Gardeners know that the sun is best when it comes to growing plants from seed to fruit or flower, but today we can use electric lighting to garden all year long. Hydroponic gardening with artificial light to imitate the sun’s rays is becoming more and more popular, and there are a lot of choices out there for the type of light hydro growers use. By using electric lighting, you can customize your growing season and encourage plants to fruit and flower when you want them to, without having to depend on good weather.
There are three main types of lights that hydroponic gardeners use to grow their plants. These are Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL); High Intensity Discharge (HID), which includes both High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH) bulbs; and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights. Each category has its own advantages and disadvantages, with a huge variety of sizes, prices, and quality levels for each. In this article we will first go over some pros and cons for each type of light, then list the best 10 lights out there for hydro growers.
- Pros: Full spectrum, can be used for both flowering and vegetative growth, very powerful lights.
- Cons: Bulbs wear out quickly, uses a lot of electricity, high heat output requires fans.
- Pros: Low heat, relatively energy efficient, inexpensive, good for green leaf plants like lettuce, spinach and herbs.
- Cons: Not good for flowering or fruit producing plants, not full spectrum nor very powerful.
- Pros: Very low heat, red and blue LEDs can be combined to create full spectrum or partial spectrum lighting, bulbs last a very long time, customizable for small or large gardens, very energy efficient
- Cons: Expensive to purchase up front although they save money on energy costs.
In this article I have listed my top five picks for all three types of grow lights. Items 1-5 are High Pressure Sodium, items 6-10 are Fluorescent and items 11-15 are LED lights. You will find the best quality lights in this list as well as something for every budgetand gardensof all sizes. If you do not find the perfect light for your hydroponic garden below, click here to browse all grow lights.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lighting Systems
HID lights are large bulbs that are filled with gas, which is ignited when electricity is run through the bulb. This creates a bright light and also puts out a lot of heat. HID bulbs come in two types for hydroponic gardening, and are categorized by the type of gas used in the bulb. Metal Halide bulbs has a more blue light spectrum are usually used for vegetative growth, while High Pressure Sodium bulbs have a more red light spectrum are used for flowering or fruiting. HID bulbs wear out quickly and must be replaced yearly for full growth potential in your garden. HID systems also include a ballast to power the bulb as well as a reflector or hood to maximize your light coverage.
1. Best Overall HID System: Apollo Horticulture Digital Dimmable System
This HID system from Apollo comes in 400 Watts for $115, 600 Watts for $148, or 1,000 Watts for $199. It is the #1 best selling HPS light on amazon.com, and comes fully stocked with a gull wing hood, 2 bulbs, ballast with 2 rope hangers, and timer. The ballast has a dimmer as well as an electronic cooling fan included. The bulbs included are one 140,000 lumen HPS bulb and one 110,000 lumen MH bulb.
Price: $124.99 to $179.99 depending on wattage
Watch an explanation of the different qualities of HID vs. LED vs. CFL lighting here.
- Lighter weight than most HPS systems
- Less heat output than other HPS lights
- Easy to adjust rope hangers and dimmable lights
- Some kits shipped to customers missing pieces
- Some customers had problems maintaining light consistency
- Bulbs need to be replaced at least yearly
2. Best Dimmable HID Light: iPower Digital Dimmable Grow Light System
This HID kit from iPower comes with everything you need to get started in your hydro garden. It comes in three sizes: 400W for $114, 600W for $153 or 1,000W for $193. The kit comes with a dimmable ballast, which accepts 110-240v input. It also includes 2 bulbs (Super HPS and MH), a set of two iPower Flexi Ratchet Hangers, and a gull wing reflector.
Price: $119.99 to $169.99 depending on selection
- The two bulbs give full-spectrum growth
- All-inclusive kit has everything you need
- High quality, heavy duty hangers
- Requires a fan
- Some customers noted that the light runs interference with cable TV
- Some reviewers noted inconsistency with the power output from the ballast
3. Best HID Light For Inline Fan Use: iPower Digital Dimmable System – Air Cooled Hood Set
This lighting set from iPower takes it one step further by including a hood that is ready for an in-line fan to cool your system. In-line fans are very efficient at removing excess heat from right around the light source, which ends up saving you money in energy costs later on. You can either purchase a kit with 1 bulb (HPS) or two bulbs (HPS and MH for full spectrum lighting). This system also comes in three sizes – 400W for $133, 600W for $157 or 1,000W for $251. The ballast is fully digital and dimmable so that you can customize your lighting to meet your needs. It also comes with a timer and two ratchet hangers.
Price: $153.17 to $199.99 depending on wattage and number of bulbs
- Hood is ready for an energy-saving in-line fan
- Full spectrum lighting from seed to flower
- Dimmable ballast for customization depending on your grow room environment
- You still need to buy an in-line fan
- Some reviewers had issues with the ballast being very loud
- Some customers had problems with the bulbs being defective
4. Best Multi Size HID System: VIVOSUN Hydroponic HID Grow Light Air Cooled Reflector Kit
Vivosun is a top brand in hydroponic growing equipment, and this kit has all of the parts in one package to start lighting up your garden right out of the box. The kit comes in three sizes: 400W, 600W and 1,000W and each size comes with a matching ballast, reflector hood, timer, and hanging equipment. Both MH and HPS bulbs are included so you can use this kit all the way through both vegetative and flowering growth stages. A three year warranty is also included, so you can purchase this kit worry free knowing that if anything goes wrong, you can contact their customer service for help.
Price: $125.99 to $225.95 depending on hood, with free shipping
- Easy to hook an inline fan right into the hood
- Relatively inexpensive
- Highly reviewed with 4 star average
- Warranty is on ballast only
- Not energy efficient
- Fan not included
5. Best Inexpensive HID Light: Sun System Grow Light Fixture with Ultra Sun Lamp
Here is an inexpensive grow light from Sun System that would be perfect for a garden on the smaller size. This state of the art digital lighting fixture includes an integrated Galaxy ballast that can operate both MH and HPS bulbs and can run either 200W or 400W. This gives you a lot of flexibility and allows you to change the size of your garden, number of plants, or type of bulb easily without having to purchase an entirely new light. The proprietary Smart Volt ballast operates at either 120 or 240 volts and comes with a two year warranty. The whole set up is lightweight as well, weighing only 15 lbs, so it is easy to hang and adjust.
- Light weight and easy to hang
- Lower heat output than large lights
- Makes a nice supplemental light in larger gardens
- Not full spectrum, single bulb at a time only
- Not good for vegetative plant growth
- Not very powerful
Compact Fluorescent Lighting
Fluorescent lights are a good option for gardeners who do not want to have complicated ventilation systems or loud fans in their grow room. They are less expensive to purchase, use less electricity, and do not put out nearly as much heat as HID lights. The compromise is that they are not as powerful and they do not put out as true of a full spectrum of lighting.
6. Best T5 Fluorescent Light: EnviroGro 4-Tube Fixture, T5 Bulbs Included
This 4-bulb setup from Envirogro has everything you need to get started with vegetative hydroponics. It comes stocked with 4 T5 fluorescent bulbs, which mount inside of a reflective hood specially designed to increase the bulbs’ efficiency and increase total coverage for your plants. The system comes in two sizes – 2 feet long for $96 or 4 feet long for $114.
Price: $95.91 to $196.99 depending on size, with free shipping
Watch a video about T5 grow lights here.
- Rated up to 18,800 lumens
- ETL tested and certified
- Lots of customizable options for different garden sizes
- Not full spectrum, only good for vegetative states of growth
- Not as powerful as HPS bulbs
- Some reviewers mentioned a short life cycle for the bulbs
7. Best Lightweight Fluorescent Light: Hydrofarm Fluorowing Compact Fluorescent System
This CFL light from Hydrofarm is a full fluorescent system including the bulb and a compact reflector to get the most out of your light. It is lightweight at only 3 lbs which means you don’t need any heavy duty hangers. It offers a full daylight lighting spectrum with a 125 watt compact fluorescent bulb. The power cord is included, as well as a junction box and all necessary hanging hardware.
- Low heat, does not require an additional fan
- Energy efficient
- Not full spectrum
- Not good for flowering plants
- Reviewers mentioned the reflector is not very effective
8. Best High Lumen T5 Fluorescent Light: DuroLux T5 Grow Light DL844s
This fluorescent light fixture from DuroLux provides 2,000 lumens, which is a huge amount for a medium sized light fixture. The German Hammetone reflector hood included with this lighting system maximizes the coverage in your garden and helps to prevent hot spots. If you want to expand your garden, you can daisy chain this light with up to four additional kits using only one wall outlet. The kit also includes two power switches for the inner and the outer bulbs so that you can customize your lighting even further.
Price: $74.99 with free shipping
- Powerful light output at 20,000 lumens
- Runs warm so you can start seeds without a heating pad
- Great for cloning
- No warranty included
- May need ventilation because it runs hot
- Not truly full spectrum
9. Best Inexpensive Fluorescent Light: Sun Blaze T5 High Output Fluorescent Strip Light
This light strip from Sun Blaze is an easy to set up light that can be customized to fit gardens of all sizes. The light comes in two or four foot lengths, and you can choose any number between one and eight tubes for your lighting fixture. The ballast that is included has a very long lifespan when compared with other fluorescent lights, and it comes included with of your bulbs and fixture. This system also comes with a two year warranty.
Price: $25.22 to $179.99 depending on size
Watch a customer review video here.
- Comes with Two Year Warranty
- Fully customizable for any garden size
- Reflector hood, ballast and T5 bulbs are included
- Not as powerful as others at only 2,000 lumens
- Warranty for repair only not for replacement
- Some reviewers had problems with bulbs not working
10. Best Customizable Fluorescent Light: Sunblaster NanoTech T5 High Output Fixture Reflector Combo
This fluorescent light system from SunBlaster is perfect for anyone who wants to expand their garden incrementally without spending a fortune. Each two foot light is sold individually and can be hooked together with up to eight lights per single wall outlet. These lights come with an electronic ballast, power cord, jumper plug and both hanging and flat surface mounting clips. The reflector hood in this kit was designed using nano technology to provide the ultimate reflective surface, which ends up saving you money in electricity and cooling costs. This reflector has been shown to increase lumen output by as much as 300%.
- Nano technology gives the reflector an extremely efficient reflective surface
- Daisy chain up to eight fixtures together for a custom system
- very light weight and easy to hang
- Relatively expensive
- Not practical for very large gardens
- Runs hot
LED Lighting Systems
LED lights are the latest technology in hydroponic gardening, and many growers swear by them and won’t use any other type of lighting. LEDs can tend to be more expensive up front, but they end up saving you money in the long run. LEDs are much more energy efficient than other types of hydroponic lighting, which ends up saving you money in both direct electricity costs as well as indirect costs like reducing the need for additional ventilation. They also save you money because the bulbs last for years, even decades, before needing to be replaced. Make sure to purchase high quality LEDs that have a proper balance of red, blue and white lights to ensure that your plants get the full spectrum of lighting that is required for all stages of growth.
11. Best Single Bulb LED: TaoTronics LED Grow Light Bulb
This small yet powerful bulb is Amazon’s #1 seller in grow lamps, and is perfect for a small sized garden with just a few plants. This light is perfect for plants that will grow no more than 16″ to 18″. This bulb provides a full spectrum of light for flowers and vegetables, and fits in a standard twelve watt socket. This makes it so easy to set up, whether you use a regular light socket or a reflective hood. This light comes with a year long warranty in case anything goes wrong. For more photos of this small yet mighty grow light, click here.
Watch a review of this TaoTronics LED bulb here.
- Not very expensive
- One year warranty with email access to customer suppoer
- Fits in a standard light bulb socket
- Warranty only covers bulb if you buy from the manufacturer
- Relatively small coverage area
- Does not come with reflective hood
12. Roleadro LED Grow Lights
This light from Roleadro is composed of multiple tiny LED bulbs, which give off the full light spectrum required for both vegetative and flowering stages of growth. That means that you will be able to grow any type of plant, whether it is leafy like lettuce or one that produces flowers and/or fruits. This system is low heat and very energy efficient, and comes in multiple sizes ranging from 135W to 270W for small to medium sized gardens. It comes equipped with a power cord and a stainless steel hanging kit. You do not need to buy a fan for this light because it does not put out a lot of heat.
Price: $79.99 to $109.99 depending on size
Watch an unboxing video here
- Full spectrum lighting for all growth stages
- Extremely energy efficient
- No need for an additional fan
- Relatively expensive up front cost
- Some reviewers said this light is less than ideal for vegetative cycle
- Very bright, it is recommended to use this light in a tent or specialized grow room
13. Best Heavy Duty LED Light: Spectrum King LED Series 300
This light from Spectrum King is the top of the line when it comes to LED grow lights. It is 300W, true full spectrum output, and has a super durable housing that is both adjustable and waterproof. This means you can wash it if need be. They have also included an extra large heatsink, making this one of the coolest lights in terms of radiant heat levels. This set up may cost a lot up front, but it will save you a ton of money in energy costs over the years. Because of the rugged housing, this light is much more durable than many other models so you will definitely be able to use it year after year. Another unique feature is that this fixture puts out white light, unlike other LEDs that fill your grow room with a red or blue glow.
Watch a review here
- Rugged construction, built to last many years
- Extremely energy efficient with low heat output
- Full spectrum lighting
- Much more expensive than other models
- Takes up more space than other LEDs
- May be difficult to hang in smaller grow rooms
14. Best High Powered LEDs: Apollo Horticulture GL-Series LED Grow Lights
Apollo Horticulture is a well respected brand in hydroponic gardening, and they are one of the top manufacturers of LED grow lights. You can choose an LED grow light in one of nine different sizes, depending on how many plants you have and how large your grow area is. The smaller lights are UFO shaped while the larger ones (300W and up) are rectangular. You can daisy chain all Apollo lights together for a more custom system, as well. Apollo lights 300W and up come with fans built in, so they run extra cool and quiet. Each light also comes with a two year warranty and hanging kit. Click the link below for more information or to buy any of the following light sizes: 180W, 300W, 400W, 600W, 700W
Price: $39.99 to $379.87 depending on size, with free shipping
Watch a review of the Apollo 180W UFO Light from video here.
- No added ventilation needed with built in fans
- Sizes range from 75W to 1200W
- Relatively inexpensive compared with other high power LEDs
- LED is not full spectrum
- Some customers had bulb diodes burn out
- Some reviewers had items arrived damaged
15. Best Professional-Level LED Lights: Morsen LED Grow Lights
For extra large gardens that require professional quality LED lighting, Morsen is a top brand and their lights would be perfect. Morsen lights are bigger, more powerful and higher quality than most LEDs on the market today. They come in extra large sizes, including 900W, 1000W, 1200W, 1600W, 1800W, 2000W and 2400W. The Morsen full spectrum 2400W light is one of the most powerful lights for sale in hydroponics today.
Price: $190 to $360 depending on size, with free shipping
Watch a review video of a previous model Morsen LED grow light here.
- Full spectrum lighting
- They uses higher output individual LEDs than most other lights (6W and 10W)
- Relatively inexpensive for very high quality and power
- Not easy to switch between vegetative and flowering stages
- Larger and harder to hang than others
- No smaller sizes available
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