This page contains affiliate links.  All that means for you is that if you click on one of my links and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.  This helps me keep this content 100% free!  But rest assured, I only recommend products I know and trust! Happy Reefing!

Top Five Beginner LED Lights

Updated 2024

A lot has changed in the five years since we published this post, so we thought it was time for an update.  All of these lights work great, some are better for coral growth, while others are better for fish only systems.  And they span the gamut from super affordable to the top of the line Radions.  Take a peak below and happy reefing!

5. Maxspect Jump 65W LED

I have used this light, and it works just fine.  Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.  Here are some specs from the manufacturer.

Experience the next level of lighting technology with the Maxspect Jump MJ-L165. Unlike other LED systems that compromise efficiency when adjusting color spectrums, the MJ-L165 boasts proprietary technology that maintains 95-100% efficiency across all color profiles. This means seamless transitions between spectrums without sacrificing performance.

Control your lighting system from anywhere in the world with the Syna-G Cloud Smart Control App, available for both iOS and Android devices. Easily customize color profiles, adjust intensities, create lighting schedules, and even simulate lunar cycles with just a few taps. Plus, the app allows for group control of multiple fixtures and sharing of lighting configurations with friends and family.

Not only does the MJ-L165 offer advanced control options, but it also comes with an adjustable stand for easy positioning. And with a 1-year manufacturer warranty, you can have peace of mind knowing your lighting investment is protected.

Specifications:
– Model: MJ-L165
– Power: 65 W
– Coverage: 12-24″
– Weight: 1.8 lbs
– Dimensions (excluding stand): 8.5″ x 7″ x 1.5″
– LED Array: 42 Total
– 6x Hyper Red
– 6x Green
– 6x Blue
– 6x Warm White
– 6x Cyan Blue
– 4x Deep Blue
– 2x Ultraviolet 390nm
– 2x Violet 410nm
– 2x Royal Blue
– 2x Cool White

4. AI Hydra 32 HD

This is a great light.  I’ve used it on many tanks over the years.  It’s frustrating that it doesn’t come with a mount, so be sure you buy that separately.  Here are the details from the manufacturer.

The Hydra 32 HD represents a significant leap forward in reef lighting technology. With a redesigned aesthetic and improved efficiency, these lights deliver enhanced performance and coverage for your aquarium.

More Color, More Spread, More Power, and More Refined: The Hydra 32 HD features more LEDs, more PAR, and improved optic design, resulting in a wider spectrum and more even light distribution. Its thinner form factor and multiple mounting options ensure a sleek and customizable setup for your tank.

Resilient Construction: While not waterproof, the new Prime and Hydras boast improved water resistance, making them better equipped to withstand the moisture-rich environment of reef keeping.

Dedicated Moonlight Channel: Enjoy independent moonlighting with the addition of a dedicated moonlight LED, simulating the natural lunar cycle.

Easy Control: Utilize the free MyAI app for quick and simple control of your lights, with additional control options potentially available in the future.

Optics and Output: Experience improved PAR, color mixing, and spread with more LEDs and TIR lenses shaping the light’s output for enhanced efficiency and color rendition.

Coverage and Mounting: Achieve effective spread and depth with recommended mounting heights, and choose from various Hydra Mounting System Components to find the perfect setup for your aquarium.

Specifications:
– Dimensions: 7.28″ L x 5.375″ W x 1.42″ H
– LED Channels: 7(+1)
– Number of LEDs: 32(+4)
– Power Consumption: 90 watts
– Optical Reflectors: TIR (total internal reflectors)

What’s Included:
– 1x Black Aqua Illumination Hydra HD 32 Light Fixture
– 1x Aqua Illumination Hydra HD 32 Power Supply

Here is the mount I would buy fyi :-).

AI Hydra LED Flex Arm

3. Ecotech Marine Radion XR15 G6 Pro

These are considered the top of the line lights on the market, and have been for a decade.  Wait, probably more than a decade now.  But with top quality, comes top price, so be prepared to pay up! Just like it’s less expensive bretheren, the Ecotech Radion annoyingly doesn’t come with a mount, so be sure to pick up something like this RMS Single Mounting Kit or this RMS Hanging Kit if you want to dangle the light from the ceiling.

Here are the details from the manufacturer.

Features and Improvements to the Radion G6

Radions are the standard in aquarium lighting for a reason. Each generation has built upon the successful results of the last, incorporating the latest in design and technology to bring us a state-of-the-art light that blends proven results with greater ease of use. Ecotech Marine has spent significant time and effort in developing and testing lighting programs, such as the popular SPS AB+, that deliver maximum results from their fixtures and bring out the best in our corals. The Radion G6 incorporates a new Hemispherically Edge Illuminating optic system with redesigned LED placement to deliver beautiful shimmer, superior color mixing, even PAR, incredible spread, and even adjustable hues!

  • New HEI2 Optic System
  • Super-Wide 126.3 Degree Spread
  • 395nm Diodes for Ultimate Fluorescence
  • Rebalanced Color Channels and LED Mix
  • Even PAR & High Output
  • Moonlight & Weather Simulation
  • Proven CoralLab AB+ Spectrum
  • Fully Programmable
  • Wireless Mobius App control

Compact & Sleek, High-Quality Design

EcoTech Marine aims to produce the most minimally intrusive reef aquarium equipment available. The G6 continues to showcase Radion’s sleek styling, small footprint, and quiet fan with revolutionary heatsink. The Radion boasts a technologically superior design with premium quality components and unmatched customer support. Better yet, the Radion G6 is still backwards compatible with the extensive mounting options and accessories available to the previous generation of Radion, so you can still customize your lighting experience to fit your individual aquarium needs.

Mobius Control

More colors mean more channels, and with Mobius, programming and controlling your G6 is even easier and faster. Mobius means almost instant setup and programming. Local wireless control and programming can be accomplished with either current OS version iOS or Android smart device. Experience the ultimate app-based control at your fingertips– no separate controller purchase required!

With the Mobius smart control platform, you can connect, control, and program your entire collection of EcoTech equipment easily with your iOS or Android smart device. That means centralized control of pumps, lights, dosing, and flow without needing to purchase expensive modules and controllers. The app’s visual interface is intuitive and simplified– the way aquarium automation should be. You can easily download Mobius for free from the App Store or Google Play.

LED Details

  • 8x Cool White
  • 16x Royal Blue
  • 8x Blue
  • 2x Red
  • 3x Green
  • 2x UV (395nm)
  • 1x UV (405nm)
  • 2x UV (415nm)
  • 4x Violet (430nm)
  • 4x Warm White

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 7″ L x 7″ W x 1.5″ H
  • Weight: 3.5 lbs
  • Cable Length: 13 Feet
  • Power Input: 100-240VAC 1.3A 50/60Hz
  • Variable Usage (MAX): 105W
  • Recmmended Mounting Height – 8-10″

What’s Included?

  • XR15 G6 Pro Radion LED Fixture
  • Power Supply
  • Power Adapter Cable
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Eyelet Mounts
  • Quick Start Guide

2. AquaIllumination Blade Coral Grow LED Light

Love these lights and currently am running them on both of my tanks.  I have three of these over my Innovative Marine FOWLR tank, and one that came with the HelloReef Kit. Value for money is unbelievable, and get this… You don’t need to buy extra mounts!  Yep, you can just use the included tank rests and put them right on the rim of your tank!

They come in a few different color varieties, but I recommend the Grow version for most tanks.

Here are the deets from the manufacturer:

  • Available in 7 different sizes from 12 to 66 inches
  • Balanced blue and white spectrum optimized for coral photosynthesis
  • Mounting solutions for every tank need
  • Cluster group LED diodes with 95 degree spread 
  • EdgeFieldTM Optics with even PAR and smooth color mixing
  • Minimal shadowing and natural shimmer
  • Great alone, stacked in parallel, or as supplemental fill lighting
  • IP66 Water Resistance
  • Passive, noiseless cooling
  • Smart control via myAI or Mobius apps
  • Low profile Tank Rest included or Mounting Clips included

Color Your Way

This is far from your typical strip LED! The Blade maximizes color and efficiency, incorporating exclusive EdgeFieldTM Optics to deliver even PAR, smooth color mixing, exceptional 95-degree spread, and a natural shimmer effect in your aquarium. Its wide-angle and modular cluster LEDs allow light to wrap around high points in your tank to provide a smooth blanket of illumination with minimal shadowing. When you combine 3 or more Blade strips together, the result is shadow elimination and even light distribution comparable with traditional T5 fixtures, but with greater efficiency and at a fraction of the cost! You can also use the Blade with any existing light fixtures as supplemental or fill lighting to enhance light coverage and reduce hotspots.

Available Color Spectrums:

The Coral Grow model brings a powerful and balanced blue and white growth spectrum with output in the deep blue through blue range (400-500nm) to address the photosynthetic needs of corals. Use the Grow for maximum PAR output per foot, and the Glow for maximum fluorescence, or mix them together and get both. Peak performance is best achieved in a 2:1 Grow to Glow ratio, but one of each is perfectly acceptable when less light is needed.

Each AI Blade LED Strip includes roughly one light cluster group per foot of fixture length. Tight grouping and balanced diode placement contribute to the incredible balance and shimmer that the Blade platform delivers. The Blade Coral Grow includes the following 24 diodes per cluster group:

  • 12x Royal Blue
  • 6x Cool White
  • 6x Blue

Mount Your Way

The AI Blade is designed for a myriad of mounting solutions to satisfy any system. Choose from a Tank Rest, Elevated Tank Rest, Hanging Kit, Hybrid Mount, or HMS Adapter Arm to find the perfect mounting solution for your set up.

  • Tank Rest – Included with all Blade lights up to 39″, this low-profile mount sits directly on top of your tank and extends up to 4.5 inches on either side of the fixture. 
  • Mounting Clips – Included with all Blade lights over 39″, these clips are compatible with the AI HMS Single Arm Mount and HMS Hanging Kit rails.
  • Elevated Tank Rest – An attractive and sturdy tank mount for both rimmed or rimless tanks. The Elevated Tank Rest increases light spread and allows for easier access into the aquarium when compared to the standard Tank Rest.
  • Hanging Kit – Made from high-quality brushed aluminum with a black finish, the Hanging Kit provides an elegant solution for suspending your Blade above your aquarium. The Hanging Kit also allows you to mount 3, 4, or 6 light bars in parallel for increased coverage and streamlined aesthetics.
  • Hybrid Mount – A mounting solution designed to combine Blade strips with one or more AquaIllumination Hydra or EcoTech Radion pendant fixtures. The best of all worlds, rolled into one!
  • Custom Mounting – If none of the above mounting options suit your fancy, the Blade also includes M8 mounting threads at each end, enabling you to easily create a custom mount with endless possibilities. 

Control Your Way

The Blade LED can be wirelessly controlled via iOS and Android devices on either the MyAi or the Mobius app. With the app, you can customize your spectrum intensity and set custom schedules for each light, or just select from one of the in-app templates available. Both apps can be downloaded for free on Google Play and the App Store. Each Blade LED also includes onboard controls for cycling through spectrums.

Blade Fixture LengthRecommended Tank SizeMounting
12 inchUp to 21 inches

Tank Rests Included

21 inch21-30 inches
30 inch30-39 inches
39 inch49-49 inches
48 inch48+ inches

2x Mounting Clips Included*

57 inch57+ inches
66 inch66+ inches

 

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 2.8″ W x 0.7″ H; available in 12.1″, 21.1″, 30.1″, 39.1″, 48.1″, 57.1″, 66.1″ lengths*
  • LEDs (per cluster): 6x Cool White, 12x Royal Blue, 6x Blue
  • Power Consumption: 20-140W at full power (model dependent)
  • Universal Input Range: 100-240V AC / 50-60Hz
  • Cable Length: 9.8′ (3m)
  • PSU Regulatory Compliance: UL, CE, & RoHS
  • Water Resistance: IP66 Rated

*tank rest adds up to 9 additional inches in length

What’s Included?

1x AI Blade Coral Grow

1x Power Adapter

1x Blade Tank Rest Mounting Solution (included with fixtures up to 39″) or 2x Blade Mounting Clips (included with fixtures over 39″)

1. AquaIllumination Prime 16 HD LED Light

Okay, let’s be real… These AI Primes are not my favorite light.  They are a good light for a good price.  But, they are my top choice when recommending a light for a beginner.  A good value for what you get, great for small tanks, but guess what… Doesn’t come with a freakin’ mount!  AI, I get it… not providing a mount means you can keep the “price” down and you “give more options” for how to mount.  I call BS on this one!  Just include a mount! Regardless of my annoyance, here are the manufacturer details!

Balanced Power and Spread for Optimal Reef Tank Lighting

Discover the AquaIllumination Prime 16 HD Series, designed to enhance your aquarium with vibrant colors and powerful illumination. Control is easy with the myAI or Mobius apps, allowing you to adjust and customize the light spectrum and photoperiod to your preference. No longer are you limited to using a fixed amount of power per channel. The Prime 16 HD dynamically adjusts power available to each color, borrowing power from the colors you’re not utilizing. The result is the most vivid spectrum your tank has ever seen.

Simple Built-in Control

All AI devices include smart control standards. Use the myAI app on any iOS or Android device and is probably one of the easiest pieces of software to get up and running. The programming can be as simple as using a pre-defined cycle all the way to multi-point programming that lets you customize the intensity and spectrum throughout the day. The app is fully expandable from a single light up to more than you would ever need on your reef tank using the master/slave programming, you only need to program a single light.

Power Output

With a spread of 24″ x 24″, the AI Prime 16HD has a peak PAR of 100µMol at a depth of 24 inches, perfect for the small to medium reef tanks. Drawing a maximum of 55 watts from the wall, it follows in the family’s efficient footsteps.Optics

The AI Prime 16HD comes standard with TIR lenses giving you the best balance of power and spread. Our lens optics are custom designed, boasting greater than 90% optical efficiency and including a diffuse exit surface to provide improved color blending.

Mounting AI Prime Lights

There are multiple mounting options available from hanging to tank mounting kits. The AI Flex Arm gives a lot of adjustabilities, where the hanging kit option gives a sleek minimalistic appearance to the tank, and in most cases, the environment around your aquarium will help dictate which mounting option will be best for you.

AI Prime Flex Arm

AI Prime Tank Mounting Arm

AI Prime Hanging Kit

Prime 16HD Reef LED Specs:

4x Cool White

4x Blue

4x Royal Blue

1x Photo Red

1x Green

1x Violet

1x UV

1x Moonlight

Specifications:

Dimensions – 4.88″ x 4.88″ x 1.34″

Power Consumption – 59W @ max output

Power Cable Length – 20ft

What’s Included?

1x Aqua Illumination Prime 16 HD Black Body LED Light

1x Prime 16 HD Power Adapter

1x Quick Start Guide