What Is The Best Light For Coral Reefs? The Ultimate Guide

What is the best light for coral reefs? It is well-known that corals require proper lighting in order to flourish. However, illuminating a tank for reefs is a bit difficult, since there are a myriad of variables to take into consideration.

How To Light A Coral Tank? What types of corals need more light intensity than other corals? What color should I pick?

When you keep photosynthetic animals in a reef tank, it is essential to have an optimal light schedule that can replicate the light cycle that these animals experience when they are in nature.

This enables corals and clams to efficiently process photosynthesizes and live an extended, happy life inside your fish tank.

The reality is that the proper lighting schedule is just important to provide the correct range and intensities for the tank’s inhabitants.

So, with no further delay now, let’s get right into it.

What is the best light for coral reefs?

It is better to choose LEDs since they’re high efficiency, energy efficient, and durable and won’t alter the temperature of the water.

The type of lighting is as crucial as the color of light.

However, you may employ any of these types of lighting for rearing corals within a reef tank effectively when the photoperiod and intensity are right:

LEDs (Most Recommended)

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LEDs are by far the most well-known lighting choice available at present. The first thing to note is that this type of lighting is highly efficient.

They emit lights in each direction, and they use the least amount of energy. They do not influence the temperature of the water.

Additionally, LEDs last a long time. You can use them for a long time, up to 100,000 hours. They are also easy to maintain and update.

If you have to choose a choice right now it is clear that LEDs are the best choice of the different lighting systems.

The LEDs I’m using are Hygger’s 24/7 Aquarium Led Light. It’s very inexpensive and simple to use.

You can select your default setting, which is a combination of blue and white lights at varying times during the day. Or, you can choose to use the DIY mode, where you can set your own personal preferences.


A majority of aquarists use fluorescent lighting when they begin to play around with aquariums. The type of lighting is both thin and long and spreads the light across a wide space.

Fluorescent light bulbs are inexpensive and simple to use. They are available in different sizes.

While corals are able to grow under normal fluorescent lights Many aquarists mix these with metal-halide lamps in order to meet corals’ different lighting needs.

Metal Halide

Metal halides are available with colors that range between 3000 and 20000 Kelvin. They are also available at 150,250 and 400 power levels.

For a long time, metal halides remained the only solution for corals with high lighting needs. Then, T5 fluorescent bulbs became available.

Although they generate greater heat than aquarists prefer, they can be found in reef tanks as they boost the growth of all kinds of coral.

T5 High-Output Fluorescent

They are slim tubes that have more power than standard fluorescent bulbs. They have the same broad and even spread as well as various shades.

In fact, you could purchase T5 lighting systems that are full spectrum.

Apart from creating less heat compared to metal Halides, T5 lamps are simpler to upgrade.

They’re also less expensive than metal halides and LEDs. But, you have to change the bulbs every 9-12 months.


It is possible to combine several lighting types to create the most effective lighting system.

An example is that an LED/Fluorescent amalgamation offers the flexibility of a fluorescent lamp and the power that comes from an LED light.

However, they are generally expensive.

What Color Light Should I Use In My Coral Tank?

Quick Answer If you had to pick just one color, blue is the best coral color. Many aquarists choose blue during daytime, and blue at night.

It is important to ensure that each type of lighting has the appropriate color in order to maximize the growth of coral. The options are as follows:

Blue (Most Recommended)

Blue is the most suitable color for corals since it boosts the rate of photosynthetic production in zooxanthellae.

The microorganisms (inside the coral’s tissues) utilize photosynthesis to generate food for the corals. They respond more strongly to blue than other colors.

White (Usually Combined With Blue)

Many aquarists choose white because it is a color that resembles the sun. It gives the tank an organic look.

You can rely on the power of white light that is able to boost the growth of coral because it has all colors, including violet and blue.

It is standard usage to mix white with blue.

Aquarists use white light to light up the reef tank throughout the day and switch to blue (or red) at sunset.

Blue lets you see the contents of the tank without disturbing the fish.


People frequently compare blue with red since both colors stimulate photosynthesis in zooxanthellae.

Red (601 700 nm – 601) is longer in the spectrum than blue (431 – 431 -). It is not just that red reduces rapidly, but it also delivers lower power than blue.

In a natural body of water, it is possible to see the reds disappear as you lower. At some point, the blues will be the only color left.

However, in an aquarium, the depth isn’t an issue. It is possible to change the color of blue to red without harming corals.

It’s true that blue does better at making the coral’s colors shine.


Between 400 and 430nm, violet has a smaller length than blue. The pigments of zooxanthellae exhibit an increased response to violet than blue.

It also penetrates more deeply and gives more energy. If you have to pick one color violet is it.


Orange, red, along with yellow and red are primary shades that are able to be diminished as sunlight hits the water.

Aquarists typically minimize the greens as well as yellows and oranges in full spectrum light since the colors offer very little or no benefit to the body.

At a minimum eliminating green, orange, and yellow from the tank will not hurt corals in the end.

You can save these colors if you are satisfied with their effect on coral’s appearance. Other than that, they’re not important to the process of photosynthesis in the zooxanthellae.

How To Setup Your Aquarium LED Light?

What Is The Best Light For Coral Reefs

1. Pick A Proven Spectrum: The majority of LED lights have presets specifically designed specifically for reef coral aquariums. You only need to decide which one you prefer to appear more blue or white in your tank.

When you’ve made your choice that you want to go with the blue, don’t alter the color or you’ll strain your corals. Do not use the color sliders and try to create your own spectrum blend without the knowledge required to make an effective spectrum.

2. Utilize 1:8:1 Ratio: This is the length of time that you use the light. While there isn’t a precise or absolute timeframe that is for all hobbyists it is always within the 8-12 hours total of ON time every day.

The exact same as the sun. This is also a quick ramping up to maximum intensity before reducing to a low intensity at the start and end of the day to mimic the sunrise and sunset. The 1:8:1 ratio can work well over any tank.

  • 1-hour ramp up to the maximum intensity to begin the day.
  • 8 hours of operating the light at its maximum intensity
  • 1-hour ramp-down time at the close of each day.

3. Choose the Right Intensity: It is the amount of light throughout the 8 hours that are the most intense. This is crucial. Insufficient light and corals will not survive with too much light, which can cause harm or burn your coral.

It is essential to make use of a PAR meter to gauge the amount of illumination throughout your tank. It is important to obtain these numbers across the tank as much as you can, depending on the kind of coral you want to keep.

  • Soft Coral and LPS: 75 -150 PAR
  • SPS Corals: 200-350 PAR

If you use the PAR meter, you’ll most likely check those numbers that are lower towards the bottom, and higher values towards the highest.

After you’ve set the brightness of the LED light to reach the PAR numbers that you require and you’re done. There is no need to return and alter ANY of these parameters.

When you are setting up your light, keep in mind this – “Just because we can tinker with it, doesn’t mean we should!” Making changes to your lighting settings is the most common reason why novices are having trouble with their light settings.

The intensity is important. It is possible to lower the duration of the photoperiod by increasing the intensity. Nowadays, aquarists employ lighting that can be adjusted.

Instead of abruptly switching the lights off or on the lights will gradually turn up and then lower at dawn and dusk.

This shields the inhabitants of the reef tank from stress. Corals aren’t worried. But, fish aren’t happy with sudden changes.

Thus, you’re more likely to hurt them by abruptly turning the lights off or on. Be aware that light in nature is changing slowly.

This schedule can be followed in case you’re using only blue or white light:

10 amA little light (20 percent)
12 amLights should be increased to 50 percent.
1 pmLight intensity to 75 percent.
2 pm – 8 pmLight is at 100% (100 100 percent) intensity
9 pmReduce intensity until 60 percent
10 pmDiminish intensity to 20 percent
11 pmTurn off the lights.

It is possible to follow this plan in case you are looking to mix blue and white.

9 am – 10 amWhite light (20 percent intensity)
10 am – 11 amWhite light (50 percent intensity)
11 am – 12 amWhite light (75 percent intensity)
12 am – 6 pmWhite light (100 100 % intensity)
6 pm – 11 pmBlue light
11 pmLights Off

If you’d like to utilize other colors, such as violet, red or green. The only thing you need to do is switch on the color in place of blue (between 6 pm and 11 midnight).

How Do I Adjust The Light Intensity For My Coral?

The quick answer: LPS corals require a PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) range between 50 and 150, while SPS corals require the range 20-250.

Once you’ve selected the time of day for your corals then the second step would be to decide what intensity of light they require.

To do this, you’ll require an inexpensive PAR Meter. Basic equipment can range between $30 and $150 however more sophisticated devices could cost as much as $500 or so.

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To begin, you could opt for a fairly cheap model such as that of the BTMETER BT-881E digital light Meter.

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The next step is to classify your coral into two categories: SPS corals or LPS corals. The following is what each group needs to be:

  • LPS Corals LPS corals typically require less light and have PAR ranges typically between 50 and 150.
  • SPS Corals SPS corals are tolerant of high and extremely high levels of light and PAR ranges are between 200-450, or even higher based on the species.

To help you understand the concept, here’s a fantastic YouTube video from Fragbox Corals that explains how to determine the PAR level within your reef tank:

If you’re not sure about the kind of coral you own, here’s a table in which I’ve compiled an alphabetical list of common species that are found in reef tanks:

Coral NameRecommended PAR Range
Staghorn Coral (Acropora millepora)300-450 PAR
Digitate Montipora (Montipora digitata)300-450 PAR
Bird’s Nest Coral (Seriatopora hystrix)300-450 PAR
Cat’s Paw Coral (Stylophora pistillata)300-400 PAR
Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora damicornis)200-400 PAR
Hammer Coral (Euphyllia ancora)150-250 PAR
Moon Coral (Favia sp.)150-250 PAR
Candy Cane Coral (Caulastrea furcata)150-250 PAR
Lobed Brain Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)150-200 PAR
Sun Coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)100-200 PAR
Merlet’s Coral (Blastomussa merleti)50-150 PAR
Florida Mushroom Coral (Ricordea Florida)50-150 PAR
Chalice Coral (Echinophyllia sp.)50-100 PAR
Zoanthids Coral (Zoanthus sp.)50-100 PAR

How Do I Know If My Corals Are Getting Enough Light?

You can determine if your coral is receiving enough light by watching their growth and color.

They’ll display bright colors and continue to expand as time passes. It is also evident the tentacles and polyps extend throughout the day.

However If your coral is exposed to too excessively light, you might be able to observe the following symptoms:

  • Bleaching: The coral’s color will fade when it ceases to live in symbiosis.
  • Tissue recession The coral will reveal its skeleton by retracting its tissues.
  • Reduced polyp growth The coral’s tentacles will not fully extend, which hinders growth and feeding.
  • Change of location New corals react by moving away towards the lighting source.

In the wild the corals are killed by intense light as it raises the temperature of the water, causing corals to release their zooxanthellae.

Since corals are not able to endure without the microorganisms they’ll eventually die.

This issue can’t be solved by reducing the intensity of light to dangerous levels. After all, zooxanthellae use light for photosynthesis.

The low-intensity light will deprive corals of essential nutrients, making them brown.

It is important to note that inadequate or excessive lighting doesn’t guarantee the demise of corals.

The first thing to note is that some corals are tolerant of different levels of light. One of them would be Platygyra sinensis.

The second is that corals can adapt to low and high-intensity lighting. While their colors may change, they will not.

Can Corals Be Left With The Light On All Night?

It is not recommended to keep the lights on all night. Research has already proven that artificial light sources at night pose a danger to corals living in their natural habitat.

Corals need the darkness of night in order to survive. You should aim for a minimum of 6 hours of complete darkness.

Corals are tolerant of blue light at night since it is similar to moonlight. However, they are able to endure without it. Corals don’t require blue light at night to thrive.

Can Corals Survive Without Light?

Corals are not able to survive without light.

They get their food from zooxanthellae and they are photosynthetic. Their survival depends on the light source.

Experts have confirmed that they have found deep-sea corals that live in the wild that reside at deep depths that are not able to receive sunlight. them.

They are able to survive by eating tiny organisms that pass through currents and trap them, which they then carry. However, they are rare cases.


What is the best light for corals?

Metal Halide is the first gold standard in lighting for reef aquariums, they provide a pure spectrum. They look amazing and have ample PAR to support the growth of any kind of coral.

What is the best light spectrum for reefs?

“AquaBlue+” AquaBlue Plus (AB+) is the most popular range for aquariums with reefs. With the right wavelengths and intensities for impressive coral growth and color, it’s a tried and true color spectrum for keeping live corals.

What light is best for coral fluorescence?

For your corals to shine with strong and intense fluorescence, your light should have significant intensity within an intensity that is within the Violet Blue Cyan spectrum (400-490nm).

Are LED lights good for corals?

Do corals thrive under lighting with LEDs? Yes, LEDs can make coral grow Ask one of our specialists at LiveAquaria.com! They’ve used LED lighting for some time in our coral tanks and have had amazing results.

What is the best light for coral reefs? (Summary)

What is the best light for coral reefs? If you’re looking to get your work done, here’s a brief overview of the main points made in the previous paragraph:

  • The kind of lighting that is used is vital for the growth of coral in reef tanks, and LED lighting is suggested because of its energy efficacy and durability as well as the absence of a negative impact on the temperature of the water.
  • The color of light is also vital as blue is the best choice for corals since it promotes more photosynthetic activity in zooxanthellae.
  • Combining different types of lighting can result in a more effective lighting system, like lighting with LED and fluorescent.
  • Light from white can be utilized in the day, and the blue glow at night, to mimic natural lighting patterns, and to promote the growth of coral.
  • A coral reef aquarium needs between 9 and 12 hours of light depending on the intensity of the light being an important element.

Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of FishCampRehab.com, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.