Do LED Lights Work For Hydroponics? (Best Guide!)

LED lighting is fast becoming the top dog setup amongst the hydroponic industry. The pros outweigh the cons when deciding which type is best for you. 

They are energy efficient, they run cooler, their lifespan is longer, and the light fixtures themselves can be much smaller. This makes them a great option for space-saving. 

Do LED Lights Work For Hydroponics?
Do LED Lights Work For Hydroponics?

Choosing the right light type is imperative for long-term, sustainable production. Let’s dive in and answer the burning question. Do LED lights work for hydroponics?

Do LED Lights Work for Hydroponics?

Yes LEDs work really well for Hydroponics. Although, to create an efficient and effective hydroponic system, a handful of elements need to be addressed. They Require:

  • light/heat.
  • nutrients.
  • oxygen/air.
  • space.

Without the perfect balance of all these essentials, the system just cannot work. Half of this structure can be perfected using the right type of lighting alone. There is a wide range of different types of options on the market. 

The top 3 variants are:

  • Light-emitting diode (LED).
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFL).
  • High-intensity discharge (HID).

Each of them has its unique benefits, but of course, they can also have disadvantages that need exploring. 

LEDs are the most popular and tick all the right boxes. A well-planned LED operation is worth investing in if you intend on having guaranteed sustainable growth using hydroponics. 

Benefits of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics

Now we know the answer of “do LED lights work for hydroponics?”, let’s find out how well they do? LED lights offer a host of supreme benefits that give users absolute confidence in their purchase. It’s no wonder these types of systems are gaining popularity by the minute.

Benefits of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics
Benefits of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics

Energy Efficient

LEDs are energy efficient. It can save you a lot in terms of electricity bill. If you are planning to setup a medium to high hydroponic farm, then LEDs are great choice.

As technology advances, so does the quality of LEDs. It’s becoming much easier to find LED setup for hydroponic that consume a whopping 50-75% less power than any other lighting setupThey also produce fewer greenhouse gasses which is a big plus for the environment.


LEDs have an average life of between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of use instead of its closest counterpart that taps out at 12,000 hours (HPS). An HID doesn’t even get close either, with its lifetime reaching around 24,000 hours. 

An LED’s longevity not only decreases long-term replacement costs but also helps with the budget. You will save money due to lower maintenance costs.

Fast Harvest Cycling

Another huge benefit to using LED lights on a hydroponic setup can cultivate multiple harvests in a single season, and this works wonders for plants that can flower automatically. 

You can manipulate the plants using an LED grow light to grow flowers, which can increase your harvest. You are in total control of the output of light that the plant should receive. 

Here’s a video I found really useful if you are confused about what color should you choose for better harvest cycling.

Adaptable Wave Length

If you are asking “do LED lights work for hydroponics?” or planning to set up a hydroponic farm using LEDs, you must understand what wavelength is for plants.

You can regulate and control the light’s wavelength by using LED lights. Plants use wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers (nm) to enable effective photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is how green plants use sunlight to make their food. 

The advantage of manipulating adaptable wavelengths is that you can provide all the energy needed for the plant, which helps it thrive in an environment without “real” sunlight.  


LED lights are much more efficient at growing higher quality, healthier plants with less power. 

This means that the less power they use, the fewer costs involved in running the system. It’s as easy as that, and here’s a simple table to compare: 

Comparison Between LED, CFL and Incandescent Light Bulbs:

Lifespan in hours10,0009,0001,000
Watts (equivalent 60 watts)101460
Cost per Bulb$2.50$2.40$1.25
Daily Cost*$0.005$0.007$0.03
Annual Cost*$1.83$2.56$10.95
Cost for 50k Hours @ $0.10 kWh$50$70$300
Bulbs Needed for 50k Hours55.550
Total Cost for 50k Hours with Bulb Price$62.50$83.20$362.50
*Assuming 5 hours a day @ $0.10 per kWh.

Drawbacks of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics

If you are all excited, now that you know “Do LED lights work for hydroponics?” and the advantages of using it, you should also spend some time looking at the disadvantages.

There are many benefits to using LED lights for hydroponics, there are also a small handful of disadvantages to consider. They are all but minor but need to be explored upon making a final decision to use LED as a light source. 

Drawbacks of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics
Drawbacks of Using LED Lights for Hydroponics

Cover smaller areas (One Directional)

The technology behind an LED is a diode; its current is only allowed to flow in a singular direction. This means that where/when there is no current flow, there is no light. 

On the other hand, an incandescent and CFL can emit heat and light in many directions. This is only a minor drawback for the LEDs as they are supremely efficient when it comes to the direction they are facing. 

They can only cover smaller areas, so a setup may require more light to achieve its yield.

Bad at Handling Heat

It is widely known that LED bulbs are much more sensitive to heat than incandescent or halogen sources. However, the longevity will all depend on how much heat the bulbs are subjected to. 

Latest LEDs are designed to withstand 185 degrees Fahrenheit (85 degrees Celsius), and this bears no huge effect on their reliability or how they can continue to operate. 

Light Pollution

LED lights have been known to produce a blue light, which emits light pollution. Light pollution isn’t just bad for plants, as plants are living, growing organisms, and it can also cause moderate to serious consequences to the biological rhythm of humans and wildlife. 

Especially the nocturnal kind who use their senses to guide them around. Sometimes, having a benefit such as the low cost of LEDs can cause problems elsewhere down the line. 

As we know, they require less electricity to create the same amount of light. Therefore more have been installed into our daily life. Have a look around when you’re out and about. The problem with this is the risks haven’t been properly studied. Adding retractable blackout screens to your greenhouse can be used to help counteract any light pollution it may produce.

Initial Heavy Costing Set-Up

The initial costs of setting up a hydroponic system can be overwhelming. Furthermore, the long-term benefits outweigh this burden. LED lights themselves are not cheap to purchase. 

You can pick some up on Amazon, for example, from anywhere between $2.50 and $15.00. The price will depend on many factors, but generally, the quality is the underlying decider.

How Many LED Lights Do You Need for Your Hydroponic Garden?

The exact amount of LED lighting required for each customized setup will vary, and it all depends on the number of plants you wish to grow. Let’s look at some numbers to get a feel of the number of lights you may require for your own needs. 

As a general rule of thumb, depending on the size of your grow room or grow tent, it’s safe to say that you’d need: 

  • 20 Watts per square foot for vegetative growth.
  • 30 Watts per square foot for the flowering stage.

Of course, some variables can affect the outcome, like the quality of the globes and how accurately you have directed the beam. Here’s a handy table to give you a slightly better than a rough idea of what you’d require for your setup. 

Grow Room SizeSquare FeetVeg WattageFlower Wattage
1’*1′120 watts30 watts
2’*2′480 watts120 watts
3’*3′9180 watts270 watts
2’*4′8160 watts240 watts
4’*4′16320 watts480 watts
5’*5′25500 watts750 watts
6’*6′36720 watts1080 watts
4’*8′32640 watts960 watts
8’*8′641280 watts1920 watts
10’*10′1002000 watts3000 watts

Next, we can look at how many plants you could have under each light. To ensure that you can produce a consistent harvest, it’s ideal for spreading your plants out evenly. 

Stuffing a heap of plants under one light or minimal light will not save any time or money, and if anything, it will only set you back. The plants will all fight for the light they do receive and end up growing on top of each other. 

This will ensure that you yield less, which of course, is not the desired result. We can use the same size grow rooms or tents as an example. Again, your results may vary based on the type of globes and the direction that they face.

Grow Room SizeSquare FeetRecommended # of Plants in VegRecommended # of Plants in Flower
1’*1′1Up to 21
2’*2′4Up to 4Up to 2
3’*3′9Up to 9Up to 5
2’*4′8Up to 8Up to 5
4’*4′16Up to 16Up to 9
5’*5′25Up to 25Up to 12
6’*6′36Up to 36Up to 20
4’*8′32Up to 32Up to 18
8’*8′64Up to 64Up to 36
10’*10′100Up to 100Up to 48

What Type of Light is Best for Growing Plants Indoors?

Plants Adore Sunlight. 

That’s an easier fix for outdoor plants. For those growing indoors, though… Unless you have some decent windows, they won’t be able to receive that glorious natural light that they can thrive on. 

The best type of light for growing your plants indoors is those that replicate the natural solar spectrum. Incandescent (LED’s) and fluorescent (HID’s, CFL’s) lighting options can do just that. They produce a cool and warm light balance and are generally considered full-spectrum lights. They are designed to emulate the full light spectrum found in sunlight during midday. 

Mistakes to Avoid with LED Lighting Fixtures

You need to avoid a few notable mistakes to ensure that you maximize your yield. These include:

Mistakes to Avoid with LED Lighting Fixtures
Mistakes to Avoid with LED Lighting Fixtures


One strong benefit of LEDs and the main reason they are so energy efficient is that they don’t produce their light using heat. 

On the other hand, the heat they produce can cause a few issues primarily to do with overheating. 2 main factors that cause this issue are inadequate heat sinking and excess power. 

The danger is that it can burn and melt any plastic lenses or wires if the correct precautions aren’t. 

These include:

  1. Avoiding setting the globes in an enclosed fixture 
  2. Not following manufacturer’s specific guidelines 
  3. Blocking the rear side of the fixture where the heat is produced.

Under Lighting

Under lighting is a term used where your hydroponic system has fewer lights than required for the number of plants you aim to grow in the desired amount of space to grow them in. 

Remember the table examples we went through above?

If you have inadequate light, then you will run into the problem of a growth timing imbalance. This, of course, leads to a lower yield. Meaning the all-around effectiveness and efficiency will just set you back in the long run.

Not Placing Lights at the Right Place

Light placement comes with a few variables, such as wattage, size, and footprint. Setting your lights around 4 inches apart in all directions is a great starting point as a rule of thumb.

You can adjust as your plants start to grow if needed. Not placing them in the right place will slow down your results, but this is not as big an issue as some of the others we have talked about.

Avoid Buying Low-Quality LED Lights

Another mistake to avoid with LED lighting fixtures is purchasing low-quality lights. Understandably, they can be cheaper initially. However it’s not worth the lower price tag over things like longevity, safety, and even personal health issues. 

Higher quality LEDs will cost more to begin with but will last longer; that’s a fact! They will have fewer issues with faulty and/or unsafe parts which could burn. 

As far as health problems are concerned, better quality LEDs flicker less, which in turn causes less concern for your eyes and reduces headaches.

Don’t Forget to Adjust the Lights

Light is arguably the most vital piece of the hydroponic puzzle, which triggers the photosynthesis process. So the placement of light is a very important factor to consider when setting up your system. 

As a rule of thumb, 12-30 inches (30-75 cms) from the top of your plant to your LED lights are a winning distance. You can adjust them as your plants grow. 

Setting them too close will cause them to bleach and develop yellow spots. Setting them too far away won’t allow them to photosynthesize.

If you are a beginner, You may find this video useful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I leave my LED to grow lights on 24 hours a day?

As much as plants love light to ensure photosynthesis, they also need time to rest. Photosynthesis converts light into an energy source. 

When it’s dark, the respiration process turns that energy into carbohydrates which the plant can use later. Having the lights on 24/7 will prevent the plants from going through this process. 

Common cycles are 12/12 and up to 18/6. It’s a good idea to purchase a light timer to regulate these times daily.

2. What color light is best for hydroponics?

To obtain optimal results, choose a full spectrum to grow light that allows the color temperatures of:
Blue Range (5,000 – 7,000K) – This will promote vegetative growth
Red Range (3,500 – 4,500K) – This will promote fruiting and flowering


Any hydroponic light aims to imitate both direct and indirect sunlight requirements that a specific plant may have. Get that wrong, and you will most likely lose out on time as well as money. 

As you can see, LED lights are not only effective when it comes to using these systems, but they are also not too expensive to run in the long term. They are safe and reliable, which is why they are one of the top choice lights in the hydro fraternity. 

All in all, it’s safe to say that LED lights work for hydroponics and I hope I have been able to feed your curiosity regarding your question “do LED lights work for hydroponics?”. If I have missed anything please let me know in the comment box.

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