Can LED lights grow aquarium plants?

Short answer, yes! Long answer, it depends. As long as the LED’s emit the necessary spectrum’s of light that your aquatic plants need, they’ll grow just fine.

It’s one the most vital things you’re going to purchase for your tank so you have to make the right choice. In this post, I’ll go over some of the basics so you know what to look for when shopping around.


When choosing your light fixture be sure to be aware of your plant placements. In your planted tank, you’ll want to have every single plant exposed to some form of light, whether indirect or not. Typically, an LED aquarium lightbar that covers the entire length of your tank should be good enough and if you have an island-style scape, a full spectrum spotlight will work just fine.


Notice the shade of white the LEDs emit (image is 6500k closer to sun-like color)

This Beamswork DA FSPEC LED is in the 10000k temperature zone

Ever seen these numbers associated with aquarium lights? “5000k“, “6500k“, etc. These essentially represent the spectrum that is emitted from the light. To give you an example, sunlight is around the 5800k, so get close to that as possible (within ~1200k).

Luckily this isn’t one of those things where it’s dependent on your plant choice because, all plants need the full spectrum of light to create fuel for themselves. So, what is “full spectrum of light“? In short, there are all kinds of colors that are emitting from the sun and plants use these colors during photosynthesis. There are blues, reds, greens and yellows, and so forth.

Knowing this, you’ll want to provide your plants with as much of that spectrum from your light fixture as you can, to mimic sunlight. So you can’t really go wrong so long you choose an aquarium LED light fixture with a “full spectrum”.


There is still debate on the most optimal lighting intensity/duration settings. That’s because you have to consider a lot of variables when determining your photo periods. But, I’m not here to leave you high and dry! Just do the best you can do through trial and error and follow some of these basic tips.

Tip #1

If there is more algae growth than plant growth, turn down the intensity or duration (you’ll have to figure out which change gives the best result) of your lights.

Tip #2

Plants enjoy a mid-day nap, give them a break from the light! A good rule of thumb would be to follow the 4-4-4 rule and watch your plants for a week or so and adjust the timing accordingly (lower the time your lights are on to fight algae growth).

The 4-4-4 rule is: 4 hours of light, 4 hours off, 4 hours on again. This gives a chance for the CO2 to build up again in the water column thus, giving the plants an optimal amount of CO2 to digest throughout its day.

Tip #3

Buy a timer. You don’t need to buy one of those fancy ones that are custom made for your fixture, and ol’ outlet timer will do the job. To keep in line with Tip #2, I suggest buying a timer that can handle two on-off settings.


And to re-iterate, as long as you are considering coverage, spectrum and duration, you will be setup for success in growing aquatic plants for your aquascape!

Just be sure to monitor your algae growth to make sure you are not making a more optimal environment for algae rather than your plants…unless…that’s the look you are going for, who am I to judge?


It’s not clearly state sometimes but, the LED counts will vary between design let alone manufacturer. So, make sure you know the LED count as this will ultimately affect the overall intensity of the light.

Can LED lights grow aquarium plants?
Article Name
Can LED lights grow aquarium plants?
Easy to follow instructions on choosing the right light for your aquascape!
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The Good Algae
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