If you are the proud owner of a fish tank, you probably know that an aquarium light is recommended. Lighting fulfills a few purposes, from mimicking a fish’s natural environment to making it easier for you to detect problems with your fish or with the aquarium when they occur. If you have live plants in the aquarium, lighting is necessary for them to thrive. You will also need a filter, so you’ll want to check out this article as well.
We have reviewed dozens of aquarium lights so our readers can make educated decisions about the best aquarium light that will fit their needs. We considered value, the types of lighting, and what Amazon users had to say about the various types and brands.
The NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light made our top spot. The full-spectrum LED lights promote healthy fish and vibrant growth of plants. It can be used for rimless and framed aquariums and is appropriate for both saltwater and freshwater applications.
The 5 Top-Rated Aquarium & Fish Tank Lights
|Best Overall||NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light||4.5|
|Runner Up||Mingdak LED Aquarium Light||4.4|
|Best Budget Buy||LEDENET Aquarium Coral LED Strip Light||3.8|
|Best Planted Light||Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light for Aquariums||4.0|
|Best Clip-on Light||Hygger Blue White LED Aquarium Light
*Ratings were accurate at the time of writing and may change over time.
Our Top Pick: NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light
Our first pick was the NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light. This one easily grabbed the top spot thanks to its bright light and versatility. With LED lights that are 25 percent brighter than those of this model’s predecessor, you’ll notice that your fish are happy and your plants are growing well. This light is best for plants that require a low to medium light level.
The light features an aluminum alloy shell that is durable and great at dissipating heat, which will maximize the life of the LED bulbs. The lights are spread among five colors and the mounting brackets are adjustable. You can use this with a saltwater or a freshwater tank.
NICREW ClassicLED Plus LED Aquarium Light Key Features:
- Available in various sizes
- Full-spectrum LED lights in 5 colors
- Aluminum alloy shell
- Dissipates heat
- Adjustable mounting brackets
Our Runner-Up Pick: Mingdak LED Aquarium Light
The Mingdak LED Aquarium Light came in a close second. This light offers neat white LEDs that add a shimmering effect to the aquarium. The light is fully submersible and comes with suction cups, so you have various options when it comes to setting it up and placing it in your aquarium. The in-frame mounting allows you to see the light without seeing the fixture if that is the look you are going for.
This light has adjustable mounting legs and fits aquariums with widths of 17 to 23 inches. The LED lights are safe and have low voltage. This light is great for night viewing and can be used as a nightlight if desired.
Mingdak LED Aquarium Light Key Features:
- LEDs come in cool white
- In-frame mounting
- Versatile placement with suction cups
- Super water-resistant
- Adjustable mounting legs
3 Best Budget Pick: LEDENET Aquarium Coral LED Strip Light
The LEDENET Aquarium Coral LED Strip Light is our top pick for those who are looking for a budget-friendly aquarium light. The light emitted from this product is shimmering and available in multiple color spectrums. You can run multiple strips or snap on a polished reflector to double the light output.
This light is good for saltwater and freshwater fish and can also be used in reef aquariums. It is environmentally friendly and water-resistant. This means that while it can get wet, it cannot be submersed. Each LED strip is 12 inches long, 0.7 inches wide and 0.4 inches high.
LEDENET Aquarium Coral LED Strip Light Key Features:
- Shimmering light
- Multiple color spectrums
- Can be used with reflector or multiple strips
- Good for saltwater and freshwater fish
Best Planted Aquarium Light: Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light for Aquarium
If you are looking for a light that will support your plants, consider our top pick in this category, Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light for Aquariums. With multiple modes, you can dim the lights, create cloud cover effects, and experiment with innovative evening modes such as lunar and dusk.
The bright lights stimulate the growth and vibrancy of freshwater aquatic plants. The light is easy to install with sliding docking legs; you can also add multiple fixtures easily. The LED light comes with a 30-day guarantee, so you can be sure that you will be satisfied with your purchase or the company will refund you.
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus Light for Aquariums Key Features:
- Super bright lights
- Multiple modes
- Easy installation
- Realistic effects
- Great for freshwater aquatic plants
- 30-day guarantee
Best Clip-on Aquarium Light: Hygger Blue White LED Aquarium Lights
The Hygger Blue White LED Aquarium Light made our top spot for clip-on aquarium lights. It includes 45 LED bulbs, which produce an amazing shimmer effect. This clip-on light is good for aquariums that are 10-20 gallons. There are two lighting modes, white for daylight and blue for a night light effect.
The ultra-thin aluminum alloy shell ensures excellent heat dissipation, allowing the lights to live a long life. There is an adjustable clamp that fits most rimmed and rimless tanks up to a 0.9 inch thickness. You can turn the arm of the lamp to vary the angle. The light is splash-resistant, but cannot be submersed.
Hygger Blue White LED Aquarium Light Key Features:
- Includes 45 LED lights
- Two lighting modes
- Creates shimmering effect
- Splash resistant
- Aluminum alloy shell
- Adjustable clamp
Who Should Buy an Aquarium Light
If you have an aquarium, you should consider purchasing an aquarium light. If you have plants, it’s a must, because the light will help the plants photosynthesize, grow, and remain vibrant. Fish often do better when the lighting in their tank mimics what their natural environment would be. Since keeping the fish tank in a window might cause the water to get too warm, particularly during the summer months, an aquarium light does a better job of providing light without providing too much heat. In addition, you might enjoy seeing your fish and plants with the aid of a light that has special effects. Some people even use blue lights as a nightlight.
Important Features to Consider
Aquarium lights should have a few important features. Here’s what to think about before you make your purchase:
- Modes. Some lights will have only one mode, while others will have many. Think about whether you will want to use different effects. If you do, find a light that includes those effects.
- Type of aquarium. Depending on the type of fish you have and whether you have plants, you might require a light with bright lights or a light strip of a certain size. Consider the size of your aquarium, whether you need a planted light, and whether your fish have any specific lighting needs.
- Water-resistant vs. waterproof. If you will be submersing your light, you will, of course, need a waterproof product. Many aquarium lights are simply water-resistant, however, which means that while they can withstand a splash or two of water, they shouldn’t be submersed. Read the product information carefully to determine whether yours can be put underwater if that is what you want to do.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are aquarium lights?
Aquarium lights are lights that illuminate an aquarium. Depending on the type, they might clip to the side or top of the tank or you might put them in the water. Other clip under the tank hood. Some lights are good for tanks with plants while other are not bright enough for planted aquariums.
Do I need lights in my fish tank?
It depends. If you have fish without any special lighting needs, you don’t specifically need a light. If you have plants, you do need a light. Also, some fish have specific needs when it comes to lighting. When you purchase your fish, talk to the person you are buying them from to find out if your fish needs a light to thrive. Note that if you have a betta fish, you don’t need a light. Here’s more information on how to take care of a betta fish.
What type of lights do I need for my aquarium?
Most fish and plants do fine with fluorescent and incandescent lights. Deep aquariums can do better with power compact lighting, because this type of light penetrates the water to larger depths than traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights. Metal halide lights are another option, but they heat up the water. Talk to your local aquarium or fish expert for more in-depth advice about which type of light you should use.
How much light does my aquarium need?
It is best to have your aquarium light on for approximately 12 hours per day. This gives fish and plants the benefits of the lighting while also allowing them periods of darkness, which both plants and fish need. Leaving an aquarium lit 24 hours per day can cause your tank to be more hospitable to algae, which is something you want to avoid.