close up product shot of the aquaillumination Prime 16 light. It's a small square black case with a cluster of 16 led lights in the center. The led lights are different colors including white, purple, red, green, uv, and blue, and meant for saltwater aquarium coral

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.

You can control it with an app, and tune it to whatever spectrum or schedule you want.  I’m super appreciative that this light comes with a mount.  It’s a little janky but adjustable and works just fine… and it’s greatly appreciated especially when so many other brands make you purchase one separately… which is super annoying to me!

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. 

It’s like an Ecotech Radion XR15 with slightly wider spread.  Honestly the only reason I would ever recommend the XR15 or XR30 over their AI equivalent, is when you need heavy duty power.  the Radions can deliver a lot more bang for the buck for any high PAR dependent system, such as an SPS dominant tank.

Other than that, The Hydra and Prime are fantastic, and I’ve used maybe around 10 of them in my various tanks over the years.

But annoyingly, the AI and Ecotech lights don’t come with included mounts… so be sure to pick one up!

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.

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.

Now that I stop to write this, I should probably put these at #1 on the list.  They are just such a great value, and you don’t need any extra mount, and because they sit flush with the top of the tank, there is absolutely no light spill, so all of that PAR gets directed where it belongs!

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 that 95% of hobbyists will use!

Great light, great price, meant for smaller tanks for sure.  If you need something with more kick to it, check out the AI Blades or the Radions.

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