Multi-Color LED Light

Top 4 Best LED Lights For a Planted Tank in 2020 (Complete Review)

Tanks with live plants require a little more maintenance than those with artificial ones. Like fish, plants require enough nutrients and food to thrive. To do this, plants need a good light source to photosynthesize.

If you don’t use an appropriate light in your planted aquarium, then the health and appearance of your plants will suffer. This can result in brown, droopy leaves, and a decline in growth. Obviously, you want your aquarium to look its best, so a good-quality fish tank light is necessary for achieving this.

Finding the best LED light for a planted aquarium can be confusing, as some units are not powerful enough for live plants. To make your search simple and stress-free, I’ve reviewed a variety of LED lights that are ideal for planted aquariums. 

Review Summary

Best All-Rounder

Finnex Planted 24 Inch 24/7 LED Unit

The fixture features four colors of LEDs, including daylight, red, green, and blue LEDs. You get a few different settings with the unit, such as a 24/7 setting that allows you to save custom light colors and intensities.

Finnex Planted 24 Inch 24/7 LED Unit

Out of all the LED lights for planted aquariums that I’ve reviewed, this one is my overall recommendation for most planted tanks.

This aquarium LED fixture has a Kelvin rating of 9000K and is 19 watts, so it’s suitable for low light plants and those that require moderate lighting. The light comes with a few different lighting settings, including a 24/7 mode. This mode lets you choose custom light colors and intensities, which is one the unit’s best features.

Best on a Budget

NICREW SkyLED Aquarium Unit For Planted Tanks

If you’re looking for a decent light that’s low in price for your planted tank, then this one from NICREW is a good choice. It comes in a few different sizes, with the 12-inch to 18-inch variety being 12 watts. This makes it adequate for a nano tank.

NICREW SkyLED Aquarium Unit For Planted Tanks

This LED lighting system is a great option for hobbyists on a budget due to its affordability.

The NICREW 12-watt aquarium light is perfect for nano aquariums with low light plants. It’s very inexpensive, but works relatively well. It features two lighting settings, including a mode that gives your tank a shimmery night-time effect, which is a nice touch.

Editor’s Choice

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

The light features six band waves for full light spectrum results. It also has programmable 24-hour light cycle modes that mimic sunrise, midday, sunset, and night light.

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

My personal favorite LED lighting system. It’s a little pricey but comes with a lot of features.

Fluval’s unit is extremely high quality and has a Kelvin rating of 6500K. It’s 46 watts and suitable for tanks over 20 gallons. The device is very durable and comes with an impressive range of lighting settings, including ones for specific habitats. 

 It’s 46 watts and has a Kelvin rating of 6500K, so it’s suitable for a planted aquarium over 20 gallons.

How to Choose the Best LED Light For Plants

There are a lot of different factors to keep in mind when choosing the best LED lights for planted aquariums. This might seem like a lot to take in initially, but it’s important information to understand to ensure the success of your planted tank. 

Sizing And Wattage

As with all aquarium equipment, it’s necessary to consider the size of your tank when choosing the right LED light. The number of gallons your tank can hold is vital for calculating the amount of light needed in your tank. For large tanks, an LED light with a higher wattage is vital.

How to Choose the Right Wattage

In general, between 2 and 5 watts is needed for each gallon of water. In reef tanks, 4 to 8 watts per gallon is adequate. For example, if you own a 20-gallon planted tank, then you’ll need an LED light with around 40 to 100 watts.

the length and depth of your tank is important when choosing an LED fixture…

In addition to this, the length and depth of your tank is important when choosing an LED fixture. You don’t want to use a light that is too long or too small for your aquarium. The latter is especially crucial as your aquarium won’t receive enough light spread.

Bright Blue Led Light Close Up
Bright Blue Led Light Close Up

Adjust Wattage According to Your Aquarium

Some lights might not be effective at penetrating deep volumes of water. For most standard tanks, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you own a tall aquarium that’s heavily planted, then you’ll need a more powerful aquarium light. 

If this is the case, then a LED light might not be sufficient. Metal halide or T5 lights are normally a better option for very deep planted aquariums.

Lumens and PAR

Lumens is a better method than wattage for calculating the power of an aquarium light. The majority of plants need a minimum of 10 lumens per liter. Some low light plants can survive with even less than this.

Plants that require a moderate amount of light typically need 20 to 40 lumens per liter, while species that need a lot of light require 40 lumens per liter or above.

PAR (photosynthetic active radiation) is another way of measuring light. The PAR meter is used to calculate the amount of light in the tank for plants to synthesize food. However, PAR doesn’t measure the spectrum of light and the meters can be very expensive. Lumens is a better option for figuring out the power of your aquarium light.

Choose the Right Brand

Using a good-quality planted tank light is vital for making sure your plants thrive. Reputable brands are much less likely to break or malfunction. If your aquarium light breaks, then even a day without any light can be detrimental to your live plants.

Using a good-quality planted tank light is vital for making sure your plants thrive…

Durable lights will save you money in the long-run, even if the unit is a little more expensive than some other low-quality brands. Constantly replacing inexpensive light systems can get pricey, so consider investing in a high-quality fixture.

Why You Need a Timer

Although a timer on your LED lighting fixture seems a little unnecessary, I greatly advise choosing a unit that includes one. A timer provides your aquarium with consistent lighting every day without any manual intervention. 

The times at which your aquarium light is lit are crucial for keeping your plants healthy. While you might think you can simply turn your lighting system on and off manually, the time you do this is likely to be different each day. This can severely affect the growth of your plants.

Timer on White Background
Timer a on White Background

Advantage of Timers

A timer removes this risk as your aquarium lights will be on and off at the same time each day. Additionally, you don’t need to worry about forgetting to switch on/off your lights as your timer will do this for you.

Some aquarium lights come with built-in timers, which is a good feature to look out for when choosing a unit for your tank. However, if your chosen aquarium light does not include a timer, then it’s a good idea to purchase one separately. 

The Ease of Installation 

Compared to metal halide lights and T5 fixtures, LED aquarium lights are incredibly easy to install. Unlike the other types of aquarium light, you don’t need to constantly adjust or mess around with LED lights to get the right setting. 

Essentially, all you need to do to set up an LED light is plug it in and let it get to work. Some LED lights come with different settings, such as day or night modes. 

Durability

Picking an aquarium LED light that’s durable is important as you don’t want it to break at the worst moment. Make sure the unit you use in your tank has sturdy mounting brackets, long lasting bulbs, and isn’t made from poor-quality material.

Low-quality mounting brackets, in particular, can be dangerous. If the bracket snaps or isn’t sturdy, then the light could fall into your tank water. Obviously, this can be extremely dangerous and can be prevented by using durable brackets.

Light Spectrum
Light Spectrum

The Light Spectrum and Kelvin Rating

The light spectrum refers to the color of the light produced. It’s measured in Kelvin (K). You don’t really need to worry about the light spectrum as it doesn’t affect plants too much.

While plants can grow better with lights with specific Kelvin ratings, most do fine from 2700k (warm colors) to 10000k (white bulbs with a higher number of blue light). Although, actinic or coral lights aren’t the best choice for planted tanks.

Plants primarily respond to red and blues lights, but the color of the LED aquarium light you choose is mostly down to personal preference. Most aquarists use a light around 6700K as it’s the same Kelvin rating as natural sunlight. Make sure you avoid coral blue lights and lights that are over 10000K. 

LED Lights For Planted Tank Reviews

After finding out all the information you need to know about LED lights, you might be wondering what are the best aquarium LED lights to use in your planted tank. The units listed below are excellent options for most standard planted aquariums.

Best All-Rounder

Finnex Planted 24 Inch 24/7 LED Unit

The fixture features four colors of LEDs, including daylight, red, green, and blue LEDs. You get a few different settings with the unit, such as a 24/7 setting that allows you to save custom light colors and intensities.

Finnex Planted 24 Inch 24/7 LED Unit

With a Kelvin rating of 8000K and a wattage of 19 W, the Finnex Planted LED light claims to be adequate for 20 and 29-gallon tanks. It should provide your aquarium plants with more than enough light. For the standard planted aquarium, this lighting system is my overall recommendation.

The fixture features four colors of LEDs, including daylight, red, green, and blue LEDs. You get a few different settings with the unit, such as a 24/7 setting that allows you to save custom light colors and intensities. The modes can be accessed via a remote, which is a nice addition. 

The Finnex LED device comes with a thin and sleek aluminum hood that looks attractive and is corrosion resistant…

The Finnex LED device comes with a thin and sleek aluminum hood that looks attractive and is corrosion resistant. The high surface area also effectively dissipates heat to make sure your tank and the unit keeps cool. I really like the mounting legs on this aquarium LED fixture as they’re sturdy, so there’s no risk of them breaking.

The Finnex Planted LED Light works best for aquarium plants that require low light or moderate light. While the features for the unit are impressive, it is not powerful enough for more light-hungry aquarium plants.

Occasionally, the unit can stop working and the memory for storing custom light settings can also malfunction.

Specs

Pros

  • Includes a 24/7 mode for full customization
  • Sturdy mounting legs
  • Sleek and thin design
  • Corrosion resistant aluminum hood

Cons

  • Memory storage for 24/7 mode can malfunction
  • Can occasionally break

Best on a Budget

NICREW SkyLED Aquarium Light For Planted Tanks

If you’re looking for a decent light that’s low in price for your planted tank, then this one from NICREW is a good choice. It comes in a few different sizes, with the 12-inch to 18-inch variety being 12 watts. This makes it adequate for a nano tank.

NICREW SkyLED Aquarium Light For Planted Tanks

If you’re looking for a decent light that’s low in price for your planted tank, then this one from NICREW is a good choice. It comes in a few different sizes, with the 12-inch to 18-inch variety being 12 watts. This makes it adequate for a nano tank.

With the unit, you get adjustable mounting legs and a mixture of red, green, and blue LEDs with a Kelvin rating of 6500K. While the device might not be sufficient for plants that require lots of lighting, it’s ideal for low light species to ensure plant growth.

Lighting Modes

The fixture comes with two lighting modes. The first allows you to have all white lights on, and the second lets you have all blue lights. The later is designed to provide your tank with a lovely night-time effect. 

For the price, I think this aquarium light works pretty well. However, the unit does not come with a switch to turn it on or off. In addition to this, the NICREW aquarium light can break or start blinking fairly quickly. 

Specs

  • Dimensions: 12” to 18” in length
  • Weight: 14.4 oz (with packaging)
  • Wattage: 12 W
  • Kelvin Rating: 6500K

Pros

  • Works well for the price
  • Includes a night-time mode
  • Ideal for nano aquariums

Cons

  • Prone to breaking
  • No on/off switch

Editor’s Choice

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

The light features six band waves for full light spectrum results. It also has programmable 24-hour light cycle modes that mimic sunrise, midday, sunset, and night light.

Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

Although a bit pricey compared to the other LED aquarium lights, the Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED is a worthwhile investment. It’s 46 watts and has a Kelvin rating of 6500K, so it’s suitable for a planted aquarium over 20 gallons.

The light features six band waves for full light spectrum results. It also has programmable 24-hour light cycle modes that mimic sunrise, midday, sunset, and night light. This creates a completely natural habitat for your plants and your fish. The LED bulbs offer high light output and spectral quality, but use much less power than previous Fluval Planted Spectrum Light series.

The light features six band waves for full light spectrum results. It also has programmable 24-hour light cycle modes that mimic sunrise, midday, sunset, and night light…

All of the bulbs are housed in an aluminium shell that helps prevent water or humidity getting into the fixture. This light is compatible with the free FluvalSMart app, which provides a large range of customizable options via Bluetooth on your smartphone. 

My favorite feature of the Fluval light is the pre-set habitat light configurations, such as Tropical, Lake Malawi, and Planted. I think this is a really impressive aspect of the light and very helpful if you don’t want to mess around customizing your own light cycle.

One minor drawback of this planted aquarium light from Fluval is that the custom light settings are lost during a power outage. If power to the fixture is interrupted, then you’ll need to input your custom light settings into the app again.

Specs

Pros

  • Excellent quality
  • Durable and bright bulbs
  • Lots of custom light settings
  • Compatible with the FluvalSmart app for easy access

Cons

  • Custom light settings are lost if power to the unit is interrupted

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Planted 24 Inch Light For Aquarium

The unit features 6500K white LEDs and 445Nm blue LEDs, so it should provide your plants with enough light. It comes with a few different modes, including evening, dusk, and storm settings.

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Planted 24 Inch Light For Aquarium

The Current USA Satellite LED light is a fantastic option for your planted aquarium. It’s available in a few sizes to fit tanks of different lengths and capacities. The LED light planted 24 to 36 inch variety is 10 watts, so it’s adequate for nano aquariums. 

The unit features 6500K white LEDs and 445Nm blue LEDs, so it should provide your plants with enough light. It comes with a few different modes, including evening, dusk, and storm settings. This allows you to customize your lighting to add a bit of excitement to your tank. 

Easy to Use

All of these settings can be accessed by a handy remote, so you don’t need to mess around with the fixture to activate your desired mode.

The Current USA Satellite LED light is very easy to install and comes with two sliding docking legs that can be adjusted. 

Unfortunately, the LED bulbs on this Current USA Satellite aquarium light are not overly bright, which might affect plant growth on some species. Additionally, the unit can be prone to breaking after around one year of use. 

Specs

Pros

  • Includes two adjustable mounting brackets
  • Comes with lots of different lighting modes
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Bulbs are a little dim
  • Can break quite quickly

Best All-Rounder

After taking a close look at a variety of lights for a planted aquarium, I think the best LED unit is the Finnex Planted 24 Inch 24/7 LED Light. It’s 19 watts and has a Kelvin rating of 9000K, so it should be suitable for plants with low to moderate light needs. 

I really like the lighting modes that the device comes with, which includes a 24/7 mode that allows you to choose custom light colors and intensities. The mounting legs that come with the fixture are sturdy, which is also a great feature.

Unfortunately, the memory storage for the custom light options can malfunction. In addition to this, the unit itself can occasionally break prematurely. 

If you don’t think Finnex’s lights are the right match for your planted aquarium, then either NICREW SkyLED Aquarium Unit For Planted Tanks or Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0 are great options. The former is ideal for hobbyists on a budget, while the latter is a good long-term investment.

Best on a Budget

NICREW’s light is perfect for a nano tank, but it’s not powerful enough for large tanks or plants that require lots of light. It comes with two lighting settings, including a night-time mode, which is a nice addition. However, the fixture is prone to breaking quickly and doesn’t come with an on/off switch.

Editor’s Choice

Fluval’s planted aquarium light, on the other hand, is excellent quality. The fixture is durable and includes powerful and bright LED bulbs. You get a wide range of lighting settings, including custom options and pre-set modes, all of which can be accessed on the free FluvalSMart app.

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