It is easy to find vast literature on what substrate, water conditions, and fertilizers are the best for plants. There is another crucial factor in this list — Light conditions. In fact, with this added care of the correct light, most aquatic plants will thrive and flourish easily.
We know from our daily lives that light is immensely important to a perfectly balanced ecology. Plants are no different; they need light for the process of photosynthesis and health and growth. As aquarium lovers, we make large investments in ornate decoratives and other add-ons to give our aquariums the best. It is worth your time and money to ensure that your aquatic plants receive the best light conditions they can. Underwater plants absorb the carbon dioxide that fish breathe out and clear the water to keep living in a good light.
However, one must be careful. There is such a thing as too much light. Tiny moss called algae grows in the water under too much light, tinting it a light green color. You might have noticed tiny spots of green on the sides of the aquarium or the surfaces of your underwater rocks.
Some of these algae might be good too; fish like to suckle on them. It might add to the natural rustic look of your aquarium. But too much of it might be counterproductive and disturb the look of your precious fish tank.
Best Light for Aquarium Plants
After researching some light trends in the market, here is our curated list for your benefit.
1) Current USA Satellite Plus Pro
The Current USA Satellite Plus Pro is a versatile high-end lighting system. It is designed exclusively for freshwater plant and animal life. It has a high power capacity. It is proven to sustain even the most delicate aquatic plants.
With its many features and suitable intensity levels, it is a go-to light for many aquarium lovers. It can sustain about 99% of all popular aquatic plant species , including low light and high-intensity light varieties. It is effective up to depths of 21 inches, which is suitable for most aquarium owners. At this depth, it can even sustain carpet-cover type plants.
Its high power and intensity lighting give the fish a real daylight experience, and your plants will receive adequate light with the bright LED lights. The vivid colors will also add to the look of your aquarium. A 120-degree reflector distributes light throughout the tank depth.
An added highlight is the remote-controlled light intensity and color control. You can play around with the light to suit the mood and external conditions. The remote control unit itself is a 32 key customizable infrared.
You also get a pre-programmed ramping feature with the lighting system, which mimics the tour fish tank’s daylight conditions. It begins at low intensity to suit sunrise and sunset conditions and reaches a peak to mimic the rising intensity of light outside. This suits the fish and the plants’ biological cycles, giving them a feeling of natural light.
The Satellite plus pro comes with SMD LED chips, which will give you the perfect PAR you need for every condition. This technology lets the lights pack into a small and easy-to-maintain aluminum casing.
- Multitude of options for customizing the lighting conditions and colors.
- Supports most plant species, including high-level plant species with consistent PAR outputs.
- Simulates the natural environment with a dual-ramp setting, which reduces strain on your fish and plants.
- Added features (which we could not test for effectiveness) are cloud cover simulator and storm simulator.
- Covers the natural spectrum of light very effectively.
- Remote control for change of colors and intensity
- Does not let algae grow because of its blue led color.
- Easy to operate remotely.
- Slide-in system for docking the light is sleek and easy.
- It is relatively more expensive.
- Some red species of the plant need higher light intensity that cannot be provided by this light.
- Since condensation might affect this light’s performance and life; a glass cover is essential to install over light.
- You might have to position yourself at a distance to operate the remote control. It was at times ineffective from short distances.
2) Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED KLC Aquarium LED Light
This LED light’s design is to support the process of photosynthesis in your water plants with all species in mind — deep-planted, red leaf, or carpet growth species. The lighting is effective for tanks that hold water of up to 125 gallons and at least 12 inches of depth. If the tank is shallower than this, this light might cause the growth of algae.
Like in the other models, the light spectrum is also versatile and changeable, which allows you to adjust the light settings and intensity. Like the Satellite plus pro, Finnex also allows you to simulate sunrise and sunset, programmed into the remote control.
The natural light feature of Finnex will auto-repeat itself throughout the day to mimic the sun’s motion across the sky. You don’t have to change it ever, just set and forget, allowing complete hands-free maintenance.
Finnex Planted + comes in a variety of widths, of 20″, 24″, 30″, 36″, or 48″, with individually dimmable red, green, and blue LEDs. It also includes 7000K daylight LEDs. All these features can alter and controlled using the remote control.
It gives the user adequate control over light and provides an option of automating the whole process without any interference.
- Automatic light control mode supports easy maintenance.
- It has custom weather modes to suit natural conditions.
- Remote control operation.
- Higher brightness as compared to other models.
- Easy to program when changes are needed.
- Designed exclusively for freshwaters and such species.
- Durable and sturdy make.
- Great value for money.
- High penetration depth of 21 inches.
- Custom changes to light are easy.
- Remote-control is not of the same high quality as the light.
- Comes with acrylic-leg set up, which need work to set up.
- Power cord is short, and it might limit where to place the light.
- In shallow tanks, it might encourage algae because of its intensity.
3) NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light
The CREW LED is an inexpensive option for a blue or white LED fixture. It gives you a great chance to simulate a realistic underwater environment at home at a reasonable price. It covers the low and medium light range plants.
It is, like other LED lights, energy-efficient and long-lasting. It is bright and supports the healthy development of your aquatic life.
The CREW Led comes in flexible lengths. The extendable metal-bracket system ranges from 18 to 24 inches and can be shortened or lengthened as per choice at the sides. The LED itself is susceptible to moisture and therefore needs a glass cover to ensure its long life.
It is unsuitable for suspending it directly over the tank since moisture can cause corrosion, or splashing might cause damage the light. It might even slip and fall into the tank, which might damage the light.
- It is inexpensive and suits the cost-conscious.
- For the price, the lighting it provides is equivalent to other varieties.
- It comes in 5 different sizes.
- You can use it in white light and blue light mode during the day and blue-only during the night, specially designed for freshwater aquatic life.
- It is susceptible to water damage and needs glass cover.
- Does not have an inbuilt timer.
- Might bend because of mechanical stress when extending the brackets.
Buyer’s Guide: Types of Light for Aquarium
There are different types of lighting systems to light up your underwater life. Here are a few:
Incandescent bulbs are those bulbs that you would also otherwise use in light fixtures. We know that in addition to light, they also produce a considerable amount of heat. They are most suited for smaller aquariums when you desire to keep both lighting and temperature under control.
Though very practical in use, these bulbs come with some downsides, because of which they may not be the best choice:
- Their heat might warm the water, thus making your heating system ineffective.
- For shallow aquariums and small tanks, aquarists can use them, but beyond a depth of 12 inches, they provide neither the heat nor the light reaches into these depths.
- They are pricier than LEDs or fluorescent lamps.
- They are sensitive to water splashes. Excess heat might cause them to break.
- They have a short lifespan.
From an ecological perspective, incandescent lamps are unpopular because they use a lot of electricity and produce more heat.
Fluorescent light is available in standard and compact forms of bulbs. They are more popular for aquarium than incandescent bulbs because of their broader spectrum of light and apt intensity for underwater conditions.
One must bear in mind that the light used at home and in offices are different from those needed in the water. You might have seen fluorescent bulbs used in freshwater aquariums because of their being inexpensive. You should bear in mind that these bulbs do not have the high-intensity ranges of lights and do not fulfill all underwater plants’ needs.
Compact bulbs are smaller than the standard dimension and have the added advantage that they emit twice as much light. They are available in many wattages — both fish and plants alike like this light. Therefore, you can deploy them in fish-only tanks or tanks with plants. However, it would be best if you remembered to ventilate your tank with an additional fan because compact bulbs cause overheating and raise your water temperature.
3) LED (Light Emitting Diode)
LEDs are a relatively new technology. They are energy efficient, small in size, and are ideal for freshwater aquariums. If you have nocturnal fish or other beings in your tank, LEDs also give a soft night-like glow that your animals would enjoy.
LEDs are popular in the aquarium world because of their sleek look, cool temperatures, and a great choice in glow effects and colors. For all the advantages they offer, they are very inexpensive.
LEDs come in multiple colors, sizes, and types, which are suitable for your aquarium environment. They need less replacement because they have consistent power and steadiness of light output throughout their lifetime. Fluorescent light, by contrast, changes to yellow light in about 3 to 6 months of use.
By now, it is probably evident that LED offers the most for its price. Here is a summary of the advantages provided by LED:
- You can choose the LEDs that best suit your tank environment, including color, intensity, and length of the spectrum.
- LED lights can arrange in a flexible strip. They are not a point source, which allows you to spread the light over a broader area in your tank.
- They are suited to plan growth conditions, even if you choose to have the inexpensive versions.
- They use much less energy (about 75% less than incandescent) and last up to 25 times longer.
- The reduced cost of energy and increased duration will cost you much less to maintain over the years.
It would be best if you remembered that light is as vital as the substrate or fertilizer when it comes to a thriving aquarium. What light suits your needs best depends on the plants and fish of your tank. You must inform yourself of the various available options and choose the one that best fits your needs. This article provides some basics about choosing light and should help you start making an informed decision.