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Will Aquarium Plants Grow Under LED Lights – The Answer

My aquarium always had fluorescent light, and I wanted to replace this with LEDs because they consume way well electricity. I had to find out whether this would work, so I did some research and here is what I found.

Quick Answer

Yes, aquarium plants will definitely grow under LED as long as the light emits in the right spectrum. Regular white LEDs are great and will allow your plants to thrive. Just make sure you know what brightness your plants desire.

I would now even recommend LED light over fluorescent light because it’s more consumes little energy, does not get as warm as and they last way longer! In the rest of the article I’ll briefly go over some essential points that will make sure you know the essentials about LED aquarium lighting.

What to look for when purchasing LED lights

Over the last couple of years LED lighting has improved drastically, and there are many different options available. If you’re switching from fluorescent lights you can buy LED beams that can replace your current setup and give the same effect.

You can also buy LED light like the one on the picture below, which looks more like a classic reading light but than extremely bright.

Just like we already briefly touched upon, it’s important the light can meet the plant’s needs by emitting the right spectrum or color temperature. In nature, plants get their light from the sun, and we want to mimic daylight in our aquarium.

Just looking at how much Kelvin your aquarium light emits is not sufficient. People often recommend a light temperature of 6500K because this is similar to the sun. This is great to see your fish, but when it comes to plant requirements it’s a little more complex.

According to a website called Aquaanswers the perfect grow light for your plants should include the following combination of wavelengths:

  • At least 50% red light in the wavelength range of 630 to 700 nanometers
  • At least 35% green light in the wavelength range of 500 to 580 nanometers
  • No more than 15% blue light in the wavelength range of 435 to 495 nanometers

It’s a combination of mostly red, some green and a little blue that will satisfy the needs of your plants best. If you’re buying dedicated LED aquarium lights you’re guaranteed to have a great growing light.

The right light for the right plants

A common misconception among people in our hobby is that more light is always better. Well, there are plants who require more light, and there are also plants who prefer low to moderate lighting situations. I’ve even made a list of plants that do great in low light. And yes that was a shameless plug I’m sorry.

The 6 plants on the list are:

  • Bucephalandra
  • Java fern
  • Java moss
  • Anubias
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Marimo moss ball

And believe me when I say you can create a beautiful, lush and stunning aquarium using just these 6 plants. You won’t make them happy if you blast those plants away with excess light.

For other plants you will need bright lights in order for them to do well. These high-tech and high-maintenance plants are super rewarding if you can get them to do well, and having powerful LED lights is necessary for this.

Signs of too much light on aquarium plants

When stem plants reach the top of your aquarium, the tips can turn red. Aquarium plants turning red is a sign of access light (tip, here is a list of plants that are supposed to be red!), but it won’t necessarily harm your plants.

Instead think of it this way, if you drive up the amount of lights your plants get, they want to grow faster. If the amount of nutrients and CO2 in your aquarium water can’t keep up, your plants will start to show signs of this imbalance. Examples are leaves dying off.

If your water is rich in nutrients and you’re adding additional CO2 in the water, your plants will grow faster. However, if you’re overdoing it all (including too much light) only the most aggressive plants are able to keep up. Slower growing plants will stagnate and attract a lot of algae.

Algae do great under a lot of light, which is not something you want.

This is also the reason why you should not place your aquarium somewhere where direct sunlight hits the tank for extended periods of time.

If there is too much light in your aquarium, an algae coating will cover your plant leaves and other ornaments/rocks/driftwood. Algae love bright light situations and can adapt better that regular aquarium plants.

In this case, getting some algae eaters or a bristlenose catfish can help you with part of the maintenance. Only buy new fish if you intend on taking care of those fish and your tank size and tank mates allow it.