Glow-tastic! Choosing the Best Lighting for Aquarium Plants

best lighting for aquarium plants

Do you want to turn your aquarium into a glowing wonderland? Most aquarium owners would shrug off the idea of buying aquarium grow lights because 1) they think the room’s natural light is enough for the fish and the plants in the aquarium and 2) they think any kind of light would be enough as long as they can see their fish and plants, like I initially did.

While that may be true for aquariums with artificial plants, the same cannot be said for aquariums with live plants. Live plants need appropriate lighting to thrive and any less than what is required may cause them to yellow and die, endangering the long term sustainability of the aquarium ecosystem.

We have spent hours researching (so you don’t have to) a list of high-quality and effective aquarium lights that are affordable and energy efficient. Get the most out of light from these LED aquarium lights that offer benefits beyond just illuminating the aesthetics of your aquascape!


Best Aquarium Lighting

It’s important to choose the right type of aquarium lighting to ensure your plant babies’ vibrancy and survival. The best lighting for aquarium plants provide the right spectrum of light for photosynthesis while keeping energy consumption low. 

Best Overall: Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Planted Aquarium Lighting
$224.99

For the perfect balance of price, features, and effectiveness, this LED light from Fluval ticks all the necessary checkboxes. The price tag might make one reconsider, but the features make it all the more reasonable.

What makes it unique is that it has a smartphone app which allows you to control the light intensity and the timer, or just go with the preset options altogether. With great reviews on the light’s effect on aquarium life, Fluval is highly recommended for most midsized tanks.


Reviews:

  • “This light is an excellent value for the money. It seemed pricey to me when I first saw it, it was recommended by a fish store employee... but I quickly realized I hadn't needed to buy half of the live plants that I started the tank out with. I've never experienced having such healthy and fast growing live plants! This plant light is the real deal. The timer feature is very convenient!”, Emma
  • “I had heard good things about this light and it has made a dramatic change in my tank. The light is 1/4 the size of my old light yet it does such an amazing job, all my plants are loving it.”, Jason


09/29/2023 12:38 am GMT
Best Value: Hygger 36W Lighting Aquarium LED Light
$58.99

Closely competing with the Fluval when it comes to features is this grow light from Hygger. With the same programming capabilities, sans the app, Hygger allows aquarium owners to control the time and the intensity of the lights, or to just rely on the presets available.

While a remote may sound convenient, some buyers find programming the lights in the remote a little tricky. This light has a slim design, making it discreetly blend in the aquarium it is attached to instead.


Reviews:

  • “Low profile...fits 24" wide tank perfect....247 setting is perfect”, Michael H.
  • “So far so good. Bought this a month ago for a 20G high. Been using it everyday with no problems. Control buttons are tricky to learn. But not hard. Plenty bright enough to grow plants. I am very happy, it actually works better than the (more expensive) Finnex I purchased.”, Amazon Customer


09/30/2023 04:29 am GMT
Best Budget: BeamsWork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light
$69.95

Budget-conscious aquarium owners who need an aquarium light for their plants and fish can give this LED light from BeamsWork a second look. It has the basics: a timer and you can adjust the intensity of the light depending on the needs of your plants.

It also is discreet and when assembled, blends in with your aquarium. However, in terms of customization, this model can be a little limited.


Reviews:

  • “Great lighting for the price. Way better than my older CFL’s and submersible LED’s with just this one unit. In my opinion, the default brightness is too bright. I had to take it down a step or two. The fixture itself is super slim and you can hardly tell that it’s on the tank. The timer works well but I still prefer a dedicated plug timer. The night time mode is nice. I’ve had much better results with my red root floaters using this light. Would recommend it. You can also connect additional lights to this light.”, Jason Balencia.



09/30/2023 05:21 am GMT
Best Tech: Finnex Planted+ HLC Aquarium LED Light
$60.16

Finnex is considered a household name when it comes to aquarium lights, with a lot of ways to custom program its lights depending on the plant needs inside the aquarium. With the handy remote, you can stick to the preset settings for lights or tweak your own duration and intensity. However, the feature-laden light can come a little pricey for some, and using the remote to create your own light settings does take time to learn.


Reviews:

  • “If you want a one stop shop light, this is the one. Have mine on a 15 gal rimless, previously installed on Fluval Spec V. Can grow anything you want and more! The directions are a little confusing, but I found several tutorials on YouTube. It is very much a set and forget light, and very easy to adjust and save different types of light cycles once you learn how. Definitely a high recommendation for anyone wanting to keep a planted aquarium.”, Cassandra
  • “For a regular 20 gallon, the 30 inch long light is perfect, plenty bright. I'm rating the light based on my previous one that died after 5 years of service, growth was good for plants and the 24/7 feature, albeit kinda confusing to set up at first, gives a great lighting and mood light for the aquarium. One of the plusses is that you don't startle fish when turning the lights on since it's a very slow cycle.”, JM


09/30/2023 06:50 am GMT
Best for Small Tanks: Aqueon Aquarium Clip-on LED
$34.81

Some aquarium lights are bulky and it can look too big, especially if you only have a small betta aquarium (these tend to be smaller than usual tanks). For tanks like these, the clip-on LED light from Aqueon works best.

Assembly is a no-brainer: clip it on the edge of the aquarium, turn it on, and you’re all set. As it is just a basic aquarium light, it has no timer, it is not adjustable, unlike its bigger counterparts.


Reviews:

“I would definitely recommend it. I tried several lights for my fish and by far this has been the most beneficial. Supplies light over the glass, turns on or off very easily.”, Diane Hinthorne

09/30/2023 08:39 am GMT
Best for Large Tanks: NICREW ClassicLED Gen 2 Aquarium Light
$59.99

If you have a large aquarium and want brighter and more efficient lighting, adding more lights to your tank can increase the level of luminosity by up to 50%. This is exactly what these lights from Nicrew provide. These lights can be customized based on your plants' needs, and its slim design allows them to blend in with the aquarium.

However, some reports mention that the lights dim on their own over time. As creating your settings can be pretty tricky, it is better suited for advanced aquarium parents. 


Reviews:

  • “Yet to program the light but have been using its daytime and nighttime features! Very nice!”, Amazon Customer
  • “Intuitive light setting programming works better than the "upgraded" model I bought afterwards for another tank by a different manufacturer. The sunrise and sunset timer is fantastic to keep my fish calm during the transition.”, Jammie Middleton


09/30/2023 09:21 am GMT
Best for Targeted Growth: Kessil 160WE Tuna Sun
$256.23

This pendulum light from Kessil has received great reviews in helping plants in aquariums thrive and grow. It does not have a timer, but the intensity and color of the light can be adjusted using the knobs at the back. This pendulum light can be used on taller tanks. The gooseneck it is attached to is sold separately, and the bulb itself is at the expensive end.


Reviews:

  • “I ordered 2 lights. One of the 2 lights lasted 1 day and took several days to replace. Other than that, the light quality is a 10 out of 10. Plants LOVE these lights. The shimmer is fire.”, Gerry
  • “Excellent light. My corals have all responded well to this light. The ripple effect is just outstandingly beautiful, and the light is American made (which is always a good thing). The only reason I did not give 5 stars is the fact you have to buy the gooseneck separately unless you have some other way of hanging it..”, Aaron


09/30/2023 11:42 am GMT
Honorable Mention: Current USA Orbit Marine LED Wireless & Wave Pump Control
$199.99

Current USA is a staple when it comes to aquarium lights. Its effectiveness in keeping the aquarium ecosystem thriving is common knowledge amongst tank owners. Its lights are customizable and can be programmed with a timer: the presets are splendid as well.

But what makes this unit stand out is that it has eye-popping color and mimics a 24-hour natural biorhythmic lighting cycle (sunrise, daylight, sunset, moonlight). It enhances the realistic experience of being in a reef environment by allowing an on-demand weather setting. With all of these features, these lights can be on the pricey list for aquarium lights.


Reviews:

  • "Was VERY impressed with this light! And you can hook up wave makers to it as well. Comes with the instructions and the parts needed to do that. Easy setup. Worth every penny!" Amazon customer
  • "Absolutely love this light! I have this on a 20 long reef as well as a the smaller model on a 10 reef. Both are doing very well and my corals are thriving. The remote has tons of options to adjust the lighting to your specific needs and desires. I leave mine on the main program day and night cycles with the sunrise and sunset features. Those latter features seem to really help the tank settle down at night and "wake up" in the morning. They are growing well and my hammer, in particular, is splitting again as I write this!" MetalFairyMama


09/30/2023 12:01 pm GMT

Buying Guide

Here are some considerations to factor when buying the ideal light for your aquarium:

  • Intensity: When purchasing an aquarium light to grow the plants in your tank, consider lights with adjustable intensity so as to address the different lighting needs of the plants in your aquarium.
  • Timers: Lights that have timers are also worth looking into: if left turned on all day, excessive light can also encourage the growth of algae in the tank, which can be fatal to the ecosystem of the tank in the long run.
  • Color temperature: Consider getting lights that have 5500-7000K, close to what the actual sun gives. This helps to ensure the health of the plants and other organisms in the tank.
  • Size of tank: Consider the size of your actual tank. Large, wide tanks would need more than one light. Tall deeper tanks might need a stronger light to reach the smaller plants at the bottom.
  • Installation: While how you install the lights depends on many factors, pendant or spotlight style lights are more versatile and common. Bar type lights work on wider tanks with limited ceiling. Clip on lights tend to be smaller, and can be used on smaller aquarium setups.

FAQ

Can I use fish tank LED light for plants?

  • Yes, you can. Different plants need different amounts of light, so make sure to select the right one for your nursery. LED lights are generally considered the best type of lighting for plants due to their energy efficiency and customizable luminosity levels.

Is yellow LED light good for aquarium plants?

  • Yes, yellow LED lights are suitable for aquarium plants as long as the light has enough intensity (measured in lumens). Generally, a higher lumen value is better for growing aquarium plants.  Plants use red and blue lights for photosynthesis.
  • Bear in mind that water weakens red light while blue light can travel deeper in water. Saltwater aquariums require a higher intensity of blue light, while freshwater aquariums require a higher intensity of yellow light.

What is the best aquarium light to prevent algae?

  • The best aquarium light to prevent algae growth is one with a timer. This way you can control the amount of time your light is on and keep it at an optimal level for coral and plant growth, while avoiding any excess that could lead to overgrowth of algae. Mimic sunlight by turning on the lights for 6-8 hours a day.
  • LED lights are more energy efficient and cooler than regular fluorescent bulbs, making them a better option.
  • Additionally, it is recommended to use a light with an adjustable intensity setting to cater to the varying needs of your plants.
  • To ensure proper lighting for your tank, be sure to select the appropriate size of light. Too little light may not reach the bottom, while too much can cause algae blooms.

What is the best led light for deep planted tank?

  • For deep planted tanks, a strong LED light is the best option. Look for one that has adjustable intensity and color temperature (5000K-7000K) to ensure it can reach all levels of your tank.
  • Timers are also important to avoid over-illuminating the tank and causing algae growth.

Wrap Up

When it comes to finding the best aquarium lighting for your tank, there are a plethora of options out there. Consider what kind of plants you’re trying to grow in your tank and how tall or deep your tank is before selecting the right light. Remember: having an LED light with adjustable intensity, timers, lumens, and fit for the size of your tank is key to having healthier plants in your aquarium. 

Now go ahead and create the most beautiful and luminescent underwater paradise you’ve ever seen.

Happy planting!