What is the Best Light for Growing Mushrooms? A Complete Guide

When cultivating mushrooms at home, providing the right lighting is crucial for healthy growth and maximum yields. But with so many lighting options available today it can be confusing to determine what is truly the best light source for mushroom cultivation.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the most popular lighting technologies used by mushroom growers – fluorescent, LED, incandescent, and natural light. We’ll examine the pros and cons of each option, along with key factors like spectrum, intensity, heat output, and cost.

By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to choose the ideal lighting setup for your mushroom operation, no matter the size or species you are growing. Let’s get started!

Understanding Light Spectrum Needs for Mushrooms

The key to choosing grow lights for mushrooms lies in understanding their light spectrum requirements.

Mushrooms do not use light as an energy source for growth the way plants do (mushrooms lack chlorophyll). However, light does trigger key developmental processes and enhance growth through phototropism.

Research shows two ranges are particularly valuable:

  • Blue light (400-500 nm) – stimulates fruiting and production of spores. Influences development of stems, caps, and gills.

  • Green/yellow light (500-600 nm) – drives overall biomass growth by influencing mycelium density and mushroom size.

An ideal mushroom light delivers balanced intensities of blue and green/yellow wavelengths. Broad spectrum white light also provides benefits.

Let’s see how different lighting technologies stack up when it comes to meeting mushrooms’ spectral needs.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Fluorescent lighting has been a top choice of mushroom cultivators for years. Their combination of efficiency, low heat output, and design options make fluorescents well-suited for mushroom cultivation.


  • Efficient – use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs

  • Low heat – won’t raise ambient temperatures

  • Long-lasting – up to 20,000 hour lifespan

  • Compact size – T5 and T8 models fit tight spaces

  • Affordable upfront cost

  • Ability to tailor spectrum – choose cool/blue or warm/red tubes


  • Contains mercury – proper disposal required

  • Output declines over bulb lifetime

  • Frequent bulb replacement

  • Limited light intensity

  • Not as energy efficient as LED

Within fluorescent lighting, T5 and T8 are generally the preferred choices of mushroom growers:

  • T5 – High light output in a compact form. Can closely mimic natural daylight.

  • T8 – The standard fluorescent tube design – affordable and easily found.

Fluorescents require separate ballasts to operate. And the bulbs must be replaced every 6-12 months as output declines. But the spectrum range and gentle heating of fluorescents make them a solid contender for mushroom cultivation.

LED Grow Lights

Over the past decade, LED grow lights have surged in popularity for growing mushrooms and other crops.

Offering even greater efficiency and longevity than fluorescents, LEDs give mushroom cultivators ultimate control over the light spectrum and intensity.


  • Highly energy efficient – use up to 60% less energy than fluorescents

  • Long lifespan – 50,000 hours or more

  • No bulb replacements needed

  • Cool operation – produces nearly no excess heat

  • Compact, lightweight designs available

  • Can customize and optimize spectrum

  • Dimmable on some models

  • Higher light intensity than fluorescents


  • Higher upfront cost

  • Spectrum can degrade over time

  • Need proper heat dissipation

With LEDs, growers can select full-spectrum white light formulas, blue-enriched recipes, or spectra tailored to individual mushroom species. This level of control makes LED the ideal modern choice for the highest yielding mushroom production.

Incandescent Bulbs

Standard incandescent light bulbs are seldom used these days for mushroom cultivation. But they do offer some unique benefits:


  • Very inexpensive to purchase

  • Easy to find at any hardware store

  • Familiar, simple technology

  • Broad light spectrum


  • Very energy inefficient

  • High heat output

  • Short lifespan – 1,000 hours or less

  • Can’t customize spectrum

  • Light intensity declines with age

  • Bulbs must be replaced frequently

  • Unsafe for confined spaces (fire risk)

While incandescent lights shouldn’t be ruled out entirely, there are good reasons LED and fluorescent dominate modern mushroom cultivation. Incandescents may work for small hobbyists setups, but their high operating costs and intense heat make scaling up impractical.

Natural Light

Outdoors, the sun provides the perfect balance of blue, green, and yellow wavelengths to satisfy all of a mushroom’s light needs. Nothing can fully replicate the full spectrum intensity of natural sunlight.

But consistent access to natural light isn’t always feasible, especially for commercial cultivation. And supplemental lighting is still needed at night.

For small hobby growers, placing mushroom fruiting chambers near a bright window can provide adequate light for growth. But relying solely on the sun comes with considerable limitations, especially in northern latitudes.

Utilizing the sun’s free photons to offset energy costs is great. Just be sure to have backup artificial lighting ready for dark days and night cycles.

Key Factors in Choosing Grow Lights for Mushrooms

Beyond spectrum, there are a few other important factors to evaluate when selecting lighting:

  • Intensity – Measured in lumens or PAR. Ensure adequate brightness for the grow space size.

  • Coverage – Light should distribute evenly over the entire mushroom cultivation area.

  • Energy Efficiency – Lower electricity costs will quickly offset LEDs higher upfront cost.

  • Heat Output – Minimal excess heating prevents climate control challenges.

  • Lifespan – How often do bulbs or fixtures need replacing?

  • Cost – Compare total lifetime costs, not just purchase price.

  • Control – Dimmable and customizable spectra allow optimizing the light recipe.

  • Safety – Ensure good electrical safety and fire prevention measures are in place.

Prioritizing these factors will lead you to the best lighting system design for your specific needs and budget.

Best Grow Light Options for Mushrooms

Given the spectrum needs, efficiency, and control offered by modern lighting technologies, here are my top recommendations:

For Small Home Growers

  • T5 or T8 Fluorescents – Affordable, cool, easy to install in confined spaces for hobby cultivation.

  • LED Panel – Compact all-in-one LED fixture ideal for a small mushroom fruiting chamber. Offers spectrum control.

  • Natural Light – Situate fruiting chamber near a bright window. Supplement with CFL or LED at night.

For Commercial Grow Facilities

  • Integrated T5 LEDs – Combine LED efficiency with familiar T5 fluorescent form. Daisy chainable.

  • Horticulture LED Bar Light – Optimize spectrum and intensity. Mount over vertical rack systems or shelves.

  • Full Spectrum LED Grow Lamp – Screw-in replacement for traditional HID lamps, with far greater efficiency and customization.

Regardless of the scale, always provide adequate light intensity evenly across the entire mushroom cultivation area. Monitor and adjust spectrum and brightness to determine the optimal recipe.

Takeaways on Finding the Best Mushroom Grow Lights

When lighting is tailored specifically to their photobiology, most mushroom species respond with faster, denser growth and larger, more abundant fruiting.

While simple to provide, lighting for mushrooms deserves more attention than just flipping on a shop light in the corner.

By making informed choices based on efficiency, spectrum, coverage, and control, cultivators can unlock better performance through lighting. Partnering the right grow lights with dialed environmental conditions and substrate formula will lead to success growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms at home or commercially.

Better Light Spectrums = Better Mushroom Growth Research engineered light recipes for your mushroom type & growth stage Blue Sun Spectrum

The coolest spectrum has 450 nm (blue) wavelengths and full-spectrum 6500K white light that is designed to help mushrooms grow in a healthy way during the incubation and fruiting cycles.

Simple to use, rocker style On-Off switch features a water-resistant cover to protect against humidity and dust.

Hanging equipment is sold separately, but the built-in metal hooks make it easy to set up quickly using standard hydroponic hangers, zip ties, S-hooks, and more.

Daisy Chain Cable Installation

Connect multiple fixtures using the provided 2 daisy chain cables for a versatile and clean installation.

Connect multiple fixtures end-to-end using the provided daisy chain connector pieces for a seamless installation with less wiring.

Lee and Brian of Moto Pizza in Seattle, WA talk about lighting in part 2 of this series. They talk about the benefits of using the right lighting spectrum for the fruiting stage of mushroom growth.

Ready to Grow: This LED grow light fixture has a single built-in tube that can’t be replaced, an on/off switch, and the ability to work with voltages from 120V to 277V.

Sustainable Mushroom LightingReplaces 54W T5 HO 4FT fluorescent lamps. Uses 60% less energy, greatly reducing heat output, HVAC costs and the need for more vertical space. Provides savings of up to $175 in energy costs over the lifetime of the fixture.

Mushroom-Centric Design: This design was made just for mushrooms, with a 10% more effective spectrum for mushroom growth and a high PBAR output and effectiveness (280–800nm).

Connect up to 20 lights at 120V, 35 at 208V, 40 at 240V, or 45 at 277V on a single circuit for a simpler and cleaner installation. Fixtures connect end-to-end or via daisy-chain cable (installation accessories provided).

Spreading Light Evenly: The tube’s design and built-in reflectors make sure that the light spreads evenly, even at close range.

Long Lifetime & GuaranteeFeatures an exceptional 40,000-hour lifetime and a 3-year warranty. Active Grow is locally based in Seattle, WA providing same day response and friendly support.

Certified SafeAll fixture components and manufacturing processes meet the highest industry safety standards.

Rebates AvailableThis LED fixture may be eligible to receive large utility rebates for commercial projects. Contact us to learn more.

  • Model number: AG/22STRIP/4FT/CS
  • Power: 22 watts
  • Input voltage: 120-277V 50-60Hz
  • Rated power factor: >95%
  • PPF output (400-700 nm): 40 µmol/s
  • PBAR output (280-800 nm): 42 µmol/s
  • PPF efficacy: 1.82 µmol/J
  • PBAR efficacy: 1.91 µmol/J
  • Spectrum: Blue Sun Spectrum
  • CRI: 85 (typical)
  • Daisy chain capable: Yes (max 20@120V/35@208V/40@240V/45@277V)
  • Dimensions (l x w x h): 47.24″x2.76″x1.77″ (1200x70x45mm)
  • Weight: 1.82 lbs (827 g)
  • Dimmable: No
  • Lifetime: 40,000 hours
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Optional accessories: 240V plug adapter

Blue light can be very helpful when growing mushrooms. It can help a lot of different species, from oyster and shiitake to lion’s mane and psilocybin, produce lots of good mushrooms.

Lee and Brian from Moto Pizza in Seattle, WA talk about the Active Grow 3-Tier LED Walden Grow Tent in part 1 of this series. This tent is designed to grow mushrooms indoors.

How to Grow Mushrooms: Lighting


What color light is best for mushroom growing?

This image showcases the physical effects on oyster mushrooms resulting from three different lighting environments: dark, red light and blue light. The sample grown under blue light produced the highest fresh weight of the three.

Does mycelium need light to grow?

Mycelium, the vegetative part of fungi, does not require light to survive. It primarily relies on decomposing organic matter for its nutrients and energy. However, light can play a role in the growth and development of some fungi, influencing the formation of fruiting bodies (mushrooms) and their direction of growth.

What ambient light for mushroom growing?

Generally, mushrooms prefer indirect light or low levels of artificial light, rather than direct sunlight which can dry out substrates and overheat the growing environment.

Do mushroom bags need light?

Unlike plants, mushrooms don’t use light as an energy source to grow, but they do need some light to grow properly. Indirect light from a window or artificial lighting can be used. If you use artificial lighting we recommend it be on for 12 hours a day, and a digital timer can assist in automating this process.

Which light is best for growing mushrooms?

Fluorescent lights are a popular choice for growing mushrooms because of their energy efficiency, low heat output, and affordability. T5: T5 fluorescent lights have a thin, tube-like design and are known for their high light output and efficiency.

How to grow mushrooms?

First, let’s start with natural light. Sunlight is the most common and cost-effective light source for mushroom gardening. Natural light provides the perfect amount of light for mushrooms to grow and can be used for free. However, it is important to note that natural light is not always available and can be unreliable.

Are fluorescent bulbs a good choice for mushroom gardening?

Fluorescent bulbs are a popular choice for mushroom gardening, as they provide a broad spectrum of light and can be adjusted to provide the right amount of light for different stages of mushroom growth. However, fluorescent lights can be expensive to run, as they need to be replaced regularly.

Are fluorescent grow lights good for mushroom pinning?

Fluorescent lamps with “natural daylight” tubes emit natural bright light in the 6500 Kelvin color range. This is ideal for mushroom pinning and the growth stage. For example, these full daylight T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights are a great choice for any indoor shelved mushroom grow room.

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