Best Lighting for Planted Aquarium – Top 5 Reviews, Guide, FAQs & More

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It’s hard not to agree with us when we say that buying decent lighting that can effectively grow plants in a planted aquarium can be quite challenging. 

Owing to this, we decided to experiment with all the popular lighting for planted aquariums available out there in order to find out which ones are the best of the best. 

Today, we’ll discuss what special features lighting for planted aquariums should have and which ones should be looking to get.

Top Pick

Great for all freshwater planted aquariums, this product features incredible weather effects that simulate nature perfectly. It will illuminate your planted aquarium brilliantly as well.

Runner Up

Coming with a unique array of red LEDs, this product is specifically made for efficient plant growth. It features a sleek design that will look great on all aquariums you decide to mount it onto.

Also Great

This beautiful product is controlled exclusively through Bluetooth technology. It’s very responsive and highly effective in maintaining and boosting aquarium plant growth by a lot as well.

After months of testing and days of discussion, we decided that these three definitely stand out as the best from the crowd. 

Now, let’s get into the reviews for the top 5 best lighting for planted aquariums.

Best Lighting for Planted Aquarium - Best 5 Reviews

1. All-Around Best Lighting for Planted Aquarium - Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light Review

The CurrentUSA Satellite Freshwater LED is perfect for freshwater planted aquariums of all shapes and sizes. 

We kept fiddling with its modes for days after we got it because we felt we still hadn’t fully explored every mode and feature that it had to offer. 

The lights mimic natural sunlight and moonlight very effectively which is perfect for plant growth as well as for the well-being and health of your fish. 

The build quality is also very impressive. The housing is aluminum which protects the light from any sort of splashing and it has a very sleek and premium look to it. 

Features of Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light – Best Lighting for Planted Aquarium

  1. Four different sizes ranging from 18 inches to 60 inches
  2. IP65 Water-resistant
  3. Tank Arm Mount
  4. Wireless Infrared Remote
  5. Low voltage transformer
  • Easy to program
  • Easy to install
  • Durable
  • Effective and Bright
  • Multiple unique modes
  • Suitable only for freshwater aquariums

If you want a light that’s brimming with features but is also simple to use, this is the product for you. It’s long-lasting, effective and immensely bright.

2. Best Lighting for Planted Aquarium with Moonlights - Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light Review

As you can tell by the name of this product, it’s purposefully designed for planted aquariums. It features cool-white LEDs, Blue LEDs which are used as moonlights and Red LEDs which have been proven to boost the rate at which plants perform photosynthesis. 

It comes with a moisture-resistant splash guard which helps protect it from the tank water which is inevitably going to fall on it sooner or later. 

The circuit boards inside the lighting fixture are made for aluminum which is great for extending the LEDs’ lifespan. We’ve been using them for quite a few months now and they’ve shown zero signs of stopping any time soon.

Features of Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light

  1. Seven different sizes ranging from 12 inches to 48 inches
  2. White, Red and Blue Moonlight LEDs
  3. Ample cooling technology
  4. Warmer light tones
  5. LED spread of 120 degrees
  • Warm, pleasing color
  • Bright, effective LEDs
  • Affordable
  • Easy to mount
  • Individually switchable controls
  • Fixture seems slightly flimsy

If you want red LEDs to boost photosynthesis along with attractive moonlights, this product is definitely for you. It’s very simple to mount and easily controllable.

3. Best Small Lighting for Planted Aquarium - Hagen Fluval Plant Bluetooth Nano LED Aquarium Light Review

This beautiful little aquarium lighting product is something that anyone would be delighted to add to their small desktop planted aquarium. 

It features effective, bright LEDs that illuminate your planted aquarium beautifully. We were very pleased to see how well we were able to see the details of our plants and fish underneath this light. 

The control through Bluetooth is also very responsive and has an impressive range as well. The bracket connector attached to it makes it very simple to mount any planted aquarium that has a wall thickness between 3 mm and 8 mm.

Features of Hagen Fluval Plant Bluetooth Nano LED Aquarium Light

  1. Dimensions: 5 inches by 5 inches
  2. Weight: 1.5 pounds
  3. IP67 Waterproof
  4. Effective light penetration
  5. 15 Watts operating capacity
  • Highly responsive
  • Small in size
  • Easy to mount
  • Simple to use
  • Sleek, premium design
  • Not suitable for larger aquariums

If you’re looking for a beautiful and effective light for your small planted aquarium, this is the product for you. It doesn’t take up too much space and adds a beautiful ambience to your planted aquarium and your room.

4. Best Full Spectrum Lighting for Planted Aquarium - Fluval A3990 Aqua Fresh & Plant 2.0 LED Review

This lovely little product by Fluval almost slipped our sights because it hadn’t been advertised much by their brand. We’re so glad we were able to dig it up and put it to the test because it’s a great piece of lighting equipment. 

It features multi-colored LEDs that work together to create a unique blend of light that is specifically designed to boost photosynthesis and help your live aquatic plants grow. 

It comes in the form of LED strip lights so they’re very easy to mount onto your aquarium. It also features a dimming feature so you can easily control the intensity of the light until it’s just right for your plants.

Features of Fluval A3990 Aqua Fresh & Plant 2.0 LED

  1. Dimensions: 2.8 inches by 7 inches by 27.3 inches
  2. Weight: 2.85 pounds
  3. Unique blend of multiple LEDs for optimal photosynthesis
  4. Extendable mounting brackets
  5. Dimmable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to mount
  • Boosts photosynthetic activity
  • Long-lasting
  • High amount of penetration in water
  • Not suitable for saltwater aquariums

If you want full-spectrum LEDs that are made specifically to promote plant growth, this is the product you’re looking for. It’s lightweight and will last you a long time.

5. Best Customizable Lighting for Planted Aquarium - Fluval A3998 AquaSky (RGB+W) LED Review

Fluval is a household name when it comes to aquarium products and they have really outdone themselves with this particular light for planted aquariums. 

It features RGB LEDs along with cool-white LEDs that come together to bring you an effective and beautiful illumination experience. You’ll find that they light up your planted aquarium wonderfully to the point where your plants will have no trouble photosynthesizing. 

It’s also built very cleverly while keeping the customer’s ease in mind. It’s made so that you have little to no trouble setting it up. It features extendable brackets which help it mount onto a wide variety of aquariums.

Features of Fluval A3998 AquaSky (RGB+W) LED

  1. Dimensions: 2.5 inches by 5.3 inches by 39 inches
  2. Weight: 2.5 pounds
  3. IP67 Waterproof
  4. 11 preset effects
  5. Comes with a remote control
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to use
  • Responsive controls
  • Expensive

If you’re looking for effective lighting that can conveniently be customized, this is the product for you. The remote enables you to program these lights easily even when you’re sitting far away.

best lighting for planted aquarium

Buyers’ Guide 

What are some things I should keep an eye out for when buying lighting for a planted aquarium?

There are a number of factors you can look at and keep in mind which will help you make your shopping process for lighting for a planted aquarium a whole lot easier. Some aspects should keep an eye out for are: 

  • Brand

It’s important when shopping for planted aquarium lighting that you buy it from a reputable brand. Observe and ensure you’re not buying a product from a company that’s a knock-off or a generic company that’s trying to pass its products off as products from a reputable brand. 

Brands that have built a name for themselves over the years are on top for a reason; It’s because they have consistently delivered high-quality lighting throughout the years. 

  • Aquarium Size

Obviously, your aquarium size matters. Having an aquarium that’s deep and/or large will require lighting that’s of a bigger size and that works at a higher capacity. The operating capacity of aquarium lighting is usually measured in watts per gallon. Normally, for a planted aquarium, the lighting that is usually required comes in somewhere between 3 – 5 watts per gallon. So for example, if you have a 20-gallon aquarium, aquarium lighting of somewhere between 60 – 100 watts would suffice. 

  • Build Quality 

This is something you have to ensure personally when you’re buying lighting for your planted aquarium. Observe the material that the light is made of, ensure the LEDs are securely integrated into the light fixture, make sure the power cord is thick and long enough for you. You don’t want to invest your hard-earned money in a light that will give up on you a few months down the road.

  • Type of Plants You Have

This goes without saying but you should definitely decide on what type of live aquarium plants you intend to keep in your aquarium before you go out and buy lighting for it. Some plants require low-medium intensity lighting while others require high-intensity lighting. Be sure to do your research and know what type of lights are appropriate for the plants you have so you can make your decision accordingly.

How do I install lighting for my planted aquarium

Most aquarium lighting is fairly easy to install. They have intuitive designs and often come with an instruction manual that has clear instructions on how to set it up. 

In general, ensure your aquarium is placed near an electrical socket so you’re able to easily plug in your aquarium lighting. Place it on top of your aquarium and secure it using the clamp/bracket/hinge that comes with it. It’s a good idea to do this before you’ve added water, fish or plants to your planted aquarium. Once you’ve securely attached the lighting to your planted aquarium, go ahead and turn it on and make any customization you need until your planted aquarium is perfectly lit. 

Do I really need artificial lighting for my planted aquarium? Won’t sunlight suffice?

Some people do think that live aquarium plants can be healthily grown using sunlight in the same way that normal plants are. However, this is far from the truth and in reality, utilizing sunlight for your planted aquarium can result in a number of unforeseen, problematic consequences. 

Sunlight is not a factor that you can control; It may be too intense one day and it might not be there at all the next day (due to cloudy or rainy conditions). This unreliability and erratic nature of sunlight can cause algae to grow inside your aquarium which would hinder your live aquarium plants greatly. 

Not to mention, sunlight can heat up your aquarium substantially as well. This may cause your fish to develop stress-related diseases. 

What are the different types of lighting for planted aquariums?

There are a number of different lighting options that fishkeepers opt for for their planted aquariums. Some of the different types of lighting for planted aquariums are: 

  • LED Lighting 

This is by far the most popular form of lighting for planted aquariums. They are energy-efficient, they don’t dissipate a lot of heat and they have a long lifespan. 

  • Metal Halide Lights 

These lights are known for their high penetrating power through the water. They are usually opted for when a fishkeeper has a very deep or a very large aquarium. Metal Halide lights produce a lot of heat and often, a chiller needs to be bought alongside it in order to keep the temperature of the aquarium stable. 

  • Fluorescent Lighting 

Fluorescent lighting used to be the lights of choice for planted aquariums but they are quickly going out of style as they use a lot more energy as compared to LEDs. 

How much light does a planted aquarium need?

We briefly discussed above how a planted aquarium generally requires a light that operates at about 3 – 5 watts per gallon. In the case of a saltwater planted aquarium, this number may be slightly higher (somewhere around 4 – 8 watts per gallon). 

As for duration, most freshwater planted aquariums require about 8 hours of light every day whereas most saltwater planted aquariums require about 12 hours of light every day. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it necessary for me to invest in a timer for the lighting in my planted aquarium?

It’s not necessary, per se, but we do advise you to get one as you’ll be able to rest easy and it will ensure your plants are getting the correct amount of light each day. 

You may feel that you don’t need a timer because you can turn the light off and on yourself each day but there might come a day when you’re not available in your home or you might even just forget someday. 

How can I fix an algae outbreak that is caused by excessive lighting?

Algae caused by excessive lighting has a fairly obvious solution: no lighting. Place your aquarium in total darkness for a day or two. This should be enough to solve any algae problems you might be having. 

If you still notice algae inside your aquarium then this might mean it’s not because of excessive lighting and may be due to unclean conditions inside your planted aquarium or overfeeding of your fish. 

Is LED lighting suitable for a planted aquarium?

Yes. As we’ve discussed earlier briefly, LED lighting is the perfect option for a planted aquarium. These days, companies are specifically manufacturing LED lighting that is targeted towards planted aquariums. They are customizable and can be programmed with infinite controllability so you can get lighting conditions that are just right for the type of plant you have. 

What is the normal lifespan of aquarium lights?

LED lights can last from anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs last about two to four months. Fluorescent lights can run for about six to eighteen months while metal halide lights last up to 28 months.

Should I leave my lights on at night in my planted aquarium?

This is definitely not recommended. Leaving your lights on in your planted aquarium can lead to a number of dangerous consequences. 

Firstly, it’s very harmful to the fish inside your aquarium. Fish require time in darkness in order to rest and sleep. Having regulated cycles of light and darkness help them develop healthy sleep cycles. If you deprive them of darkness, this can lead to them developing all kinds of stress-related diseases. 

Secondly, as we’ve mentioned before, excessive lighting can lead to algae problems in your planted aquarium which would be harmful to your plants. 

Are LED lights waterproof? 

Some of them are but you should not assume that your aquarium LED light is waterproof unless it’s explicitly stated. We strongly recommend that you protect your LED lights from all sorts of splashes as they can definitely lower your LED’s lifespan.

Can I use regular fluorescent bulbs to grow live aquarium plants? 

You can if you want to but it won’t be very effective in the long run and it will cost you a lot more than if you were simply using LED lights that are specifically made for planted aquariums. 

Regular fluorescent bulbs don’t have a long lifespan and the ones you get may not be operating at the appropriate color temperature and light intensity which your plants might need in order to grow properly.

Can I use a regular grow light in my planted aquarium? 

Yes. Any light that is able to grow plants outside of any aquarium can grow plants inside an aquarium. 

There are just two things you need to ensure: 

Firstly, make sure that the light you’re using is operating at the capacity that is needed by the specific live aquarium plants inside your aquarium. 

Secondly, ensure that the light is not operating at a capacity that might be stressful or harmful for the fish inside your planted aquarium. 

Can regular LED lights be used in my planted aquarium? 

You can try but regular LED lights often lack the intensity and penetrating power that’s needed to properly grow live aquarium plants. You would need a lot of regular LED lights to get the same intensity and in the end, this would really not be worth it. 

Can LED lights burn plants? 

This is not true even with plants that are outside aquariums. It’s certainly not true for plants that are inside planted aquariums. LED lights produce barely any heat at all and it’s very unlikely that they will burn your plants no matter how intense they are.

Final Verdict

It’s easy to see how many people find it daunting to select the right lighting for their planted aquarium. It can be quite difficult to find the right balance between aesthetics, effectiveness, and price. 

In the end, we have to go with the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light. It’s highly effective and the amount of features it offers at its price is absolutely unbeatable. 

With that, we’ve reached the end of our post for the best lighting for planted aquariums. 

Give us feedback and let us know what light you’re using for your planted aquarium.

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