When it comes to a reef tank, the lighting you choose is a more important decision than you would initially think.
There is a type of algae, known as zooxanthellae, that lives in the tissues of your coral. Your coral relies on this algae for survival, and the algae relies on a certain type of light.
Zooxanthellae are photosynthetic algae, and, like plants, they rely on waste products from coral and light to make their food. In return, Zooxanthellae provides oxygen for your coral so that it can continue to grow and be healthy.
This means making sure you have the right lighting for your tank is essential to maintaining the health of your coral. However, knowing exactly what type of lighting is the right kind can be hard.
We’ve compiled a complete buying guide to help you pick the best nano reef lighting for your tank!
- Top 8 Best Nano Reef Lights
- Buying Guide – Everything You Need to Know to Pick the Best Nano Reef Lighting
Top 8 Best Nano Reef Lights
1. Lominie LED Aquarium Light
When it comes to nano reef LED lighting, different brands are constantly innovating their products for the best user experience. This nano LED light is no exception.
First, it’s designed without a fan, so not only is it noise-free, but it has a lower failure rate. This means that you can keep your tank in your room without worrying about sound disrupting your schedule.
The Lominie LED light also comes with a remote. This allows you to control the adjustable intensity and the four dimmable channels even from across the room.
However, one of the most important parts of this LED light is that it is full-spectrum and includes a UV option. As a result, you’ll be able to keep your corals – as well as other animals and plants – healthy by mimicking a natural environment.
Related: Best Aquarium UV Sterilizers
The lighting also has two other useful controls. First, a timer – which is helpful creating a light cycle – and, second, a low-grade shimmer adds variation without being overwhelming.
The bracket is adjustable and can fit both a rimmed or rimless tank. The horizontal length can be adjusted abut to around 11.8”, while the maximum height is around 9.8”.
2. HIPARGERO LED Aquarium Light
The HIPARGERO nano LED light comes with 2 dimmable LED channels in blue and white. This helps promote an underwater appearance while coming with one added benefit.
The blue light helps promote the production of Vitamin D in your coral. This then aids in calcium absorption in their diet for healthier, stronger coral.
Blue lights also aid in producing an overall stronger coloration in your coral.
While the controls for the included remote can be a bit difficult to navigate at first, there are included instructions:
The plus (+) button increases the amount of white and the minus (-) increases the amount of blue. If you long hold either button, it strengthens or weakens both channels, changing the intensity of the entire light.
To turn off the light, press both buttons at the same time.
In order to help maintain your home environment, this LED light also has two-rollers silent fans that reduce noise. However, while they reduce sound, they don’t reduce quality by still acting to help disperse the light’s heat produced quickly.
You can also purchase this light without any worries. It offers a 1-year warranty as well as a 30-day money-back guarantee that allows you to experiment with the lighting.
3. Lominie LED Pixie 30 Aquarium Light
Designed to fit either rimmed or rimless tanks, this nano LED light is great for all types of tanks. It is adjustable with a maximum horizontal length of 11.8” and a maximum height of around 9.8”.
It’s also designed for a user-friendly experience. The fanless design is noise-free, and it has a remote that allows you to control the light from a distance.
Due to its noise-free design, you’ll also feel comfortable using this light even in your bedroom or office.
This light comes with 6 adjustable color channels – white, red, green, blue, royal blue, and UV. As a result, you’ll be able to set up the lighting to best fit your nano reef’s needs.
The UV lights natural sunlight and aids in your coral’s production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption to help your coral remain healthy with a strong coloration.
4. Fluval Sea Marine Nano Bluetooth LED
For beginners looking for an easy way to establish a light cycle within their nano reef, this is a great option. The Fluval light comes with a hassle-free programmable 24-hour light cycle.
This cycle shifts from darkness to full intensity using natural, gradually changing light. This mimics both sunsets and sunrises to help your coral acclimate.
You can also control the lighting settings. Or you can choose one of the three optional pre-set options: Sunny Reef, Deep Sea Glo, or Color Burst.
In order to make all of these changes, you can connect to the light through Bluetooth using your phone. This connection is on the weaker side, however, so you’ll need to be in the same room as your light and tank.
In order to lengthen your light’s lifespan, the Fluval light is cased in an aluminum shell. This helps to disperse heat while protecting the light from small amounts of water – however, do not submerge your light.
5. AquaTop Nano LED Light
Thanks to a shimmer that mimics natural sunlight in water and a moving cloud feature, this light mimics a natural environment. This will help your coral adjust better due to the fact that it is so similar to their natural habitat.
While your coral may have never been in the wild, as an animal, it still has instincts. By producing a natural light with a combination of clouds and shimmering, this light taps into those instincts for healthier coral.
However, one thing to note is that this is a weaker light. As a result, it’s better for smaller nano reefs or nano reefs that are composed of soft corals.
The sleek, minimalist design is aesthetic and will help keep all eyes on your nano reef. You can also control it using the enclosed IR remote.
Most customers say the IR remote works best within 12 inches of the light, making it better for control than distance.
6. KINGBO Nano LED Light
This light pairs professional full-spectrum LED lights with PAR technology to promote the best growth. The LED lights include white, blue, red, green, and UV lights.
The UV and PAR help ensure that your coral, as well as plants in your nano reef, are healthy. The different colored lights help meet all of your coral’s needs while helping with a light cycle.
If you’re new to led lighting for reef tanks and wanting to experiment, the KINGBO gives you the option to without worries. This light comes with a 12-month warranty as well as a 30-day guarantee so you can shop with peace of mind.
One unique thing about this light is the 90-degree optical lenses that are easy to adjust. Just remember that these are unfixed lenses and you may hear them rattle during movement.
The shell won’t keep your light safe if you drop it in the water, but it will help disperse heat. This provides a comfortable environment while not tampering with your water’s temperature levels.
Related: Best Aquarium Heaters
7. Relassy LED Aquarium Light
If you’re looking for a long-lasting nano LED light, then you may want to consider this option.
It comes with dual replaceable bulbs with a flexible gooseneck for easy adjustments. It’s also designed to protect against overcurrent, overheating, and overvoltage for a lengthened lifespan.
The shimmer effect, as well as the five adjustable levels of brightness, mimics both sunlight and moonlight. This pairs for natural lighting that helps your coral acclimate and thrive.
You can also dim all five of the levels included in this light. This customizable experience helps establish a light cycle and helps meet the needs of your coral.
One thing to note is that it may be difficult to understand the instructions at first. If that’s the case, customers say that there are online resources that are extremely helpful.
8. Hygger Blue White LED Light
The Hygger nano LED light is recommended for tanks ranging from 1 gallon to 10 gallons, making it perfect for beginners.
If you need to use this light for tanks any larger, you may notice decreased light spread.
During the day, your tank’s lights can be set to project both full-spectrum white lights as well as blue lights. At night, however, there is a nightlight option for only blue lights.
This, paired with gradual light transitions and periods of darkness, helps establish a steady light cycle within your tank.
The aluminum alloy shell is designed for durability to protect against the occasional splash. This shell also disperses heat to lengthen your light’s lifespan and protect your reef.
The only major downside about this light is its limited programming. Unlike other lights, you don’t have dozens of options for channels or timers, although this light does work with external timers.
Buying Guide – Everything You Need to Know to Pick the Best Nano Reef Lighting
Your nano lighting is more important than you think. In fact, the health of your entire tank – fish, plants, and corals – depends on the light you pick.
Which is why you may want to know everything possible when it comes to picking the best nano reef lighting.
For beginners, this can be an even more difficult task. It’s not impossible, however, especially with the right resources.
That’s why we’ve compiled a complete, beginner-friendly buying guide to help you pick the absolute best nano light for your reef.
Top Three Types of Nano Reef Lighting
Metal halide lights work through a chemical reaction. When a metal and a halogen – which is a salt-forming element – combine, they create a medium.
This medium is composed of gas. Light is then produced when an electrical current travels through this gaseous medium.
This method of light is very similar to other types of gas lamps. It’s a simple process, but it produces a highly efficient light.
One of the best parts of metal halide lights is that they can produce a high color temperature – up to 5500 Kelvin.
Color temperature, to put it simply, is the heat of the light based on its color. You can find a more thorough explanation below in the section, combining lighting.
However, while this high color temperature is beneficial, it also produces one major downfall of metal halide lights. It can take up to twenty minutes to reach maximum power.
While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, it does mean that metal halide lights have a shorter lifespan. Since they run best at full power, those twenty minutes of start-up time will shorten how long you can use one bulb.
Light-emitting diode, more commonly known as LED, is one of the most popular forms of lighting for nano reefs. LEDs utilize diodes – which is a special device with electrodes to convert electrical currents into visible light.
LEDs have grown to popularity in the year due to their hassle-free operation. They don’t have very many parts; they’re directional, and they’re smaller than most other nano reef lights.
One thing to note, however, is that LEDs are often more expensive upfront. This price is steadily decreasing, however, and LEDs make up for it with inexpensive maintenance and long lifespans.
Since LEDs are directional, you may notice that they don’t cover the full span of your tank. Thankfully, this is an easy fix:
You can adjust how your LED is mounted and experiment until the entirety of the tank is covered. Or, you can purchase a diffuser that will create omnidirectional lighting from your nano LED light.
T5 light fixtures are often used for indoor gardening due to a large amount of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) they generate. However, when paired with a metal halide or LED, they can also be a great option for your nano reef.
T5 lighting is energy efficient and inexpensive. As a result, it’s a popular secondary light to help reduce the need for LEDs or metal halides.
They’re also extremely helpful for diverse aquarium communities with live plants.
The only major downside to T5 lighting is the fact that the light isn’t far-reaching. While this is okay for indoor gardens, it’s not the best option for nano reefs.
This is because due to the amount of water that the light has to penetrate to reach your corals. However, as a secondary light with a metal halide or LED main light, it can be a great option.
After learning about the different types of lighting, you may be wondering if you have to stick to one type. The answer is no – in fact, you may find mixing and matching light bulbs is exactly what your tank needs.
Some lights are better for the health and growth of your coral. Others are better for the overall aesthetic of your tank.
You want to find a healthy balance between these two, which can be difficult, especially for beginners. That’s why we’re here to help!
Before you can start shopping around for the best combination of lighting, it’s important to understand color temperature.
Color temperature has nothing to do with the amount of heat your light gives off – although that is important. Instead, it refers to the coloration of the light itself: its ambiance.
If you’ve ever been shopping for lights for your home, you may be familiar with this.
Warmer bulbs, which give off an auburn light, are more popular in living rooms and dining areas. Cooler bulbs, which give off a bluish-white light, are more popular in bathrooms and kitchens.
These colors are determined by what is known as the Kelvin rating.
It works the same as fire. The higher the Kelvin rating of a lightbulb is, the cooler the bulb, and vice versa.
Most warm bulbs have a Kelvin rating of around 3000 to 6000 Kelvin. At around 10,000 Kelvin, the color the bulb gives off is a bright white, turning bluer as the Kelvin rating increases.
So, now let’s take a look at the ocean, where your coral comes from. Picture a crystal clear ocean.
When you first enter the water, the lighting is bright white. This is because the light traveling from the sun doesn’t have to travel through as much water.
As you get deeper, though, the light grows dimmer, and it takes on more of a bluish hue.
So, ask yourself, what type of reef do you want? The answer – reef-top, mid-reef, or deep reef – will dictate the lighting you pick.
Combining different lighting is the best way to get the color temperature that you desire most. Mixing high Kelvin and low Kelvin lights will help produce a balanced look, with excess on either end creating a spectrum.
Different lighting will give your nano reef tank a different look by highlighting and muting colors. By combining lighting, you have more control over what colors are brought out.
Why is Lighting Important?
There are two main reasons that your nano reef lighting is so important.
The first reason is because of the Zooxanthellae that live in a symbiotic relationship with your coral. Since Zooxanthellae are photosynthetic, they need light to turn waste products into food for themselves and oxygen for your coral.
The next has to do with your coral itself.
You see, coral is an animal. Corals eat by catching tiny zooplankton that swims around them, making them consumers – carnivores, or ‘meat eaters’, to be specific.
So you may be wondering where light plays into that.
Well, like other animals, coral requires a certain amount of calcium to stay healthy, which is obtained from their diet. However, without Vitamin D, they may not be able to absorb the right amount of calcium from their food.
So where does Vitamin D come from?
One of the best sources of Vitamin D is sunlight. When sunlight reacts with certain types of cells lining your coral, it causes the cells to produce Vitamin D.
As a result, your corals are better able to absorb the calcium from their diet to stay strong and healthy. Without enough Vitamin D, your corals will be lackluster, weak, or may even die.
The Light Cycle and Its Effect on Coral Growth
Everything – from plants to animals – needs a little darkness every day to truly thrive. That’s why setting up a light cycle in your nano reef tank is extremely important for healthy, happy coral.
Most corals grow in shallow oceans where they are exposed to high levels of natural sunlight throughout the day. Then, at night, they have a rest period without sunlight.
Light is also a gradual occurrence in nature – after all, the night doesn’t come with the flip of a switch!
Thus, as a coral owner, it’s your job to help recreate as natural of an environment as possible. That’s why you adapt a light cycle within your tank.
One of the best ways to set up a light cycle in your nano reef is through the use of adjustable dimmers that you can set on a timer.
Every morning, gradually adjust the brightness of your lights, leaving them on the recommended intensity for around 10 hours every day. Then, after 10 hours, gradually reduce the intensity until the lights are out to mimic a sunset.
This is important for two main reasons.
First, by creating a natural environment, you are ensuring that your coral is getting the perfect amount of light each day. Second, by using gradual shifts, you are helping your coral acclimate to the light to help prevent stress.
However, just as it’s important to have enough light, it’s important to have enough darkness as well. Leave your lights off at night – it’ll help your corals thrive!
If you were to leave your lights on within your nano reef tank all the time, your corals would eventually become unhealthy. You can read further below in the section what to avoid to learn more about the consequences of too much light.
Lighting Position and Why It Matters
How you position your nano reef light affects more than just the overall aesthetic value of your tank. It can also affect the overall health and growth rate of your coral.
Whether you mount your light or attach it to the ceiling, you want to make sure the entire tank is receiving equal lighting. Otherwise, you may notice that certain corals are faring more poorly than others.
If you look at your tank and see a dim spot, that means the lighting is not balanced throughout the tank. While this is more of a problem with larger tanks, it can still occur with nano reef lighting.
No matter what type of nano reef light you have, this can be fixed by adjusting your light’s positioning and height. If you have an LED light, you could purchase a diffuser to help disperse the light around the tank.
What to Avoid: The Dangers of Incorrect Lighting
When it comes to your nano reef, there is such a thing as too much or too little lighting.
With too much lighting, you risk one of two things happening.
First, too much light, especially if you add it in too quickly, can bleach your coral. Corals, believe it or not, are animals – not plants – and under stress caused by lack of acclimation, they can lose their coloration.
Too much light can also have a much more deadly effect on your coral.
As mentioned above, the Zooxanthellae that live inside your coral’s tissue are photosynthetic. This means that they rely on light to turn waste products like carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen.
However, too much of any good thing is a bad thing, and oxygen is no exception. When Zooxanthellae produce oxygen, they also produce a by-product that can be harmful to your coral.
As a result, the more light you have for the Zooxanthellae, the more of that by-product is being produced. This is why a light cycle, as mentioned above is so important.
Not having enough light is also a big problem and for the same reason.
Without enough light in your nano reef tank, the Zooxanthellae aren’t able to produce enough oxygen to support the tank. As a result, you’ll notice unhealthy or even dying coral.
Check our article about best aquarium lighting for fish color!