Finding The Best Saltwater Aquarium Lighting

To everyone in the hobby saltwater aquariums can mean something different, making their needs differ drastically. Many owners go for a FOWLR, fish only with live rock, setup and will only need standard lighting. On the other hand there are reef tanks full of corals and light loving anemones who will need much more light than most fixtures can produce. With both of these in mind I’ve found some of the best saltwater aquarium lighting fixtures available. Read on for all the details.

Finnex FugeRay Marine+ Aquarium LED Light Ecoxotic E-30 Full Spectrum LED AROCCOM Full Spectrum for Saltwater Aquariums Euphotica Dimmable, Programmable LED Aquarium Light Fixture
8.9-20.8 Watts 16-56 Watts 165 Watts 120-216 Watts
72-168 LEDs 10-40 LEDs 55 LEDs 55-99 LEDs
Size: 12″ – 30″ Size: 12″ – 48″ Size: 15.7″ Size: 16″ – 13″
Price: $ Price: $$ Price: $$$ Price: $$-$$$$
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What Makes The Best Saltwater Aquarium Lighting?

When it comes to selecting the right saltwater aquarium lighting there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Reasonable Cost
  • High Light Strength
  • Long Lifetime
  • Reliable Design

The cost of many light fixtures should often be measured over the average lifetime of the light. a $200 light that lasts for 3 years actually ends up costing you more than a $300 light that lasts for 5 years. If you think those are long life times my last recommendation will be sure to drop a few jaws. That’s not to say the rest aren’t stunning as well.

Finnex FugeRay Marine+ Aquarium LED Light

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Our first contender is a common pick because of its easy entry price and highly effective lighting strength. The Finnex FugeRay Marine+ LED is definitely one of the best saltwater aquarium lighting fixtures out there today.

Size Watts LEDs
12″ 8.9 Watts (24) 10,000k + (48) Actinic Blue LEDs, 72 LEDs Total
20″ 14.7 Watts 40) 10,000k + (80) Actinic Blue LEDs, 120 LEDs Total
24″ 17.8 Watts (48) 10,000k + (96) Actinic Blue LEDs, 144 LEDs Total
30″ 20.8 Watts (56) 10,000k + (112) Actinic Blue LEDs, 168 LEDs Total

Featuring some of the highest Kelvin readings most aquarists will ever need, the Finnex brings a whole lot of power to the table at a fantastic price.

Set Up

There really isn’t much to setting these lights up. The feature a simple plug and power set up with on off button at the end of each light. Nothing fancy and highly reliable.

One thing I will note is that the light is too strong for freshwater fish. Many territorial fish such as tiger barbs and cichlids will run at the first appearance of the lights and not recognize anything in the tank, not even the other fish. This creates a new and sometimes hostile environment. If you are looking for freshwater fish I have a detailed guide on the subject.

Light strength

The Finnex bring in a lot of light strength for our marine aquariums. Even at the lowest price point of competing fixtures it remains one of the best saltwater aquarium lighting choices. The 10,000k white lights complimented by the actinic blue LEDs create a beautiful spectrum without drawing away too much power for color, ensuring the Finnex can grow most any coral you throw under it.

The light is distributed at the standard 120 degree angle, ensuring your tank has no dark spots without bathing your own floor in light.

A quick note I would like to make here is the lights overall design. You may have noticed it looks different that the standard forms of aquarium lighting. That is because it is designed to be its own heat sink. This means your light will not heat up and reduce its own lifetime. Additionally it includes a slightly different circuit board to extend the LED bulbs life.

Lifetime & Warranty

First I’ll throw the numbers out for those in a hurry. The lights have been tested to last for 40,000+ hours on average.

40,000/10 hour days/365 days a year = 10.95 years

That amazing life time brings the lights cost to the single digits a year for 11 whole years. Bulbs of fluorescent lighting cost well over that, not to mention the increased power draw they have. Given these numbers it is no wonder that the coral growing world loves the Finnex FugeRay for saltwater aquarium lighting.

With the lower price point comes a shorter warranty. Given that the lights last so long this is not a problem. The warranty lasts 6 months and covers most damages excluding any internal tampering or returning the light to Finnex without proper packaging.

Ecoxotic E-30 Full Spectrum LED

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The Ecoxotic LED lighting fixture Brings a lot to the table. It includes both a programming remote and timer. A perfect saltwater lighting choice that isn’t specifically made for corals.

Size Watts LEDs
12.5″ x 2″ x 1″ 16 Watts 8 Daylight 8,000K/2 RGB LEDs, 10 LEDs total
18.5″ x 2″ x 1″ 24 Watts 10 Daylight 8,000K/4 RGB LEDs, 14 LEDs total
24.5″ x 2″ x 1″ 32 Watts 16 Daylight 8,000K/4 RGB LEDs, 20 LEDs total
36.5″ x 2″ x 1″ 46 Watts 24 Daylight 8,000K/6 RGB LEDs, 30 LEDs total
48.5″ x 2″ x 1″ 56 Watts 32 Daylight 8,000K/8 RGB LEDs, 40 LEDs total

I’ll kick this one off with the only big con. Despite being LED, this light heats up to high temperatures. So much so that if not well ventilated it can shut off. This means you will have to have a way to keep the light cool if you’d like to use it. Personally I think it’s worth the extra effort with all the strength it brings in.

Set Up

Setting up the Ecoxotic is a bit of a process. First you will be setting the fixture on your aquarium and adjusting the legs so that they hold the light in place. Next you need to attach the 24VDC transformer to the RGBW Controller. With the connection secure finish the set up by connecting the RGBW controller to the LED strip. You may then mount the controller wherever you like with the included Velcro.

Combined the cord adds up to a solid 10 feet. Be sure you have somewhere to put all this wire as it is pretty long.

For the remote you will need to remove the plastic strip and point the remote at the controller. Press the red button on the top right of the remote. This turns the light on which is now ready to be programmed.

Using The Timer
The timer is a fairly simple one. It allows you to set your tank to a fully automated 24 hour cycle, complete with transitional phases between day and night time lighting. The only problem here is that the light will never actually turn off via the timer unless you have the moonlight settings all at 0. Not too big an issue unless you frequently stay up well past your aquariums bed time.

First we will need to program the time of day. This is done by pressing the set clock button, followed by using the hour+ and minute- buttons to reach the correct time. Remember the clock is in military time. Press enter to finish.

The same is done to set the on and off times for the light. Keep in mind that the light will have a 15 minute ramp up and ramp down time to help transition the tanks lighting.

Next up is the daylight and moonlight settings. These are set by pressing either the daylight or moonlight button. After that you may adjust the color spectrum and intensity using the red, green, blue and white arrows. Once you are done press and hold the daylight or moonlight button for five seconds to finish, whichever you were currently setting.

The last on the list is the M1 and M2 settings. These can be used to store a specific color spectrum. They are excellent to use for showing off corals and bringing out the colors of your aquarium for guests. Keep in mind to not shock your fish with sudden light changes. These two are adjusted the same as the daylight and moonlight settings.

Located at the bottom of the remote are four on demand weather effects. The first is a blue moonlight setting, a quick and easy way to show off corals under a blue light. Personally I always have one of my memories set to a more specific blue setting. The next button is a thunder storm effect. As it features flashing it can stress fish and is not recommended for frequent use. The last two are varying strengths of cloudy weather that produce a nice rolling cloud effect

Light Strength

The Ecoxotic brings a solid 8,000k day light strength complimented by RGB LEDs to fill out the rest of the lighting spectrum. This gives you fish and corals access to all the benefits of natural sun light without being so powerful it guarantees algae growth.

Additionally the wattage on the Ecoxotic is in the middle grounds. Being an LED lighting fixture generally means lower wattage, however this one brings a bit more power to the table than most LED lights do. This is why the lights heat up so much, making the extra wattage a double edged sword.

With the design of the Ecoxotic being a standard lighting strip shape you’re looking at a 120 degree light spread. This is my favorite angle for single light aquariums as it keeps the whole tank nice and bright without sending too much light onto the floor of the room. Additionally a reflector has been added to the lighting strip and features a 60 degree angle.

For the best coral growth without too much algae you will need to set you lights to be on high for up to 10 hours a day. Any longer and you are sure to see algae bloom even with the best aquarium filtration.

Lifetime & Warranty

The Ecoxotic light comes with a complete 1 year warranty where the company will cover any and all damages to the fixture. Additionally the LED light design of the light helps ensure the light will last well over the 5 year mark. The only issue here is the over heating of the light. If nothing is done to prevent consistent heating on the light the lifetime is sure to drop rapidly. By taking the extra time and getting a heat reducing system set up, whether it is something as simple as a fan or full on suspension, you ensure your light lasts as long as possible.

AROCCOM Full Spectrum Lighting For Saltwater Aquariums

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The Aroccom is a bit tricky to use, as it only comes in one size and much be suspended above the aquarium, but once in place it really gets the job done and then some.

Size Watts LEDs
15.7″ 105 Watts 55 LEDs
Set Up

Setting up the Aroccom LED fixture requires installing hooks above your aquarium. There are some more gimmicky DIY ways you can install the light but I don’t recommend them for two reasons. One is that the light is very powerful and can be too intense if it is right on your aquariums lid. Second is that suspending the light allows it to cover more area.

With the hooks in place you can use the provided hanging kit. With the cords in place you will want your light to be between 8 and 14 inches above your tank. Keep in mind that the hanging cords are 17 inches long when hanging the light. If additional length is needed you will need to supplement the cords.

On the back of the light you will notice two sets of power plugins and adjustable knobs. These are able to set the intensity of both channels which are as follows:

  • Channel 1 (27 LEDs): 20pcs (460-470nm), 7pcs 450nm;Red 650~660nm, Green 520nm, Cool White, Neutral White, Warm White LEDs
  • Channel 2 (28 LEDs): 8pcs (9000-14000K), 6pcs (5500-8000K), 6pcs (3000-4500K), 2pcs 660nm, 2pcs 520nm, 4pcs (400-420nm); Royal Blue 450nm, Blue 460nm

If this is your first aquarium light or if your tank has been without a light for awhile you will need to slowly turn the light up. On that point the lights can be set anywhere between 0-100% intensity. A safe point to settle on is 70% intensity. This gives your tank plenty of light, often more than competing lights have to offer when maxed out.

When you do choose to turn the lights on full strength you will need to watch your tank for excess nutrients and hair algae growth. Algae loves strong light and the Aroccom provides plenty of it.

In the middle of this fantastic saltwater aquarium light you will notice two built in fans. They keep the light cool to extend the lifetime of the LEDs. At first glance the size of the fan made me worried about the noise factor, but to my surprise they were almost silent. From a few feet away the sound was 100% gone.

Light Strength

As listed above the light features a powerful set of up to 14,000k lighting along with 650nm red lights, 520nm green lights, 450nm royal blue and normal blue lights. The most complete spectrum on the market without breaking the bank. Add in the high wattage and your corals will be sure to sing.

Next up is the light distribution. I briefly touched on this earlier. The light is sent out at a 90 degree angle, providing your tank with powerful focused lighting. This also means long tanks will need multiple lights to avoid dark corners. Compared to the 120 degree lighting normal strips provide This method is more efficient and meant for real coral growing tanks.

Because you will often be using this light for coral growth it is common to leave the light on longer than normal lights. Keep in mind you do let your fish and corals get some sleep at night and fight any algae immediately.

Lifetime & Warranty

Despite being much higher power lights, the lifetime on these bulbs actually exceed the average LED light lifetime. Ranging between 50,000-80,000 hours on average you can expect the lights to hold for 14-20 years. It’s actually almost inconvenient how long they last as it is fun upgrading our old equipment.

The warranty provided on the Aroccom saltwater aquarium light is one year. This gives you plenty of time to find any defects with your light before it starts is long life lighting your tank.

Euphotica Dimmable/Programmable LED Aquarium Light Fixture for Saltwater Aquariums

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This fixture is an awful lot like the Aroccom but has its own special merits. First off it comes in many different sizes, some of which even feature built in programming. No matter you saltwater aquarium lighting needs this light has you covered.

Size Wattage LEDs
16″ Dimmable/Programmable 120 Watts 8,000K to 20,000K, 8 Warm White, 6 Neutral White, 6 Cool White, 20 Royal Blue (450nm), 7 Blue (470nm), 4 Violet/Indigo (420nm), 2 Green (520nm), 2 Red (660nm), 55 LEDs Total
24″ Programmable 120 Watts 8,000K to 20,000K, 8 Warm White, 6 Neutral White, 6 Cool White, 16 Royal Blue (450nm), 7 Blue (470nm), 4 Violet/Indigo (420nm), 2 Green (520nm), 2 Red (660nm), 51 LEDs Total
32″ Programmable 216 Watts 8,000K to 20,000K, 18 Warm White, 12 Neutral White, 12 Cool White, 30 Royal Blue (450nm), 13 Blue (470nm), 8 Violet/Indigo (420nm), 4 Green (520nm), 4 Red (660nm), 99 LEDs Total
Set Up

Unlike the Aroccom, the Euphotica features 2 hanging hooks and cables to suspend itself along with a simple remote (programmable version only).

You can use the remote to program the intensity of the light, moving in one degree increments. Additionally you can set every half hour to a specific setting, allowing for the most customizable saltwater aquarium lighting I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.

If you do not wish to program the lights specifically you are free to use the sunny, cloudy and moonlight buttons to control your light. However if you did spring for the programmable light I couldn’t imagine not taking full advantage of its versatility.

For the dimmable version you will have to manually adjust the light settings using the two knobs on the top of the light. These change the two light channels separately allowing you to control the color of lighting in your tank.

One quick note here: the dimmable light has two power cords while the programmable light only has one power cord.

Light Strength

Here is where this light gets crazy. The Euphotica is one of the best saltwater aquarium lighting choices as it can produce a massive 20,000k full light spectrum with over 200 watts of strength. A warning to those new to the hobby, this light can actually burn many of your corals and anemones. To use the full strength on the light you would need a deep tank combined with some of the most demanding corals known to mankind. Simply put this will grow any coral with ease. Just be sure you know how much light your specific coral can handle and ramp the light up slowly. Even the perfect light setting can stun corals if applied too quickly.

As with the previous hanging light, the Euphotic marine aquarium light is distributed through a 90 degree optic lens. This can create a spotlight effect when placed too close to your tank, meaning you should give your aquarium a solid foot between it and the light.

When raised above the tank the Euphotic can provide a 28″ x 28″” light distribution on the 16″ model, 28″ x 35″ on the 24″ model, and 28″ x 42″ on the 32″ model without losing much of its power due to distance. Use that as an estimate if you have larger tanks and are wondering how many fixtures you need. For smaller tanks you will often be fine with a single fixture. Adjust the height to light your aquarium and then adjust the intensity to the appropriate settings.

One final add on note I have is about the 24″ model. Many of you may have noticed it actually features less lights than the 16″. How is this possible? Well I got in contact with HobbieBug and found out that the lights are spread over a greater distance and then amplified using a more powerful driver to increase the strength of the lights. This means the 24″ is indeed stronger than the 16″.

Lifetime & Warranty

The Euphotic saltwater aquarium light comes with a nice two year warranty on all of the components, from the light it self all the way down to the hooks and cables. In addition to this the customer service is absolute amazing, helps in a timely manner and knows their product well. No worries about unexplainable problems here.

The lifetime of the light is absolutely absurd. On average the bulb brand, Bridgelux, has tested to last for 100,000 hours. That is a solid 11 years of constant use or 27 years of 10 hour days. With that kind of lifetime even the largest model costs less than a 20″ fluorescent light fixture per year. With such a high intensity and lifetime You could probably create your own sun with enough of these lights.

This actually bring in an additional note. Please take extra care with the lighting fixture so that it can actually reach that lifetime. It would be an absolute tragedy to break this light well before it burns out. Double check your hanging methods and inspect them after you touch the light to ensure it stays in place!

With all this information on the absolute best saltwater aquarium lighting you are now more than equipped to select the perfect light fixture. Remember not all tanks are the same. Research your exact tank inhabitants and ensure you do not provide too much or too little light. If you need more lighting choices feel free to read our other aquarium lighting pages.

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