Using the right light for your reef aquarium is important for your long-term success because the photosynthetic corals inside rely upon the light to survive. Here are five things to look out for when choosing a reef aquarium light to ensure you make the best possible choice for your tank. 

Proven Light For Growing Corals

Use a light that has a proven track record for successfully growing corals in an aquarium. Talk to other hobbyists, read reviews, research the manufacturer; all of this is important to find out if a particular light is worth your while.

Most of the mainstream reef tank lighting companies are easily identifiable and make reputable lights. If you're looking to purchase a no-name or knock-off light fixture in hopes of saving some money, this research becomes particularly important. While some of these no-name reef tank lights will work just fine, there are also plenty of them that will only cause you headaches. 

Easy To Set Up Successfully

Since 99% of reef tank hobbyists are using LED lighting, you want to choose something that can easily be tuned to meet your particular needs. LED lights are leading the way in the world of aquariums because they are efficient and offer precision control over the color and intensity of the light. This is a double-edged sword because you can easily create an insufficient light spectrum or not supply enough output if you don't have the particular tools and experience to tune the light yourself.  

Many of the leading light manufacturers provide custom templates and preset spectrums making it easy for you to set up the light successfully. These preset programs not only ensure your spectrum is safe but also help to ensure the light is timed correctly, running for the appropriate amount of time each day at the right intensity. 

Using a light that lacks any sort of tuning assistance or presets can pose a real problem for new tank owners so you want to avoid getting yourself into a situation where setup guidance is obsolete. 

Can It Provide Enough PAR For Your Corals? 

Ensuring the light can provide the right amount of light is important.  You want to consider how big of an area the light can effectively cover and how much light it can deliver within this area. We break this down by looking at the spread and measuring PAR.  

Light manufacturers typically advertise the surface area (spread) a light can effectively cover which you can compare to your tank's dimensions. You can then use a PAR meter to measure the amount of light energy within that area to effectively tune the light output to meet the needs of the corals you are keeping. 

  • Soft Coral and LPS: 75 - 150 PAR
  • SPS coral: 200 - 350 PAR

There are a variety of different style LEDs on the market that utilize a variety of different lenses and optics to create a suitable spread of light. For larger aquariums, sometimes more than one LED fixture is going to be required to create a sufficient spread. 

Do You Like The Appearance - Color & Shimmer

The ideal appearance in the aquarium will be very personal for each of us. This comes in the way of how white or how blue the light looks, as well as how much shimmer the light creates.

Some hobbyists prefer the tank to look more natural, with white-colored light. Others prefer a much heavier blue appearance in the tank. The exact appearance can often be tuned using the light spectrum presets and controls. You can choose the appearance based on your personal preference without falling outside of the spectrum parameters that are appropriate for corals. 

Shimmer is what happens when the LED light reflects off the surface of the water.  As the water's surface moves, it creates moving columns of light throughout the tank which results in dynamic shadows and areas of higher and lower light. Much light you would see in nature as the sun's rays reflect and refract through the water column. Some lights create a much stronger shimmer effect than others and this is typically not something you can adjust. Do some research to find out what shimmer looks like and decide what kind of shimmer you want to see in your tank.

With the incredible variety of reef-capable LED lights on the market, there is no right answer in the way of appearance. Just choose something that can create the appearance you prefer.

Is It Within Your Budget?

Budget is a reality most all of us have to face and you don't have to break the bank to get a suitable reef aquarium light. From budget-friendly and mid-tier lights to high-end lights, there really is an option for everyone that will work to illuminate a reef tank successfully.  Some lights offer more features with more advanced technology while others offer a more straightforward approach.   

  1. Prism II LED Light Fixture - Planted - Aquamaxx
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  3. Radion G5 to G6 Upgrade Kit - XR30 Pro - EcoTech Marine
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