Best Grow Lights for Hydroponic & Aquaponic Gardening

Getting a hydroponic or aquaponic garden together can seem tricky at times. For those who are new to water-based gardens, it can feel like there’s a high barrier of entry. The materials needed for these gardens differ from their soil-based counterparts, which makes it feel like a whole new undertaking. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of the best grow lights for hydroponic and aquaponic gardening to make it easier for you to get started.

Hydroponic and Aquaponic Gardening Lights

For those who don’t know, hydroponic gardening refers to the method of gardening without the use of soil. These gardens use mineral nutrient solutions instead. The roots of the plant are exposed to the water beneath, which feeds it all of the nutrients required without the need for any soil. Plants suspend above the water, and the roots are supported and supplied. The nutrients can vary, but one of the common sources of nutrients used in hydroponic gardening is a byproduct of fish waste.

Aquaponic gardening is similar to hydroponic gardening with one extra step. In an aquaponic garden, fish or snails are also living with side-by-side with your hydroponic plants. The fish create a symbiotic environment with the plants. The plants use the byproduct of the fish waste for food, and the plants help to regulate and clean the water for the fish. An aquaponic system is great for a lot of green leafy vegetables, which take fewer nutrients than some other plants like cucumbers and tomatoes.

LED Lights

LED grow lights are one of the most popular systems of light for hydroponic and aquaponic gardens. One of the main benefits of using LED lights is that they produce less heat than their counterparts. This feature is beneficial because there is less of a risk of burning your plants while using these. On top of that, you probably won’t need to buy any extra cooling fans to go with your hydroponic kit.

LED lights will usually cost you a bit more money than other lights up front. Even though you’ll spend more money when you first purchase the lights, you’ll more than likely save money in the long term. LED lights will need to be replaced less frequently than other types of grow lighting, and they use less energy than others as well.

After a few years of using LED grow lighting, you’ll probably see some savings when compared to fluorescent and other kinds of lights. There have also been studies that show that LED lights (Page 7) are more effective in stimulating plant growth.

High-Intensity Discharge Lights

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights are in the middle of the pack when it comes to effectiveness in indoor growing. They work better than fluorescent lamps but aren’t going to offer the same amount of perks as LED lights will. They have a broad range of colors of light, but they also produce a lot of heat and use a considerable amount of energy. You’ll have to buy some cooling fans to make sure copious amounts of heat doesn't bombard your plants.

Fluorescent Light

Fluorescent lights, while they may be the cheaper option in some cases, are the worst when it comes to growing indoor plants. If you’re serious about your hydroponic garden, I’d advise staying far away from these lights. The low cost of these lights isn’t going to save you much since you have to replace them so frequently. They don’t give off much heat, so they work well for young plants, but should be abandoned when it comes to larger plants.

What to Look for In Indoor Grow Lights

Your best bet is to find one of the best LED grow lights on the market and go with that. The cheapest LED grow lights will work for a while, but you always get what you pay for. Overall, LED lights provide far more versatility when it comes to growing indoor hydroponics. The rest of the grow light bulbs are good for specific stages in plant growth, but you can use LED lights at all stages of growth.

When you’re looking through some grow light kits, make sure they provide a spectrum of light options.  Being a home gardener, I like to have a light that will work throughout the life of my plant. Most of these lights, even the LED lights, have a cooling fan in place. These can be loud, so if you’re somewhere that noise will bother you, you’ll probably want to make sure you find a quiet option.

Make sure the intensity is there as well. There’s nothing worse than buying a new light, only to have it die on you three weeks later. Below are some of the best grow lights for hydroponic and aquaponic gardening we’ve discovered, which should help you on your way to find the best grow lights LED can offer.

1. Bestva 2000W Double Chips LED Grow Lamp

The Bestva 2000W Double Chips LED Grow Lamp is one of the best LED grow lights 2017. Their target audience seems to someone just like me: a person who is serious about their home garden, but not on the industrial scale. It’s not as incredibly expensive as a lot of other units, but it provides enough heat and light to give your plants what they need.

The light doesn’t get too hot as some others do, but they do make your room considerably warmer. Still, for the price and performance, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option.

Pros
  • Full spectrum light
  • Perfect for all stages of plants
  • Superior flowering light
  • Enhanced plant growth
Cons
  • The unit will not overheat or burn your plants, but it will certainly heat your room
  • No “veg” mode

2. Galaxyhydro LeD Grow Light

The Galaxyhydro LED Grow Light is one of the cheap LED grow light bulbs that will give you a great value for your dollar. This unit is ideal for someone who is just starting out and doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on an LED light for hydroponics. It will help grow your plants adequately with a full spectrum of light, even if it doesn't have all the bells and whistled more expensive units have.

The fans are loud, but you can experience this negative with other, more expensive LED lights as well. Some users have also reported dimming in the lights, but there is a warranty to cover these risks.

Pros
  • Value for the price
  • Runs cool
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • Loud cooling fans
  • Some users reported dimming lights

3. Viparspectra 1200W LED Grow Light

The Viparspectra 1200W LED Grow Light is one of the best plant grow light bulbs for the vegetative stage. It isn’t as good if you want an all-in-one light like so many of these are, but it. It has a full spectrum of light unlike some other LED lights, so you’ll have more control over your plant’s growth.

1200W seems to be an overestimate, but the light provides enough power to fulfill most needs. The lights don’t get too hot, so you probably don’t have to worry too much about burning your plants. That said, the unit itself does tend to get a bit hot and draws a lot of power when compared to other LED options.

Pros
  • Full spectrum LED grow light
  • Provides great value relative to cost
  • Ideal for vegetative stage
Cons
  • Not the best for flowering stage
  • Unit becomes hot, even though lights do not
  • Unit isn’t 1200W

4. Morsen 2400W Grow Light

The LED light from Morsen is better for those who want a light that will run cooler than some of the other options. Most of the lights on this list will make your room cons. The Morsen unit is warm, but it won’t significantly raise the temperature of a given room.

The only negative with Morsen seems to be their durability, though users have reported positive interactions with the company. Some people have experienced fans or lights going out, but in all cases, they seem to have resolved this with the manufacturer. There is a 3-year warranty, so if you run into any problems, they should be able to help you.

Pros
  • Very bright
  • Runs cooler than most
  • Great for all stages of plant growth
Cons
  • Users reported fans going out
  • Users reported having to replace LED lights

5. King Plus 2000W Double Chips LED Grow Light

The King Plus grow light is an option that you’d probably want to avoid. It will serve its purpose, but several units in the same price range do a better job at adequately lighting your plants. The light is extremely bright, which some people like, but it risks burning your plants and your retinas at while it’s at it. If you buy this product, make sure to invest in some safety goggles.

 If you keep your indoor plants anywhere near where you watch TV, you’re probably going to hate the noise this light makes. It’s far louder than any other light I’ve used and is incredibly annoying when you’re trying to listen to something else.
Pros
  • Full spectrum LED light
  • Very bright
  • Doesn’t use too much energy
Cons
  • Risk of burning plants
  • Fans are very loud
  • Lower yield reported

Results

The clear winner of the group is the Bestva 2000W Double Ships LED Grow Light. It’s the best full spectrum LED light you’ll find without increasing your cost and is among the best grow lights for hydroponic and aquaponic gardening.  Plants seem to love this light. On top of that, it’s not even the most expensive option on this list.

It’s almost impossible to burn your plants with this unit, and even though it runs a little hot, that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying it out. Whether you’re a seasoned hydroponic grower or new to indoor gardening, the Bestva lights will most likely meet your standards.

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