Coral led lights

Coral led lights DEFAULT
Updated: September 28, 2021 - By: Lucas - Categories: Reef aquarium

The rise of LED technology in recent years has directly contributed to the convenience of keeping corals in home aquariums. LED lights are usually effortless to set up and install. They also produce less heat and have a longer lifespan, up to 5-7 years and more. These qualities make LEDs the best choice for reef aquariums that need very high output lighting.

The LED lights used in reef aquariums differ from their freshwater counterparts in various ways. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that make reef aquariums so unique.

Best LED reef aquarium lights – PAR comparison table

ModelOur ratingPARReviewed versionAvailable optionsIdeal forSpreadLEDs & channelsController
NICREW HyperReef Aquarium Reef Lighteditor's ratingNICREW HyperReef 50128 @ 24-inch depth50-watt30/50/ 100/150Wmost types of corals18 x 18″24 LEDs, two channelsnone
ViparSpectra 165W LED lighteditor's ratingViparSpectra 165W LED light325 @ 24-inch depth165-watt165/300WHigh light SPS corals24 x 24″55 LEDs with two channels blue and whitebuilt-in timer, remote control
Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light 24-incheditor's ratingCurrent USA Orbit Marine IC PRO100 @ 21-inch depth144-watt (72-inch)42-144W (18- inches)soft/LPS/ low-light SPS corals72-inch length288 LEDs, two channelsmobile app control via Bluetooth
AquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD Reef Aquarium LEDeditor's ratingAquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD100 @ 24-inch depth60-wattAI Prime 16/32/64most types of corals24 x 24″17 LEDs, 7 color channelBluetooth app control
Lominie LED Aquarium Light, Saltwater editor's ratingLominie S120 saltwater LED light80-watt48/80Wmost types of corals24 x 24″68 LEDs, 4 channelsremote control for color adjustments
Kessil A360WE Controllable LED Tuna Blueeditor's ratingKessil A360WE Tuna Bluedesigned for deep penetration90-wattlower output Kessil A160WEmost types of corals24 x 24″densely-packed LEDs
NICREW Saltwater Aquarium Light 36-incheditor's ratingNICREW Saltwater 36-inch110 @ 12-inch depth32 watts18-36 inchessaltwater fish, live rock, soft coral, and LPS corals36-inch length117 LEDs, 2 channelsincluded timer for day and night
DSunY 3X LED Reef Lighteditor's ratingDSunY 3X LED Reef Light110 watts per unitHigh demanding SPS72-inch reef40 LEDs, 4 channelstimer controller with preset modes
Relassy Aquarium Led Light 800Weditor's ratingRelassy Aquarium Led Light 300Wfor 30-inch deep tanks300 wattsHigh demanding SPS150-200+ Gal deep reef168 LEDs

How to choose LED lights for reef aquariums?


The types of corals in your reef aquarium are an important factor in deciding which light is right for the tank. Fish-only with live rock (FOWLR) tanks will need less lighting than reef tanks, soft coral tanks need less lighting than hard coral tanks, and Acropora corals require the highest lighting of up to 500+ PAR.

There are many factors to consider when you are in the market for a good LED light for your reef aquariums. First of all, you have to choose the right type with blue lighting that corals can use for photosynthesis. Then, ensure the light you choose provides enough light for the corals you have in the tank.

The following parameters can help you determine which product is the best fit for your tank’s requirements.

Choosing the right type – Color temperature (Kelvin rating)


Kelvin ratings (1,000-12,000) and corresponding light colors (

Color temperature, which can simply understand as the color of the output light, determined by its Kelvin Rating. The deeper the natural habitats of a coral species, the more blue (higher Kelvin rating) it adapts to. This is because when sunlight (white light) penetrates deeply through the water, only blue light with higher energy remains while other light colors with lower energy are absorbed.

Corals are most beautiful when growing under specific light colors, based on the species. The light colors are not necessarily that of their natural habitats. The truth is that corals thrive well under white light (6500K) but appears less attractive colors (commonly yellowish). However, white lights also promote harmful algae as algae tends to use more red, yellow, and green light for photosynthesis, compared to coral.

Lower color temperatures facilitate growing but sacrificing coloration. Giving more blue, corals have to adjust their pigment to adapt to the light, and the result is usually more attractive colors.

So, which Kelvin ratings are suitable for reef tanks? 10,000K is optimal for both growth and coloration, go higher when your focus is on the colors. The range from 10,000-20,000K is commonly used by reefers. This range provides adequate blue for coral photosynthesis and fluorescence, less white for microalgae, and gives the most stunning view for enjoying.

Based on different stages of your reef system, you should use a specific color temperature for the balance between growth and coloration. It is better to start with the lighting conditions (colors and intensities) similar to that of the tanks of the stores where you buy your corals from, then gradually change, based on their appearance, to slowly acclimate the corals.

Enough quantity/intensity – PAR

For aquarium lights, the PAR indicates the amount of radiation that corals can use for photosynthesis and growth, so-called photosynthetic active radiation. It varies in the aquarium based on the distance between the reading spot and the light. PAR is typically measured as the units of μMol/m2/s.

PAR measurement of a ViparSpectra fixturePAR measurement of a ViparSpectra fixture

The previous picture shows the PAR measurements of a ViparSpectra reef light fixture. As you can see in the picture, further spots from the light get lower PAR readings. Basically, different types of corals need different PAR levels to thrive properly. And your work is to put the right coral in the right spot where it receives just enough of what it needs. Please that I mean “just enough” because too much lighting can cause bleaching and death.

How much lighting (PAR) for soft/LPS/SPS corals?

The following information can serve as a guide for various saltwater aquarium species:

SpeciesLight levelPAR range (umol*m-2*sec-1)
Fish only with live rock (FOWLR)not specifically requirejust bright enough
Macroalgaelow (*)30-50, like freshwater plants
Low light LPS (around 30% of LPS)low50-100, require regular feeding
Soft corals, Mushroom, most LPSlow – moderate100-150, suitable for most
Zoanthids, Palythoas, several LPSmoderate150-200
Derasa clams, Anemones, several SPShigh250-300
Montipora and other SPSintense300-400
Crocea and Maxima clams, Acropora SPSextreme400-500+

* Low: < 100, moderate: 150, high: 250, intense: > 300. These apply to all articles on Portland Aquarium.

It is better to start with the lighting conditions (colors and intensities) similar to that of the tanks of the stores where you buy your corals from. However, if you don’t know where to get started, acclimate your corals with lower PAR of their respective PAR ranges, then slowly increase to prevent bleaching.

Manufacturers usually provide you the PAR metrics of their products, especially ones that are specially for photosynthetic organisms like plants and corals. However, if you can’t find this information from the manufacturer, try to search on Google, so many reefers publish their measurements on forums or their websites.

Apogee PAR meterApogee PAR meter

You can also measure it by using a PAR meter; however, this instrument will cost you a fair amount of money. The Apogee PAR meter with its waterproof sensor is intended for measuring in water environments, including saltwater reef aquariums.

How many watts per gallon for reef LED lights?

In case you can’t find the PAR information of the light you are interested in, you can use our ‘watt per gallon’ guide for reef tanks. It is not as exact as the PAR but gives you a relative view of the light.

Based on the PAR of many reef tank LED lights on the market, we suggest the following table:

PAR @ 12-inch depthPAR @ 24-inch depthEstimated watt/gallon
30-50 (macroalgae, refugium)0.5-0.7 W/GAL
100-150 (Soft corals, Mushroom, most LPS)30-50 (macroalgae)0.8-1.2 W/GAL
150-300 (Zoanthids, Palythoas, high-light LPS)50-100 (low light LPS)1.2-2.5 W/GAL
300-450 (Montipora and other SPS)100-150 (Soft corals, Mushroom, most LPS)2.5-4 W/GAL
450-600 (Crocea and Maxima clams, Acropora SPS)150-200 (Zoanthids, Palythoas, several LPS)4-5 W/GAL
250-300 (Derasa clams, Anemones, several low-light SPS)6-8 W/GAL

The table is only applied for LED reef lights. 3-4 watts/gallon is enough to grow most types of corals provided that different-demanding corals are placed in different spots, near or far from the light source, where they get just enough light they need.

Some other factors to consider when making the purchase are:

  • The stunning visual effect,
  • The light intensity is dimmable or not,
  • Timer/controller capabilities,
  • Heat dissipation system,
  • Product lifespan,
  • Quiet operation and efficiency of the cooling fan system,
  • Power consumption,
  • Initiating and operation costs.

Reef tank LED light reviews

NICREW HyperReef 50 – cheap and high output

  • NICREW HyperReef Aquarium Reef Lighteditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: 128 @ 24″ (HyperReef 50), up to 305 @ 28″ (HyperReef 150)
  • Reviewed version: HyperReef 50 – 50 watts
  • Available options: 30/50/100/150W
  • Ideal for: most types of corals
  • Recommended spread: 18 x 18″ (10-gallon nano reef tank)
  • LEDs & channels: 24 LEDs, two channels
  • Control: no timer.

The new HyperReef aquarium light from NICREW is a fantastic product to look at for your reef tank. It features a full-color spectrum that can promote optimal coral growth and enhance dramatic coloration while creating a gentle shimmer throughout the aquarium. This gives the product an edge over its competition, as it is designed explicitly with corals in mind.

NICREW HyperReef Aquarium Reef LightNICREW HyperReef Aquarium Reef Light

The 50W unit also boasts very good PAR output with a peak of 128µMol at a depth of 24 inches. With this high performance, it works well for a nano reef (which is usually around 12 inches deep) with even the most demanding SPS. It is also available in many other options from 30 to 150W, with impressive outputs and very affordable prices.

The PAR of the 150W unit is impressively 305 at 28-inch depth. That means it produces enough light for high light demanding corals like SPS. So, based on the coral types you have and the sizes of your tank, you should use suitable light units to provides sufficient lighting for the corals.

The recommended spread of the HypeReef 50 is 18 inches in diameter and the maximum spread is up to 24 inches. This means one unit will perfectly fit a 10-gallon nano reef tank without any problem.

Two color channels and three modesTwo color channels and three modes

The touch button control on the front of the light allows you to switch between modes with the M button, and adjust the intensities of blue and white channels independently with the B and W buttons.

This product uses smart fans for temperature control, ensuring the working conditions remain optimal and consistent.

Moreover, this product also features easy installation and flexibility as other clip-on LED lights. It comes with a tank mount and you don’t need to buy anything for the setup. The tank mount works fine for both rimmed and rimless tanks.

The HyperReef 50 doesn’t include a hanging kit for hanging options while the HyperReef 150 does. However, if you want to hang it, just buy a hanging kit. I prefer mounting to hanging for small light units.

ViparSpectra 165 W LED light for high light SPS corals

  • ViparSpectra 165W LED lighteditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: 325 @ 24-inch depth
  • Reviewed version: 165 watts
  • Available options: 165/300W
  • Ideal for: high light SPS, most types of corals
  • Recommended spread: 24 x 24″ (20 gallon tank)
  • LEDs & channels: 55 LEDs with two channels blue and white
  • Control: built-in timer, remote.

The ViparSpectra 165W LED light focuses on providing high lighting output, as it is scientifically engineered to keep the PAR output and coverage balanced. The PAR value can reach 325 at 24-inch height, which is high enough to deal with even the most demanding reef tanks.

PAR measurementPAR measurement

This product also prides itself on including a full spectrum of colors to achieve the balance of strong output and stunning visibility. This layout can promote the photosynthesis of corals, ensuring a healthy ecological environment for your aquarium. This also benefits the growth of any SPS and LPS corals present underneath.

The light fixture with a built-in controllerThe light fixture with a built-in controller

The light features both two color channels, blue and white, adjusted uniformly from 0%-100% to meet your corals, reef, and fish’s different needs. You can turn on the blue and white channels simultaneously or turn them on separately, as these two channels are controlled independently. Each channel can be programmed separately with an included timer, too.

You can use the white channel only for a freshwater planted tank; however, it is not economically efficient to use a reef light in this way.

Wireless remote controlWireless remote control

The remote control is easy to understand and use. The CLOCK button is for setting your local time for the first setup; the four C1,2 ON/OFF buttons for setting the times to turn on/off channel 1 or 2; the arrows are for easier programming; the OK saves your customizations.

For prolonging its lifetime up to 100,000 hours, the fixture uses a cooling system with two quiet fans. It also comes with two hanging kits for easy setup.

Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro for soft/LPS corals

  • Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pro 72-incheditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: 100 @ 21-inch depth
  • Reviewed version: 144 watts (72-inch fixture)
  • Available: 18-72 inches (42-144W)
  • Ideal for: FOWLR, soft/LPS/low-light SPS corals
  • For tanks: over 100-gallon reef aquariums
  • LEDs & channels: 288 LEDs, two channels
  • Control: mobile app control via Bluetooth

The Orbit Marine LED from Current is an affordable pick if your tank is low-average demanding in lighting. It features ultra-bright LEDs covering the entire color spectrum. The numbers of LEDs of different fixture sizes are given in the following picture.

Spectrum and PAR measurementSpectrum and PAR measurement

This product contains a higher ratio of actinic blue spectrum LEDs that are advantageous to corals. Wide-angle dispersion lenses evenly spread light over your entire tank while ensuring superior color blending. Because of its average PAR output, it perfectly suits reef tanks that house soft, LPS, and low-light SPS corals.

Mobile app controlMobile app control

It comes with a controller to use with a mobile app for you to fully program the light schedule and color channels. Both iOS and Android apps are available for download.

The app includes a preset 24-hour automatic lighting schedule and various ready-to-use modes. It also allows you to control Current USA wave markers within only a single app, which is a big plus of this product.

The preset lighting program greatly creates a 24-hour natural biorhythmic lighting cycle and you don’t need to worry about which lighting schedule to go with. From start-up to sundown, the Orbit Marine can replicate and stimulate the realistic sunrise, bright daylight, dimming sunset, and moonlight in your aquarium.

The light also offers modes that dim at regular intervals to create cloud cover effects, storm modes complete with lightning strikes, and innovative evening modes that include lunar and dusk – it’s sure to add excitement and intrigue to any aquarium.

This product also boasts a no-brainer installation process with its extendable brackets, which enable it to fit most aquarium fish tanks 72-80 inches wide. Other options are also available for tanks from 18-60 inches long.

AquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD Reef Aquarium LED

  • AquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD Reef Aquarium LEDeditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: 100 @ 24-inch depth
  • Wattage: 60 watts
  • Available options: AI Prime 16/32/64
  • Ideal for: most types of corals
  • Recommended spread: 24 x 24″
  • LEDs & channels: 17 LEDs, 7 color channel
  • Control: Bluetooth app control for light colors and schedule.

The new AI Prime 16HD is a product from Aqua Illumination (AI). It is a compelling option to consider, as it incorporates 16 LEDs and an all-new TIR (Total Internal Reflection) optic. This enables the product to provide higher PAR values, and the improved optic design ensures a better spread and penetration of light in the tank.

This product is designed with ease of use in mind, and an excellent quality of life feature that this LED light has is the ability to control it via your phone. This can be done through an existing myAI app, which is free, simple, and easy to set up. The light connects to your smart device via its BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) onboard without an additional device requirement.

The app allows you to easily create a lighting schedule for your aquarium so that all the LEDs work in conjunction with each other. It also features an acclimation mode allowing you to set starting intensity for your livestock to settle in, which will then increase over time. It also allows for the period which you require.

The big drawback of this product is that it isn’t ready for the setup as it doesn’t include anything for hanging or mounting itself. Luckily, it is compatible with many hardware options from the manufacturer to serve different applications from mounting to hanging. These devices can work with many light units.

Lominie S120 saltwater LED light for nano reef tanks

  • Lominie S120 saltwater LED lighteditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR:
  • Wattage: 80 watts
  • Available options: 48/80W
  • Ideal for: most types of corals
  • Recommended spread: 24 x 24″
  • LEDs & channels: 68 LEDs, 4 channels
  • Control: no timer, remote control for lighting adjustments only.

This clip-on LED light is ready to use for a nano reef tank under 10 gallons. It is built with 68 x 3W LEDs, which are divided into four channels for independent and easy control with a remote. Thanks to the design, you can fully customize the light to reach your desired color and intensity.

Please note that it doesn’t have a built-in timer and the remote is only for color customizations. It is compatible with a Wifi controller (sold separately), which works with a mobile app to control many light units. The Wifi controller allows for timing, color adjusting, and features a few ready-to-use modes.

Lominie S120 saltwater LED lightLominie S120 saltwater LED light

What I love best about this product is its setup ease and flexibility. It is very easy to set up with the bendable gooseneck, just slide it onto the back edge of your aquarium, then secure it with two included plastic screws. With the recommended spread of 24-inch diameters, one unit is perfect for a 24-inch cube or a small reef tank under 20 gallons.  You may need more than one unit for larger tanks.

Kessil A360WE Tuna Blue controllable LED aquarium light

  • Kessil A360WE Controllable LED Tuna Blueeditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: designed for deep penetration
  • Wattage: 90 watts
  • Other options: Kessil A160WE
  • Ideal for: most types of corals
  • Recommended spread: 24 x 24″
  • LEDs & channels: densely-packed LEDs
  • Control: controller sold separately

The new A160WE LED light from Kessil is another featured product. This product uses a densely-packed LED array to provides a powerful light source for better penetration without sacrificing coverage. It is capable of providing up to 24 inches of the spread of light from a compact fixture measuring 3.6 inches tall and only 4 inches in diameter.

The main selling point of this product is its high performance and low maintenance design. It is compatible with a spectral controller from Kessil (buy separately), which allows for an automatic lighting schedule and customization ability. Each unit features two ports for connecting with a controller and another light one. This forms a daisy chain of multiple lights controlled with only one controller.


Image from Kessil

By setting up many light units at small intervals, you can make the total PAR output as high as you want to meet the needs of a deep reef tank. This feature is also useful for aquarium stores that have many nano reef tanks.

The light also has a wide range of different features, such as the shimmer feature, which imitates natural sunlight on a coral reef. Two control knobs on its back allow you to respectively adjust the intensity and color spectrum to meet your desired lighting.

This simple and compact unit operates so quietly with its innovative heat management. It comes with two hanging kits for the setup.

NICREW saltwater aquarium LED light, cheap for low light corals

  • NICREW Saltwater Aquarium Light 30-incheditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR: 110 @ 12-inch depth
  • Wattage: 32 watts
  • Available options: 18-36 inches
  • Ideal for: saltwater fish, live rock, soft coral, and LPS corals
  • LEDs & channels: 117 LEDs, 2 channels
  • Control: dual channel timer.

Another option from Nicrew but with a bar-structured fixture and extendable brackets for easy mounting on aquarium edges. This saltwater aquarium LED light is not only cheap but also comes with everything you need for the setup, including a dual-channel timer wired within the power cord.

NICREW saltwater aquarium light 30-inchNICREW saltwater aquarium light 30-inch

The PAR @ 12-inch depth is 110, which provides just enough light for most low-moderate light corals including most Softies, Mushrooms, Anemones, LPS, and Zoanthids. That are all most saltwater starters want to have in a small reef setup from 20-29 gallons.

DSunY 3X LED Reef Light 360W for 100/120/125-gallon reef

  • DSunY 3X LED Reef Lighteditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR:
  • Wattage: 110 watts each unit
  • Ideal for: high demanding SPS
  • Recommended spread: 24 x 15″ each unit, 3 units for a 72-inch reef
  • LEDs & channels: 40 LEDs, 4 channels
  • Control: timer controller, preset modes.

This combo comes with 3 units and is intended for a 72-inch reef system (100/120/125 gallons) with a depth of around 20 inches. You can’t use one unit for a 20-gallon tank because the output will be so large that only very high-light SPS corals can survive.

The set comes with a controller that is specifically designed to simulate the effect of natural sunlight on home reef tanks. The smart controller allows you to fully customize light intensities at specific times of a day and it will repeat your setup day by day. It also gives you so many preset modes and weather effects that are ready to use.

Smart controller with multi preset modesSmart controller with multi preset modes

The product’s multi LEDs provide a full spectrum of colors. The lens’s beam angle is 120 degrees, which ensures that the light will be spread evenly throughout the tank. It also boasts a product lifespan of 50,000 to 80,000 hours.

For the setup, it comes with three adjustable hanging kits and two-panel rail kits for hanging options. It also comes with double S-shaped hooks for placing the controller on.

Relassy aquarium LED Light 300W for large reef 150-200+ gallon

  • Relassy Aquarium Led Light 300Weditor's ratingCheck on Amazon
  • PAR:
  • Wattage: 300 watts
  • Ideal for: high demanding SPS
  • For tanks: extra-large and deep reef tanks 150-200+ gallons
  • LEDs & channels: 168 LEDs, two channels blue & white
  • Control: no timer.

This 300W LED light from Relassy is a great featured product for large reef systems. It includes 168 LEDs and 24 reflector cups. The product enables its light to reach as deep as 30 inches into your reef aquarium with almost no loss in light energy by focusing the light beam. This can be a swaying factor for people looking to set up deeper and larger coral tanks.

Relassy Aquarium Led Light 300WRelassy Aquarium Led Light 300W

It is simply designed with two switches enabling you to adjust its two-color channels blue and white freely. It has a port to connect to another light in case you need to use more than one unit on your tank. It doesn’t come with a timer and you have to buy one if you don’t want to turn it on/off daily by your hands.

This product also boasts a cooling system that automatically turns on its fans if the temperature exceeds a certain threshold. Like other LED lights for large tanks, it comes with hanging kits for hanging.

Frequently asked questions

Which light schedule is best for reef tanks?


A lighting schedule indicates how long you should keep the LED lights on in your reef aquarium ever. The primary objective of a reef aquarium is to simulate a natural ocean environment for the corals. While it’s impossible to perfectly replicate the ocean’s unique habitat, with a little trial-and-error, you’ll find a reef tank lighting schedule that works best.

Most reef tanks need 10-12 hours of lighting a day to thrive, based on the intensity of the light. If you run the light in a higher PAR range of your corals, you will need less lighting time and vice versa. You can add 1.5 hours of relatively low intensities on both ends of the main photoperiod to acclimate the corals to the changes between day and night.

How much light should be delivered to the corals?

The amount of light required in a reef aquarium largely depends on the types of corals it hosts. Different kinds of corals need different levels of PAR to grow to their full potential. The best choice is to opt for the strategic approach of placing the corals closer or further away from the lights, to ensure that each coral gets the right amount of light.

How can I determine light acclimate and intensity?

A sudden increase in light levels is one of the leading causes that stress corals and trigger a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. This occurs when a coral colony loses its symbiotic zooxanthellae. This is the algae that give the corals colors and nutrients for life, and their expulsion can often lead to a lighter or completely white appearance and death.


Bleaching coral

It is recommended to always acclimate your corals at low PAR spots of their respective PAR ranges, then slowly increase to prevent bleaching.

What lights for a refugium?


Growing Chaeto algae in a refugium

A refugium is a smaller, supplemental aquarium kept in tandem with a saltwater or reef tank. Its primary function is to continually cycle water into and out of the main tank for additional filtration. The main purpose of it is to remove nitrate by using green plants, especially macroalgae. Plants use nitrate as their nutrients for growth and propagation. Then you can easily remove a part of their population.

Your main purpose is to grow, grow, and grow the macroalgae at the highest level. You don’t need to enjoy your refugium. So, choosing an LED light that is best in growing plants is all you need for a refugium. You can use a freshwater plant white LED light for the refugium; however, refugium lights with more red and blue in the spectrum are better to grow plants.

Why are reef lights so expensive?

Generally, LED lights designed for reef aquariums are expensive. This is because they have to be developed according to the unique demands of the various types of corals, and must be capable of producing high Kelvin ratings and PAR output.

Due to coral needs, reef lights consume more energy and produce more heat, which requires an effective cooling system. This is in contrast with fish-only or planted aquariums, whose lighting requirements are not as intensive.

They also use a lens for better coverage and color blending. Combine this with the nature of reef aquariums as a niche hobby, and it is no surprise that LED lights usually come with a hefty price tag.


Selecting the right LED lights for your reef aquarium can be a daunting task, as the unique demands of the corals place more restrictions on the types of lights that are best suited to create a healthy ecosystem in the tank. The products covered in this article are a great jumping-off point, but it pays to do some further research to satisfy your tank’s unique needs.

Lucas has been keeping successful fish, planted, and reef tanks for many years. He loves to collect aquatic organisms and keep as many aquariums as he can.


7 Best LED Lights for Growing Coral in Reef Tanks

LED lighting is becoming more and more popular. We are seeing a great shift forward in quality of the LED lighting systems that are being produced in the last couple of years.

We are seeing LED lights in marine setups, and these lights have to be strong and produce more light to promote coral growth. And seeing your corals grow can be a very satisfying thing, and it will definitely make your aquarium much more attractive, and of course, the lighting system will shine your tank and make it more beautiful.

The whole lighting business has changed a lot with LEDs. A few years ago, we only knew halide lighting systems, which was more expensive, it produced a lot of heat, which in turn was not beneficial for the fish and it actually was not cost-effective.

The new LED lighting systems are much more effective, they use much less energy and can last for much, much longer. Plus, it is quite affordable.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the best LED lights that will help you grow corals in your reef tank. There are some great LED lights that have been produced in the last couple of years, and the technology is only improving. We will take a look at the power outputs of each system, the size of the lights, and how good it is for you and if it is worth getting it.

If you are a beginner, please read my guide on how to setup a saltwater aquarium, where I explain in more details each component of a reef tank.

Now let us take a look at some of the best LED lights for growing coral in reef tanks.

1. Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED light

To begin with the size of the light, this product comes in various different sizes. Firstly, there is the 18 to 24-inch version, the 24 to 36-inch version, 36-48 version and the largest, 48 to 60-inch version. So you have plenty of choices to choose for your aquarium size.

This whole package is a great one. There are plenty of great features at your disposal, and it will not cost you a fortune to get that. There are plenty of colors to choose from, and you can choose them to fit the mood you are in. All of the colors and very bright and sharp, and it will provide you with a spectacular viewing of the aquarium.

From a large range of the color spectrum, you will also have plenty of color effects that will make your tank even more attractive. It is easy to install and quick to use. You will also get a controller which will make the lighting easy to use and is very intuitive.

But we have chosen this one system for lighting to grow corals, because it is very cost-efficient, very powerful, as it produces a very strong LED lighting system that does not use much energy, and does not heat the water too much, plus it looks great.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


2. Phlizon 165W Dimmable Aquarium LED

Another good option for LED lighting to grow corals. This one also has plenty of features on its menu – it has a full spectrum of colors, and it includes some UV lights to promote plant defense mechanisms and thus, allow the corals to grow. These lights are made with corals in mind especially, and the white and the red LED lights produced from this LED light is great to promote coral growth.

The lights promote photosynthesis, which promotes plant growth and makes it easier for corals to grow. It is very efficient, and it can work day and night. There are also some presets that you can choose and set yourself, which will make it easier to control the lights yourself.

You also get a 1-year warranty and a professional customer service if you have any questions. This LED lighting system can produce a very powerful performance of up to 165 watts. The blue light that is emitted from this LED lighting is very efficient for the corals and for the fish too, as it emits the very important D3 vitamin, which promotes coral growth.

All in all, this is a great set that you can get to grow the corals and make your tank a very attractive one.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


3. OceanRevive Arctic-T247 120W LED

This LED system shows us all just how far has the LED lighting industry come in recent years. With the OceanRevive Arctic-T247, you will get a lot of bang for your buck. It emits vivid colors which will make the fish look even more beautiful and the corals will shine and stand out as well.

But more importantly, this kit comes with some colors and specifications that will help promote the growth of your corals. The system is very easy to use because you will get a controller that will allow you to make changes quickly and freely.

The LED lighting from this system will emit up to 120W of energy, which is more than enough, even for larger tanks. It is very cost-effective, and the colors from this system will help and benefit your fish and the corals and allow them to grow.

It features 48 pieces of LED lights that will each emit about 3W of power. The package is a good one and consider it to make your corals grow.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


4. Relassy LED Aquarium Light Panel

Another great choice for an LED lighting system to grow corals. This Relassy LED lighting system will provide you with a good experience. You will get a smart app for your smartphone, where you will be able to adjust and set the lighting settings for the system. This is a very nice addition, as it offers you to set it up from anywhere.

The design of the system feels premium. It has 338 LED lights, all of them are high-quality and will emit D3 vitamins that will cause the corals to grow. There is a large variety of colors to choose from, and you will have a lot of fun customizing the experience and it will look great while also allowing your corals to grow.

It does not get too warm for the fish, and it does not emit noise, which will make it run smooth and silently all without a fan. This is a reliable system that will provide you with great quality and ensures the growth of corals as well.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »



The VIPARSPECTRA 165W LED lighting system is scientifically designed to provide the best possible experience and enable the fish and the corals to enjoy the lighting and grow, which promotes longevity and healthiness of all tank inhabitants.

The full spectrum of colors is also available, which is obviously a great thing to have, and you will be able to customize it freely. It has an internal timer that will allow you to switch from on and off when you need it to run, and you will not need to be present to turn it off or on; you just set the timer and that’s it.

It has two channels of lights, and you can adjust the brightness of each channel from 0 to 100%. The average power of the system is 105W, but at its maximum, it can produce up to 165W of energy. You will also get a wireless remote included in the package.

The hanging kits are easily adjustable and will allow you to make changes easily. Another great package to provide the perfect conditions for the corals to grow.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


6. TOPLANET LED Aquarium Light 165W

This one also has an app that will allow you to control everything through Wi-fi or 4G connection. You will be able to control the Manual, Auto modes, you can also set the timer and customize the lights and the lighting sequences through the app anywhere and anytime.

The system has 3 channels of light: white, blue and night-blue. All of these light channels promote coral growth and overall improvement of the conditions in the tank, and also the fish will be very happy with the lights. The lights can imitate the natural sequence of lighting, from sunrise to midday light to sunset and moonlight, which will help the fish have a better feeling and sleep better.

The average power when it is used is 110W, but the maximum power is 165W. It does not get too hot, and it can work in any water temperatures. The lifespan of this thing is long, which is obviously to be expected from LED lighting systems, and it is improving each year.

In the manual mode, you will be able to control the 3 channels yourself; the auto mode will do it by itself, then there is the default mode and the timer mode.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


7. Joyhill LED Aquarium Lights

The last on the list is the Joyhill LED system, and it has a large variety of options to choose from – many different sizes and power outlets, so you can choose it according to your own needs and choose the one that fits your tank.

It is a high-quality aquarium lighting system. This one is a bit more affordable than the other items on the list, but it does not compromise on the performance. You get a power adapter, 2 adjustable docking mounts, and a user’s manual to let you set it up easily.

It does not, however, come with remote control, but that is not necessary and it is only a gadget. But this package offers still a lot to love about, and you will enjoy this LED system a lot.

Check Price & Details on Amazon »


How to Choose LED Lights for Marine Aquarium?

How to Choose LED Lights for Marine Aquarium?

How to Choose LED Lights for Marine Aquarium?

When you are choosing the LED lights for your aquarium, there are more considerations for you to make before you make your choice. For some people, it is very important that it is not as expensive and that it is a budget option.

There are plenty of those on this list. Be aware, though, that should you decide to spend a bit less, you can naturally expect a slightly weaker performance. But some systems on this list actually offer as good a performance as some more pricey items.

Next, you want to consider the size of your aquarium and decide, if an LED system will actually fit your aquarium. For this, you will need to take a look at the specifications and the sizes of the LED system and the tank and decide if it is right for you.

Another consideration is the power output and the quality of the lighting that the LED system can produce. If you want a more quality performance, you do not need to spend a fortune, but there are some very high-quality products that can cost quite a lot. Fortunately, there are plenty of great options that will not cost you a lot to get a premium performance.

Lastly, there is always the personal preference when it comes to colors and how you want your aquarium to look once you have the lights on.

Why Use LED Lights for Growing Coral?

Why Use LED Lights for Growing Coral?

Why Use LED Lights for Growing Coral?

LED lights can be very beneficial for growing coral. Let us take a look at how they can be beneficial and how to use them to do that.

LED lights often emit a UV light that will make your corals grow. They do that by emitting the D3 vitamin, which will allow the corals and the fish to maintain calcium in their body and also intake new calcium, which, in turn, can help them grow significantly.

Some years ago this was not possible, and you had to use halide lights to make your corals grow, but that was very inefficient because it used to heat the water quite a bit and it was not very efficient in terms of energy consumption.

But nowadays, you can get a lot out of an LED lighting system for a low price, and it will last you for ages.


LED lights are very useful for your tank. Not only do they make your aquarium look great when they are in full effect, but they also promote the growth of the corals and benefit the health of the fish.

This is why it might be wise to choose a good LED system that will do both of the above – look great and promote growth of the corals. All of that should be done with as little possible power consumed as possible.

So if you are looking for a good LED lighting system for your tank, but you do not know what to choose, hopefully you will have a better idea of which one to choose.

So get an LED system, sit back, and enjoy the beautiful colors and see your corals grow into beautiful plants that will make your aquarium look fantastic.

Aquarium Equipment   Saltwater  

avatarI’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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LED lighting systems are the rage these days for reef tanks. It makes a lot of sense why. The best LED lighting for reef tanks will have a lot of user friendly features like timers, ramp up and ramp down features, the ability to adjust spectrum, and multiple mount options. The main attraction for LED though, is the power savings features. LEDs are a lot more energy efficient than traditional T5s and metal halides.

In today’s post, I’m going to go through the best aquarium LED lighting for reef tanks. I will break down what these systems are best for, what they are good and not good at, and offer our recommended picks. The end goal is to provide the necessary information you need to make an informed decision as to what is the best LED lighting system for you. Let’s get started!

Benefits of LED Lighting for Reef Tanks

Before we go through the various reef LED lighting systems, let’s talk about why LEDs have gotten so popular with reef tanks. In the past, reef tanks were run with VHOs or T5s that were equipped with manual timers. They provided great even spread of light with no shadowing, but they did not produce a lot of light intensity (PAR). Then came metal halides which produced a lot of light intensity and you have hybrid halide and T5 systems.

These systems provided a great environment for all reef tanks, but consumed a ton of power and kept tanks hot sometimes to the point of requiring fans or a chiller to keep the temperatures down.

LED came out with an promise to decrease the energy cost for a reef tank. They are far more energy efficient than metal halides and T5s. They also have unique drivers that allow them to be customizable. Many aquarium LED fixtures will have electronic timers built in that will turn on and turn off the light for you. They will have dimmable features and will ramp up and ramp down simulating morning and night time effects. Others will even run on your smartphone via an app!

LEDs Are Safe to Use

One of the main advantages in safety that reef LED lighting systems have is are the construction. LED lights are not made of metal filaments or gas that halides are made of.

Since manufacturers have been embracing LED lights  in reef tanks, you are starting to see additional safety features. Some marine aquarium LED light fixtures are splash proof or even water proof. A good example are Kessil LED light systems, which have been know to survive falling into the tank and not electrocuting the tank or shorting out.

Reef LED Lighting Can Be Compact

The compactness of several reef LED lighting systems is the very reason they are the ideal choice for nano reef and smaller tanks. Many reef aquarium LED lighting systems are made in “pucks” which means the unit is far more compact than traditional T5s. They are also lightweight, which means many can be mounted on the rim of the marine aquarium creating a very clean and modern look on rimless tanks where a canopy can be left out.

The 12 Best LED Aquarium Lights for Corals, Reef Tanks

The list below I feel are the best LED lights for reef tanks available for purchase today. The lights listed here cover all types of reef tank setups as well as all budgets.

In a Hurry? I recommend Ecotech Radions for premium setups and Current Orbit Marine Pro ICs for budgets

Best LED Lights for Reef Tank 2021

Let’s get started with the reviews :). I will provide videos and imagines of sample tanks running these led lights for reference.

1. EcoTech Radion G5 – The Best LED System for Pro Reefers and Coral Sellers

There is a reason why big time coral sellers like World Wide Corals and major pro reefers use the EcoTech Radion G5s to light their reef tanks. Two reasons why – full spectrum controllability and power.

The EcoTech Radion controllability is second to none in the industry. The Radions led lights are powered by a cloud-based command center known as EcoSmart Live that runs off a web browser. The software updates the lighting system automatically and there are various lighting modes available from many hobbyists.

The Reeflink that is separately available allows you to connect your Radions via smartphone vs. through the standard USB functionality that the unit comes with. The spectrum of the lights can be changed, the intensity can be adjusted, the lighting schedule can be modified. It’s really unlimited flexibility with these units.

EcoTech Radions at WWC

The Radions can be mounted with various options including rail mounted or our favorite, rim mounted. A diffuser kit is can also be purchased separately in order to reduce PAR and eliminate hot spots and mitigate shadowing.

Power is what it is all about with these units. They are VERY powerful and can easily burn corals when running at 100%. As a result, a lot of tuning is required and recommended with a PAR meter, but this unit is made for hardcore reef junkies so the intensity makes sense.

The biggest con with this unit is the price. They are the most expensive led lights on this unit as well as the most feature rich. They are not plug and play and require tuning to get correct. For more information – see our full review.

Best For: High End Mixed Reefs, SPS Dominant (with diffuser and hybrid solutions), Commercial Use


  • Nearly unlimited customization
  • Powerful lights – can handle hardcore light intensive corals
  • Industry standard among commercial coral growers


  • Very expensive
  • Not plug and play – requires tuning though not as much as the G4

2. Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pros – Comprehensive LED Aquarium Light With Controller Package

The Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pros are newly improved with a mobile app and bluetooth compatibility. This light comes with its very own app that can power not only the aquarium LED system itself, but can control the Orbit Marine EFlux Wavemaker and EFlux Return Pump for a completely integrated package. I feel that these IC Pros have its best value with their 36″ and 72″ model as it represents a VERY attractive purchase for those of us with 3 and 6 foot long mixed reef tanks.

The Current USA Orbit Marine controller itself runs off a mobile app and is pretty easy to use and program. It comes with a ramp up and ramp down feature that is is a standard 2 hour ramp up and ramp down. You can adjust the daytime, sunset, and night settings so your reef tank can adjust it’s lighting accordingly as the day goes on. Check out this sneak peak video from current on how it works.

When paired with the Eflux Wavemaker, you can you can adjust the flow and use the gyre settings when using 2 wavemakers and even use a feed feature that will shut off the pumps when feeding. There are other features of the aquarium led light like a lighting and cloudy weather feature, but I feel they are more for the cool factor than function.

The lights themselves are moderately powerful, which makes them idiot proof for beginner reefers as Orbit Marine publishes PAR output information on their website for easy reference and tuning. This makes the Current USA Orbit Marine one of the best user friendly led lights on the market. You can see the PAR ratings below. This makes them perfect for softie, LPS, and easy to care for SPS corals.

Pro IC LED PAR Ratings

The final great point for the Current USA Orbit Marine is the mount. The led aquarium light can be rim mounted for a very clean and modern look. Most lights that cover this long of a tank have to be hung on a ceiling or mounted on the tank with brackets which both have downfalls (some people don’t want to put holes in their ceiling and the bracket mount can look ugly).

Reef Tank Running IC Pros

The cons I have this unit is that you will need to purchase the Current USA Orbit Marine Heavyweight mount if you have a larger glass rimmed tank like a 125 gallon tank as the standard rim mount will only work for rimless a marine aquarium. Now that the Pro model is available with the bluetooth package, it is a greater value than it was in the past!

As you can see from the photo above, this unit is perfected suited for a mixed reef tank. This system has great value for those looking at 3 and 6 foot tanks. The Current USA Orbit Marine IC Pros are best for mixed reefs up to mixed reefs with starter SPS corals.

Best For: Mixed Reefs with some SPS (starter SPS only)


  • Great value – especially for larger tanks
  • Love the integration of the controller to their wavemakers and return pump
  • Can be rim mounted giving a very clean and modern look
  • PAR output readily available from Current USA Orbit Marine


  • Not suited for heavy SPS tanks
  • The lights themselves are easy to crack since they are so lightweight 
  • Heavyweight mount rim accessory for larger tanks can be a little pricey

3. Viparspectra LEDs – Reefing On A Budget With a Quality Black Box

The Viparspectra LED Aquarium Light is your traditional “Chinese Black Box”, but they have a more reliable name brand and recognition in the industry. What I like about these lights is that there are a lot of success stories using these lights in mixed reefs and SPS tanks. The main reason why they can work in SPS tanks is the how powerful they are.

The PAR output of these led lights is in the Radion territory. So you are getting a cheap light with the power behind that with proven field cases where they have grown high end and more difficult to keep corals. The price for this led light are hard to beat!

Viparspectra LEDs in Reef Tank

The price comes at a cost though. The LED light is very bare bones as it only has a timer built in and a dimmer to tone down the intensity. There is no ramp up or ramp down and there is no mobile app that powers this. They are traditionally bulky units , like all black boxes, so they do not look pretty when hung and really are best hidden in a canopy vs. a rimless marine aquarium setup. For those of you concerned with the electronics rating, the competiting Mars Aqua unit is UL rated. I just prefer the Viparspectra.

A note for those of you running heavy SPS tanks. These units are best modified by removing the lenses to reduce the hot spots, reduce the disco effect, and spreading out the PAR distribution. Here is a video showing how to perform such a function. The video is a Mars Aqua light, but the operation is still the same.

Best for: Mixed Reefs 


  • Cheap!
  • Powerful, can handle LPS and SPS corals
  • Easily diffused by removing lenses.


  • Bare bones – no mobile app and little control-ability
  • No stock rim mount – they are bulky anyway
  • Not plug and play

4. Hipargergo Aqua Knight LED Aquarium Light – Incredible Value and a Great Choice for Smaller Reef Tanks

If you are building a nano reef or similar under 40 gallon reef tank, the Hipargergo Aqua Knight is a strong consideration for the light of choice. It is a very affordable light, being the least expensive unit on this list, but also very powerful and competent to be used in most mixed reef setups.

It is a small aquarium light with a small light spread, making this a perfect light for nano reef tanks under 40 gallons. What I really love about this led light is the manufacturer completely backs up their lights with a 30 day money back guarantee and are happy to answer your questions 24-7. You really can’t go wrong with this light if you have a smaller reef tank. In fact, Inappropriate Reefer used this light in his 10 gallon nano reef build.

Hiparergo Aqua Knight LED Inappropriate Reefer

The main drawback of this aquarium light is its size. This is a very affordable led light, but it serves only nano reef tanks. The touch sensitivity can be annoying because they don’t always read correctly when you touch them. It’s so bad sometimes you have to pray that the light is reading your touches.

Finally, while it does come with a rim mount, the mount itself can be too long for some nano reef setups. Overall though, this is the choice if you are building a nano reef and well below name brand offerings like the AI Prime HD and Kessil A80.

Best For: Nano Reef Tanks


  • Cheap price 
  • Powerful for their size and “idiot proof” to use
  • Adjustable 2 channel light system 


  • Small light spread, best for nano reefs
  • Touch sensitive controls can be a bit finicky 
  • Mount is too long for some nano tanks and doesn’t adjust

5. Hydra LED Series Lights – A Cheaper Radion With Lots of Customization

For those of you interested in a EcoTech Radion, but are slightly out of budget for one, the Hydra Series LED Lights by sister Company AquaIllumination are a light to look at.

The big advantage over the Radion is that all Hydra series lights do not need a controller. They function of a wonderful smartphone app. The app for this led light has incredible customization, allowing you to modifying your spectrum settings, manage up to 30 lights at once, and set up timers. There is even a coral accumulation setting that allows you to introduce new corals safely into your system. All of this on a smartphone that you can use anywhere in the world and at no additional cost!

Hydra 26 LED Aquarium

The Hydra series comes in both the Hydra 32 and Hydra 64 models that will satisfy the vast majority of reefer’s need. AI makes a number of different led light mount options with a rail kit, rim mount kits, and even a flex arm solution so you can work with what they have to pull off the look that you want.

They even come in white or black. For those with smaller aquariums like nano tanks, the AI Prime HD offers similar functionality. In 2020, a new Hydra 64 model debuted with more features, more power, but at a higher price.

So what are the drawbacks of this led light? Well, even though it’s cheaper than the Radions, they are still on the expensive side for many reefers. PAR wise, they aren’t as powerful as Radions and will definitely need a hybrid solution for heavy SPS as a diffuser kit is not available. The Hydra led light will serve the vast majority of reefers well alone though and are well worth the money.

Best For: Mixed Reefs


  • Included mobile app is easily the best on this list with great customization
  • AI makes various light mounts that fit your needs and looks
  • Many purchase options available for your tank setup even for nano reefs


  • Still on the expensive for many reefers
  • No diffuser kit for heavy SPS tanks – you should go hybrids for heavy SPS 
  • Not as powerful PAR wise as Radions 

6. Kessil 360X – The Next Gen A360X Delivers

Kessil is very well known in the industry with high quality lights best suited for mixed reefs that are about as plug and play as you get. Kessil’s next gen A360X is an upgrade of the original A360offering 25% more light output with a 30% smaller package. Kessil’s design on this led aquarium light have already been pretty bulletproof and nothing like other units you have seen.

This Kessil led aquarium light is sealed. I have witnessed old A360s accidentally getting dropped in water and still working like nothing happened!. Kessil’s roots go further back than just reef lighting. They are a professional company started by a biologist, computer scientist, and physicist. The parent Company is Dicon Fiberoptics. The Company has been specializing in elite quality lighting for over 30 years and they have a quality manufacturing and QA process.

Kessil 306X Tank

While Kessil does sell a spectrum controller, the default spectrum that Kessil supplies you with has been heavily researched by their R&D department. You shouldn’t need to adjust it as Kessil really goes out there to make sure you have everything you need to succeed with their led aquarium light out of the box. The intensity and spectrum can be adjusted on board with the knobs on top of the unit. In addition to the A360X, Kessil offers a similar built A80that is ideal for nano reef tanks.

My main gripes with this next gen model is the price. I was expecting these new models to be around the same price as the old A360 led aquarium light, but they are still at a premium price that venture into Hydra territory. This puts them it out of reach for some reefers.

The PAR output still isn’t that high, but that has always been Kessil’s thing as they design these led lights for mixed reefs and know that heavy SPS tanks need a hybrid system with LEDs. You still need a spectral controller to adjust your spectrum and a mobile app would have been nice.

However, at the end of the day this is a Kessil branded led aquarium light. Kessil’s construction and commitment to quality is top notch. Their reputation speaks for itself.

Best For: Mixed Reefs


  • Bullet proof design – these units can take a beating!
  • Top of the line spectrum colors.
  • Still idiot proof like the last gen, no need to adjust like other high end units


  • The next gen model is more expensive than the old 360s
  • The PAR is still not that high
  • Spectral controller required for full control

7. Kessil AP9X – Pro Level Light for Pro Reefers

The Kessil AP9X is Kessil’s top of the line led aquarium light. It still offers the idiot proof plug and play out of the box functionality like other Kessil units, but in a larger comprehensive light that is ideal for 36″ x 24″ for SPS tanks and 48″ x 24″ for mixed reefs.

This light addresses my biggest gripes with all Kessil aquarium led light systems, the lack of a fully functional mobile app. The AP9X comes with a mobile app that has all the features that you want. It has a manual mode, program mode, a coral accumulation mode, lunar cycle, weather effects and more! 

AP700 Tank

The main drawback of this aquarium led light is the price. While a single unit can serve a 48″ long mixed reef well, it still is a pretty expensive led lighting system. It also is not as compact as the Kessil 360Xs and the PAR performance is mildly powered like most Kessils (since they are all designed to run without adjustments out of the box).

Best For: Mixed Reefs


  • Plug and play idiot proof pro level light
  • Great mobile app included with full customization
  • Multiple mount options including a rim mount


  • Expensive
  • Not compact
  • Not as powerful PAR wise as the Radions

8. MicMol Aqua Air Smart Led Reef System – A Cheaper Aquamaxx Prism

Some of you may have heard of the AquaMaxx Prism LED lights. Well, the dirty secret is MicMol is the original creator of the led and AquaMaxx private labels these lights from them. The MicMol Aqua Air Smart LED Reef System is a plug and play aquarium LED designed for Softy and LPS tanks. These are an upgrade to the original Aquamaxx Neolights, which was reviewed by Reefbuilders with PAR figures showing ideal PAR for softies and LPS. 

This new generation led lighting system is about 30% more powerful than the Nemolight. This puts the light in the sweet spot of most LPS corals so for LPS dominated tanks this is an ideal light that is ready to go without any adjustments. The MicMol lights are more popular over in Europe versus the US.

They just don’t spend a lot of time marketing their lights, but it’s a very affordable light with highly quality chips and leds. This particular model has no fan which will make them extra quiet over fanned models. Since the light is not super powerful, the built in heat sinks are adequate for the light.

This led lighting system comes with it’s own controller that comes with a variety of settings like a clock, timer, and channel special effects. That’s a lot of features for this price range and very welcomed for these plug and play models.

The main drawback with these lights is they are not very powerful so they are best for LPS and softy tanks. It’s a great light nonetheless.

Best for: Primarily soft and LPS coral reefs


  • Cheap
  • No fan – super quiet
  • Good functionality for the price point


  • Moderately powerful – best for LPS and softies
  • No mobile app

9. Current USA Orbit R24 – A Cheaper Kessil

With the release of the new Kessil 360X led lighting system, the price range has gone out of the window for some. In fact, there has been a big gap in the market for a pendant light that has reliability, a brand name, while having the PAR output to handle a high demand system or hybrid setup.

Reefers didn’t have many options. They could try a AI Prime, but the PAR wasn’t strong enough to work in a hybrid setup. This meant you had to look at Kessils and other expensive lights like EcoTech. Where was the value option here?

Enter the Current USA R24. This special pendant light finally answers our questions for a cheaper light that has the PAR to be a serious option in a hybrid system. The PAR output below are higher than the AI Prime with nearly the same watts.

R24 Current USA Par Output

While the mobile app is not at the same level as the AI Prime, the Current app is capable and easy to use. It’s designed to be dummy proof and accessible for all levels. The industrial design is actually really favorable for newbies.

Ever drop an LED in your aquarium water? If you have, it can be a disaster to have your pedant get completely destroyed by taking that accidental dip. In the past, only the Kessil’s industrial design was able to survive a dip in water. Now, the R24 has the same durability. Having a cheaper pendant light that can survive a drop is peace of mind, especially if you are prone to having butter fingers!

That added durability comes with a price. It not as pretty as an AI prime mounted with a goose neck mount. These units are built to last. Current has been working with a lot of public aquariums designing fixtures that are built to last. Units that are built to last may not have the fanciest look – which I’m reminded of when I see fixtures like the Kessil.

The other thing that bothers me is the fan. I don’t really like fans myself on LEDs, but it is a sacrifice you make when you are dealing with higher output and more durable LEDs. The fan is actually pretty silent. Your protein skimmer and return pump will likely make more noise than this fan. I feel it’s a livable sacrifice to have a unit as durable as this.

So if you are looking for that mid-market pendant unit that won’t break your bank that you can use on your nano reef tank, mixed reef, or hybrid setup look no further!

Best for: Mixed Reefs


  • Competitive price
  • Better PAR output than the Prime
  • Mobile App
  • Can survive being dropped in water!


  • Has a Fan (Thought it’s super silent)
  • Bulky

10. Aquatic Life T5/LED Hybrid Mounting System – The System of Choice for Stickheads

You have seen all these LED systems, but for those reefers with heavy SPS, the major issue with LED aquarium systems is spread and shadowing. A hybrid system like the Aquatic Life T5/LED Hybrid Mounting System is the best solution to go with when it comes to making a fully distributed lighting system for stick heads.

This unit comes with a T5 system that holds 4 T5s in total. The middle section of the unit is to mount the LEDs. The unit comes with a pendant mount that will work on the original Kessil 360 and a universal mount bracket that will work for EcoTech Radions, AI Hydras, and even the Current R24s. Aquatic life even sells a cabinet mount if you do not want to mount the unit to the ceiling.

Aquatic Life T5 LED Hybrid Reef Tank

The main drawback for this unit is that you have to purchase the T5s and the LED units separately. It would have been nice if there were bundles available to purchase, but with all the MAP polices of all these brand names, it makes sense that Aquatic Life cannot offer a bundled system. I also wish they made this unit as 72″ model for us 6 foot long tank reefers. You have to purchase two 36″ units for a 6 foot long tank which is a bummer.

Other than that, this is the unit of choice for stickheads who want the electricity saving and control-ability advantages that LEDs provide without the shadowing issues.

Best for: Acropora heavy reef tanks


  • The best lighting solution for heavy SPS tanks – no shadowing!
  • Can be combined with many LED systems
  • Can be cabinet mounted for rimless tanks


  • You have to purchase the T5s lights and LED units separately
  • Does not come in 72″

11. DSUNY Reef LED Lights – A Chinese Black Box That Can Be Rim Mounted

One thing that really annoys me with Chinese black box lights is the inability to mount them on the rim of the marine aquarium. The DSUNY Reef Aquarium Lights answer the call with a competent black box that can be rim mounted.

This led lighting system includes a controller that can be controlled by a mobile app. This is a unique feature that you do not see with many basic black box units. It’s a pretty comprehensive app that. The newest generation models also have water proof connections.

DSUNY Reef Tank

The main issues I see with this light is the color array. There are too many whites and I would have preferred more blues. It is a fairly bulky unit when rim mounted so it still gives off that cheap look. There also aren’t a lot of reference photos of tanks running them.

Best For: Mixed Reefs


  • Can be controlled via a smartphone app
  • New gen models have waterproof connections
  • Can be rim mounted


  • Too many whites in the lighting array – would have preferred more blues
  • Still pretty bulkly looking even on a rim mount
  • Old gen models have been reported as not very reliable

12. Ocean Revive 247-B – Not Your Average Black Box

This used to be my favorite reef light to sell. In fact, I used to sell them to LFS across the country because I was easier to contact then the manufacturer 😅. Unfortunately, the manufacturer was shut down during the COVID panademic and as a result they are out of business with no future production in site. I’ll keep this review up so others know what’s going on because it is hard to find information on the Company and I rank for their keywords.

The Ocean Revive T247-B is a black box in value, but not in looks. Far cheaper than the EcoTech Radions and AI Hydra, this unit can compete with the Hydras in power and what it can grow as evidenced as being the light of choice of Pacific East Aquaculture, a Maryland licensed coral aquaculture facility providing high end corals to reefkeepers since 2000.

Knowing that facilities and even some LFS (to save money but they will still try to sell you Radions and Hydras ^_^) use these units says a lot about them. They have the power to grow all types of corals from soft corals and anemones to Acroporas and the unit comes in a sturdy package that does not look cheap.

Ocean Revives are also one of the few units on this list that actually get cheaper the more units you buy. Because of how the manufacturer prices their stock, they grant sellers like us the ability to give bulk discounts to reefers so if you are looking to purchase 2 or 3 units you can save even more money!

The Ocean Revive, however, is a no frill LED light system. It has no ramp up or ramp down features. Like most black boxes, there is not a readily available rim mount. There is no spectrum adjustment, but the unit has a full spectrum led layout that does not need to be adjusted. Either a ceiling mount or ugly looking bracket mount are your standard choices.

All the functions of the unit are on board with the light itself as there is no separate controller or mobile app to run. Its functionality is really much like the old T5s fixtures from back in the day, but the light is a very powerful and functional unit that will server reefers well and save you lots of money over the brand names.

Best For: Mixed Reefs


  • A pro level light at a very reasonable price – better value with multiple units
  • Very powerful and great spectrum
  • Does not look cheap like other black boxes


  • No ramp up/ramp down features
  • No rim mount
  • No mobile app to control unit or spectrum customization
  • No longer available 😥

The Best LED Lights for Reef Tanks (Our Recommendation)

There are a lot of light choices that fit multiple budgets and needs, but you may be wondering what we suggest. Since, reefer needs differ, we have the following recommendations based on the criteria below:

Reef Tank LED FAQs

How many watts of LED lighting do I need for a reef tank?

How many watts of LED lighting you need will depend on the size of your marine aquarium and type of corals you will be keeping. Most LED systems are actually overpowered PAR wise for many corals. It’s mostly about footprint. The vast majority of systems will power a 24 x 24 footprint. Measure your PAR in the tank for best results.

Can you grow coral with LED lighting?

Yes, you can grow coral with LED lighting. Many pro growers and aquaculture suppliers are now using LED systems to grow out corals. This is due to the cost savings due to lower energy costs.

What light spectrum is best for corals?

Blue and violet as been proven to be the best light spectrum for corals. Many of these lights in this review roundup have the correct spectrum to grow corals. Ensuring that the manufacturer you select has done the proper R&D and field results are available from other hobbyist will instill confidence in your purchase.

What is the best lighting schedule for a reef tank?

For a reef tank, I would recommend 8-10 hours on your lighting schedule to start. You can adjust from there as you get a feel for your tank. Systems with ramp up and ramp down features can be turned on longer since the intensity will very over the course of the day.

What Do You Feel Are the Best LED Systems for Reef Tanks?

I hope after this article you are able to make an informed decision on what aquarium LED lighting system works best for the reef tank you are planning. The major brand lights are all very high quality, built to last, and all have ideal spectrum to grow lights. The cheaper lights we have provided in this post will definitely grow corals and have high quality spectrum, just not as functional as  the name brand lights. Please let us know in the comments your thoughts about what lights have worked for you. Happy shopping :). 


Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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One of the most important pieces of any reef tank is the light. Without a quality light, keeping corals is impossible.

That said, picking out a reef tank light can be a daunting task. There are tons of options, types, and sizes available and it’s not always clear which ones are the best.

In this complete review guide, we pick out 5 of the best LED reef lighting fixtures and dive into exactly what makes them great. Use the quick links below for easy navigating.

Quick Links

led reef lighting

Best LED Reef Lights: Our Top 5 Picks

Grow coral like a pro with LED reef lights:

Best Overall Pick – Kessil A160WE LED

Kessil A160WE LED Reef Light
Kessil A160WE LED Reef Light
  • The a160we features Kessil`s new proprietary...
  • External controllability in addition to its...
  • Shimmer Kessil lights are the only leds capable of...

The Kessil A160WE controllable LED aquarium light is the most pricy LED on our list, produced by a brand that is considered by many one of the best LED reef light sellers. Will those who are willing to splurge a little be rewarded?

This gooseneck LED is available in two varieties: Tuna Sun and Tuna Blue. If you’re reading this you’re probably interested in reef lights, so we’re going to stick to discussing the Tuna Blue, which has a higher light temperature that’s preferable for most reef keepers.

Kessil clearly put a lot of care into designing this LED. The design is simple but sturdy and features a silent fan. Light spectrum and intensity can easily be adjusted both manually and using a controller so you can mimic the natural daylight cycle and keep things as natural as possible. Another great feature is the shimmer this light produces, which also adds to the “natural” feel by imitating the natural effect of sunlight hitting the water. Despite its size this LED produces a pretty good light spread of at least 24”.

So yes: if you’re willing to pay a little extra you probably won’t be disappointed. This light is great for those that prefer a natural look in their tank and the controller programming should be easy to set up despite the various functions.


  • Wonderful shimmer effect that replicates natural sunlight
  • Quiet fan
  • Not bulky at all; it’s subtle and doesn’t take up as much space as large panels
  • Easy to install and program


Feature Friendly Pick – AI Prime HD+

AI Prime HD+ Reef Aquarium Light
AI Prime HD+ Reef Aquarium Light
  • 100 Max Par Vs 64 For The Non Hd Version
  • Built In Wifi Control Via Smart Phone Or Web...
  • Hd Dynamically Adjusts Power Available To Each...

The AI Prime HD+ Aquarium LED is a small WIFI controlled LED set for nano reef tanks. A great option if you’re looking for a light that’s not too bulky and will fit small tanks, or if you’re tech savvy and would like to have full control of your light using your smartphone or computer. In fact, this AI Prime light even comes with its own app so you can easily set up and/or program it!

As with the other lights on this list, you can program a lighting cycle to your liking and adjust the color spectrums endlessly to find the perfect settings for your corals. An acclimation setting is included so you can gradually turn up the lighting to prevent shock. The light is bright enough to keep your corals happy and healthy, the fans are silent enough to use in a bedroom or living room and although this is not the absolute best light when it comes to shimmer the reasonable price makes it a great option for your smaller reef tank.

Some users have reported a little bit of difficulty with the initial set-up and programming using the WIFI connection, which is unsurprising given the amount of options. We recommend reading the guidelines closely and maybe looking up some additional instructions if you’re struggling – YouTube is your friend for the installation of any aquarium equipment that might be a little tricky, including LED reef lights.


  • WIFI control using smartphone or computer
  • Can be adjusted to your preferences
  • Light and not too bulky
  • Silent fans


  • Installation and installing can be slightly confusing at first

Best Budget Pick – Current USA Orbit Marine LED

Moving on from the most expensive to the cheapest light on our list, the Current USA Orbit Marine Aquarium LED light is a favorite among reef keepers looking for a light that’s a little more budget proof. Unsurprisingly, this light is very popular – but is that just due to the price, or does it actually outperform more expensive lights?

The Current USA light is a panel LED light that comes with a remote control as well as a small LCD display. It contains dual color spectrums (white and actinic blue) and can be programmed any way you’d like in order to simulate natural lighting changes like sunrise, sunset and moonlight. The gradual change in lighting can help prevent shocking your fish and allows you to see the natural behaviors your fish and corals would normally show in changing light conditions. Additionally, you can “show off” using the additional features such as thunderstorm.

All in all, the Current USA light light definitely performs well for the price and we certainly understand why it’s so popular among marine aquarists. Do keep in mind that it’s not the most powerful on this list at a maximum of 46 Watts for the largest version. If you like to keep your power bill a little lower and don’t mind the fact that this isn’t the ideal choice for growing corals, it can be a good budget option. We do have to note that programming the settings can be a little challenging, especially if you don’t have experience with programming aquarium lights, and as can be expected at this price point this is not the highest quality light on the list. The timer occasionally misbehaves and it has been reported that the feet this light rests on can show signs of rust after a while.


  • Price
  • Can be adjusted and/or programmed to any setting you need and includes a remote control


  • Programming can be a little difficult
  • Quality is not the absolute highest
  • Not the strongest light on the list


  • VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Series V165 LED...
  • Internal timer allows you to turn the light on or...
  • V165 is full spectrum with our proprietary layout,...

Need brightness? The VIVARSPECTRA Timer Control 165W LED Aquarium Light has it. In fact, this LED reef light is so powerful we recommend being a little careful with it! Don’t look into the light when it’s on and be sure to acclimate your tank nice and slowly, starting at a very small percentage of the total brightness.

This LED panel has two separate lighting channels (blue and white) that can be operated separately brightness-wise using a handy little remote control. It can be suspended from the ceiling and hung above your tank, which comes in handy if you don’t want to have anything attached to your tank. The design is simple with a timer control system that has a little LCD display on the front of the light so you can immediately see if all is well.

If you’re interested in this light, keep in mind that it does not come with as many programmable options as some of the others on this list. You can’t program fading sunrises and sunsets nor is there a moonlight option or any fancy weather imitation settings. There is also no WIFI connectivity that allows you to operate the light using your phone or computer. If you want the absolute most natural thing for your reef or prefer full control using your smartphone then this VIVARSPECTRA LED might not be ideal – otherwise it’s a great choice that can support corals and won’t be too hard on your wallet. And it’s quiet too!


  • Not too expensive
  • Extremely bright, perfect for corals
  • Simple design with nice silent fans


  • No advanced settings possible
  • No WIFI connectivity
  • Timers can be slightly off

Fan Favorite – OceanRevive Arctic-T247 Full Spectrum LED

The OceanRevive Arctic-T247 Full Spectrum Dimmable 120W LED is a medium priced LED panel that comes with both retractable brackets and a hanging kit for those who would like to suspend it over their tank. It features a blue as well as a white channel that can be controlled independently using a remote control, has a built-in timer and contains two cooling fans. This is a very bright light, which makes it suitable for growing most corals in smaller reef set-ups.

Like the VIVARSPECTRA LED we discussed previously, the OceanRevive LED lacks the possibility of programming a sunrise/sunset cycle and does not have a moonlight option. It also doesn’t come with a WIFI option, so you’ll have to program it using the built-in timer.

All in all, despite the lack of options this is still a great option for those looking to grow some corals without forking over a large amount of money. The lack of programmable options might make for a slightly less natural feel than some other lights, but the brightness, solid design and coverage definitely make up for this small downside.


  • Has brackets and a hanging kit
  • Bright enough to grow corals
  • Silent fans


  • Timer can be a little off
  • No possibility of programming a natural lighting cycle

Why Are LEDs the Best Choice for Reef Tanks?

When I first started keeping reef tanks, LEDs were not yet popular. Lighting options consisted mostly of Power Compact (PC), T5, and Metal Halide fixtures. All of these options had very clear cons:

  • Power Compact: Cheap, but were only capable to sustaining soft corals
  • T5: Mid-range in price and could sustain soft easy LPS corals, but needed to be replaced every year
  • Metal Halide: Could sustain SPS corals, but were very expensive and put off TONS of heat

When LED reef lights starting breaking into the hobby they really changed the game. LEDs combine all of the best aspects of other types of aquarium lighting while eliminating the bad aspects. Here are a few reasons why LEDs are a no-brainer when it comes to reef tanks:

They are capable of sustaining any type of coral

Before LEDs, your reef lighting choice was largely based on the type of coral you were planning to keep. LEDs, on the other hand, are just as capable of growing tough SPS coral as they are soft coral.

A lot of beginners start out content with easy soft corals, but decide (usually not long later) that they want to venture into some stony options. With an LED light fixture, no lighting change is necessary! In addition, LEDs allow you to keep a nice mixture of different coral types without having to worry if they’re getting enough light.

They don’t put off a lot of heat

PC, T5, and (especially) Metal Halide light fixtures tend to put out a TON of heat. As a result, aquarium coolers (which can be ridiculously expensive) are often necessary to bring the water temperature down to normal levels.

LEDs, on the other hand, put off very little heat compared to other types of light fixtures. This not only lets you skip the cooler, but also helps reduce electricity costs and is less of a fire hazard.

They are compact in size

LED reef lights are generally much smaller than other types of aquarium light fixtures. In fact, some options such as the AI Prime and Kessil A160WE are around the size of a soda can. This not only saves space, but also helps create a much more natural and minimalist look.

They last incredibly long

When I set up my first reef tank with a T5 fixture years ago, one of the biggest hassles of buying new bulbs every 8 months. Not only did I have to special order bulbs online, but they were extremely expensive. Most of the time it was cheaper to replace the entire light fixture than order only the bulbs (weird, huh?).

LED light fixtures, though, last a ridiculously long time. Even on the low end, LEDs don’t need to be replaced until around 50,000 hours. If you’re running your light for 10 hours a day, you won’t have to worry about the bulbs burning out for 13+ years.

Coral Suggestions for Beginners

There are tons of corals that reef owners of any experience level can keep. In general, anything that doesn’t require flawless water condition is the best choice. Luckily for us, most soft corals are pretty forgiving when it comes to water conditions! In the list below, we will cover the five most common species of soft coral and their care requirements; Xenia, Green Star Polyps, Zoanthids, Mushrooms, and Leathers.

1. Xenia

xenia coral

Xenia was the first type of coral that I ever kept, and boy was it fun. Xenia is known for being one of the fastest growing corals available, which is usually extremely satisfying for new reef keepers. Watching something, especially a coral, thrive and grow in your tank is the best feeling ever. For some reef keeper, Xenia’s rapid growth can actually be a little too excessive. It is known to take over tanks and sometimes smother other corals in the process. If you are brand new to reef tank, I wouldn’t worry about this just yet. I never had any problems with Xenia growth being too excessive.

Keeping Xenia is really just a hit or a miss. In some tanks, even dirty and unkept, Xenia thrives. In other tanks it simply melts away. Reefers have been speculating as to why this happens, but no one really have the perfect answer yet. Just know that if Xenia doesn’t “take” in your tank, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong!


Xenia is pretty forgiving when it comes to lighting. I’ve had Xenia thrive with anything from Power Compact to T5s to LEDs. The great thing about Xenia is that you can place them basically anywhere in the tank, as they don’t require extremely high PAR levels like LPS or SPS corals.

If you can splurge for a good LED reef light (like one of the ones we covered earlier), I would highly recommend it. Like I said before, it is not necessary to have LEDs to keep many soft corals, but growth will be much better and you will have the option to venture into LPS and SPS corals in the future without upgrading your lights!

Water Parameters

Keeping a consistant temperate is one of the most important things in reefkeeping. For Xenia, I would recommend keeping your tank at 78-79° F. They tend to like their water on the warmer side, but hate swings in temperature. It is best to just pick a temperate and stick to it.

Salinity is another important factor when it comes to growing Xenia. Much like temperature, it is more important to keep salinity consistant than at a specific spot. I would recommend somewhere between 1.023 to 1.026. Big swings in salinity have been known to cause Xenia to melt away, but it really depend on the specific occasion.

When it comes to water parameters, just remember to keep your temperature and salinity stable. You don’t need to worry about Alkalinity, Calcium dosing, or trace elements. Preventing swings will allow your Xenia to acclimate and thrive. Keeping your parameters stable is a learned skill and may take a while, but thankfully Xenia are pretty resilient!

Water Flow

Where you position your Xenia in the tank relative to the powerheads depends on how you want them to look and grow. One of the most amazing characteristic of Xenia is the “pumping” hands. When placed in direct water flow, this pumping usually stops. If you don’t mind this, I would recommend putting them in a high current area. Growth will be stronger and a big patch of Xenia getting blown around by powerheads looks stunning! Remember, Xenia will grow in the direction of the water flow, so place appropriately!

If you really love the pulsating hands of Xenia (which I do), keep them in a low water flow area. As your Xenia spreads and takes over the rock, the hundreds of pulsating hands will look mesmerizing! Xenia placed in low flow areas also tend to develop thicker stalks.

2. Green Star Polyps (GSP)

green star polyps

Green Star Polyps are another personal favorite of mine. I love the way that they encrust over rocks and for a stunning green, living carpet. Much like Xenia, the growth of GSP can get out of control and they are known to take over tanks. In addition, they word their way into every crevice of the rocks, so they can be difficult to remove. This part never really scared me, though. I liked the idea of having a GSP dominated tank, which can be very beautiful if done right!


Like many other corals on this list, Green Star Polyps really aren’t too picky about lighting. I have kept them under a wide variety of light any they seem to do well under most anything. That being said, I did see significantly more growth once I upgraded to my AI Prime LED fixture. I can’t really blame the GSP, though. Everything seemed to like the LEDs way more.

If you are starting out with an old BioCube or something with power compacts, I wouldn’t worry too much. They can definitely do well under this lighting. Just try to keep them a little higher in the tank and you should notice some good growth!

Water Parameters

Much like Xenia, it is often rumored that Green Star Polyps grow better in water that is a little “dirtier”. This doesn’t mean that you should let your tank go. This simply means that GSP are able go thrive even when tank owners are not always doing the weekly water change.

Water temperature for Green Star Polyps should be kept around 78-79° F. Since they share a good amount of requirements with Xenia, and GSP/Xenia tank may be a good choice for you. The combination of green and pink looks amazing and your reef will look like a flowing forest! As with all corals, put in some extra effort to keeping your temperature stable. Temperate swings often take place at night when the lights go off, so make sure you have a good heater.

Green Star Polyps don’t require anything crazy when it comes to salinity. Like most other corals, they prefer a specific gravity of 1.023 to 1.025. Once again, do your best to keep this stable! Its important to keep the specific gravity stable and do any changes slowly.

Water Flow

There is no debating this fact; Green Star Polyps LOVE strong water flow. ​I try to place mine in the highest-flow area of the tank. That being said, it is best if this flow is indirect and and the powerhead isn’t pointed directly at the GSP. Having an indirect water flow will make your coral flow in all different directions instead of just getting pounded into one direction 24/7.

Green Star Polyps placed in strong water flow will develop longer polyps and exhibit stronger growth. They tend to encrust rocks in a carpet like formation and bring the rocks to life. In addition, they can also encrust over tank walls, overflow boxes, and pretty much anything else. This can be a great way to grow GSP, as it makes them easy to remove/frag and gives your tank an interesting look.

3. Zoanthids


Ahhhh Zoanthids. One of the most popular corals among reefkeepers, Zoanthids come in thousands of shapes and sizes and have inspired some of the most amazing tanks in the world. Zoanthids colonies are made up of a collection of individual polyps, which can vary widely in price. Some frags go for $1 per polyp, while other can go for upwards of $3,000 per polyp! If you are just starting out in the reefkeeping hobby, I would really recommend getting a few cheap species of Zoanthids and watch them grow!


If you asked ten different reefers about the best lighting/placement for Zoas, you would probably get ten different answers. Personally, my Zoas love LEDs. LED reef lighting provides a good combination of growth and coloration, which is important for a healthy Zoa colony.

In my opinion, it is more important to find a place in your tank that the Zoanthids are happy then trying to pick the right light fixture. Your Zoas might hate the top and bottom of the tank, but thrive in the middle. Don’t be afraid to move your Zoanthid frag around to find the perfect spot. Once you find a spot that you think it is happy with, leave your frag alone and enjoy the growth! In a tank with good lighting/placement, Zoanthid frags can add new polyps every week. Get a few different strains and let them color up; your reef will come to life in no time.

Water Parameters

You are probably sick of reading this by now, but the most important thing to do when growing Zoanthids is keeping ​a stable salinity and temperature. Keep your tank at 77-78° F and salinity around 1.023 to 1.025. Many Zoa keepers have noted that they are especially sensitive to high or low specific gravities, so pay a little extra attention to that.

Like many other soft corals, it is often thought that Zoanthids prefer “dirty” water. Though this has never been proven, it is known that Zoanthids feed on particulates in the water column. Keeping a well-stocked tank will ensure that your Zoanthids are being fed. You can also spot feed your Zoas with pellets or frozen foods!

Despite their affinity for ​slightly “dirty” water (not actually dirty, just dirty in comparison to what SPS corals need), Zoas are especially sensitive to algae or hitchhikers. Since they are an encrusting-type coral, they tend to be covered in algae very easily. If the algae gets too thick, your Zoas can easily be smothered and killed. As a result, do your best to always avoid algae outbreaks and make sure to clean off your Zoas with a turkey baster if things get too bad. In addition, hitchhikers such as hermit crabs and nudibranches can wreak havoc on a Zoanthid colony. If your Zoas seem to close up a lot, take a look to see if anything is disturbing them.

Water Flow

Be careful not to place your Zoanthids in too high of water flow. A medium, indirect flow seems to work best ​in my experience. Putting your Zoas in direct line of the powerheads will likely cause them to close up and not open.

Test different spots in your tank and see what works best in regard to water flow. You want to have a good turbulence, but just light enough to where they don’t close up. You definitely don’t want any detritus/algae settling on the mat. Like many things with Zoanthids, it is really about finding that sweet spot.

4. Mushroom Corals

mushroom coral

Mushrooms are a go-to coral for any beginner reef keeper. They are tough, grow quickly, and offer great learning experiences. Compared to the rest of the list, mushrooms tend to be the most resilient. They are less likely to melt away for unknown reasons and tend to thrive in most tanks. Like most soft corals, though, they may just not take in your tank, so don’t stress if they don’t do well! Even some experienced reefers simply cant keep them.


Mushrooms Corals prefer moderate to low level lights. The tend to do well under any light conditions and can thrive under PCs, T5s, and LEDs. Like always, if you plan to keep others types of coral eventually (which you probably will), I would recommend just biting the bullet and going with an LED reef light.

Luckily, it is pretty easy to tell if your Mushrooms are happy with the current levels of lighting. If the mushroom is not exposed to enough light, it will lose color and form into a “cone” shape as the edges try to reach for more light. If your mushrooms exhibit this behavior, ramp up the lighting ASAP. On the other hand, it is also easy to overpower your mushrooms with light. If your mushrooms stay retracted and lose color, its likely that the lights are too powerful. Try moving the mushroom closer to the bottom of the tank. This is where they tend to thrive anyway!

Mushrooms that are content with the lighting will lay flat and fully bloom. A mushroom that is happy and healthy tends to grow and duplicate very fast. Even if you start with just one, you could possibly have 10+ mushrooms in a matter on months if your tank is healthy. Luckily, they are easy to frag and remove if you want to trade for some other corals!

Water Parameters

Mushrooms can thrive in a wide variety o​f water conditions. What works for one reef owner may not work the best for another. As with any other coral, its best to try to keep your water parameters stable all the time and avoid large spikes on anything.

​Mushrooms tend to like a warmer tank, so try to keep your reef around 78-79° F. This tends to be the average for most soft corals, so you are welcome to keep Xenia, GSP, Zoanthids, and many others in the same tank. A tank full of different soft corals can be beautiful and a great place to start for beginners; I would highly recommend it.

In regard to salinity, mushrooms tens to like their water a little saltier. I have had good success keeping my specific gravity as close to 1.025 as possible. In order to keep track of this easily, I would recommend getting a refractometer. Keeping your salinity in line is too important to be lazy about!

Water Flow

Mushrooms tend to like a low/moderate water flow. Do not point the powerheads directly at mushrooms like you would with other corals such as Xenia or GSP. Mushrooms do best when the flow is indirect and relatively light. That being said, mushrooms love to feed on particulates in the water column, so good water flow is crucial. If you have the time, try to spot feed your mushrooms pellets or frozen food once a week. You will notice a huge increase in growth!

5. Leather Corals

leather coral

The Leather Coral family is actually made up of a few different kinds of sub-species. These include Cabbage Leathers, Colt Corals, Toadstools, Finger Leathers, and Elephant Ears. My favorite among those is definitely Toadstool Leathers. When they get big, they resemble a large carpet anemone and can be a great centerpiece to any tank. The size of a mature Toadstool is something that many new aquarists don’t often see or have the chance to keep.


Leather Toadstools can get pretty large, and thus they require a good amount of light. Though they do benefit from spot feeding, Toadstools get 99% of the nutrients they need from light. If you plan to keep these corals, I would recommend getting a quality LED reef light. A Toadstool with sufficient light should open up completely and show green/yellow polyps. They are known to close up randomly for up to a week, so don’t panic if yours takes a while to get comfortable.

Water Parameters​

​Toadstools don’t require anything out of the ordinary when it comes to water parameters. They make good tank mates for other soft corals because they require basically the same conditions. Toadstools release toxins, though, that are harmful to SPS corals. If you plan to keep a Toadstool, make it a soft coral or LPS coral tank and leave the SPS behind.

​Water temperature should be kept somewhere between 75-78° F, which is pretty standard for any reef. No matter what temperature you pick in that range, just keep it stable and your Leather coral should be more than happy.

Toadstools prefer a specific gravity of 1.023 to 1.025, which puts them in line with most other soft corals. Just try to keep it as stable as possible and you shouldn’t have any problems with your Leather.

Water Flow

Toadstools aren’t as picky about water flow as some other corals on the list. There are reports of Toadstools thriving in low flow to high flow. Personally, I like placing my Toadstools in medium flow because I love the look the their polyps flowing in the current. Medium flow keeps them happy, allows them to feed, and kind of makes them resemble a large carpet anemone! No matter what kind of flow you pick, your Leather Toadstool should thrive as long as you have strong lighting a good water parameters.

Reef Lighting FAQs

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding LED reef lights:

How many hours per day should I run my lights?

I generally run my lights for 10-12 hours per day – that said, they are only at full power for 8 of those hours. I prefer to do a 2 hour sunrise period in the beginning of the day and a 2 hour sunset at the end.

Remember, coral thrives in an environment that mimics the ocean. A sunrise/sunset period helps keep things as natural and realistic as possible.

How high about the water should I position the light?

This is a question I see all the time – and the answer is, it depends. Personally, I like to position my AI prime 8-10 inches about the water surface. For stronger lights, anywhere from 8-13 inches is a good range.

Keep in mind- the lower you position your light, the tighter the spread. If your corals span the entire tank width, positioning your light close to the surface may not be a great idea. On the flip side, if you group your corals towards the middle of the tank, a tight spread can increase light intensity.


Lights coral led

The 4 Best LED Lighting Sets for Reef Tanks

Finnex Planted+ 24/7 Fully Automated Aquarium LED

If you want the verdant look of a reef tank without the fuss of handling saltwater coral, you can still grow plenty of beautiful plant life in a freshwater tank. The Finnex Planted+ LED system is ideal for planted tanks, with an automated 24/7 light cycle transitioning from morning to night and back again. Users can also save up to four custom color and intensity combinations, using dimmable red, green, and blue LEDs along with 7,000K daylight LEDs to help your freshwater plants thrive. A remote control makes the lighting easy to operate and change on command, and the system itself can be purchased in sizes ranging from 20 to 48 inches.

Customers rave about this fixture’s thin, modern design and strong output. For the price, several shoppers consider Finnex one of the best brands on the market, with quality parts and a high PAR rating, which measures the light available for photosynthesis. The Finnex Planted+ is no exception.

DSunY Programmable LED lighting coral reefs (4K)

If he was really glad to meet you. I called you yesterday. Sorry, I think I forgot to charge my phone, I said, embarrassed.

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