Top Five Beginner Refugium Lights

Updated 2024

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/and or HOB style refugia. If you’re planning a DIY macroalgae reactor, you’ll need LED strip lighting that can be wrapped around it.

I’ve personally used all of lights on this list, and they all work well for what they are. 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. Although that being said, a grow light will definitely do a better job.

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.

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.

These are in no particular order, but rather they are all better depending on your setup, so read on to find out which one will fit your tank best!

5. Kessil H360X LED Refugium Grow Light

The Kessil H360x Refugium Light is the priciest option on this list, but boy-oh-boy, does it grow some chaetomorpha!  It’s a beast, and BRS did some tests with it and found that it just grew macroalgae better.  That might not matter to you depending on your bioload, but if you have a need to remove a lot of nitrate and phosphate, this may be the light for you.

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.

This bundle comes with the A-Series mount, great for a sump, but you can also get the Gooseneck Mount if you need more flexibility.

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.

I’ve been using this light for the past year on my AquaReady HOB Refugium in tandem with the next light, and I love it.  It’s super rare to have something that fits a HOB refugium so well, that is also waterproof.  Wouldn’t you think more lights in a hobby centered around warm saltwater would be waterproof?  You’d be surprised!

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 in a small refugium.

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!

Or just do what I do… Leave it on all the time.  That works well too! 🙂

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.

So I have been running the two panel IM light for well over a year now on my AquaReady HOB Refugium, in tandem with the Tunze Eco Chic.  It works well, but there is one flaw.  The sticky velcro will eventually stop working.  Over time the heat from the light will warm up the glue that sticks the velcro, and the weight of the light will pull away.  So I’ve had to mount the light to my aquarium with a velcro zip tie, and that works fine.

2. Kessil H80 Controllable LED Refugium Grow Light - Tuna Flora

Designed for Refugiums, think of the H80 Tuna Flora as the little sister to the H360X. Whereas the H360 (#5 on our list) is an absolute best with tons of power, this refugium light works, but just not as well. But, unless you need a high-powered refugium light, why not save hundreds of dollars here?

To control its operation, you can 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.

I’ve used it and I like it… I’ve just been spoiled by the more expensive H360X.

1. AquaIllumination Blade Refugium Strip Light

New to the market since the last time I updated this blog, AI has made a great light.  It is IP66 rated, but don’t mistake that as waterproof.  I have dropped two of my lights in the water accidentally for a second, and they both crapped out.

But besides that, awesome light, high power, great value, and easy to mount.  AI Blades come in various sizes, and all of the smaller ones come with tank rests that mean you can just sit this light on top of your tank, not fancy mounting required.  Now that is a breath of fresh seawater!

And, this light is controllable via the mobius app, so for you fans of Ecotech and AI products, that means you can control them all in the same app. That also means you don’t need some sort of janky timer.  Set your schedule in the app, and make any adjustments as need be depending on your biolaod.

I am currently using three of these (not the refugium variety) on my IM 40 tank, and one of them (Grow, not Refugium) on my HelloReef tank. Just make sure you get the refugium specific Blade light.

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