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Can LED Lights Grow Aquarium Plants? The Definite Answer

Can LED Lights Grow Aquarium Plants? The Definite Answer

Aquariums often serve as the focal points for our homes. Surprisingly, not only are they attractive to our eyes but significantly beneficial for our health as well.  

Considering the tremendous benefits aquariums offer, who would not like to have an attractive aquarium at their home with beautiful natural-grown plants?

However, with huge benefits and attractiveness comes a bit of confusion too.

If you are a fan of aquariums with beautifully grown foliage, you need to choose the right aquarium lights.

For a long time, I was confused about what to choose for my planted freshwater aquarium.

There are so many lights available and LED lights have grown in popularity recently.

But my main question was can aquarium plants even grow with LED lights.

In addition, I was not sure if I will need specialized LED lights for aquariums or if I can just choose a regular LED light I already have at home.

The more I read about LED lights, color temperatures (kelvin), PAR levels, full-spectrum the more confused I got.

This is why I wrote the following article that will hopefully offer the answer to your main questions about LED lights for Aquarium plants.

Do Aquarium Plants Grow With LED Lights?

Aquarium plants do grow with specialized full-spectrum LED lights for aquariums. Full-spectrum means that the color temperature measured in kelvin lies between 5’000 – 6’500 kelvin. This is the color temperature of natural sunlight (clear sky). General LED lights do not have the right color spectrum to grow aquarium plants well. Specialized LED lights for plant growth are close to natural sunlight in color temperature, are affordable, create little heat, and fit common fixtures. 


Aquarium Plant Light Requirements

The right color temperature for LED lights is important

The right color temperature for LED lights is important


The color temperature for aquarium plant lights should lie between 5’000 to 6’500 kelvin for optimal growth.

This is the color range of natural sunlight (clear sky).

Light is a must to promote plant growth, irrespective of the type of aquarium plant you plan to grow.

Usually, aquatic plants rely on direct sunlight to absorb light. However, sunlight is likely to exhibit the growth of algae. 

Specialized LED lights for aquariums are an efficient, safe, and cost-effective solution.

Aquarium lights come in different hues, intensities, and technologies in the market that you can purchase depending upon the needs of your aquarium plants.

LED lights are durable, give off little heat, and are easy to control.


Reasons Why LED Lighting Is Ideal For Aquarium Plants

LED lights work great for aquarium plant growth

LED lights work great for aquarium plant growth

LEDs are a good choice as aquarium lights for plants because they have the following benefits:

  • Make your aquarium look aesthetically pleasing 
  • Penetrate deeply into the depths of your tank
  • Encourages higher plant growth at a low cost
  • They use common fixtures to promote growth in plants


Aquarium light vs grow light

Aquarium light vs. grow light

Aquarium light vs. grow light

Aquarium lights often are optimized for the most appealing look of an aquarium and usually contain more green. 

Plant grow lights on the other hand are optimized for plant growth and are higher in red and blue.

An important factor is the color temperature. 

The color temperature is measured in kelvin.

Natural sunlight (clear sky) lies between 5’000 to 6’5000 degrees kelvin.

Regular aquarium light lies between 5’000 – 8’000 kelvin.

Reef tank lights usually have 8’000 kelvin and produce a very white to blue light.

Full-spectrum plant grow lights lie between 5’000 – 7’000 kelvin, as close to natural sunlight as possible to enable optimal plant growth.


Factors to Consider Before Purchasing LED Lights for Aquarium Plants

The size of the aquarium plays is an important factor

The size of the aquarium plays is an important factor

LED lighting is an excellent choice as aquarium light for plants.

There is a wide variety of LED lights to choose from.

Please refer to this planted aquarium led lighting guide for the best tips to take into consideration when providing the best LED aquarium lighting for plants.

Factors to take into account:


Size of the Tank

Can LED Lights Grow Aquarium Plants? The Definite Answer 1

Whether the size of your tank is big or small, it has a direct impact on the needed lighting.

Let’s say you have bought an LED light that is of high intensity in general. However, the size of your tank is enormous.

Ultimately, very little light is likely to reach the bottom of the tank.

Consider Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) when purchasing aquarium lights.

It describes an area that can be used by organisms for photosynthesis such as aquarium plants and corals in this case.

The measured interval lies between 400-700 nm. The measurement unit is µmol/m2/s. This means micromol per second per square meter.

This describes the photons or light particles that are hitting a square meter per second according to Purdue University.

The ideal par level for aquarium lights lies between 15-120 PAR.

  • 15-30 PAR is most suitable for low-light aquarium plants
  • 35-65 PAR is best for medium-light plants
  • 65-120 PAR is optimal for plants with high light requirements


Coverage Area

This factor deals with the area the light covers in your tank. In simple words, are all aquarium plants in the tank being exposed to light or not?

To ensure that all plants in the tank receive light, you need to pick an LED lighting system with more expansive space and comprehensive coverage.  


The Spectrum of the Light

If you need a light that promotes maximum plant growth, pick a LED light with a spectrum that is close to the spectrum of sunlight which lies between 500-6500 kelvin.

Every plant needs a full spectrum for enriched plant growth.

Hence, you cannot go wrong if you pick a maximum or full-spectrum LED light fixture.



Presently, LED lights with timers are a must for aquarium plants. As much as the aquatic life in the aquarium needs light, it needs darkness too.

Therefore, purchase an LED lighting system that comes with a timer. This way, you will not have to worry about switching it on and off every day.

Consistent day and night cycles are important for aquarium plants.

Aquarium plants need 10-12 hours of light each day.


Aquarium Plants Type

There are low light, medium light and high light aquarium plants

There are low light, medium light, and high light aquarium plants

Understandably, there are multiple aquarium plants that you can pick to beautify your aquarium.

However, the decision on LED lights depends significantly on the type of plants you will add.

Generally, aquarium plants can be categorized into low-light, medium-light, and high-light plants.

For instance, if your plants are low light plants, you will need low light for them. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The aquarium plant type and the growth you want to achieve impact the led light you want to buy.


Characteristics of LED Light

Apart from strength and intensity, the following factors should be considered when picking the LED lights for an aquarium:


Does the LED light have enough power for your aquarium tank?  

A general rule of thumb is that an LED light should have 2 to 5 watts per gallon for a planted aquarium tank. So for a 60-gallon tank, you should have an LED light with at least 120 watts.

For reef tanks, you are looking at a needed wattage of 4-8 watts per gallon.


Does the LED come with some automatic features?

Some features could be gradual light cycles, timer, on/off function, dimmer, sunrise/sunset, 


What are the customization options that the light offers?

Customization options such as colors to choose from, different sizes, and fixation options.


Frequently Asked Questions About if LED Light Grow Aquarium Plants


Will Installing LED Lights Grow More Algae in the Aquarium?

Installing LED lights will not promote enhanced algae growth in your tank. The overgrowth of algae is usually due to excessive light exposure. Comparatively, the algae growth is higher with plasma, fluorescent, and halogen lights.


Which Light is the Best Light for Aquarium Plants?

Although the color is not of much concern, preferably go for white light to promote growth in your plants. White light is a full-spectrum light with a temperature that lies somewhere between 6500K and 7000K. It is a better pick to match sunlight. However, other shades like blue, green, and red also offer some benefits.


Will regular LED lights grow aquarium plants?

Regular LED light does grow aquarium plants to some degree. However, they usually do neither contain the right color spectrum measured in kelvin which should lie between 5000-6’500 kelvin. In addition, the wattage is often too low. As an example, a 60-gallon tank requires at least 120 watts.


What kind of LED lights grow aquarium plants?

LED grow lights specifically for planted aquariums with a color spectrum of 5’000-6’500 kelvin and 120 watts and more are growing aquarium plants.


Are LED lights bad for fish tanks?

LED grow lights are an ideal choice for fish tanks as long as they are specifically made for this purpose. Regular LED lights are not optimized for plant growth and do not produce appropriate lighting for an aquarium.


Do LED lights support plant growth?

All plants need light to conduct photosynthesis and therefore growt. LED lights for planted tanks support plant growth and are a better choice than natural sunlight for aquariums. Natural sunlight exposure often leads to unwanted algae growth.



We can conclude and state that LED lights are ideal to grow aquatic plants.

LED lights are cheap in their usage, produce little heat, and fit even small spaces.

When buying LED light for an aquarium, consider the size of the aquarium (measured in gallons), the plants you want to grow (low, mid, or high-light aquarium plants) as well if it is a fresh or saltwater tank.

All these factors impact the optimal choice of LED light for your aquarium.

Please remember that general LED lights are not fit for the purpose. You will need specialized LED lights for aquariums.

As a huge plant lover and lover of aquariums. What better choice than to own a planted aquarium with beautiful lush aquarium plants?