Lighting, Reviews

Best Aquarium Lighting for Beautiful Fish Colors

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by Jason Matthews

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Top Choices

Best Lighting for Fluorescent Fish – Blue & White LED Stick Light by GloFish

Blue and white light come together in one easy-to-use LED that brings a new spectrum of color to fluorescing tetras, bettas, and danios. 

Best Lighting for Warm Colored or Earth-Toned Fish – 24/7 Aquarium LED Light with Sunrise, Daylight, Moonlight, and DIY Mode by Hygger

Ideal for freshwater setups, Hygger’s 24/7 LED has a default mode that automatically changes to mimic natural sunrise, daytime, and nighttime lighting. 

Best Lighting for Reef Colors – Full-Spectrum Aquarium LED by Phlizon

With a full spectrum display of UV blue, purple, red, white, and green light, Phlizon Aquarium LED encourages healthy growth in coral algae and amplifies the spectacular color of tropical fish.

Choosing the proper aquarium lighting is a game-changer for helping plants thrive and achieving the ideal day/night cycles for the well-being of your underwater ecosystem. 

They’re also essential to creating your perfect ambiance in the tank, as different bulbs, intensities, and color temperatures can completely change the aesthetic.

Thoughtful lighting design can make the colors of your water-dwelling pets even more vibrant in freshwater and saltwater tanks. The right combination of colored bulbs illuminates a magnificent spectrum of multifaceted hues on your plants, decorations, and tank inhabitants. 

Unfortunately for newcomers to the hobby, the sheer variety of lighting options and technical specs can feel overwhelming. 

This guide to the best aquarium lighting for fish color will help you start by outlining three of our top picks for fluorescent, freshwater, and reef fish, as well as detailing some of the most vital look-fors when shopping around. 

Top 3 Best Aquarium Lighting for Fish Color Reviewed

GloFish Blue & White LED Stick Light

Sale
GloFish LED Light 20 Gallons, Blue and White LED Lights, for Aquariums Up to 20 Gallons
  • BLUE AND WHITE LED LIGHT Easily convert an aquarium into a stunning home for your GloFish fluorescent fish

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Made by the same company that made Neon Tetras a household name, the GloFish Blue & White LED Stick Light offers a low-cost starting point for experimenting for aquarists. 

While it doesn’t offer the same enhanced features as other options on our list, the simple design and bright bulbs mean you can go from dim and dull to a spectacular color display in just a few minutes. 

Product Specs

  • Day and nighttime lighting modes
  • Effective for up to 20-gallon tanks
  • Clip-on installation
  • Designed explicitly for fluorescent fish
  • Glass construction

This light comes in 5, 10, 20, and 55-gallon options, so size up if your tank falls between those parameters. You can also install multiple lights for tanks larger than 55 gallons, though water depth can tone down the vibrancy. 

Choosing the correct size ensures the entire tank is equally well-lit, without dark corners where plant life may languish compared to the foliage directly underneath the bulbs. 

Pros 

  • Very bright lights beautify fluorescent fish and neon decor
  • Blue-light only mode replicates moonlight
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy installation for single or multiple light strips
  • White lights are crisp with no yellow tinge

Cons

  • White lights tend to die quickly
  • No white-light only mode
  • Buyers note that it can be challenging to attach to certain tanks

Hygger 24/7 Aquarium LED Light with Sunrise, Daylight, Moonlight, and DIY Mode

hygger 14W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light, Sunrise-Daylight-Moonlight Mode and DIY Mode, Adjustable Timer Adjustable Brightness Fish Tank Light with Extendable Bracket 7 Colors for Planted Tank
  • 🐟DEFAULT MODE(24/7 Natural Mode): Gradient Orange light (sunrise) from 6 am to 8 am; Gradient White light from 8 am to 6 pm; Gradient Blue light (moonlight) from 6 pm to 10:50 pm; The lights are off in other time periods. PS: The 6-time points on the controller are used as a reference for the first running time setting. In other words, the overall default time period can be delayed or advanced.

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Hygger 24/7 Aquarium LED light is best for illuminating freshwater fish color because it offers a wide range of settings you can mix and match according to the species you have in the tank. 

For example, you can use the manual mode to select exclusively blue or white lights to enhance the contrast on patterned fish, like Endler’s livebearer, killifish, and fancy guppies. 

Product Specs

  • Metal and aluminum housing
  • Sizes available for 10-120 gallon tanks
  • Includes 58-215 LEDs in white, red, blue, green, purple, orange, and blue
  • 50,000-hour bulb life
  • Bracket installation
  • Built-in memory function
  • Default or DIY lighting modes
  • In-line controller
  • 817-2815 Lumens

If you would prefer to admire the full range of your fish’s colors as they change according to the time of day, this light is the right tool for the job. 

Most freshwater fish live in relatively shallow water, where plenty of natural light can reach them. 

Hygger offers the same experience for your tank inhabitants, with a default mode that replicates sunrise from 6-8 am with gradient orange lights, gradient white daylight from 8 am to 6 pm, and the soft blue gradient of moonlight from 6-10:50 pm. 

Pros 

  • Safely daisy-chain together lights 
  • A large variety of scheduling and color options
  • Waterproof
  • Extendable bracket installation fits most tank sizes
  • 10-stage brightness settings make customizing your tank lighting easy
  • Default mode autocycles through scheduled sunrise, daylight, and moonlight modes to mimic natural lighting
  • The adapter is a separate piece, so you can easily replace it without needing to buy new lights

Cons

  • Short power cord
  • Some users report that the switch stops working after a few months

Phlizon Full-Spectrum Aquarium LED

Phlizon 165W Dimmable Full Spectrum Aquarium LED Light Fish Tank LED Reef Decoration Light for Saltwater Freshwater Fish Coral Reef (20"x7"x2.4")
  • FULL SPECTRUM- Include UV Blue Purple Red White and Green Light.Blue UV light promotes plants to defense mechanisms.Purple light can be used to sterilize and protect fish growth. White and red Light is essential for coral reef growth. All these lights are properly matched to make your aquarium healthy and beautiful.

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Phlizon Full-Spectrum Aquarium LED doesn’t have as many settings as the Hygger model. Still, it’s just right for mimicking the deep, blue waters of marine habitats while providing the crucial full-spectrum white light your planted coral needs to thrive. 

Product Specs

  • Stainless steel housing
  • 20” L x 7” W x 2.4” D
  • Includes 55 LEDs in blue, purple, red, white, and green
  • 6 lbs
  • Dimmer knob
  • 50,000-hour bulb life
  • Suitable for up to 40-gallon tanks
  • Adjustable dimmer

The blue and white light controls truly set this light apart for saltwater tanks, which allow you to shift their brightness independently.

At night, you can tone down the white to admire nocturnal wanderers venturing out for their daily meal, then add more white in the daytime to watch a gorgeous, prismatic tropical display. 

The red, green, and orange bulbs allow you to create the perfect mix of coral-nourishing light while highlighting the luminescence of your firefish, flame angelfish, and clownfish. 

Pros 

  • It helps coral thrive while still providing excellent light coverage for aesthetics
  • Each bulb includes a lens for less light dispersion
  • Inexpensive for starter reef tanks
  • Systems are daisy-chain compatible for larger tanks and have universal sockets to combine lighting systems
  • A built-in fan dissipates heat 
  • It also works well for freshwater tanks

Cons

  • White light adjustments may be challenging for beginners and run the risk of burning coral
  • Only one size is available
  • Requires ceiling mounts

Aquarium Lighting Buying Guide

One of the best parts about being an aquarist is the opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem customized to fit your aesthetic. Before installing lights, you should keep a few factors in mind, as the best choice may change based on the specific needs of your tank.

Fish Color

colorful fish

When light hits different objects, they absorb some colors and reflect others. The mirrored parts of the spectrum are the ones we see. The best aquarium lighting for fish color will intensify those reflected colors while providing adequate white-light brightness. 

So, for example, warm-colored freshwater beauties like the electric yellow lab, flowerhorn cichlids, and cherry barbs will look stunning under red LEDs.

Cooler-toned Blue Gularis killifish, cobra guppies, and pygmy sunfish are a spectacle to behold under blue lights.

Plant Life

Planted aquariums have different needs than those that only house fish, as the foliage needs artificial light to photosynthesize effectively. Full-spectrum white light is your best option, providing the blue and red light that plant chloroplasts absorb to fuel food production. 

Lighting intensity, measured in lumens, also changes based on the types of plants in your tank. 

Light Level NeedsLumensExamples
Low intensity15-25 lumensVallisneria, Java fern, lemon bacopa
Medium intensity25-50 lumensAmazon sword, Brazilian pennywort, moneywort
High intensity50+ lumensDwarf hairgrass, microsword, dwarf water clover

A touch of green light can also help create contrast between your aquarium plants, though you should keep in mind that excessive amounts can make algae populations grow uncontrollably.  

Light Schedule

Fish, especially those that are exclusively nocturnal or diurnal, need regular day cycles to help regulate when they sleep, eat, and explore. 

For example, cardinalfish, soldierfish, and eels are popular saltwater inhabitants who rely on moonlight to know when it’s safe to emerge from their daytime hideouts. 

If the light setup you choose doesn’t include a built-in timer, you’ll need to purchase a separate product to ensure your fish’s routine isn’t interrupted and you have a chance to enjoy watching them.

Read more about how long to leave light on in an aquarium here.

Aquarium Depth

beautiful fish colors

Because water absorbs particular light, you’ll need to adjust the brightness of your white lights to compensate if you want the bottom of a particularly deep tank to look as brilliant as the top. 

Red light has an incredibly short wavelength and isn’t visible past 100 meters. While your tank certainly isn’t that deep, warmer earth tones will appear much less vibrant if the brightness of your white light isn’t strong enough to penetrate the depth of your aquarium. 

Heat Levels

The advantage of LED lights is that they produce very little heat, making it easier to maintain safe temperatures for your tank inhabitants. 

However, if you are interested in other bulb options like metal halides or fluorescents, be aware that they produce much more heat than LEDs. You’ll need to offset the increase in temperature with water chillers and keep a close watch on the thermometer. 

FAQs

Finding the best aquarium lighting for fish color can be complicated, especially when there are many factors to consider. These FAQs can help clarify some key things to keep in mind. 

Does light affect fish color?

While light does not affect the actual color of your fish, it can affect how your eyes perceive them, especially in deep tanks. 

What does blue light do for a fish tank?

Blue light enhances the color of the water in your aquarium and, because it mimics the appearance of moonlight, can encourage your nocturnal tank inhabitants to come out of hiding. It also magnifies the brilliance of cool colors, like green and violet. 

What does green light in a fish tank do?

Green light is not the best choice for your aquarium, as it encourages algae growth. That being said, it can make your tank plants appear more vibrant.

About

Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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