Many aquarium owners appreciate the natural aesthetic that comes from live plants. When cultivating live plants, it is important to consider the correct planted aquarium light for your setup and desired plant species. Both artificial and live plants can be safe for fish, it just depends on the tank owner’s desire and some additional maintenance considerations.
“Plants, either artificial or live, can greatly benefit your fishes’ overall welfare by enriching their environment. Providing this enrichment can lower stress levels, resulting in healthier fish,” Dr. Jessica Fox, a Certified Aquatic Veterinarian, told The Spruce Pets.
I have worked with both public and private aquariums for more than a decade, and have seen significant advances in tank lighting technology. Finding the best took a combination of in-depth research, personal experience, and feedback from other users.
Our favorite planted aquarium light is the hygger 24/7 Aquarium LED Light, which combines simple controls with a comprehensive range of settings.
Hygger 24/7 Aquarium LED Light
Variable sizes for fish tanks between 12-54 inches long
Useful default settings and deep customization
Widely variable color and brightness
No app control
The hygger Aquarium LED light is well made, reasonably priced, and offers multiple customization options. This entire series of hygger lights were developed to keep your plants.
The hygger Aquarium LED light comes in a variety of sizes and does well for small tanks around 12 inches across, all the way up to 54 inches across. Although the customizations are not as specific as some other models mentioned here, you have control over the timing, colors and brightness. What is great about this light is you can choose both colors and brightness independently, making it an ideal choice for a wide variety of plants.
However, the hygger Aquarium LED light also have a natural “default” mode, which makes it an excellent choice for those who are not as picky about their lights or just getting started. This lighting system comes in many sizes, making it a great choice for most planted aquarium tanks.
Price at time of publish: $53 (30-36 inch)
Dimensions: 30-36 x 4.3 x 1 inch | Watts: 26 W | Colors: Full spectrum | Color Temperature: Customizable
Aqueon Clip-On LED Aquarium Fish Tank Light
Good for small tanks
If you want to grow some basic aquarium plants in limited space and your tank isn’t too deep, then the Aqueon Clip-On LED will do the trick. This small light is easy to install, but is best suited to smaller, shallower aquariums. Given its compact size, it does not do well in larger or deeper systems since it is not strong enough to penetrate.
The Aqueon Clip-On LED light is ideally suited for aquarium plants that are not too picky about their light requirements. Although limited in its output, this light is a great, inexpensive choice for simple setups with basic light needs. It's also a good supplemental option, allowing you to throw some light to a corner of your tank that may otherwise not get enough.
Price at time of publish: $35
Dimensions: 7 x 12.5 x 4 inches︱Watts: 13 W︱Colors: White or Blue LEDs︱Color Temperature: One setting
Fluval Plant 3.0 Planted Aquarium Lighting
Pre-settings to mimic common habitats
24-hour light cycle
Bluetooth app available
Overkill for most planted tanks
If you want all the bells and whistles for your plants, the Fluval Plant 3.0 was designed for a wide range of tanks and needs. This planted aquarium light is completely customizable throughout the available wavelengths and comes with pre-settings for common fish and plant origin waters.
One of the biggest considerations with this light is it will take you some time to set it up correctly. However, if you want to dial in every possible lighting nuance, then this is the light for you. If you’d rather plug it in and go, one of the presets might come close, but you may want to consider a different light with fewer features.
Price at time of publish: $190
Dimensions: 2.64 x 15 x 1.02 inches︱Watts: 32 W︱Colors: Full spectrum︱Color Temperature: Customizable
MingDak Aquarium Clip Light
Easy to install
Quick control options
For small spaces with big light requirements, you need to look at the MingDak Aquarium Clip Light. With only 27 LEDs and 10 watts, this light can provide variable brightness, white, blue and 50:50 light variation and even has a built-in timer. For a very reasonable price, this light can provide good light for a variety of aquarium plants.
With its budget price tag, features and outputs are limited. However, setup is quick and easy and works with many aquarium tanks. This light has been specifically developed for aquarium plant needs, provided they are not too picky about their light spectrum.
Price at time of publish: $17
Dimensions: 2 x 11 x 1.5 inches︱Watts: 10 W︱Colors: Blue, White or 50:50 LEDs︱Color Temperature: Variable brightness
Best for Large Tanks
NICREW C10 Plants Freshwater LED Aquarium Light
Can fit 48 to 60 inch aquariums
Light spectrum specific to aquarium plants
Customizable color and brightness
LCD programming screen
Will not fit small aquariums
Limited setup information
If you have a large tank, you will need a large light! The NICREW comes in a variety of sizes, but the largest can cover up to a 60-inch tank. This line of lights was specifically designed to grow aquatic plants but can be customized to the settings you desire. This light comes with a user-friendly LCD screen to modify your light settings.
The NICREW light has a built in timer that automatically will dim on and off across your set light period. Very important with larger tanks is consideration with light distribution, so ensure you select a light that will be powerful enough for your larger tank setup. As with all lights, the deeper your plants, the harder your light will have to work. This may cause plants at shallower depths to get a little burnt, so try to keep all your plants within the same level of your tank.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 45-60 inches by 3.5 x 1 inches︱Watts: 32︱Colors: White, blue and red LEDs︱Color Temperature: Adjustable (6,000-12,000K)
When it comes to selecting an aquarium light for your aquatic plants, our top pick is the hygger 24/7 Aquarium LED light. For a reasonable price tag, easy use, and installation in addition to full customization, this light is the best choice for all aquarium plants. If you’re looking for more features, including mobile phone app control, you may want to upgrade to the Fluval Plant 3.0 LED, specifically designed with your aquatic plants in mind.
What to Look for in Planted Aquarium Lights
When it comes to aquarium lights, color temperature or brightness can vary significantly. Some models allow you to change the brightness, while others will only have one setting. Constant blinding light isn’t ideal for plant growth, so be sure to have some darker times of day or allow natural light to access your tank before you turn the lights on and off.
Most LED light strips are installed using adjustable mounting brackets that are set on the edges of your aquarium. Some of the smaller models mentioned above have a clip that is used to anchor your light to one side of your aquarium. Other models may have additional mounting setups that allow you to hang your light from the ceiling over your tank. No matter which light you select, always read the installation instructions carefully before installing. Always use a grounded plug or power strip to ensure that any leaks or drips do not harm you or your fish.
There are many types of aquarium plants available on the commercial market. Aquarium plants may require rooting in the soil, and will require a suitable planted substrate, or float throughout the water column. There are some species of plant that are happy with either setup.
Please keep in mind that plants kept with fish may carry pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or parasites and should be quarantined separately for 2 weeks to break any life cycles.
As with a lot of aquarium components these days, lights can come with a variety of features. These may include timers, dimmers, light spectrum options and even mobile app integrations. The Chihiros Pro 30 and Fluval Plant lights both come with apps for upgraded control over the standard programmable features. Many lights can be adapted with a dimmer and/or timer if your light does not come with that option.
Can LED light grow aquarium plants?
Yes, LED lights can absolutely grow aquarium plants. LEDs are less dangerous, cheaper, don’t produce as much heat and are less sensitive to water exposure than previous halogen or fluorescent bulbs.
What color light is best for aquarium plants?
Various types of chlorophyll within your plants will require various light wavelengths. Approximately 460 nm is desired for Chlorophyll B and 660 nm for Chlorophyll A.
How much light do aquarium plants need?
The amount of light your aquarium plants require will depend on the species you select for your tank. Most common aquarium plants are happiest with a normal diurnal light period with approximately 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness. Keep in mind that your fish may require a different light period than your plants! If you have to make too many compromises to keep both groups happy, you will likely need two separate tanks. Here is more information about providing adequate light in a community aquarium.
Can aquarium plants get too much light?
Yes, aquarium plants can absolutely get too much light. This commonly happens when you forget to turn the lights off above your tank. Your fish can also get too much light and become stressed if they do not have a darker period of their day. Some aquarium plants are used to less light access and should be placed deeper in your tank’s water column. If they are exposed to more light than they desire, they will die.
Why Trust The Spruce
In 10 years as a private practice pet fish veterinarian Jessie Sanders have seen hundreds of setups and observed multiple advancements in tank lighting technology. Prior to becoming a veterinarian, Sanders worked in a public aquarium, where bright and hot halogen lights were used to capture the full spectrum necessary for care of aquatic plants and coral. Much cooler LED lights have changed the game, as they are great for both and fish plants, and can be adapted for a variety of uses. Her in-depth research and years of experience allowed her to pick out the brands and lighting kits that will best enable your tank's growth and healthy development.