LED Aquarium Lighting: The Buyer’s Guide 16

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Yup, it is time to learn all about LED Aquarium Lighting! Yeay!

If you have not heard about the benefits of using LED lighting for you aquarium then you are definitely in the right place. LED lighting is becoming one of the most popular choices for aquarium hobbyists. Aquarium LED lighting can be used in marine, reef and freshwater aquariums.

The guide below will (hopefully) help you choose the best LED lighting for your aquarium.

LED Aquarium Lighting Buying Guide

Not long ago, LED lighting was simply used for moon lighting for aesthetic appeal, or it was used as a supplementary lighting source. Now LED lights have been developed into an adequate and sufficient source of lighting for all types of aquariums.

New LED lighting has even surpassed the impressive and powerful metal halide system. LED lighting is in a constant state of progression. Technology is rapidly improving and the best thing about this is that LED lights are becoming more affordable!

led aquarium lighting(image source)

Selecting the Right LED Lighting for Your Tank

It might be overwhelming at first to choose the right LED lighting for your tank because there are many things to consider. Here are some things to look for in order to make the process easier and stress free.

Note: It’s not just about the brand of lighting because every tank’s needs will be different.

We are going to focus on a structure that you can use to come to a decision that is right for you and your tank inhabitants.

1. Plan of Action

One of the first things you will want to do is to set up a plan and budget. Your $100 might turn into $300 or more in no time if you don’t have a proper plan of action and you see all the options available. Try not to consider anything above your original budget.

If you’re really running out of options then perhaps your budget was too low to begin with, you will need to be realistic and be prepared to spend the money required to get an effective and long lasting LED lighting system.

Now that you have your budget, here are some important factors to look for when choosing your LED Aquarium lighting. The following list will be different for everyone based on preferences and how important each factor is to you.

2. Longevity and Build Quality

You will want to choose an LED lighting system that is designed to last. In order to make sure that your dollars are well spent, choose LED lights that are not going to break, lose output or change color spectrum in the long run. It is also important that you choose products designed with quality in mind. Make sure the materials used are durable and strong.

ledlight(image source)

It might cost you more upfront to get better LED lights that will last longer, but it will save you money down the road because you will not have to fuss with buying new parts and bulbs each time something breaks.

3. Internal Visual Appeal

You should also focus on the internal aesthetic appeal of your aquarium.

  • Which colors do you want to see in your tank?
  • Has someone else’s aquarium inspired you to go out of the box with color combinations?
  • Do you want to bring out the colors of your fishy friends?

Choose something that will create great color blending and no visual hotspots.

LED Aquarium Lights In Action

Here are some aquariums with super cool LED aquarium fixtures for you to be inspired. Thank me later.





Try to avoid the disco ball effect (unless you want to break out some Saturday Night Fever moves). The disco ball effect is when colors get split up when entering the water and display patches of individually colored lights that appear as if they are ‘dancing’ on your tank floor.

Tip: Trying a different spectrum or reducing the surface tension will cure the disco ball effect.

If you’re still unsure about what type of lights you think will look great in your tank then getting inspiration from Pinterest or YouTube videos could help you with your decision.

4. External Visual Appeal

Where will your aquarium be? In your office, living room, bedroom or hallway?

Make sure that your aquarium will be aesthetically pleasing from the outside and not be viewed as an eyesore. Having big and bulky equipment and frames outside of the tank can make your aquarium look more like a science project than a piece of art.

When choosing your LED setup, try to opt for smaller equipment that won’t take up too much room.

led-aquarium-light-blue-white-variable-salt-fresh-waterimage source

5. User Friendly

Most LED lighting systems have software included and programming options for controllability. Choose a system that has a wide variety of options that are user friendly.

Some setups will come with a simple remote with sliders and buttons and others will require the use of a computer and come with many different options for adjusting timing, light intensity, scheduling, custom color display options and more. Some advanced LED systems will even allow for different intensities for different potions of the tanks, which is great for corals!

See how good this is with Ecoxotic’s RGB Panorama LED Module:-

There are also options to utilize different colors and intensities to mimic different parts throughout the day like sunrise, midday, late afternoon, sunset and nighttime. You can even set up your LED lights to display shimmer lines and pulses.

6. Cost

This may be the number one factor on your list when searching for LED lighting for your aquarium. Try not to just look at the dollar sign per system but break it down by the cost per LED. This way, you can use the formula to compare different setups and know exactly where your money is going. This will also help you see where the fixture ranks in value compared to the other products on the market.

The average lifespan of LED’s are 10 years, or 50,000 hours but these estimates are based on lab conditions. In order to get a full life cycle out of your LED’s, keep the lights cool and use lighting safety features to prevent overheating.

Check out this handy breakdown of the average cost of aquarium lighting over 50,000 hours. (source)

led aquarium lighting guide cost chart
By looking at this chart, it’s easy to see that, although it might cost you more initially to get your LED lighting system up and running, in the long run, the savings are unbeatable.

Be sure to also look for what types of colors are included in this cost. More colors will represent options and flexibility. If you know you want multiple colors then see if it would be more cost effective to buy the colors together or separately.

7. Ease of Upgrading

LED technology is constantly changing and progressing. If aquaria are a big hobby of yours, you will probably own your tank for a long period of time.

It’s important to have the option to upgrade your LED lighting system in case you ever needed to: add more lights, experiment with new colors, get a bigger tank, get new fish or corals that need certain forms of lights etc.

Ask yourself if you can make changes in the future to your LED lighting system if the need arises. Look for lighting setups that come with upgrade kits and add-on equipment.

8. Parts and Warrantee

Another important piece of information to double-check is the warrantee and availability of parts of the equipment.

One question to ask yourself is, how is the company at dealing with parts breaking and getting back to you when you need assistance? Feel free to call and ask companies for an old part and see the type of response that you get. If they are available and eager to help and they have the parts in stock, then you will know that this company is loyal and will be there to help you out.

9. Light Intensity

What types of inhabitants are in your aquarium? Some LED systems provide more PAR output than you will ever need.

orphekledaquariumlight(image source)

Make sure you are able to reduce the output incase your lighting is too intense. Too much light intensity can be deadly for certain types of tank inhabitants!

Lighten Up!

One fixture will never be the exact same as the other, but which one is the best? That’s up to you; requirements and budgets are different for everyone.

As you are now aware, the LED lighting options are endless and there are many things to consider before choosing a system that will suit your needs the best. Hopefully this guide will help you take a list of endless options and narrow them down to something that is aesthetically pleasing, functional and long lasting.


LED Lights For Freshwater Tanks

Marineland Single Bright LED Light System

LED Lights For Saltwater Tanks

TaoTronics Dimmable LED Aquarium Lights

What’s Your Thoughts?

Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea what LED aquarium fixture you’d like to have.

Did you feel that this guide has helped you in any way? If so, please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

16 thoughts on “LED Aquarium Lighting: The Buyer’s Guide

  1. Reply gerald Oct 16,2014 3:27 pm

    Really great read… I have a 55g, had it for a year and now I am just now understanding more of direction from reading listening to your videos and all. Now I have to look into what LEDs I want.

    • Reply Dennis H. Oct 16,2014 3:39 pm

      Hi Gerald, thanks for your comment! Glad you found value in our content. Feel free to let us know what LEDs you settled on once you’ve decided. 🙂

  2. Reply Corkdork81 Oct 22,2014 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the article. I have a 40 gallon fresh wanter planted tank with no co2 as of yet. Im trying to choose an LED lighting system that will allow for the growth of most plants. I may make the decision to use c02 in the future so I would need something that could accommodate that as well.

    Any recommendations?


    • Reply Dennis H. Oct 25,2014 1:21 pm

      Hi, thanks for your comment. Funny you should ask, we just posted an article on LEDs for planted tanks here: http://homeaquaria.com/best-led-grow-lights-aquarium-plants/

      I would recommend using the Finnex FugeRay Planted+, it isn’t as bright as the Ray2 where a lot people are saying would sort of force you to use CO2 and dosing to avoid an algae problem from the brightness of the LEDs. There’s more information in that article, hope that helps.

  3. Pingback: You now want to keep goldfish properly? good! let’s get your tank started. | thegoldfishlady

  4. Reply JUDY Dec 21,2014 4:47 am

    Note: website under construction. ok i have a 135 gallon saltwater reef tank, i have been using the orbit hqi/t5ho model 1074 lighting, 72 x 15 x 4.25 i am in need of upgrading my lighting, i am confused today as to how and what is the best lighting for my reef tank. i keep reading about this led’s as you have mentioned here. i see nothing about size? how would i use something like this for a larger system as mine? would i need to buy more than one system? also mine now sits on the tank>? how would i use the leds, etc. obviously i am very confused, i just want someone to tell me what to buy and how to put it up. help?

  5. Reply Scott C. May 19,2015 4:49 am

    I have a 135 gallon tank and I currently have two Marineland Single Bright LED Lights on this tank. I love the lights but they have been trouble for me. About once a year the power source fails and it’s been a huge pain because initially Marineland didn’t sell just the power source. It took a lot of e-mail back and forth before they were willing to send me a power source for free. But over the past 3 years this has happened a total of 3 times. A week ago a power source on one of the lights has failed AGAIN!! I’m getting tired of fighting this battle and I’ll be looking for a different LED lighting system for my tank. I’ve had great luck with all other Marineland products, but I’m not so sure I’d recommend these lights.

  6. Reply Ron S. Jul 16,2015 3:41 am

    I read about how suitable LED is for aquariums, but I have not seen any article address the water depth issue. From what I have read, the only suitable light system to reach any aquarium with a water depth greater than 20″ is Metal Halide. However, I am inferring from what is being written about LED’s is they will reach any depth without any diminished effect. I have a 110 gallon freshwater aquarium that has a water depth of 36″. Is an LED system going to give my live plants the light they need to flourish?

  7. Reply Dennis H. Sep 21,2015 10:47 am

    Hi I am Raysun Bhakar,(67yrs)Indian after 45 years of my addicted fish hobby, I have already made new two 4’x 2’x 2’fresh water tanks for plants & drift wood. #1 tank Discus only, #2 tank mixed fishes. I want to install the effective & good looking LED lights.

    On my return from Melbourne to Chennai India, I am breaking my journey at Singapore for 3 days. So I have decided to buy the LED light units & some accessories.

    I absolutely have no knowledge at all in the Aquarium LED LIGHTS since I got used to T8 & T5 Tube lights. please help me with your expertise in Tech issue, brands, soft but bright lights which are available in Singapore. Pl mention a few good brands. Thank U.

    I am leaving Melbourne on 01.10.2015. I don’t want to buy anything in Australia because everything is diabolically expensive. Yes U will get ripped off your pants.

    I would very much appreciate your help & grateful to you. Thanks. Cheers.


  8. Reply Paul Dec 20,2015 8:09 pm

    Just wondered if your price comparison included the cost of buying, running and repairing cooling fans for the LED lights option?
    Also pretty appalled that the welfare of the inhabitants is not the first consideration in your list!

  9. Reply Neel Shelar Feb 19,2016 6:31 pm

    Thanks for led information. I waa totally confused about my planted tank. Thanks lots frnds

  10. Reply Jeff Oct 19,2016 11:20 pm

    Hi, I’m wondering if LED lights diminish in UV intensity over time? After 3 years of the same LED lights my tank plants have slowly started to die off. Nothing else has changed in the tank and the people at my local aquarium shop say I need to get a new set of lights because the UV intensity has decreased. Is this true? I searched online but could not find much info. I’m worried they are just trying to sell me something I don’t need.

  11. Reply kate Apr 24,2017 4:21 pm

    Every LED light I’ve even owned (all white color) loses intensity and changes color over time, some faster than others,the longer they are on, the faster the change and, as one would expect, the cheaper the system, the faster the degradation. That has been my #1 complaint with LED lighting and is #1 on my list of reason I am hesitant to purchase an LED system for my tank. Supposedly, this has negative feature has been improved, but how can one know if a system is “new and improved”? I’d really like to try an LED system, particularly because I need something that gives off as little heat as possible, as far as warming the water, but I need to know that I’m not going to be looking at lights that change dramatically over time and with use. As “Jeff” stated with his problem of dying plants due to changing light specs, this is no small issue and definitely increases any estimates on long-term costs. Has anyone had long-time experience with LED aquarium lighting and degrading intensity and color?

  12. Reply Charleen Cramer Jul 20,2017 5:35 pm

    Hey ya’ll! What is the standard maximum &/or minimum intensity percentage for the LED lights? Blue and white? How long does each of them need to stay on either simultaneously or each by themselves or one comes on first for a specific time then the other light comes on? I have a 35gl saltwater tank for 2 1/2 years… My LED system is set on a timer like all the websites say to do to permit a “natural like” environment. I introduced one piece of coral back in April 2017…he’s doing great… test water weekly…all is good! I just recently purchased 2 more pieces of coral (frogspawn & zoanthid) 4 days ago. Tested water before placing coral in my tank… perimeters were met..all was good. By the 2nd going into the 3rd day of my new coral being in the tank, the frogspawn has completely closed up and has not opened yet!! It’s now day 5 that the new coral has been in my tank! I tested the water to rule out anything…water is great. He is located where I was told to put him… low/moderate flow water. What else can I do? Please help! And YES I do feed them. The other 2 coral have no problem eating.

  13. Reply Cheryl Robinson Mar 13,2018 10:29 pm

    I just purchased a 75 gallon tank. All that I have in it so far is live sand I purchased from the pet store, about 150 pounds of live rock that came with the aquarium, flourescent light fixture that’s 48″ long with a blue light and white one. I would like to keep some corrals but I’m not sure as to what kind of led lighting to purchase that would be compatible with just about anything I put in. I did recently purchase two small damsels just to cycle the tank. Any info, suggestions would be greatly appreciated

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