Inspired from Cnet

Best Reef Tank Lighting of 2020

Here is our top-rated lighting systems for saltwater aquariums and reef tanks with a focus on coral growth and health along with how with easy the light is to use and set up for a successful Reef Tank. With so many options available we go through the most popular all the way to the best budget lighting systems available.

Selecting the perfect light for your saltwater aquarium can be a tough choice with all the options available on the market today. Everyone will want something that grows coral, but when it comes to features, form, and mounting options there is a wide variety of options. Since every saltwater aquarium is different in dimensions and construction, but also the inhabitants inside selecting the best light for your reef system can be a daunting challenge. Over the years with research into how corals grow and the lighting spectrums they need to thrive, companies like Ecotech, Kessil, and Aqua Illumination have refined their aquarium lights making it easier to be successful growing coral in a saltwater aquarium.

Since everyone has different requirements for what their ideal reef tank light will be, it is hard to select just a single one. LED Lights like the Ecotech Marine Radion XR30 series have the ability to produce almost any spectrum of light and with pre-set programs like AB+ that have been proven by large coral vendors to not only grow coral but allowing the coral to produce beautiful colors that every saltwater aquarium owner craves. Other lighting systems like the Kessil A360X Tuna Blue LED are super simple to use and have multiple mounting options that will work with almost every aquarium type. Every Kessil A360X light comes with onboard control knobs that let you customize the intensity and spectrum, but can also be upgraded with the Kessil Spectral Controller X that can control the light to produce a full-day’s lighting schedule. Kessil is known for using Kessil Logic, ensuring the lights are always producing an ideal spectrum that your corals can utilize for photosynthesis.


Many of the LED lights come as a module and can make lighting larger tanks a hassle if you do not have a hood or ceilings that allow you to hang or mount your light from, making a full-length fixture a pretty attractive option. By far the most popular technology that has come into the saltwater aquarium world is hybrid light fixtures. Aquatic Life Hybrid Light Fixtures include integrated T5 lights built into fixtures and mounting plates that can adapt to a vast majority of LED modules. We have found great success in using hybrid lighting systems for the past couple years and instead of needing to piece together multiple parts, the Aquatic Life Hybrid fixtures look great and are functional. Maxspect has been producing lighting fixtures for almost a decade now, and the new Razor X5 series is the culmination of years of research and refinement. The Maxspect Razor X5 is one of the few lights that can be fully programmed through the on-board interface and does not require an external controller. Thought they are lacking in some features that other lighting modules provide, the Razor X5 series can put out some serious light and should never be overlooked as an option to light your aquarium


For those with nano reef tanks or even pico reef tanks do not need a lot of lighting intensity and that is why the Aqua Illumination Prime HD lights make our list. Easily one of the most popular lights because they really tick all the boxes in what you may be looking for. Using the MyAi app, programming the Aqua Illumination line of LEDs is actually enjoyable and the small form factor makes them a great option to use on their own or to incorporate into a hybrid fixture.

At the end of the day, if you are going to be growing coral in your saltwater aquarium, the light is one of the top life support system choices you are going to make. Without photosynthesis, corals simply wouldn't survive and many of the “cheaper” lights you can find will produce light in your aquarium but may not have the proper spectrum or be able to achieve the intensities required by some corals.

Zero Compromise LED

Ecotech Marine Radion XR30 BLUE LED Light

Ecotech Marine's Radion XR30 BLUE G5 LED Lights are easily the most sought after lights for a reef tank. With years of experience and an active reefing community, Ecotech has refined the LEDs included with the Radion lights and are used by some of the top tier coral distributors like World Wide Corals. With wireless communication to any smart device and able to pair with the Vortech and Vectra pumps, the Ecotech Radion lights check almost every box.

Easiest To Use LED Light

Kessil A360X Tuna Blue LED Light

Using Kessil Logic, the Kessil A360X LED Lights will always have the proper spectrum making them a great LED light for beginners all the way to seasoned experts. With the recent introduction of the A360X WiFi Dongle, you can now have wireless control of the light and set custom daily programs that allows you to tune the light to your corals requirements. With a gooseneck and tank mounting brackets the Kessil A360X LEDs are a great way to make sure your tank will be full of thriving coral in no time.

Most Popular Hybrids

Aquatic Life Dimmable Hybrid T5 Lights

T5 light fixtures have been a staple in reef tank success, and now with the ability to incorporate LED lights into specially designed hybrid fixtures makes them an easy choice for any saltwater aquarium. The Aquatic Life DX-18 series comes with dimmable ballasts that can be controlled by almost any aquarium controller system, ramping the T5 lamps up and down to follow a daily schedule. The best thing about the Aquatic Life Hybrid light fixtures is their ability to be upgraded over time. If you are just starting out with saltwater aquariums and low light demanding corals the simple T5 fixture should be all that you need but if you find yourself wanting to upgrade you can easily add LED Modules to the center of the fixture to help increase the intensity and fine-tune the coloration.

Small & Powerful

Aqua Illumination Prime 16 HD Reef LEDs

Released in late 2019, the Aqua Illumination Prime 16 HD LED lights build off the already popular Prime HD series. Using the same LEDs as the Hydra series of lights, even though the Prime HD Lights have a small form-factor they put out a ton of light. The simple and intuitive MyAI application lets you control the lights with any smartphone without having to go through complicated wifi setup procedures. Prime HD LED modules are a great option for any reef tank that has a small footprint or anyone that wants to add supplemental lighting to a hybrid light fixture without having to connect a data line between every light.

Most Economical

Maxspect Razor X5 Series

Maxspect produces some of the easiest to use LED light fixtures available and with the on-board controller interface you will not need any additional hardware to create a custom daily light schedule for your reef tank. Every Razor fixture includes a tank mounting kit making them super easy to implement on almost any style aquarium and can be easily adjusted to fit your tanks width perfectly. The simplicity of the Maxspect Razor X5 makes it a perfect light many different applications from display tanks to coral quarantine tanks.

Hands Down Favorite Lighting System

Aquatic Life Hybrid T5 with Kessil A360X LEDs

As of today, the most sought after lighting system for a saltwater aquarium is easily the Aquatic Life Hybrid with Kessil A360X Lights. The fixtures work on almost any style tank from densely packed SPS tanks to low light demanding soft corals. Using T5 lamps ensures you will always have the proper spectrum for the corals, where the Kessil A360X LED lights lets you fine-tune the color, but also gives you the ability to add more light intensity throughout the entire tank, or in select parts of the aquarium by adjusting how many and the positioning of the A360X LEDs inside the fixture making them perfect for any type of coral no matter what size tank you have.