Can Aquarium Plants Grow With LED Lights? (How To Select LEDs)

Image of aquarium plants under LED lights

Aquarium plants can grow with LED lights as long as the light intensity and spectrum are correct. LED lights are suitable for promoting the growth of aquarium plants because they can supplement the natural sunlight and emit the necessary light spectrum that is ideal for aquarium plant growth.

Let’s now see why LED lights are suitable for planted tanks.

Why Are LED Lights Good For Aquarium Plants?

LED lights come in various colors, such as red and blue, which are essential for plant growth.

Moreover, superior LED lights can penetrate up to 24 inches deep and thus help promote plant growth in deep aquariums.

Also, LED lights generate less heat and provide more light intensity than other aquarium lights.

Another advantage of LED lights is that you can adjust the light intensity as per the plant’s needs.

For example, some aquarium plants can thrive in low light, some need moderate light, and others need intense lighting to grow optimally.

Since LED lights offer control over the lighting needs, you can increase or decrease the light intensity that suits your aquarium plants.

Finally, the quality of LED lights doesn’t change with time, and hence you can use them for years in your tank.

4 Factors To Consider While Choosing LED Lights For Aquarium Plants

LED lights are available in various sizes, shapes, wattages, color temperatures, beam angles, and brightness levels.

So choosing a LED light that will suit your requirements becomes essential.

Given below are the four main factors to consider while buying LED lights for aquarium plants.

1. Aquarium Size

The size of the aquarium determines the intensity of light needed for growing aquarium plants.

For example, a big aquarium needs more lighting than a smaller one.

Aquarists often look for PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) while choosing a LED light.

The PAR measure indicates the intensity of a light source relative to its capacity for stimulating plant growth.

However, you can’t just choose a LED light based on PAR unless you consider the tank size.

This is because a LED light that is categorized as intense will provide moderate lighting if you have a deep tank.

Similarly, a moderate LED light intensity may create good lighting in a shallow tank as the light can easily reach the tank’s bottom.

So it’s essential to consider the aquarium size before finalizing the LED light for plant growth.

2. Plant Type

Plant type is another vital factor to consider when selecting LED lights for aquarium plants.

All aquarium plants don’t need the same amount of light to grow optimally.

Some plants need intense lighting, some need moderate lighting, while others can thrive even in low light.

So a plant that requires high light intensity will need a higher wattage LED light than a plant that needs moderate light.

Also, if you want to grow healthy plants, you should select a LED light that provides ample light for each plant.

3. Light Spectrum And Timer

Kelvin rating is used to determine the spectrum of a LED aquarium light.

Sunlight is around 5800 Kelvin. So it’s better to select a LED aquarium light close to the sun’s spectrum.

For this, you can rely on a full-spectrum LED light fixture.

Furthermore, aquarium plants need consistent light throughout the day.

So, you must ensure that you set up the light timer such that it automatically switches on and off the light according to the day and night cycle.

4. Light Spread

The spread of the light is another factor to consider while selecting a LED light for aquarium plants.

You need a LED fixture whose spread will cover the entire tank so that every plant gets enough light.

The best way to achieve this is by placing the LED fixtures at both ends of the tank.

You can place the fixtures near the middle of the tank if you have a small aquarium.

However, make sure that the light spreads evenly across the tank.

4 Tips To Grow Aquarium Plants With LED Lights

LED lights are popular among aquarists because of their long lifespan, high efficiency, and durability.

In addition, they also promote the growth of aquarium plants by providing a suitable light intensity.

Growing aquarium plants with LED lights is easy if you follow the below four tips:

  1. Set up the lighting schedule according to the plant requirements. You can purchase a timer that can handle the on-off settings.
  2. Keep the water parameters stable and monitor the pH level regularly.
  3. If you notice algae overgrowth in the aquarium than plant growth, you can lower the light intensity or lighting duration.
  4. Plants like a mid-day nap. You can keep the light off for some time in between and switch it on after some time. This gives ample time for the carbon dioxide to build up in the tank water. Also, plants get enough time to consume carbon dioxide throughout the day.

Signs Of Too Much Light On Aquarium Plants

Excess lighting in the aquarium can adversely affect plant growth.

If you increase the lighting in your aquarium, only the aggressive plants may cope and thrive.

Slow-growing plants will stagnate and not grow properly.

Given below are the main signs that indicate too much light on aquarium plants:

  • Plant leaves dry up due to the heat generated by the aquarium lights. This can even happen in normal lighting conditions. However, the chances of the leaves drying are higher in intense lighting.
  • Plant leaves start to curl, and the plant grows tall with very few leaves at the top. This happens because nutrients don’t form due to the decrease in chlorophyll production, resulting in stunted growth of the plant.
  • There are brown spots on the leaves. Leaves can even turn red or purple if exposed to too much lighting. This happens due to the breakdown of chlorophyll.
  • There are signs of bleaching on the aquarium plants. Bleaching in plants happens when there is insufficient chlorophyll or pigments that are needed to absorb the light and convert it into an energy source.
  • Algae growth on the plant leaves and other aquarium parts is another sign of intense lighting. Green algae result from too much light combined with a lot of nutrients in the tank water.
  • The roots of the aquarium plants start to rot if the artificial light in the tank is kept on for a prolonged duration.
  • Excess light can also result in the aquarium plant leaves turning yellow.

Related Questions

Can white LED light grow aquarium plants?

White LED light doesn’t promote the growth of aquarium plants. There is very little red light and actinic blue light in white LED.

So white LED lights are often used to illuminate the tanks than to grow aquarium plants.

Can reef lights grow aquarium plants?

Aquarists mainly prefer 50% white light with a high Kelvin rating and 50% blue light in reef tanks.

This is because blue light helps in photosynthesis and the flourishing of coral pigments.

The emitted blue light does help the aquarium plants to grow green and lush.

However, a combination of red and blue light is needed for the optimum growth of aquarium plants.

Is red light good for aquarium plants?

Yes, red light is good for aquarium plants as it stimulates plant growth.

Besides, red light encourages pigmentation in red plants, making them look redder.

However, you can’t use the red light in excess as algae also use red light for photosynthesis.


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