Over the past few years, the use of grow tents has exploded in popularity. Both hobbyist cultivators and experienced growers are drawn to these integrated systems due to their ease of use. As our understanding of grow tent cultivation continues to expand though, we are constantly reassessing vital components in these setups—especially grow lights.

While the conveniences of grow tents for indoor cultivation are obvious, the setups also have their complications. Namely, much of the horticultural equipment being used was not originally designed for such purposes. You may then run into issues taking a grow device that was engineered for larger spaces and placing it into the tight confines of a tent. Picking the right light for your setup can then be trickier than you expected.

Today’s horticultural lighting is continually making huge strides in innovation, and it can be tough to understand how these advancements will affect your grow space. From HPS lights to LED lights, each technology poses unique benefits and challenges for cultivation. With the wide array of options available, you will have to research what works best for your setup.

What is Unique about Plant Cultivation in a Grow Tent?

Grow tent cultivation is unique due to the complete control you are afforded over your plants. There are additional factors to consider though, such as the constraints that arise with the limited square footage in these systems. This confined space will directly influence critical environmental elements such as temperature and airflow.

The smallest tents on the market today are 2x2 ft, while the largest are 10x20 ft. When shopping for your grow light then, the amount of space available will need to be considered every step of the way. Namely, you will have to take excess heat put out by certain light fixtures into account. Whether you choose a large or small tent, your choice of lighting will directly impact the ambient climate within.


Temperature is a major environmental factor that must be addressed by all tent growers, as the goal is a consistent range within 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Your grow light will be one of the primary factors to consider in keeping your tent operating within this ideal zone. Depending on your tent size, you may have limited options for maintaining such a temperature using traditional methods such as air-conditioners. Exhaust fans and ducting help to regulate climate but can quickly take up precious space within your tent.


Proper airflow is just as crucial as a consistent temperature. Plants such as hemp thrive in drier climates where soils/mediums can thoroughly dry out between watering periods. The regulation of humidity via proper air circulation is also critical in stopping the spread of harmful pathogens such as powdery mildew. For optimal growing conditions, the air in a grow tent should be entirely exchanged every 5 minutes.

Lighting, temperature, and airflow all then directly influence one another. The size of your tent will dictate the size of the exhaust fan needed to properly regulate heat and expel air. Your choice of grow light will also affect your airflow system, as different lights produce distinct amounts of heat. Some of these setups will be bulkier and less functional than others.

Different Grow Lights for Tent Cultivation

Taking space, temperature, and airflow into consideration then, here is a brief look at how different grow lights function in grow tents:

Single-Ended High-Pressure Sodium

Single-ended high-pressure sodium (SE HPS) lights have been the “go-to” lights for hemp growers for decades, largely because they work well for both vegetative growth and flowering. In addition, SE HPS lights are affordable and offer a wide spectrum of usable PAR lights for hemp plants.

SE HPS lights are a very attractive option for novice tent growers who are operating on a tight budget. While these lights emit a good deal of heat, the hot air can be expelled with hoods, ducting, and an inline fan. With this air-cooling setup, you can utilize beneficial light while removing unnecessary, harmful heat. Also, you can position the lights within a couple of feet of your garden canopy - which is ideal for tent cultivation.

SE HPS lights work with grow tents. Yet, the additional hoods, fans, and ducting needed to make them function can be a real hindrance when it comes to workspace. Moreover, it can be difficult to properly position all this equipment within the tight confines of a tent.

Double-Ended High-Pressure Sodium  

Over the past decade, double-ended high-pressure sodium (DE HPS) lights have taken the hemp industry by storm. Due to their uniform and intense PAR light output, many of today’s commercial producers use DE HPS lights.

While DE HPS lights have proven their worth in large commercial grow rooms and greenhouses, they simply are not designed for the limited confines of a tent. Namely because, due to the strength of the light they emit, DE HPS fixtures must be hung at a minimum of 3-5 ft above a garden canopy. Even more, these lights are notorious for running excessively hot.

As seen with SE HPS lights, DE versions come with air cooling options. However, the lights still run overly hot for a grow tent. This fact, coupled with the need to hang them far above the garden canopy, makes them impractical in such a setting. Any attempts to utilize a DE HPS light for a grow tent would require a good deal of custom work - this extra effort immediately counteracts the convenience of using a tent in the first place.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Light-emitting diode (LED) lights represent the latest revolution in grow light technology. Originally, LEDs only utilized blue and red-light spectrums geared largely for the vegetative growth of hemp and other indoor plants. However, the last few years have given rise to full-spectrum LED lights that produce enough PAR light to yield very impressive harvests.

One of the largest selling points of LEDs is the fact that they run extremely cool. Moreover, most LEDs work best when positioned close to a garden canopy, at a space of around 18 inches. Even more, their cool running temperature lessens the need for bulky equipment add-ons such as hoods, fans, and ducting. Therefore, LEDs will save you heartache during the planning stage and allow for more square footage to work within your tent.

Which Light is Best for Cultivating Plants in a Tent?

It cannot be denied, grow tents are here to stay. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or newbie grower, you can likely find a practical use for these convenient kits. However, there are some important considerations to make when planning such operations. After carefully weighing the options, we feel that LED lights are best suited for the task of grow tent cultivation.

Looking at the main challenges of space, temperature, and airflow, LEDs simplify your setup by eliminating the need for elaborate air-cooling in a small area. This simplification also creates room to work within your tent and lessens the need for intricate planning. Finally, we like the fact that LEDs are specifically engineered to function in extreme proximity to plants.

In the end, planning an indoor grow operation should be a marriage of form and function. When you begin adding a ton of extras to make a single piece of equipment work - such as an SE or DE HPS light - it is likely that piece of equipment simply isn’t suited for the task. LEDs grant you the flexibility and control to smoothly set your desired brightness levels in any grow tent.