Lighting Reviews Top Picks

Silister Trench

I’ve been trying out a handful of LED’s for a few months now, making sure each tank is given an opportune regiment of fertilizers with proper filtration and low stocking to see just how well some of these “Cheap” or “Knock-off” LED’s hold up. I’d like to take a moment to explain why first. Well… it’s because in both old and new threads when members begin threads concerning LED’s our community seems to have a set of generic responses that we adhere to a straight forward question of: “Do you want High/Med/Low light plants?” That’s an excellent question intended to narrow down what seems like an almost endless list of lights sold in LFS (local fish stores), and even more so online given the two biggest e-commerce websites.

While the question is a strong one in determining what light will suit your needs our responses are generic, however, rightfully so. Why? Because once upon a time we browsed LED’s, then bought one and it worked in a way that met our expectation and we want to share our success with others. If you want to grow Anubias, Java [whatever], and most mosses well then essentially a Low Light/Low Tech setup is what the member inquiring is after, which is followed by our generic reply: “A Finnex Stingray is the light for you!” If you want want high light, a carpet, or enjoy trimming plants weekly then our response differs ever-so-slightly to a “Finnex Fugeray Planted +”, which in my personal opinion is a horrible solution to a lighting problem when you’re just starting out, even if the member new to LED’s or plants desperately needs that IwagumI carpet and has the funds to swing for the light + Co2 system every single one of them require. Having the level of PAR one of the Fugeray Planted + LED fixtures is capable of emitting in most entry level tanks is like taking a firecracker, lighting said fire cracker, then passing it to someone who’s never seen one. Despite my described accident waiting to happen, a lot of our LED light solutions are the same.

Low Light / Stingray
Medium Light / Stingray (what the measurement of PAR is actually on most tanks)
High Light / Finnex Planted +

I hated going with the Norm, so below is a review of some cheap solutions I quickly found on eBay as well as others. All are rated based on my overall experience with ***** up to 5 with 5 being perfect In my Opinionated Rating or o/R system.

* Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Freshwater Plant Extendable -

This light caught my attention almost right away. At first glance it seems like a cheap alternative to a stingray, and I will say that having 2x of 24” models above a 20 Gallon High take DID grow plants, despite having nowhere in the description found a single mention that this LED fixture was intended to grow plants.

GOO It grew mosses and my Black Skirt Tetras really looked great in the light, giving off an almost shimmery violet effect at times. It was a wonderful light for fish. The fixture itself is a nice design, and the timer is pretty awesome.

BA This light instantly stood out as a cheap alternative, but for $24 (another $14 - $20 additionally if you want to buy the timer too) it’s not a great deal. It’s low power (High Output, they claim) LED’s are dI'm which was why I had to use 2x to illuminate a take 24x12x16 inches. Even on very shallow tanks it’s hard to believe you’ll be able to grow anything but the lowest of light plants.


Another design issue I instantly hated was how few “High output” LED’s there actually are in the fixture. The spacing is so large if you have a high aqauscape you’re actually able to see every color as a separate, unblended LED that doesn’t look well at all. Also, It’s moonlight setting is more violet and “OFF” looking than any other light I’ve seen, but not more off than the 10K lights themselves. With so many better made lights it’s pointless to waste your hard earned money unless you’re planning a fish only display and a huge tank. This is a cheap light. It looks cheap, it acts cheap with strange flickering and you’re better off spending an extra $20-$30 for a light that you won’t have to upgrade to in a year anyways.


** BeamsWork DA
This is a light I knew I wouldn’t like. Just like with the FSPEC model it’s white lights are 10K lights more suited for reef tanks or Cichlids (Not that you’d ever be able to keep a reef tank with it) and it has Blue Actinic lights.

GOO It’s easily twice as powerful as the FSPEC series in terms of lumens and PAR for some reason, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’d be growing anything but low light plants in most tanks. This light is built much better than the first BeamsWork I listed with a sleeker design and a lower profile on the tank. It’s far superior cosmetically, and the blue moonlights look okay… I guess?

BA If you’re looking for a cheap planted tank light stay far away. It’ll grow plants - this is for sure - but in the 10K Cool Whites everything is bland and colorless in my opinion. It honestly has all the BAD I listed for it’s FSPEC counterpart except it only comes with white and blue lights, so you don’t have spotlights of green and red at the surface of your tanks.

For the price, once again there are better alternatives.


AND THE UGLY CONCLUSION:

At this point I was going to test a few other lights, namely Mingdak, the EVO line and possibly a few others when I realized two things: BeamsWork makes a lot of the lights I considered asking to borrow from people like EVO and what was the point? After seeing the performance, illumination and all things considered I was able to scroll through seller’s items and easily determine what was junk, what was okay… and what might work. This immediately sliced anything I wanted to test in half.

YES! There are success stories and people grow nice tanks with these lights, but the actual lights they are using are hard to find and just as expensive as a quality light. They almost all use the 10K lighting, have horrible LED spacing and are cheap; AE-Shops, Mingdak, Green EVO, Zeiger ECO… Expensive - all of them - when you consider you’re buying junk.


*** CFL Lighting - NOT LED obviously
Those twisting lightbulbs you see in lighting aisle at the store? Yup! These are actually pretty easy and you can run two or three above tanks, then with a decent reflector you have warm white that’s intense and pleasant.

GOO You can light an aquarium pretty cheap with a DIY attitude and a little bit of electrical know-how. The light is pleasant, and it definitely works.

BA There is honestly not much bad about this method, other than if you get poor reflectors your light spread can actually shine more outside the tank than down, penetrating the depth of your water. The only other bad I can consider is your plants aren't rendered by these lights in any flattering sense, but not in a bad way either.

** Finnex Stingray
I only have the clip on version, so it’s not the best of reviews. The concept is the same regardless.

GOO Finnex isn’t the most expensive, but for the price it’s top-notch. As much as I hate the generic LED suggestions we offer I can’t disagree. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do and what’s more important for me is the 6,500K-7,000k spectrum almost all are. It makes both fish and plants look wonderful. This light is no exception, and usually on shallower tanks it’s running 30 micromul of PAR which is considered low/medium lighting.

BA This light makes no sense to me. Truly. It’s overpriced for a low light fixture, featureless and outclassed by almost any other light Finnex makes. When I bought a clip on it was because all I’d ever known was Finnex and I got it for a good price. Having said that, I must have gotten one that was bunk because two of the white lights I just noticed were dI'm and flicker. This isn’t necessarily something that deems this light bad because I have two other Finnex lights that are remarkable and perfect almost two years later, so yeah… I got a bad one. It happens.

*** Finnex Fugeray Planted +
This light is often a go-to suggestion for high light tanks. I bought one and it’s wonderful, but again… why do they even sell the Stingray or this light anymore? It’s outclassed, outperformed save for a single viable feature only this light in the Finnex line up has as far as I know. I may be wrong?

GOO This light has 660 nm RED LED’s. So what? That doesn’t even mean anything to most of us, and for the rest of us we just don’t care. It’s considered an optimal color VS other RED LED’s for photosynthesizing, marketed for INTENSIVE PHOTOSYNTHESIZING which in itself makes ZERO sense. I mean can anyone tell me what that means? It's listed on almost every seller's description and for the life of me it means nothing that I can figure out. Speaking very blunt, it doesn’t mean much... except this red lighting (the fixture) give a wonderful visual color to red plants that so many of us love. Not only that, but it’s a pretty good light for most people’s needs and that’s not even mentioning how modern and sleek the actual fixture looks! There’s a moonlight feature if you’re into that...

BA Where to begin. Overpriced in my opinion. For wider tanks you’ll most likely need 2 of these to cover the whole bottom due to these LED’s having a very poor spread of 120 degrees and the actual fixture being very narrow. They could have canned the whole moonlight feature and gave this light a dimming ability and I’d probably pick it far above the next two, but it’s inability to change intensity without raising the light (which takes away from the fixture) makes it less useful in my opinion. The moonlights are cute, but ultimately a waste of what could have been a better feature.

Like I said, for someone new to plants this fixture is High Light and a lit firecracker, which is why I disprove with it being suggested generically and here’s why: You can EI dose to an extreme level where you poison your shrimp with copper and have nitrates off the chart, can inject Co2 to a level where you’re fish will perish, can even neglect vacuuming detritus for a long time with no ill effects in terms of algae in a tank that’s cycled as long as these are short term mistakes but the #1 issue is not maintaining a balance with lighting being the root of all evil. For those who have never found a balance or needed to in their experience the level of PAR the Planted + emits is only going to be a nightmare, especially if you’re a slow learner. Okay, not ALL people will experience my theoretical scenario of Algae Farming for Noobs but if you have a light that’s absolutely nuking your unbalanced tank you either want to fix it and you spend hours (then weeks) altering it here and there or you just give up. Either way, it’s wasted time and not fun when you can’t seem to do anything right to get rid of all that algae.


**** Finnex Planted + 24/7
GOO This is a gem in my experience. Both people new to plants, and those experienced can benefit greatly from this light. Just like all the Finnex lights it looks stunning both in the water and outside of it. in comparison the LED’s have a better spread than the planted +, giving more coverage side-to-side. It’s PAR level is on par with it’s brother the Planted + with only a slight difference that will not matter. You’ll be able to grow high light plants with both. The benefit of this light and why I think it outclasses the other Finnex lights is the remote where you can preset light output and adjust color, meaning you can grow low/med/high light plants given the right tank just by adjusting it.

BA The IR sensor is ugly. I’ve never been able to grow anything better than algae while on the 24/7 feature, making it useless to me. So yeah, their huge 24/7 selling point is nothing but junk. It lacks the Planted + TRUE 660 nm RED LEDs, but red plants still look wonderful. Almost all of it’s features are gimmicky.

This my pick for almost anyone just starting out - whether it’s a highlight 20 G Long, or a low light 20 G High. Because of it’s adjustable settings you can bring the intensity to the level you need it to be. Why is this important for people new to the planted tank? While you can have all the nutrients for a carpet in your soil, even dose via the water column you then have reduced the limiting factor for plant growth and ultimately the growth of algae to Co2 Levels and Lighting. If you buy a light that isn’t capable of dimming you must increase Co2 levels to meet the demand of the light, balance, possibly adjust nutrients. In high light this hard-to-explain balancing act is quick to topple and unbalance causing all sorts of problems with deficiency and algae. If you’re able to knowingly give a limitless supply of Co2 and Nutrients within reason then the only limiting factor is lighting. By having a light that can dI'm you’re able to always adjust the intensity to meet a level of demand where light becomes your only limiting factor, which in terms of ease is much less intensive than trying to meet two factors to the high demand of one factor.

Making lighting your only limitation is the quickest way I can teach someone else the balancing act that is the planted tank.

Furthermore, I always buy for the future. If I want a low light tank, I get a high light fixture knowing in the FUTURE I will most likely change my mind and buying ahead for that situation saves me from buying further equipment. This light meets those needs.


**** Chihiros A-Series
This is actually my top pick. I came across this light by pure accident. Being a ADA knock-off for 1/3 the price I had no idea what to expect.

GOO This light looks better than most Finnex fixtures with it’s brushed aluminum body and Acrylic legs. The way it fits spot on. Like all ADA products it’s not meant to be “hidden” like some fixtures, or so small it simply fades from view. It’s supposed to be seen, and therefore, it’s made to look just as good by itself as it does on the tank. It comes only in 8,000k spectrum, which at first I hated in comparison to my Finnex fixture. Everything looked drab and washed out, but it’s grown on me and for green plants I like it more. Also, this light is by itself in the high light rating on my 20 G High, but because it has an attachable dimmer switch It becomes whatever level I need it to be. It’s super bright. The 60cm fixture is hands down brighter than my Finnex 24/7 (30 inches), or Planted + (24 Inch). The best part for these high light fixtures is that they WILL fit on standard tanks, although not alway an optimal fit, and most are between $30-50. I picked up two A601 (60cm) fixtures for $60! That’s crazy considering one Finnex fixture this size will run anywhere from $55-$100 and LED’s like the stingray are outclassed.

BA It has no adjustable legs. the fixture is exactly what it says and there is no adjustment unless you modify it or purchase the expensive stainless steel legs. at 8,000k it can look drab to some and definitely does not render plants that aren’t naturally green in a flattering way, nor does it have any colored LED’s. They are 8,000k white LED’s that are colder looking than a 7,000K Planted + 24/7. It’s also tricky to order because you need to find a seller that has both US PLUG-IN option and 110v for power.

EDIT: I somehow managed to forget a very important BAD aspect of the Chihiros A-Series and only remembered it when I was cleaning my tank and bumped the light fixture. It made me jump, surprising me at how HOT these get. The only reason I can offer is the LEDs are attached to a heatsink that is insufficient. The seller claims that the light will not get hot enough during a 12 hr photo period to damage or even burn out the LEDs. I have yet to read anywhere that this became an issue and to further that point the ADA fixture this is cloned from also runs very warm. It's not like it burns you or appears to be any sort of risk of burning down your aquarium it's just hotter than you'd expect.

Hope you all enjoyed the review/rant

- Sil
 

Five 97

Great Information! I was actually just looking over the Chihiros A-series LEDs, I was really considering them...your review is very persuading...
the price of the smaller ones are affordable, but the larger 36"-48" ones are just as pricey as finnex fixtures.
 

Silister Trench

Thank you.

And yes they're only really cost-effective up to the 24", but they are very bright and are working well for me. They do get very hot when on full power, but no so much as to burn out the LEDs so far.



****** I added this to the Chihiros BAD listing after replying to this message. Somehow this negative slipped my mind and when I responded to you it popped into my head.

EDIT: I somehow managed to forget a very important BAD aspect of the Chihiros A-Series and only remembered it when I was cleaning my tank and bumped the light fixture. It made me jump, surprising me at how HOT these get. The only reason I can offer is the LEDs are attached to a heatsink that is insufficient. The seller claims that the light will not get hot enough during a 12 hr photo period to damage or even burn out the LEDs. I have yet to read anywhere that this became an issue and to further that point the ADA fixture this is cloned from also runs very warm.

 

Mifuluhu

Interesting thread! I recently spent cash on upgrading my tanks, one at a time, from Beamswork lights to the Finnex Ray 2 (which I believe is the same as what you refer to as the FugeRay planted plus??). I am low tech using only excel and flourish dosing while leaving the lights on over 12 hours a day. I have little to algae (except in my tank which gets natural light if I forget to cover it) and my plants do great. I did leave the old Beamswork fixtures on the tanks so they get a bit of a boost.
 

Silister Trench

Interesting thread! I recently spent cash on upgrading my tanks, one at a time, from Beamswork lights to the Finnex Ray 2 (which I believe is the same as what you refer to as the FugeRay planted plus??). I am low tech using only excel and flourish dosing while leaving the lights on over 12 hours a day. I have little to algae (except in my tank which gets natural light if I forget to cover it) and my plants do great. I did leave the old Beamswork fixtures on the tanks so they get a bit of a boost.

Actually the Fuge Ray Planted + is different than your Fuge Ray 2, although I think they use the same fixture so it's confusing. I haven't owned a Ray 2, but I believe the difference between the two lights is the Fuge Ray 2 doesn't specify that it has the TRUE RED lights that are popularized with the Planted +. Trust me, the two are very similar with the Ray 2 having a higher PAR level, making it designed more for deep tanks because of this higher output. It's also much brighter visually speaking.

30" Fixture @ 12" from substrate (through water):

Finnex FugeRay P+ PAR=61
Finnex Ray 2 PAR=74

The PAR isn't high enough to make much of a difference unless you're trying to grow plants in 18"+ water depth, so I'm going to assume with your photo period and dosing regiment you have a pretty deep tank and are falling into a low/medium PAR range with single Ray 2.


On that note, which Beamswork lights were you using? I did note that they CAN be good growth lights but almost all the ones I found (the ones I tested) were the lower .5w LEDs because as the watts per LED increased, so did the price making this low-priced unit for the humble planted aquarium owner a horrible deal in the long run in comparison with Finnex or the Chihiros that I can't talk up enough for tanks 60cm or less. That reminds me that I'll have to take a comparison shot of my Finnex light vs Chihiros, as well as the beamsworks. Unfortunately I can't do that for the CFL lighting because I no longer have it wired in and no desire to do so just for a comparison photo.

Chihiros A601 (23.67 inches) vs Finnex Planted + 24/7 break down comparison.

Sil's Note: All photos are visually unedited except for cropping so as to have an accurate portrayal of what hues and tones are picked up more prominently. However, the last two photos are edited for visual prowess although the only light used inside of the tank are the either the Finnex 24/7 or my Chihiros pair, and does not take into consideration how the background is lit.


30" Finnex Planted + 24/7 [MAX setting]


ImageUploadedByFish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum1478327708.916957.jpg


60cm Chihiros A601 [MAX setting]


ImageUploadedByFish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum1478327800.380735.jpg

When comparing the two you'll note the Chihiros has a blue tint to it in this tank. Given it's colder white (8,000k) and being compared to a RGBWarm White fixture (7,000k) this blue tone does NOT appear in person. I believe it's due to the wider spread of light in the Finnex fixture that's hitting the white wall behind the frosted glass that removes the blue in the picture for the Finnex because the frosted glass without being backlit ALWAYS has a blue/grey tone for me and I couldn't find anything to cover it.

One thing I immediately noticed, having been my first photo comparison of the two, was everything green in the Chihiros photo looks a bit darker and to me a bit nicer, while everything red is bland. The Finnex swings in the opposite direction and makes green look light and red plants drastically more red due to the RGB LED mixture in the light.

The Finnex is a 30" and if I'm not mistaken the 24" has the same number of LEDs as the 30" so given that the Chihiros is a 24" fixture they're nearly identical for comparison, however, the spread of lighting with the Finnex is better. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I was surprised when on MAX settings the Chihiros was making the HC pearl much more. I'm not 100% on the Chihiros PAR data (would be happy if anyone had this info to share) but I had it set in my mind that the Finnex light was higher PAR so not sure as to why the difference in pearling.

This is the closest side-by-side comparison I can take. Excuse the mess! I just moved both tanks so my 1 year-old can not get into the cords as his play area has become our full home and he loves the fish.

Finnex (Left) vs Chihiros (Right)


ImageUploadedByFish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum1478328753.612761.jpg

With the tank on the right being farther from the white wall the Chihiros no longer has the blue tinge it had. They're fairly identical given the tank on the right is 18" and the tank on the left is 12" - Chihiros @ 19"-20" approximately and Finnex @ 16" from substrate.

One thing I have noticed about the Chihiros is the 8,000k lighting is much more photo friendly than my Finnex.

2x Chihiros A601 [w/ backlighting]

ImageUploadedByFish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum1478329139.369328.jpg

1x Finnex Planted+ 24/7 (w/o backlighting)


ImageUploadedByFish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum1478329727.650986.jpg

But I guess that's my opinion. If you're wondering why I need 2x Chihiros when I only need 1x Finnex to light another tank It's not for reasons of intensity, but because of the height of the forest aquascape and how it blocks areas from light causes off-looking slanted growth as plants twist around the trees in search of the light. 2x lights just work better, but for most tanks 1x will be perfect. I'm just like that...
 

Mifuluhu

Actually the Fuge Ray Planted + is different than your Fuge Ray 2, although I think they use the same fixture so it's confusing.

I purchased mine on Amazon and eBay. The listings describe these as the Finnex Planted Plus with Moonlights. They have all arrived in Ray2 boxes. I don't see a difference. Mine have the true red lighting and the separate switch for moonlights which I like as nightlights.



On that note, which Beamswork lights were you using?

Beamswork EA Timer FSPEC LED. These also have the red white and blue lights. They are fine for keeping low light plants alive with minimal growth, but not much more

Sorry I tried to quote your reply and it didn't work so well.
 

Silister Trench

Actually the Fuge Ray Planted + is different than your Fuge Ray 2, although I think they use the same fixture so it's confusing.

I purchased mine on Amazon and eBay. The listings describe these as the Finnex Planted Plus with Moonlights. They have all arrived in Ray2 boxes. I don't see a difference. Mine have the true red lighting and the separate switch for moonlights which I like as nightlights.

That's just their confusing as heck Ray names and crossovers. Most of their lights are the same, or similar and they slap on a different price tag, then have their marketing really go out there and say all these wonderful things about one or two aspects of the light that. With the Ray 2 and the Fugeray Planted + they chose to market the 660 True Red legs, but if you're saying the Ray 2 has these then they're virtually the same with only a slight difference in PAR. It's what has always irritated me when researching their products. They're all just about the same, but not exactly.I think what's confusing about this is you might actually have a fine Fugeray Planted+ - I just can't remember what kind of box mine came in so can't help - because nowhere in their description on their own website do I fine the Ray 2 DS having 660 nm Red (or any color) lights for that matter, just what looks like 7,000 white lighting.

If you take a look at their website you'll see they are two different lights however.

Planted+

The fugeray planted + is the second model in the fugeray line, while the Ray 2 DS is a different line. probably boxed wrong? Also, I don't believe the Ray 2 has moonlights.

I could be wrong, though.
 

Mifuluhu

You are so correct as to how confusing these are. Well I've spent good coin on the planted plus for 5 tanks so I'm sticking with them! I have no complaints other than the cheap plastic bracket/stands they have.
 

Silister Trench

You are so correct as to how confusing these are. Well I've spent good coin on the planted plus for 5 tanks so I'm sticking with them! I have no complaints other than the cheap plastic bracket/stands they have.

Haha! Why they went that route with their RAY names and their marketing we'll never know. They're good lights - no doubt about it.
 

PatrickShrimp

I have a 18 watt seapora led, and I hope to grow dwarf hairgrass, dsm and co2 and fluval trace for when it is filled up. Will this be ok? Thanks in advance!
 

Bettanewb

Well this thread couldn't have come at a better time!! Do thank you. I have been doing a lot of reading as I'm going to be upgrading my lighting shortly to led and I'm completely at a loss on what I want/need in a fixture.
Beautiful tanks by the way
 

Silister Trench

Well this thread couldn't have come at a better time!! Do thank you. I have been doing a lot of reading as I'm going to be upgrading my lighting shortly to led and I'm completely at a loss on what I want/need in a fixture.
Beautiful tanks by the way

GlAd it helped
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

29 Gallon Tank New to lighting
Replies
1
Views
25
86 ssinit
  • Question
Replies
2
Views
252
mxnewss
  • Question
Replies
1
Views
136
Matt11711
  • Question
Replies
1
Views
104
AggressiveAquatics
2
Replies
40
Views
343
Chiasmodon

Random Great Thread

New Aquarium Light Threads

Latest Aquarium Threads

Top Bottom