Best LED Lighting for Reef Tanks

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Has the beauty of reef tanks finally got to you? Are you ready to take the plunge and start your very own reef aquarium? If so, congratulations! Reef tanks are beautiful and very rewarding. Although, they also take a lot of work and patience – as well as suitable lighting, which can be hard to perfect.

But no worries! We’ve compiled a list of the best LED lighting for reef tanks. We’ve also delved into a few of the aspects of LED reef lighting that might be confusing if you’re new to the world of aquariums.

If you’re ready to learn about what makes LED lighting ideal for reef tanks, we’re ready to teach you, so read on and enjoy!

Top LED Lighting for Reef Tanks

1. Current USA Aquarium LED Light

Current USA Aquarium LED Light

This high-quality LED lighting system is perfect for showcasing the vibrancy of your reef tank. Its ultra-bright LEDs use a full spectrum of color and shimmering effects to enhance the beauty of your setup. Light Is cast evenly over the tank via the built-in wide-angle dispersion lenses.

Moreover, to make your aquarium’s inhabitants feel more at home, the LEDs have various modes. These modes include cloud mode which dims periodically to mimic cloud cover, storm mode and evening modes that simulate dawn and dusk. When changing from dawn to dusk, the lights gradually dim and get brighter.

The system is easy to install, using quality components and hardware. It comes with a wireless, battery-operated remote and adjustable legs for docking. Using the remote you can control lighting effects, create gentle waves, and modify the water flow.

When it comes to operation, the LEDs are silent and undisruptive. The entire system runs at a low voltage that is safe for use in homes with children; it can be plugged into power bars and extension cords without worry.

Pros
  • Uses full-spectrum LEDs that enhance the beauty of reef tanks
  • Features a variety of lighting modes
  • Easy to customize
  • Low-voltage, silent operation
Cons
  • Can be difficult to program

2. Viparspectra LED Aquarium Light

Viparspectra LED Aquarium Light

The Viparspectra LED light successfully combines the best of coverage and PAR output. Using LED bulbs, the system mimics natural light and has two separate brightness channels that can be controlled. The two channels are blue and white, both of which are ideal for the various growth stages of live coral and fish.

The system can be set on a 24-hour timer that cycles through the various brightness levels or it can be manually controlled and adjusted. It is built using a 90-degree optic lens that improves lumen output and reduces light loss.

Each system comes with a remote for changing the programming of the device. This remote is easy to program and set up, as is the light system itself thanks to its detailed instructions. In addition, the entire system itself is a breeze to set up.

Pros
  • Quick and easy to program
  • Two fully adjustable color channels
  • Minimal light loss
  • Simulates natural light with ease
Cons
  • No lighting effects or shimmer modes

3. Micmol Smart LED Aquarium Light

Micmol Smart LED Aquarium Light

With an ultra-thin design and unmatched stability, the Micmol brand aquarium light system is a favorable choice for reef LED lighting. It uses an adjustable bracket system for installation and a standard power cord.

The lights used are full-spectrum LEDs that cycle through a dedicated pattern, changing from an atmosphere that simulates the light of night through to the natural light of day. When cycling, the lights change gradually as they would in nature.

Included with each light system is a Smart Controller. This controller is an easy way to manage various light settings. It allows users to set the clock, change light settings manually, and change light channels to suit their preferences.

Pros
  • Full-spectrum LEDs that help corals grow
  • Full day to night, 24/7 cycle
  • The sturdy bracket installation system
  • Programmable Smart Controller
Cons
  • Users may need to reprogram occasionally

4. MarsAqua LED Aquarium Light

MarsAqua LED Aquarium Light

Using a unique combination of two lighting beams, the MarsAqua light system is the perfect choice for reef tanks with live plants. The system is available in 165- or 300-watt options, with each one boasting a full spectrum of color.

In addition, this aquarium light is ideal for keeping tanks cool as it uses copper, which is known for its thermal conductivity. It also uses a vent system that blows air instead of sucks it, aiding in the cooling effect.

If you have a large tank, the lights can be daisy-chained together using a single socket and for personalization, the lights have two individual on/off settings – one for each color channel. These channels can be adjusted separately, allowing you to create your dream atmosphere within your tank.

For installation, the lights come with a simple hanging kit. They can be mounted with ease thanks to the detailed instructions that they come with.

Pros
  • Promotes the growth of coral and plants
  • Easy to hang
  • Multiple systems can be daisy-chained to suit large tanks
  • Ideal for cooling tanks
Cons
  • Suction cup attachment is weak

5. Fluval Sea Bluetooth LED

Fluval Sea Bluetooth LED

By Fluval, this nano LED light system is both compact and reliable. It uses an over-the-glass mounting style that is easy to reposition and secure enough to hold for years. The lights can move up and down and side to side, as well as forward to backward.

The system is fully programmable, with the ability to operate on pre-set light configurations that include simulations of both natural light and of artificial, cosmetic lights. The light casts a 120-degrees around the tank, eliminating dark spots and uneven casting. It can be set to run a 24-hour cycle that cycles through the various day/nighttime settings.

Pros
  • Pre-set light settings
  • 120-degree light casting that reduces dark spots
  • Can be repositioned easily
  • Compact design that is easy to store
Cons
  • Not ideal for growing large tanks of coral

Related: check our article about nano reef lighting!


6. Relassy LED Aquarium Light Panel

Relassy LED Aquarium Light Panel

Designed to be compatible with a handy smartphone app, the Relassy LED light system is ideal for hobbyists with a modern taste and a busy lifestyle. The app in question gives users the ability to control brightness and create time schedules right from their phones.

Physically, the system is made up of 338 LED lights and a virtually silent fan. In addition, it uses an aluminum back panel and heatsink to disperse heat evenly. Together, the lights create an ideal atmosphere for growing corals and creating reef tanks that thrive. They also promote the growth of algae and beneficial bacteria, too.

Pros
  • Convenient smartphone app
  • Ideal for tank growth
  • Disperses heat evenly
  • Individually adjustable light channels
Cons
  • No humidity shield on LEDs

7. Lominie LED Light

Lominie LED Light

The Lominie LED light differs in appearance from most of its competitors, looking more like a desktop lamp than standard saltwater LED lights. It uses COB LED bulbs with multi-color capabilities and a full spectrum of color to enhance the appearance of reef tanks. Users can choose the ideal beam angle for their tank’s shape and size.

The lights disperse heat evenly thanks to the efficient cooling system, ensuring that the tank never gets too hot. For easy control, the lights are programmable with an included IR remote. This remote controls light position, channels, and brightness.

Pros
  • Remote that controls various functions of the system
  • Adjustable beam angle
  • Efficient cooling system
  • Modern in appearance
Cons
  • Weak mounting system

8. Phlizon Aquarium LED

Phlizon Aquarium LED

This full-spectrum LED light system can be used for a variety of very specific purposes. Each of its colors has a dedicated use that is beneficial to the tank. Uses include the purple UV light for sterilization and blue for plant growth.

The LEDs also promote the growth of algae and beneficial bacteria. Oxygen is generated by the increase in photosynthesis that happens within the tank thanks to the light system, making for healthy, happy fish.

Furthermore, the system can be used for freshwater and saltwater. It comes complete with a dimmer function that enables users to acclimate new tank additions by slowly increasing tank brightness. The product can be easily daisy-chained and is quiet when in use.

Pros
  • Contains full-spectrum UV lights
  • Increases oxygen level within the tank
  • Includes specialized dimmer function
  • Easy to daisy-chain and use with other models
Cons
  • Short power cord

Related: Aquarium UV sterilizers


9. Kessil A360WE LED Light

Kessil A360WE LED Light

By Kessil, the A360WE light system has been designed specifically for reef tanks and saltwater climates. The system is easy to use and personalize, with two knobs for modifying light intensity and color.

The system can be controlled on the lights or via external devices that can be connected by USB ports. Adding to the system’s flexibility, two or more models can be daisy-chained together. When this is the case, the first unit automatically acts as the master unit.

Color channels can be adjusted independently of one another, combining with the single light source to provide a larger area with enough light.

Pros
  • Single light source to reduce spotlight effect
  • Can be controlled manually or from an external source
  • Easy to pair with other units
  • Color channels have individual adjustment settings
Cons
  • Questionable product longevity

10. WILLS LED Aquarium Light

WILLS LED Aquarium Light

This basic looking aquarium light is nothing short of amazing. It includes full-spectrum LED bulbs that promote photosynthesis and oxygenation and is easy to program.

Both channels – blue and white- can be adjusted independently of one another and move between 0 and 100% as the user sees fit. In addition, users can choose to have one or both channels on.

The system features a 90-degree crystal lens that helps to improve how much light breaks through the water, making it look clearer and cleaner. To make things even easier for users, the product is easy to connect to other units, and, for peace of mind, it does an excellent job of self-cooling and regulating heat.

Pros
  • Independently functioning channels
  • Promotes photosynthesis within the tank
  • Connects easily to other units
  • Powerful but quiet cooling fan
Cons
  • Only blue colored lights
Reef tank with LED lighting

Best Reef Tank Lighting Buying Guide

Power

Although LEDs are known for using less power than other lights, power should still be a factor to consider. In this regard, your perfect system should effectively light up your tank without pushing you over the monthly budget for your electric bill. Try to find lights that consume the least power without sacrificing quality.

Visual appeal

LEDs are available in a large variety of colors and lighting patterns, giving you complete freedom and an endless number of possibilities for decorating your tank. The goal is to find lights that combine both gentle color blending and no flash disco ball effect. Your lights should also be bright enough to illuminate the bottom portion of your tank’s water without taking away from the colors within the tank.

In addition, your ideal set of lights should look great on the outside of your tank. A set of lights that make you cringe every time you look at them are not going to be satisfying. Instead, they’ll take away from your enjoyment of your tank.

There are various styles of LED light systems, so with a bit of luck and determination, you’ll be able to find one that matches the overall aesthetic of your tank.

Ease of installation

While most of us have managed to adapt to the world’s changing technologies, some of us still aren’t tech-savvy – and that’s okay! But it can make installing necessary aquarium equipment hard, though. Luckily, there are several LED fish tank lights that are friendly to those of us who haven’t quite caught on.

Before you buy a product, double-check the box for anything that indicates its installation process. Ideally, find a system that can just be mounted and switched on. If you have extra time and are confident with your tech skills, you could ditch this consideration.

Build quality

The quality of the system you’re considering is another important factor. Ask yourself questions about potential purchases. Include questions such as “is the unit built by a company based in a reputable country? How long has the company been around? What kind of materials are used?”

The last thing you want is to buy a unit that will fall apart after a month of use. While not directly related to build quality, but important should something fall apart, is customer service. Without good customer service in relation to problems and defects, you’ll be wasting your money if something goes wrong.

Look for contact methods. Does the company have an e-mail? A phone number? Mailing address?

Shelf life

In terms of shelf life, we refer to how durable light is. So, in basic terms, how long the system will last before it gives out and needs replacing.

Most fish tank lights have a pretty good shelf life, with some lasting up to 50,000 hours. Generally, your light will last over a decade even if it’s used for 10 or 12 hours a day. Be sure to check for shelf life before purchasing.

PAR

PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) is, in basic terms, the number of light particles that fall within one square meter over the course of one second. These particles must be between 400nm to 600nm in order to be counted. The NM in the particles number stands for nanometers, which are billionths of a meter.

So, PAR is the measurement of the amount of visible light that hits a square meter of surface area within one second. Pretty simple, right?

PAR is important to reef tanks because it is basically the physical measurement of how much visible light energy your corals will receive. It’s one of the best and easiest ways to determine the exact amount of light that your reef tank can benefit from, which is a critical part of using LED lights.

Why, exactly, is PAR so important? The main reason is that LEDs are the most intense form of lighting on the market. Many models of high-end LEDs can outperform metal halides in terms of PAR ratings. They often even need to be turned down to prevent the death of corals.

With this knowledge, it’s a good idea to get used to the idea that adjustments may very well be necessary – after all, it’s better to have too little light with the ability to build up than too much light and no way to dial it down. Corals are very adaptable and can survive for several months with not enough light, whereas a few days of too much light will have them dying off at an alarming rate.

PAR ranges are generally higher in the top half of the tank and lower at the bottom. This means that an LED fixture with a production rate of 300 PAR in the lower half, the top of the tank would likely be exposed to up to 500 PAR.

All this being said, it’s important to remember that PAR requirements for corals can vary by species. For example, one species might survive well at 500 PAR but require 800 PAR to show vibrant color; another might do well in all aspects at 500 PAR and start to bleach at 800 PAR.

Spectrum

For our explanation of the spectrum, we’re going to focus on the visible light spectrum.

Visible light is a basic form of electromagnetic radiation. It’s defined as being the wavelengths of light that are visible to the human eye; hence the term “visible light spectrum”.

These wavelengths, like PAR, are measured using nanometers. The range of wavelengths in the visible spectrum starts at 400nm, which are ultraviolet, and go to 800nm, which brings us into the infrared colors. In reef tanks, blue, green, and red are the most important colors of the spectrum.

Blue light is the most important, with green being an excellent aid for algae growth, and red being somewhat dangerous to the health of a reef tank. In nature, red light tends to be removed from ocean water, so too much of it in an aquarium can cause chaos.

SPS and LPS corals in reef tank with LED lighting

Do’s and Don’ts of LED Lighting

 Do: 
Play with dimming your LEDs
Playing around with the dimmers on your LEDs is a great way to check out what your lights can do. If you’re using more than one color spectrum, dimming one color while increasing another can provide a whole host of fun effects. Dimming your LEDs (or even one of them) can also extend your lamp’s life and further save electricity.
Calculate your savings
We all enjoy having a few extra pennies to rub together at the end of the day; with LEDs, lighting is only part of the equation. LEDs are energy efficient, working round the clock when they’re in use and saving you a surprising amount on your electricity bill. You can use a surge protect with a built-in electricity monitor to calculate how much you’re saving with LEDs as your aquarium’s light source.
Explore various color combinations
LEDs are available in a wide variety of spectrums and color combinations, so don’t be afraid to explore unique combinations and make sure you don’t get stuck with using just one color. There are handy color guides online that can help you determine which colors to use for your tank.
Ensure proper ventilation for heat sinks and LEDs
While LEDs don’t transfer heat into the aquarium, they do generate heat and send it upward, which can shorten the lifespan of LED chips. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that they stay cool and don’t get too hot.

You’ll need to ensure that your LEDs have appropriate ventilation and air circulation, as well as plenty of room for heat to dissipate around the heat sink and vertically away from the light strips. If your LEDs are installed inside of a hood or a canopy, it’s a good idea to install a cooling fan to promote airflow.

Use your LEDs to grow corals
LEDs can and do grow corals – quite well, actually! Experts swear by LEDs for starting and maintain aquarium reefs and have done so since their introduction to the market.
Use your lights to enhance the color of fish and corals
LEDs use specific color spectrums. These spectrums are ideal for bringing out the natural colors in many species of fish. Using LEDs even a few hours a day can enhance the color of your fish greatly, making your aquarium pop even when the lights are turned off.

In addition to fish, LEDs can also improve the colors of your resident corals. A great way to enhance the color of coral is to select colors with an output that falls within the actinic royal blue range. Soft polyp and zoanthids do well with magenta hues; they will bring out the natural beauty of greens, oranges, and purples.

Create beautiful effects
Using LEDs, your aquarium can shimmer and sparkle like the sun. White LEDs produce an amazing amount of shimmer, but in order to make the most of this effect, your tank will need to have strong ripples. Although this means that you’ll need either a powerful filter with a waterfall effect or another method of moving water around, don’t let it put you off.

The effects you can get with LEDs are stunning!

 Don’t 
Run LEDs near other light sources
The enemy of LEDs is heating. As we said, too much heat means early replacement and device failure. This being said, LEDs should never be mounted near other light sources, as they all generate heat

Related: Aquarium heaters

Get salt creep or mineral deposits on the LED strips
Two other things that can damage LEDs are salt and minerals. They can damage both the lights themselves and heat sinks. Thus, it’s extremely important to keep your lights clean and free of buildup and deposits.
Submerge LEDs in water
Many LEDs are water-resistant. However, they aren’t designed to be submerged in water. Exposing LED lights to water for any period of time will almost certainly damage the internal circuit boards and systems that make the unit run. The hardware and heat sink will quickly corrode.
coral reef tank

Benefits of LED Reef Lights

They are safe to use

LEDs are thought to be much safer than traditional metal halide and T5 aquarium lights. There are no noxious gasses or metal filaments found in LEDs, which makes them less of a threat to the health of the aquarium and its owner. Many manufacturers are also working on making their LEDs water-resistant, as well.

They generate less heat

LEDs, like all lights, do produce some heat. However, the heat that they do produce is not enough to change the temperature within your tank. When compared to other light sources, LEDs are one of the coolest sources.

Not only is the low heat production ideal for the tank’s temperature, but it also means that the chances of heat-related damage are lower, too. LEDs are also a lot less likely to overheat because of their low heat production rate.

They are ideal for the growth of corals and marine life

LEDs are good for the health of the tank. LEDs can help some types of fish grow but are generally used to grow corals. Corals love to soak up the precisely angled rays of light that comes from LEDs, using them to get bigger and maintain themselves. Most LED systems produce from 8000K to 10,000K of light, which is enough to support a variety of marine creatures.

They sport a compact design

While filters are known for being big and bulky, LED light systems to make up for it by being compact and easy to place. Most LED systems are flat and take up a minimal amount of space.

Their small, sleek size means that they can be easily placed wherever the user chooses. It also means that they can be mounted in a variety of ways since they have a lightweight make up.

Best LED Lighting for Reef Tanks FAQ

How many watts of LED lighting do I need for a reef tank?
In reef tanks, wattage is a minor factor; what really counts is the PAR within your tank. So, in general, the higher wattage the light system, the higher amount of PAR.
Can you grow coral with LED lighting?
Yes! LED light fixtures are the go-to coral growing choice for many professionals and hobbyists alike. Aquarium LEDs are designed specifically to cater to the unique lighting needs of corals, which ultimately helps them grow and flourish.
What light spectrum is best for coral growth?
This isn’t a question that is easily answered. It’s one of the man aquarium related questions that vary widely by person, aquarium setup, and preferences. The idea that there is a “right” spectrum for coral growth is outdated, as the success of growing coral also varies by what type of coral is in question.

One popular (and highly successful) spectrum includes 50% white light and 50% blue light.

How long should LED lights be on in a reef tank?
Most hobbyists run their lights for 10-12 hours per day. Too much light can be damaging to corals within your reef system. As a rule of thumb, less light is better than more light.
How do I program LED aquarium lights?
Programming LED aquarium lights is a relatively simple process. However, there are no rules set in stone, as each brand’s models are different.

To set up your aquarium light, you should always follow the instructions given to you in your chosen model’s instruction manual.

Do LED lights cause more algae to grow in the aquarium?
No. LEDs do not cause more algae to grow in the tank. Generally, algae outbreaks are related to other factors such as high levels of organic matter in the water and a lack of plant mass. Poor health of the plants in the aquarium can also cause algae to flourish.
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