I was satisfied with the stock light that came with our Fluval Spec V for all of one week. From the beginning, I wanted this aquarium to be my first try at a planted tank, and it became clear very early that the light that came standard wasn’t
up to stuff. The intensity of the stock light puts it in the very low light category and I knew that some of the plants I selected required lighting in the upper end of low light or even medium light. Also, the color of the stock light was a bit on the blue side for my taste. Lastly, I consider the stock light of the Fluval Spec V to the be the lowest quality component of the product; no matter how much I tried to ‘coerce’ it back into shape, it came with a permanent bend that looked funny.
So, for all the effort that I had put into research and planning for our new aquarium, I thought it would be worth it to upgrade the light from the start. A few things that I wanted in a replacement light:
- Lighting output of low to medium light. [EDIT: I have since gone to medium/high light with CO2]
- Nice quality of lighting in regards to color and tank appearance
- LED lamps – it seemed reasonable for a small fixture such as this to go ahead and get the latest technology.
- A length that would work with the dimensions of a Fluval Spec V.
- Reasonable price
Research quickly led me to the Finnex FugeRay Planted+ line of LED aquarium lights as the prime candidate for our new light.
Features of the Finnex FugeRay Planted Plus:
This particular variant in the FugeRay line is specifically made for planted aquariums. Most of the LED lights that makeup the output are standard white lamps, but also added in are red LED’s that Finnex claims to be beneficial to aquarium plants. From the Finnex website:
“Differentiating itself from the original Finnex FugeRAY LED, the Planted+ series offers true 660nm red LEDs. Unlike competiting LED fixtures offering a cheaper and mass produced labeled ‘RED’ LED, the Finnex Planted+ has incorporated TRUE 660nm RED LEDs– which studies have found to be one of the most efficient wavelengths for plant photosynthesis.”
I will have to take them at their word on the benefits to photosynthesis; however, the more evident benefit to my eye is the excellent colors that are rendered by this light. The red accents help to warm up the tone of the lighting, which is preferred to my eye over the coldness of white LED lamps only.
Some features of the Finnex FugeRay Planted + light (LED counts and power are specific to the 16″ model):
- Normal Mode Lighting comprised of (60) 7000k White LED’s, (32) 660nm (Red) LED’s for a total of (92) 1 watt LED’s.
- Night Mode Lighting – (4) Blue LED’s.
- Rated power of 11.9 watts
The light is available in the following lengths: 12″, 16″, 20″, 24″, 30″, 36″, and 48″. Pricing increases based on length. I paid $65 USD (including shipping) for the 16″ model.
The light housing is made up of extruded aluminum. I think it is a great looking light with a very sleek design. The aluminum material doubles as a heat sink to dissipate warmth from the LED lights. It gets warm but not hot. There are some ‘Finnex’ decals on each side – I removed them easily and like the look better without them.
The light is controled by two switches enclosed in soft rubber covers, one on each end. One switch turns on the main lights, and the other turns on the night mode lights. Both switches work independently so the main lights and blue night mode lights can be turned on at the same time.
I actually have mine setup to have both modes come on when the light is energized from a smart plug: the night setting lights add just a bit more intensity in the center and it balances the warmth of the main lights nicely.
The power cord is interesting. It has a section of cord that comes out of one end of the light fixture and is routed to a AC/DC converter box. From there, you have another cord that goes to the plug. This isn’t a bad thing; you just have to find a place to store the converter box. The problem I have is that the cords that enter either side of the converter box are hard wired. I had a tough time hiding this box as it would not easily fit through the opening in my storage box. I did eventually get it shoved in through the cord opening to get it hidden. This would have been easier if they would have put a plug of some sort into the end of the control box so that one of the wires could be disconnected.
The light includes separate grey plastic mounts that slide onto either end of the light fixture. The mounts are designed to rest on the rim of your aquarium with a plastic stop on either side of the glass.
The mounts also have 4 screws (2 on each end) that tighten to clamp the glass/frame of the aquarium. The screws are made of clear plastic. The screws seem very cheaply made. I don’t necessarily have a problem with them being plastic. However, the threads seemed damaged right out of the box and were very hard to turn. I was not going to mount this light on the glass so I removed the screws and also found that the inner plastic stop on each end is also removable.
Despite a few problems with the quality of the mount, the light is very well made. I have no concerns with the integrity of the water tightness. The lens that covers the LED array is continuous, optically clear, and seems quite durable. The switches are easy to turn off/on and I think will be durable over time.
I have measured my Fluval Planted + light fixture as carefully as I can, down to the nearest 1/16th of an inch. Metric values are conversions from english and rounded to the nearest mm. Know that there will be some variance from unit to unit, but these numbers will be very close. The measurements are for the 16″ model – some measurements may be applicable to other light lengths in this series (such as height).
- Length (fixture only without mounting feet): 16″ (406 mm)
- Width: 2-11/16″ (68 mm)
- Height (fixture only without mounting feet): 1-1/16″ (27 mm)
- Maximum mounting width: 18″ (457 mm). This is with the feet, mounting on glass, outside edge to outside edge.
- Mounted height : 2-1/16″ (52 mm). This is with the feet, mounted with the feet resting on a surface.
- Mounted glass height : 1-9/16″ (40 mm). This is with the feet, mounted with the feet resting on a surface.
Finnex Planted+ Light Performance:
I tested the output of the 16″ Finnex Planted+ light using a Seneye Reef Aquarium Monitor / PAR meter. You can read more on this page about my test methodology, but the basic premise is as follows:
- Use the Seneye light meter to test for PAR levels at 5 different locations through the tank: center and four corners.
- Tested at two different depths: 5″ below the water line and 9.5″ below the water line.
Here are the measured PAR values at 5″ below the water line (click on any graph or screenshot to enlarge):
105 PAR in the center. This is a perfect light intensity for high light plants in a high tech aquarium. If you want more information on what light intensity (PAR) is best for your needs check out my Basics of Planted Aquariums page.
About 103 PAR (average) in the corners. I’m amazed at how even the light is midway down the tank – I expected more light falloff in the corners.
Here are the measured PAR values at 9.5″ below the water line (around the level of substrate at the bottom of the tank):
Very good performance at the bottom of the Spec V – 89 PAR (center) is a great intensity for growing most anything. Again, light falloff at the corners is minimal and is even. This is nice – if the light performance dimmed at the corners it might limit your plant layouts, forcing you to avoid planting high demand species in the extremities. That is not the case here.
Here is a screenshot of the data from the Seneye Light meter reading. This is the center reading at 5″ depth:
Here is the center reading at 9.5″ depth:
The Kelvin readings are around 5,300k and they confirm what my eyes see – a balanced light with a bit of warmth (in color temperature). The curve on the PUR graph shows good performance in the red frequencies, which plants like. This confirms the intent of this fixture, given that the design includes red LED’s for plant growth.
The testing proves what I have come to find after years of using this fixture – it is very balanced in appearance and is very good at growing medium to high light plants.
Comparison to the Stock Fluval Spec V Light:
There really is no comparison. The Finnex Planted + is a much better light than the stock light that comes with the Fluval Spec V (pre-2016 version). The build quality is much more robust on the Finnex. Light droop that plagues the stock light is taken care of by the new mounting method.
EDIT: Many of the quality issues of the first version of the Spec V light were addressed in the Version II light (2016 and later). However, the Finnex Planted+ is still a great improvement over the Version II light in both intensity and color.
Light intensity is greater than the stock light, and much greater than the output of the old Version I light. This is apparent when first plugged in and compared side by side. Here is a picture of the two next to each other. It is impossible to capture the intensity because the light levels between the two fixtures is so different – the Finnex is on top and the stock Fluval Spec V (Version I) light is on bottom:
In use on the Spec V, I have my 16″ model resting right on the top of the acrylic lid. If a person decided to forgo the use of the plastic lid, you can adjust the legs very wide apart and the 16″ model can span from the end glass to the partition at the filter section. I have seen some people use the 20″ model on the Spec V without the acrylic top. That model can span the length of the aquarium from outside glass to outside glass. It makes for a nice clean look, but I don’t like the logic of putting light over the filter section.
EDIT: I now use this light fixture mounted on the glass rim without the acrylic top.
Overall Impressions of the Finnex FugeRay Planted+:
It has met all my expectations. It creates great color: warm light with a nice intensity. The light levels are perfect for my use first as a medium light aquarium and now as a high-light, CO2 injected planted tank. The construction is excellent. We have over 5 years of constant use from this light and it has never caused any problems and is still going strong,
The only things I would like them to improve on are the mounting screws and to add a plug to the converter box. These issues are easily forgotten once installed and I don’t have much else to wish for in a light.
One wish list item for Finnex LED lights in general is to add dimming capabilities. As this is not a super bright light, it’s not that big of a deal, but it would be nice to have a knob to dial down the light intensity to match the needs of a particular aquarium.
If the Finnex Fugeray Planted+ light doesn’t meet your upgrade needs for a Fluval Spec aquarium, check out my page of other options.
Update: New Options in the Finnex Lineup – HLC Series:
The Planted+ reviewed here sat on our Spec V for over 6 years. It wasn’t replaced until Finnex released the Planted+ 24/7 HLC (reviewed here).
That light is currently the best of Finnex’ planted fixtures. It solves the big issue of the older Planted+ in that all LED channels are adjustable in intensity. This allows adjustments to get the color and brightness perfect for your tank, whether it is a low light or high light tank.