The market for LED lights has seen a lot of competition in the last few years, with players from lots of different companies vying for our hard earned dollars. If you're looking for an option on the affordable end of the market and have done a little research, you've probably come across the Stingray line from Finnex.
If you're looking for an LED aquarium fixture that's capable of growing aquarium plants as well, you'd do well to give the Stingray a close look.
The Finnex Stingray comes a decent PAR rating, sleek machined look, proper safety ratings that don't endanger your home insurance and enough available models to suit almost any length of tank.
It may not have as many features as some pricier models (it doesn't have a timer) but it also don't have nearly the same high price, so in the end the Stingray is a solid contender for your hard-earned aquarium dollars.
If you're anything like me, as much as you like having a nice tank and lighting setup, the more money you can save to buy fish and plants, the happier you are. That being the goal, you're probably not looking to spend the equivalent of a month's rent just on lighting for your tank, right?
When my wife Erica and I decided to update the lighting over our tanks from the old T5HO fixtures which were starting to get a bit dated (and expensive to find replacement bulbs from), I headed over to Aquarium Co-Op's website to order a couple of new lights to try.
Based off positive reviews I'd read in the end I decided to try the Finnex Stingray in the 30" length for one of our 20 gallon long tanks, along with the pricier Fluval 3.0s.
My findings on the Fluval are detailed in a review here, and I found it to be a great light, but it's not cheap ($139.99 for our model from the Co-Op).
As a result, I was eager to take a look at what the Stingray offered at the more affordable end of the market ($54.99 for our model from Cory).
When I got a hold of the package and opened it up, my first impressions of the light itself were positive. It's sleek, solidly built, and when placed on a tank lid the light is so thin it's barely noticeable (a nice bonus!).
The Finnex Stingray makes for an attactive, low-profile, simple light
Additionally, the cord and power adapter combine to almost 90" of length on the model I have, so your installation options should be pretty wide open.
Power plug and adaptor for the Stingray. It measures almost 90", allowing mounting flexibility
If there's something that lets the Finnex down a little, it's definitely the mounting bracket system. It works, but the plastic brackets and mounting screws don't exactly scream quality.
Finnex Stingray mounting clips
They do hold the light fairly securely, and the clear plastic was presumably chosen to be less noticable and blocky, but I tend to handle the pieces with care for fear of breaking something with a hard hit (do be a little careful if you're changing water with buckets, for example).
When turned on, the 20 gallon long tank we used as a test bed was lit up quite impressively. The tank was a simple clear water betta tank, and the fish, plants and hardscape glowed nicely under the illumination.
Overall, the Finnex Stingray made a decent first impression.
The Stingray series is touted as an "all-purpose" light on the company website, but its LED choice and PAR rating (more below) means it's clearly aimed at the planted tank crowd.
More advanced stuff might require a more "serious" light (read: higher output and cost), but this light will be excellent for beginners working on a first planted tank or for people who just prefer low and medium light plants in general.
If you're growing plants, you should find more than enough output to supply sufficient light for low and medium light easy plants such as:
...and a host of other options. They'll even be a decent choice for simple carpeting plants like dwarf sagittaria or crypt parva, so you're not limiting yourself too much unless your tank is on the deep side (choose "long" tanks rather than tall if you're able).
So far, I've found that this is a great light for planted freshwater tanks, and I love the fact that it won't break the bank either.
With just a little bit of work limiting the length of time the light is on (photoperiod) with a timer and the addition of enough Easy Green fertilizer to keep nitrates at around 20ppm or so, it didn't take too long to get the guppy grass and java fern merrily pearling away. That tank isn't even running additional CO2, but it's still a happy little underwater garden for one of our male bettas.
I also wanted to see how it would handle a more blackwater tank (a tank with water brown from tannins), so I tried it on our betta rubra tank as well. The Finnex penetrated the gloom quite well, and I think I would actually personally prefer to run a dimmer light on that sort of tank because I like the mysterious dark tannin look and this was a little too bright for that.
So whether you're running a basic fish-only tank or wanting to grow low or medium light plants in anything other than a super deep planted tank, I think the Finnex is a solid choice to consider.
We all want aquariums that look their best, right?
If you're looking for a light to mount directly to the aquarium, you'll find that the Stingray is a nice, low-profile option that doesn't take up much space on top of the tank.
Finnex Stingray mounted over a 20 Gallon long planted tank
As mentioned in the intro, the legs are only simple plastic and they're a little fussy to mount.
In addition, though I'm sure someone will appreciate the length, the screws are a little on the long side for our test tank.
Overall, they get the job done well enough, but I wasn't blown away.
Mounting clips and standoffs secured on the edge of a rimmed tank
If you're using the Stingray in an aquarium hood to replace an old light fixture, you'll be happy to hear that it comes with mounting brackets to screw the light in place. I don't use canopies so didn't test this option, but it's a nice touch for those that would.
Hood clips are included to allow the Stingray to be mounted in aquarium hoods
Though I have a few clip on lights on order for use in some tiny tanks, I haven't had a chance to review them yet.
Luckily, Cory from Aquarium Co-Op has produced a nice video showing its features, and even listing PAR values as well (I'll cover PAR values below if you don't have time for the video):
If you're replacing a fluorescent or incandescent light like you'd have in a standard kit tank setup, you'll even likely find a nice decrease in heat and power use.
That leaves more money in your pocket at the end of the year, and nobody's going to complain about that happening.
For the most part a fish only tank isn't too picky about what sort of light it uses.
There are a couple of exceptions (getting the right colour spectrum so our goldfish babies colour up well in our breeder tanks, for example), but otherwise it usually comes down to what looks best to your eye if you just keep fish.
As you'll see in reviews I mention a little further down in the article most people seem to like the look of the light output from the Stingray, but I did come across one comment that was interesting enough to highlight.
One reviewer noted that in extremely shallow tanks they could detect beams of blue light hitting the bottom and leaving pinpricks of light in a noticable fashion. I haven't really noticed that issue myself, but to each their own.
That probably comes from the fact that LED emitters tend to be more "directional" than normal bulbs, but it has the advantage of concentrating the light only where you need it (and not out into the rest of the room etc).
For those looking for PAR performance numbers (PAR - photosynthetically active radiation or how much light the plant can actually use), I scowered the web and found a few reliable sources that even match for once (lol).
In the review I linked from Aquarium Co-Op earlier in this article, Cory ran some numbers using an Apogee PAR meter and found the following:
Finnex Stingray Clip On Light (10" long light bar), 12" deep tank - 17 PAR
Finnex Stingray 24" version (24" long light bar), 12" deep tank - 30 PAR
A reviewer on The Planted Tank Forum found the following for the 48" long light bar:
|Depth||Same Depth As...||PAR Reading|
|6"||middle of 10 gallon tank||54-56|
|12"||bottom of 10 gallon, 20 long tanks||30-32|
|18"||bottom of 29 gallon tank, 55 gallon or 75 with 2" substrate||21-23|
|24"||bottom of 90 gallon tank||16-18|
Thankfully, everyone's numbers seem to line up. Those are showing decent performance from the Stingray too, especially for a low cost fixture that seems to last well.
PAR values like that should make it possible to grow a lot of commonly available undemanding plants like most swords, anubias, crypts, vals etc, and that's certainly been my experience to date.
The light doesn't have a timer so you'll have to order one or risk your tank turning into an algae farm (you can't be reliable enough to manually turn the light on an off yourself without issues), but they're easy enough to aquire at a hardware store or online like in the link here: timer (Aquarium Co-Op timer)
If you mosey over to the Aquarium Co-Op website and read one of the hundred or so reviews, you'll find that they're very well received (nothing other than 4 or 5 stars reviews out of about 95 total at the time I'm writing this).
In case you don't have time to check out the link, here's a selection of my favorite descriptions:
"Got tired of replacing bulbs, so I picked this up for the price of two T5HOs & don't regret the move."
"This light really makes the blues on my neons and rams pop, safe to say I'm in love"
"...this light is amazing even compared to my Satellite Pro on a different tank that ran me $225" (Adam - my link added as reference)
"It is sleek looking, the perfect size for my 20L (20 gallon long tank), and is growing low light - medium plants well"
"I needed help choosing a light within my budget; Robert and Cory really helped me make a decision that would work for me!"
"It was intuitive to install and makes my tank look like it's an exhibit at the state aquarium!"
One of the more worrisome parts of ordering a less expensive light is wondering if they'll hold up over time (or even arrive dead). Both of these concerns seem to be handled by Finnex in a decent fashion.
On the lifespan front, I've been using our Stingray for a few months and it hasn't given me any troubles so far.
The switch gear is holding up well, it's shrugged off a little bit of sponge filter spray here and there, and all the LED emitters are still running strong and growing plants well.
Cory at Aquarium CoOp mentioned that one of the reasons he carries them as opposed to other brands is that they've had a good longevity record so far, and having been out for a couple of years already, they've proven to be a solid choice from a company that will stand behind them if something goes wrong.
In fact, since finishing our goldfish breeding room rennovation and installing 17 new tanks there, we've decided to invest in Stingrays for all the tanks we just plumbed in. The Stingrays are economical to run, and our goldfish fry color up best when they have a good strong daylight-type light over them during the day as they're developing.
The Stingrays will also let us run a good selection of plants in the tanks to help with the large bioloads from the goldfish wee ones, since the plants will help consume the fish waste and reduce the number of water changes we need to do.
On the warranty side, as best I can see Finnex offers a 6 month warranty against defects if the light is purchased from a dealer like Aquarium Co-Op rather than an anonymous source like eBay or Amazon.
Although the light doesn't seem to be prone to issues, I'd still try to maintain the warranty if possible.
Aquarium Co-Op even goes as far as to replace the light at their cost if you have issues, so you don't have to deal with the return process yourself (with a guarantee like this they choose reliable lights for a reason, obviously).
One difference between the warranty on this light and the one on the fancier Fluval 3.0, for example, is that the Finnex lights don't warranty against water damage (the 3.0's are waterproof).
Some people have accidentally knocked their Stingrays into the water and had them live to tell the tale, but I suspect you wouldn't want to make a habit of it.
For my part I tend to just place the lights loosely on the top of most of our tanks since I'm in and out of them so often catching fry to move to different tanks as they grow, and screwed in mounts would get in the way. That does risk the lights getting knocked into the tanks, so I'm just as careful as I can
As is becoming a bit of a theme on my reviews, I really recommend going with Aquarium Co-Op for your Stingray if you decide to order.
The reasons for this are a few:
Whatever source you order from, the light will usually ship in it's original box. That makes some people nervous, but rest assured that it's designed that way and most people get their lights with no damage at all (even if the post is a little tough on the box itself).
Amazon gets a little twitchy if I mention their prices in these reviews, but I've left the links in the list above so you can compare for yourself.
Sadly, I get mine from the US. Sorry about that! Shipping to the border is easy though, so consider a road trip if you want to pick up a few items.
If you're like me you like to know exactly what you're buying, so here's a summary of the data one last time
|Depth of Sensor When Measuring||PAR Under Centre of Light||PAR Measured 6” Off Center|
|7K Daylight LEDs||20||23||27||32||40||56|
|660nm Red LEDs||3||4||4||8||8||8|
|460nm Blue LEDs||4||5||5||8||8||8|
In the end, I'm pleased to conclude that the Finnex Stingray offers a solid light at a great price.
It's a great product, and I've been very happy.
I have and use LED aquarium lights three times the cost of the Stingrays, but when it came time to order new lights for our breeder tanks, we decided to order these
For your part, you'll hopefully find the light effective and cost friendly, and for the price, it's hard to beat these lights in PAR performance and overall usability.
Don't let it happen again!