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Fed up with the early day-glow fluorescent aquarium lights? The freshwater LED lighting is the right choice if you want to enhance the natural colors of freshwater fish. You’ll be able to see all the beautiful colors as well as subtle shades which make freshwater tropical fish real beauties.
As for the aquatic plants, they require full spectrum lighting to thrive in your aquarium. Without the natural light spectrum, which LED lighting provides, your aquatic plants will lose their color over time, drop leaves and die.
In addition, a well-illuminated aquarium, even if it's a starter fish tank, creates the illusion of depth and highlights your aquascaping. If you grow live aquatic plants, you are probably aware of the fact that light quality is very important to sustain their growth. Corals, for example, depend on the proper light spectrum and intensity of light in order to thrive in reef aquariums.
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What to look for when shopping for LED lighting for freshwater aquarium
LED (short for Light Emitting Diode) aquarium lighting is designed for freshwater aquariums and marine reef aquariums. The freshwater LED fixtures are brilliantly engineered to reproduce the light spectrum of natural light and the LEDs are the only way of producing a natural-looking white light, often with the possibility to adjust the light according to your needs and preferences.
The range of light
Let’s compare LED lighting and the full spectrum of natural lights. Natural daylight, on cloudy to sunny days, ranges from 5500K to 7000K (K stands for Kelvin, a unit of measurement used to describe the hue of a specific light source).
This is why you should look for a LED aquarium light that can provide this range of light quality. LED lights can be controlled by a timer that plugs into the wall. LED aquarium lights can be mounted above the aquarium either on “legs” that rest on top of the aquarium or hang from your ceiling.
The more advanced LED aquarium lights allow you to create light that mimics dawn, dusk, moonlight and more types of light.
When you are buying LED aquarium lighting, you need to know how wide your aquarium is. Fortunately, LED light fixtures come in a wide variety of lengths that match the lengths of different aquariums.
This versatility comes into play when you are aiming for a perfect LED light that sits on top of the aquarium frame.
LED light features and benefits
As we said, most LED freshwater aquariums feature 5500-7000 K light output. Some have simple and some have a more advanced programmable timer.
The best LED aquarium lighting will allow you to explore different color combinations because LEDs are now available in a multitude of color spectrums and combos.
Apart from experimenting with light spectrum, you can also use dimmers, which are great for adjusting brightness and can also be used for blending colors. If you are using multiple LED color spectrums, you can dim one color and increase the brightness of the other. By dimming your LEDs, you will also extend the lamp life and save on energy.
Another benefit of LEDs is that they don't transfer heat into the aquarium. However, they still generate a fair amount of heat upward and excessive heat can dramatically degrade the lifespan of the LED chip. Because of this, you should do your best to keep them cool.
To fully benefit from the best LED aquarium lighting and extend their, life you need to make sure to provide adequate air circulation around the LED light strip. This will allow heat to dissipate vertically and around the heat sink.
Yet another benefit of LEDs is that they grow coral so that your aquarium will become a true beauty, should you decide to tackle the wonderful world of coral growing.
In order to really bring out the colors in your coral, you should select units with light output in the actinic royal blue range. This will really make the colors in your coral stand out. For soft polyp corals and zoanthids, you can mix a little magenta to pump up the purple, green and orange.
Apart from growing coral and bringing out their beautiful colors, LEDs will also bring out colors in your fish and make them even more beautiful as they swim happily around the corals.
Best LED aquarium lighting compared to other lighting options
In the early days of aquarium keeping the only lighting available were stainless steel fixtures that contained incandescent light bulbs. These light bulbs produced a lot of heat and raised the aquarium water temperature. As the incandescent bulbs could reach a temperature of over 175° F, the metal light fixture could easily turn into a dangerous skin-searing surface. With the best LED aquarium lighting, this can never happen.
The next type of aquarium lighting was cooler fluorescent light tube housed in plastic fixtures which were built into the aquarium cover. The fluorescent lighting worked fine for shallow aquariums that did not require intense light.
For growing live plants or corals, fluorescent light tubes couldn’t provide enough light. The quality of light was not the best, either. Most fluorescent lights simply highlighted the neon colors of aquarium gravel, plastic plants, and other ornaments.
Live plants and corals did not thrive until more natural fluorescent lights were developed for aquarium use. Fluorescent bulbs, however, start degrading in light quality as soon as they are switched on. After six to nine months, the quality of light gets very low and won’t meet the light needs of freshwater aquatic plants and saltwater invertebrates.
Finally, LEDs use up to 80% less electricity than other aquarium lights. They do not generate as much heat compared to fluorescent light bulbs. Another huge plus is the fact that the best LED aquarium lighting lasts far longer than standard fluorescent bulbs.
The LED fixtures tend to be a bit more costly to purchase upfront, but you'll more than make up for it over time in energy savings as well as bulb replacement costs.
Another drawback of LEDs is in the area of planted aquariums because most LED light fixtures are only suited for low to medium lighting needs. They will do well for virtually all fish and for a number of plants.
However, for plants that have high light needs, there are no LED lighting options at present. Hopefully, since the LEDs are being extensively researched and greatly improved, we might expect that their application for high light needs will also improve in the future.
Best led aquarium lighting to date reviewed
The Beamswork DA 6500k LED is an excellent choice for all the aquarium enthusiasts a budget. This affordable planted aquarium light can sustain low to mid-level plants while beautifully complementing most aquariums.
The Beamswork DA 6500K is a great LED light for planted tanks. Although it’s not as powerful as some other LED lights, it’s an effective one for those of you who keep less demanding plant species.
This LED light fixture is affordable, reliable, and capable of supporting low to mid-level plants. However, it’s probably not the best option if you plan to keep ultra-demanding plants. For 90% of planted aquarium owners, this unit is a great option and this goes especially for first timers looking to save a few bucks while getting some valuable experience along the way.
This fixture does include a built-in programmable timer, which is a huge and unexpected bonus, considering the fact that light timers usually come with for more expensive fixtures. The timer allows you to set a time for your lights to automatically turn on and off, essentially making this unit highly convenient for a novice aquarium enthusiast.
To sum up, this is a high-quality, energy efficient light fixture which is a solid starter option if you want to replace the typical single or dual tube fluorescent lights. It features 6500K spectrum LEDs which are commonly used for planted freshwater setups.
The LEDs are fitted in a sleek and razor-thin fixture which will certainly make your aquarium a living-room centerpiece while the long-lasting LEDs require no bulb replacement.
Overall, one of the best LED aquarium lighting available today to make your colorful fish tank even more beautiful!
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Energy efficient lights featuring 6500K spectrum
Comes at an affordable price
Available in five sizes
Built-in programmable timer
A sleek and razor-thin fixture
The bulbs may dim quite a lot over time
The FugeRay from Finnex features red and blue LEDs which will bring out the beautiful natural color of your fish and aquatic plants. It’s a great choice for those of you who want looking to spruce up your aquarium without breaking the bank.
The lack of red and blue bulbs in the previous models from Finnex sometimes caused colors to look a bit or dull while the new and improved FugeRay helps fish and plant colors “pop” and appear more vivid. This goes for the red tones, especially.
These LEDs provides plenty of light for low and medium level plants. To successfully grow heavy vegetation in a bigger tank, you’ll probably need additional lights. The FugeRay offers “true red” 660nm LEDs, however, which are claimed to be excellent for photosynthesis.
In terms of the design, Finnex FugeRay light is an elegant LED fixture. Finnex opted for the silver colored housing rather than the more common black housing. The housing is slim and will sit nicely on the top of your aquarium.
Another great feature is a moisture resistant PC Splash Guard which will protect the lights from accidental splashing. The durable high output LED bulbs are built to last more than 40,000 and the FugeRay boasts a LED spread of 120 degrees.
The FugeRay features a more evenly spaced LED alignment, which is ideal for refugium purposes as well as for medium light needy aquariums.
In order to extend LED bulb longevity, the circuit boards in FugeRay are built with high-quality aluminum and the fixture itself acts as the heat sync. This ensures ample cooling and great heat dissipation.
There is also a flexible gooseneck to allow the appropriate amount of light according to your needs. The power cord included is 59 inches long. Overall, a solid LEDs at an affordable price!
However, since each aquarium has unique needs, you should make sure you’re picking the right light for your tank. So, if you’re growing a lot of high light plants this may not be the right lighting for you.
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Brings out natural colors in fish and plants
Encourages great growth in low light level plants
Built to last 40,000+ hours
The circuit boards are built with high quality aluminum
Elegant design with a flexible gooseneck
This fixture may get hot so keep an eye on water temperature
The Aquatic Life LED Aquarium Light Fixture is available in a freshwater and reef design. The five colors of 0.5 watt LEDs have a 120-degree dispersion which creates full-spectrum light throughout your aquarium.
This LED fixture is easy to program using the timer included. It comes with an internal battery back-up which saves all your timer settings in case of power failure.
The 36“ freshwater aquarium LED fixture contains (21) 6K White, (21) 9K White, (24) 10K White, (7) Blue, (11) Red, (3) Blue Lunar LEDs. The lunar LEDs are used at night to imitate moonlight in your aquarium. Now, how cool is that?
And that’s not all, the programmable sunrise and sunset functions allow for the LEDs to be easily programmed to slowly turn on or off in 10-minute increments over a two-hour period of time.
The Aquatic Life EDGE LED feature a simple 3-Channel timer makes programming the timer and customizing the light output quick and easy.
The sleek fixture design is only 0.5 inches wide and 4 inches high and you can choose between the three sizes:
24-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 23.5 Inches and 26.25 Inches
36-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 35.0 Inches and 38.25 Inches
48-Inch light fits aquarium frames between 47.0 Inches and 50.25 Inches
All three sizes were designed to provide the absolute maximum light output possible while avoiding any heating of the aquatic environment. The adjustable width aquarium frame mounts with extendable arms to safely support and position the fixture above any tank size.
The Aquatic Life LED Aquarium Light Fixture is similar in size to the freshwater version.
The LED array is designed to provide more blue light, imitating the type of light that naturally penetrates the coral reef.
The ultra-slim design coupled with state of the art LED technology ensures that maximum light output is focused inside the aquarium, while five colors of 120-degree dispersion, 0.5W Watt LED’s ensure a full-spectrum of light needed for your fish and plants.
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Easy to program timer and lighting effects
Programmable sunrise and sunset functions
An internal battery back-up that saves timer settings in case of power failure
A dense array of LEDs for even lighting in your aquarium
The adjustable width aquarium frame
If your main aquatic inhabitants are corals, you may need stronger lights
The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro Led Light is a favorite choice of LED lighting among planted aquarium enthusiasts because of its intensity, customization options, and unique features.
Packed with enough power to sustain even the most difficult plants, the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro will provide your fish with enjoyable swimming environment as they slowly make their way between colorful plants.
As for the PAR reading and lighting intensity, this LED light fixture tops the list of quality lighting options for your plant and fish tank. The Satellite Plus Pro should be able to sustain 99% of the popular plant varieties with its 6500K.
Where these lights really shine is the customization options. The controller allows you to adjust light intensity and play around with the colors. What’s more, this unit comes pre-programmed with several unique settings that simulate different natural light settings.
The Satellite Plus Pro LED fixture features a 24 hour on/off timer cycle. You will get full control over the start time and end time. This feature allows you to optimize the light periods for your fish, plants and for your tank viewing pleasure.
In addition, this fixture has moonlight settings, sunrise settings, and storm and cloud effect settings. These settings are pre-programmed as specific buttons on the remote.
The Satellite Plus Pro remote also has four pre-loaded color spectrums which are optimized for certain tanks. You can also design custom colors and save them in one of two memory slots available on the remote.
Another huge benefit of the Satellite Plus Pro is the ramping feature. The ramp timer starts out the day with a dim light (simulating sunrise), which gradually increases in intensity throughout the day. The ramping feature creates a much more natural environment which helps reduce stress in fish and plants.
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Things We Didn't Like
Great LED lighting option if you want a mixture of power and customization
Customizable and adjustable in almost every way
A perfect choice for enthusiasts who want to fine-tune light intensity and color
Great PAR outputs – capable of supporting most high-level plants species
Less stressful for fish and plants
The remote reception can be finicky if you’re further than a few feet away
The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED is a feature-rich planted aquarium light which allows fish and plant keepers to automate their entire lighting schedule.
Taking a unique approach to planted aquariums, this fixture provides a much more enjoyable user experience than other lights in this price range. The simulation of a complete, natural sunrise and sunset is completely hands-free and programmed into the controller.
The 24/7 feature requires no handling and is completely hands-off. This setting begins with a soft dawn which eventually progresses into a warm lit sunrise. After the sunrise, there comes the peak of the cycle which simulates the noon natural light.
The noon transforms into a soft red sunset, and eventually, you’ll get a night mode. This complete 24/7 feature allows the aquarium owners to experience a full day cycle with practically no upkeep.
In addition to the 24/7 feature, the Planted+ has programmed settings which replicate storms, cloudy days, and starry nights. All of these settings are available with a simple click of a button. While I do appreciate the starry nights, I don’t really see the point of exposing your aquarium dwellers to storms, tough.
The four memory slots are also accessible via the IR controlled remote. Using this feature, you can easily customize and save countless color combinations and lighting intensities if you don’t want to use the 24/7 feature.
In addition to the dimmable Red, Green and Blue LEDs, the fixture also incorporates 7,000k Daylight LEDs to allow planted aquariums to thrive. Equipped with a memory chip, the fixture remembers the last saved settings in order to make it compatible with standard timers.
The fixture interacts with the controller via a water-resistant IR sensor. The fixture's clear legs can slide inwards if you need to mount them onto shorter aquariums. The legs feature screws capable of mounting rimless aquariums, as well.
For those of you who have larger-rimmed aquariums, the legs also feature a removable inner portion to accommodate the greater width. You’ll be happy to know that this LED lighting is built out of quality constructed aluminum and features a water-resistant splash guard.
To sum up, the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 is a user-friendly light which is great for planted aquarium owners that like the finer features in a light. The price is also right so this is a no-brainer.
Things We Liked
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Fully hands off and user-friendly
The 24/7 feature is very enjoyable to use
It contains the features that simulate storms, cloudy days, and moonlight
Like all other Finnex lights, the Planted+ is bright compared to other brands
Sleek, slim profile will nicely complement any aquarium
The acrylic legs might be hard to position
Take a look how the best LED aquarium lighting improves your aquarium looks:
Carol is a head content developer for ultimatepethub.com and mother of 2 adorable chocolate labs(and one child). Growing up on a farm, she has handled all kinds of animals and pets. When Carol isn’t taking her two labs to the park, you can find her researching products and topics to keep you updated with the latest info for your pets!