led lighting for reefs

Best LED Reef Lighting Systems

Although LED lighting systems have been around for awhile now many aquarium hobbyists have been reluctant to make the switch from other lighting types. We’ll discuss if LED reef lights provide enough light for reef aquariums and the best LED reef lighting systems below but first let’s take a look at the evolution of LED lighting for aquariums.

History of LED Reef Lights

As long as people have owned reef aquariums there has been a need for quality lighting systems. The first real designated light for reef fish tanks was Fluorescent. These lights provided decent light but are not very efficient. From there the lights of choice were VHO, Metal Halide, Compact Fluorescent. All have their positives and negatives but LED lights have become the light of moment due to its quality full spectrum capabilities and energy efficiency.

Improvements in LED Reef Lights

Over the past few years LED reef light manufacturers have made vast improvements compared to earlier offerings. The first generation of LED aquarium lights did not offer what reef tanks would require in terms of lumens, correlated color temperature and color rendering index ratings.

Initially LED aquarium lights were predominantly used in conjunction with other lighting types. They were used as moon light settings for lighting systems that only offered on/off settings.

LED lights are not only dimmable, programmable and energy efficient they are super powerful. There are now LED aquarium lights that offer 20000K color settings! That is more than enough for most at home fish tanks and will even work for deeper reef and planted tanks.

While other lighting types are still more powerful in terms of amount of light and wattage they do not come close to LED lights in overall functionality. They lack the ability to dim, most are not programmable and most produce a great deal of heat that would require additional accessories like aquarium chillers.

Top 5 Best LED Reef Lighting Systems

VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series LED Aquarium Light – Top Pick

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The VIPARSPECTRA is one of our favorite LED lights for both reefs and freshwater planted aquariums. The full spectrum light along with a 300W light intensity makes this a great option for reef aquariums. A built in timer allows for users to automatically turn the light on and off to simulate night and day. This unit is also dimmable allowing you to adjust two channels individually. Read our full review here

MarsAqua Dimmable 165W LED Aquarium Light – Midrange Budget

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Although MarsAqua focuses mostly on big wholesale accounts they still make a quality product available directly to consumers. The units offers 165W and quality lenses that penetrate deep into larger tanks. MarsAqua recommends 14 hours on and 8 hours off for coral reef aquariums. This can be setup fairly easily with an automatic appliance timer. This reef aquarium light is a great option for reef hobbyists looking to save some money.

Hipargero Aquarium LED Lights 30W – Small Tanks

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The Hipargero is specifically made for smaller tanks. It provides 30W of light and has two dimmable channels. This gives you complete control of your LED lighting setup and allows you to easily transition your reef aquarium to a new system. The LED lights last an impressive 50000 hours and are able to penetrate deeper tanks to replicate deep sea conditions. Built in cooling fans keep your LED lights cool for safe operation.

Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED Light – High End Fully Featured

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The Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED light is the choice for those that want it all. The Orbit Marine is fully programmable and comes with a preset 24 hour cycle that coincides with the natural sunset and sunrise. The light brings out amazing colors in corals. With the perfect combination of 8, 000k/12, 000k White along with 445Nm/460Nm Actinic Blue your marine life will come alive like never before.

Benefits of LED Reef Lighting Systems


Some LED lighting systems come with the ability to program out different settings throughout the day. Some even have prebuilt programs that simulate sunlight/moonlight throughout a normal 24/7 schedule. The light will slowly intensify throughout the day and then gradually weaken until night time when a moon lighting setting will be initiated.


In order for reef LED fish tank lights to be programmable like the above scenario they need to have the ability to dim. This means that you can both increase and decrease certain light settings. The settings that can be changed, dimmed, are often light intensity and color. Both of these are important for maximum growing conditions.

Energy Efficiency

We all want to lower our energy bill. I mean who wants to pay more to light their aquarium with lesser quality lights? LED lights are more energy efficient than their equivalent counterparts in other lighting types.


Not only are LED lighting systems more energy efficient they also produce less heat. LED lights that offer high wattage often come with built in fans. Less heat means that you will be able to better control the water temperature in your fish tank. Other lighting types produce enough heat that you will have to purchase a separate aquarium chiller accessory.

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