LED lighting for saltwater tanks has greatly improved over the years and it just keeps getting better.
If you have the extra cash to spare, there are some amazing LED lights on the market that are packed with features and offer high-quality light.
But the reality is, not everyone has a huge budget for the higher end lights.
The great thing about reef tank LED’s is there are several lights available that won’t break the bank while still being a great quality light.
Newer models include advanced features like ramping up and downtime schedules, programming specific modes at certain times throughout the day, and much more.
With so many options available, it can be confusing to pick the right LED lighting for your tank.
It’s important to select the right size and power to suit your tank’s lighting demands.
There are many factors that come into play.
If you have a 30-gallon reef tank and are looking for LED lighting, this article will show you some great options that are perfectly suited for that tank size.
Benefits of LED lighting
Before LED lights entered the hobby, many people used T5 and metal halides for lighting their reef tanks. While those methods are still used today, there are some huge benefits of using LED lighting on your tank.
As mentioned, there are some pretty high end and expensive LED reef lights on the market. But there are also some very affordable lights that are reliable and work great.
A benefit of LED’s over T5 or metal halides is the cost. You can buy an LED light for less than a T5 that is suitable for the same sized tank.
For example, the ATI 24” T5 lighting fixture will cost around $500. A high end LED light that is suitable for a 24” tank is the AI Prime 16 which will cost around $200.
When comparing LED’s with other types of reef lighting, there really is no comparison. LED’s are more efficient.
You will save money on your power bill and you won’t need to buy replacement bulbs. It’s common for LEDs to last 50,000 hours which is many years of use.
You can use this chart to get an estimate of the monthly cost to run a specific aquarium light.
The average cost for power is 0.12 cents per kWh.
Most LED’s for saltwater tanks are considerably smaller than other types of lighting. They are lighter and take up less space. LED’s are advancing all the time and they have a modern design and look great on any sized tank.
Compared to T5 and metal halides, there is no comparison with respect to size. A 4 foot T5 lighting system is going to need 48” bulbs and the unit itself will be more than 4 feet long.
You can light the same sized tank using LED’s that are a fraction in size. They are great for nano tanks and larger tanks.
A huge benefit of LEDs is that they are very safe to use. Many LED lighting systems are splash-proof and waterproof and have many safety systems built-in.
LEDs are not built with filaments or gas like halides are. They are also durable and can handle the odd accident if anything were to happen. Like being dropped or fallen into the tank.
Most reef tank LED’s are packed with great features. You can buy some basic units that just turn on and off or you can buy more advanced LEDs with built-in timers and dimmers, storm modes, and more that can be controlled with separate controllers or using an app on your smart device.
Most LED’s for saltwater tanks are known to produce a water shimmer effect that many people love to see. Not all LED’s produce a shimmer but many do.
A good example is the Kessil A160WE and 360WE. Kessil makes some of the best LED’s for saltwater reef tanks and they produce the best shimmer effect.
Another benefit of using LED’s is they don’t produce as much heat as other types of lighting systems. Most lights will have built-in fans to keep the lights cool.
T5 and metal halides can get very hot and you can easily burn yourself. LED’s can still get warm but not to the level of other T5 or halides.
Read: Best LED lighting for FOWLR tanks
Best LED’s for 30-gallon reef tanks
Most 30 gallon aquariums have the dimensions of 36” x 18” x 12”.
Of course, there are other dimensions that are possible but it’s common for a 30-gallon tank to be 3 feet (36”) long, 18” deep, and 12” wide.
The following LEDs are best suited for a 3-foot long aquarium.
AI Prime 16 HD
Aqua illumination has designed this light to be one of the best reef tank LED’s on the market at a great price. This light offers a ton of value and is packed with features.
The AI Prime LED’s are one of the most popular choices and these newer models have been upgraded and built even better.
The best thing about them is the price has not changed from the previous model.
Features and specs:
- Best value for reef tank lighting
- Controlled via an app on your smart device
- HD overdrive capability
- Durable and modern design
- Dimensions: 4.88” x 4.88” x 1.3”
- 7 (+1) color channels
- 16 (+1) LED’s
- 60 watts total power
- Soft/LPS coral tank coverage: 20” x 20”
- SPS coral tank coverage: 16” x 16”
For a 30 gallon tank, you should plan to use 2 AI Prime 16 HD lights for proper tank coverage.
Current USA Orbit 36-48” LED
This light is a great choice for a 30-gallon tank as it covers the 36” length perfectly and provides plenty of light for full coverage of the tank dimensions.
The Current USA LED’s are very sleek and modern looking. They are controlled via wireless remote that has numerous effects.
Fully programmable and include a 24-hour timer system that can be set your tank’s lighting demands.
Features and specs:
- Dual daylight and dual actinic spectrums
- 24-hour sunrise and sunset
- Thin modern design
- Includes sliding docking legs
- Energy efficient
- Dimensions: 34.8” x 3.5” x 0.44”
- Power: 36 watts
- Total LED’s: 144
There are a few other LED lighting systems that work great for a 30-gallon tank.
If you are looking for a higher-end and more expensive option, I recommend the Ecotech Radion XR 15 Pro.
All of these LED lighting systems are available on Marine Depot and you can see today’s prices by clicking the links above.
Are Ecotech Radions worth the price? Find out here
How many LED watts per gallon do I need?
This will depend on the size of your saltwater tank and the types of corals you plan to keep. Larger aquariums will require more lighting and SPS corals will require more lighting than LPS or soft coral.
Instead of measuring watts per gallon, it’s better to determine the proper light that will give you the right coverage for your tank dimensions.
It’s common for LED lights to cover a 24” x 24” spread with each LED being 3 watts. PAR is very important to measure and you should research the recommended PAR rating for the corals you are keeping and their proper placement in the tank.
Check out: Viparspectra LED complete review
What is the best lighting schedule for a reef tank?
Most people tend to run an 8 to 10-hour lighting cycle on their reef tank. This can vary depending on your tank’s demands. Once your corals acclimate to the type of lighting and the schedule, you can adjust as necessary.
Most LED’s have features for programming certain light spectrums at specific times throughout the day. A benefit of setting a light schedule is your tank will adapt to the consistent light that it receives every day without fluctuations.
It also is very convenient for you as it won’t be necessary to mess around with light settings all the time.
Once a light schedule is set for 8 or 10 hours, you won’t need to adjust it unless changes are made to your tank.
When choosing a light for your 30-gallon saltwater reef tank, it’s important that you take into consideration factors that include price, tank coverage, coral types, warranty, light features, and safety.
The lights mentioned here are suitable for a 30-gallon reef tank and you can’t go wrong with any of these options.