Freshwater LED Aquarium Lighting Guide – Best Aquarium Lights, How-To & Reviews

Estimated read time 7 min read

Here are my favorite lights of all time.


Are LED Lights Good For Fish?

LED Aquarium Lighting is critical to the health of your fish. Even though fish are kept in an aquarium, they need light, and providing the right lighting in the proper amounts is a must.

And, although there is some debate on which types of lights are suitable for fish. LED lighting is an excellent option for fish and aquarium plants.

On average, most fish should be exposed to light for about 8-12 hours per day.

So to ensure your fish have a consistent amount of light for the right amount of time, make sure you use a timer.

Many higher-end LED lights come with a timer, but a timer can be purchased separately if you don’t have one.

So why would you use LED Lighting over other types of aquarium lighting?

That’s a great question, and here are a few reasons;

Further Reading: Learn Why Aquarium Lights Are One Piece Of A Few Essential Aquarium Equipment We Recommend.

Top 5 LED Aquarium Lighting Benefits

Although using LED lights in your aquarium has been around for several years, their legitimacy is still questioned.

And no matter what side of the spectrum you’re on, here are just a few of the many benefits LED lights have to offer.

1. Super Low Energy Consumption (So you save money)

As noted below, LED lights use very little power and last much longer than standard aquarium lighting options. This helps reduce the annual cost to run your aquarium.

Save even more money and try making your own LED Aquarium Lights.

2. Very, Very Low Heat Output (Safe for kids)

LED aquarium lighting produces almost no heat, which is much safer than, say, a fluorescent or incandescent fixture.

3. Very, Very Long Life Span (So you save more money)

LED “bulbs” can last much longer than other lighting types in your aquarium. Most LED lights can last between 30,000 to 50,000 hours.

4. Lots Of Color Options (You fish will never be bored)

Because LEDs are so versatile, many different color options can be applied and controlled with a remote.

Color options provide an excellent effect and help provide a complete lighting spectrum when used in a planted tank.

5. Adjustable Light Intensity (Just right)

Some higher-end models come with a remote that allows you to select different options, such as daylight, night light, and other effects.

LED lighting systems can also easily be adjusted by adding or removing lights.

Check Out These Top Rated LED Aquarium Lights

Do You Have To Have a Light on a Fish Tank?

Fish require periods of light and periods of darkness and lighting, which provides a way for you to simulate this.

To provide a healthy environment for your fish, you need a light on a fish tank.

However, to be 100% accurate, the light placed on top of your tank is more for the plants in your tank or for viewing pleasure.

As described in the video below, you don’t need a light for your fish, and they can likely get enough ambient light from the room they are in.

Do Aquarium Fish Like Light?

All fish need light; do all fish like light? Maybe some more than others.

The trick is figuring out how much light your fish need.

Before you purchase your fish, determine the lighting requirements for all the fish you will be keeping. If you plan on keeping multiple species, be sure to keep fish with similar needs.

That said, most fish will need 8-12 hours of light each day to be happy.

Do You Leave The Light on in a Fish Tank at Night?

Like you and me, fish need rest, and as fish keepers, we need to simulate day and night.

That said, some fish are nocturnal, like Plecostomus, and appreciate some privacy at night. So turn the light off already.

However, should your aquariums be completely black?

Some experts like AquariumCoOp believe a simple tip can keep your fish from darting into the side of your aquarium when you turn the light on and off each day.

Check it out.

How Long Should my Aquarium Lights be on?

Easy question, Typically most fish need 8-12 hours of light to be happy.

Well, unless you have an algae bloom, bacterial bloom, or maybe you have nocturnal fish.

Okay, so really, each tank is specific, and you need to consider the types of fish and plants in your aquarium.

Here’s a great video that goes into more detail from Everyday Aquarist.

How Long do LED Aquarium Lights Last?

As with most things, it varies. But most high-quality LED aquarium lights will last between 30,000 to 50,000 hours.

Selecting LED Aquarium Lighting For Planted Tanks

LED Aquarium Lighting and Live Plants – Will They Work?

If you recently purchased a new aquarium kit, it’s very likely that it came with a LED light fixture.

And if you’re thinking of keeping live plants, you may be wondering if an LED light can support live plants at all?

It depends; LED lights can work well with plants, but it’s more about the color range than anything else.

For example;

If the LED can emit around the 6000-k6500k range, your plants will be fine. The Finnex Planted Plus and the Current USA LED lights are two examples of LEDs that will support live plants.

Most aquarium kits that come with a LED are likely not near this range. However, there are many examples of these “kit” LED lights growing low-light plants.

Here are a few good options of Low Light Plants;

  • Java moss
  • Java fern
  • Anacharis
  • Frogbit
  • Bacopa
  • Duckweed

Do Freshwater Aquatic Plants Need Sunlight – Do LED Lights Work For Aquarium Plants?

Live plants can be kept as there is plenty of light. But does it need to be sunlight?


Most low/mid-light plants can be kept healthy with higher-end LED lighting fixtures like the Finnex Fugeray.

That said, in general, it’s always a good rule to “Not” place your aquarium near any direct sunlight. Doing so can present issues with temperature control as well as algae.

How Man Lumens do Aquarium Plants Need?

This is a huge topic, and covers it well with their article on choosing the right light source for your needs.

Can Any LED be Used as a Grow Light?

No, not all LED lights are created equal.

That said, many LED lights are made specifically as grow lights, and many people have had great success.

Read LED lighting for a planted aquarium.

What Are The Easiest Aquarium Plants to Grow?

There are hundreds of easy to grow plants available, but some of the easiest are;

  • Anubias species
  • Bacopa species
  • Cabomba
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Rotala

You can see more manageable to grow plants here.

More Must-Read LED Aquarium Lighting Articles

Be sure to check out some of these posts below, where we go over exactly how to select the right LED lights for your tank, fish, plants and explain when and how to use LED lights to maximize their benefits.

Below the posts, you will find a quick guide to some of the Best Rated Aquarium LED lights available.

We hope this information will help you find the right LED lights for your aquarium.