There are quite a few differences when shopping for freshwater aquarium LED lighting rather than florescent or marine lights.
|Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus
|Ledenet 12-Inch Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting Strip
|Aquatic Life LED Aquarium Light Fixture
|Deckey Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting Fixture
18″ – 60″
23.5″ – 50.25″
12″ – 45.2″
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Important Elements Of Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting
- Reasonable Cost
- Efficient Power Usage
- Proper Light Strength
- Long Lifetime
This isn’t to say extra features are bad or unwanted, but they aren’t a requirement. A Reasonable cost and efficient power usage ensure that the LED lighting we choose gives us enough bang for our buck. Add this on to long lifetimes and an LED light ends up being more cost effective than any other form of lighting.
However we are not only looking for the cheapest lighting available. Keeping our fish happy and active, along with grown any live plants, is a vital part of our lighting systems.
There are three general levels of light strength.
- Aesthetic lights that only provide light
- Plant friendly lights that provide strong enough light to grow plants
- Plant growth lights designed to accelerate any plants growth
As expected the price of the light increases as it becomes more intense, meaning that planted tank lights both cost more money initially and over time. However the filtration that plants provide in tanks is an enormous benefit. I’ll leave it up to you on which is best for your specific tank.
Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus
Current USA never disappoints. Often under $90 this light strip brings in a lot of features, power and efficiency.
To start I’ll explain how the light is designed. The casing features aluminum housing and an acrylic splash lens which form the case of the light. This is IP65 water resistant so there’s no need to fear mist seeping into the fixture. The light is the supported by two adjustable leg mounts that can extend to fit perfectly onto the rim of the tank.
On the end of the light is the power cord and infrared eye. The power cord features a female to male plug in the middle, which allows you to place the light on a timer. The infrared eye is used to catch signals from the remote control. Before using the remote remove the tape and position the sensor where it will have a direct line of sight to the remote.
To use the remote you should keep the instruction manual handy. There are a lot of features on it, but over all you’ll mostly be using just a few of the buttons. Here’s a quick rundown on how to use the controller:
- The top left section of the remote holds 6 buttons. These select a base color and adjust the light to match them.
- The red power button shuts the light off while the play/pause button below it pauses or resumes any dynamic lighting effect.
- Underneath these two sections are 2 rows of arrows, each a different color. You can use these to adjust each colors intensity by pressing the up arrow of the respective color to increase the intensity or the down arrow to reduce the intensity.
- The row under the colored arrows are listed as M1, M2, M3, and M4. By holding these buttons for four seconds you can store a custom color into the remotes settings, allowing for 4 saved colors total
- The last section of the remote holds the dynamic lighting buttons.
- The first row features three dynamic moonlight settings. The first is a normal blue light. The second is a darker night light while the third is a cloudy dark night.
- At the end of this row is the sunrise/sunset button. This starts a 15 minute ramp up/down of the lights. Use this effect to introduce the light to your tank every morning and slowly put the tank to bed at night.
- The second to last row holds 4 buttons, each having a different cloud configuration attached to them. These can be nice and stress free for the fish but are not optimal for plant growth.
- The last row is typically the only touch once row. The first three buttons hold a dynamic storm lighting effect. They will often stress your fish and should not really be used regularly if at all. The last button fades out the colors through every spectrum.
The remote is fairly fun to use. Once you have learned it inside and out it is more likely you will only use a few of the features. Still guests can enjoy seeing the dynamic lights over your fish tank.
Setting up the Current USA Satellite+ is a fairly simple job. As there is nothing to plug between the male and female cords you will only need to plug the light into the wall. If you do have a timer to attach the light to go ahead and put it into place. The light runs at 12 volts. Keep this in mind and refrain from overloading any power strips.
Next you will need to remove the sticky tape from the infrared eye. The eye should be placed as far forward on the tank as possible, with something underneath it if the eye cannot reach the edge of the tank. Have the eye blocked means the remote control will often not be read, rendering it useless.
Ok back to the specifications of the light.
The Current USA Satellite LED+ is one of the best freshwater aquarium led lights as it features great strength at a medium ground cost. The white lights put out a strong 6,500K while the rest of the bulbs provide the full color spectrum to keep both plants and fish happy. The lumens are not the highest out there, but a certainly high enough to support any form of plant you can bring into the aquarium. Just be sure that for more light demanding plants you place them closer to the light and not at the bottom of the tank or underneath objects.
The spread of the light is 120 degrees and thanks to the acrylic splash guard almost no light is lost. These two form a powerful pair and provide a great spread of light without being so wide that it extends far out of the tank. If you have never had this problem count yourself lucky. Lights that do spread too much will often cause glares in the room and shine into nearby eyes. We need to see the tank, not have a flashlight shined in our face.
That being said you need to keep in mind the light is only 3.5″ wide. Extra wide tanks, will need two light strips. Long tanks however will be completely lit via a single LED lighting strip.
Lifetime & Warranty
Current USA provides all of their lights with a one year warranty combined with excellent customer service. More often than not they will repair out of warranty items a few times. Overall this means your warranty is only solid for one year but is more realistically 3 years.
The lifetime of the Satellite+ LED light has been tested and reviewed to last over ten years. This is when the light is used for an average of 10 hours a day. If used for longer spans such as 12 hour days the lights lifetime is much closer to 7 or 8 years. Still that is an amazing lifetime for any product.
Ledenet 12-Inch Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting Strip
The Ledenet Freshwater Aquarium LED lighting Strip is a much more basic lighting strip than the Current USA. Its features include:
- Dimensions: 12″ L x .7″ W x .4″ H
- 18 LED lights
- Comes in three different colors
- Depending on the color ranges from 324-360 Lumens
- Drilled holes for bolting as well as brackets to mount the light
- Linking cables allow for multiple lights to be connected together
This light strip is perfect for those new to the hobby who do not have a lot of extra money to spend. The light fixture often hovers just over $10, meaning you can purchase several of these lights in place of a single light strip. This allows you to use multiple light strips in one timer, saving money even further while not taking up all of your plug-in sections.
Something to keep in mind when viewing this light is you must get at least one light with adapter combo. The lights aren’t very useful without the cord to plug them in. A minor setback as the light remains under $20.
Additionally the light strip does not come with an on/off switch. This means you will either need to attach a controller or timer to the light for the light to be shut off. Alternatively you can pull the power cord out from the light. If you choose this route always keep a towel near the light to dry your hands. When fiddling with our tanks a bit of moisture is to be expected so please ensure you keep your hands dry.
This is one of the better freshwater aquarium LED lights that manages to produce virtually no heat while also pumping out decent lumens. That being said the light will not grow plants in deeper waters with only one light strip. This is where the connecting function of the light comes in handy. As you choose to add additional light strips there is nothing complex to do. Simply connect the two light strips and they will both work, combining their strength and increasing the light in your aquarium. Both simple and effective.
The Ledenet Freshwater aquarium LED lighting strip runs between 320-360 lumens depending on the chosen color. As for the wattage each strip runs at 3.6 watts. For the highest lumen output choose cold white lighting. These bring 20 lumens per LED while the warm white create 18 lumens per LED.
If you combine this information with the 18 LEDs per light strip you can see the lumens add up quickly. For new tank owners I would recommend one light strip per every 5 gallons. This won’t give you the strength needed to grow plants but will provide enough light to keep your fish happy. If you have an oddly shaped tank such as a long breeder or deep tall tank you may need to adjust your lights accordingly.
Lifetime & Warranty
Being such a low cost light has to have a few draw backs. For this light the lifetime is seen to be between 6-12 months. Those who have the light for over a year often take better care of their light which suggests the lifetime should really range around 8-16 months under good care.
Aquatic Life LED Aquarium Light Fixture
The Aquatic Life LED fixture is the full force light needed to grow the most demanding plants in deep waters
|24″ fits 23.5″ to 26.25″
|(13) 6K White, (14) 9K White, (17) 10K White, (3) Blue, (7) Red, (3) Blue Lunar LED’s
|36″ fits 35″ to 38.25″
|(21) 6K White, (21) 9K White, (24) 10K White, (7) Blue, (11) Red, (3) Blue Lunar LED’s
|48″ fits 47″ to 50.25″
|(27) 6K White, (27) 9K White, (33) 10K White, (7) Blue, (14) Red, (6) Blue Lunar LED’s
To start out I’ll talk about fitting these freshwater LED fixtures to aquariums. The legs are not nearly as adjustable as many other LED fixtures. They can be adjusted by using the screws located on the underside of the fixture. This is done by loosening the screws and sliding the mounts into position. Once that has been done tighten the screws to complete the process.
Next up is the lights lack of water resistant design. The Aquatic Life LED fixture is a fantastic unit but if used over an open top aquarium will see a drastically shorter life. This is clearly stated in multiple places on the box and in the fine print on the instructions. If you do not use a glass top for your aquarium please look at a different light. If you do use a glass top let’s continue on.
The cord is a decent length, coming in at a solid 2 meters or roughly 6.5 feet. Be sure to take advantage of this and form a drip loop. While the light is not water resistant I can guarantee the electrical output is even less water friendly.
Next up is a big part of the light. The build in timer and back up battery.
By pressing and holding the triangle and square buttons The clock will flash. First press the triangle button to increase the hours and the square button when it is correct. This moves you on to the minutes where you will again use the triangle button to increase the minutes to the desired time.
Setting Channel Times
This is the important part of our lights timing. First off the preset times are:
- Channel 1 (color LEDs): Start at 8:00am End at 8:00pm
- Channel 2 (White LEDs): Start at 10:00am End at 5:00pm
- Moonlight (Blue Lunar LEDs): Start at 8:00pm end at 12:00am
To adjust these you must first set the clock. After that is done press the square button to advance onto channel 1. These follow the same directions. triangle to increase the time and square to advance. After all 3 channels have been set you will be asked to set the sunrise/sunset time. This can be anywhere between 0 and 120 minutes. This determines how long the lights take to turn on, making a more gentle ramp up time rather than instant full power lighting.
Note: Keep your times written down when programming the light. If you leave it idle too long it will exit the programming mode.
The back up battery is built right into the fixture. Should the power go out this keeps your setting saved and resumes upon startup.
The light strength is actually a bit beyond the best freshwater aquarium LED lighting as it’s capable of growing corals. That being said the price of freshwater only lights that can grow high light demanding plants often exceeds this fixture, making the Aquatic Life a great choice.
As shown in my table above the light includes multiple levels of white light strength as well as red and blue lights. The combination of these forms a powerful spectrum that can grow anything from plants to anemones.
As with other light strips, the Aquatic Life fixture spreads its light at a 120 degree angle. This combined with its 4 inch width gives you ample lighting in most tanks. The only ones who may need additional light strips are those with extra wide tanks. If you did not specially order your tank this would not include you.
Lifetime & Warranty
The lifetime on this light is Fairly long lived so long as you do not let water reach the light. Keep your glass top secure and this wont be a problem. The LEDs themselves can last over 5 years easily, making this light a low cost over time choice. If you are switching from bulb lighting you can expect to see an average of $80 a year from lower electric bills and bulb replacements.
The Aquatic Life comes with a 1 year limited warranty where they will repair any light that has not reached an “unsalvageable” state. This means if the light costs more to repair than to replace they will fix it. After that warranty ends the warranty shifts into a lifetime repair warranty. During this time they will repair the light so long as you pay for shipping and parts. Not the best situation but a $40 charge is much better than having to get a new light 6 years down the road.
Deckey Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting Fixture
The Decky Freshwater Aquarium LED Lighting Fixture is my low cost LED aquarium lighting of choice. Featuring 36 to 144 LEDs depending on size, there is no LED fixture that competes on Deckeys price point
|Fits Aquariums Size
|11″ x 3.9″ x .5″
|12″ to 20″
|36 LEDs(30 white + 6 blue)
|20″ x 3.5″ x .5″
|19.7″ to 27.6″
|72 LEDs(60 white + 12 blue)
|28″ x 3.9″ x .7″
|28.3″ to 35.4″
|108 LEDs(90 white + 18 blue)
|45″ x 3.9″ x .5″
|37.4″ to 45.2″
|144 LEDs(120 white + 24 blue)
Setting up this light is fairly straight forward. The legs adjust to fit to the aquarium and once it is in place you are free to turn the light on. There is one major note. The light is not water resistant at all. This means you cannot use the Deckey light without a glass cover on your aquarium. The exception to this case is tanks with very little aeration or an external form of aeration.
The power cord is 5 feet long, meaning the light should be placed fairly close to its outlet. Keep in mind you will need a few extra inches to create a drip loop between the power cord and outlet.
Located Next to the power cord is the switch to turn the light on or off. There is no included timer or remote here but the light can be attached to a timer if you own one. Honestly once you get a timer you will never go back to manual settings, and with the money saved on this model I highly suggest adding a timer.
The light strength of the Deckey Freshwater LED Lighting Lamp is quite powerful for its low price point. This allows you to grow most plants with ease, though I still recommend higher light demanding plants be placed closer to the light. For normal or low light plants you can easily grow them anywhere in the tank when paired with the right sized lighting fixture.
The bulbs in the LED lighting fixture provide excellent and even coverage, ensuring that there are not any dark corners in the tank. The angle of distribution is also 120 degrees which spreads the light to the tank without sending valuable light to the floor outside the tank.
The wattage on the lights varies with light sizes and is suitable for breeders, talls and standard aquariums. However with tall tanks I would not recommend using high light requirement plants. For those looking for only plant growth it should be noted that the 20″ model has the highest wattage per LED. For each white light the strength is rated at a solid 6,500K. This is just as high as the Current USA but lacks the full color spectrum.
Lifetime & Warranty
Unlike the more expensive models the Deckey Freshwater LED Lighting Lamp features a very short warranty. If there are any problems with the light you are allowed to return it for 30 days no questions asked. During this time you will easily be able to tell if you have received a defective unit.
The lifetime is not too long but still lower cost per year than more expensive lights. On average the Deckey lasts between 12-18 months. The number would be higher but if any water reaches the light it is usually done for. This tends to drag the lifetime down. If you do keep a well fitted, no crack glass top on your aquarium you should not have this problem.
With all this knowledge under your belt you will have no problems selecting the perfect freshwater aquarium LED light for your tank. Remember that if you already have a fluorescent light fixture that LEDs do save a lot of money over time. LED lights are really an asap addition to any aquarium.
Want to see more freshwater lighting options? check out my guide on the best freshwater aquarium lighting!