[2019] Best LED Aquarium Lighting for Tank Gallons & Depth


*I wasn’t skilled enough to draw a LED so I drew a bulb instead. Meh.

Updated: 24th of October, 2019

After their emergence, LEDs have dominated the market in the fishkeeping hobby, and there’s a reason for that.

Nowadays, there are too many options available, making it hard to choose the best product without a comprehensive LED aquarium lighting guide in hand. You should take all kinds of factors into account such as your tank’s dimensions and livestock.

What suits reef tanks is far different from, say, LED lights for planted freshwater aquariums.

And what if you only need a light that will make the colors of your African Cichlids pop? How about properly determining the best lights for coral growth?

So what’s the best product for your current aquarium and which LED lighting should fit your livestock’s needs? I will walk you through every possible combination of the above and offer a reliable solution.

Have a peek at this quick comparison table listing the best LED fixtures for aquariums:

Lighting Model: Suggested Aquarium Volume: Suggested Setup: Price Bracket:
1. Finnex StingRay 5-gallon tanks Planted with easy species $$
2. Finnex FugeRay Planed+ 5 to 10-gallon tanks Planted with difficult species $$$
3. ABI Tuna Blue PAR38 5 to 40-gallon tanks Reef with mixed to difficult species $
4. AI Prime HD+ 5 to 40-gallon tanks Reef with mixed to difficult species $$$$
5. VIPARSPECTRA 50 to 180-gallon tanks Reef with difficult species $$
6. BeamsWork EA FSPEC 10 to 40-gallon tanks Planted with easy species / Fish only $
7. NICREW ClassicLED 20, 40, 55, 75, and 125-gallon tanks Planted with easy species / Fish only $
8. Current USA Orbit Marine 20 (high), 40, 55, 75, and 125-gallon tanks Reef with easy to mixed species $$$
9. Finnex Planted+ 24/7 20 to 125-gallon tanks Planted with difficult species $$$
10. Current USA Satellite Plus PRO 55 to 125-gallon tanks Planted with mixed species $$$
11. MarsAqua 55, 65, 75, 90, 125 and 180-gallon tanks Reef with difficult species $$
12. Finnex Ray2 65, 90 to 150-gallon tanks Planted with difficult species $$$

The buyer’s guide on LED Lighting and its role in a fish tank

I need to walk you through some basics and bust a couple of myths before I recommend anything. The following guide will educate you on what to look for when choosing your aquarium lighting, and LEDs in particular:

1. Your tank’s setup & livestock

The LEDs for plant and coral growth are way different. There are also the ones that accent the most on aesthetic performance.

When researching your LED of choice you should first ask yourself:

“What am I going to do with this tank?”

Some people prefer aquascape-clear tanks with plenty of beautiful fish in it. In this case, you’re after a light that brings out the most color of your fish.

But some other people (like myself) prefer their aquascape as colorful as possible.

Would you like to grow plants?

If yes, what kind of plants?

Different species require different light intensities.

How about reef tanks? There are too many corals, anemones, mushrooms, and whatnot to be listed here.

Corals can be soft and stony. Soft corals prefer lower light than stony corals.

Have at least a basic assumption of what you’re going to look after in your aquarium, before anything.

This has a tremendous impact on your choice of LED aquarium lighting.

The best LED for you might be the absolute worst for someone else.

Don’t worry though, further down in this article I have given my personal recommendation for most all tank sizes and setups.

It took my year-long experience along with some time to put it together. Make sure to check it out, as it should give you the answer you’re looking for.

2. The dimensions of your tank

When choosing a LED or any light fixture for your fish tank it’s important to consider all of your tank’s dimensions:

  • Length – The length determines the size of the LED fixtures you will be using. I know this seems too obvious, but when if you’re into larger tanks you’ll understand me.

    Finding a suitable unit for smaller tanks is pretty easy as most manufacturers will match the length of your tank. However, when you get to bigger and more unconventional tanks you’d need to combine different fixtures to evenly light the whole aquarium. How many times have you seen a 72″ long LED aquarium light?

    That’s right.

  • Width – Not a super important metric to consider. The serving width scope of most LEDs that I will recommend in this article is 24 inches.

    Unless your tank is wider than that you have nothing to worry about (and most aren’t).

  • Height – Or should I say depth.

    This is even more important than nailing the right length.

    Different tank setups will either have a clean bottom or substrate, which amounts to a shallower tank. Newer models of LEDs do penetrate the water exceptionally well, but there will be some that are better than others.

And speaking of water penetration, let’s bust a myth once and for all…

3. PAR vs. PUR vs. PAS – in layman’s terms

Here’s the truth about LED lights and photosynthesis:

PAR stands for Photosynthetic Active Radiation. This is ANY light in the spectrum between 400 and 700 nanometers.

This is the range of wavelengths that photosynthetic organisms can employ and it is considered the best light spectrum for growing aquarium plants and coral.

PUR, however, stands for Photosynthetic Usable Radiation. It’s what you’re after when you’re about to grow plants or corals.

Basically, PUR is the quality of light per application, where PAR is the quantity being sent.

This means that with everything else being equal (watts, lumens, source, length, and PAR) one light could still grow plants better than the other.

Simply put PUR is the usable portion of PAR.

More PUR indicates better plant health and not only growth. Fortunately, many of today’s LED manufacturers are aware of that.

It’s why you see newer models of LEDs bringing in less PAR than their previous versions, yet they grow plants better.

A good example of that is the Fluval Plant 3.0 LED.

This guy does a PAR review on the newer model and he seems baffled of why it’s producing less PAR than the Plant 2.0 LED. However, you can bet that the 3.0 is a better performer when it comes to growing plants.

PAR meters only measure the number of photons between the 400 and 700 nanometers wavelength. They do not tell you if these photons are usable for your plant or coral.

So if a LED produces, say, 30 PAR at a depth of 21″ this does not mean it is the right kind of blue PUR for your coral.

In fact, too much “unused” PAR will favor algae growth, and it can be a nuisance to get rid of that.

PAS – Photosynthetic Action Spectrum – in regard to growing plants is which photons activate precisely the Chlorophyll A and B (needed for plant or coral growth).

PAS and PUR vary for different organisms.

At greater depths, the water will “block” most of the red light. This is why corals have evolved in a way that the PUR they require leans more to the blue spectrum, which doesn’t get filtered out as much.

Here’s a quick takeaway:

If you want to grow plants or corals that have totally different light requirements you’re after a higher PAR (combined usefulness of light).

This way you’ll get the most of the overall light while compromising with the organisms’ individual requirements.

However, if you want to grow a specific set of one light-requiring type, say, only SPS corals, then you’d just need their specific PUR and not huge amounts of PAR.

In this example, often that’s the Royal Blue diodes. The latter will produce way better results in terms of growth and health.

Following these thoughts, I think it’s now obvious that you should not pursue growing a wide light-demanding range of organisms.

Combining both low, medium and high light-intensity plants will result in one or the other not performing too well. Go after low to medium, or medium to high or accent on either.

Consider their environmental differences for an optimal performance.

This is all in layman’s terms, I’m no plant biologist by any means.

However, I was obligated to do a little more research when I witnessed how a rather cheap LED, that wouldn’t produce those elusive high PAR readings, would still be able to grow plants better than a more expensive “strong” LED.

It’s the reason it has worked for me and also why I recommend all of those “budget” lights, even for coral.

Because they do the job.

Not to mention that whatever LED you end up purchasing you’d still need to tone it down to, perhaps, 25 to 35% intensity.

Now, don’t worry if this seems like too much to consider.

In this guide, I’ve taken care of that part for you. I’ve assumed all of it in my recommendations below.

4. Quality of the build

Some LEDs will be built more durable than others.

After all one of the main reasons that these lights are all the rage now is their longevity.

Usually, most LED diodes have a life of 50 000 hours and that’s while working. All things equal this means that bombarding your plants viciously for 8 hours a day with light would still take a little over 17 years for the last of the diodes to die out.

But that’s diodes alone.

When it comes to LED fixtures they have movable parts and far less durable side equipment such as their adapters. These may need an occasional change now and then but nearly not as often as would the bulbs of a fluorescent lamp.

5. Included features and customization

When it comes to customization there’s too much going on in the aquarium LED world.

Controlling the intensity of the light is one thing, but controlling each spectrum separately is another.

There will be lights that are dimmable and others that are not. The most customizable ones will allow you to play with every single color that they offer.

When it comes to features there will be fixtures that could only be manually turned on and off.

Others will have built-in timers. Some can be programmed with a separately bought timer.

Remote controls may or may not be included in the package.

The ones with the most features will allow weather simulations. From passing clouds to thunderstorms!

These are not super useful for your plants and corals but can be a real eye candy.

6. Initial cost

LED lights have a higher initial cost than most other types of aquarium lighting. However, this is well-justified by what you get when you pay for one:

  • longevity
  • higher water penetration and PUR
  • spectrum coverage
  • controllability
  • features
  • the absence of excessive heat

When considering a purchase know that sometimes a few bucks over could mean the best possible performance for your setup.

I am taking this into consideration when recommending LEDs below, so bear that in mind.

I have only recommended products that would be the best bang for your buck when facing the desired setup.

7. Lenses, shadowing, and the “beam light” effect

Lenses are a two-sided edge. Newer LED models have lensing that is supposedly concentrating the beam more so that it can reach a greater depth more efficiently:

A lens that provides a 60º angle of the beam means that the light will be extremely concentrated and it will provide a greater water penetration.

However, this would also imply that there will be less color mixing, leaving you with the disco-like bottom.

The better manufacturers out there place the diodes close enough to sustain a reasonable color mixing.

Another outcome of a tighter lensing angle is the beam light effect.

You won’t be enjoying a nice evenly lid tank, but rather the stage of a jazz concert. You’ll see where the beam of light ends and if the fixture is not long enough, you’ll get shadows in the corners.

Luckily there’s nothing complicated in removing lenses when it’s needed. The good thing about most quality LEDs (as the ones I am reviewing below) is that they will penetrate the water hard anyway.

This leaves you with the option to remove the lenses, say, on the outer parameter of your fixture. This will let the diodes illuminate an angle of 120º and eliminate the shadowing.

It’s not a hard thing to do and YouTube is full of how-to videos on the subject.

Here’s one such video regarding the MarsAqua LED, which is my personal favorite for a reef tank.

What is the best LED fish tank lighting?

The best aquarium LED lighting will show the better colors of a fish and will be the most efficient artificial light source for improving photosynthesis rates. Here, I’m only reviewing models that have proven their performance to me or someone else.

Have a look at the best LED lighting for aquariums:

1. Finnex StingRay – Really Good for Shallow Low-light Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

The Finnex StingRay is not a super strong LED light that you’ll be able to grow a jungle under.

Still, there are smaller tanks that require such lighting.

You’ll be perfectly able to feed your low-light requiring plants some sweet sun-like light, which will be more than enough for a satisfactory growth.

It has been my experience that this product would best fit a 5-gallon aquarium, which I discuss in detail in my LED lighting recommendations below.

Since Finnex is an authority in the aquarium LED industry you’ll know that you’ll get what you pay for.

The light is still high-quality in what it does.

Finnex manufacture durable products, which with LEDs is, in my opinion, quite important. You’re going to run your equipment a couple of hours a day, after all.

Anyway, It does not have futuristic programming. You will only be able to turn it on and off.

There’s no “night mode” which may be important for someone.

It will grow your plants, however, which may be MORE important to this someone, so bear that in mind.

It’s a 7000K light that hits the 660 red spectra. As we mentioned above, this is in the photosynthetic usable radiation spectrum.

The guys from Finnex do their research when it comes to growing plants, so all of their lights have been proven to work for the purpose.

It comes with plastic mounting brackets, which is not something I am fond of.

I wouldn’t exactly call them sturdy, but they do the job anyway.

It’s a really stylish looking fixture, something like a quarter of an inch thick.

This fixture is best for a shallow freshwater aquarium that requires having LED lights for non-demanding plants.

There’s this plastic cap protector that you should remove before turning it on. It’s really easier that way, just my personal experience.

 Advantages: 
  • Slick, stylish design
  • Rather bright, but it won’t overwhelm your plants
  • Well-researched LED, that grows plants
 Disadvantages: 
  • Plastic mounting brackets, which I didn’t really like because they are kind of brittle
  • No programming, simply ON and OFF

2. Finnex FugeRay Planted Plus – High-tech Nano Tank Favorite

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

And another product from Finnex.

I can’t say I’m particularly biased towards them, but my experience shows that they’re objectively good.

If you plan on having a shallow tank, with plants that require high light, then this LED might be your best bet.

By “shallow” I mean a tank that’s under 12″ deep.

This light is really bright, with its 7500K spectrum and it has those red 660 nm wavelength LEDs, which play a role in plant growth.

In fact, at such tank depths, it will strong enough to actually grow red plants.

When using it, I’d recommend introducing CO2 to your system, as this light is powerful enough for some algae to appear. CO2 injections are not uncommon with high-tech tanks, which is why I recommend this light for this kind of setup.

The fixture is thin and boosts the overall look of your aquarium.

It has a “night mode”, which is essentially a couple of blue diodes. The blue here will not help your plants grow, but it’s a nice showoff gimmick.

You can use a separate dimmer for extra controllability, like this one on Amazon.

The light is not sealed, so having a lid over the fish tank would be a good way to prevent excessive moisture.

The light gets warm, but not hot, despite being bright.

A con I would like to mention is that the cord is kind of short. This can be an inconvenience to some people, so consider it before making a purchase.

Other than that I can’t say a bad thing about this light.

 Advantages: 
  • Can grow high light plants like carpets and red plants in shallower tanks
  • Beautiful design
  • Has night mode
 Disadvantages: 
  • Some users report flickering – if this happens, you can clean the circuit board with a Q-tip and 99% alcohol. Unplug it, clean the board, wait until it’s dry and you’re good to go.
  • A rather short cord

3. ABI Tuna Blue PAR38 – Budget-friendly LED That Actually Grows Nano-reefs

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

The ABI Tuna Blue is inexpensive by the reefkeeping standards.

It comes in 12W and 24W bulbs.

These LEDs are the best bang for your buck when it comes to keeping a nano-reef.

It suits small tanks and it can absolutely grow SPS corals.

The lower watt version is to be used in soft coral nano-reefs, but again, that correlates with the depth of your aquarium. If your tank is between 8 and 12 inches deep then you’ll have no issues growing SPS species.

The tricky part is that most of the times when you have a wider tank you’d have to buy 2 or 3 depending on the length of your aquarium.

I give additional guidance on that in my setup recommendation section below.

The ABI Tuna Blue a PAR38 bulb which has nothing to do with its Photosynthetic Active Radiation output. In this case, PAR stands for Parabolic Aluminized Reflect, which in laymen’s terms means that the lensing is internal, resulting in a more durable and brighter light.

The LEDs of the ABI Tuna Blue will appear as if they have stickers on them. These are diffusers and are not to be removed!

The bulb matches the natural light spectrum of where most of the corals in the hobby are seen in the wild.

It is, I think, the best PAR38 bulb out there, doing a fantastic job as aquarium LED lighting for smaller tanks. I guess, the ABI manufacturers have done their research on PUR. I have seen this product grow all kinds of Acropora fragments, for example.

A con I would like to mention is that this light is designed for pico reefs. This means that it does not cover a lot of ground.

However, as with most LEDs suggested for reefing it’s way stronger than what it’s “built for”. To be able to cover your 5 or 10-gallon reef with lighting you’d usually need to purchase two bulbs.

Still, if you’re on a budget it’s going to be way cheaper than getting the more expensive lights, while providing your tank with the same if not better results in terms of coral growth.

Read my guide below to learn more about where to use this product.

 Advantages: 
  • Awesome bang for your bucks
  • Will definitely grow SPS corals
  • Brings out nice colors in fish and corals
  • Durable, thanks to the PAR38 design
 Disadvantages: 
  • Tighter cone of lighting coverage, but still great for certain setups
  • It’s heavy, needs a sturdy lamp neck
  • Very little white light, so you might want to buy a separate one for show-off purposes

4. AI Prime HD Plus – High-end LED for Shallow-Depth Reef Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

The AI Prime HD+ is, as the title goes, a high-end reef LED that’s suitable for shallow to medium depth tanks.

It’s not really expensive by the reef-keeping standards, it even leans to the “affordable” side.

However, it does not provide plenty of ground coverage. So for a lengthy tank, you’d really have to open your wallet up. This makes it a common choice for smaller cube tanks with a length and width of 12 inches.

The initial pricing is based on two valuable qualities important in the reefing world.

The first is the potential to grow pretty much anything in its suggested depth range (between 12 and 16″).

Stocking your tank with 100% demanding stony corals won’t be a problem.

The second one is that this reef tank LED is highly customizable.

It comes with an app that lets you tinker with 7 channels of lighting. Once you get used to it, it will be a breeze to play with the different settings.

The AI Prime HD+ is not heavy, so positioning is also not an issue.

Apart from its sleek design, it runs quietly. Sometimes I was barely able to hear the fan spinning.

Many reefers would be more than happy to recommend you this light.

The reason I am recommending it, however, is because I think its price is justified and it’s not some overkill $700 LED.

For an actual specific recommendation make sure to check my guide on sizes and setups below, where I speak from personal experience.

Because of its advanced customization, this is probably the best product for a shallow to medium-depth aquarium that houses corals which demand more intense LED lighting.

 Advantages: 
  • Highly customizable
  • Lightweight, small-sized fixture
  • Very affordable for a high-end reef LED
  • No beam light effect
  • Long-lasting
  • Virtually silent fans
 Disadvantages: 
  • You may need more than one for your setup (read my recommendations guide below)
  • Setting up the App for the first time can be confusing (check this video and its first couple of comments for that)
  • Doesn’t provide the typical ocean-like shimmering that more expensive LEDs give

5. VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series – Tons of Features & Power

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

This is the most controversial LED light that I’m going to mention.

If it wasn’t for a particular con, it would no doubt be my # 1 aquarium lighting recommendation.

Let me start with the pros.

It’s strong! Like, blooming SPS dominant reef tank strong. You’ll be able to grow whatever under it, as long as it falls in its coverage.

On to the next one – its price.

For what this fixture allows, I can safely classify it as undervalued by its manufacturers. Let’s just hope they’re not reading right now.

And now about the features. It provides the needed spectrum of both plants and corals and both are separately adjustable in intensity.

Such a powerful light would not be a hit without the installed dimmer. It has the oh-so-valued Royal Blue diode (450 nm) for your corals and also all the necessary wavelengths for a healthy planted tank.

It comes with a built-in timer as well. Long cord, wireless remote. All of that.

So far so good right?

What’s keeping me from pronouncing it the best possible light for all aquarium setups then?

Well, the size in combination with the timer.

This fixture only comes in 2 lengths – 31.5″ and 16″.

Which would not be an issue unless the timer was good.

See, for larger tanks with more length that are not over 26 inches deep, you’ll want to set up multiple fixtures of the smaller ones as they are 165W. A clever setup would be to have 1x VIPARSPECTRA per 24 inches of aquarium length.

Such tanks are pretty much all tanks from the 25-gallons to the 125-gallons. They are not deep enough for the bigger version, be it reef or not.

The larger 31.5 inches long one has tremendous power and would pretty much fry everything beneath it unless your tank is 26+” deep.

And now come the timers.

They do tend to not sync well. Not for me, and not for most of the fishkeepers (from what I’m reading in the reviews). Fortunately, the gap is something about 10 or so minutes every couple of months.

So It would not go off by a mile, but it may be an inconvenience for some people.

If you’re okay with doing some surveillance every 3 months then nothing should stop you from getting these lights for your reef tank.

 Advantages: 
  • Dimmable
  • Timer
  • Strong and efficient LEDs
  • Affordable
  • Wireless remote
 Disadvantages: 
  • Built-in timer tends to lag behind so you’ll have to check that every 2 to 3 months if you buy more than one fixture and want to keep them in sync
  • Only comes in 2 sizes, limiting options (may not be an issue for everyone)

6. BeamsWork EA Timer FSPEC – For Colorful Fish & Shallow Planted Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

If you read my fish tank setup recommendations below you’ll find that I mention this light a LOT.

Well, it’s just that in my opinion, it’s the best fit in numerous cases where your aquarium needs LED lighting that supports low-light, easy to look after plants..

If your lightly planted tank falls on the shallow end (under 16 inches of height) this light is your friend.

It’s capable of growing low-light requiring aquatic plants with ease.

I am most happy with it, because it’s a really budget-friendly set of LEDs, and I’ve seen plants respond in just days after the installation.

It has a decent set of white LEDs which brings out the nice color of the aquascape and livestock.

It’s a really good choice (or addition) to a show-off tank, full of colorful fish. You should totally try it out if you have a nice lengthy tank full of cichlids.

This LED comes in pretty much all the possible lengths for standard tanks. They even got a 72″ fixture.

The longer ones are absolutely fantastic for big, fish-only display aquariums, with a java fern here or there.

The spectrum provided really makes the colors “pop”.

Apart from all that the Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC has a beautiful design, which I’m quite fond of. It’s sleek and simplistic, so it kind of boosts the overall look of the aquarium.

By the way, below in my lighting setup guide, I mention the Beamswork DA FSPEC 0.50W Pent.

This is a slightly modified version of the previously mentioned light that’s oriented towards plant growth.

It’s literally a few dollars more, but there’s a noteworthy difference in the response of plants between the two.

The Pent is good for shallow high-tech tanks.

Check my full recommendation in the 20-gallon section below the reviews.

There are cons here too, so let’s go through them. Or rather a con.

For a light of this price bracket it’s probably normal, but here it is – it lacks on additional features.

You only get two lighting modes with this light.

Not really a big deal to me, as for the money I can’t force myself to want more from this LED.

Also if you’d like a timer, you should get it separately.

I recommend getting the timer.

It allows switching on and off differently colored LEDs. It’s really reliable for just about $15 bucks extra.

 Advantages: 
  • Budget-friendly
  • Beautiful daylight spectrum that makes colors pop
  • Nicely designed
 Disadvantages: 
  • No additional features
  • A timer is not included (Beamswork offers one separately that’s pretty reliable, while super inexpensive)
  • The colors may not blend well if the water surface moves a lot (if your tank’s bottom is not plain white sand and empty space, then you’ll not really see this effect. Perhaps, check my guide on a cool black sand alternative?)

7. NICREW ClassicLED – Top Seller for a Reason

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

This LED light is at the time of writing a top seller on Amazon.

It has a ton of positive reviews from the buyers.

I can’t blame them.

It’s the ultimate multi-setup budget light for the majority of freshwater aquariums.

It will take care of low-light plants in any medium-depth tank (16 to 21 inches deep ones).

It’s incredibly efficient in terms of PAR for the price. Roughly 1 PAR per 1 dollar, which is pretty much outstanding.

However, PAR is not everything, but it seemingly provides the needed PUR as well.

Low-demand plants will absolutely thrive under it.

The manufacturers have done their homework and are currently killing the competition with their inexpensive solution.

Another setup this light is great for are FOWLR and FO display tanks.

The nicely distributed white light certainly highlights the colors of a fish.

The NICREW ClassicLED also eliminates the fat electricity bills.

Generally speaking, LED lighting is overall economic in that aspect, but this fixture is among the most energy-efficient among the energy-efficient ones.

And now on to the cons!

Every product will have its cons, even the really good ones.

What I can mention here is that this light is not waterproof.

It’s not a sealed type of fixture so having it above a glass top is a must. An open top can significantly shorten its life.

Another thing I feel is noteworthy is the extendable brackets.

The manufacturer’s suggestions for suitable tank lengths are kind of misleading. Yes, the brackets will extend and the light will fit the tank. This, however, does not mean that you’ll end up with evenly lit tank across the whole length.

If you get the 12-18″ fixture for an 18″-long tank you can expect shadowing in the corners.

In my personal recommendations on lighting different tank setups (which start right after the reviews section), you’ll find where the fixtures fit in the most efficient way.

Just find your desired tank size and setup and read the tailored recommendation.

Another thing I can say about the brackets is that they are not exactly locked in place.

They go in as easily as they go out. An unintentional push can send your light inside the aquarium.

However, if you listen to my advice and install the NICREW above a glass top you will avoid any accidents.

It’s an overall killer aquarium light for the money. Thumbs up from me.

 Advantages: 
  • Affordable
  • Has night mode
  • PAR per dollar will grow low-light plants
  • Beautiful daylight spectrum, makes fish colors pop
  • Works for multiple standard-sized tanks
 Disadvantages: 
  • Not waterproof (just install it over a glass top and it’s a problem solved)
  • The extendable bracket does not mean more light coverage
  • Brackets are kind of loose

8. Current USA Orbit Marine – Weather Patterns in Shallow Reef Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

My personal observations for the Current USA Orbit Marine conclude that it can certainly fit medium-shallow reef tanks.

It can be successfully employed to grow less-demanding coral in the 16 to 21 ” tank height range.

Its power doesn’t really go beyond that, however.

For more info on where this LED best fits, I suggest that you read my recommendations guide below.

For a quick summary, I can say that in certain shallower setups with 12” to 16” of depth you will be able to grow SPS corals.

Anyway, another thing that this light stands out with are the multiple weather modes.

You can choose from passing clouds, lightning storm, bright clean sky, and whatnot.

It’s definitely made for show-off tanks.

And let’s face it, it’s nice when someone comes over to your house and are like “Wow, your tank looks super realistic”.

It comes with a remote, a timer and a dimmer as well.

It’s not super budget-friendly but for a reef light with this many features, it’s an astonishing deal for the money.

A small inconvenience I would like to mention is that these lights do get rust after a prolonged exposure to humidity.

If you choose to have it with only the mount brackets, I say have a glass top at least.

You can also get the gooseneck to mount it higher where the evaporations won’t reach as easily. So there’s that.

It’s an overall great LED light, and many reefers are happy to use it.

 Advantages: 
  • Has most extra features in this list
  • A ton of value for the money
  • Will grow your corals if you follow my setup recommendation guide
 Disadvantages: 
  • It fits a very narrow range of tank depths
  • Gets rusty with time (just install it over a glass top and you’ll be fine)

9. Finnex Planted+ 24/7 – The Best Planted Tank LEDs

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 is hands down the best light for medium to high requiring plant life.

It can take care of your high-tech planted tank with easy, as long as it falls in the medium-depth range (12 to 21″ deep).

The shallower the tank the more CO2 you’d need to suppress an algae bloom.

This light is an absolute masterpiece in the world of well-researched LEDs.

Finnex made sure that your plants will get every last bit of PUR from their product.

With this light, I’ve grown even the most pretentious and demanding carpet plants.

Even red plants will thrive under it.

You may be aware that they are generally harder to promote growth in.

Now let’s talk features.

This lighting fixture is smart. With the wireless remote you can simulate all kinds of weather patterns upon the push of a button.

You can also take advantage of the 24/7 mode (duh).

This is basically 24 hours a day simulation of a rising sun, noon, afternoon, sunset and moonlight throughout the night. It’s amazing for the plants but if you’re not doing CO2 you may end up with algae.

I do recommend this light only if you’re after a medium or high-tech planted tank, which includes CO2 injections by definition.

If you’re not a fan of fancy lighting modes you can still use it as a regular light with a timer.

You can fine-tune the spectrum manually and set it at that for a certain time a day.

It comes with the same weird brackets as the Stingray, which you can mount on either rimless or a fish tank with a brace.

The only actual con I can point out is that the cord is a bit short. Finnex keeps doing it for some reason.

This light is used by beginner and experienced fish keepers alike. Top quality right there.

 Advantages: 
  • Will grow any plant in tanks of up to 21 inches in height
  • The 24/7 mode is actually useful and not a gimmick
  • Tons of modes and features, as customizable as it gets
  • Phenomenal price for the provided value
 Disadvantages: 
  • The typical for a Finnex shorter cord (oh, well)

10. Current USA Satellite Plus PRO – Good for Heavily-Planted Forest-like Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

This aquarium LED best suits a heavily planted tank with medium-light requirements.

It is not powerful enough for a “high-tech”, but it will do a fantastic job for the aforementioned setup.

What I also like about these lights and their output is that they won’t stimulate algae blooms.

You can read my setup guide below to see which tanks I recommend it for.

I am usually putting it to work in tanks with a great variety of species that don’t have an empty spot on the substrate.

It has the usual chest of features that the Current USA fixtures are famous for.

It’s a programmable LED aquarium light that includes all kinds of weather patterns, even the super stressful “thunder” mode.

All good additions to a display tank.

The Satellite Plus PRO comes with, what I can call is, a smart timer. It will remain properly set even after a power outage, unlike others which will reset themselves.

Eliminating that common nuisance is a really valuable feature, I must say.

A con to the timer, however, is that after the outage you’d have to manually turn it on.

Not really well-thought as this might happen when I’m out of town, leaving my plants in the dark for the time being.

The remote that it comes with is low on the range so it kind of defeats the purpose of having a remote.

These light are susceptible to damage from water evaporation, so a wise move would be to run them over a glass top.

 Advantages: 
  • Strong enough to grow medium-intensity plants
  • Won’t promote algae
  • Features, features, features
  • Good for colorful fish
  • Timer remembers the settings even after a power outage
 Disadvantages: 
  • May seem a bit overpriced compared to the other top performers
  • Remote control needs a shorter distance to work
  • Not exactly waterproof (use over a glass top)

11. MarsAqua Dimmable 165/300W – Ultimate Reef LED for Medium and Deep Tanks

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

Why isn’t this light more popular…

In my experience, this is the best reef lighting option for the money as it fits any standard-height aquarium (21″ deep).

And that’s only the 165W version.

Got an aquarium that’s over 21 inches deep? 28, perhaps? MarsAqua has you covered – just get the 300W ones.

This is the most coral-friendly fixture and it definitely crushes the competition.

The manufacturers know their stuff – they’ve employed enough of the Royal Blue diodes that have the most penetrating light for even the deepest tank.

No, really.

I’ve personally witnessed these fixtures grow SPS dominant tanks with an ease.

I’m guessing that they have an amazing PAR, PUR and PAS because everything was and still is thriving.

Do make sure to check my recommendations guide below for more info and practical examples.

The MarsAqua LEDs are dimmable, which means that you can start with softies and gradually add more LPS and SPS if you feel like it.

Actually, these lights are so powerful that I nearly bleached my corals the first time I ran them.

Do start off slowly and tune accordingly.

Phenomenal reef lights that come under a phenomenal price tag.

I am honestly surprised that all of the other “best 10″ websites never recommended these for coral growth.

Perhaps, they haven’t tested them? Who knows.

Frankly, I don’t care.

I can wholeheartedly say that these lights will grow your corals as well if not better than an expensive high-end reef light.

Many reefkeepers may lynch me for saying this but it is what it is – if you’re aiming for growing massive, healthy SPS corals forget Kessil, the MarsAqua will literally do a better job.

And now the con.

The fixtures only come in two sizes.

If you don’t want to fry your livestock you should get the 165W.

This applies for a tank that’s 21” deep, which is any larger tank with standard dimensions such as the 55, 75, 125-gallon ones.

So for a longer tank, you’d still need to get a couple of units.

For a 72 inch long tank, 3 will do the job, though a fourth one won’t be an overkill. This still amounts to $300+ dollars when they’re not on sale.

However, if you want an high-end fixture that would probably produce the same results in terms of coral growth, you may end up spending double or triple that for the same tank size.

Which is ridiculous if your goal is to simply have thriving coral with impressive coloring.

The MarsAqua are hands down my favorite lights for reef aquariums.

 Advantages: 
  • Enormous power and water penetration
  • Special lensing that improves water penetration even more (up to 25%)
  • Grows SPS in medium-deep and deep tanks alike
  • Crushes the price competition by the reefkeeping standards
  • Well-researched LED patterns and PUR output
  • Dimmable
 Disadvantages: 
  • Only comes in two sizes ( You can still get multiple fixtures for lengthy fish tanks)

12. Finnex Ray2 – Reaches the Greatest of Depths

Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

The Finnex Ray2 should only be used in deep tanks with high-requiring plants.

If you’re that one guy who wants to pursue the 24 inches or deeper “high-tech” dream, then this is the best and most adequate LED fixture you could get as aquarium lighting.

I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Finnex named this beast in such a lame manner though.

“Hey, would you like our mega-strong LED light? Here, it’s called the Ray… TWO!”.

Whatever.

Anyway, this light is an actual top performer when it comes to intensity and planted tanks.

There are not many tanks that are deep enough for you to safely run this on them.

What’s that? You want to grow baby tears?

No problem, the Ray2 can do that.

Mind that whatever tank you decide to use this LED on, you better arm yourself with CO2, because otherwise, the algae will come.

The first time I bought this light it far exceeded my expectations.

It was so bright, in fact, that I had to return it because I didn’t have a deeper tank for it (I tried it on a heavily planted 55 tank).

It was so intense and bright that it actually slowed my plants’ growth. I did some research only to find out it was way out of my livestock’s league.

Do your research and listen to actual buyers before making a purchase!

This is the perfect example of why more PAR is not great for every aquarium.

When applied in the right situation, where other fixtures will fail, this light can be your best bet.

I think this is the best aquarium LED product that can act as a solid lighting choice for really deep freshwater tanks.

Have a look at my setup and fish tank size recommendations below to find out where you should use it.

 Advantages: 
  • The most powerful LED designed for plants on this list
  • It’s powerful
  • It’s really really powerful
 Disadvantages: 
  • Shorter cord (as usual)
  • Can actually be too much for your plants (only use it on deep high-tech plants for the best results)

What LED light should you use according to a tank’s size and livestock setup?

The reviews above may be somewhat helpful, but they don’t really answer the question “what’s the actual best lighting for my personal aquarium setup?”.

As setups and sizes vary greatly (but so does my experience!) I wanted to actually craft a helpful guide with my recommendation for each.

That’s right, listed below you’ll find a very situational gear suggestion for each fish tank size and livestock option.

Here are my detailed pointers on LED lights that I found to best fit certain aquariums setups:

The top LED lights for a 5-gallon planted tank

For a 5 gallon planted tank that has low-light demanding plants I can recommend the Finnex Stingray LED:

It’s bright enough but it won’t overpower your greens. They have a 16″ inch version that perfectly fits a standard 5-gallon tank. You’ll be able to grow a beautiful underwater mini green field with it, as long as you choose the right plants.

If you want to grow beautiful carpet plants that require high lighting such as dwarf baby tears and whatnot you should look up The Finnex Fugeray Planed+ 16-inch fixture.

Amazon has them.

It’s not a really cheap light per se, but if you’re into high-tech nano tanks, you’re probably prepared for that.

You can absolutely get the best results with that LED, as long as you tune down the time it’s on.

Mind that CO2 will be needed if you want to avoid algae bloom because this is a really strong light.

However, you definitely won’t be limiting your tank when it comes to demanding plants.

The top LED lights for a 5-gallon reef tank

For lighting up a 5-gallon reef tank that houses a mixed variety of LPS, SPS and soft corals I am recommending the ABI Tuna Blue 12W.

This is the best performer in terms of price and productivity, in my opinion.

At a depth of 10 inches and a length of 16 two bulbs will do you well. You’ll be able to grow any zoas, mushrooms and soft corals.

So long as your water parameters are stable and you keep up with the water changes and nutrients your SPS will grow just fine with this LED.

I see reefers that go with the Current USA Marine Orbit for this setup too often. In my opinion, that’s kind of an overkill as you’d have to keep it at a minimum intensity to not slow your corals’ growth or bleach them completely.

The top LED lights for a 10-gallon planted fish tank

Honestly, if you’re not planning on growing a full-blown forest in your 10 G any mid-range Chinese LED would do wonders.

As long as you keep up with the CO2 and adequate nutrients you will be perfectly fine:

For a depth of 12 inches and a length of 20, the Beamswork FSPEC could come in pretty handy for less than 30 bucks. It performs pretty decently on lumens and PUR and it will be more than enough to sustain your aquatic plants.

If you want to grow some high-light requiring plant you may look up the Finnex Planted+ FugeRay LEDs.

These are considered medium-to-high lighting fixtures.

My experience with a 30 gallon heavily planted tank (also 12 inches deep) shows that they lean more to the “high” part.

I was able to grow high-light requiring carpet plants very successfully.

I am confident that with this fixture and this depth you won’t limit your planted tank’s options.

The top LED lights for a 10-gallon reef tank:

For a 10-gallon reef tank that revolves around newbie-friendly soft corals, zoas and, mushrooms I would recommend getting an ABI Tuna Blue 12W.

Or two.

If yours is a typical 20″ x 10″ x 12″ aquarium two bulbs would sufficiently cover all ground. If you’re still loading the tank up with corals, one bulb may be enough, depending on where you will position it.

However, if you’re evenly covering with corals, throughout the whole length you’d need 2 fixtures.

For the depth of 12 inches, the 23W bulbs will perform better than the 12W when looking after SPS.

The 12W suits smaller nano-reefs. From what I’ve seen with 2 bulbs you can successfully grow LPS corals in non-typical fish tanks of 13 and 15 gallons as well.

For an SPS dominant 10-gallon fish tank, you can safely get 2x ABI Tuna Blue 23W.

They’re an overall great light, and for a depth of 12 inches, you can grow just about anything with it.

Even advanced level SPS corals.

Be careful not to bleach them though.

Mount the bulbs high at first and monitor how your corals react.

Gradually adjust it over the course of weeks.

The top LED lights for a 20-gallon planted tank

20-gallon tanks come in various shapes and sizes, with the two most popular being a 20-gallon long and a 20-gallon high. I will discuss both here:

For a high one, measuring 16″ height and 24″ in length that is “low tech” you should probably get a Beamswork FSPEC or NICREW ClassicLED (link leads to Amazon).

Both come at pretty much the same price.

Both will do great on an aquarium that has low to medium light plants.

The NICREW may come a little shorter for a 24″, but if you don’t have plenty of plants in the corners you will be fine. If you decide on the NICREW, use it over a glass or other transparent material.

For a high 20-gallon aquarium that’s heavily planted, with needy plants, you’ll want the controllability of a slightly more advanced lighting fixture.

The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 will allow you to stock your 20-gal aquarium with whatever high-light plants you want.

Don’t take my word for it if you want, but this is the best LED light for planted tanks on the market right now. The 24″ fixture will fit the top perfectly, bathing your livestock with intense photosynthesis-usable light.

Honestly, any Finnex fixture that’s advertised for plant growth will do pretty well here. Don’t forget to keep up with the CO2 though. Algae soups are not nice.

Now, for a 20-gallon long tank with easy-care plants you can still go with the NICREW, but this time the 28″ – 36″ fixture:

The efficient light spread will be at 28″, which would be enough for such a setup. As the long version of the 20-gal is still 12″ of depth you shouldn’t go past my recommendations for the classic 10-gallon tank above. However, this time the Beamswork will be the shorter one where the NICREW has a perfect 30″ long fixture.

My success has been with growing some low-light carpet plants such as Staurogyne Repens and Marsilea Hirsuta. I’m assuming this is due to how shallow a tank of such size is.

For a 20-gallon long “high-tech” fish tank, I wouldn’t go beyond a Beamswork, to be honest.

You’re looking at 12 inches of depth, with say, 1-2 inches of substrate. This leaves you with a depth of 10 inches of effective illuminating. If you want to grow strictly super high-lighting plants and carpets I would suggest going for the Beamswork 0.50W Pent LED.

That’s a slightly stronger version of their FSPEC, specially designed for growing plants.

Fortunately, it’s not pricier by any means. The 30″ LED fixture will grow just about anything in this setup.

The top LED lights for a 20-gallon reef tank

My 10-gallon section recommendation from above stands, as the 20-gallon long has the same depth of 12 inches.

Only this time instead of 2 ABI Tuna Blue bulbs you should definitely go for 3. You want to cover all of the 30″ length.

They will penetrate the water very well, and at 12 inches of depth, your SPS could grow all over the place.

For a mixed reef with SPS positioned closer to the surface, the ABI Tuna Blue 23W combo will do just fine.

There’s also the 20-gallon high aquarium, where we’re looking at a depth of 16”.

For an aquarium of these dimensions that’s dominated by softies, you’ll have no issue running a Current USA Orbit Marine. In fact, you could run that with an SPS-dominant top level of the tank as well.

The depth of 16 inches is not a challenge for that fixture.

This is according to my experience.

Some users advocate that an AI Prime HD+ will perform best if you want to keep SPS corals for this setup.

The Prime comes at a slightly higher price. It’s a high-end light and it will be more than sufficient for a 20-gallon high tank, true. It has the customization and it runs quietly, while providing top performance.

Obviously, if your budget is looser you should get that as it’s more durable in the long run and you’ll benefit from the crazy customization.

However, in terms of efficiently looking after SPS corals, the Current USA Orbit Marine has done well by me and that’s even at greater depths than 16″.

Your call, really. I say let your budget decide here.

The top LED lights for a 30-gallon planted tank

As most 30 gallons are breeder tanks, I’m assuming you’re looking for a LED light that would support high-growing easy-to-care-for plants:

Most people go for something like Vallisneria because it grows well and helps the baby fish make it. A typical 30-gallon goes by the dimensions of 36″ length x 12″ width and x 16″ height. If you’re looking to grow dense, but low-light requiring plants I can only point you in one direction – BeamsWork EA Timer FSPEC LED Aquarium.

It will be more than sufficient and they offer a nicely fitting fixture of the same length.

You’re set.

If you plan to go with a fully planted 30-gallon forest-like fish tank, then my suggestion from the 20-gallon section remains. For supplying 14 inches (minus substrate) with a high light I stick to my recommendation of the Finnex Planted+ 24/7.

This model comes in a 36″ length, which will fit your needs perfectly. See my reasoning above.

The top LED lights for a 30-gallon reef tank

Again, as I discussed above, for a depth of 16″ the Current USA Orbit Marine will do you wonders.

I suggest that you get the 36″ to 48″ one, and not the smaller version, as this one’s physical length is almost 35 inches. In fact, you can use it for growing SPS corals as well. At such depth, you’ll be able to grow even the neediest ones with that LED.

The top LED lights for a 40-gallon planted tank

For lighting up a light to medium planted 40-gallon tank I would (again) suggest a NICREW or a BeamsWork EA Timer FSPEC:

The two typically sized 40-gallon aquariums are either long (48 inches in length) or a Breeder (36 inches in length).

However, they’re both 16″ deep so the tank size doesn’t come into play that much but rather your desired setup.

The only thing to consider for your choice between the two is the length of the aquarium.

For the 36″ breeder go with the BeamsWork and for the 48″ 40-gallon long – choose the NICREW.

That’s only because each of them has a suitably sized fixture for the respective tank.

If you want to grow java fern, easy mosses and anubias you can be sure that one of the above models will do the job.

When I grew these plants, my only concern would be that they’d grow high enough to cast shadows on one another. As they are hardy and grow relatively fast, please remember to trim them when needed.

I have a neat solution in mind for a medium to high-tech 40-gallon planted, as well:

The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 will give you plenty of programmes to play with, but you can manually customize it if you wish. Don’t go over 8 hours a day if you want to go the manual road.

It comes in both 36 and 48 inches so you’re pretty much set here.

Growing an underwater jungle is not uncommon with this LED.

Virtually, you can choose plants of any difficulty here.

Keep in mind that it’s a strong light, so a CO2 injection may be needed to control your algae.

The top LED lights for a 40-gallon reef tank

And another great opportunity to recommend the Current USA Orbit Marine LEDs.

For 16 inches of depth that will probably have 2 inches of substrate, this LED will do the job. And by doing the job, I mean you could grow whatever – from anemonies, softies and LPS to SPS corals.

I am recommending it for two reasons.

The first one is because the model has suitable fixtures to fit the length of your 40-gallon reef.

It doesn’t matter if you have the Breeder or the long version here.

The second one is because it is dimmable.

This means that if you start with newbie-friendly corals and want to gradually add up more needy corals you could just increase the intensity.

Honestly, I don’t know a reefer that has ever kept it to LPS only. Me included.

It’s strong as well. believe it or not, your corals will perform best when you have the LED running at about half its potential or less.

I suggest that you start off low and gradually increase the settings, with the blue light prevailing.

Monitor how your corals react, as with every aquascape and positioning it is different.

The top LED lights for a 55-gallon planted tank

I’m assuming that in these you would want to keep larger and sometimes smarter fish:

If you plan on having fish that might escape you’ll definitely need a hood. A light hood for 55-gallon aquarium will not be able to look after plants. The premade ones are just too weak for that. Maybe a few low-light plants but that’s about it.

In that case, you’re only looking to bring out the nice colors in your fish, be it freshwater or FOWLR tank. The Aqueon LED Background Hood would be a perfect fit for the purpose.

Get two 24 inch hoods and call it a day. They will fit a 55-gallon tank adequately. The Aqueon hood is not a strong light when it comes to plants but, you’ll definitely be able to admire your beautiful fish with it.

Okay, what I’m about to say may seem a counterintuitive light choice for a planted 55-gallon tank but bear with me.

If you’re only planning to grow low light to medium aquatic plants (with the low ones prevailing) you can absolutely go with the NICREW.

Though a 55-gallon is 21 inches in depth the NICREW will take perfect care for these plants.

Just to make sure you don’t get me wrong – I’m talking Java moss, java fern, Anubias, crypts, and, perhaps, wisteria.

I’m using this light on my 125-gal which is the same depth as a 55 one.

My plants are growing pretty well, feeling happy and all. The light is pretty bright, penetrating the depths of the aquarium well (or at least my plants think so).

The lower price of the fixture comes from its lack of customizable features.

You won’t be able to dim it and it doesn’t have fancy weather modes.

Still, it does a fantastic job for this kind of setup, bringing out the nice colors of my fish, included.

A 55-gallon is (usually) 48″ x 13″ x 21″ ( L x W x H ) and the NICREW LED has a suitable fixture of 46″ (without the extendable brackets). This LED is what I would call “the best bang for your buck”.

For equipping a heavily planted 55-gallon tank with an appropriate LED lighting I can vouch for the Current USA Satelite Plus PRO.

Being strong enough for my plants aside, the Current USA Satelite is customizable, unlike the NICREW LEDs.

Note that heavily planted, doesn’t mean growing high-light pretentious plants.

Though as controversial as it may seem, I am positive you can run an above medium light-requiring planted tank with it.

I run this on a 21″ deep tank that does not require much maintenance, while still being heavily occupied by my greens.

The reason I did not use the NICREW here is that I have way more species of plants, and the Current USA gives me some flexibility.

It can also be programmed with a separate timer, which in combo with its multiple effects makes for a perfect planted tank to show off with.

For my timer, I just went ahead and purchased the first one with a decent amount of positive reviews on Amazon. I must say that I’m pretty happy with my choice. My plants are growing strong and display lush green colors, so I guess you could say everyone is happy.

But what if you want a LED for a 55-gallon “high-tech” tank?

If I’m ready to employ high-tech substrates, dosed nutrients, and high-light requiring plants there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t want to compromise with my lighting.

I haven’t run a “high-tech” tank that’s 21 inches deep myself.

However, I’ve worked with clients, setting up theirs, which are thriving to this day.

It’s just that I was never into it. I admire the diligent people out there that are willing to put in the work (after setting up one).

Anyway according to my experience (and the knowledge which I shamelessly “stole” from one of my best buddies that actually runs more than one of these) I am confident to offer you a solid recommendation.

Actually two.

One is the Fluval Plant Spectrum 3.0 and the other is (surprise, surprise) the Finnex Planted+ 24/7.

Now, I run the Finnex on other planted tanks and as I already mentioned, to me, this is the best LED light for any planted tank out there. It provides fantastic lighting specially designed to fall in the 400 to 700 nanometers of usable light for photosynthesis.

I am more than happy with it.

My friend somewhat agrees with me.

I’m only saying “somewhat” because on his high-tech 55-gallons fish tanks he runs the Fluval and the Finnex separately. Both his tanks are performing super well.

According to his personal experience (which I think is tremendous, he’s really advanced when it comes to high-tech stuff), the lights share the first place.

I totally trust him on that one, seeing how his plants dominate the aquarium space provided.

It’s honestly up to you, both will do the job.

The Fluval is still emerging while the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 has already proven itself (to me and many others) so there’s that.

The top LED lights for a 55-gallon reef tank

For a 55-gallon reef aquarium, I only have one recommendation that will cover all types of corals. And no it will not cost you $500. Get this. End of question. I’ve had huge success with this rather inexpensive fixture.

The MarsAqua, believe it or not, will do a fantastic job at growing soft and hard corals alike. Given how expensive marine LEDs can get, I have no idea how the manufacturers were able to pull that one off.

Back when I was looking for a good LED fixture for a 21″ deep tank I was on a tight budget.

I did a ton of research because I didn’t want to spend a fortune.

I ended up purchasing the MarsAqua 165W.

What can I say? Huge potential for coral growth.

This is my personal experience. It was actually strong enough that I accidentally bleached some of my corals back then.

I was not really aware that LEDs penetrate the water way better than other types of lighting and that I really needed a lower PAR.

After careful tweaking, I found out that I could grow SPS with ease.

Anyway, for 46 inches of length, you should get two fixtures.

They will only amount to a little above 30 inches in total.

However, I was once running 3 fixtures (around 47″ of pure fixture length) successfully on my 125-gallon reef, which is 72″ long.

For a 55 gallon tank, you can remove the lenses on the parameter of the fixtures, which will prevent beam lighting.

The LEDs are pretty intense so you wouldn’t really need to scale up their power when doing so.

I keep mine at about 12″ above the surface, which provides the reef with the needed lighting coverage.

The fixture is dimmable and it is why I recommend it for all types of coral.

You can start with LPS if you’d like and gradually add SPS when you feel ready for that.

I keep the ratio of blue to white at roughly 3 to 1 ratio.

Many reefers will argue that getting a Kessil a360 or a couple of AI Prime bulbs would be needed here.

However, that’s way more money.

These are all high-end lights and for a reason. They allow significantly more control and customization. If you’re on a looser budget these can surely be employed.

However, if your main objective is to be able to grow anything without too much of the extra expensive features, the MarsAqua 165W will be more than enough.

The top LED lights for a 75-planted tank

As a 75 gallon has about the same dimensions as the 55-gallon (or at least the ones that concern us) my recommendation will pretty much be the same as in the previous section:

A typical 75g has the same height and length as a 55g. You might as well just scroll back and read my gear suggestions on these. Basically, if you’re aiming to look after low light plants you can get away with a NICREW LED fixture.

No worries, you can place the occasional medium-tier plant here and there.

The 75 gallon is wider so I suggest that you place those right underneath the fixture itself and not the edges. Low light plants can still make up for a beautiful green fish tank.

For a heavily planted 75 tank with more diverse choices of plants the best LED option would be the Current USA Satelite.

You can control intensity which expands your choice of plants to grow. You can do a low to medium-heavily planted tank with the medium ones prevailing.

Do your research on your aquatic plant beforehand.

For a 75 planted tank that’s going the “high-tech” road we can all thank Finnex for making a well-researched LED light.:

Go with the Finnex Planted+ 24/7.

The light relies on scientific research. It employs a spectrum that’s actually required for a strong photosynthesis.

It has tons of features as well.

It’s durable and it keeps the electricity bills low.

It grows high-light requiring plants and carpets.

Keep up with the CO2 injection as with these lights algae may sprout if you’re not careful.

The top LED lights for a 75-gallon reef tank

When it comes to lighting a typical 75-gallon tank is pretty much the same as the 55-gallon described above:

Both the 55-gallon and 75-gallon standard-sized aquariums are 48 inches long, which is important for choosing the right fixture. They are also the same depth – 21 inches. The latter along with your planned setup determines the model of LEDs you’d want to mount.

I encourage you to read the previous section that discusses LEDs suitable for a 55-gallon fish tank, as they all apply.

The only difference here is the width, which is not a major factor.

If you’re lazy and don’t want to scroll back, I will summarize it for you. To light a 75-gallon reef tank with LEDs and grow any coral you want you’ll need:

2 fixtures of MarsAqua 165W LED. They will fit perfectly and you can eliminate any beam light effect by removing some of the lenses on the perimeter. Growing LPS and SPS with them is easy as long as you have stable water parameters.

It has been my experience that a single fixture will absolutely illuminate an area of around 25″ x 25″ x 25″.

So the greater width of the 75-gallon aquarium (18 inches) won’t be a problem here.

The top LED lights for a 90-gallon planted tank

A standard 90 gallon tank is 48″ x 18″ x 24″. We’re talking not only wider but deeper.

This along with the standard 65-gallon one are considered “deep tanks”. For low and medium-demanding plants you’d still have to scale up things by a little. Your best LED option here is the Current USA Satellite PLUS PRO. It’s suitable for both low and medium light plants.

It has multiple modes to spare your plants.

It penetrates the water well, and it has the needed range of photosynthesis-usable wavelengths.

You can also use a Finnex planted+ 24/7 here.

It will grow plants just as well.

I think the Current USA can get a little brighter than the Finnex when at 100%.

Both will do the job for either lightly or heavily planted 90-gallon fish tank.

If you’re leaning towards the medium-light requiring plants – purchase yourself a 36″ to 48″ PLUS PRO.

If you’re going to go the “high-tech” road a Finnex Ray 2 should suffice as long as you’re planning to only look after super high light demanding plants.

It’s a really, really bright light.

Even at depths of 24 inches, it may still induce algae in your aquarium.

Dose with fertilizers and do CO2 injections.

This LED fixture can be successfully used in even deeper high tech tanks.

It’s that intense.

The top LED lights for a 90-gallon reef tank

Though with the planted version things needed to scale, I don’t think that’s necessary when it comes to reefing:

Your best option for a 90-gallon reef aquarium is still the MarsAqua Dimmable LED lights. Even at this depth and size, 2 fixtures will be more than enough to grow anything from softies to LPS and demanding SPS corals, depending on the set intensity.

I probably sound like a secret MarsAqua employee for recommending it for the 4th time now.

The truth is you can’t really go wrong with this light when it comes to coral growth.

That is my personal experience.

I also have friends that are sworn reefers who can confirm.

Not only that it’s more than you’ll ever need at this depth.

I haven’t looked after an SPS that wouldn’t show impressive growth with this fixture.

The 165W version is what you’re after in this particular case.

For some, it may sound ridiculous, but apparently, the manufacturers have done their homework.

If you feed your corals well and have an adequate amount of the right TDS (total dissolved solids) your SPS corals will grow more than just fine.

I’m always happy when I convert reefers, who want their corals to thrive, from wanting to spend 500 to 700 dollars on lighting to only spending a little above $200 while achieving the same if not better results.

The top LED lights for a 125+ gallon fish tank

Things get complicated when you’re to choose the best LED for your 125-gallon aquarium setup:

This time along with depth you should also consider length. A standard 125-gallon tank is 72 inches in length but you probably already know that. However, what you may not know is that it’s really hard to find a suitable fixture.

The ones that get to 72 inches are rare and may not always support your desired setup.

Multiple fixtures will need separate timer options and whatnot. It’s just that the matter goes deeper (get it?).

For this reason, I felt the need to discuss that on a separate blog post. Have a look at it.

Again, I’m discussing every possible setup with an appropriate 125-gallon lighting recommendation, taking into account the pros and cons of the fixtures.

For larger tanks such as the 150 gallon(72″ x 18″ x 28″) and the 180 gallon (72″ x 24″ x 25″) you can try combining different sized LED fixtures.

Calculate the cheapest possible variations (getting 3 of the smallest is often pricier than getting a large + small fixture).

Mind that these are all deep tanks so you’d need stronger lights.

For the 150 gallons planted tank, you should consider getting the Finnex Ray 2.

For growing huge reefs in one, I think that you’ll get away with a MarsAqua 300W. Two, to be precise.

As a takeaway from my 125-gallon reef where I run 4 x 165W (began with 3, but my obsessive personality knocked on the door) I think it’s absolutely doable.

The corals are as happy as they could be. I keep mine at a way lower intensity than their full potential. I reckon they can be a great budget solution for a deeper tank as well.

The secret behind selecting the best LED lighting for planted aquariums?

What you should know about LED lighting and freshwater planted tanks:

There’s no such thing as the best product.

Maybe I repeat myself but what I’m saying is that there’s a best product according to your situation.

A planted tank can have many definitions.

You could be growing low, to medium, to high light requiring plants.

You could go the low-tech road, which means low maintenance.

A “high-tech” aquarium means that you’ll employ CO2 injections, high-tech substrates that are nutrient-rich and specially designed for growing vegetation. The best substrates will often come in the form of depleting aquasoils.

Maintaining a high-tech tank also means that you’re familiar with the dosing of special aquarium fertilizers known to produce the best of results and whatnot. Fertilizing is usually very easy as long as you’re familiar with the fert product and the nutrients it contains.

In other words, “high tech” means high maintenance.

What you should remember here is that it’s not only about PAR readings.

Your aquatic plants of choice play a major role in what lighting you’re after.

If you buy a light that’s too strong you can actually ruin your planted tank.

Too much light will result in suppressed (yes!) growth and an algae bloom.

I’ve crafted a selection of LED lights specifically considering plant growth. You can see my guide on that here.

There you’ll learn specifics, such as the perfect spectrum for aquatic plants (hint: it’s not what you think it is), should you even look at Kelvins ratings and whatnot.

If you’re serious about your planted aquarium I recommend paying that article a visit.

Another thing to note is that adding CO2 will always be helpful. When looking after high-demand plants it’s a must.

Read the section about the PAR, PUR, and PAS in my buyers guide at the beginning of this article for more info.

The truth about the best LED lighting choice for marine fish tanks and corals?

Consider this when choosing the optimal LED lighting for your reef tank’s corals:

With corals, it gets even more complicated than with plants. Yes, the lights are important. However, a happy coral also needs its minerals and stable water parameters. It’s safe to say that the correct lighting choice is only 60% of the equation.

One thing I’ve found to really boost the development of mass and coloration is supplying with additional coral food. I do have a guide discussing the best options for that as well. Pay this link a visit if you’d like to gain some understanding of those.

Also, there’s the PAR mania.

No, it’s not about PAR, but rather PUR.

Check the section above, where I discuss that in detail.

Also, there’s this myth circulating the Internet that you should always spend tons of money on marine equipment and especially lights.

Well… I’d hate to be that guy but here it goes.

I’ve seen reefers pay fortunes on high-end LED lights hunting for them elusive PAR readings.

They’ll go and buy a $400 light and then lower the intensity to 40 or 50%.

Strong light intensities should not be the motivation behind such purchases. When you pay for a premium LED fixture you are looking at things like:

  • Natural ocean-like shimmer
  • Extended customization over multiple spectral channels (light colors)
  • Pre-set spectrum modes that are proven to grow coral
  • Connectivity in the form of native apps
  • Quality cooling systems and adapters, which extends the lifespan of the product

However, vigorous growth is not something you’ll be compromising with if you end up with a cheaper fixture.

In case you do want the best for your reef aquarium in terms of the aforementioned I’ve compiled a separate guide listing more options because this one would turn out too long. There you’ll find extensive reviews on the best LED aquarium lighting for corals which includes some premium models, with illustrations as proof for their results. Visit the link if you want a more in-depth knowledge and analysis of reef lights.

Anyway, from my personal experience, you can grow coral with just about any of those black box LEDs that are under $200 at a reasonable depth.

It’s why I recommend them.

I know how important is to get the right equipment.

But if you can successfully pull it off for under $150 and you are not in for extra the bells and whistles why pay the extra cash?

Best LEDs option for an FO and FOWLR such as a cichlid-emphasis tank?

The best LED for a fish only aquarium is the one with the most “daylight” look to it:

If you pursue a beautiful display tank that accents on the colorful fish in it, then go with a NICREW ClassicLED and be done with it. It’s the best fish-only LED, and that includes the cichlid tanks. It will bring nice colors in your fish, without breaking the bank.

They have multiple fixtures, that suit larger tanks and you’d be more than satisfied with the looks of your fish.

Turtles are another story and I will definitely cover them in a separate article because LEDs are not needed there.

The enlightening conclusion

You could say that understanding lighting and its applications in aquariums may get a little complicated.

But why spend hours on research when you can simply trust someone who has already done that for you.

Good, unbiased reviews are a rarity and can only come from people that have had more than a couple of products in the same category.

This guide took me days to put together so I would much appreciate if you’ve read all of it (which I doubt, but hey).

What I hope to achieve is my expertise and recommendations to actually help someone to find the best LED lighting option for their aquarium(s).

Do me a favor and leave me a short comment with your thoughts. Thanks.

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Danny
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Danny

Thanks for this really good guide. The net is full with misleading opinions on the topic . Your guide put stuff in place for me.

Angelo D'Souza
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Angelo D'Souza

Gr8 work

Rob
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Rob

Hi. I have bought an AI Prime HD for a 40g planted tank (36″ x 20″ x 14″)(recommended by my fish guy) and am worried that it is not what I need. Please advise.

Lillie M Kinnick
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Lillie M Kinnick

I really need an unbiased opinion guidance on LED lighting for planted deep tank. without substrate 30″ deep with substrate 25″ deep. I keep asked what kind of plants….I just want plants that’ll live. so if it’s got to be low light plants that’s fine. Everyone has a different opinion. I’m very confused by now. HELP!
Thank you in advance Lillie

Lillie M Kinnick
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Lillie M Kinnick

Wow thank you so much for answering! That’s amazing just in itself. So that light would work on my tank because it’s 20″.So have you had the opportunity to looks at the Fluval 3.0? Everyone is talking about it. The only problem I see (because I’m a newbie) is that the width of it starts at 24″. The lady said that wouldn’t matter but…she was the “tech” person…paid by the store of course.I do appreciate your expertise and look forward to hearing back. I could send a picture if you would like. -Lillie

Lillie M Kinnick
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Lillie M Kinnick

sorry I guess i looked back a bit in the string of information. I saw where you referenced the fluval 3.0. i looked at the link that you included and then it disappeared. I know it was current sattelite. Sorry don’t mean to be a pain. TIA

Jay
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Jay

This is an excellent and timely guide. Thank you for covering the different size tanks. I’m in the press ocess of setting up a 60 gallon cube that’s 24” deep. I’m reviewing your section for 90 galleon tanks. I’m planning to grow mainly lower light plants, mosses, ferns, anubias and buce. Which would you recommend there…the Current USA or the Finnex?

Julie
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Julie

I have an odd sized tank and am wondering if you have any suggestions on the best light for it. It is an 80 gallon hex. It is 5 feet tall without the stand or hood but only about 20 inches across. Basically when it is all put together it runs floor to ceiling like a big tube. I have tried different lighting over the years but to fully illuminate the bottom I feel like I am frying the top. I have been running it as a fresh water community tank. I have never tried planting the tank but would… Read more »

David
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David

Thanks a lot for the write up. So informative. I have a 46 gallon bow front and I recently got the NiCrew Plus and have liked it so far.
I noticed almost immediately after starting to use the light brown algae bloomed fast. I can’t seem to get it under control. At the same time my Amazon swords and other lower light plants have started to brown. Is there something I can do differently to get rid of the algae?