The Best LED Lights for the Planted Aquarium

Planted LED Overview

LED’s have redefined lighting in the 21st century. The majority of new aquarium owners choose LED lights for a number of reasons. LED lighting uses less power per lumen output when compared to other planted aquarium lighting types. This means cheaper lighting costs. The best led lights for the planted aquarium have dramatically decreased in cost and have become affordable for even beginner hobbyists.

LED lights commonly last 50,000 hours. Let’s put that number into perspective. In a normal scenario your LED aquarium lights are active for 8 hours per day, 365 days per year. In this case it would take just over 17 years until they needed to be replaced. If that fact hasn’t sold you, consider that T5, T8 and Hallide lighting will change spectrum over time. This can lead to increased algae growth and ineffective lighting. LED lights will maintain their spectrum for their entire life and do not need to be replaced.

Whats more is LED lights generate very little heat. LED lighting units for planted aquariums practically sell themselves. So we know the upsides. What are the disadvantages? LED has generally been less affordable than other lighting types. This has changed somewhat over the last 5 years. LED units are now equal cost or sometimes cheaper than the older technologies available. LED units can also be confusing to purchase and highly quality dependent. If one of your LED’s burns out it’s not easy to ‘change the lightbulb’. LED units are often hardwired and require a certified electrician to perform maintenance. That being said, high quality LED units should never need LED’s to be replaced.

Let’s explore some of the best LED lights for the planted aquarium. What are the best LED setups for 2016? Well, we discuss these below.

Current Satellite USA Plus Pro

The Current Satellite + Pro is a programmable, planted tank specific LED lighting unit. It is slightly more expensive than other brands listed here but makes up for it in features and rock solid reviews. It is hard to find a negative review on the unit and after personally inspecting one I would somewhat agree. They are well made, run very cool and are definitely worth the money for the quality of LED and programability that you receive.

Satelitte plus best LED planted Aquarium

Awesome Because:

  • It has a huge array of functionality
  • Very reputable brand
  • Brighter lighting, best for planted aquariums
  • Stays cool and lasts 40,000 hours
  • 120 Degree LED lenses for wider viewing
  • 6500k LED temperature perfect for growing plants

Not So Awesome Because:

  • More expensive than other units
  • Many effects (sunrise/sunset) may be gimmicky
  • No mounts for hanging, only rail mounts for the tank

Finnex Planted+ 24/7

The Finnex Planted + 24/7 is another planted tank specific LED lighting setup. The lights have moonlighting, sunrise, sunset and a host of other features. The light also incorporates a splash guard (and it’s mildly waterproof) although I have never had issues with water around aquarium lights. The legs can be slid inward to allow for attatchment to custom length aquariums (a very useful feature if your tank isn’t 12, 24, 36 or 48 inches in length!). Once again, the reviews cannot fault this light and there is high sentiment about it’s build quality and lasting durability. Finnex includes their power adapter mid length along the power cord which some users found annoying. However, the Finnex is very affordable and can be purchased under $100 here.

Finnex + 24/7 Planted LED aquarium light

Awesome Because:

  • 7000k LED Temperature perfect for growing plants and a little whiter than the Satellite Pro
  • Also comes with a remote to control lighting
  • Very decent price, under $100 at time of article
  • Thunderstorm and other outlandish settings
  • Moonlighting for nighttime viewing
  • Visually stunning unit, looks great above the aquarium
  • Hundreds of positive reviews

Not So Awesome Because:

  • Has been reported to make hum noise on some spectrums
  • Remote may have issues
  • Lights are made for standard tank sizes

Finnex Ray2 Aquarium LED Daylight

The Finnex Ray2 includes dual lighting strips with 7000K output. This is an LED Grow light for aquariums that tend toward more of a Hi-Tech setup. This LED lighting unit is genuinely very bright. It doesn’t come with a remote control like the other units. Lighting can’t be dimmed to suit low-tech planted aquariums. This means users should be prepared to be using both fertilizers and CO2. Otherwise you may see a spike in algae. It is a good light for a reasonable price. It is slightly older than the Finnex + 24/7 but has gained mass popularity with the planted tank community.

Finnex Ray2 one of the best LED planted tank lights

Awesome Because:

  • Ultra slim and beautiful
  • Strong, dual lighting strips capable of High-Tech planted aquarium
  • Quality LED’s with estimated 40,000 hours of use
  • Very bright, cannot emphasise this enough
  • Very positive community sentiments and reviews
  • Reputable Brand in the Planted Domain

Not So Awesome Because:

  • Can wash out aquarium with brightness
  • Doesn’t come with a remote control

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus (Non Pro Version)

Like the pro version, the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus includes a remote control. Unlike the Pro version you should be able to pick up this light for less than $100. The intensity of the light is much lower than that of the pro version. It should be used for middle brightness requirement plants and most likely avoided for higher lighting requirements such as HC or Red Lotus plants. It may not be as sleek as the Finnex models but it has excellent build quality and durability. The legs can be moved about 12″ to suite a shorter, non-stock length aquarium. This light is notorious for having low heat output and only consumes 18 watts of energy.

Satellite Plus is among the best planted aquarium lights in the world

Awesome Because:

  • It’s Fairly well priced lighting unit
  • Great build quality and durability
  • Comes with remote control
  • Great for lower light plants and middle light plants
  • Can suite non-stock length aquariums

Not So Awesome Because:

  • Controller functions such as lightening could be gimmicky
  • Not appropriate for very high light requirement plants (or very deep aquariums)
  • Perhaps not as sleek as Finnex models

Conclusion – The Best LED Lights for the Planted Aquarium

Thats the summary of the best LED lights for the planted aquarium. The prices and products available are outstanding for 2016. Each year LED technology becomes less expensive and more advanced. LED lighting setups will save you money each time the light switches on. Minimal heat and custom lens’ mean the power you spend is being turned into light and not heat. If you are reading this and still sporting a T5, T8 or hallide setup, today may be the day to make the switch to LED.

2 thoughts on “The Best LED Lights for the Planted Aquarium”

  1. Good Article : I have had good luck with the Finnex Ray 2 and I found your analysis to be right on. Thanks

  2. I recently picked up a custom tall acrylic aquarium measuring 7′ long x 2′ deep x 4′ tall. It will be a non-planted freshwater tank. What light would be best for something like this?

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