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Aquarium lighting is more important than you think it is. If you’re a newbie in the world of aquarium owning, you are probably under the impression that tank lights are nothing more than just simply a light to show off your tank setup and fish collection. But you couldn’t be more wrong.

The choice of an LED light can dramatically impact the lives of fish, and even the plants and algae that coexist in a tank. The color and intensity can even change the way the fish behave. Light is necessary for certain plants to continue growing and for fish to live healthy lives.

For a better understanding of what exactly is the most healthy environment for your aquariums keep reading. From why you should choose LED specifically, to the different settings that will best fit you, to recommendations for tank LEDs ranging from 125to 150 gallons, it’s all here.

Why LED?

LED lighting is hands down the best type of lighting for aquariums. Other lighting, like fluorescent lamps, though giving lots of options in terms of spectrum, lose intensity over time.

And incandescent lamps can be much less energy efficient and can run hot, which is a problem for tanks that need to be at a certain temperature. This is also a problem when it comes to the fact that you will need to leave your lights on for up to twelve hours a day, which can easily empty your wallet with electricity bills.

LED lighting, meanwhile, tends to run cool, is extremely long-lasting, requires little maintenance long-term, and gives you a plethora of color options that will influence your fish.

In fact, LED bulbs can last for 50,000 hours, or around 6 years, without ever needing to be replaced. They are also extremely energy-efficient and use around 80% less electricity than other lights, so you don’t have to worry about spending too much money on them or unnecessarily wasting energy.

Beyond that, they are very easy to program in terms of color changes and adhere to a schedule that will help you and your fish to know when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to relax and go to bed. This is especially important for your fish’s well seeing as they are naturally tuned to live outside, where these changes occur naturally.

Since plants and aquatic life are much more suited to blue and red lights, be sure to purchase lights that include this range as it will encourage them to grow and thrive.

As a general rule, a 125-150 gallon tank will require at least 6 ft of lights, or two 36-inch lights.

They also should not be left on more than 10-12 hours a day, as fish require periods of natural darkness.

It’s also best to try to replicate your fish’s natural environment. If they lived in dark, murky waters like the Amazon, it’s probably best you don’t use LED lights. But if they lived in clear lakes or tropical environments, try to provide them with the right color and as much light as possible.


Fish Behavior with LED Lights

Fish are pretty resilient when it comes to lighting, so if there’s a window in your room, it will help them to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to swim.

One of the major issues when it comes to placing lighting is the heat. Seeing as fish require a certain temperature for their water, they can easily get sick, or even die from water that is too hot. In the same way, you wouldn’t want to live in a sauna, your fish don’t want to live in an overheated tank.

That’s why LEDs are such a great option.

They can be easily protected from the water by way of a covering and can provide strong light that doesn’t heat up like an incandescent bulb. That way you won’t have to worry about changes in the temperature of your tank without sacrificing the fantastic lighting that will help your fish show off their colors.

When it comes to settings, it’s better to get an LED setup that includes pre-programmable cycles. Just like you wouldn’t want to live in a room where it was constantly day or night, it’s healthy to have as natural of a day and night rhythm as you can replicate for your fish.

If your set-up allows, gradually program colors to change color and intensity in a way that replicates sunrises and sunsets, meaning that the lights dim and turn back up again as slowly as possible over hours of time.

Overall, the LED lights will help them to maintain a relaxed life in a well-lit environment, and will even help to show off their natural, gorgeous colors. And as a collector of cool and exotic fish, isn’t that what it’s all about?

LED in the Aquarium and Plant Growth

Photosynthesis is extremely important when it comes to indoor plants. Because they are not absorbing natural sunlight every day like other outdoor plants, the ones in your fish tank need an alternative source of light.

LED lights are perfect for aquarium plant growth in that they perfectly replicate the wavelengths and quality of light that is found in natural underwater environments.

Seeing as the electromagnetic spectrum contains red, blue, white, and green light (as far as the human eye can tell,) it’s essential that LED setups include these colors to mimic real life. Red is used the most by plants, with blue following closely behind that. Green is used too, lightly, but around 30% of that green light is reflected, which is why a majority of underwater plants are naturally green.

As a general rule for healthy plant life, it’s best to use 50% red light, 35% green light, and no more than 15% blue light.

An exception to this rule is coral life, which requires a majority of blue light. For tanks that have mostly coral life, it’s recommended that you use actinic bulbs, which should be included in most professionally made LED sets. But don’t worry about your fish, as tropical breeds that coexist well with coral do very well in blue light. An added plus is that it helps to make their colors MUCH more vibrant.

Recommended LEDs For 120-150 Gallon Tanks

LED lamp for aquarium in an aluminum housing.

1. NICREW Classic LED Aquarium Light

  • A great budget-friendly option for anyone wanting to cover a lot of tanks without emptying their wallet.
  • Features a gradual turn-on to simulate sunrises and sunsets, that will relax your fish.
  • Two modes for day and night (blue and white) that are great for aquarium plants. Can be switched manually or automatically with a separate single-channel timer.
  • The largest fixture option is 48-52″ so there’s enough light to cover your large tank.

Affordably priced at around $39-$59. To see more, click here.

2 . Current USA Satellite Plus Pro

  • Features easy installation sliding docking legs that you can attach in just a few seconds.
  • Has multiple modes with 6500k white and RGBW LEDs and effects that mimic real-world underwater environments, including automatic sunrise and sunset times.
  • Also features wireless control that you can change with an easy-to-use remote.

These all-inclusive lights are priced at around $287. To see more, click here.

An aquarium with LED lighting

3. Fluval Plant Spectrum Bluetooth LED 3.0

  • Programmable and gradual 24-hour cycle that you can completely customize.
  • Plenty of preprogrammed light cycles will help your plants to grow.
  • 120 degrees illumination, so every part of the tank is lit up.
  • Bluetooth is enabled, so you can do everything from your smartphone.

These Bluetooth programmable lights are priced at around $210. To see more, click here.

4. AquaIllumination AI Prime 16 HD

  • Uses an array of 13 Osram, Cree, and semi-LED diodes, and green and UV LED to help boost the photosynthesis of corals and other such plants.
  • The different mounting styles and kits, so no matter what style tank you have, it will always fit.
  • It’s a “smart” LED aquarium light, so wifi enabled and you can control it from your smartphone app.
  • Specially designed for reef aquariums, but can also be used for saltwater tanks.

The AI Prime is also priced at around $210. To see more, click here.

5. VIPARSPECTRA Timer Control Dimmable 165W LED

  • This particular LED light works fantastic for growing your own coral reef.
  • Full-spectrum light mimics the natural light to help corals/fish achieve the best balance.
  • Built-in timer for both the Blue and White lights.
  • Advanced, high-speed, and quiet fans designed with aluminum heat sinks that are perfect for heat dissipation, meaning there is as little temperature change as possible.
  • Easy hanging kits and one simple, easy-to-use remote.

These 165W LED lights are priced at around $160. To see more, click here.

6. Kessil Planted Tank LED

  • This light setup is the best-LED setup money can buy.
  • Includes one planted tank LED light, one spectral controller, one unit link cable to connect the two lights, and two gooseneck clamp mounts, meaning full control of your setup.
  • Control not only the color and timer on this LED set but also the overall intensity and spectrum mix.
  • With the Kessil Spectral Controller, you can control up to six periods of different light changes.
  • This is the show stopper LED setup for only the best of the best for professional aquarists.

These fantastic, all-inclusive lights are priced at around $670. To see more, click here.

If you like the article above, here are some other similar articles you should check out!

A Guide to using LED Lights in your Aquarium

Best LED Aquarium Lighting – reviews & buyer’s guide

Finnex Planted 24/7 fully automated Aquarium LED light review

Current USA Satellite LED light review


Hi, my name is Jordan. I've been in the fishkeeping hobby since my childhood. Welcome to my blog where I help fishkeepers enjoy the hobby by offering free guides, advice, & product reviews. Read more...