The location of your refugium will determine the type of lights that will work best for it. While sump-based macroalgae refugia are most common, the hobby has been exploring other options like reactors or HOB setups.
The lights recommended in this post are ideal for sump or HOB style refugia. If you’re planning a DIY macroalgae reactor, you’ll need LED strip lighting that can be wrapped around it.
Among the options, I’ve personally used both the Kessil H80 and the Emmmsun Grow Light. While you can invest hundreds of dollars in a refugium light, the truth is, you can also find success using a simple clip-on fixture with a light bulb.
Macroalgae and plants, in general, respond to specific colors in the light spectrum. This is why there is a wide market for grow lights, as botanists use special lights to enhance plant growth rates.
All the lights mentioned in this post are considered grow lights. Currently, I prefer using the Emmsun Grow Lights, as they are affordable (around $30 at the time of writing) and come with a built-in timer. They work perfectly fine for my needs.
When choosing a light, ensure it comes with a suitable mount and that you can easily set it up to suit the location of your refugium, whether it’s a sump, reactor, or HOB style setup.
5. Kessil H380 Halo II LED Refugium Grow Light
The Kessil H360x Refugium Light is the priciest option on this list, especially when you factor in the additional expenses of the Mounting Arm However, Kessil is renowned for producing top-quality lights, so you can expect superior performance (albeit at a premium price).
This light features both extreme purple and extreme magenta spectrums, which you can adjust using a knob. You can manually turn it on/off daily or invest in an inexpensive digital timer to handle that task for you. Alternatively, you might prefer leaving it on continuously for 24-hour operation.
But you will also need to mount this light, as it only comes with a hanging kit, so we provided a link to that as well!
Keep in mind that the Kessil H360x Grow is a powerful light, so if you have a small tank with a small refugium, it might be more power than you need. Consider your tank size and refugium dimensions before investing in this option.
4. Tunze Eco Chic Refugium LED
The Tunze Eco Chic light is undeniably impressive! Its 100% waterproof feature allows you to mount it underwater if you wish to do so.
Designed as a grow light for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums, the Tunze Eco Chic offers flexibility in mounting. You can either attach it perpendicular to the edge or at a right angle using the provided magnet.
Measuring 12″ in length, it’s crucial to check if it fits your refugium. Luckily, it accommodates glass/acrylic up to 3/8″ thick, making it compatible with most tanks.
Compared to the pricier Kessils, the Tunze Eco Chic is a budget-friendly alternative that likely performs just as well. Although I haven’t personally owned this light, the positive reviews have piqued my interest, and I’m considering getting one for myself!
Setting up a timer is easy; you can simply purchase an inexpensive digital timer, and you’re all set to start cultivating your macroalgae. Enjoy the benefits of this fantastic light in your refugium!
3. Innovative Marine AUQA Gadget Chaetomax 2-in-1 Refugium LED
The IM Marine AUQA light is available in two sizes, making it an excellent choice for AIO tanks with rear filtration or HOB refugiums. You can easily mount it using the provided simple mounting arm, or use the velcro to attach it to the back of your AIO setup.
Packed with blue, red, magenta, and violet LED’s, this light, like others, is finely tuned for optimal macroalgae growth.
Don’t be misled by the pictures; these lights are compact. The double fixture on the right measures less than 6.7″ long by 3.7″ wide; the picture may give a misleading impression of its size.
For those planning to run a HOB refugium, the IM Marine AUQA light is a great choice. However, if you intend to have a refugium in your sump, this light may not be the best option. Nevertheless, it works well and is relatively affordable compared to the Kessils.
2. Kessil H80 Controllable LED Refugium Grow Light - Tuna Flora
While the Kessil H80 is not specifically designed for refugiums, it can still get the job done effectively. It features four unique spectral ranges tailored to support the life cycle of plants, making it a bit of an overkill for macroalgae.
To control its operation, you have the option to pair it with the Kessil Spectral Controller. However, a simpler approach would be to plug it into a digital timer, which will work just fine.
For mounting, you can either improvise a canopy mount or opt for the Gooseneck accessory to hang it from the side of your tank.
The Kessil H80 secures the #2 spot on this list because of its price; it is less than half the cost of the Kessil A360x!
1. Emmmsun Grow Light
The light I’m currently using works perfectly fine for me. It comes with a built-in timer that can be set for 3, 6, or 12 hours, along with a simple metal mounting clip and three adjustable heads. With a 5-star rating on Amazon and a price under $30 (at the time of writing), it’s an excellent deal.
Please note that this light is a grow light and not specifically designed for aquarium use, so it’s not waterproof. Be cautious if using it in a moist area or near water, as it may not survive exposure.
One feature I particularly appreciate is the 12-hour timer setting, which allows me to have the light on all night and sync it with the reverse cycle of my display lights.
You can also adjust the light’s brightness and change the spectrum between red, blue, and white. Personally, I keep all lights at 100%, but feel free to adjust it to your preference.
In summary, it’s a simple yet cost-effective solution that provides great value for your money!