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If you’ve got an aquarium full of live plants – or if you’d like to – you’ll find that there are specific requirements you need to meet to keep the plants healthy, happy, and well, alive.

For those who’ve been in the game a while, you already know most of this stuff, but if you’re newer or just need a brush up on info – after all, technology changes constantly – please read below to briefly understand the best way to choose your planted aquarium lighting before you dive into the reviews.

planted aquarium with the best lighting system

best Planted Tank Light Quick-Find Table

Image Product
  • Tons of programmable settings
  • Easy to set up and use for your freshwater fish tank
  • Provides incredible full-spectrum lighting for ultimate growth and best aesthetics
  • Tons of programmable settings
  • Easy to set up and use for your freshwater fish tank
  • Provides incredible full-spectrum lighting for ultimate growth and best aesthetics
  • Mimics sunrise, sunset, and more
  • Vivid lighting colors for natural spectrum lighting
  • Keeps plants happy any time of day
  • Mimics sunrise, sunset, and more
  • Vivid lighting colors for natural spectrum lighting
  • Keeps plants happy any time of day
  • Wide range of colors for perfect lighting conditions for your plants
  • Extremely energy-efficient
  • System keeps working even if one bulb goes out
  • Wide range of colors for perfect lighting conditions for your plants
  • Extremely energy-efficient
  • System keeps working even if one bulb goes out
  • Great for those on a budget
  • Wonderful for Discus fish and freshwater plants
  • Timer ready and easy to setup
  • Great for those on a budget
  • Wonderful for Discus fish and freshwater plants
  • Timer ready and easy to setup
  • Quickly grows low to mid-light plant species
  • Perfect for small planted fish tanks
  • Cool, soothing light system
  • Quickly grows low to mid-light plant species
  • Perfect for small planted fish tanks
  • Cool, soothing light system

Why is Lighting So Important for Planted Tanks?

Just like plants in the wild, your aquarium plants need light. This light allows the plants to grow and thrive, just as sunlight would in the wild environment from where they came.

Lighting in your aquarium provides your plants with this much needed light for photosynthesis and growth, but it also provides your aquarium with a natural aesthetic – i.e. you can see what’s in there!

The right lighting will help your plants develop and grow, but it will also bring out the colors and shapes inside the aquarium that increase the overall attractiveness of it.

Fish also need a light cycle to thrive.

In the wild, they’d get daylight, sunrise, sunset, moonlight, and other natural lighting, and your aquarium should also provide these much needed light modes.

How to Choose the Best LED Lights for Planted Aquariums

Quickly, before we dive into the actual reviews, let’s take a look at the ways to choose the right LED aquarium lighting planted tanks.

Light Spectrum

First, you need a full, broad light spectrum to help your plants and fish remain healthy.

This is the kind of lighting they get in the wild and this is the kind of lighting in which they’ll thrive.

Control, Features, and Modes

Next, the lighting system you choose may or may not have modes and controllers.

If you’re gone a lot, highly invested in your aquarium, or generally want to better control over the lighting, you’ll want to choose a system that allows for timers, light intensity adjustment and color mode adjustments.

Durability and Quality of Manufacture

Generally, I recommend purchasing lighting systems from well-known brands – like the Finnex Ray2, or Fluval or Kessil – that are trusted by other aquarists.

These usually meet the best standards of high-quality materials and solid manufacturing practices for the best light for planted aquarium.


Finally, when you’re keeping a planted aquarium, it’s important to make sure that your lights provide the right amount of brightness for your specific plants and aquatic critters.

If you’re keeping high-maintenance plants, you probably need a much higher-rated light.

But if you’re keeping low-light plants and medium-light species, most options will provide enough light.

How We Chose the Best Lights for a Planted Tank

I dug around among the brand names I know well and trust to see what the current options on the market are.

Among those, I found a wide range of options that other reviewers also seem to be on board with and those that real-life users recommend heartily.

I reviewed each of the top twenty options to find what I believe are the 5 most effective for plant growth and healthy planted aquariums overall.

Below, you’ll find the result of several hours of research, personal knowledge and experience, and personal reviews rolled into this list of the best lighting for aquarium plants.

planted aquarium with blue background

Reviews of the Best LED Lights for Planted Aquarium

The absolute best for both freshwater planted aquariums

Current USA 36 inch to 48 inch Satellite Plus PRO LED Light

When you’re looking for the absolute best of the absolute best, you’ve found it here in the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro.

This system is designed specifically for freshwater aquariums and thriving live plants.

And while other systems have some incredible features, this one, well…really does it all.

This system is capable of supporting about 99% of the plant life out there, from low-light species to bright-light species. Your fish will have true daylight brightness for your enjoyment and your plants will thrive on the vivid colors and super bright white LED lights.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: 18 inches to 60 inches wide
  • Bulbs: 6500k White LEDs and RGBW LEDs
  • Watts: 60 watts
  • Programmable: Yes
  • Colors: Nearly unlimited configurations
  • Special Features: Multiple modes, easy installation, incredibly “natural” lighting

What We Loved

One of the absolute best things about this LED lighting system for aquarium plants is that it is customizable and adjustable in nearly every way imaginable.

If you’re a beginner who wants room to grow into higher-tech lights or an old pro looking to fine-tune the lights, this is your system, hands-down.

You’ll be able to fine tune light intensity and color modes like just about nothing else out there.

The outputs are great for supporting even high-light plant species that need bright, direct sunlight in the wild to thrive.

You can set timers that create a sunset or sunrise simulation, along allowing you to create storm simulations and cloudy day sensations of shadows gliding slowly over the aquarium.

All of this leads to a healthier environment as it more closely mimics the natural biorhythm of your aquarium’s wildlife environment.

Things we Didn’t Love

There are really only a couple negatives I’ve found for this one.

The first is that the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro is kind of pricey. Other options that have similar functions may be around the same price, but this one is usually just a bit higher in cost.

Of course, it is the best, so the price difference for those who can justify it will find it worth it.

The other thing I’ve seen is that the remote can be a touch finicky. Sometimes you’ll have to be closer to get it to work than you might like.

Our Verdict on the Current USA Satellite Plus Pro LED Light

The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro LED Light System is honestly the best system you’re going to find about anywhere without getting a custom system built for a much higher cost.

You can simulate sunrise and sunset, thunder and lightning storms, cloud cover, and more to mimic your fish and plants’ natural biorhythmic environment if they were in the wild.

The system is easy to program and use – though some have had issues with the remote – and you can adjust and fine tune things like color and intensity on the lights.

This means you can either grow into it as you become a more experienced aquarist or you can use it for your already skilled fishkeeping hobby.

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Great timing options for maximum automation

NICREW Planted Plus Aquarium Light

The Nicrew Planted Plus Aquarium Light for Freshwater Aquariums is a fantastic option for anyone who really needs a handle on the timing issue for their planted aquariums.

Folks like me – who travel a lot – will find this a super handy option, especially if they’ve got the feed and other care of the aquarium taken care through automatic fish feeders and pet sitters.

You’ll literally have nothing left to worry about.

Personally, I love this automated LED lighting system for my aquarium plants.

The stunning modes that mimic a slow sunrise, bright daylight, gentle sunset, cloud cover, and other natural aspects of a biorhythmic setting keep me happy but the plants and fish happier since they’re experiencing something closer to their natural environment through it.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: up to 55 gallons (30-36 inches)
  • Lumens/bulbs: 1480 lumens 6500k
  • Watts: 22 Watts
  • Programmable: Yes
  • Colors: Adjustable RGB LEDs and white light
  • Special Features: Simulation of natural biorhythmic lighting, thunderstorms, cloud cover; remote control, 4 memory slots for saving your lighting settings and color modes

What We Loved

The brilliant lighting system is a bright light designed specifically to work with planted aquariums.

If you have a fish tank larger than 55-gallons, you can easily purchase multiple lighting systems – though this may be a little expensive for those on a budget – and you can keep the lights going 24/7 on the stunning natural biorhythmic light cycle.

I love that you can simulate cloud cover and thunderstorms for your aquarium life, as well.

While we don’t love these things in real life necessarily, these LEDs for planted tank add some flair and actually add some natural “realism” to the life of your tank as well.

Plus, honestly, this makes it one of the coolest lighting systems around.

The remote control is a nice feature for adding in those simulations from the other side of the room or just for general changes to your lighting settings, if needed.

Plus, you can use it to adjust lighting intensity and color modes.

What We Didn’t Love

The primary complaint I’ve seen with this is that for some aquarium systems, the Nicrew Planted Plus can reset if you don’t use the memory slots and a power outage happens.

It’s recommended that users purchase a battery backup if the 24/7 mode is desired, especially if you plan to rely heavily on it to keep your plants and fish happy and healthy.

Our Verdict on the Nicrew Planted Plus Aquarium Light for Freshwater Aquariums

While technically the lighting system is designed for freshwater fish tanks, you can also use this lighting system for marine aquariums – not reef tanks, though – for basic lighting with a natural biorhythmic cycle.

The 24/7 mode can be controlled by the remote – as can the light intensity and color modes and weather simulations – and your plants will thrive under the bright lights.

Overall, this is simply one of the absolute best LED aquarium lighting for plants system around.

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#3. Koval 156

78 bright LEDs for optimal plant growth

Koval 78 LED Aquarium Light Hood with Extendable Brackets

For one of the best lights for plant growth, you’ll want to check out the Koval 156 LED Aquarium lighting system. The system offers 78 bright LED bright LED bulbs that show in pink, blue, white, red, and green LED lights.

If you’ve ever unwound a string of Christmas lights, hung it on the tree, and then plugged it in to discover a single bulb has died and so has the strand, you’ll be glad to know that even if a bulb or two goes out on this LED lighting system, you’re still good to go.

The Koval keeps going so that means your plants keep growing.

Just remember to check the bulbs occasionally to make sure you don’t need to replace things for optimum plant growth.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: up to 55 gallons (24-50 inches)
  • 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

One of the most important things for any lighting system is full spectrum LED lighting. This is needed for keeping your fish healthy and happy, but also is important for the other living things in there, specifically your plants.

The Koval offers full spectrum lighting in a wide range of colors for this purpose – as well as your aesthetic pleasure.

The lights are also incredibly efficient, which means you can save on your long-term costs of running the aquarium – another big positive in my book.

The lighting system has an extendable bracket for a more “custom” fit as well, which is a great thing, especially for taking care of unique setups.

And the lighting system is overall an extremely well-built setup, so you don’t have to worry about it falling apart, breaking down, or otherwise failing any time soon.

What We Didn’t Love

Unfortunately, all good things have some form of downside as well. With the Koval, I’ve seen two specific ones.

First, the Koval only has three light modes. For some, this is no big deal, however, for but for those looking for something more fancy and customizable, you’ll be limited here.

Secondly, and more importantly, there’s no timer system on the Koval.

For folks who stay at home or generally don’t travel a lot, this isn’t too much of an issue. You can turn them on and off, you just can’t schedule dimmer lights, sunrise mode, nighttime light, or something like that. Just turn off and on as you need to.

Our Verdict for the Koval 156 LED Aquarium Lighting System

The Koval system is a great, basic lighting setup with full spectrum lights.

It works well for planted aquariums, providing the broad range of colors plants, fish, and people delight in.

It’s an affordable, basic, easy-to-use and set up system, which is great for beginner hobbyists or those looking for a simple setup.

And because of the extendable brackets, the system is also great for aquariums of unusual sizes.

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#4. Beamswork DA 6500K

Not fancy, but works well on a budget

Beamswork DA 6500K point50W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light Freshwater Plant Discus

If you’re looking for a lighting system that works for a tighter budget, you’ll want to check out the Beamswork DA 6500K Freshwater Light System. The lighting system is ideal for planted aquariums and Discus fish in particular.

The system comes timer ready – meaning you just buy a timer and install – and works on two basic modes: the full light or the half-light modes.

While it’s not a fancy model like some with sunrise and sunset simulation, it is a no-nonsense option for those focusing their finances on other parts of their aquarium, but still wanting quality lighting.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Aquarium size: up to 60 gallons (24-72 inches)
  • Lumens/bulbs: 8000 lumens
  • Watts: 75 Watts
  • Programmable: No
  • Colors: Blue, white
  • Special Features: Timer-ready

What We Loved

The light system uses 176 LED lights at 0.50 watts each, with 144 of them at 6500K and 32 on the Actinic light for the full blue light and white spectrums that you find. Many love the full light with the blue included best for a cooling light system.

The lighting system is, by the way, fantastic for low-light and mid-light species. The light really works well to grow those plants and keep chill fish happy.

And since you can add a timer – which can be found reasonably cheaply – you’ll be happy with not having to constantly turn the lights on and off, often forgetting to do so in the right times. (Or is that just me?)

Finally, this honestly just is a very affordable lighting system that still works, assuming you’re working with low-light and less demanding aquatic plants.

What We Didn’t Love

The main negative I can discover on this is that the light itself can run a little hot.

It’s important to make sure you keep an eye on the system – i.e. check the water temperature reasonably often – to ensure you’re not giving your fish a warm bath.

Our Verdict on the Beamswork DA 6500K Freshwater Light System

Overall, this is a great budget-friendly option that works for low-light and mid-light species of fish and live plants.

If you’re aiming to work with persnickety things, then look elsewhere, but if you’re interested in learning, this is a great starter. You can check out some online listings of easy to work plants to get started.

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#5. Goobat Planted LED

A nice option for 12-24 inch tanks

GOOBAT LED Aquarium Light for Planted Fish Tanks

For a comfortable, low or cool-light aquarium lighting setting, the Goobat Planted LED Aquarium Lighting System is a great option, especially for small aquariums with plants.

The lights are powerful enough that real-life users with small aquariums report that a non-planted aquarium will rage with algae growth and owners will soon convert because of the massive growth of plant life.

There are two basic lighting modes for the Goobat lighting system. The blue, red, and white light setup is perfect for your fuller lighting while the blue and red lighting mode is best for a cooler situation like evening or early morning light settings.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Tank size: 12, 20, or 24 inches
  • Lumens/bulbs: 900 to 1980 lumens
  • Watts: 8.5 to 18 Watts
  • Programmable: No
  • Colors: White, blue, red
  • Special Features: Very energy efficient

What We Loved

The light itself is made of an ultra-thin design specifically to cool off and dispense heat away from the fish tank.

The body is made of high-quality aluminum that’s super lightweight and thin, meaning it’s ideal for small fish tanks.

The light comes with adjustable brackets that slide off and on easily to fit the width of your aquarium and the lights are energy-saving and long-service with over 30,000 hours, while shining only from 8.5 to 18 watts of light into your aquarium.

What We Didn’t Love

If you’re looking for bright, high-output daylight type lighting on anything other than a small tank under 15-gallons, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

This is good for low-light and mid-light species or tiny tanks only, though it will bring on the plant life in those very well.

Our Verdict on the Goobat Planted LED Aquarium LED Lighting System

Overall, this is probably your best bet for a small aquarium. The lighting system is bright enough to grow rich, bright plants in small tanks, or low-light and mid-light species in medium size tanks.

You can’t program it, though, and there are only two modes – red, white and blue LEDS, or blue and red.

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