Best Aquarium LED Lighting (Review & Buying Guide) in 2019

The aquarium is not only the home of your favorite aquatic pets; it can also be the centerpiece in your living room or even office. However, without the correct aquarium lighting, it simply won’t stand out. For people who look at it, it will be nothing more than a big tank of water with aquatic life forms inside. If you have an aquarium then you should always invest in the best aquarium LED lighting to really bring out the life in this adorable piece of pet containment-slash-home décor. And if you’re not sure where to start you’ve definitely landed on the right page.

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NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

Kessil A360WE Controllable LED Aquarium Light

Kessil A360WE Controllable LED Aquarium Light

Barrina 48-Inch Aquarium Hood Lighting

Barrina 48-Inch Aquarium Hood Lighting

Best Aquarium LED Lighting Buying Guide & FAQ

Features to Consider When Buying Aquarium LED Lighting

First-time aquarium-owners who are seriously considering adding appropriate lighting to their fish tank are often faced with the dilemma on which aquarium lighting system to use. Even with LED aquarium lighting, the choices can be numerous. You can narrow down your search if you know what features you have to be looking for. Here are some for your consideration.

  • Daytime-nighttime lighting

Fish tanks are designed to mimic the natural environment upon which aquatic animals thrive.

aquarium led lighting

That being said, you should have a system that will recreate the environment upon which these animals and plants thrive. You can do this by choosing a lighting system that comes with daytime and nighttime controls.

  • Light spectrum

Aquariums are miniature ecosystems that include animals and plants living harmoniously together. While illuminating your fishes can really make your fish tank stand out, you’d have to take care of the aquatic plants and corals as well. When it comes to facilitating the optimum health and growth of these life forms, you’d have to choose LED fish tank lights that offer the full spectrum of colors.

  • Programmability and customizability

Many high-end aquaria LED lighting systems today come with programmable lighting conditions. Many are embedded with pre-programmed lighting scenarios that can be accessed with a simple flip of a switch. If you’re already knowledgeable of aquatic ecosystems, then you’d definitely want a fixture that you can program yourself to suit your own understanding of what your fish tank setup requires.

  • Cooling and heat dissipation system

While it is true that LEDs emit less heat than conventional lighting mechanisms, they still produce heat. Over time, this can have a significant impact in the water quality upon which your fishes and other aquatic life forms are living in. Although there are fishes that prefer warmer waters, the point is to maintain the correct water temperature to facilitate marine life growth. The heat coming from the fixture should thus be effectively managed.

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  • Kelvin rating

The Kelvin or lumen rating of your LED system is one of the more important features you have to look for in an aquarium lighting setup. The color temperature of light can have an impact on the energy requirements of aquatic plants. Choosing the right Kelvin rating can help facilitate the growth of your aquatic plants.

Benefits of LED Aquarium Lighting

Aquarium LED lighting systems can provide a host of benefits. Here are some of them.

  • Consumes less energy

Unlike conventional fish tank illumination mechanisms, LED technology requires only minimal energy to produce the same level of illumination. An 8.5-watt LED bulb is actually the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb or 14 watts on a CFL bulb. This can easily translate into better energy savings while giving your aquarium the kind of lighting that its inhabitants deserve and giving your room the aesthetics that it needs.

  • Mimics natural lighting conditions in the real world

The good thing about LED lighting systems is that you can have differently-colored bulbs in the same housing. Using an integrated control mechanism, these fixtures can mix different colored bulbs to create a more realistic underwater environment. For instance, instead of turning the aquarium into pitch black at night the fixture can mimic the light of the moon shining through the surface of the water, providing a deep blue environment for aquatic life forms.

  • Better control of lighting conditions

While natural lighting effects can provide your fishes and aquatic plants the natural ecosystem that they thrive in, sometimes you’d want to experiment with the effects. LED lighting systems in aquariums give you the opportunity to make customizations in the lighting conditions for your aquatic friends.

  • Lower heat output

Managing the temperature of your water can be very challenging especially for newbies. Because LEDs have lower heat outputs, making sure your fish tank’s water is at its right temperature is relatively easy.


Q:  How does LED aquarium lighting work?

A:  LED fish tank lights work like any other lighting system for the aquarium. You have a lighting fixture in the form of light emitting diodes that are arranged in a certain configuration so that their luminance is optimized. These LED lights are connected to a microchip that controls a variety of the LEDs’ properties such as brightness levels, color spectrum, and the like. The same microchip also runs a variety of algorithms to help determine the right mixture of LEDs, luminance levels, and color spectrum to bring out the much-desired scene in the aquarium. The idea of using aquarium LED systems is to mimic the natural light conditions upon which the fish- and plant- residents of the aquarium can grow to their fullest. It’s like recreating their natural environment using artificial light sources.

Q:  Are LED lights good for growing aquarium plants?

A:  Horticulturists have slowly moved away from the use of fluorescent lamps and high-intensity discharge lamps in facilitating the growth of plants in favor of using LEDs. Studies show that LEDs provide the highest efficiency ratings when it comes to photosynthetically active radiation or PAR. This is what scientists use to measure the amount of light that is readily available for photosynthesis. Scientific literature shows that LEDs can actually provide 80 to 100 percent PAR, whereas HIDs can only produce about 40% tops. What this literally means is that LED systems provide a much better light environment upon which plants can grow. That being said, aquarium LED lights are also great for growing aquatic plants in your fish tank.

Q:  How does the color of light affect the growth of plants?

A:  Elementary botany teaches us that plants are very efficient food factories. Like all factories, they require an energy source. Plants use light to manufacture food in a process called photosynthesis. And here’s the thing. The color of light has been shown to exert an effect on the amount of energy that plant species can absorb. And since light is energy, the color of light that produces the highest amount of energy will be more beneficial for plants.

The color spectrum typically comes in different wavelengths with each one corresponding to different energy levels. Shorter wavelengths like purple and violet have higher energy while colors with longer wavelengths like red have lower energy. Green, which is somewhere in the middle of the color spectrum doesn’t really have any effect on plants since it is essentially the same with the pigment produced by plants themselves, chlorophyll.

Not only does the color of light have an effect on the growth of plants, it also plays a role in which part of the plant will grow more efficiently. For example, blue light is generally used for encouraging growth and development of leaves while the combination of red and blue will help stimulate plants to bloom or to produce flowers.

Because different colors of light can bring about a variety of effects on plants, horticulturists now use a variety of LED light technologies to bring about the best possible results for their plants.

Q:  When should I turn off the aquarium light?

A:  This is like asking if fishes sleep. Of course, fishes do sleep even though their eyes are wide open. The thing is that all living organisms need to rest for several hours in a day to help recharge their bodies. The question as to when you should turn off your aquarium lights is actually dependent on the type of fish that you have in your tank. Some aquatic species require light to retain their remarkable colors. There are also some species of fish that are known to become lethargic or will stop eating without light. So it is best to check the light requirements of the fishes in your tank.

Generally, however, aquatic life forms require 12 hours of light every day. As such, you can use this guideline to determine when you should turn off your aquarium lights. Or better yet, use an aquarium lamp with the built-in timer so that it automatically shuts off. The important thing to understand is you cannot leave the aquarium light on 24 hours straight as this can invite excessive growth of algae.

Q:  How and where to place aquarium LED lights?

A:  Most owners of planted aquarium lighting systems place their aquarium LED lights flat above the aquarium. This can result in the spotlight as well as the presence of dark spots. Unfortunately, there is no single positioning or orientation of aquarium lighting systems that work best across a multitude of scenarios.

If you want to reduce spotlighting, mounting the lights higher above the waterline helps while at the same time allowing for greater access to the tank for maintenance purposes. Alternatively, you can mount the lights high up from the tank and at an angle to help minimize the amount of light that reaches the glass.

You can also position the LED lights lengthwise or perpendicular to the tank. It is best to create a plan first so that you will have a better idea of the kind of illumination that your lighting fixtures will provide. As much as possible space them closer so that their light overlaps, eliminating dark spots.

Q:  How do I dim LED aquarium lights?

A:  Most LED fish tank systems today already come with dimmers built into them. If you want to dim your aquarium LED lights you simply turn a knob or slide a switch to get the desired level of brightness in your fish tank. There are also those that can be controlled by a dedicated app on your smartphone. For those systems without built-in dimmers, there’s still hope. External dimmers can be bought and connected to your LED system so you get the dimming effect you’re looking for. But, there’s a catch. You have to call your aquarium lighting manufacturer and ask if an external dimmer can be connected to the system. Most do, but there are a few that won’t.

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Q:  How do I program LED aquarium light?

A:  Advanced aquarium LED systems have built-in programmable features that can provide your fish tank and the various life forms inside it the kind of environment that they need. Some actually come with pre-programmed effects such that you only need to select the ‘environmental lighting’ that you want for your tank. More advanced systems come with graphics controllers complete with sliders for each of the LEDs in the system. This is definitely for those who have in-depth knowledge of the kind of lighting conditions their fish and coral species truly need.

aquaruims with led light

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Our Top Pick

It may not have very complicated programming or different lighting modes to brag about, but the NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light won our hearts basically for its unpretentious design, very simple setup, powerfully-efficient LED system and a price that is the friendliest of the lot. It provides just the right levels of illumination to watch your aquatic plants to grow while letting your fishes stand out in the foreground. For its modest design yet superlative functionality in illuminating the various life forms in one’s aquarium plus a definite price advantage, it is no wonder that the NICREW has earned the respect and admiration of even avid aquarium owners.

Choosing the right lighting fixture for your aquarium should not really give you a headache. LED lighting systems provide exceptional control of light settings, ease of setup, the realism of simulated aquatic environments, and their ability to promote the growth of aquatic plants. They are simply the best when it comes to lighting your fish tank.


  1. In LED Aquarium Lighting, Placement is Everything, Orphek
  2. Photosynthesis Under Artificial Light: The Shift in Primary and Secondary Metabolism, NCBI
  3. Should I Turn My Fish Aquarium Light Off at Night?, Pets The Nest
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