits:

PAR Readings Test

PAR stands for photosynthetically active radiation. Yep, try and say that five times fast.

Basically, PAR is the measure of the radiation coming from a light source that organisms can use to carry out photosynthesis. The higher the PAR, the more energy that plants can draw from the light.

So, it’s an important measure of whether or not a particular light will be able to grow plants and what kind of plants it would be good for.

Just because a light is visible to us and seems bright does not mean that it has the right spectrum to grow plants in a freshwater tank.

And, PAR decreases the farther the light travels. So, something that might have a PAR of 400 at the water’s surface might only have a PAR of 70 when the light hits the substrate.

Most hobbyists don’t have any way to measure what kind of PAR their aquarium lights are putting off.

Waterproof PAR meters are expensive so most aquarists have no way to measure what their light puts off.

But have no fear!

For this article, we used a super nifty PAR meter to take readings for all of the lights we used in this head-to-head challenge.

Underwater PAR testing kit

We took readings 0.5 inch below the water’s surface, 11 inches (28 centimeters) down and 19 inches (43 centimeters), at the bottom of the 55 gallon (208 liter) tank that we used for testing.

Distances were measured from the surface of the light to the top of the PAR meter sensor.

We got some inconsistent numbers when we tried to take PAR readings with the light on one of our established aquariums. I think it had a lot to do with water clarity, water movement, plants throwing shade and inconsistent sensor placement due to the substrate in the tank.

So, we threw out all our initial data and redid everything. We had an empty 55 gallon hanging around. We filled it with clear tap water so we could run a whole new set of tests.

Test Planted LED Lights using PAR reading on 55 gallon tank

Our tap water is pretty much crystal clear and only has a TDS of 50. This meant we had ideal testing conditions and were able to get solid PAR readings for each of the lights.

We wanted to get readings from the middle of the tank, but it’s really hard to hold the PAR sensor at the same distance every time just doing it by hand. So, we put an old cinder block in the tank so we had something to put the sensor on so it was always a consistent distance from the surface of the water.

Test PAR at mid point of aquarium

Just remember, a light with high PAR will encourage any photosynthetic organism in the tank to grow, not just plants. Strong lighting can also encourage algae and cyanobacterial growth. For tips on algae control, see our article here.

Here is a comparison of the PAR readings that we got for each light:

PAR test results for led lighting

Real World Testing

OK so this part of the testing wasn’t quite as scientific as the PAR testing, but I think it may be the most important part of this whole process.

I installed all five of these lights on my tanks and used them day in and day out for several weeks so that I could get a real user’s experience with each light: 

  • Installation and Set Up – How hard is it to get this light on the tank and to do any initial set up and programming?
  • Customization – Is the light dimmable? Is there a built-in timer? Color customization? Basically, how much control do you have for the duration, intensity and spectrum of the light?
  • Reliability – What happens if the power goes out/you cut power for water changes? Do you have to reprogram?  
  • Appearance – How attractive does the light make the tank look? I will grant you that this rating is wholly subjective, but I tested these lights over several weeks and this is my honest opinion about how I felt these lights looked on my tanks.
  • Economy – How expensive is the light compared to its competitors?

I graded each category on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. 

Overall Ranking Scores

I combined the points from the real world testing  with points from the PAR testing.

For PAR, I ranked the lights based on their surface measurements. I then gave each light points based on their rank. So, the highest ranked light got 5 points, the second ranked light got 4 points, and so on. 

All of these points were added up to produce the overall scores for each light:

LED lights for planted aquarium overall scores after testing

Best Planted Aquarium LED Lights Reviewed 

1. Fluval Fresh and Plant 3.0 LED Light Fixture – Overall Score: 25

Fluval fresh and plant 3.0 LED lights turned on

This light, to put it simply, is awesome. It’s highly customizable with a simple to use app, that you can download for free for iOS or Android, and connects to the light through Bluetooth.

This light has the highest PAR of any of the other lights, a whopping 850 that blew us away. Fluval also had the best reliability of all the lights tested because all of your settings are saved on the app. Simply reconnect the light with Bluetooth and it will resume the program you previously set up. Like I said, awesome.

Fluval Fresh & plant 3.0 test scores

PAR Readings

  • Surface – 850
  • 11 inches – 190
  • 19 inches – 148

Please note: I used the Fluval app, went into the daylight settings and set every spectrum to its maximum. This will need to be done manually, the default daylight settings are considerably dimmer. But, this is a fair representation of what this light is capable of at its max.

Installation and Set Up

Installation is a breeze with this light. It has extendable brackets that easily slide so you can set the light to fit your tank. 

Lots of lights have sliding brackets to accommodate different tank sizes, but this Fluval light has these neat plastic “feet” on the ends of the bracket that sit nicely on the tank rim.

Customization

I don’t think there’s a light that’s easier to customize than this one.

In order to program this light, you download an app (available for iOS or Android) that lets you customize every aspect, like spectrum (color), brightness and timing.

Programming the light for a 24 hour cycle is super simple. You specify when the light will turn on. It will go through a “dawn” cycle as it ramps up to full daylight mode. 

At the next set time, the light will start to taper off for “sunset.” You can then set how long you want the “moon” light to stay on before the light shuts off for the night.

You can play around with the spectrum of the light for the day and night portions of the program.

For instance, since I am a total nerd, I played around with the moon light and made it purple instead of just blue. 

There was absolutely no need for this. I just really like purple and thought it would look cool, which it does I might add. 

Don’t judge me.

Just be aware, you might want to jot down the parameters the light is set for before you start fiddling with things. There is no way to set the light back to factory default levels if you change the settings.

You’ll just have to fiddle with it and hope you get it close to where it was originally, if you try to go back to factory settings?

Reliability

This light is the best when it comes to reliability.

When the power gets cut off, it does lose all of its settings. But, all of your settings are saved in the app. 

So, all you have to do is open the app and tap on your saved tank settings and voilà! The app will reset the clock, timer, dimmer or any other settings you have saved.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Appearance

Fluval fresh and plant LED fixture set up on tank

This light really takes the cake when it comes to appearance. It shows off the tank beautifully right out of the box.

The colors of the fish really pop and I love that I can tweak and change the spectrum until it looks exactly the way I want it.

Also, this light just looks cool sitting on top of the tank. I really think the little plastic feet at the ends look way cooler than wire ones that most adjustable lights employ.

I know, this is a matter of taste, but that’s my opinion. Just like everything else, Fluval knocked this category out of the park.

Economy

Well, this is the one aspect of this light that can be a little off-putting. This light is by far the most expensive of the bunch.

But, I have to say, after weeks of using it, I think it’s worth the price. There’s so little headache when it comes to setting it up or getting your settings back with the app after a water change.

If you can swing it, I HIGHLY recommend this light. I really love it!

Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches

    Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    Read Full Review: Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Lighting Reviewed

    2. Hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light – Overall Score: 21

    Hygger 24/7 LED lighting

    I really like this light a lot, but I wish it performed better in the reliability category. This light has the second highest PAR and is highly customizable. It has a built-in timer and dimmer and offers dynamic timer mode and a 24/7 circadian timer mode.

    But, there’s no way to set the “clock” on the light, you have to remember to push the button on the wired remote at the time you want the cycle to start. And all your settings are lost every time the light loses power, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

    Hygger 36w 24/7 LED light test scores

    PAR Readings

    • Surface – 408
    • 11 inches – 140
    • 19 inches – 103

    Installation and Set Up

    Installing this light is super easy. The sliding bracket feet are very easy to slide and get to the right size.

    Set up is fairly easy. This light has a wired remote that it’s pretty darn easy to figure out how to change the settings on, even without instructions.

    The only real snag is the fact that the light doesn’t have a clock that you can set. So, the timer on the light can be set to 6, 10 or 12 hours. Or you can choose to have the light go through its own 24 hour circadian cycle.

    But here’s the catch, since you can’t set a clock for the timer, you have to press the button to start the cycle at the exact time you want it to start each day.

    If you forget, — which I did, many, many times — you have to wait and try to remember the next day, and maybe the next one, and probably the one after that… 

    Customization

    This light is highly customizable. I like that it has a feature that lets you run through a large variety of solid colors: red, blue, green, yellow or a setting that slowly fades from one color to another.

    There is a built in timer, and from my experience, you’ll need it on a low tech tank. This light puts out a lot of PAR, second only to the Fluval light. Depending on the depth of your tank, this could be too bright. But, it only takes a few button pushes to set the dimmer.

    There are two different timer modes:

    • Dynamic – turns the daylight on for 6,10 or 12 hours. Light turns off at the end of the cycle.
    • 24/7 – runs daylight for 8,10, 12, 15, 18 or 22 hours and then turns on the blue light for the rest of the 24 hour cycle.

    Reliability

    Unfortunately, reliability is this light’s biggest downfall. All it takes is the smallest power blip and this light loses all of the settings you programmed in.

    This can be a serious pain. Let’s say that you have it set for a 24/7 cycle at 50% power that starts at 7 am. But then, you do a water change in the afternoon and the light gets unplugged. 

    Since there is no clock that you can set, you have to remember to push the buttons to set your timer back up at 7 am the next morning. And if you forget, well then, you’re just going to have to wait for the next day.

    This might sound simple, but believe me, it’s a pain in the butt when you keep forgetting to hit the button when you meant to multiple days in a row. 

    If Hygger just developed a way for the light to hold its settings while the power is turned off, this light would be nearly perfect.

    Appearance

    Hygger 36W 24/7 LED lighting set up on planted tank

    I love, love, LOVE the way that this light makes my fish look, especially my Boesemani rainbow fish. It just makes their colors pop beautifully.

    As far as appearance goes, I would say that this Hygger is right there with the Fluval light, just gorgeous. I especially like how it highlights the blue tones on all my fish.

    Economy

    I’ve got to say, for what you get from this light compared to the price, this is probably the best deal out of them all.

    This light is a fraction of the cost of the Fluval and the Current USA, but still has amazing PAR and customization. And there is so much less loss of PAR as the light travels down to the bottom of the tank.

    The Hygger greatly outperformed the Current USA when it came to how much PAR made it to the bottom of the tank.

    I would definitely recommend this light. Having to reset it all the time is a bit of a pain, but at this low of a price, it’s worth the hassle.

    hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode, Adjustable Timer Adjustable Brightness Fish Tank Light with Extendable Bracket 7 Colors for Planted Tank
    hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode, Adjustable Timer Adjustable Brightness Fish Tank Light with Extendable Bracket 7 Colors for Planted Tank

      Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Read the Full Review: Hygger 24/7 LED Lighting Reviewed

      3. Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED – Overall Score: 18

      Current USA Satellite Freshwater LEDs turned on

      I found the installation and set up of this light to be a giant pain. I feel the programming and customization for this light is unnecessarily complicated and kind of gimmicky. It does offer you a lot of different options for customization, but using the features of this light is awkward and cumbersome.

      The dinky remote control you have to use for programming is unstable and non-ergonomic. Also, the PAR from this light does not penetrate as far as some of the other lights that are far less expensive. Your settings are saved if the power goes out, but you have to reset the light’s clock every time the power comes back on.

      Current USA Freshwater LEDs test scores

      PAR Readings

      • Surface – 350
      • 11 inches – 91
      • 19 inches – 71

      Installation and Set Up

      I really did not enjoy trying to install this light at all!

      The setup is kind of confusing and annoying, in my opinion, but I’ll do my best to explain it to you.

      This light has tons and tons of features and ways to customize it. But, getting the light programmed is anything but user friendly. All your settings and customization are saved on a little controller box that has a tiny LCD screen on it that you  program with a small wireless remote.

      The controller box is really what makes the whole thing so awkward because it is installed inline on the power cord. 

      There’s a cord that comes out of the light that goes to the control unit. Then the control unit has a long cord that plugs into a big power adapter box. 

      Finally, another cord goes from the adapter box to the actual plug that goes into the wall. 

      It’s a cumbersome daisy chain made up of awkwardly angled cords and clunky, hulking devices. 

      In order to use the remote that comes with the light, you have to mount the control unit on your tank stand so that you have a clear line of sight to a sensor attached to the control unit by a wire.

      This is a seriously awkward set up. The power cables plug into the control unit at weird angles and you have to find a way to mount it so that you can use the remote to program your light. 

      On top of that, the controller isn’t waterproof. So, you have to keep it in this really awkward plastic protector that keeps it from getting splashed. This just makes everything even more clunky and difficult to install and use.

      The Current USA light was definitely the most difficult to install. We played around with it for a week and still didn’t really have a satisfactory way to place the sensor and control unit for everyday use.  

      Customization

      There is a huge array of things that you can customize with this light. That is it’s biggest allure. 

      There is a built in dimmer and two different timer modes:

      1. This is a dynamic off/on mode. The light flicks on at full strength at the “on” time and abruptly shuts down at the “off” time.
      2. This mode is more like a natural day. The start time triggers a slow ramp up to full daylight mode. The brightness of the daylight goes to a slow taper sunset mode followed by a moonlight mode. The light then shuts down for the night and starts the cycle over again in the morning.

      On top of all that, there are many more options and modes that you can customize. The light does come with an excellent instruction manual that goes over all of the different options. 

      But, a bunch of the settings are just kind of gimmicky, and I really just don’t care that they’re included. 

      For example, there is a thunderstorm setting with flashes of “lightning” that scare the fish over and over again. There’s no way that I would want to use that setting in real life.

      I really would not recommend using that storm setting at all if you have sensitive fish in the tank, like Discus or Angelfish.

      Reliability

      The remote is really small and it’s hard to comfortably push the little buttons on it. I have a really hard time pushing them easily.

      I know I am going to date myself here, but trying to use this remote to program things on this little clunky control unit is like trying to program a VCR back in the 80s. It’s awful.

      The control unit only has an LCD display that’s four basic numbers, like a digital alarm clock. You have to press the tiny buttons in sometimes difficult patterns to program things in, kind of like you were using an old school Playstation cheat code.

      In case you can’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of having to mess with this, at all.   

      The controller will save your settings if the power is disconnected, but you will need to set the clock to the right time every time.

      I found this really annoying because I really don’t like dealing with the remote.

      Appearance

      Current USA Satellite Freshwater LEDs set up on planted aquarium

      As far as appearance goes, this light does OK for itself, but it did not wow me overly much. It showcased the tank well, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

      No matter the settings, the fishes’ colors just didn’t pop the same way they did with the Fluval or Hygger.

      Economy 

      I think this light is not a great choice when you compare prices versus ease of use and reliability.

      This is the second most expensive light on the list, but you can get a much better PAR and appearance from the Hygger light.

      And this light is so expensive that, for a little more money, you could have the total awesomeness of the Fluval light.

      This light isn’t terrible, but I do think the Hygger is a much better deal.

      Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with Wireless 24 Hour Remote Control
      Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with Wireless 24 Hour Remote Control

        Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        Read the Full Review: Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Lighting Reviewed

        4. Beamswork Vivio Full Spectrum LED – Overall Score: 16

        Beamswork Vivio Full Spectrum LEDs turned on

        This Beamswork light is more on the simple side. It’s an economical light that would be great for low tech setups with undemanding plants. It does have a built in dimmer and timer that can be programmed using the wired remote.

        This light will lose all its settings if unplugged. I would highly recommend this light if you plan on having low-light plants, like Java fern or anubias, and want to keep algae to a minimum.

        Beamswork LED lighting test scores

        PAR Readings

        • Surface – 250
        • 11 inches – 65
        • 19 inches – 43

        Installation and Set Up

        I had to take some points off for this category because the sliding bracket feet on this light are ridiculously hard to slide in and out at times. 

        I’ve used dozens of lights with these sliding feet and have never had such a hard time with them before.

        Other than the feet, setting this light up is rather simple. 

        Customization

        This light doesn’t have nearly as many customization options as some of its competitors but it does offer some nice features. 

        There is a built-in dimmer and timer. You can set the timer for 4, 8 or 12 hours. The wired remote is really easy to figure out. 

        There are three light modes: full on, white/green or a red/blue night light mode.You can choose between five different light levels using the built-in dimmer.

        That’s pretty much it. Like I said, it’s very simple and straightforward.

        Reliability

        This light isn’t great when it comes to reliability. It will lose its settings if it’s disconnected from power. 

        So, you’ll need to press the button to set the timer at the exact time you want the cycle to start each day. 

        And if you miss it? Well, too bad, you’ve got to wait until tomorrow and hope you remember next time. This can be really annoying.

        Appearance

        Beamswork Vivio Full Spectrum LED set up on planted tank

        This light has a nice appearance. It casts an overall blue-green kind of tone when it’s on the  regular daylight setting. 

        I especially like the nightlight setting. The mix of blue and red looks really cool, in my opinion.

        Economy 

        This light is the most economical of the bunch. 

        I know firsthand that not everybody can drop tons of money on a single piece of tank equipment and budget-friendly options are often needed.

        This light is a good deal, especially if you’re wanting to grow simpler, low-light plants.

        And it comes with the dimmer and timer built in. I had to buy those as separate pieces for most of my current lights, so it’s nice that they’re included, especially for this price.

        BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20 24 30 36 48 (36' - 40')
        BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20 24 30 36 48 (36" - 40")

          Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          Read the Full Review: Beamswork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Light Reviewed

          5. Nicrew Classic LED Plus Planted Light 36-48 inch – Overall Score: 13

          Nicrew Classic LED Plus Planted Light LEDs turned on

          This was my least favorite of the bunch. It had low PAR and isn’t that customizable. I also don’t like how this light made the tank look. It gave it this weird greenish-yellow cast that I really didn’t care for at all.

          Nicrew Classic LED Planted lighting test scores

          PAR Readings

          • Surface – 315
          • 11 inches – 115
          • 19 inches – 80

          Installation and Set Up

          Installation and set up are very simple. There really isn’t very much to this light. 

          It has a wired remote on the power cord and has the typical extendable wire bracket feet that most adjustable lights have.

          Customization

          There are not a whole lot of options for customizing this light.There are three buttons on the remote labeled B, W and M.

          You can use these buttons to turn the blue, white and red LEDs up and down, or even off. 

          There is no built-in timer. This is an old school kind of light. It’s meant for you to come in and turn it on and off manually. Like we did back in the stone age of my youth.

          Reliability

          This light does not save any of the settings that you change when the power is cut. You’ll need to re-enter the settings you like every time the light loses power.

          Luckily, this setup is really simple, so there’s not much to do to get it set up again.

          Appearance

          Nicrew Classic LED Plus Planted Light set up on fish tank

          I really, really did not like the appearance of this light. There’s nothing wrong with the light fixture itself, that’s perfectly fine.

          But the light that it casts in the tank is very unattractive. The white LEDs give off this kind of sickly green-yellow color that I did not like. I tried playing around with the limited color changing available to make it look better, but without much success.

          Anytime the white LEDs were on, they gave off that color. Yuck.

          Economy 

          This Nicrew light, at the time that this article was written, was the same price as the Hygger light. 

          The Hygger is a much better deal. You get way more PAR and a lot better features. 

          So, the Nicrew is pretty cheap, but you don’t get much for the money, whereas you get a whole lot more if you buy the Hygger.

          NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater Plants, 36 to 48 Inch, 27 Watts
          NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater Plants, 36 to 48 Inch, 27 Watts

            Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            Read the Full Review: Nicrew Classic LED Plus Planted Light Reviewed

            My Top Pick

            So, I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out that the Fluval Fresh and Plant 3.0 is the best LED lighting for a planted aquarium.

            Not only is it the most powerful of the lights, with a whopping PAR of 850, it’s also the most reliable, easiest to program and the most customizable.

            If you’re wondering, “Is this Fluval light really that cool?”

            The answer is a resounding, “YES!!” I really love this light and highly recommend it.

            But, on the flipside, I realize that not everyone can drop that amount of money on an aquarium light.

            So, if the Fluval is just too much for you, I’d highly recommend going with the Hygger as the best budget option. 

            It’s not as easy to program or set up the timer, but for the price, it’s an amazing deal.

            Also, it makes the tank look great. I love how it makes all the colors in the tank really stand out. It’s amazing.

            Preview Product
            Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting, 46 Watts, 36-46 Inches
            hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode, Adjustable Timer Adjustable Brightness Fish Tank Light with Extendable Bracket 7 Colors for Planted Tank hygger 36W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode,...
            Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with Wireless 24 Hour Remote Control Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Full Spectrum RGB+W Light for Aquariums 36''-48'' with...
            BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20 24 30 36 48 (36' - 40') BeamsWork Vivio Full Spectrum LED Timer Adjustable Dimmer Aquarium Fish Tank Light Freshwater 12 20...
            NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater Plants, 36 to 48 Inch, 27 Watts NICREW ClassicLED Plus Planted Aquarium Light, Full Spectrum LED Fish Tank Light for Freshwater...

            Last update on 2021-11-28 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            How to Choose the Best Planted Aquarium LEDs

            When choosing your LEDs, you’ll need to consider the following:

            • Does it include a timer?
            • The light spectrum
            • Tank size vs. Light intensity
            • What plants will be or are in your tank?

            Why a Timer is SO Important

            One of the best features you’ll want for your LED lighting system. A timer allows you to maintain consistent lighting every day.  Having a consistent photoperiod (the time your tank receives light) is vital if you want a successful planted aquarium. I know… you may think, “I don’t need a timer. I’ll turn it on when I get up and off when I get home.” Yes, it’s possible.

            But, each day’s going to be different by 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or 1 hour! You might even forget.  And forgetting to turn the light off, even once, can be devastating. You may end up spending months trying to fix that mistake. A timer is key. Whether it’s built in or you choose to buy one separately, it doesn’t matter – you definitely want one.

            The Light Spectrum

            This is the color of the light produced, and it’s measured in Kelvin (K). For example, true daylight is approximately 6500K.

            Here’s the truth: Plants don’t care too much about the light spectrum.

            I know, It’s true, they can respond to some Kelvin ratings better than others. But, plants can do well in a range from 2700k (warm colors: yellow – red), all the way up to 10000K (white light with a lot of blue in it). However, LEDs outside this range, like actinic or coral lights (the blue lights on saltwater tanks), tend not to do very well on a planted tank.

            Everything else… the color can technically grow plants. Although, because it can grow plants, doesn’t mean you’ll like how it looks. But, from the plant’s point of view – light is light. You might be thinking, light doesn’t quite work like that. I know. Plants see green spectrums the least – reds and blues the most.

            I don’t want to overload you with information, this is a 101 guide.  As long as it’s not over 10000K or the blue coral light, it’s suitable. So knowing that plants can do well in these spectrums, all that’s left for you to do is pick a color you like.  The most popular choice for hobbyists tends to be around 6700K (the same as the sun).

            Tank Size vs. Light Intensity

            The taller your tank, the more power you will need.  It’s easy to understand if you think of it like this…  If you shine a normal flashlight into an aquarium, every 4” of water will take a flashlight twice as strong to keep it the same brightness all the way down.

            So, if you’ve got a 1-foot deep tank, you might get away with having a low-powered fixture and still achieve a medium light.  But, if you then put that same fixture on a deeper tank, it’s going to put you in the low light category.

            Now, if you put a powerful LED fixture on a 1-foot deep tank it’s going to be so bright, it might actually be difficult for you to grow plants.  Because you’ll have to put so much fertilizer and CO2 in your tank to combat that much light, it could actually hinder you.

            This is the case if you use a light fixture that’s way too powerful. Because of this, having a dimmer on your LEDs is always a nice feature.  It will allow you to adjust the light intensity according to the depth of your tank and type of plants you own.

            What Plants are in Your Tank?

            It’s important that you understand the type of plant life you have in your aquarium in relation to it’s depth.  Different plants will need low, medium, or high light intensities.  Again, this is why it’s always nice to have a dimmable feature, as it allows you to adjust the strength.  And if you decide you want to change the contents of your tank, you won’t have to buy a new fixture.

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            Katherine Morgan
            Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. A nunchuck specialist, I've kept aquariums for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast. If You'd like to see more of my tanks, check out my Instagram

            4 Comments

            1. I love this review! I’ve read others that can’t muster the technical aspects of light and growing plants. But you’ve covered all the important stuff.

              What other lights did you look into? Have you looked into KZKR? I’ve heard their name before, but I can’t remember if they’re any good.

              And thank you for including a date at the bottom of the review. It shows you care about relevance.

              • Thank you for your comment 😀 I’m very happy you enjoyed the guide. I have taken a brief look at it, looks good I’m sure it would do a great job! But don’t know enough to give you a conclusive answer. I’m also looking to update all of these guides soon again, so I’ll take a closer look 😀

            2. Thank you so much for sharing the information and reviewing the products in specific. It was really a good read. It was well laid for a laymens understanding.

              I could make up my mind in deciding what to go for. Though I would research on it further, you review definitely gave me a good understanding.

              Thank You Again…

            3. After many years of planted aquarium hobby finally have a clear idea about light. Great review, definately will help many people like me. Thanks a lot.

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