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best led lighting for aquariums

The best aquarium will have the best LED lighting. You’ll be able to enjoy watching your fish, corals, and other biologicals growing and thriving, but you’ll also help to keep them healthy with the proper lighting setups.

And though many other lighting options are available these days, the vast majority of great lighting options come in the form of LED lights.

Below, we take a look at the reasons for lighting, the ways to choose proper lighting, and why LEDs are the best option.

We also dive into the best lights we could find for a variety of aquarium settings, ranking from reef tanks to small tanks, nano reefs, and more, covering as many of the options we could find really great lighting for.

Best LED Lighting For Aquariums Quick-Find Table

Image Product
  • Loops into lighting and pump for complete system control
  • Tons of lighting effects for more unique lighting options
  • More colors than other models
  • Loops into lighting and pump for complete system control
  • Tons of lighting effects for more unique lighting options
  • More colors than other models
  • Very budget-friendly
  • Really safe – great for homes with kids and pets
  • Easy to use and understand
  • Very budget-friendly
  • Really safe – great for homes with kids and pets
  • Easy to use and understand
  • Wide range of colors for perfect lighting conditions
  • Extremely energy-efficient
  • If one LED bulb goes out, the others remain working
  • Wide range of colors for perfect lighting conditions
  • Extremely energy-efficient
  • If one LED bulb goes out, the others remain working
  • Long-lasting service life
  • Super bright light for plant growth and healthy fish
  • 360-degree rotation for easy installation and adjustment
  • Long-lasting service life
  • Super bright light for plant growth and healthy fish
  • 360-degree rotation for easy installation and adjustment
  • Specifically designed for freshwater fish and aquatic plant growth
  • Sleek, contemporary design for improved aesthetics
  • Reasonably priced high-quality light for practically any freshwater aquarium
  • Specifically designed for freshwater fish and aquatic plant growth
  • Sleek, contemporary design for improved aesthetics
  • Reasonably priced high-quality light for practically any freshwater aquarium

Why is the best LED Lighting for aquariums so important?


If you’ve ever read up on coral growth, you know the aquarium LED lighting is critical for coral to flourish, grow larger, and stay healthy in both natural and unnatural settings – like an aquarium.

But there are other reasons for aquarium lighting, both in freshwater and saltwater tanks.

But, basically, the proper lighting will grow plants, corals, and other biologicals, while helping reduce algae and other things that may cause a decline in your aquarium.

Fish-Only Tanks

Fish-only tanks require about 3 watts of lighting per one gallon of water. This ratio helps reduce and control the nasty algae that likes to build up in the tank.

If you happen to notice that green muck growing at a quick rate, however, you probably have too many watts shining down.

Aquariums with Plants

If you’re keeping aquarium plants with your fish, you have different lighting needs. Your plants will weaken and die if you have too little light.

Just like ground plants need sunlight, water plants need sufficient lighting as well. The right kind of lighting and enough lighting will help keep those plants growing strong.

If you’re growing anything other than basic fern plants, you need to have full spectrum lighting – which is a huge reason we recommend specially designed top-rated led aquarium light fixtures that provide this proper full spectrum lighting.

Saltwater and Reef Tanks

As mentioned above, corals and living rocks need special lighting as well. They biologically need full spectrum lighting as well and benefit from seasonal lighting that can be created by specialized programmable lights.

Corals and living rocks in your reef tank specifically need between 5 and 8 watts of light per one gallon to remain healthy and grow stronger and fuller.

Why Choose the best LED LIGHTING Over Other Lights?

The best aquarium LED lighting will truly make all the difference in the environment for your tank. Other lights work – absolutely – but LED lights have several advantages that you should strongly consider.

They’re Easier and Easier to Find

If you Google “best aquarium light for plants,” chances are, you’re going to come up with about ten pages of options. And about 90% of those options are going to be LED lights these days.

You can go searching for specific models of lights or types of bulbs for aquarium lights, but they’re actually getting harder and harder to find.

So if you’re in a time crunch or just don’t want to look that hard, LED lights are going to be the easiest option anyway.

Temperatures in the Tank

No matter what kind of fish or plants you have, the temperature in your aquarium is important.

Aquarium grow lights don’t have to be hot things, though.

If you use LED lights, you can have lower temperatures, which are, overall, better for any fish and live rock environment.

The plants and biologicals need the light to grow and remain healthy, but too much heat – often brought on by bright lights – can harm that delicate balance.

LED Lights Increase Light Optimization


Not all LED aquarium lighting offers programming, admittedly, but many of the best choices give you a remote control, programmable settings, lighting mode variations, and timers. All of these things help optimize your aquarium’s lighting.

LED lights also tend to be full spectrum – or at least you can shop for those only if you’re growing plants.

And since they don’t also add loads of heat, the full spectrum lights increase the overall aesthetic and health of your aquarium through the different colors of light.

The Aesthetics are Improved with LED Lights

And because of those improved optimizations of aquarium led lighting for your fish and corals, you’ll also find that the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium improves with LED lights.

Many of the advanced LED light setups offer settings like sunrise, sunset, dusk, dawn, or moonlight settings.

If you’re chilling at home with the aquarium in the living room while you relax with a cup of cocoa on a chilly evening, that moonlit aesthetic can make your home that much more inviting.

LED lights also tend to have a lower profile than most of the other lighting options out there. This means the overall appearance of the aquarium and equipment is improved as well.

With the right cabinet, you can even just about eliminate all of the unattractive aspects of the equipment kept for running a gorgeous, lively aquarium.

LED Light Bulbs Don’t Need Replacing Often

Another great thing about LED lights is that the bulbs are meant to last forever, basically.

While you have to replace halogen and fluorescent lights one to three times a year, LED bulbs are meant to last for five or more years. Yay for less hassle.

You Don’t Spend as Much on Lighting

While the initial cost of an LED aquarium light setup might be more costly than a standard halogen setup, the long-term costs are lower.

Since you don’t replace bulbs a couple of times each year, you save money over time. And because LED lights are energy efficient, you also save on your energy bill all year.

The Lighting Spectrum and PAR Output Are Consistent with LED Lights

Finally, I’d also like to point out that since LED lights don’t “fade” the way halogen and metal halide bulbs do over time, the spectrum and PAR output remain the same all year round.

This also means you don’t have to replace bulbs as often, but you also don’t have the monitor the lights as closely.

When an LED light goes out, you know it. A Halogen or halide bulb fades and it might take some folks a little while to even notice that the output has changed.

How to Choose the Best LED Lighting Setup for Your Aquarium

fish in fish tank or aquarium, green terror, polypterus and red fish, fancy carp with green plant and tree, underwater life concept.

The right lights for your aquarium may be challenging to decide. Grabbing up the “number one” on a generic list is any easy choice, but it might lead to dying plants, aggressive algae growth, sickly corals, or other issues.

So, here are a few tips, instead, on how to choose the right lighting system based on your aquarium’s needs.

Consider the Size of Your Aquarium

The very first thing I recommend thinking about you decide on the best LED lighting system is the size of your aquarium.

You can find the highest quality light that has all the features you’re looking for, but still not have the right light.

Be sure that the lights you choose produce enough lighting for the aquarium have – both length and depth of the aquarium.

Author Note: Light penetration is critical for many living things in your aquarium, especially corals.

Think About the Internal Effects

Obviously, the lighting impacts your plants, animals, and fish in the aquarium. But how much?

The right lighting system for your aquarium will not just cool effects that look amazing while you gaze into the tank, but the effects will be useful for your fish and plants.

The effects I’m talking about are those presets light sunrise or sunset, moonlight, daytime, et cetera. These affect the life of your plants and animals more intensely than they affect your pleasure.

Top Tip: The closer the lighting gets to natural environments for your fish, animals, and plants, the better.

Additionally, you may want to ask questions about the effects for your own pleasure. What lights will enhance the corals or the coloration of your fish?

Don’t Forget the External Effects

Additionally, consider the fact that the lighting inside the aquarium will “spring out” of your aquarium as well.

That is, the blue, red, or green lights inside the tank will affect the room in which the tank resides.

Author Note: If you keep your aquarium in the same space where people sleep, the lighting will affect sleep patterns for humans and animals, too.

You also want to avoid using overly bulky lighting equipment, as this affects the space around the aquarium and the overall look. I suggest aiming for smaller systems or more compact systems with a low profile.

Base Your Decision on Your Aquarium Life

The first and most important aspect of choosing the right light for your aquarium is understanding what your plants, fish, corals, live rocks, et cetera needs.

Do some research and learn how many watts of light per gallon should be used for your particular plants or fish. Learn how many hours your biologicals will benefit most from, et cetera.

Knowing these things will not only improve the life of your aquarium, but they will help you select the right outputs, the right wattage, and whether or not you need a programmable light setup.

Trying Googling terms like “what is the best light for aquarium plants” to understand the exact needs you have. Or, better yet, look up “what’s the best wattage for java moss.”

These searches will tell you exactly what to look for in your precise setup.

Look at the Quality of Manufacture

Another one of the most important aspects in freshwater led aquarium lighting or saltwater setups is the quality of the work that goes into building the lights.

You don’t want an expensive hunk of plastic and glass, but you don’t want a cheap chunk of LED light, either.

Look for brands that are well-respected in the industry. Read the reviews of real-life users for the most up-to-date information on a given light. Look for any recalls on the market.

All of these will help you understand if the given lights you’re looking at will last, will work well for your setup, or if you’ll be better off spending a little more on a better light.

Do keep in mind, though, that not all aquariums need the uber fancy lights.

Some simple aquariums – like betta tanks or beginner aquariums with hardy fish and plants – will do okay with just a basic aquarium light that’s budget-friendly. Price is not always value equivalence.

Look into the Longevity of the Lights

Some lighting fixtures have built-in cooling features – such as fans or vents – that help to improve the longevity of the lights. Be sure to check the information on this for any lights that you can before purchasing.

Top Tip: If the product description doesn’t offer the information, I highly recommend reading the in-depth reviews given by pros. I also recommend then digging through real-life reviews to find out what people are saying about how long the lights last.

Discover the Ease of Use and Software Included


Not all aquarium lights come with software, remote controls, and programmable settings, but if that’s what you’re looking for, make sure that the lights actually meet your standards.

Make sure that reviews declare the lights easy to set up and run and review any notes folks give on the software that comes with any programmable lights.

You don’t want to shell out extra money for an ultra-programmable setup that nobody can figure out how to use.

Consider Your Aquarium Budget

The overall cost of the best LED fish tank lights will have a huge impact on which option is best for you. If you’re working with a low budget for a started aquarium, you can’t justify spending $300 on a light setup.

But if you’re comfortable with getting better equipment that you’re growing into over the next few years – which I recommend if you can afford that currently – do it!

Author Note: If you can afford it today, you should probably justify spending an extra $20 on a better light setup that has that one extra feature you really want.

As you do consider your budget, think through:

  • Upfront costs
  • How many watts -and therefore lights – you need
  • Long-term savings
  • If you’re planning to grow your setup within the next year or so

Reviews of the Best LED LightING for Aquariums

Your aquarium has different needs based on the plant life, corals, live rocks, fish, and other living elements.

It’s important to make sure you’re finding the right aquarium led lighting and not just snatching up the cheapest, easiest to locate options.

You also have other things to consider, like size of the aquarium, the importance of aesthetics, et cetera.

In the list below, I’ve provided you with the best options I could recommend for a variety of categories. Do be sure to review multiple choices, though, as many of the light setups are the best choices for other aquarium situations as well.


Current USA Orbit


The Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED light is one of the most popular models on the market for use in coral and other saltwater aquariums.

The light offers a broad spectrum of color options that help to not only grow the coral but make it visually pop in your aquarium.

The lights also loop in you’re your pump and lighting control system, which make is a great “all-in-one” style aquarium light for easy use.

The system is easily installed, offers a ton of scheduling choices, modes, and the vivid, bright coloring of light that helps the ecological system of your saltwater aquarium flourish.

The settings include things like stormy weather, cloud coverage, and more, for a natural feeling lighting system for your saltwater pals.

  • Aquarium size: Ranges widely
  • Lumens/bulbs: 1 LED light hub capable of bright daylight
  • Aquarium type: saltwater
  • Watts: Unspecified
  • Modes: Multiple weather modes, wide spectrum
  • Colors: White & blue & reds
  • Programmable: Yes
  • Special Features: Weather modes for realistic lighting, timers, etc.

What We Loved

The Current USA Orbit light system is spectacular for saltwater aquariums – though you can easily use it for many other aquarium types as well, especially for plant growth.

It provides you with a wide range of settings and a number of timing options.

You can setup the lighting system to provide period cloud cover or mimic thunderstorm weather.

But you can also provide your tank with lunar light, slow sunrise, a sparkling sundown, or a variety of other things that mimic a natural biorhythm found in the real world.

You can, of course, also issue on-demand weather affects to change things up for your aquarium and the audience who loves to watch those fish and coral.

The eye-popping color effects also provide your reef with stunning shimmer and a wide range of color spectrums.

These include that actinic blue light balance that works with reds and whites to create the right color combination for your exact aquarium needs.

The lights even have a wide angle dispersion to create an even spread of light over the entire tank instead of creating heavy pockets of light and shadow.

What We Didn’t Love

I’ve only found two negatives for the Current USA Orbit light system.

The first is that thought the settings and modes are amazing, the system doesn’t really work for deep water tanks.

The lights are good for tanks on the small or medium side, or shallow larger tanks.

The other potential drawback is that the lights are only adjustable via the remote.

Most of the time, this probably isn’t an issue, but if your batteries die, you could be in trouble. I’d recommend using rechargeable batteries for this reason and keeping some extras on hand for emergencies.

Our Verdict on the Current USA Orbit Lighting System for Reef Tanks

If you have a shallow large tank or a medium or small tank, this is your best possible reef tank lighting system.

The broad spectrum of lights are great for coral growth, plant growth, and beautiful aesthetic lighting.

If you have a deep tank, however, you should look elsewhere for a more penetrating light system.

The Current USA Orbit setup is a fun system with loads of light modes for a more natural biorhythmic environment for your fish, coral, and other biologicals.

Just be careful not to let the kids get near the remote as they might have a bit too much fun creating storms, cloud coverage, or other weather conditions that could irritate your critters if messed with too often.

I’d also recommend this system more for long-term reefers rather than newbies.

I think it might be best to get to know other lighting systems before taking on all these bells and whistles, especially if you get a little overwhelmed or go crazy with too many options.

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Nicrew ClassicLED


For basic, small fish tank lighting, the NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium lights are a fantastic option.

You can use a single unit for a small tank or link a few together in your aquarium setting for great lighting for low-light plant and fish needs.

One thing I’ve found with these lights is that they are exceptionally energy efficient and low voltage.

That makes this light a super safe option for families with curious kids and pets who may butt their noses up against the aquarium for a closer look.

They’re also extremely water-resistant, adding to their safety value all the more.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: 2.5 to 5 gallons and up – depends on size selected
  • Lumens/bulbs: 380 to 1700 – depends on size selected
  • Aquarium type: Freshwater
  • Watts: 6 to 32 watts – depending on size selected
  • Modes: Daylight, nighttime
  • Colors: White & blue
  • Programmable: No
  • Special Features: N/A

What We Loved

The NICREW light is a very budget-friendly option that really offers an amazing value.

They’re not top-of-the-line, but you wouldn’t expect that for the price. They are, however, great for lower light plants like anubias and floating plants.

And while the lights aren’t the brightest on the market, they do add a nice shimmer and easily transition between their lighting modes for white and blue LEDs for daylight and just blue for nightlight visuals.

What We Didn’t Love

The only consistent complaint I’ve seen listed from reviewers and real-life users alike is that the mounting brackets aren’t necessarily the best.

They only fit certain size tanks – though, of course, this varies by the model you choose – and they don’t come with the best of hanging hardware options.

The other complaint I can make that wasn’t tied to a goof or knock-off was that the lights have a limited output.

This simply means, however, that they need to be paired with the right aquarium settings. If you’re trying to grow coral and light-needy plants, these aren’t your best bet.

Our Verdict for the NiCrew ClassicLED Aquarium Lights

The NICREW ClassicLED aquarium lights are a great option for families with kids and pets, for aquariums with lower light needs, and for those looking for easy, budget-friendly options.

The model sizes vary from 12/18-inches to 48/51-inches, so be sure to find the right size for your aquarium.

If you go with a small version, you may link together a few of them in a single setup for more light, but they will still not have a deep penetration for deeper tanks.

These are a good, basic, starter lights for the inexperienced to busy aquarist who doesn’t have time to mess with fancy programming and learning new setups.

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Koval 156


If you’re looking for a high-quality, bright LED lighting system for great aquarium plant growth, the Koval 156 LED Aquarium lighting system is a fantastic option – in fact, it’s our top pick for this category.

The main reason why is that the lighting system uses 78 bright LED bulbs that present in blue, pink, white, red, and green LED lights.

One of the nice things about this lighting system is that where others may kick out if a single bulb goes out, the Koval keeps working.

It’s important to still check the bulbs, of course, if something feels off, but you won’t have to worry about the plants not getting the full light they need if there’s a minor issue with a single bulb.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: Up to 55 gallons
  • Lumens/bulbs: 78 LED bulbs
  • Watts: 19 watts
  • Programmable: No
  • Colors: Red, white, blue, green, pink
  • Special Features: Extendable bracket for mounting

What We Loved

The Koval offers you the full spectrum LED lighting that you need for a great, healthy tank, no matter what kind of living creatures you keep.

They’re also incredibly energy-efficient.

The Koval lights are extremely well-built, high-quality lights that are going to last you for years. The extendable brackets are also a great feature for the lights, for anyone needing a more “custom” fit for their lighting rig.

What We Didn’t Love

There are two main downsides to this system, the second of which is a much bigger deal.

First, there are only three modes. This may or may not be a downside, depending on your exact needs and wants for lighting for your aquarium.

Second, and more importantly, there is no timer system. That means you can’t schedule these lights to turn on at a certain, turn off at bedtime, or otherwise change and shift without being present.

For some, this isn’t a big deal and won’t be a deterrent at all. For others, though, it can, and should give you pause.

The system itself is great, but if you know you need a timer option, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Our Verdict for the Koval 156 LED Aquarium Lighting System

Overall, this is a great light specifically for growing aquarium plants. The broad range of colors with full light spectrum is ideal for growth for plants and a happy existence for fish.

Author Note: I want to point out that the lights aren’t suitable for coral growth, however.

The lights are colorful – for a great aesthetic – and interesting, super long-lasting, high-quality, and easy to use and install.

And for those with unique aquarium sizes, the extendable brackets are fantastic.

Just don’t expect to be able to set timers for your lights with this affordable system.

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For a pointed, small aquarium light, ideal for small tanks designed for single fish, like bettas, you’ll want to consider the Hygger Blue/White Clip-On Aquarium Light.

Hygger is a well-respected brand in the industry, with a reputation for high-quality materials and manufacture that result in long-lasting equipment.

The Hygger Clip-On light has a gooseneck and clamp for super easy positioning and adjustment to get the light exactly where you need it shining.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: 3.5-9/10-20 gallons
  • Lumens/bulbs: 1330/1998 lumens or 30/45 LED bulbs
  • Watts: 13/21 watts
  • Programmable: No
  • Colors: Blue and white
  • Special Features: Designed for lidless tanks

What We Loved

The Hygger is a fairly simple light that easily and quickly installs on any aquarium.

It provides you with two basic lighting modes – daylight and moonlight – and practically anyone can operate it.

It’s splash-resistant, which makes it great for beginners and anyone with an active household and has a specialized alloy shell designed for even and safe heat dissipation.

And though it may not have as many bulbs as some, this little light is incredibly bright and works well for betta fish and small aquariums. And since it’s super energy-efficient and long-lasting, that’s an all-around win.

The light comes with a 12-month limited warranty from the manufacturer.

What We Didn’t Love

There’s only really one negative for the Hygger Clip On, and that’s simply that it doesn’t have a remote control.

Sometimes, that’s a big inconvenience, but for the most part, it probably won’t affect your decision too much.

Our Verdict for the Hygger Clip-on Aquarium Light

The Hygger Clip-On is a great option for small aquariums, specifically for betta fish and other single fish tanks.

The light is designed for easy operation, bright light, energy-efficiency, and incredibly easy installation.

The light is strong enough for solid daylight coverage while also providing a soothing blue light for nighttime use for calming fish for bedtime or providing a cooling, comfortable light in your aquarium.

The light isn’t programmable and doesn’t come with a remote control, but this is genuinely otherwise the best low-maintenance, easy-install betta aquarium light around.

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If you’re a Cichlid keeper, you want to check out the Beamswork EA light.

This one is designed specifically for use with these types of freshwater fish while also promoting healthy aquatic plant growth with the red, green, and actinic blue light from the LED bulbs.

The Beamworks LED aquarium light is a high-quality, energy efficient light fixture that has a sleek, attractive modern design.

It comes with extendable brackets for better mounting, and uses four different colors of light to provide your freshwater tank, plants, or specifically cichlids with just the right lighting for healthy life and growth.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: 12″ to 72″ wide
  • Lumens/bulbs: 54 LED bulbs, 2500 lumens
  • Watts: NA
  • Programmable: With purchase of timer
  • Colors: Blue, green, red
  • Special Features: Extendable brackets

What We Loved

The light is a simple, easy-to-install and use model, which we love for a basic aquarium light.

But it has the right combination of colors in the light to provide your cichlids with the right colors while also encouraging your plants to grow.

The light intensity control allows you to adjust how hot and high light the environment is.

What We Didn’t Love

While the lighting system is timer ready, the timer itself isn’t included. For less than $20 you can tack on the timer, but it’s a little frustrating that it’s a sold separately kind of feature.

For those who travel much, have standard work schedules, or otherwise would find a timer convenient, I highly recommend purchasing the extra component to make life just a bit easier than it would be without it.

Our Verdict for the Beamswork EA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light

For a moderately priced lighting system, the Beamswork EA deserved the high praise it has received.

It’s a highly efficient model that’s easy to install and use, and it features the right kind of lighting you need for cichlids and plant growth.

It has the day and night modes for a simple lighting setup for your home aquarium.

The lighting system comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty.

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Your Best LED Lighting aquarium Setup

Whether you’ve already got your eyes set on Aquarien LED lights recommended by friends or if you’re here looking for the absolute best aquarium LED lights review collection to find the right one for your situation, read carefully.

I always recommend looking through all the reviews to learn the details from real life users and reviewers alike.

The best aquarium lighting will be long-lasting, high-quality manufacture and materials, be easy to install and use, and will provide the right spectrum for your particular aquatic life needs.

Be sure to read the professional reviews, but compare them to the up-to-date real-life reviews from users who may pick up on something else, too.

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