Best LED Lights for Planted Tanks – 2021 Reviews and Guides 🏅

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The freshwater planted tank is the pinnacle of the freshwater tank hobby. You may have seen incredible aquascaped aquariums with great looking plants and competitions at trade shows. A successful freshwater planted tank starts with proper lighting and spectrum. The best freshwater planted lights these days are LEDs as they provide great functionality and customization. Picking the best LED lights for planted tanks can be a little bit tricky because there is so much out there, but I hope this guide is just as comprehensive and as information as our Best Reef LED post.

In a hurry? The best LED Light for planted tanks is the Twinstar E Series LED

Freshwater LED lighting can be broken down into three elements:

  • Spectrum
  • PAR
  • Spread.

Step 1 – Understanding Planted Tank Light Spectrum

There isn’t a lot posted online about planted tank light spectrum, which I find disappointing given the amount of LEDs on the market. The goal with planted tank spectrum is a balance spectrum with an emphasis on red and blues. 

What you will find in many LED models out there is that spectrum is deficient in red and blues. You want to have 40-70% of the light in the red and blue spectrum. This may mean you will have to either shop around, purchase a higher end light, or customize the spectrum on the LED model if customization is available. In general, most manufacturers aim for a 6500K spectrum light. While this is the standard you will see, other factors will matter such as the spread and intensity of the light. The Kevin rating is just a visual rating of the light.

Step 2 – Intensity Measurements With PAR

Just like saltwater reef tanks, plants need to have certain intensity that we can measure in PAR. We can break down PAR levels into the following categories:

Low Light Plants

25-50 PAR. This is best suited for shade aquarium plants or low light requirement plants like Java Moss.

Medium Light Plants

100-150 PAR. With this light level and proper C02 regulation, you can grow any available plant with this intensity level. You may not get the best coloration with red colored plants though. This light level is ideal for carpet plants like Eleocharis Dwarf Hairgrass

High Intensity Light Plants

150-250 PAR. This level of intensity is ideal for red colored aquarium plants. This lighting intensity allows for great plant density and mitigates shading effects of larger plants. Because this is more intense light, this required more maintenance to prune down plants and control algae issues.

A more detailed listed is below by Species from The Barr Report forum:

PAR for Planted Tanks

Measuring Your PAR In Your Planted Tank 

Measuring PAR with a tool can be crazy expense as the tool available are designed for reef aquariums. There is a good video from AquaPros that shows you how to make your own DIY PAR meter with the Apogee sensor and a digital multimeter that will work for a planted tank. The video is below for your reference. Using a meter like the video along with the PAR guidelines above will ensure you have the proper intensity for your plants of choice. Some manufacturers will publish the PAR data of their aquarium light fixtures, but many will not have figures published.

Other alternatives would be to use the Seneye Reef Aquarium monitor, which comes with a PAR meter, borrowing a PAR meter at your local aquarium club, or renting it from a local fish store.

Step 3 – Understanding Aquarium Light Spread

Spread is a major concern with densely populated planted tanks as taller plants will shade smaller plants as they grow. This is why having a setup that has two or more light sources is ideal for a showcase level planted tank.

If you go with a single bulb or fixture it is very possible to have a very high PAR level in certain areas of the aquarium and have edges or shadows completely void of adequate PAR. This is especially worrisome if one is looking at LEDs as LED themselves are focused lights versus eventually distributed like T5. The quality of your lenses and their degree angles will matter with LED lights for planted tanks. 

To provide an example, a wide angled LED light pendent may have certain parts of the aquarium shadowed by the aquascape and plants but a T5 fixture or a wide angled LED array will not have such an issue. When look for LEDs, you want to look at LED arrays versus pendants. Higher end LEDs will also have built in diffusors on them to mitigate the shadowing issues.

Our Planted Tank Lighting List

Working off the knowledge I just shared let’s start to look at the best LED Lights for planted tanks that you can buy. 

This is not your typical list that you may have seen from other sites as I am including some high end fixtures as well as budget friendly items. These have been carefully selected with the three core elements in mind – Spectrum, Intensity, and Spread.

PictureNameBest ForLink
Editor’s Choice!
Twinstar E-Series LED Light
Twinstar E-Series LED Light

Pro Grade Planted Tanks

Click For Best PriceBuy On Glass Aqua
Best Value
Serene Pro RBG LED
Serene Pro RBG LED

Pro Grade Planted Tanks

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Budget Option
Chihiros RGB Aquarium LED Light
Chihiros RGB Aquarium LED Light

Pro Grade Planted Tanks

Buy On Amazon
Fluval Freshwater 3.0 LED Light Fluval Freshwater 3.0 LED Light

All Planted Tanks

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Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Finnex FugeRay Planted+

All Planted Tanks

Buy On Amazon
Hydrofarm T5 Fixture Hydrofarm T5 Fixture

All Planted Tanks

Buy On Amazon
Kessil Tuna Sun Lights Kessil Tuna Sun Lights

All Planted Tanks

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NICREW SkyLED NICREW SkyLED

Low Light Planted Tanks

Buy On Amazon
UNS Titan UNS Titan

Professional Aquascapes

Click For Best Price

The 9 Best LED Lights For Planted Tanks (Aquariums)

Let’s get into the reviews and see who’s the best!

1. Twinstar LEDs – Pro Level LEDs for Planted Tank Enthusiasts 

Editor's Choice
Twinstar LED

The Best LED for Planted Tanks

Twinstar nails the spectrum, has the proper spread and comes with a sleek design. Perfect for aquascapers

Buy On Buce Plant Buy On Glass Aqua

The Twinstar Series LED lights are the premier light on this list. The main selling point with this light is the spectrum. The spectrum is fully tuned for the best colors and plant grow performance. It is a full light spectrum with wavelengths of 400nm to 700nm that is required for plant growth.You also get a very sleek design with acrylic brackets that make the unit easy to mount and look pleasing to the eye when installed in your aquarium. The mounts are designed for rimless tanks, so keep that in mind if you have a rimmed aquarium.

Twinstar is also one of the few makers on this list that openly publish their PAR ratings, which takes out the guesswork with the unit. Below is are the PAR ratings for the unit.

If you are looking for a high end light for your high end planted tank setup or rimless tank, this is a great light to consider.  It is the go to light for pro aquascapers. See the full review for more details.

Pros

  • Great spectrum setup for planted tanks
  • Sleek design
  • Ideal for Rimless tanks

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as much controllable features as there should be

2. Current USA Serene Pro LED – A Great Value For Planted Tanks

Best Value
Serene RGB Pro LED

Best Value

Current USA's offering into aquascaping is an incredible value. Spectrum, spread, easy to program and great PAR output.

Click For Best Price Buy On Amazon

 

The Current USA Serene was at the time of their introduction an unusual entry into the fishkeeping hobby. It was a a typical LED light, but it featured a sound board to input soothing sounds into your living room or office. This was great in concept, but there wasn’t an ethusianst light at the time.

In comes in the Serene Pro LED light, and let me tell this light has blown me away. It has the PAR values on equal to the Twinstar LED (as soon below and it has that desired RGB spectrum that all big aquascapes want for their setups. It also has a nice white color, which works great with many planted tank setups vs. the black body you usually see with LEDs.

Serene Pro PAR Values

As a user of Current products (I’ve used the Loop IC Pros for my own LPS tank), I’m a believer in Current USA products. The price sells it for me. I used to put the Fluval 3.0 as the best value in this post and promoted for over a year. This Serene light blows it away. It’s far cheaper, has better PAR output and the RBG spectrum is ideal for planted tanks.

What’s the main drawback with this light? Well, it lacks a mobile app, which is what the Fluval has over it. Is that worth the price difference though? That’s really up to you, but for me I rather use that extra money for some more plants or sweet hardscapes like driftwood and rocks.

Pros

  • Affordable pro grade light
  • Great spectrum
  • Slim Profile

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • 1 year warranty

3. Chihiros RGB Aquarium LED Light – Pro Grade Planted LED at a Budget Price!

Budget Option
Chihiros LED

Budget Option

Great price with the ideal spectrum. A very popular planted tank brand in Asia

Buy On Amazon

I’m starting off the list with a pro grade aquarium led light – the Chihiros RGB Aquarium LED. This is a great light for a fully planted tank and offers a quality spectrum and a great price for what you get. Many people in the US may not know about this light, but this is a very popular like among planted enthusiast in Asia. 

It offers a very slim profile that can mount on top of your aquarium, giving you a very clean finish and the light array spreads the entire length of the fixture, which is something I mentioned earlier as a key to a quality LED setup. 

It is a simple to use fixture. It has no controller and just comes with a manual dimmer, which allows for adjustments from 100% – 30%. Because it doesn’t have a controller, it will require a time to get full on and off automatic functionality.

Overall, it’s a great light with no frills. This light is all about the output and performance so if you want a pro grade light without the price tag, this is a great consideration.

Pros

  • Affordable for a pro grade light
  • Great spectrum
  • Slim Profile

Cons

  • No controller
  • Dimmer only adjusts in percentages of 10% down to 30%

4. Fluval Plant Spectrum 3.0 LED Light – Excellent Light With All The Bells and Whistles

3 Year Warranty
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED

Fluval delivers a great LED with a number of modern features like an mobile app. Backed by a industry leading 3 year warranty

Buy On Amazon Click For Best Price

The Fluval Plant 3.0 is a massive improvement to the old Freshwater 2.0 models. This is one of the more technology advanced planted LED lights on the list. It has a programmable, gradual 24-hour light cycle settings of sunrise, midday, sunset, and night. You have full control of your light spectrum with 6 unique waves that you can modify to dial in the color and spectrum you desire with this light. Fluval also does the homework for you with several pre-set such as Lake Malawi, Tropical, and Planted. The LEDs themselves are built of next gen High Thermal Eddiciency (H.T.E.) LEDs that improve output and performance. The light itself is protected by IP67 waterproof related aluminum casing.

The main selling point is the control on this unit. In the video above, you can see how easy it is to control this light to add your timer, change spectrum, and use presets all on your mobile device. All of this is backed by Fluval’s ironclad 3 year warranty, easily the best warranty on this list.

So what’s the catch here? Well, mostly the price. It’s one of the more expensive lights on this list, but it is also one of the most comprehensive lights on here. You can’t go wrong with this light and that warranty along with the Fluval name is amazing!

Pros

  • WiFi and mobile app
  • 3 year warranty
  • Beginner friendly

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Moderate PAR

5. Finnex FugeRay Planted+ – Name Brand Light With Great Performance

Finnex FugeRay

A reasonably priced planted tank fixture with great spread

Buy On Amazon

The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ light is a staple in the planted tank and refugium niche. In saltwater tanks, this is sometimes used for sump refugiums as a reasonably price fuge light and for planted tanks it makes a balanced light for all sorts of planted tanks.

The main thing that puts this light on the list is their more evenly spaced LED alignment which gives you a more reliable spread on the tank. There are also moonlights here for light and ramp down lighting and a true 600nm red LEDs. The lenses on this light is the ideal 120 degree that I refer for LED light spread. Overall, it’s a solid package for a reasonable price. 

The main downfall with this light is that it is designed for dual purpose. It is made for both saltwater fuges and freshwater planted tanks. A 100% dedicated freshwater planted tank would have offered more reds and blue. The light has more whites than I would like.

Pros

  • Dual purpose with planted tanks and saltwater fuges
  • Reasonable price
  • Easy to Use

Cons

  • Low controllability
  • More whites than there should be

6. Hydrofarm T5 Fixture – For Us Old School Aquarists!

Hydrofarm T5

Oldschool T5s are still the very best in spread and spectrum. Ideal for dutch aquascapes

Buy On Amazon

A T5 light in the middle of an LED light blog post?!? What madness is this? Well, I’m an old school aquarist and know the value of T5 fixtures. This T5 fixture from Hydrofarm is a great reasonably priced option for those needing to light a longer tank.

T5s continue to have their place for planted tanks as well as reef tanks. This unit offers no frills, but gets the job done at a reasonable price. The main thing is selecting the T5 bulbs. For a 4 bulb package – here would be my recommendation:

There some obvious downfalls with this unit. It lack any control functions so you will need to use a timer and have to live with no ramp up or ramp down features. Being a T5, they will draw more power and will need to replace the T5 bulbs at least every year.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • T5 spread
  • T5 bulbs are idiot proof for getting the best spectrum

Cons

  • T5 bulbs will need to be replaced
  • Consumes more power than LEDs
  • Lack of control features

7. Kessil Tuna Sun – High End LED Pendant Lighting for Planted Tanks!

Kessil 160WE Controllable LED Aquarium Light, Tuna Sun

Kessils are the best pendent lighting system for freshwater planted tanks

Buy On Amazon Click For Best Price

The Kessil Tuna Sun is the premier pendant light for planted tanks. What sets it apart from other pendant lights is the Dense Matrix LED, which emits more high-quality light than other pendant fixtures.This Dense Matrix creates shimmer effects and provides a great color mix that really shows off in a planted tank. They work best in 24 x 24 setups so if you have a 3 or 4 foot tank setup you will need to purchase another unit. They have goosenecks and bracket mount options that give you a lot of flexibility with install.

The Tuna Sun also comes in a variety of models and sizes like the 360X, and A80. All are designed for different setups and needs and are capable with the Kessil Spectrum Tuner.

The main con here is the price, these are very pricey lights, but the Kessil name is known for producing top notch and reliable products in the industry. You won’t be disappointed if you choose to go with them.

Pros

  • Kessil name and reliability
  • Lot of models
  • Dense Matrix make this an ideal pendant for planted tanks

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Multiple units requires for tanks longer than 2 feet
  • Spectrum tuner required for fully customization

8. NICREW SkyLED – Perfect Cheap LED for Low Light Planted Tanks

NICREW SkyLED

If you are looking for a budget priced LED for easy to grow low light plants, look no further

Buy On Amazon

Most of the lights listed here so far are comprehensive LED lights that can handle a wide variety of plants. However, not everyone needs a high powered planted LED light and you can build a very successful and beautiful planted tank with just low light plants. That’s where this NICREW SkyLED Planted Tank Light comes into play. This is one of the best budget planted tank LED lights available that work well for low light plants.

Low Light Planted Tank

This light is a super thin light that will look sleek and modern in any planted setup. It comes with basic lighting and moonlights that will allow you to grow low light plants.It does not have any of the controllable features like say the Fluval 3.0 has, but it gets the job done. The price for these are hard to beat and they are used for many low light plants with a lot of success.

I do keep mentioning low light plants and you are probably wondering what those are. Here would be a few examples:

It’s a great choice if you are planning for a simple low light planted setup.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Lack of controllable features

9. UNS Titan – Lights for the Pro Aquascaper

Let’s finish off this light with a top flight high end light. The UNS Titan is the level of light we look at when we are looking to develop a high-end planted aquascape. This is the type of light you look into when you are looking at the most demanding plants and looking at professionally done aquascapes.

This unit produces a lot of PAR as shown below. You get a natural white looking light which gives you that award winning natural landscape looking that makes people look in awe at your aquascape.

UNS Titan Par

It’s not a light for everyone, but if you can afford and you are looking to grow some of the most light demanding plants or thinking of making a aquascape to enter into a competiton, this is a light to consider.

Pros

  • Great spectrum
  • High output
  • Makes aquascapes pop

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Overkill for most setups
  • No dimmable

The Best LED Lights for Planted Tanks (My Recommendation)

Usually this would be tough choice but I feel there are three easy picks here. I believe that the Serene Pro LED is the overall best value on this list, but I know everyone can’t afford it. For best budget, I feel that the Chihiros is a great balance between price and performance. The Twinstar LEDs are excellent as well, but they are best for rimless, high end setups which I know everyone isn’t going to do.

Conclusion To Best LED for Planted Tanks

LED lights have come a long way since they debuted. They have a wide variety of features and hopefully this list helps narrow down your decisions. A planted aquarium is a lot of fun and can be simple to setup. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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