The Best LED Lighting for a Reef Aquarium

Saltwater reef tanks are the jewels of the aquarium world. There is nothing quite like raising a tank of corals in a thriving reef habitat. But growing these challenging invertebrates comes with a steep learning curve. Investing in the best LED reef lighting can help your corals thrive!

This reef tank guide aims to familiarize you with the basic scientific principles behind aquarium lights and how they affect the growth of rocks and live corals. Includes detailed product reviews of some of the best LED reef lights on the market.


As their popularity has skyrocketed, many manufacturers have jumped on the LED bandwagon. While you can still DIY your own reef light, it’s never been easier to find a great all-in-one option.

After extensive research, these are the best nano reef lights for tanks under 29 gallons and most are suitable for larger reef tanks as well.


  • Style: Striplight; Modular
  • Number of LEDs: 72 (36 dual daylight / 36 dual actinic)
  • Number of channels: 2
  • Fits tanks: 18 to 24 inches long
  • Includes: marine LED fixture, ramp timer with remote control, 2 adjustable docking brackets, transformer with cable
  • Dimensions: 16.8 x 3.5 x 0.44 inches
  • Ideal for: Mixed reef tanks; Soft corals and LPS
  • Power Usage: 18 Watts
  • Programmable: yes with remote control
  • Mounting: use brackets
  • Other versions available: 24 to 36 inches, 36 to 48 inches, 40 to 60 inches

For smaller mixed reef and coral tanks, this 24-hour programmable LED light from Current USA is a great option. This device has 72 LEDs and covers the entire spectrum of light. It is pre-programmed with 2 light schedules and 2 coral acclimatization programs and allows you to save up to 4 more programs.

You can easily adjust the 2 color channels with your remote, or directly on the backlit digital display if you prefer. There are even programs to create weather effects like lightning or fading moonlight! The aluminum housing is durable and the mounting brackets easily attach to most styles of aquariums.


  • 72 LEDs with 36 dual daytime running lights and 36 actinic nightlights
  • Programmable and comes with a remote control and presets.
  • Independently controlled moonlights


  • Not WiFi or Bluetooth enabled
  • Not powerful enough for deep tanking or raising SPS corals
  • The only mounting option is to use the included brackets to mount to the side of your tank


  • Style: Classic Roof Strip
  • Number of LEDs: 2 hybrid dense matrix optics; Optical Modification Kits Available
  • Number of channels: customizable through the app
  • Fits tanks: 36 to 48 inches long
  • Dimensions: 20 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Includes: Kessil LED fixture, USB cable, power adapter, power cord
  • Ideal for: all corals and mixed reef tanks
  • Power Usage: 185 Watts
  • Programmable: Yes via WiFi app
  • Fitment: Multiple aftermarket options
  • Other versions available: No, use multiple units for larger tanks

If you are looking for the best option in a premium device, the Kessil AP700 could be the LED for you. Featuring Kessil’s unique dense matrix hybrid optics, this light provides intense light across a broad spectrum but prevents «hot spots» from killing corals. This lamp is almost infinitely customizable!

With the WiFi enabled app you can mix and match your colors to provide the exact effect you want on your tank. It also includes programs for weather effects and different types of moonlight. It also automatically adjusts the ultraviolet light to maximize coral growth without damaging them.


  • Dense matrix hybrid optics provide intense, adjustable light throughout the tank
  • Colors can be adjusted to provide the exact effect you want
  • Multiple mounting options allow this light to work with almost any aquarium


  • The Kessil app is not the easiest to use and only works when connected to WiFi
  • Mounting hardware is not included and must be purchased aftermarket.
  • Unit must be reprogrammed after power outages.


  • Style: square box
  • Fits Tanks: Flexible; Fits various sizes and styles
  • Number of LEDs: 100
  • Number of channels: 7
  • Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Includes: Fluval LED fixture, power transformer, power cord
  • Ideal for: mixed reef tanks; Soft corals and LPS
  • Power Usage: 20 Watts
  • Programmable: yes via Bluetooth app
  • Mounting: Sits directly on top of tank rim or lid
  • Other versions available: No

It can be hard to find good LEDs for small tanks! To power up a 10 gallon reef tank, this premium Fluval Marine Nano gets the job done in style. The compact square device is very attractive and requires no assembly. It stays cold enough that you can place it right on your glass lid! This allows the unit to fit many styles of tanks.

The Fluval has 100 LEDs and can be controlled via an app on your smart device via Bluetooth. It comes with preset programs for certain habitat conditions, and the 7 channels allow you to adjust your colors for the perfect look in your tank. It is also very energy efficient.


  • 100 LEDs provide full spectrum light to all parts of a nano tank
  • 7 channels allow you to control the colors of your light
  • The compact device is attractive and works especially well with Fluval brand aquariums.


  • Limited nightly settings
  • There is no way to mount the light for open top tanks.
  • Presets are not ideal for growing corals and need to be adjusted


  • Style: Square Box; Modular
  • Fits Tanks: Flexible; Fits various sizes and styles
  • Number of LEDs: 16 plus actinic moonlight
  • Number of channels: 8
  • Dimensions: 4.88 x 4.88 x 1.3 inches
  • Includes: Aqua Light Fixture, Power Cord
  • Ideal for: mixed reef tanks; soft corals
  • Power Usage: 60 Watts
  • Programmable: yes via Bluetooth app
  • Fitment: Multiple aftermarket options
  • Other versions available: 32 LED, 64 LED

Aqua Illumination is one of the best known brands in the industry, and this Prime 16 LED model is a good example of its quality. This compact softbox features 16 LEDs plus an actinic moonlight. With the Bluetooth app, you can mix and match your colors until you have the ideal amount of light in every part of your tank.

This is a powerful accessory at a very reasonable price and it comes in two other sizes for larger aquariums. You can even use various accessories to cover a large tank. HD overdrive lets you route power from unused channels to the ones you’re using, and includes a dedicated channel for moonshine.


  • 8 channels allow precise color control
  • Includes a dedicated channel for moonlight.
  • Fully programmable and easy to adjust via the Bluetooth app.


  • Mounting hardware is not included and must be purchased aftermarket.
  • The Bluetooth connection may be unstable and the device cannot be adjusted if it does not connect
  • Limited nighttime configurations available as it only has a single actinic moonlight


  • Style: Strip light
  • Fits tanks: 23.5 to 26.25 inches long
  • Number of LEDs: 51
  • Number of channels: 5
  • Dimensions: 23.1 x 4 x 0.7 inches
  • Includes: accessory, power cord
  • Ideal for: mixed reef tanks; Soft corals and LPS
  • Power Usage: 36 Watts
  • Programmable: Yes via WiFi app
  • Mounting: built-in extension brackets
  • Other versions available: Edge 36, Edge 48

If you want marine aquarium lighting that’s easy to use, look to the Edge Marine LED Light. It is one of the easiest lights to program. Simply adjust your settings using the WiFi-enabled app. With 51 LEDs and 5 channels, you have plenty of room to customize the look of your tank.

This accessory is very stylish and is almost invisible standing on your tank. The built-in extension bracket allows you to customize the fit on your 24-inch long tank, and there are versions available for larger tanks like the Edge 48 reef light! It even has a sunrise and sunset feature that gradually increases or decreases the lights! !


  • User friendly design and WiFi app make this one of the easiest lights to program
  • 51 LEDs allow for full spectrum lighting in all parts of your tank
  • Multiple blue diodes make this an excellent choice for low to medium intensity coral farming.


  • Only controllable and programmable through the app, so if you don’t connect, you can’t adjust your lights
  • Only one mounting option, and the unit cannot be suspended above your tank
  • Does not allow as precise control as premium models


  • Style: Rectangular Box
  • Fits tanks: 12 inches or larger
  • Number of LEDs: 102 including actinic moonlights
  • Number of channels: 10
  • Dimensions: 11.8 x 7 x 1.5 inches
  • Includes: Radion LED lamp, transformer, power adapter
  • Ideal for: SPS and high intensity corals
  • Power Usage: 180 Watts
  • Programmable: Yes via WiFi app
  • Fitment: Multiple aftermarket options
  • Other versions available: No, use multiple units for larger tanks

If you want to grow SPS corals in your reef tank, then you know you need an accessory that can really turn on the light. The Radion XR30 Blue LED Light is one of the most popular options on the market. With 102 diodes and 10 channels, you can program this device for just about any effect you want.

This is a very powerful light and is suitable for small coral tanks under 30 gallons in capacity. You can use various accessories for longer tanks and you can program them all through the WiFi enabled app. It also has multiple mounting options, so you can customize your setup for the perfect look and easily adjust as needed.


  • High intensity blue LED diodes make this an excellent choice for growing SPS corals
  • Suitable for nano and full size saltwater reef tanks
  • The WiFi app is easy to use and allows control of the suburbs


  • Premium product with a premium price tag
  • Larger tanks will require multiple units for full coverage
  • Provides a more intense light than soft or LPS corals require.

Lighting for a REEF: WHAT IS A REEF TANK?

Choosing the right light fixture for your reef tank can be a daunting proposition. While choosing a light for a fish-only saltwater aquarium is a simple process, raising live rocks, sponges, and corals requires more specific lighting conditions. These reef tanks have the highest lighting requirements in the aquarium trade.

Light-emitting diodes, known as LEDs, have become a very popular choice for aquariums of all types and sizes and are especially useful for lighting coral. LED aquarium lights were once something you had to build DIY style, but these days there are plenty of affordable options to choose from.


One challenge with reef tank maintenance is that different occupants need different lighting conditions to thrive. Its location in the tank is also important. Live rocks and corals placed near the top of your tank will naturally receive more intense lighting conditions than those near the bottom.

Additionally, the size and depth of your tank and the clarity of your water will directly affect the amount of light your corals receive. Ideally, you’ll need an LED fixture that’s adjustable so you can direct the right amount of light to each part of your tank.


Light is a complicated subject, but for reef aquaria, what you are most interested in is the spectrum and intensity of light that your device provides to the occupants of your tank.

I could write an entire article on each of these topics, but I’ll try to keep it simple.

Not all light is created equal in your aquarium

If you think back to your high school science classes, you may remember that visible light exists in a spectrum of about 400 to 700 nanometers (nm) between wavelengths. Blue is close to 400nm, while red is around 700nm, and the infrared and ultraviolet spectra are outside the range that human eyes can detect.

As light enters the water, longer wavelengths are filtered out while shorter wavelengths penetrate more. By the time you’ve reached 30 feet underwater, the red and yellow spectrums will be mostly eliminated and blue light dominates. You’ll want to account for the natural depth of your coral species so you can replicate your lighting.

Another challenge with aquarium lights is that blue-dominated tank lighting doesn’t look very natural. When choosing your LED setup, you’ll want the right mix of warmer and cooler spectrum diodes so you can mimic your coral’s natural conditions while still making your tank look good to the human eye.

What is PAR or photosynthetically active radiation?

PAR is a measure that calculates the amount of light in the water available to photosynthetic organisms such as corals and living plants. Photosynthesis occurs when light waves are between 400 and 700 nm. But this measurement doesn’t tell the whole story, because not all wavelengths are equally photosynthetic.

Live plants and corals increase photosynthesis when the light spectrum is in the red or blue ranges and greatly decrease when green light (around 560 nm) dominates. Since PAR measures all light and not just the wavelengths that initiate photosynthesis, you’ll need more information to choose the best option for your tank.

A light fixture may have a high PAR rating and yet be unsuitable for growing corals.You will need to look at the light manufacturer’s spectrograph to see the range of wavelengths each diode produces at different depths. This will tell you how much PUR or photosynthetic usable radiation a device can provide.

Measurement and use of PAR numbers

The best way to determine how much light your corals are getting from your LED light is to measure it with a PAR meter. You can often buy or rent these devices from aquarium stores and use them to take direct measurements in your tank. Another option is to use a reef monitoring system to track your PAR over time.

PAR meters and monitoring systems can be expensive, but they are a great way to protect your aquarium (aka investment). It may be worth spending a couple of hundred dollars when you consider how much it costs to get a reef tank up and running! This great video from Marine Depot breaks down PAR and demonstrates how to measure it.


You may notice that older books and articles on aquarium lights go into a lot of detail about the K (Kelvins) ratings of light fixtures and the wattage of different types of bulbs. But these are not very helpful in choosing an LED fixture for a reef tank.

  • Wattage simply tells you how much power a device uses, not the amount or spectrum of light it produces.
  • LED aquarium lights have the ability to contain many different diodes so you are not limited to the power produced by a single bulb or set of bulbs.
  • The K rating of the device is less important than the type and intensity of light each diode produces.

Unlike classic fluorescent aquarium light, LEDs can produce full spectrum light for your tank and still use predominantly cool or blue diodes. The K-rating isn’t really relevant, and the actual amount of power the device uses will depend on its configuration. Instead, look for the PAR rating for the device.


Choosing a lighting system for your reef tank can be challenging, so I’ve put together this short guide to help you identify which functions and features are most useful for your tank. You can learn more about the best LED aquarium lights here.


There are several reasons why LEDs have become so popular in aquariums and especially reef tanks! In the old days, controlling your lights required multiple fixtures, timers, and power strips. These huge light bulbs gobbled up energy and often caused the temperature of the tanks to rise to dangerous levels. LEDs solve many of these problems.

Appearance and size of LED luminaires

LEDs are typically attractive, compact devices that produce a lot of light in a small package. Unlike traditional aquarium lights, you won’t have to cover the entire hood of your tank with bulbs to highlight your corals. Diode lenses direct light precisely so less is lost to the surrounding area.

Safety and low heat emission

LED aquarium lights are much safer than the old ones. Most accessories are at least somewhat waterproof and some can even be submerged without causing a short circuit or fire.

They also generate much less heat than other types of lighting. You won’t have to worry about your tank overheating when using LEDs, and they don’t require as many extra timers, fans, and wires to be fully functional. Often you will only need to use an outlet or plug in a power strip to operate your lights.

Energy efficiency

High quality LEDs are very energy efficient and have lower operating costs than other styles of aquarium lighting. An LED bulb can last up to 10 years before needing to be replaced as well. However, its overall efficiency will depend on the quality of the components. Cheap reef lights may not be as efficient as premium models.

Excellent control – easily balance the needs of corals and marine animals

The great thing about LED reef lights is that they offer unparalleled control, beyond what you might expect from other types of fixtures. It can often simulate sunrises and sunsets, cloudy and stormy conditions, and some even have built-in moonlights for nighttime viewing. All in one accessory!

This allows you to maximize the growth of your corals even with only 8 to 10 hours a day of direct lighting and still bring out the beautiful colors of your reef fish.

Advantage Disadvantages
Attractive appearance and compact size May have a higher initial cost
Energy efficiency and low heat emission It’s easy to underestimate its performance and blow up a tank with too much light.
The safest style of aquarium lighting Most units have a definite learning curve
Suburb lighting control helps maximize coral and marine animal growth


When looking for an LED system for your tank, consider the following factors:


While it may be tempting to save money and go with a cheap light, you may not be happy with the result. While many reef lights advertise the quality of their diodes, if the other internal components are poorly made, your system will not produce as much light as you expect.

You’ll also want to consider the build quality of the case, cables, channels, and any other parts of your unit. If you go for a cheap unit, the diodes can last 10 years, but that won’t do you any good if the rest of the unit requires replacement before then.


Unlike the other options like fluorescent, CFL, and metal halide lights, LED reef tank lights don’t always come in a strip that runs across the top of your tank. Some LEDs are strip lights, but others can be round or square modules.

Many LED reef lights are very attractive, compact units that attach to the sides of your tank with brackets, so you can adjust the height to the optimum level. Most aftermarket LED lights need to be hung over your aquarium in some way. This also keeps your tank accessible.


My favorite thing about LED reef and planted tank lights is the amount of control they offer! Simulate a slow sunrise over your reef or program on a stormy day or starry night.

multiple color channels

Most LED systems allow you to control the intensity of individual diodes or groups of diodes. This means you can create the exact effect you’re looking for in every part of your tank! You can activate the full spectrum diodes to display your fish and then activate the blue actinic diodes to feed your corals.

Programmable via apps and WiFi

I mentioned the older styles of lighting above. There was a time when the only thing you could control was whether the lights were on or off, but with LED lights you can program complex and extended sequences. Most units come with a remote or allow you to do this on your phone or tablet with a WiFi-enabled app.


There are several brands that are well known in the LED aquarium market, and it may be better to go for one of these well-known brands rather than an unknown one. That way, you know you’ll have access to replacement parts and support if you run into problems.


So what features should you specifically look for when purchasing your LED reef lights? I advise you to consider units that:

  • They are easy to install on your tank.
  • They are easy to set up and program via remote control or WiFi-enabled apps and include presets for different lighting conditions.
  • You can demonstrate its energy efficiency as proof of the quality of the internal components.
  • They are adjustable and offer flexibility, so you don’t have to buy a new system if you change your reef design
  • They are durable and have readily available replacement parts.


Corals are small living creatures (polyps) that live in groups and secrete a layer of calcium carbonate. Within the structure lives a type of photosynthetic organism called zooxanthellae. These microorganisms feed the coral polyp and give the coral its color. Some corals also feed directly on plankton or algae in the water.

There are two main types of corals: hard and soft. Soft types like mushroom and leather corals are generally considered easier to maintain and require less intense light than hard SPS/LPS varieties (small stony polyps/large stony polyps). But you will need to look up the light requirements of the specific strains in your tank.

Generally speaking, the amount of light each type requires is:

type of corals lighting requirements
soft corals 60 to 150 PAIR
SPS Corals 200 to 500 pairs
LPS corals approx 150 to 300 PAR


As you can see, there is a lot to consider when it comes to LED lighting for reef tanks. Saltwater fish tank lights are the most complicated to buy, especially if you want a thriving coral community. It is best to get a light that is adjustable and programmable so that you can continue to modify your aquarium setup for years to come.

If you are still not sure which light to choose:

  • For the best overall coral reef LEDs, you can’t go wrong with the Kessil.
  • For small nano tanks, the Fluval is an ideal choice and doesn’t even have to be mounted on your tank.
  • For high intensity SPS and LPS coral farming, consider investing in the Radion system.

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