The day has come. You need lights for your freshwater aquarium.
Whether this is your first aquarium, or you’ve finally decided to use LEDs, the aquarium LED market is crowded and potentially confusing.
We decided to take a closer look at some of the best aquarium lights available to find the best models out there. Of the many models we’ve seen, these are the best aquarium lights to buy in 2021;
- Best Fish Tank Light Overall: Aquaillumination Aquarium Light
- Best Planted Aquarium Light: Finnex Planted+ 24/7
- Best Budget Aquarium Light: NICREW ClassicLED
If you’ve spent any time browsing the other articles on this site, you know there are plenty of benefits to using LEDs over older lighting systems (not that you can’t make the older systems work!).
If you need to read more about that, you can check out the article here that’s where you’ll get the full scoop.
If you’ve already read that article, or you just want to jump right to picking a system, then stay put. We’ve put together a list of the ten best LED lights for freshwater aquariums currently available.
We’ll go over the pros and cons of these popular LED light fixtures, as well as a link to any relevant unboxing videos.
Further Reading: If You Want To Keep Live Plants You’ll Want To Read Our Planted Aquarium LED Lighting Guide & Calculator.
Ultimately, the best LED lights for your freshwater tank are the ones that will meet the specific needs of your tank.
Consider your own aquarium objectives as you go through the list, and use them to guide your decision making.
Time for a deep dive into the Top 10 Best freshwater aquarium lighting fixtures!
1. Our Top Pick: Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Pro Light Aquarium
The Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Pro Light is one of the most expensive aquarium light brands but it has the bells and whistles to warrant the price. As with most fixtures that you’ll see on this list, the fixture is fairly thin, and sits unobtrusively on top of your tank.
The Satellite Plus Pro features a 24 hour on/off cycle, which exposes your tank to “a 24-hour rhythmic light cycle.” The light also features highly customizable color settings, letting you adjust the percentage of RGB and white light in the tank using the remote.
You can save two custom light settings to the remote for easy access in the future. The fixture also has cloudy day, moonlight, thunderstorm, and other interesting weather settings. They might not be the most useful settings for your tank, but they at least make for a fun display.
The fixture comes in four sizes:
If you’re curious, here’s a Satellite Plus Pro LED review from YouTuber Aquarium Co-Op
Customers seem to go one of two ways on the remote–they love it or hate it. Some complain that it takes too many tries for the remote to work. Others say that the remote works just fine…as long as you know to point the remote directly at the receiver.
The light is made specifically for freshwater tanks, so if you’re looking for an LED fixture for your tank that’s top of the line, the Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Pro is a great place to start.
What We Liked About Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED
- Highly customizable
- Very bright lights
- 24 hour light cycle
- Extra weather simulation features
What We Don’t Like About Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED
- Can get expensive
- Remote has caused problems for some customers
2. Runner Up: Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED
The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Aquarium LED is a very thin, low profile LED light. The light features legs that let you tightly secure the fixture to your tank.
The legs are slightly adjustable to accommodate smaller tanks, have screws to fit rimless tanks, and have a removable inner portion to fit on slightly larger rimmed tanks.
Read our AWESOME full review of the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED to learn all the great benefits of this and other Finnex Lights.
The fixture itself has a water-resistant “splash guard,” so it can sit directly over your tank with no canopy.
The light comes in five sizes:
Each fixture comes with a built-in timer and remote control. The timer helps give the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 its name (and its full automation). This fixture features a “hands-free” simulated day/night cycle, which runs on the built-in timer.
There is a lot of room for customization. Check out this unboxing and review from YouTuber ReefDudes for a look at the Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED aquarium light.
The cycle starts with the dawn, brightens into a rising sun, and brightens further into intense high noon. From there, the cycle eases into a reddish sunset and an eventual starry blue moonlight.
The cycle repeats the following day without requiring any button-pushing from you (as long as it’s working properly–some customers have reported issues).
The remote lets you switch to special settings, like thunderstorm or cloudy day, with designated buttons. The remote also has four customizable light slots, meaning you can create your own custom lights. The light fixture features white LEDs as well as a row of RGB LEDs, and lets you adjust the level of each.
What We Liked About The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED
- 24/7 Day/night light cycle
- Customizable light memory slots
- High level of customization
- Does not require a canopy
- Sufficient brightness
- Great price for the features you get
What We Don’t Like About The Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED
24/7 cycle is not customizable
Some users report the 24/7 cycle was too bright for their tank
Some users reported problems with an unresponsive remote control
There are wires on both sides of the light fixture, rather than consolidated on one side
3. Best Budget Light: NICREW LED Aquarium Light with Extendable Brackets
The NICREW LED Aquarium Light is an inexpensive (relative to market) white and blue LED light fixture. The fixture can be ordered in five sizes: 11”-19” being the smallest, and 46”-54” being the largest.
Be careful not to exceed the recommended length of the fixture, because the brackets will likely be too unstable beyond the recommended 4” extension on either side.
In the case of the 11”-19” fixture, the LED fixture itself is 11” long, without brackets extended. This is the case for all sizes of this fixture, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing your size.
If you want 27” of light, you’re better off going with the next size up, the 28”-36”, rather than the 20”-27”. That way you have 28” of LED fixture, vs. 20” of fixture with 7” of metal bracket extension.
Here’s an “Honest Review” from YouTuber Pandanese90 where you can see the NICREW LED Aquarium Light unboxed and in action.
The NICREW is very bright and features a white light mode and a blue light mode. The white light mode uses all the LEDs in the fixture, while the blue light mode only uses the blue LEDs in the fixture.
These two modes give you basic daylight and nightlight options, but for some of you, that’s probably more than enough for the needs of your tank.
Because of the (lack of) stability with the brackets, you’ll want to use this LED light with a canopy. The canopy should be glass or clear plastic. Suspending this light directly over an open tank could lead to splash damage, corrosion, or even an accidental plunge into the tank’s depths.
What We Liked About The NICREW LED
- Lights are Bright
- Two settings: white/daylight and blue/nightlight (and off)
- 5 sizes to pick from
What We Didn’t Like About The NICREW LED
- No built in timer
- No cycles or similar customization
- Requires a glass (or clear plastic) canopy
- Potential for slight bend when brackets are fully extended
Are you tired of searching for the perfect aquarium lighting solution? Our in-depth analysis of the NICREW 150W LED: A Perfect Aquarium Lighting Solution will put your mind at ease. Find out why this product is the top choice for many aquarium enthusiasts and make an informed decision today.
4. Galaxyhydro Dimmable LED Aquarium Light 165w, Full Spectrum
The Galaxyhydro Dimmable LED Aquarium Light is a bit different from the other lights we’re reviewing here. First of all, it’s ceiling mounted.
It’s light on features (wink), but it’s available at a great price if you aren’t looking for anything too fancy.
Another thing you’ll notice, especially if you read the Amazon reviews, is that many customers use this light for their coral. Even though the light is popular for saltwater tanks, it’s perfectly capable of growing healthy freshwater plants and lighting freshwater fish.
The Galaxyhydro needs fans to stay cool, which comes built into the fixture. As long as they’re working properly, the fans run quietly–a noisy fan on this fixture means something’s wrong, so call customer service.
This fixture has a “white” channel and a “blue” channel, which are each controlled by separate dimmers. The white channel, in addition to white LEDs, has red and green LEDs.
This full color spectrum helps your fish colors “pop” and makes sure your plants have plenty of good light for photosynthesis.
What We Liked About Galaxyhydro Dimmable LED
- Inexpensive relative to market
- Full light spectrum
- Quiet fans, unit stays cool
- High customer satisfaction
What We Don’t Like About Galaxyhydro Dimmable LED
- No programmable features
- Little customization, other than blue/white and brightness level
- No easy work-around if you can’t mount this light to your ceiling
5. Finnex FugeRay Planted+ Aquarium LED Light
The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ aquarium is slim, with sleek aluminum housing. The fixture comes with white LEDs, “true red” LEDs, and several blue LEDs.
The FugeRay’s red LEDs are pitched by the manufacturer as true 660nm bulbs–”True red.” Studies have shown the wavelength produced by this type of bulb is one of the most efficient wavelengths for photosynthesis. Nothing beats experimenting on your own when it comes to what your tank responds best to–but at the very least, the red LEDs will give your tank a ruddier, warmer color tone.
The FugeRay does not feature a 24/7 cycle, like the Planted+ 24/7 we reviewed above. It does have blue lights for a night light setting (and the “true red” LEDs we keep mentioning).
This fixture comes in seven sizes:
YouTuber Slim Tim made the switch from his old T8s to the FugeRay a couple years ago, and he was very pleased with the results.
His plants grew faster, they had richer color in their leaves, and his tank looked nice and bright. He posted a 10 month review video for the Fugeray, so you can see the longer-term effect the fixture has had on his tank.
What We Liked About The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ LED
- “True red” LED lights for warmer color and (potentially) more efficient photosynthesis
- Great for plant growth
- Sleek case design
- Splash guard
What We Don’t Like About The Finnex FugeRay Planted+ LED
- A few users have had issues with lights flickering out of the box or within a few months
- Some users have had issues with the power supply
- No built-in timer
6. Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED Aquarium Light
The Beamswork EA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light has the typical sleek black case. The LED fixture comes in seven sizes:
One thing to note is that those measurements include the feet at their shortest extension setting–there are brackets that you can extend to help with the fit.
The majority of the LED bulbs in this fixture are white, but it includes blue, red, and green lights, too. It includes a “full-spectrum” setting, which uses all the LED lights in the fixture. It also includes a “blue light” setting.
If you’re interested in a YouTube video from JDO Fishtank that compares the Beamswork he purchased with other options, then click away at the hyperlink text above!
Users have had luck growing low-to-medium light plants with this fixture. Other users that aren’t growing plants appreciate the way their tanks “pop” after installing the Beamswork EA fixture.
The Beamswork EA Timer fixture is “pre-wired to be used with an optional timer module,” but that timer module is sold separately. The good news is that this light fixture is very inexpensive, even compared to other inexpensive lights on the market, so having to pay for a timer separately shouldn’t cut too deep into your “fat stacks.”
Plus, the majority of the Amazon reviews are positive. That said, it’s pros and cons time:
What We Liked About The Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED
- Very inexpensive
- Good brightness
- Pleasing light tone
- Sleek exterior
What We Don’t Like About The Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED
- Mounting isn’t secure
- Some larger fixture versions bow in the center
- Pre-wired for timer, but timer is not included
7. Marineland LED Aquarium Light
The MarineLand LED Aquarium Light isn’t the sleekest fixture out there, but it still gets the job done. Even though it’s more noticeable than its slimmer counterparts, it’s not an eyesore.
There’s no plastic splash guard for this fixture, like the Finnex models we reviewed earlier. This means you’ll likely need a canopy (Marineland recommends glass, but that might just be for the more polished aesthetic–clear plastic might also work).
Some users suggest that this fixture can fit in a Marineland hood if you have one and happen to be looking to replace the fixture that’s currently in there.
Here’s an unboxing (well, unpackaging) video from YouTuber Earthling1984. It’s a short video but shows the Marineland fixture in action.
He sets the fixture upon his refugium tank, and just two weeks later he posted another video showing some excellent plant growth.
As the name suggests, this light comes in one size: 11”. Some customers suggest this light could work for up to a 40 gallon tank, but many customers are using it for tanks in the 10 gallon to 20 gallon range.
This Marineland LED aquarium light has three settings: White light (“on”), blue light, and “off.” The white light is nice and bright.
What We Liked About The Marineland LED Light
- Not too expensive
- Quality bright light
- Good customer service from Marineland
What We Don’t Like About The Marineland LED Light
- Some customers have experienced issues with the lights not working after a few weeks or a few months (could be due to water damage from not properly protecting the light)
- Some users complain that the switch breaks easily, especially with constant use
- No splash guard to protect against water damage
- No Timer and No color customization beyond “white” and “blue”
8. Deckey Extendable Light LED (Blue and White Lights)
This inexpensive light has the common fixture build: a sleek black casing with extendable brackets. There are four size options for this fixture:
The Deckey Aquarium Fish Tank LED light is not waterproof. Your best bet is grabbing a glass canopy (or at least a piece of glass) to protect your light from water damage. Yes, the light is inexpensive, but obviously you want to avoid having to replace the fixture for as long as possible.
This LED fixture features pretty standard lighting modes: white light (blue and white), and blue light (just blue). This Deckey aquarium fixture gives off pretty good light, especially when you have your light sized properly for your tank.
This brief unboxing video by YouTuber Palmer Fish Cave features the 12” Deckey Aquarium LED fixture. He demonstrates the light’s strength when he puts it over a quarter of one of his 40 gallon tanks.
Some customers have noted that the blue “night time” mode is still very bright, and doesn’t give the moonlight effect. It almost gives you a blacklight-esque effect in addition to a noticeably blue tank.
What We Liked About The Deckey Extendable LED Light
- Adequate brightness
- Unobtrusive aesthetic
- Multiple sizes to better fit your tank needs
What We Don’t Like About The Deckey Extendable LED Light
- No splashguard (likely requires glass canopy)
- Blue light mode gives off a bright, almost neon glow (could be a pro if you want this effect!)
- Some customers have complained that the power cord is too short
- Extendable brackets aren’t as sturdy as they could be
9. Mingdak LED Aquarium Light With Extendable Brackets
This LED Aquarium Light offered by Mingdak is another baseline lighting option for your tank. It has the common thin black case design with legs that seem to be just a bit sturdier than some of the other extendable bracket fixtures we looked at.
Still, there are no clips on the legs, so you’ll need to be careful when handling your tank. It is probably worth getting a clear canopy, just so you don’t have to worry about it.
This Mingdak LED fixture has both the white and blue options, which we’ve come to expect on the LED fixtures that are worth trying. The light is sufficient for at least low light plants. Many customers have said the light is bright for its size.
Unlike many of the other fixtures, the Mingdak LED light fixtures of varying sizes are sold as individual fixtures, with their own Amazon pages (as opposed to the fixtures that let you pick between sizes on the same page).
So just be careful that you’re ordering the size you want to order–it should say the size right in the product title (hard to miss, but we all have those days).
This video by YouTuber Sin City Cichlids shows the Mingdak in action for both the white light and blue “glow” light settings.
What We Liked About The Mingdak LED Aquarium Light
- Boasts high customer satisfaction on Amazon
- Sufficient light
What We Don’t Like About The Mingdak LED Aquarium Light
- No splashguard (might need canopy)
- A few dollars more than your least expensive options
- Standard clip-free brackets
10. COODIA Remote Controlled Dimmable RGBW LED Light
This COODIA Remote Controlled Dimmable, Colour Changing RGBW LED is…well, quite a mouthful. But more than that, this light is a neat fixture that gives you control over the colors via remote.
If you’ve experimented with color changing LEDs in the past (even if it was outside the realm of freshwater aquariums), you might recognize the remote used to control these lights.
The remote is great. It has color-coded buttons that, when pressed, will change the LED lights to that color. It also features neat lighting effects, like “fade” and “smooth.” These effects, as their names imply, control the transitions as the fixture cycles through its available color spectrum.
The smooth transition between the colors is very aesthetically pleasing.
Brightness can be controlled from the remote, and effects like “strobe” can be triggered as well (though your fish might not be too keen on this one). Since originally being sold, the remote has been updated to no longer require that you point it directly at the receiver in order to work.
Apparently, it can even control the light through a wall.
The fixture has three sizes:
The size of the fixture is represented by the smaller number in each range. The larger number denotes the potential length if you use the extendable brackets.
It’s pretty inexpensive and provides some really neat lighting options for those of you who are interested in experimenting with it.
In practice, you might not use the color changes as often as you’d like (it might stress your fish or not generate the kind of plant growth you’re looking for), but it’s still a neat feature to have when you want to show off your tank.
What We Liked About The COODIA Remote Controlled Dimmable LED
- Versatile color options
- Easy-to-use remote
What We Don’t Like About The COODIA Remote Controlled Dimmable LED
- Might not get to take advantage of color-changing feature
- No cycle or timer features
- Remote used to be hard to aim at the receiver (as mentioned above, this has allegedly been fixed)
Quick Picks: Top Choices For The Best Aquarium LED Lighting
|AquaIllumination Prime 16 Freshwater LED Black Fixture
|Check Price Now
|Current USA 48"-60" Satellite Plus PRO LED Light
|Buy On Amazon
|Finnex Planted+ 24/7 CRV Aquarium LED Light, Automated Full Spectrum 660Nm Deep Red Fish Tank Light, 30"
|Buy On Amazon
|NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light, Fish Tank Light with Extendable Brackets, White and Blue LEDs, Size 30 to 36 Inch, 18 Watts
|Buy On Amazon
AquaIllumination Prime Freshwater LED is a top-of-the-line aquarium lighting system designed to provide your aquatic plants and fish with the perfect environment. With its sleek design and cutting-edge technology, this light is sure to impress. Dive into our comprehensive AquaIllumination Prime Freshwater LED review and find out if it’s the right fit for your aquarium.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the best lighting for a fish tank?
The best lighting for your fish tank depends on your setup. Are you growing plants, keeping saltwater fish, or just a simple community aquarium.
Below you’ll find our recommendation for the best light you should use depending on three popular setups.
If you are keeping a freshwater aquarium and you don’t intend to grow any fish then an LED light fixture that only has white lights is more than enough. That said lights that have more color options can help bring out the colors of your fish, but it’s just aesthetic at this point.
With saltwater the most ideal color spectrum for coral growth and the types of fish you will keep is blue. So look for an LED light that higher “Blue” light with their offering. For more on this check out this article.
When it comes to a planted tank you definitely want a higher-end light that not only has a full spectrum offering but should include a timer and the ability to change the intensity of the light.
Read our guide on lighting for a planted tank for more information.
- Best Fish Tank Light Overall: Aquaillumination Aquarium Light
- Best Planted Aquarium Light: Finnex Planted+ 24/7
- Best Budget Aquarium Light: NICREW ClassicLED
Are LED lights good for aquariums?
LED lights are perfect for your fish tank. They use very little power, come in various color options, and give off almost no heat at all that might impact your water temperature.
How long do LED Aquarium Lights last?
The LED lights used for aquariums will last for many years. Most brands indicate their LED lights will last for about 50,000 hours. If you keep your lights 24/7 (which you shouldn’t), they will last 5-6 years!
Do LED aquarium lights cause algae?
All forms of light, not just LED, can cause algae to grow in your aquarium. That said, it’s not only light that causes algae. Many other factors contribute to algae’s growth, and it’s a delicate balance that you’ll need to manage.
Are LED lights bad for fish?
LED lights are not bad for fish. To be honest your fish likely don’t care much about lights. Lights are more for you and me than for the fish. If your aquarium gets any ambient lighting that will be more than enough for the fish.
I would suggest that you only leave the lights on for about 6-8 hrs in a fish-only aquarium as there isn’t any benefit to leaving them on longer.