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Top 10 Best Refugium Lights Reviewed (2020 Buyer’s Guide)

Good filtration is important in a saltwater or reef tank, so using a refugium can have a wealth of benefits. This mini-ecosystem can help supplement filtration in your main tank through the use of macroalgae or store plants and coral. 

To do either of these purposes, a refugium requires a large amount of light. While it’s relatively easy to find an aquarium lamp for your main tank, it’s not as simple for a refugium as the lamp needs to be both small and powerful.

To help you find the best refugium light, I’ve reviewed a range of lamps that are perfect for plant, coral, and algae growth.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Review Summary

Best All-Rounder

Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater Freshwater Fish Tank Lamp

It features 6500K daylight bulbs that are energy efficient, bright, and vibrant. This is more than enough to encourage the growth of plants and algae.

Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater Freshwater Fish Tank Lamp

Out of all the lights I’ve looked at, this one is my overall recommendation for a refugium.

The Lomnie refugium light features 6500K daylight bulbs, making it ideal for growing plants and algae. It comes with a manual dimmer switch that allows you to adjust the brightness of the lamp, as well as a flexible gooseneck to make positioning it easy.

Best on a Budget

MingDak LED Aquarium Lamp

If you’re looking for an affordable refugium LED light, this one from MingDak is your best bet. It sports 12 blue light bulbs and 36 white LED bulbs, which are colorful and energy efficient.

MingDak LED Aquarium Lamp

This refugium light is a great option if you’re on a budget as it’s affordable.

MingDak’s light is a solid pick if you need an inexpensive lamp for your refugium. It has energy efficient white and blue bulbs, as well as two lighting settings: daylight and moonlight. It also has a flexible mount that allows you to adjust it into many different positions.

Editor’s Choice

Kessil H80 Tuna Flora Refugium Light

The light sports 4 different spectrums: blue, bloom, grow, and red. This is efficient for plants, coral, and algae. You can adjust the color and intensity of the light using a handy knob.

Kessil H80 Tuna Flora Refugium Light

My personal favorite refugium light. It’s a little pricey than the other lights but is extremely high quality.

The Kessil LED refugium light is an excellent choice as it has four different spectrums: grow, bloom, red, and blue. This is perfect for plants, coral, and macroalgae. The design of the unit is also compact, too.

What Is a Refugium?

A refugium is a little tank that hangs onto or sits near your main saltwater or reef tank. It continuously cycles water into and out of your main aquarium to add extra filtration.

Refugiums are essentially miniature ecosystems…

Refugiums are essentially miniature ecosystems that use water from your main aquarium to cycle it from and back into your tank. They replicate a natural reef habitat and typically contain macroalgae, live rock, and a deep layer of mud or sand.

NOTE

Although refugiums are more commonly used for a saltwater or reef tank, they can be used for a freshwater aquarium, particularly for growing brine or Mysis shrimp to be fed to your fish.

Planted Aquarium
Planted Aquarium

What Is the Purpose of a Refugium?

Refugiums have a lot of different purposes, but they’re normally used for filtration or to grow algae. However, they can also be used to house coral and plants. While they’re typically not used to store fish, they can be used for breeding.

Refugiums have a lot of different purposes, but they’re normally used for filtration or to grow algae…

As refugiums are connected to your main aquarium, they cannot be used as hospital or quarantine aquariums. On the other hand, if you have an injured or overly territorial fish, a refugium can be a good area to house them temporarily.

Despite their other uses, refugiums are generally used for extra filtration, so you need to make sure the tank is packed with macroalgae. To encourage growth of this algae, you’ll need a powerful lighting system.

TIP

Even if you plan to use a refugium for storing plants or coral, a good-quality lamp is vital for growth.

Does a Refugium Need Light?

As I mentioned earlier, no matter what you plan to use a refugium for, you’ll require a powerful lighting system. Light helps plants, coral, and macroalgae grow and thrive.

Multicolored Light
Multicolored Light

What Kind of Light Do I Need for a Refugium?

If you’re planning on using a refugium to grow macroalgae such as Chaetomorpha, you’ll need to use a lamp that has the correct spectrum wavelengths. In this case, Kelvin rating isn’t particularly important as it’s merely the reading of light in the yellow-ish spectrum.

An LED (Light Emitting Diode) grow light specifically for macroalgae should contain mostly red diodies to encourage growth, and a few blue ones to support vegetable density.

However, if you want to use a refugium to house coral in, then lights that contain violet and blue spectrums are ideal. Both of these colors are thought to be the best for improving the growth and color of coral.

How Much Light Does a Refugium Need?

The amount of light a refugium needs ultimately depends on what you plan to use the tank for. Whether you’re using a refugium to store plants/coral or to aid with filtration for your main tank, you’ll require a good light. 

As macroalgae is used to help with filtration in your main aquarium, there needs to be plenty of it. This can only be achieved with a bright and powerful light, so choosing the right lamp is important. 

Types of Aquarium Refugium Lights

While LED lighting is typically used in refugiums, there are a couple of other types of lights you can use. Let’s take a quick look at some of the types of lights you can install in a refugium.

Light Emitting Diode Lighting

Light emitting diode lamps are one of the most popular options for a refugium. They are capable of producing a penetrating light that has a consistent color spectrum for the duration of their lifespan. Compared to fluorescent lights, LED lamps are longer lasting and don’t need to be replaced as frequently.

This type of lamp is compact and can be used for any type of tank…

This type of lamp is compact and can be used for any type of tank. They are available in a variety of designs, such as slimline strips, clip-on units, and even spotlights. They also come in a range of different color spectrums.

Another benefit of LED lamps is that they create minimal heat, so there’s no risk of them drastically increasing the temperature of your tank. 

Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lamps normally come in long T8 or 75 tubes, but they are also available in compact bulbs. The latter is best suited to a refugium as it’s smaller.

Using a reflector is common with fluorescent lamps as it spreads more light into your tank. This type of lighting comes in a lot of different wavelengths, including red/warm, blue (marine), and daylight simulation bulbs.

T5 bulbs are typically better as they are more compact and have a longer lifespan. They also have a higher intensity.

However, fluorescent lamps create heat, so aquarists usually use a chiller with one to get their tank at a stable temperature. The bulbs don’t deliver a consistent color spectrum in the long run, so they normally need replacing frequently.

Metal Halide Lighting

This type of lighting is extremely powerful and mimics natural sunlight, which is why they work well in a reef tank or freshwater planted setup. The bulbs contain a combination of metal halides (compounds of metals with iodine or bromine) and mercury vapor. 

For the most part, metal halide lights have low operating costs and a relatively long lifespan. Unfortunately, this type of light produces a fair amount of heat and is quite expensive.

Refugium Tank
Refugium Tank

How Long Should You Leave Refugium Lights on For?

How long you leave your refugium lights on is open to interpretation, so it’s mostly down to personal preference and what you feel is right for your aquarium. That said, a lot of aquarists leave their lights on for 24 hours daily or use a reverse light cycle.

The former lets algae grow continuously to boost the effectiveness of the refugium as a filter. The latter means that when it’s nighttime in your main tank, it’s daytime in your refugium and vice versa. This allows the refugium to continue functioning while the main tank is resting.

Some fishkeepers think that using a reverse lighting cycle is the best option for growing plants and coral as a day/night cycle is more natural.

TIP

However, if you only want to use a refugium for filtration, then keeping the lights on for 24 hours might be a better choice.

Best Refugium Lights Reviews

Best All-Rounder

Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater Freshwater Fish Tank Lamp

It features 6500K daylight bulbs that are energy efficient, bright, and vibrant. This is more than enough to encourage the growth of plants and algae.

Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater Freshwater Fish Tank Lamp

It features 6500K daylight bulbs that are energy efficient, bright, and vibrant…

Lominie’s aquarium lamp is one of the best LED lights, particularly for a refugium. It features 6500K daylight bulbs that are energy efficient, bright, and vibrant. This is more than enough to encourage the growth of plants and algae.

The LED refugium light comes with a manual dimmer switch that allows you to adjust the light from 0% to 100%. It also has an adjustable rustproof gooseneck that’s extremely flexible, alongside an aluminium heat sink that helps cool the unit down and increase the lifespan of the bulbs.

Easy to Install

The lamp is easy to install as it includes a clamp that you can simply attach to your refugium. You can then secure the light in place using the plastic screws, saving you both time and energy. These plastic screws won’t scratch your aquarium, which is a bonus!

One of my favorite aspects of this refugium LED light is its sleek and small design, which is great for mini tanks.

However, the switch for the grow light can be a little temperamental. In addition to this, the knob on the remote can fall off.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 1.7” x 2.7”
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Kelvin Rating: 6500 K
  • Wattage: 12-16 W (depending on voltage)

Pros

  • Flexible and adjustable neck
  • Secure
  • Easy to install
  • Very bright

Cons

  • Switch can be a little temperamental
  • Knob on switch can fall off

Best on a Budget

MingDak LED Aquarium Lamp

If you’re looking for an affordable refugium LED light, this one from MingDak is your best bet. It sports 12 blue light bulbs and 36 white LED bulbs, which are colorful and energy efficient.

MingDak LED Aquarium Lamp

It sports 12 blue light bulbs and 36 white LED bulbs, which are colorful and energy-efficient…

If you’re looking for an affordable refugium LED light, this one from MingDak is your best bet. It sports 12 blue light bulbs and 36 white LED bulbs, which are colorful and energy-efficient. The lights produce a lovely shimmer effect that looks stunning.

The gooseneck on the lamp can be adjusted to multiple angles, which makes it easy to position. It’s also simple to set up due to its clamp that can be easily affixed to your reef tank refugium.

Lighting Modes

You get two lighting modes with the light: daylight and moonlight. I really like the appearance of this LED refugium light as it looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. 

Unfortunately, this light can suffer from one or two problems. Firstly, the bulbs can be a little dim, so it might not be the best option for growing corals or plants that require a lot of light. Secondly, the light can start flickering or stop working from time to time.

However, for the price, I think the MIngDak LED refugium light is definitely worth considering.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6” x 6” x 9”
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Wattage: 3 W

Pros

  • Flexible mount
  • Energy efficient
  • Vibrant
  • Includes evening and daylight light settings

Cons

  • Bulbs can be a little dim
  • Can start flickering or stop working

Editor’s Choice

Kessil H80 Tuna Flora Refugium Light

The light sports 4 different spectrums: blue, bloom, grow, and red. This is efficient for plants, coral, and algae. You can adjust the color and intensity of the light using a handy knob.

Kessil H80 Tuna Flora Refugium Light

Kessil’s LED refugium light is my personal favorite due to its sheer power and quality. The unit is a little pricier than some of the other refugium LED lights I’ve reviewed, but for good reason.

efficient for plants, coral, and algae…

The light sports 4 different spectrums: blue, bloom, grow, and red. This is efficient for plants, coral, and algae. You can adjust the color and intensity of the light using a handy knob. Kessil’s Light Emitting Diode light is compact in size so it’s perfect for a refugium. It’s also compatible with a gooseneck fixture and a Kessil Spectral Controller.

The LED refugium light works well for algae growth, while also being eye-catching and vibrant, which is a plus!

My main gripe with the Kessil LED refugium light is the durability of its bulbs, which can stop working prematurely. The bloom, grow, and red bulbs seem to be the most affected by this issue.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 0.98” x 4.88”
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Kelvin Rating: Unknown
  • Wattage: 15 W

Pros

  • Very powerful
  • Compact design
  • Bright bulbs
  • Bright bulbs

Cons

  • Bulbs can stop working after a short period of use

Innovative Marine Chaeto Max Refugium Light

Innovative Marine LED refugium light is easy to set up and uses 45 LED bulbs of varying colors. All of these colors are fantastic for coral and algae growth.

Innovative Marine Chaeto Max Refugium Light

Next up is the Innovative Marine LED refugium light, which uses 45 LED bulbs of varying colors. These include blue, violet, magenta, and red. 

uses 45 LED bulbs of varying colors. These include blue, violet, magenta, and red…

All of these colors are fantastic for coral and algae growth. Innovative Marine LED refugium lights are easy to set up and have a small footprint, so they’re great for small tanks. You can mount them either vertically or horizontally, too. 

Light Placement and Positioning

As the light comes with different mounting options, it lets you quickly adjust its position and angle to allow for more light spread. However, the light can be a little difficult to attach to AIO tanks, so it’s best suited to a refugium in sump.

In addition to this, the refugium unit is not waterproof so it’s crucial that you don’t get it wet. The unit can also be a little flimsy.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6.75” x 1.85” x 0.37”
  • Weight: 9.6 oz
  • Wattage: 9 W

Pros

  • Small footprint
  • Features magenta, violet, red, and blue lights
  • Multiple mounting options

Cons

  • Can be a little flimsy
  • Not waterproof

JBJ Nano Glo LED Refugium Light for Aquarium

One of the best LED lights to use in a refugium for a reef tank. The light has a compact and versatile design that makes it suitable for many small tanks

JBJ Nano Glo LED Refugium Light for Aquarium

Another solid pick is the JBJ Nano Glo refugium light. It boasts four powerful and bright Light Emitting Diode bulbs that help remove unwanted phosphates and nitrates, as well as distribute light to boost the growth of macroalgae.

has a compact and versatile design that makes it suitable for many small tanks.

This makes it one of the best LED lights to use in a refugium for a reef tank. The light has a compact and versatile design that makes it suitable for many small tanks. It’s also energy efficient as it only consumes 1 watt per bulb.

Easy To Install

The light comes with four suction cups to make it relatively easy to install. However, these suction cups can be a little flimsy.

Durability

One of my favorite features of the JBJ Nano Glow refugium light is its longevity. The bulbs can last up to 40,000 hours, while also producing minimal heat.

There are one or two possible drawbacks of this LED refugium light. Firstly, the light can burn out fairly quickly if you use it for long periods of time. Secondly, the intensity of the bulbs can be a bit low.

Specs

  • Ideal for a reef tank
  • Helps remove phosphates and nitrates
  • Bulbs can last up to 40,000 hours
  • Energy efficient

Pros

  • Ideal for a reef tank
  • Helps remove phosphates and nitrates
  • Bulbs can last up to 40,000 hours
  • Energy efficient

Cons

  • Suction cups can be a bit flimsy
  • Can have durability issues
  • Light output can be a little low

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights

It has fairly high light output that is ideal for plant and algae growth by aiding with photosynthesis.

Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Plus Moonlights

Featuring red, blue, and daylight light emitting diode bulbs, the Finnex RugeRay Planted+ lamp is a decent refugium light. As its name suggests, it’s one of the best LED lights for a planted tank. 

has fairly high light output that is ideal for plant and algae growth by aiding with photosynthesis…

It has fairly high light output that is ideal for plant and algae growth by aiding with photosynthesis. The fixture is built with aluminium circuit boards to increase the longevity of the bulbs, while the unit itself is designed to create minimal heat.

Moisture Resistant

This LED refugium light has a moisture-resistant splash guard to help protect it against water, which is handy. I really like the appearance of the lamp as it’s compact and sleek.

Easy To Install

Installing the lamp is easy as it simply clips onto your tank. It sports a flexible gooseneck that allows you to position it in many angles to make sure your refugium gets the correct amount of light.

One of the main downsides of this lamp is its output, which can be a little dim. This might make it unsuitable for plants that require a lot of light. Additionally, the unit can be prone to durability issues and a short lifespan.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 10” x 2.5” x 9.5”
  • Weight: 13.6 oz
  • Wattage: 5 W

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Doesn’t emit a lot of heat
  • Includes a splash guard

Cons

  • Can lack brightness
  • Can have durability problems

NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

The NICREW Classic light energy efficient, bright, and can be set to a couple of lighting modes: daylight and moonlight.

NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

The NICREW Classic light is a good fit for refugiums used for growing plants or coral as it sports white and blue light emitting diode bulbs. The lamp is energy efficient, bright, and can be set to a couple of lighting modes: daylight and moonlight.

The lamp is energy efficient, bright, and can be set to a couple of lighting modes: daylight and moonlight…

It features adjustable metal brackets so it can fit a refugium from 12 inches to 18 inches in length. This makes it secure and a breeze to set up. For small tanks that have a glass panel or canopy I think this light is the best LED lamp.

Unfortunately, the mounting brackets included with the unit can be a bit flimsy. Additionally, the durability of the bulbs can be a bit poor and affect their longevity.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 11” x 4” x 1.4”
  • Weight: 12 oz
  • Wattage: 6 W

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • Bright
  • Comes with adjustable mounting brackets

Cons

  • Mounting brackets can be a little flimsy
  • Can have a short lifespan

Wave-Point Micro Sun Daylight LED Refugium Light

equipped with daylight and blue light emitting diode bulbs, so it’s particularly good for growing plants and coral. The bulbs are low voltage, which makes them energy efficient.

Wave-Point Micro Sun Daylight LED Refugium Light

This refugium light from Wave-point is equipped with daylight and blue light emitting diode bulbs, so it’s particularly good for growing plants and coral. The bulbs are low voltage, which makes them energy efficient.

equipped with daylight and blue light emitting diode bulbs, so it’s particularly good for growing plants and coral…

The adjustable mounting arm included with the lamp is made from plastic, so it’s easy to install and secure to a variety of small tanks. The lamp can be used as a primary light source or to supplement existing lighting. It’s water resistant, too!

My main gripe with this refugium light is the quality of its mounting arm, which can have a tendency to crack and break. It also doesn’t feature an on/off switch so you can only turn the unit off by unplugging it.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6” x 6” 9”
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Kelvin Rating: 6500 K
  • Wattage: 8 W

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • Adjustable mounting arm
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Mounting arm can be a bit flimsy
  • Doesn’t come with an on/off switch

NICREW Fish Tank Clip On LED Light

Offers bright and vibrant lighting without high operation costs due to it being energy efficient. It has an adjustable mounting arm that lets you angle the unit into various positions.

NICREW Fish Tank Clip On LED Light

This refugium light from NICREW offers bright and vibrant lighting without high operation costs due to it being energy efficient. It has an adjustable mounting arm that lets you angle the unit into various positions.

offers bright and vibrant lighting without high operation costs..

The lamp features 3 blue and 15 white bulbs, so it’s especially beneficial for plants.

Build

The design of the device is compact and stylish, so it would look great on any refugium. It’s very simple to set up and can be secured in place using the provided clamp and screws. 

You get a durable on/off rocker switch with the device, which allows you to conveniently switch the light on and off without needing to unplug it.

However, while the light is easy to attach to your refugium using the provided clamp, it can be a bit difficult to remove as the screws are very stiff. Additionally, the neck on the device can be a bit flimsy, which can make adjusting it a little hard.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6” x 6” x 9”
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Wattage: 7 W

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • Bright
  • Compact design
  • Includes on/off switch

Cons

  • Provided screws can be a bit stiff
  • Adjustable neck can be a little flimsy

NICREW Submersible LED Aquarium Light

The lamp has 9 white and 3 blue bulbs which are energy efficient and bright. The unit is a breeze to install as all you have to do is place it inside your tank and attach it using the provided suction cups.

NICREW Submersible LED Aquarium Light

help enhance or show off plants and coral…

An interesting aspect of this lamp is that it is designed to go inside your small tank. While it’s likely not powerful enough to be used as a primary light source, it does help enhance or show off plants and coral. For this reason, I’d recommend using this unit purely for decorative purposes.

Energy Efficient

The lamp has 9 white and 3 blue bulbs which are energy efficient and bright. The unit is a breeze to install as all you have to do is place it inside your tank and attach it using the provided suction cups.

The device is made from thick quartz glass and has a protective rubber cap to help prevent damage to its interior. A handy on/off switch included on the power cord is another helpful feature.

One of the main drawbacks of this unit is that it can suffer from durability issues, such as a short lifespan.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 8” in length
  • Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Wattage: 3 W

Pros

  • Bright
  • Energy efficient
  • Includes on/off switch

Cons

  • Not recommended as a primary light source
  • Can have durability issues

Conclusion

Let’s take a quick look at all our top picks…

Best All-Rounder

After looking at a wide range of lamps, I think the best refugium light is the Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater Freshwater Fish Tank Light. It has 6500K daylight bulbs that are bright and energy efficient.

I really like the manual dimmer switch which comes with the device giving you full control over the brightness levels. The lamp is easy to install, has an attractive design, and can be adjusted into many positions or angles, which is handy.

However, the switch can be a little temperamental and the dial attached to it can fall off.

If Lominie’s lamp doesn’t seem like the right match for you, then either the MingDak Aquarium Light or Kessil H80 Tuna Flora LED Refugium Light are worth considering.

Best on a Budget

The former is very affordable, so it’s an excellent option if you’re on a budget. It provides colorful and vibrant lighting thanks to its 12 blue and 36 white bulbs.

The gooseneck on the unit can be adjusted into various angles, while the included clamp makes it easy to set up. Unfortunately, the lamp can be a bit dim and the bulbs are prone to flickering.

Editor’s Choice

Kessil’s H80 Tuna Flora lamp is my personal favorite lighting system for a refugium as it’s powerful and high quality. It has 4 spectrums: blue, bloom, grow, and red. This makes it perfect for growing plants, macroalgae, and corals.

You can adjust the intensity of the lamp using the provided knob, too. However, the bulbs can stop working prematurely, so they might need to be replaced frequently.

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