Options for Fluval Spec Light Upgrade

The Fluval Spec line of aquariums has much to offer in the way of features – it’s all-in-one package lends to a very clean look with simple setup and operation.  The one component of this all-in-one design that I don’t care much for is the stock light.

The basic light of the Spec line of aquariums does feature LED lamps, a desirable trait lending to low energy usage and low heat gain.  However, the stock lights have a few disadvantages:

  • Construction: I don’t think it’s as bad for the smaller Spec III aquarium, but the build quality of the longer Spec V light is poor, with problems in durability and the design shortfall of a drooping, crooked light.
  • Light Quality: The light spread pattern from the stock light is generally good.  What I don’t care much for is the light color – it is a bit on the blue (cool) side for me.  I prefer light that is more warm on the red or yellow end of the color spectrum.  As some background, lamp color is often specified in Kelvin, where lower (5,000K) is warmer (yellow) in color and higher (10,000K) is cooler (blue) in color.
  • Light Intensity: The stock Spec lights are adequate for general aquarium use and even to grow low light plants.  However, if you want to really get into planted nano aquariums, getting a more intense light may be necessary depending on your plant selection and goals.
  • Replacement Cost:  If you like the stock light but have it fail, the replacement cost is expensive enough to consider getting an aftermarket alternative that will produce better light.

I have come across a few aftermarket Spec light upgrade options.

Light Upgrade Ideas for the Fluval Spec V Aquarium:

I’m sure there are numerous options for lights for the Spec V, but I have two companies covering a few models that seem to be a very good fit for this tank:

Spec V Aquarium Light Upgrade - Finnex Planted + 16"

  • Finnex Fugeray Planted +: This is the light that I chose for use in our low to medium light aquarium (the review is here).  It is a high quality construction and fits very well on the Spec V.  It has 7,000K lights with red accents that lend to a nice, warm color. There are a few options for mounting.  You can set it on top of the acrylic top, or you can do away with the acrylic top and mount the light conventionally on the edge of the glass.  The choice of length to purchase depends on how you want to mount it.  The 16″ long version spans the length of the main display but not over the pump section.  It sits very nicely on top of the acrylic; this is the setup I use.  If you mount the 16″ long version on the glass, it will span from the end of the display tank’s glass  to the dividing wall at the filter media section.  If you want the light to mount on the glass over the entire aquarium (including over the filter media section), buy the 20″ long version. This light is suitable for medium light planted tanks taking into account the water depth of the Fluval Spec V.
  • Finnex Fugeray Original:  This light has the same construction as the Planted + model; see above for all the applicable notes on length and mounting options.  Note that some Finnex models come in an 18″ length; this would work across the entire length similar to the 20″ length, just a bit shorter but the legs will still extend to the outer glass.  The Fugeray is going to produce light intensity suitable for a medium-light planted aquarium.  The difference is that this model does not have the red accent LED’s specific to the Planted + model.  The resulting color is a bit cooler. It is available in two models, one called the Fugeray Original with 7,000K LED’s and another called the Fugeray Marine + with 10,000K LED’s suitable for Marine tanks.  The Fugeray Original 7,000K comes in 16″, 18″, and 20″ lengths; the Marine 10,000K version is available in 16″ and 20″ lengths.
  • Finnex Ray 2: Again, similar construction to the Planted + and Fugeray (original) models, but this one produces much more light.  This is the choice for those who want to grow a high-light aquarium with fast growing plants.  This model is only available in the 18″ length.  Be warned that this intensity of light will usually require pressurized CO2 injection to maintain balance and avoid algae problems.  There are three different versions of this light based on LED color.  Make sure to get the Daylight 7,000K model for planted aquariums; look at the Day/Actinic and Actinic models if you are delving into a saltwater nano.
  •  Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Plus:  This is a great light with some unique features.  It comes with a remote control that allows you to not only adjust the brightness by way of a dimmer, but it also lets you adjust the individual red/blue/green color channels to taylor the light color to your liking.  With the intensity fully ramped up, it produces light at the upper end of medium-light planted tanks.  The 18″-24″ fits the Spec V perfectly with the included wire legs spanning over the whole tank (the acrylic lid can be left on or removed).  While I don’t think the construction and ascetics of this light is quite as nice as the Finnex units, the adjustability is very nice. Because the intensity can be controlled, it will function for a low light or medium light aquarium based on the setup.
  • Finnex Stingray: I recently discovered this light and think it is a great alternative for those looking for a high quality LED light for their Spec V, but who need a fixture that is low light. This model uses 7000k main LED’s along with some 660nm red LED’s and a few actinic blue LED’s to add color and interest to the light; a similar concept to the Planted +.  The difference between the Planted + and the Stingray is a greatly reduced intensity, which makes the stingray great for non-planted aquariums for low-light planted tanks. Available in 16″ and 20″.

Light Upgrade Ideas for the Fluval Spec III Aquarium:

Upgrade options for the smaller Spec III aquarium are less clear cut.  What you are generally looking for is a clip on light made for freshwater nano aquariums.  Here are a few that seem to be getting good user experiences online:

  • Fluval Mini Compact PCL13: This light does not have LED’s but instead has a compact fluorescent bulb.  it is not particularly cheap either, but it gets very good reviews.  I suspect that being a Fluval product it mates niecely with the Spec III.  It will put you in low-medium light territory – great for growing a wide variety of plants.
  • Mr. Aqua Ultrathin Aquarium LED:  This clip on light has a very nice appearance with an aluminum housing.  Apparently it puts out very nice quantity of light, in the medium light range.
  • Finnex StingRAY LED Clip: I like the Finnex name, so this is an interesting model.  I have tried this one out – it can work but with some compromises that I discuss on the review page. The price is right and the use of LED’s makes it efficient and long lasting.

I don’t consider this page to be complete as I hope to learn more and make other suggestions in the future as products change.  If you have experiences, either good or bad, with your aftermarket Fluval Spec lights, please put them in the comments section.

12 thoughts on “Options for Fluval Spec Light Upgrade

  1. I just bought a Spec III this month, March 2016 and it came with a much improved LED light model that is longer (as long as the aquarium) and far brighter than the previous model. I works great and certainly is better for plant growth. I can’t find anything mentioned about this new light style mentioned online by Fluval or anyone else. I was hoping to confirm that the Spec V would also be coming out with an improved light. Do you happen to know about the new light design?

    • I wouldn’t know anything about a redesign except for people commenting here, so thanks! I haven’t heard any reports, from users or otherwise, about any changes to the V model.

  2. The Finnex have horrible warranties, 30 Days on bulbs, 180 days for defects in material or workmanship. After less then 6 months, on top of the Fluval Spec V cover, never came in contact with water, moisture somehow got inside the unit and burned out the bulbs. Finnex support blamed us for not using it right and won’t honor warranty for water damage. Amazon reviews seem to indicate about a 10% defect rate, buyer beware.

  3. I recently purchased a Spec V on Amazon and it came with a new light that is very nice. My anubias and moneywort is growing spectacularly. My dwarf hair grass is growing ok but it’s going to take a while for it to carpet I hope. Anyways, new lights are great for my plants.

    I am dosing liquid carbon fyi.

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