Top 5 Best Budget Aquarium LED Lights For Your Aquarium Plants

How To Find The Right Budget LED For Your Planted Tank!

Planted aquariums require a little more attention when it comes to lighting, fertilization and other factors. In this article I will outline my top 5 picks for planted tank LED's keeping a tight budget in mind. If you are interested in a list of high-end LED's that spare no expense, be on the look out for this article coming soon. 

All of the images below are clickable and will take you directly to the best place to buy your new LED, which ever you decide is best for you. Most of the LED's we are highlighting will be for standard sized aquariums, that is, pretty much any size 24 inches or longer. Some of the brands mentioned below make LED's for smaller nano aquariums. Here is an article highlighting my favorite nano tank LED's.  

What about HO T5 florescent bulbs? 

High Output T5 bulbs were long the preferred light source for planted aquarium keepers. I remember when I got started with planted tanks in about 2009 that was the main option, LED technology hadn't become mainstream in the aquarium world yet. Luckily, those days of high watt consuming fixtures are behind us and we can enjoy lower energy consuming sources of light with the same, if not better outcome. 

Why Does Your Planted Tank lighting Matter So Much?

Planted aquariums often require more than just simple lighting. If we want out plants to be successful, and in turn our entire planted tank system, then lighting needs to take priority. Luckily, it really just depends on the type of plants your are trying to keep. Here is an article I wrote on easy beginner plants that don't require super strong or expensive lighting. 

Lighting isn't the only factor when trying to grow a diverse selection of aquarium plants. Other important factors can be fertilization, CO2 supplementation, substrate and overall fish/waste ratio to water volume. It's easy to over complicate these concepts so if you are new to all of this, don't panic. Starting with a solid light source is a great first step on this journey. 

Photosynthetic Active Radiation also called PAR is a great way to measure an LED's ability to grow aquatic plants. Cheaper LED's tend to have a lower PAR output and thus a weaker ability to grow plants as the depth of your aquarium increases. If you have a 55 gallon aquarium or larger and want to grow more difficult plants, I will always recommend the later few LED's on our list for this reason alone. 

Let's now discuss my top 5 budget aquarium LED's for your planted tank no matter what you are trying to keep. 

Top 5  Budget Planted Aquarium LED's For 2021 And Beyond

#5 Nicrew Planted Tank LED

Nicrew Planted Aquarium LED

The Nicrew planted tank LED is a great starting point for someone just getting into planted tanks with a small budget. It's by far the least expensive option in this list and the results you will get from it will defiantly reflect that. I'd say its a good choice from someone who just has a few low tech easy plants like java fern, anubias and pearl weed in their tank. The Nicrew is one the cheapest LED's out there coming in at around $62 for a 48 inch fixture! It's hard to beat that price, but you definitely aren't buying the best light for your plants. You definitely get what you pay for in the LED world so keep that in mind.  

More Details:

Aluminum alloy shell is fairly stylish pretty durable. The full-spectrum array combines white, blue, red and green LEDs to be brighter than the most lights in this price range. 

Despite the low price tag, this light offers a color spectrum suitable for most low-tech aquatic plants.

Adjustable docking mounts make it easy to adapt to different rimless or rimmed tanks. This product is recommended for use over glass or acrylic canopy-covered aquariums

#4 Hygger 24/7 Planted Tank LED

Hygger Aquarium Plant LED Review

Hygger has been producing budget aquarium products for a while now and has grown to be one of Amazons top sellers for aquarium LED's. The 24/7 model is relatively new and offers a built in timer to easily simulate a gradual change in lighting intensity throughout the day.  This feature is fairly common in higher end fixtures with a bigger price tag so it's nice to see an LED in this price range have it! Coming in at around $66 for a 48 inch fixture, it's a great starting point for someone on a budget.  

More Details:

24/7 Natural Mode: Gradient Orange light (sunrise) from 6 am to 8 am; Gradient White light from 8 am to 6 pm; Gradient Blue light (moonlight) from 6 pm to 10:30 pm; The lights are off in other time periods. 

DIY MODE: Time + Color + Brightness can also be set to your liking. 

NEW UPGRADE: Waterproof and easy to clean, no need to worry even if it falls into the water briefly. The extendable mounting brackets can be adjusted in length and easily fit to different freshwater tanks both rimless and rimmed. 

Using high-quality led's this fixture has a long life, at least 50,000 hours. Built-in smooth metal aluminum housing, just use any towel to wipe it clean. 

Power: 42W, Size: 48”-54” White 6500K, Blue 455nm, Red 620nm, Green 560nm

#3 Finnex 24/7 HCL

Finnex HCL aquarium led

The 24/7 HCL is one of the newest planted aquarium LED's from Finnex. It features a nice pattern of full spectrum LED's capable of high output lighting that's great for most hobbyists planted tank. I've used several Finnex led's over the years and they are a great value with a 48 inch fixture only costing about $110. The HCL has a sleek silver design that won't stick out like a sore thumb on top of your tank. It's narrower that the previous led's and so the 48 inch version is best suited for narrower tanks like a 55 gallon. Two of them may be needed for densely planted 75 gallon tanks and beyond. 

More Details:

24/7 mode: fully customizable LED sunrise & Sunset for fish, plants and you!

Great balance of color spectrum and descent power for growing low and mid level plants. 

Fully controllable LED Fixture with 4 different bulbs - green, red, blue, daylight white.

Remote included with built in sensor, capable of selecting pre-programed weather events.

BONUS LED - Fluval 3.0 Plant LED

Fluval 3.0 Plant LED

The Fluval Plant LED 3.0 is a fan favorite that we just had to make room for on this list. It's been in the hobby for several years now and has provided plants with the light they crave! I've used this exact light on several planted tanks over the years and had great success. 

It has an integrated app that lets you control the intensity and timing of the light similar to the 24/7 modes on other lights we've discussed. With a price tag of around $210 for a 48 inch fixture, it's the most expensive of the LED's we're covering. That said, its a great LED and will last you a long time.  

More Details:

Features programmable, gradual 24-hour light cycle settings (sunrise, midday, sunset and night) Includes six unique band waves for full spectrum results Includes optional pre-set habitat light configurations like Lake Malawi, Tropical, and Planted.

Great PAR values from this fixture, capable of growing a wide range of aquatic plants in larger tanks.

#2 Aqua Worx LED

Aqua Worx LED

The Aqua Worx Orion is a sleek new LED offering from Buceplant. Think of it as a less expensive Twinstar with slightly less overall look, but not performance. Fantastic light for aquarium plants with impressive PAR values that you can check out by clinking the image or link below. With a 48 inch fixture costing around $180, it sits right in the middle of the higher end beginner lights. Definitely a good pick for 

More Details:

Featuring adjustable acrylic legs, these aquarium LEDs are securely mounted above and blend seamlessly with your planted aquarium. 

The white LED lights really make the green plants in your planted aquascape pop out. 

With Orion's optimal light output, the vivid coloration of freshwater fish species and aquatic plants can be viewed and appreciated. 

This aquatic plant LED light has high PAR values and is well suited for high tech tanks with CO2 and fast-growing plants that require high light levels. 

When used on low tech tanks, we recommend using a dimmer to prevent algae growth.  

Save 10% with code aquapros10 on buceplant

#1 Current Serene Sun Pro LED

Serene Sun Pro Aquarium LED

I use the Current Serene LED's and more than a few of my tanks. The SereneSun Pro is the newest high output LED offering from Current and it really shows! With PAR values that beat every other light in this price range, it's defiantly my number 1 pick for someone looking to expand their selection of high tech plants. Pair this LED with a CO2 kit and you'll be able to grow pretty much anything. With a cost of around $190 for a 48 inch fixture, you wont have to break the bank to get an LED that will last a long time and be appropriate for wherever your hobby goes. 

More Details:

SERENESUN PRO combines smart high output LED technology with over a million shades of HDR color to deliver eye-popping color rendition uniformly over your entire aquascape. 

FRESHWATER PLANT OPTIMIZED – High output smart LED chips combined with 90-degree spherical lenses produce high PAR for strong plant growth while enhancing the natural vivid colors in fish and plants. The adjustable RGB+W color spectra with true 660nm Red LEDs provide limitless spectrum and intensity combinations. 

WIRELESS CONTROL – Watch active dynamic weather effects like over your tank is just the beginning! With the integrated 24-hour timer function, you can also program what time to start a gradual sunrise, gentle sunset and both the color spectrum and intensity of your daylight and moonlight. 

EASY INSTALLATION AND UPGRADES - Taller sliding docking legs allow quick and easy adjustments for a wide variety of installations. With built-in background lighting and binaural audio control, SERENESUN LED PRO is immersive ready. Connect speakers to watch and hear an approaching thunderstorm or connect a background light for even more color therapy. 

30 DAY GUARANTEE - Current is so sure you’ll be happy with your purchase that they offer a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction. If for any reason you wish to return our product, they will promptly issue a refund.

Save 15% with coupon code aquapros at Current USA

Looking For More Customization?

Current Serene Backlight Kit

The Current Serene background lighting kit might be just what you're looking for. I fell in love with this add on for the obvious reasons. It's as simple as just plugging in the usb backlight to the existing controller that comes with any Serene LED and boom, you have a customizable backlight on your aquarium.

That's going to wrap up the review of the best budget planted aquarium LED's for 2021 and beyond. I'm sure new product will come about over the next few years, but lot's of these LED's have been around for a while and have withstood the test of time. Rest assured that which ever LED you choose, you're making an educated decision and you won't be disappointed with your incoming plant growth! 

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