LED Aquarium Light Review; AquaRay, EcoTech, AI Vega & Hydra; More

Further Revised; 7/25/14

Reviews Include:

Forward; As noted in my other LED Lights article, I would like readers to know that while it is obvious that I have a bias toward a few particular LEDs and do not care as much for some others; this is based on use, science [much of it simple too such as energy lost as heat], research which IS cited here, and much input from true aquarium professionals that maintain and set up aquarium systems for a living, as well as the largest importer of marine life in North America based out of Los Angeles.
My biases/opinions are based on the above including one source with over 40 years of hands on experience in the hobby, not because I work for TMC, which I do not!!

It is not that LEDs I rate with less favor do not work, they in fact DO work, some quite well.
However they use more input energy/wattage to achieve the same results as those I recommend based on actual use, patented emitter bins, and currently known scientific technology (such as PWM) & research!
Some of the science is basic common sense, and that is if one LED fixture puts out more heat and requires cooling fans, this is energy lost to heat and not being used as light energy.

So please please understand that if you are happy with one of the less favorably reviewed LEDs; GREAT, but realize there is a good chance you are NOT providing the best PUR light energy and even if you are likely it is coming at a HIGHER usage of energy for these results and just as importantly likely a 1 year warranty versus a 5 year warranty.

As well, This post/article is meant as a complement to this article:
LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting

This post is also meant as a compliment to my newest article that admittedly had input with a comparison chart from an employee of an online seller I have much respect for his knowledge:
What to Consider When Choosing Your Aquarium LED Lights

Simply put, this post is meant to dispel the many myths as I see them, circulating about what many LED lights can and cannot do for your aquarium so as to help others make an educated decision about their aquarium lighting; in other words simply a review, not an attack on anyone or even any product, even though based on some emails/comments, others certainly do not extend this courtesy to me or my mentor.

Please read the ABOVE articles for further information as to why not all emitters and drivers are the same and why a 30 watt LED fixture using the latest emitters/drivers can surpass a 60 Watt LED fixture either purchased or DIY using “off the shelf” emitters and drivers running on energy wasting and heat producing “Current Reduction” technology instead of PWM Technology.
Without reading the above articles first (as well as many of the cited references & resources), along with THIS article, one CANNOT make a totally informed decision about LED aquarium lighting based on this LED Reeview article.

OVERVIEW

Which ever LED (if any) you choose, make sure you know what you are trying to achieve, such as Reef, Freshwater Planted, Nano Reef, Deep Freshwater Planted, etc.
Then know how to compare “apples to apples”.

Avoid placing too much emphasis on these attributes:

  • Too much emphasis on PAR Meter Readings, as while this is certainly useful, a PAR Meter is not accurate in important light energy spikes WITHIN the 400 to 700 nanometer range. A PAR Meter measures the light within this 400nm- 700nm range ONLY and in fact is poor at rating the lower blue spikes in the 400-500nm range, as well as the energy closer to 700nm. Really, in my opinion, these meters would be better named CRI meters, as they measure light best in the middle of the PAR spectrum which better describes the color rendering index. The CRI is what we see best with our own eyes and is why lights such as the AquaBar Freshwater 6500K LED at 12 watts appears brighter than a 12 watt GroBeam Freshwater LED, even though the the GroBeam has a better PUR spectrum. Notwithstanding, both these products are made by TMC, but one is clearly superior over the other even though the lessor light is still a reasonably good product!

    This is where the less easy to discern PUR is MUCH more important.
    See Reference: Aquarium Lighting; Measuring PAR

  • Beware of placing too much emphasis on “watts” or watts per gallon when comparing “apples to oranges” as this is very inaccurate in comparing different lights to each other.
    EVEN different LEDs as there is a wide difference in output per watt and many poor quality lights make up for this in a shotgun approach of dozens of low output emitters and higher wattage, which IMO defeats one of the purposes of LED lighting: “lower wattage”.
    See also my other article: Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting
  • Finally, while my reviews may seem a bit harsh on many of these LED fixtures, I am only basing these reviews on currently known facts and well as professional use of many of these fixtures.
    In fact most of these fixtures listed here (with a few exceptions such as the Marineland Double Bright and a few not listed such as the Sky LED), will keep reef life or freshwater planted aquariums.
    Please understand that often my complaint is that these LEDs are marketed as the best when in fact a simple look at the facts of Kelvin, PUR (much more so than PAR), and circuitry/ emitter technology shows many as “wanna bes” that can often require 3-4 times thw electrical wattage and have much shorter life spans (& warranties) than the truly best LEDs.


*Zetlight ZT6600/ Maxspect Razor R420R/TMC V2 iLumenAir 900 & Mazarra Aquarium LED

Maxspect Razor 420R, Zetlight, iLumenAir, aquarium LEDThe Maxspect Razor Aquarium LED along with the TMC V2 iLumenAir 900 which are all based on the same general basic build as the Zetlight ZT6600 are all capable aquarium LEDs with multiple emitters.
The Maxspect 420R AND V2 iLumenAir are BOTH made by this Zetlight in Honk Kong, however Zetlight reserves some of its technology ONLY for their name line such as the smart fan and better Cree emitters over Bridgelux for the other two carrying others names.
It is noteworthy that the version with the TMC name plate has nothing in common with their top of the line AquaRay line of LED lights.

The Mazarra-P Lighting system is one the first LED systems on the market to utilize the 410/420nm Super Actinic LED chips (violet). Maxspect claims that this spectrum is crucial for the success of any reef and water plant aquariums as it is required by Chlorophyll A for photosynthesis, where absorption peaks at 412nm.
While this claim is not fully substantiated, there is evidence that SOME corals need this spectrum for proper growth.
However little evidence exists that this spectrum is needed for freshwater aquarium plant growth.

Part of the problem is the use of warm white and cool white emitters, such as the Cree XPG 3000k warm white which is not an emitter best used for aquatic applications.
Other emitter chips/bins used include the Epileds Dual-Core 400-410nm & 410-420nm, Phillips Luxeon Rebel Royal Blue 440 – 460nm, Phillips Luxeon Rebel Blue 460-490nm, & the Cree XM-L Cool White 7000-8000k emitters (which from what I have read the XM-L Cool White bin is actually 5500K!! based on Crees own data).

The use of cooling fans implies that the Maxspect Mazarra as well as the Maxspect Razor R420R, TMC V2 iLumenAir 900, & Zetlight ZT6600 also use “Current Reduction” versus the vastly superior PWM to control the emitters.
See: Aquarium LED Lighting; PWM

Maxspect Mazarra Aquarium LED Fixture & SpectrogramThe spectrogram is a bit lacking too as per all important points of PUR (basically useful light energy), that is not to say this is not a good spectrogram, only that it could be better.

See: PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting; Including Spectrographs
OR: “Useful Light Energy; PUR”

 
 

Maxspect Mazarra Aquarium LED MountingBack to positives, this Razor (& Mazarra) LED are very nicely designed LED fixtures with a unique and reasonably simple mounting system.
See the picture to the left for Mazarras

 

Maxspect Razor R420R, TMC V2 iLumenAir 900, & Zetlight ZT6600 emitter layout

The TMC V2 iLumenAir 900 (166 watt output) consists of these Bridgelux emitters:

2 x 35w White Cluster Diodes (6500k)
24 x 3w Royal Blue (456nm)
3 x 3w Red (640nm)
3 x 3w Green (530nm)
2 x 3w Amber/Orange (605nm)

Zetlight’s own name brand 200 watt (184 watt output) ZT6600 uses similar Bridgelux LEDs to the IllumenAir, but instead uses a Cree XT-E Blue and adds Violet (UVA) emitters that the IllumenAir does not have.

2 x Daylight: 12000K 35 Watt super daylight chips
20 x Royal Blue: 3w 450-465NM
4 x Blue LED: 3w 465-485NM (Cree XT-E)
6 x Violet LED: 3w 410-420NM
3 x Green LED: 3w 520-535NM
3 x Red LED: 3w 620-630NM
2 x Orange/Amber 3w LED: 610-620NM

Zetlight’ build for Maxspect’s Razor R420R, M10000 (10,000K) 160 Watt (actual output 117 watt) LED consists of these LED emitters:

12 x Cree XT-E Cool White 5500 Daylight emitters
6 x Cree XT-E Warm White 3000 Daylight emitters
9 x Cree XP-E Blue (465-485nm)
6 x Cree XT-E Royal Blue (450-465nm)
6 x Eplileds Dual Core Violet (410-420nm)

In the end, my choice would be the ZetLight since is uses the best emitter combination of the three, with the least wasted PUR energy (although still not optimum PUR when compared to LEDs such as the AquaRay AquaBeams).
The Maxspect would be my last choice with the strange mix of warm white and cool white emitters to balance out the otherwise excellent blue/violet emitters thus resulting in a considerable amount of wasted light energy outside of optimum PUR.

Maxspect Razor R420R, TMC V2 iLumenAir 900, & Zetlight ZT6600 LED fixture features The Maxspect Razor R420R, TMC V2 iLumenAir 900, & Zetlight ZT6600 LED lights all come with with a simple but useful mounting system along with a very user friendly light “current reduction” controller system.

The “smart fan” used by these Zetlight manufactured fixture is another nice feature since it does require constant operation of the fan, in fact in my opinion this feature bumps these ahead of the similar EcoTech and Aqua Illuminations “High End” LED fixtures.

The negatives again are the LACK of energy conserving, light efficient PWM controller technology, less than desirable PUR due to the many colored LEDs, and less than optimum PUR efficient emitters.
This said, these are nice LED fixtures for those desiring a good light for coloration of their reef specimens where an efficient lower wattage per PUR fixture is not that important. These are clearly not the best as per the known science of aquarium lighting, but are certainly reef capable at albeit a higher cost of operation (and higher carbon footprint), as well as shorter useful product lifespan.

The bottom line is while not the very best as per the more important PUR (NOT PAR), emitter kelvin ratings, and emitter technology; these are a less than efficient BUT VERY reef capable LEDs with MANY unique features that many would find very useful in their reef lighting applications with Zetlight’s own flagship 6600 fixture edging out their builds for Maxspect and TMC.

Product Reference:
ZetLight ZT6600 Reef Aquarium LED Light

Maxspect/Zetlight Warranty = 1 Year


*Ecoxotic:

The popular “Ecoxotic Stunner” is simply for additional lighting, not Reef or planted freshwater aquarium lighting. The LEDs are not of the output, wattage, or even the same generation technology as the LEDs used by the TMC AquaRay/AquaBeam or Maxspect.
As well the PAR output generally is below the necessary 50 mmol required for photosynthesis.

Ecoxotic Panorama Strip, Module 8000K/453nm Actinic BlueEcoxotic Panorama Strips have 12 older technology 1 watt emitters (vs. the 2.4 watt high PUR emitters used in the AquaBeam 500 & 600s). More emitters are required due the lack of precision (useful energy output, etc).
That said, while the Ecoxotic Panorama Strips are not of the technology level of the TMC 500/600s strips these are still a big improvement on the “Stunner” and can be considered for Reef Tanks. A popular model is the Panorama Module 8000K/453nm Actinic Blue which consists of 8 white lights and 4 blue lights.

The newer Ecoxotic Panorama Retro 36 is closer to the higher end LEDs produced by TMC, even then the emitters are still not of the high output useful light energy bins.
Please reference: Aquarium Lighting, Useful Light Energy

Worse is Ecoxotic’s approach to patents for the emitters they are using is “go ahead and sue me”, not the kind of company I think any honest person should support.
There is a reason that the better LEDs such as the TMC AquaRays are priced as they are; It is called licensing.
(See Orbital Technologies Corporation Statement; Patent Infringement)

Ecoxotic Warranty = 1 Year

Marineland Double Bright Aquarium LED Light

*Marineland Reef Capable, Single & Double Bright:

The over hyped Marineland Double Bright LED lights from Marineland are also purely for highlighting fish only or complimenting other lights.
As with the Ecoxotic Stunner, these are much older “cheap” technology LED emitters of 1 watt each that do not come close in lumen, focused lumen and PAR output as the newer technology LEDs.

Marineland Reef Capable Inferior LED Aquarium Light FixtureThe so-called “Reef Capable” LED’s by Marineland, albeit much better than the Double or Single Bright, are still 2 generations behind the emitters used by the other newer generation lights that utilize the best emitters, the best drivers, and PWM technology unlike these LEDs.

These Marineland LED’s have a PAR reading, with the newer Apogee PAR meter, above 80 umol at a distance of 18 inches, but this is not the full story.
Since it is useful light energy (PUR) that is MOST important and this Marine “Reef Capable” LED with its 21 inferior one watt emitters is severely lacking here.

Please Reference: Aquarium Lighting; Measuring PAR & Aquarium Lighting; Useful Light Energy

Aquarium LED Review, Marineland Reef CapableWhile the “Reef Capable” are what they say they are in being capable of keeping some photosynthetic reef life, their 21 one watt emitters (on the 18-24″ model) are not of the best PUR available in the better newest generation emitters and yet the Marineland “Reef Capable” are about the same price as the vastly superior AquaRay AquaBeam LEDs. In fact an AquaBeam Reef White NP 2000 or Ocean Blue NP 1500 at using 30 watts of input energy will well out produce the largest Marineland Reef Capable with its 54 one watt low PUR emitters.

This leaves me scratching my head as to why anyone would purchase a vastly inferior LED fixture for well over $300 when a much newer and better generation LED is less at under $280 (this is about the same logic as purchasing computer technology three generations back and paying more).

See the picture/graph below which clearly shows the extreme short comings of the Marineland emitters. While there is a correct spike in the blue (which most older technology emitters have been able to achieve), there are not the two essential spike in the infrared wavelengths
In fact the vast majority of light output is in the useless green/yellow visible spectrums which will provide a PAR reading that is false as per actual useful energy (PUR). As well, give the human eye a false sense of a larger volume of light energy when in actuality this is clearly not the case.

Please reference: Aquarium Lighting; PUR.

Marineland Reef Capable, Double Bright emitter wave length output

*As another update to the Marineland Double and Single Bright LEDs, I met with one of my aquarium maintenance colleagues and discussed the results further and re-examined this LED light in action.
After further examining of the low PAR output Chinese emitters used by Marineland as well getting further expert input that these lights are at best for fish only tanks.
Basically, the Marine Single Bright had no more output than an 18″ 15 watt T8 Fluorescent aquarium light and should be sold/purchased as such!

In summary, the Marineland LEDs, whether the Single or Double Bright highlight LEDs or the better “Reef Capable” LEDs are still vastly inferior LEDs sold primarily at only often questionable mass merchandisers such as Pet Mountain. Any relatively serious reef or planted aquarium keeper would be much better off with an AquaRay AquaBeam or GroBeam, ZetLight, or EcoTech/ AquaIllumenation LED!!

Marineland Warranty = 1 Year ?


*TMC AquaRay AquaBeam, GroBeam; Including Fiji Blue 600, Mini 400 & 500 tile, 2000 Reef White & 1500 Ultima Ocean Blue LED Tiles

Along with a just a few other manufacturers; the TMC AquaRay is one of the leaders in both Reef and Planted freshwater aquarium LED lighting (especially in Europe), with an exceptional 5 year warranty to back them up that is far longer than most all other aquarium LEDs.

Based on the known science of aquarium lighting, what sets their LED Light fixtures apart are these factors:

  • The licensed/patented Cree and innovative Osram Olsom emitters, that no other fixtures have for the highest PUR output. Instead of warm white or cool white emitters, the AquaBeam/GroBeam LEDs use more reef or planted freshwater friendly kelvin temperature emitters
  • TMC uses precise drivers/circuitry to power each emitter so as to maintain spectral quality, unlike many low end LEDs that daisy chain their emitters together.
    Notwithstanding, other good/excellent “High End” LEDs such as Aqua Illuminations, EcoTech, and Kessil do not daisy chain their emitters either.
  • The AquaRay LEDs also applies latest technology to controllers that dim and brighten and LED fixture, as a controller best maintains the spectral output via pulse width modulation (PWM). The importance of PWM is that this technology is effectively turning the LEDs on and off very quickly (faster than the eye can see) so there is no change to the spectral output as opposed to using current reduction used by many brands of LED fixtures and LED Controllers.

    Probably the only downside to this technology is the complexity of the circuitry and it does come with a price. A separate controller is needed.

    See Reference: Aquarium LED Lighting; PWM

The result of these industry leading technologies as well as not going with the gimmicky, yet popular multiple color emitters such as Green emitters, these TMC AquaBeam & GroBeam have the highest PUR output for the lowest wattage input, often by a very wide margin

Further Specific TMC AquaBeam/GroBeam Information

TMC has recently (December 2012, Jan 2013) changed its 1500 XG Ultima line of LED Fixtures to the NP 1500 Ultima.

As well the 600 is now an “Ultima 600″ and the GroBeam 1000 for planted aquariums has been upgraded to the GroBeam 1500 Ultima (which includes a new design emitter as well).

As of August 2013, the new Reef White 2000 NP Ultima was released
See these product resource links:

TMC 2000 Reef White NP Ultima LED
TMC 1500 Ocean Blue NP Ultima LED

Pictured below is a Reef White 2000 NP Ultima and 600 Ultima over a 60 Gallon Reef Aquarium

See this separate review of the 1500 & 2000 Ultimas:
*TMC AquaBeam Ocean Blue 1500 NP Review
*TMC AquaBeam Reef White 2000 NP Review

The new 1500 & 2000 LED from TMC combines the exclusive and patented Cree 10000K XT-E daylight emitters with the high output XT-E Fiji Blue.
Even more impressive is the TMC Ocean Blue NP 1500 & Reef White NP 2000 includes the patent pending innovative NP Blue Osram Olson emitter which is specifically designed for photosynthetic reef life, providing a blue light that still is full spectrum.

The Picture below shows the spectrum of the Osram Olson ‘Natural Blue’ (NP) emitter:
Light spectrum of the Osram Olson NP Blue emitter

This is a much more advanced light than the Aqua Illumination SOL Vega Blue which uses standard technology XM-L Cool White emitters and older XP-E Blue emitters.

As well these TMC fixtures, continue to use advanced driver technology which does not waste nearly as much heat energy as other comparable LED fixtures. Instead, much more energy goes to actually lighting your aquarium.

TMC Ocean Blue NP 1500 Aquarium LEDThe TMC Ocean Blue NP 1500 is an excellent choice for aquarium keepers with tanks under 22 inches of depth desiring a very high output blue and daylight light combinations from a small footprint yet high output (high PUR) aquarium LED.

This LED features these patented emitters: (2) Cree XT-E Fiji Blue (450 nm), (4) XT-E Ocean White (10,000k), and (4) Osram Olson NP Blue (18,000k) with a correlated color temperature of 20,000K.

This is a COMPLETE LED for reef aquariums under 22″ of water with a PAR reading at 15 inches of 142 µEinsteins/sec/m2 PAR and 4250 lux at 400 mm with no supplementation needed assuming complete coverage.

Here are some important points as to what the NP 1500 series LED lights can and cannot do:

*This is not a depth penetrating LED fixture despite its plethora of excellent blue emitters, this is due to the fact it is not focused unlike the TMC Reef White NP 2000. However these two fixtures can be combined 1 to 1 for tanks with 24-32 inches of water depth.

*However the NP 1500 has a much larger area of light output from the same small foot print of the 2000 tiles.
The NP 1500 with a beam angle of 120 degrees has a 24 x 24 inch light spread, with fixture at optimum 8-12 inches above tank. While the light spread is about 18 x 18 for the 2000 Ultimas, which have a 60 degree beam angle.

It is also noteworthy that the combined emitters used in the NP 1500 have a higher PUR in proportion to the testable PAR (PUR is the actual useful light energy).

This is an important note, although not as easily verifiable with easily and inexpensively obtained equipment (such as a Light Spectrometer). There is simple, albeit not fully accurate equipment such as lenses that can display certain wave lengths to help with this determination.

The bottom line is many of the latest technology emitters such as the patented CRee XT-E cannot be fully reliably tested via a PAR meter since they are more accurate in the middle PAR spectrums and less closer to 400nm or 700nm, but these PAR meters are still useful for ball park measurements!

Please also reference this EXCELLENT article:
PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting

75 Gallon Planted Aquarium with GroBeam, LED ReviewsIt is notable that the 1500 Ultima line of AquaRay LEDs includes the Colour Plus and GroBeam.
A 75 gallon planted with two GroBeam earlier generation LED tiles is pictured to the left (picture courtesy AAP)

The GroBeam 1500 uses (10) Patented Cree XB-D emitters with a beam angle of 120 degrees, a correlated color temperature of 6500K, a lux of 4430, and produces a PAR rating of 148 at 400mm (15″).

The Colour Plus uses (4) Patented Cree XP-G 10,000K white, (2) XP-E Blue, (2) XP-E Red, & (2) XP-E Green.
This color mix is comparable many other LEDs that compliment the higher PUR emitters with colors to make corals anf fish colors pop. As with the GroBeam 1500, the Colour Plus has a beam angle of 120 degrees, a correlated color temperature of 6500K, a lux of 4430, and produces a PAR rating of 148 at 400mm (15″).

The difference is while this is certainly a capable LED light, TMC does NOT market it as a sole reef light, nor should it be used this way. Unless a FOWLR, low to medium light planted, or fish aquarium, this is best used as a compliment to all other TMC AquaBeam and GroBeam lights

Product Reference
GroBeam, Colour Plus 1500 Ultima LEDs

AquaBeam 2000 NP Ultima LED Aquarium Light TileThe excellent TMC 1000 Ultra has been replaced as of August of 2013 with the AquaBeam 2000 NP Ultima.

As with the 1000 Ultra, the 2000 tiles are still the most focused best depth penetrating (albeit with the lowest light spread) of all TMC AquaRay lights and quite bluntly MOST any other aquarium LED but for the Orphek & Kessil!

This makes the AquaBeam 2000 LEDs the best choice (as per TMC products) for tanks over 20-24″ in depth including deeper hexagon or similar reef aquariums.

As noted earlier with the 1500 NP Ocean Blue, this LED uses the exact same emitters, but with lenses producing a much smaller 60 degree cone of light with much more depth penetration. The results are a PAR reading at 15 inches of 380 µEinsteins/sec/m2 PAR and 19600 lux at 400 mm.

Below is an SPS Frag grow out tank under TMC AquaRay 1000 LEDs:
You can just make out the refection of the typical TMC 1000 LEDs in the water

SPS Frag grow out tank under TMC AquaRay 1000 LED

600 Ultima:

*The TMC 600 models are excellent as stand alone LED fixtures or as compliments to the 2000 and even 1500 models so as to add light spread in larger deep tanks.

See this review of the 600 Ultima:
*New TMC AquaBeam 600 Ultima Aquarium LED Light

Often combinations of past TMC models worked best such a friend Aaron who purchased these LED lights in August of 2011 and has (4) TMC “AquaBeam 600 Marine Blue”, (1) TMC “1500 Ocean White”, & (1) TMC 1000 Marine White in a 90 gallon aquarium.

Here is a quote from him:
“My hammer corals having been growing like crazy. I started with 2 polyps and they’ve split into 7-8 polyps now in less than a year. I have a leather mushroom on the other side that was pretty good sized when I got it but has about doubled in size in the 6 months or so I’ve had it.”

Fiji Blue:


TMC also now utilizes the newest patented XT-E Deep Blue 450nm un-lensed emitters in their AquaBeam Fiji Blue Fixture (pictured above), which is an excellent compliment to the Marine White or even the AquaBeam Reef Blue for a very nice full blue spectrum, specifically for enhancing the fluorecence of corals. Notwithstanding, the EcoTech Radion does a nice job here too mixing blues.

See this product resource link:
AquaBeam Fiji Blue LED

Mini 400 & 500:
The Picture to the Left displays the new TMC Mini 500 LED which is designed for small Nano Reef Tanks under 15 gallons (the picture displays this light with a “MountaRay” bracket for easy attachment to small tanks)
This Mini 500 LED includes Four lensed CRee patented XP-E 10,000K and one unlensed Blue CRee XP-E (the White LEDs can be switched off for “moonlight” mode).

TMC also has a similar 6500K Mini 400 for small “high light” planted freshwater aquariums.
See this product resource link: TMC AquaRay Mini 500 & 400 LED

While I personally have found this an excellent new offering from TMC, I find the moonlight mode somewhat a gimmick based on known facts about moon light and its affect on corals, etc. However my understanding is TMC is simply bowing to customer demands here.
Please Reference: Aquarium Moon Lights Review

TMC Mini 400, Aquarium LED ReviewThe Mini 400 uses four new high output OSRAM OSLON SSL High Power 6500K LED Emitters.
This is a far better choice for a small nano planted or a reef refugium than any CFL, as at 12 watts, this LED fixture will out produce ANY CFL under 80 watts!
The picture above is of a 29 gallon aquarium with two Mini 400 Tiles providing excellent plant growth (click to enlarge).

Also see this review of the 400 from Aquarist Magazine:
TMC Aquaray Mini LED 400 Aquarium Light Tile Review

Also see LED Aquarium Lights & Lighting for further LED information and as well for further information about the TMC AquaBeam 600 and 1000 Ultras.

Update 6-21-12
TMC had a failure of their quality control for the Ocean White 1500 in that CRee sent cool white emitters (those used by EcoExotic at the time) instead of the patented 9000-10000k XP-G emitters. These were installed in a few runs in the spring of 2012.
The fixtures in question have these numbers on the box side:
11-10-43-04
12-04-17-03
Not all fixtures in these batches have this problem, however if your Ocean White was recently purchased and seems more “yellow”, this fixture may need to be returned.

It is noteworthy that this mistake was caught by a couple of customers with a good knowledge of what a quality LED should produce in light energy and they noticed the difference from other TMC LEDs since these Cree cool white emitters produce a more yellow, lower quality PUR light.

AquaRay; AquaBeam & GroBeam Warranty = 5 Years


*TMC AquaBar LED;

This is a new offering by TMC that is made to TMC specification in China with 6500k White Samsung LED emitters instead of the patented Cree & Osram Olson Emitters supplied with their premium AquaBeam and GroBeam line of LED Lights.

In early testing, which I will update, these lights look to be a reasonable alternative for those seeking an alternative to the more pricey TMC GroBeam LED for planted freshwater aquariums, but desiring a step up in output and warranty from the Finnex and Fluval freshwater LED lights (which have a 180 day and 3 year LIMITED warranty respectively).

AquaBar Comparison to GroBeam, Aquarium LED Review To the naked eye, these actually appear more bright than the GroBeam, but that is due to more green and yellow output in the middle of the PAR light spectrum than the GroBeam.
The AquaBar also appears more blue, which again is due to a PUR that is good, but less than perfect when compared to the industry leading TMC GroBeam LED light.
WHY? Simple, while these use an excellent specific 6500K emitter, these are still an off the shelf emitter that is aimed at the broad market as all off the shelf emitters are, this includes aiming at a better CRI since this is what is pleasing to the human eye, but not necessarily PUR.

The picture above displays a GroBeam on top and an AquaBar below. Please click on the picture to enlarge.

With ongoing testing and feedback and more importantly with more scientific evidence, I should be able to update this LED more.
In the mean time, early use and testing, warranty, and results of noted planted aquarium expert George Farmer who has used the GroBeam in the past, but is now also using AquaBar LEDs; the AquaBar appears to be a very viable alternative to the high end GroBeam and the discount pet store Finnex and Fluval LEDs on the other end.

Product Resource:
TMC AquaBar LED Light Strips

TMC AquaBar LED Warranty = 2 years (full replacement)


*Current Satellite Freshwater LED;

Current Satellite Freshwater LED, review

The Current Satellite Freshwater LED is a relatively new LED sold primarily at discounters such as Amazon or Petco and is quite frankly typical of LED lights sold at discounters in that it is full of gimmicks that will appeal to theose with little knowledge fo lighting, but are easily marketed to by “bells & whistles”.
The fact these lights get good reviews on Amazon is why consumer reviews such as these are not to be trusted.

I will use the model #4007 as an example for this review.
This LED is designed for 36”-48” aquariums and uses 25 watts of electricity.
The LED emitters consist of 72 White & 36 RGB (Red, Green, & Blue) emitters

First the good, this truly is a feature rich freshwater aquarium LED, with a nicely laid out controller.

However once we dig into the science of lighting, we see that this light achieves its 6500 Kelvin with no-name emitters; not even known quantity off the shelf Bridgelux or similar that at least reasonable quality LED fixtures utilize.
To balance out the 25 watts between 108 emitters takes at least a reasonable driver circuitry, which this LED does not do since the emitters are clearly daisy chained together as one would do with Christmas lights.
The result is uneven voltage which affects the quality of the light spectrum as well as the life of the emitters, hence the poor one year warranty..
Also of note is the fact that the green emitters are useless light energy as per photosynthetic life, and even research into Redox shows that fish too benefit from good quality light. The un-balanaced blue emitters can also lead to increased algae growth, in particular black beard algae. This is a common problem with many of these low end LED lights marketed for freshwater aquarium keepers by discounters such as PetCo and Amazon.

The picture below shows with just the naked eye the amount of useless yellow light energy emitted by the Satellite LED in a typical setting:
Current Satellite Freshwater LED Review, yellow light, poor PUR

Now let’s look at typical cost when compared to a couple other freshwater capable LEDs.
At about $105 for the model #4007 you get an LED that uses 25 watts and can light an aquarium comparable to a 40 watt T8 aquarium light.
This would be reasonable lighting for fish, but far from the best too. More importantly this would NOT be the best light for high light requiring plant growth or to fend off algae.

Now look at the previously mentioned AquaBar; this light uses true 100% 6500K 6500k White Samsung LED emitters and would require two to light the same size aquarium at a cost of about $170 combined. However with this you get double the warranty, a better light with less obnoxious algae growth, and at least moderate light plant growing capabilities.
Best, would be the GroBeam (or Mini 400 for more square shaped aquariums). Two GroBeam 600s will set you back a combined $247, but also get you a 5 year warranty and full high light plant capabilities.

My point is this is a well marketed LED that should be avoided if quality and long life of the fixture are at all important to you.
Just based on warranty alone, the end price will actually be higher than a better PUR light quality LED, so your value goes right out the window!!

A couple of references:
Aquarium Lighting Facts & Information; PUR
Algae Control; Aquarium Answers

Current USA Satellite Freshwater LED Warranty = 1 year

Tropic Marine Center AquaRed Flexi-LED


*TMC Aqua Red/Blue Flexi-LED & Truelumen (by Current);

While TMC is an awesome company, these products are primarily decorative and are mostly useless for lighting an aquarium as per the necessary light energy, especially needed by freshwater plants or symbiotic zooanthellic algae found in many corals, clams, & nudibranchs.
TMC Flexi-Red LED on Aquarium, ReviewThat said, TMC is not marketing this product for anything other than minor supplemental or decorative lighting.

Please click on the picture to enlarge

The picture to the above/left shows the TMC Flexi-Red LED Light mounted on an aquarium both at night with only the Red LED “on” and in Daylight with a TMC GroBeam also illuminated (‘On’).
As you can see in operation with the GroBeam this Flexi-Red only provides subtle highlights of red (which might be great for some freshwater tetras, discus, etc.), however at night by itself this Flexi Red LED does add an interesting effect in the aquarium.
The Flexi-Red Strips are excellent for use with nocturnal fish such as Blennies, as many nocturnal fish are active with low level red lighting present in their aquarium.
As well as a supplemental light, the Flexi-Red can be added to planted aquariums to add a small amount of additional near-infrared red light energy for plants such as Rotala.

The blue strips are excellent for use as a moon light for those who prefer a blue color for night lighting, notwithstanding that moon light is not actually blue, but this is the color most persons seem to prefer regardless.
Reference: Aquarium Moon Lights Review; Is Moonlite truly Blue

Product Resource:
TMC Flex Red/Blue Adhesive LED Aquarium Lighting

The TrueLumen by Current USA is similar, however it is unfortunately marketed by many as a main light source, while as with the TMC Flexi-Red the TrueLumen is only for supplementation.
The Kelvin Color temperatures (other than the Rose, Rose/White) are primarily for marine aquarium supplementation.

Both these products are nice ideas when properly used with the TMC available in 18 inch strips and the TrueLumen available in 10 inch strips.
Both are very easy to install with the TrueLumen available in more varieties while the TMC is a better value (due to a considerably longer strips for only a marginal amount of $ more)

TMC Aqua Red/Blue Flexi LED Warranty = 2 years


*Blue Moon Aquatic 90-watt LED;

Blue Moon Aquatic 90 Watt LED PanelThis is another Asian import along with the TaoTronics (same manufacturer in China) that utilizes older technology in quantity to make up for what it lacks in new emitter technology quality.

As you can see with the picture/diagram below, this LED light is much to heavily weighted in the blue spectrum of light for an accurate PUR (Useful Light Energy).
I would only recommend these LED fixtures as a compliment to 6500 to 10,000K light and even then if you get a great deal, otherwise for 1/3 the wattage you have a much better LED light in the TMC AquaBeam 1000 Ultras or 1500 Ultimas.
Reference: Aquarium Lighting; PUR (Useful Light Energy)

The other problem with these two LED Fixtures is the more emitters, the more complex and expensive the drivers, so when you have a fixture such as this TaoTronics or Blue Moon LED with a shotgun approach of emitters yet with essentially no drivers you are essentially stringing hardware store quality LEDs together over your aquarium.
Blue Moon Aquatic 90-watt LED Aquarium Light Fixture

Blue Moon Warranty = 2 Years


*Evergrow & Ocean Revive LED Aquarium Light; Including the OR-D120;

Ocean Revive LED Aquarium Light, OR-D120A similar Chinese LED to the Blue Moon and Taotronics, this is another lower end LED fixture that is only reef capable via a shotgun approach to LED emitters.
Both the Evergrow and Ocean Revive are the same LED fixture from China using the same lower end Bridgelux emitters

The Ocean Revive OR-D120 uses 120 watts to achieve the questionably similar PUR output to a TMC Ocean Blue at 30 watts, which defeats the purpose of LED energy savings.
As well this is another LED that utilizes heat producing, energy wasting current reduction technology rather than PWM technology, which is much more energy efficient.
Reference: Aquarium LED Lighting; PWM

The Ocean Revive uses these common Bridgelux binned emitters:
(2) Red 660nm
(2) Green 520nm
(20) Blue 460nm
(7) Royal Blue 450nm
(4) Violet 420nm
(8) Cool White 12000K
(6) Neutral White 7500K
(6) Warm White 3500K

While one could argue that the green emitters add nice colors, the science cannot be argued with and that is these are purely useless lights when it comes to ESSENTIAL PUR.
As well the use of warm while emitters is also very questionable, as no one would ever place Neutral or especially a warm white fluorescent light over their reef aquarium, YET it is somehow OK for an LED?
The cool white is also a questionable emitter.

Here are a couple of Spectrograms that further prove this point, as you can see most of the light energy is NOT within the important spikes required by photosynthetic life, rather mostly in the middle useless nanometer spectrums.
Bridgelux Warm White emitter for Ocean Revive, Evergrow LED
Bridgelux Neutral White emitter for Ocean Revive, Evergrow LED

In the end, when science is applied, not opinions or sales hype, one has to discount the “useful energy” output of many of the emitters, which in part (besides the use of “current reduction”) is why this LED requires 120 watts of energy to even compete with a much better 30 watt LED fixture using patented emitters and much better driver & PWM technology.

The above said, this IS a reef capable LED light, just at a cost of much more electricity used (& higher carbon footprint), with a much lower PUR as per energy used than the MANY much better LEDs, as well as a much shorter fixture lifespan due to heat damage. But the color mix is nice and pleasing to some, especially those who place appearance over technology.

Please also reference this article:
PUR versus PAR in Aquarium Lighting

Ocean Revive/Evergrow Warranty = 1 Year


*Aqua Illumination SOL;

Aqua Illumination SOL Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting The Aqua Illumination SOL Aquarium LEDs use good quality, albeit older generation Cree XP-G 6500K and blue/royal blue XP-E series LEDs (AI does NOT have the patent “rights” to the newest CRee emitters). The lenses and over all design is top notch.
The driver/circuitry is well designed as there is less heat generating heat spikes than some other LEDs using Current Reduction.
Reference: Current Reduction Versus Pulse Width Modulation

Here is a break down of the popular AI Sol Super Blue:
Daylight:
Quantity: 8
Cree: XPG, 6500K

Blue:
Quantity: 8
Cree: XPE, 470nm

Royal Blue:
Quantity: 8

Pictured to the left is an aquarium with the AI Sol Super Blue

These LED fixtures are marketed more on features in my opinion rather than what is important: Useful Light Energy (PUR), NOT PAR only as some reviews may claim.
Please reference: Aquarium Lighting; Useful Light Energy, PUR.

This said, the AI Sol LEDs have interesting and admittedly cool features include proprietary 40 and 70 degree lenses and feature rich controllers that do an excellent job of getting light where it is needed.

The Aqua Illuminations LEDs are capable LED lights for many light reef applications with many reporting reasonable results.

I recently was reading forum posts and noted a lady had read a lot of information and despite the plethora of good information, went with the bells and whistles of the AI Sol Blue over the facts of newer technology LED emitters in better kelvin temperatures for reef aquariums??
However from my understanding of the science of reef lighting, this LED does not have the best balance of blue and higher kelvin daylight, nor is the PUR of the emitters of the capability of the newest CRee emitters not available to AI.
This LED is essentially an older version 6500K planted freshwater light with good saltwater depth penetration of maybe 12″, combined with an excellent but older binned (non patented) version XP-E blue CRee emitters that are good for aquarium applications under 20 inches but not for deeper tanks as many unaware reef keeper have used these LED fixtures for.

It appeared to me that the bells and whistles won out, but hopefully since she mostly has fish (from what I read), this will not present too many issues with the few softies corals she does have (soft corals should do well with an AI Sol LED).

My point is that that while the Aqua Illumination SOL is a good and capable LED light for many reef aquariums, at the price charged for this LED light fixture, there is little reason to pay more, use more electricity, and get less in my opinion.
In my opinion, do not let bells and whistles win out over facts in your important aquarium lighting decision.

This said, I will note that based on others results and known facts about the emitters used in the AI Sol, this is still a good choice for reef tanks under 20 inches of depth (based on emitters used, the EcoTech Radion, and TMC AquaBeam Reef White, and Kessil LED are better choices for reef tanks over 20 inches).


*Aqua Illumination Vega;

This is a really clever & unique concept as per the controller.
Here is a quote from Aqua Illumination’s website:
“With built-in wireless control capabilities you can connect wirelessly to the New Controller or upcoming Director platform with ease and freedom”

This in my opinion is one of the most innovative controllers that is chock full of features, including the future “Director”!

HOWEVER, I must also point out the obvious negatives and that is this an aquarium LED light fixture that is feature rich with lots of bells & whistles, it still lacks where it counts in my opinion/research; IN USEFUL LIGHT ENERGY!
I will not go into this, since I have already covered this ground here, in my other lighting article and in the researched lighting articles I have cited

Here is a list of Emitters in the AI Vega, it should be noted that all are from generic emitter bins:

Vega Color
4 – Cree XM-L Cool White
4 – Cree XP-E Royal Blue
4 – Cree XP-E Blue
4 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Blue
2 – Cree XP-E Green
2 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
Vega Blue

4 – Cree XM-L Cool White
8 – Cree XP-E Royal Blue
4 – Cree XP-E Blue
4 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Blue

Here is the Vega Color Spectrograph;
Please note that while this is one of the better spectrographs demonstrating PUR compared to many Aquarium LED fixtures offerings, which is why this is one of the better LED fixtures, one has to question the use of the generic cool white emitters that can be shown to basically be wasted light energy in the middle spectrum as well as the green emitters.
This equals as much as 30% of wattage input goes as light energy OUTSIDE of optimum PUR!!!
Click on to enlarge

Aqua Illuminations Vega Color Spectrograph, Aquarium LED Reviews


*Aqua Illumination Hydra FiftyTwo;

Here is a break down of the AI Hydra FiftyTwo:

16 – Cree XT-E Cool White
4 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
4 – XP-E Green
12 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
8 – OSRAM OSLON Very Deep Blue
4 – SemiLED 415nm Violet
4 – Edison Opto 400nm UV

This is Aqua Illuminations latest offering.
A nicely made and excellent “high end” LED fixture that steps up from previous offerings with this 135 Watt LED Fixture.

However it still uses binned Cree XT-E Cool White LED which is inferior aquarium lighting PUR from my research, as well this LED uses green emitters that while these are nice for color, these also considerably lower the important PUR output (but are great for adding colors to your aquarium if this is what your desire).
This is likely the reason AI publishes the peak PAR of 304 µMol, but ignores the PUR as a light can be excellent with PAR but still lacking in the more important PUR.
I would also question the use of 400 nm emitters as while these may look nice, I do know from others use of UVA lights, that some burning of corals has occurred (although I have no evidence that this will occur with these LED lights).

In summary, while a nicely packaged and widely popular aquarium LED; the “Hydra FiftyTwo” still pursues PAR numbers and colors over PUR and utilizes the less efficient “Current Reduction” driver controlling technology that AI utilizes for their other LEDs.

References:
*Current Reduction Versus Pulse Width Modulation
*PUR versus PAR in Aquarium Lighting

Aqua Illuminations Warranty = 1 Year (with certain sellers in the UK providing a 2 year warranty at their expense)


*EcoTech Radion;

EcoTech Marine Radion Aquarium LED Lights, LightingThis is a very nicely built LED with lots of interesting features, however when it gets down to the important PUR (Useful Light Energy) and warranty, this LED falls short in my opinion.

I watched a video promoting this that missed a key point in my experience/opinion, and that is he only used a PAR meter which does not show PUR, which is MOST important and requires a spectrograph to show more correctly.
Please Reference: Aquarium Lighting; Measuring PAR

This video review did show the Radion can and DOES maintain corals, but it is using the “shotgun approach” in my opinion versus a direct approach of specific LED emitters and use of PWM technology, which in the end require about twice the wattage input for the same PUR results of an AquaRay Ultima.
By “shotgun approach” I mean the common way in the past of lighting aquariums with multiple lamps using T8 or T12 bulbs to obtain the necessary light energy for photosynthetic life rather than specific light nanometers [this is not to say the EcoTech are even close to a T8 or T12 lamp, as they are vastly superior, this is only used as an analogy].
An example of what I mean, are the cool white and green emitters used, see below.

See the Spectrograph below to see why:
EcoTech Radion Spectrograph PUR, Useful light energy

The EcoTech Radion, emits a significant percentage of its light in the blue as well as some green, yellow, & red spectrums

Here are the emitters used as of 2013 for the Radion XR30w PRO:

• 8 x White: Cree XT-E Cool White (5W each)
• 4 x Red: Osram Oslon SSL Hyper Red (3W each)
• 4 x Green: Cree XP-E Green (3W each)
• 8 x Blue: Cree XP-E 468nm Blue (3W each)
• 8 x Royal Blue: Cree XT-E 442nm Royal Blue (5W each)
• 4 Indigo: SemiLEDs UV, 415nm (2.5w each)
• 4 x Ultraviolet: SemiLEDs UV, 405nm (2.5w each)
Max Wattage of Radion Fixture: 155 Watts (170 used)

This is certainly a nice mix of Blue emitters with both the XP and XT, albeit generic emitter bins from Cree. The Indigo and Ultraviolet emitters certainly add nicely to the blue mix.
The mix of Blues is probably the best aspect of the EcoTech Radion, and why when compared to the AI Sol, I would pick the the EcoTech for any tank over 20 inches in depth when compared to the Aqua Illuminations.
The overall spectrum is probably one of the best, comparable to the TMC AquaRay Reef White NP 2000 Ultima

See this article for a Spectrograph comparing the Cree Blue emitters (although the ones used in this article are not generic off the shelf Cree emitters):
PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting; Including Spectrographs

The use of cool white and green emitters is questionable as per references cited here and elsewhere in this article, as well as other researched articles.
I also mildly question the use of Red emitters for Reef Lighting applications, since photosynthetic zooanthellic do not require as much near red lighting spikes and also since most corals and their symbiotic photosynthetic zooanthellic have adapted over eons to the more blue environment of the oceans versus photosynthetic “higher” plants found in freshwater applications.
From discussions with other reef keepers, they have not noted any improvement with added red lighting and in fact have anecdotally noted slower coral growth.

The other misleading aspects are the completely useless RGB and capacitive touch ‘features’. Controlling your RGB (Red, Green, Blue) of your light has little bearing on obtaining the exacting nanometer spikes necessary for photosynthetic life.
There is no known benefit from the RGB feature and in fact some reviews state this can be stressful/harmful to coral. The reason is above spectrograph output only holds true when the emitters are run at the operating voltage and current that they were designed for unless PWM is employed. As soon as that simple voltage rheostat is used (“control technology”) or RGB is altered, the spectral output changes.

As noted in other articles cited/referenced here, the emitter choice is just part of the LED equation, the use of “Current Reduction” instead of the vastly superior PWM technology is a major drawback of the EcoTech Radion.
The evidence is the requirement of a cooling fan, which can break down from the heat produced, one reason for the 1 year warranty offered by EcoTech in my opinion.
More importantly, the excess heat which requires a cooling fan also represents a considerable amount of lost input energy to heat that could be going to lighting your aquarium reef specimens. This is NOT an opinion either, as it is basic science that energy going to produce heat is energy NOT going to light!

Another evidence is that the Radion Pro produces 1100 µMol•m²•sec PAR from 155 watts of input energy at 6 inches of air, but when compared to the before mentioned AquaRay Reef White 2000 NP Ultima, the AquaRay is rated at 380 µMol•m²•sec at 15 inches of air.
Just assuming both were at 15 inches of air, so as to compare equally otherwise, when you multiply the 5 AquaRay 2000s at 30 input watts to equal the Radion Pro, you get 1900 µMol•m²•sec. So in other words (using these numbers), just in PAR, you only get half the output per wattage of energy used for the EcoTech when compared to the AquaRay LED.

As well since we were comparing EcoTechs number at 6 inches, and AquRay at 15 inches, this also would increase the AquaRay numbers by even more.

The end result is a fixture that may require about 1.5 watts per gallon to light an advanced reef tank compared to .8 watt for, as an example, the AquaRay Ultima.

What I have noted from my own research and that of my aquarium design & maintenance friends is that the EcoTech Radion is well marketed to the point that many if not most forums and aquarium stores assume this is the best LED available when although excellent, it is not necessarily the best as per reasons and research cited here.
Even EcoTech’s own customer service [according to a friend who forwarded me an email] will refer questions about their product to forums.
See this quote:
“I would recommend doing a search in some online reef forums”

So all I ask is that one does there research, do not just take my word, as while these are certainly an excellent reef capable LED light, these are not necessarily the best. The bells and whistles also certainly may be what one buyer would desire, but another buyer might prefer might prefer an equally reef capable LED that is more efficient with less energy lost to heat or used as green light energy (that has no known PUR benefit)

Also be careful of poor comparisons; Of coarse a 170 Watt EcoTech Radion XR30w is going to beat a TMC Ocean Blue/Reef White 1500/2000 that is just 30 watts, BUT when you match the two watt per wattage required per average reef aquarium, the TMC AquaRay is going to produce nearly equal useful light energy (PUR)to the EcoTech at a considerable electrical savings!
In fact as per electrical saving alone, this fixture will cost you $62 more per year based on running at 12 hours per day and with an average electrical cost of .13 per kWh. Factor in the one year warranty and lower lifespan (1 year warranty) and this can be a very expensive Reef Aquarium LED to purchase and keep over time!!

See also:
*Ecotech Marine’s Radion XR30 LED Light: a Swing and a Miss?
*Aquarium Lighting; Facts & Information
*Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting
*Aquarium LED Lights, Controllers, PWM; What is Best

Finally as per a rude comment asking me to back up my claims with data; while I cited references throughout this article, the above three, which includes my base article about LEDs, are also now added just above.
As well as the Radions own data as per emitters used; simply reading the references and combining this with the Radions own published emitters pretty much backs up my statements, not to mention hands on use by others I know and the second reference above.
CRI is also often cited as a selling point for the EcoTech, however this is not a parameter a reef keeper needs to be concerned with as this is for human lighting; see Aquarium Lighting; CRI

EcoTech Warranty = 1 Year

Update:
TMC had a quality control failure in 2012 where-by these same cool white Cree emitters were used in their Ocean White 1500 XG fixtures instead of the correct patented XPG 9000-10000k emitters.

What is interesting is this mistake was caught by knowledgeable customers, one of whom made a spectrograph so as to back up their claim that these were not the correct emitters.
Why I find this interesting and why I post this in the review of the EcoTech LED is that those with reasonable knowledge of “Useful Light Energy” easily spotted this problem, yet based on friends in the retail industry and others will argue about CRee licensing while missing this very simple and basic problem with the LEDs using Cool White emitters.


*E.Shine, Stark LED

Stark, EShine older Generation LED knock off aquarium lightE.Shine is a large producer of LED Fixtures that are probably among the nicer design and generally better quality LEDs coming out of China.
E.Shine often does not sell directly under their name, rather they market to retailers and distributors for their own branding.

Stark LED (distributed by Sea Dwelling Creatures of LA) is probably the most common marketer of this LED Fixture.

While E-Shine has updated their emitter bins, they remain behind the industry leaders as E.Shine utilizes common “binned” Cree & Bridgelux emitters, often a generation or two back at that.
In fact even E.Shine’s own web site admits that the older generation 3 watt CREE XG used for their COOL WHITE Daylight Aquarium LED Lights vary from 8000~10,000K; not the exacting emitters used by high end LED fixtures that target specific nanometer wavelengths for the best PUR.
Reference: e-Shine 60 Watt Cree Classic LED.

Please note that these are cool white emitters. Would you go to the hardware store and place a cool white lamp over your reef tank?
These emitters used by E.shine do NOT maintain the peak PUR necessary for delicate marine life, and instead have much more wasted yellow and green wavelengths due to use of cool white and green emitters.
It is also noteworthy that ALL E.Shine LEDs require a fan, some more than one at that. A proper driver along with PWM does not require a fan due to better control of voltage between the emitters, notwithstanding, spikes in voltage which decay PUR show up as excess heat!!

Also please read this article:
PUR vs PAR in Reef, Planted Aquariums Lights

E.Shine does a great job “pushing” these LEDs on companies looking to sell a nice looking product at a VERY good mark up, as I know of a friend in the business that gets these LEDs constantly marketed to him at prices that would allow for much better margins (since the emitters are low cost generic Cree emitters) than products such as TMC that have smaller margins. However he has rejected these out of integrity to sell the best generation LEDs, even if the profit margins are lower.

One plus is E-Shine has increased their warranty to 3 years for most fixtures. From input of those using these products longer term, e-Shine has basically used the same design and technology, keeping development costs down while also improving quality control, thus the better warranty.
In the end with eShine, you get a very energy wasting, but still reef capable LED of older technologies, and with a good price and good warranty.

Stark/e-Shine Warranty = 1-3 Years


*Other LED Aquarium Lights (such as the Boost LED, Orphek);

There are many other LED lights coming fast onto the market, occasionally excellent, many good, many not so good, some a downright rip-off!
Knowing about what makes for correct Aquarium Lighting is quite helpful in making an informed decision.
Please reference: Aquarium Lights Facts and Information; Correct lighting

I would also stress that even among the more effective new LEDs hitting the market, such as the BoostLED, these all have to compensate for inferior emitters with high amounts of wattage used, which in my humble opinion defeats a primary reason to use quality LED lighting for your Reef or planted freshwater aquarium; lower electrical consumption per output of useful light energy!.

Using 4.5 times the energy (wattage) to produce only 30% more PAR, as in the BoostLED versus TMC 1000 Ultra, makes little sense to me or most aquarium professionals I have spoken with seeking the best lighting for their clients. This “shotgun” approach to aquarium lighting defeats the reasons to use LED lights [energy savings], one might as well use a good 150 Watt Metal Halide rather than a 135 Watt LED.
A Few decades ago, the “shotgun approach” is all many aquarium keepers of high light planted or basic reef tanks had as per comments by a 35 plus year aquarium professional I interviewed. So using eight 48 inch 40 watt “cool white” T12 lights to light one 60 gallon aquarium was sometimes necessary, but this is not necessary with many modern lights; so why go backwards when the technology is here?

Orphek Nilus Reef Aquarium LED LightFor an example of a newer “excellent” LED Aquarium Light is the “Orphek Nilus Reef Aquarium LED Light” which is equal to a 250w-400w MH/HPS light.
The Orphek Nilus 120 watt LED light contains 60 LEDs in 90 degree lenses running at 2 watts each within a 24″x 6″ x 2″ housing.

This LED has (4) innovative “True Violet” 380nm – 420nm emitters (excellent for 30″ + tanks) as well as (4) 640 nm red emitters (which are nice for coral color aesthetics, but little to no effective PUR use in tanks over 18 inches of depth).

Other emitters include (3) 14,000K-16,000K White emitters and (22) Royal Blue 450nm – 470nm emitters

This LED is quite expensive (over $800), however it is designed for tanks over 30 inches in depth [replacing Metal Halides]. The overall color temperature is about 16,000k.
The spectral range is greater than the common Cree or Luxeon LEDs used in many LED fixtures [this does not include the patented emitters used by TMC], starting at just around 400nm (violet) and spanning all of the way to 750nm.

This is a top notch LED Aquarium Light for deep reef tanks, however I do not agree with a couple aspects of this design of this light and that is its emphasis on CRI (Color Rendering Index), as this is more important to what we see and not what the symbiotic zooanthellic algae within corals actually require. As well the Orphek white emitters are 12000K to 25000k leaving out much of the essential near infrared.
Please reference: Aquarium Lighting; CRI (Color Rendering Index)

While I realize that the popular fad of fading/dimming LEDs for sunrise/sunset is simply that; a fad as there is no scientific basis that this aids corals, I also do not agree with Orphek’s use of “blue” lights for moon light phase, which is also just a fad with no scientific basis in fact.
So once you get past the hype, this is still an excellent LED for those with deep tanks that may otherwise use a 400 Watt 20,000K MH, assuming you can even obtain these LED Aquarium Lights, however based on Orphek’s own data, this is NOT an LED fixture for tanks under 24 inches in depth



LED REVIEW SUMMARY

Emitter bins used in LED Lights are improving rapidly, although I am sure at some point these will hit the technology ceiling.
In the mean time, one can be certain of one thing, the best emitters are going to be patented and one is not going to find these in many of the cheapie knock offs. Even many of the “better” LEDs may use the newest emitter bins, but these are still “over the counter” emitter bins meant for many uses, not necessarily aquarium lighting and these bins generally aimed at higher CRI rather than the much more important PUR.

Another issue is that some companies are practicing patent infringement to close this technology gap. Purchasing these LED Aquarium Lights is not only a moral decision, but also many of these “stolen technology” LEDs are cheaply made and once these LEDs are legally closed down, the person who did not care about the moral issue, will likely face the problem of a light that fails to work long term with no customer support. This will result in these knock off LEDs being useless and not the bargain one might think when purchasing.

Finally, also realize the most important light measurement is “Useful Light Energy” or PUR and although I recommend the use of PAR Meters as a measurement of any aquarium lighting fixture, in the end this FAR from 100% accurate, especially when one considers the emitter bins used, and useless PUR emitter colors such as green. Often the “cheap” LEDs produce considerably more useless green/yellow light and are bottom heavy in the Blue Spectrum.
So consider whether your so-called “deal” of a LED Light is really a deal at all or look at it this way: would you use multiple LED Flashlights you can purchase at Walmart to light your Reef or planted Aquarium? Although this analogy is a bit exaggerated, it is still a reasonable analogy when one considers current technology advances and the costs of developing these advances.

For further Aquarium Lighting information, I strongly suggest reading this long, but in depth article:
* “Aquarium Lighting; Reef, Planted, More”

*PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting; Including Spectrographs

*http://www.reeftank123.com/lighting/lighting.html

*http://aap.atrixnet.com/?p=338


While making recommendations; if your aquarium has a UV Sterilizer for Disease Prevention and Redox Balance, I recommend changing your UV-C Bulbs every six months for maximum performance and this and this is the place for premium UV Bulbs:
Ultraviolet Bulbs; page 1

Copyright 2014, By Steve Allen

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37 responses to “LED Aquarium Light Review; AquaRay, EcoTech, AI Vega & Hydra; More

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  11. Rohan, I do not know who told you this, but they REALLY got their facts wrong. I even looked over at Ultimate Reefs and found mostly positive comments about the AquaRay.
    More than likely your phosphates or some other parameter is being missed, or your lights are incorrectly place (although I doubt this).
    As per the facts, while the AI Sol and Radions are decent LEDs, when you look at the simple facts that they use cool white, 6500K FW plant lights, green, and red emitters, all from older bins; it is simply not rocket science that these are clearly inferior lights
    As well what about the many professionals using the AquaRays in their aquariums without a problem (this just among those I know, not to mention those of a friend who has used 100s)?

    Please read these articles for some facts:

    http://aquariumdigest.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/led-aquarium-lights-lighting/

    http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/Aquarium_Lighting.html

    There are many more articles in internet searches

  12. Very informative article. I have been running a pair of AquaRay 600 Ultra (Reef Blue/Fiji Blue) and a pair of AquaRay 600 Ultra Reef Whites 10 hours a day (with four hours ramp up/down) to replace the 39w Actinic/39w White T5 pair on my 4 foot soft coral and LPS mixed aquarium.

    The aquarium also uses 2 * 150w metal halides running for three hours per day. I have a miracle mud refugium which is using a Aquahabitat 400 LED instead of a single T5 to grow Chaeto.

    So far, the corals bubble and leather corals are fully expanded, the brain and soft coral polyps look great under the Fiji lighting and, so far, there is not much red slime algae in the refugium. However, with the metal halides off, the tank does look rather blue.

    I’m considering what would be best to replace the metal halides, which deliver a good spread of light across the aquarium surface, and easily reach the bottom.The aquarium is 20 inches deep, although most of the corals are at 12-16 inches. From what you have written the Aquabeam 1500XG would work, but I hear many people are using the Aquabeam 1000.

    • Cliff; The AquaBeam 1000 is still TMCs premier LED (it has been updated multiple times since initial introduction), and would give your best light penetration and is still my preferred LED over the 1500 XG.
      The 1500 XGs definitely have better light spread, but if this is not as important or you can afford to cram more intense lights in given space that have a smaller but more intense foot print, the 1000 is for you
      Considering your blue hue, and use of blue lights already, I would consider the Marine White 1000

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  20. Does any one know about Aqua Vim LED aquarium lights? I have not found any reviews from aquarium digest and was not listed among other manufacturers.

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  23. Steve LuMaye

    These are great informative articles! I learned a lot! But I do not understand? When are YOU going to realize that most people just want to see the colors of their coral and fish look awesome. If the coral does not grow at the maximum possible rate, they do not care. That is one of the reason that people will buy theRradion (Way too expensive for me) vs the TMC lights. SO, knowing that I WANT some green and red color, plus the “pop” of the actinic colors, is there any light out there that has the PUR and PWM of the TMC yet the color of the radion that is pleasing to MY eyes? I will sacrifice PUR for good color… I will even sacrifice wattage for good color. I have a 6′ 180 with three 2′ sections to cover…

    Thanks in advance

    • I do not agree with your premise, as I know plenty of persons that look as fish keeping as a responsibility to do the best we can to keep our specimens/fish healthy.
      Most persons I know do care about how their equipment works.
      More importantly, you are assuming that theAquaRay lights do not look good, I also disagree with this premise as well. They (AquaRay) also has a Colour Plus LED that can be used as a supplement for more reds and greens. But unlike other sellers, they only consider these mixes of colors a supplement

      • Steve LuMaye

        I agree I do not know that the Aquaray lights do not look good. What would you recommend for a 180 gal (6’W x 2’D x 2’H) with 2 top braces dividing the top into three 2′ by 2′ sections to have no shadows. Note the Colorplus LEd states it is for nano tanks. The Aquabeam 2000 states it provides 18″ x 18″ light spread.

        I want to duplicate a 10000K MH look as far as brightness perceived by my eyes, as well as the coral color “pop” that my Actinic03 T5’s produce. I do not like the “dim blueish” color of 20000K bulbs that do not bring out the colors of my fish.

      • While the purpose of this website is not to give specific recommendations, rather good scientific based information to help readers decide what to get, I will make an exception and answer your specific questions as I feel this might help other readers too.
        First let me point out that the Colour Plus is NOT meant for Nano tanks; it is a 24 x 24 inch light spread supplemental light meant to provide the “popping” colors you desire while still provide good, albeit not the best lighting PUR/PAR.
        The NP 2000 is meant to provide the BEST PUR at a minimum of energy used in a focused relatively high PAR light
        TMC makes these different fixture unlike others (in my opinion) to provide user a CHOICE, rather than try and make a LED fixture that attempts to be all things to all reef aquarium light users.

        So my suggestion is one tile of EACH fixture in each section of your Aquarium; this will provide both top notch PUR along with excellent coloration. I would also suggest that you position the NP 2000 over the corals or other specimens that require the most light while you place the Colour Plus in a way to helps provide good over all lighting
        Should you feel even more light is need on this aquarium, adding one AquaRay Reef White 600 Ultima to each section would further balance out this lighting and lessen shadows.

        I also suggest reading this article:

        http://www.aquarium-pond-answers.com/2012/03/pur-vs-par-in-aquarium-lighting.html

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  26. Robert todd

    I really appreciate the in depth scientific facts that are nearly almost always missing from a lot of inline reef forums.
    People tend defend what they buy or what they perceive based on hype and a good marketing cam

  27. I have to agree with Robert.
    I often cruise several forums, partly from emails some clients and aquarium industry pals send me and often what I read is appalling.
    Many will act like its about the science, but in reality the science gets pushed out the door and anyone who challenges get mocked.
    Two forums in particular that stand out that I have observed this in is Reef Central and PNWMAS

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  29. mike bolen

    Hi, your analysis is really a revelation as I was looking to buy one of the typical top selling/known brands, aqua illumination or ecotech. I had never heard of AquaRay until your review, but now it looks like the best alternative, perhaps except for Kessil??? I was also considering Kessil’s 250 or 360 wides for my 180 gal 6 ft. reef tank.
    I’m looking forward to your review of the 250 or 350 Kessil LEDs as the 150 got good marks in your side by side comparison.
    Since Kessil is a popular brand and uses advanced technology, I’m hoping you’ll be able to do an analysis soon. Any word on when that might be?

    Thanks you again for your great work.

    • It is unfortunate that many have not heard of the Aqua Ray LED, I have been using these almost exclusively for 4 years now.
      Most of the other LEDs I have with my clients are simply ones that came with the aquarium when a client had their aquarium set up or purchased elsewhere.
      But what I can tell you is the tanks with the AquaRay present better, and the few times a client has allowed me to change over, they often noticed this too and also noted the lower electrical bill too.

      The problem is in my humble opinion that too many persons rely on online forums and discount sellers such as PetCo, Amazon, TruAqua, DR. F&S et al to get their information, then assume that the what is mentioned in what seems to be a looped tape is all there is, when in fact just a little digging, will yield that there is another world of information waiting to be discovered.
      My suggestion also is to get away from Google search and the larger aquarium forums and go with Bing, as Google seems to also loop these same old tired information, thus one gets stuck in this circle of bad information.

      Here are just a couple of webposts:

      http://aquariumopinions.com/2014/03/25/aquarium-forums-for-information-such-as-led-lighting-uv-filters-more/

      http://aquariumopinions.com/2013/07/07/aquarium-led-lights-controllers-what-is-best/

  30. Mike, I am glad this helped you.
    It is unfortunate you have not heard of AquaRay until now, especially since these have been around longer than the over rated EcoTech and AI LEDs and despite so many of the lemming forum comments have been in professional use at least since 2009.
    I do plan to provide information about the Kessil soon, right now it is a matter of double checking information and getting good feedback from the aquarium professionals I consult.

    What I can tell you is for deep tanks such as yours, the Kessil has the best lens and would be my recommendations, not the AquaRay.
    As for technology, while the Kessil is definitely one of the best, it still does not use the true PWM technology that AquaRay uses and still requires a fan which one of my consultants has told me of a burn out of a Kessil fan. So for tanks under 30 inches, I would recommend the AquaRay NP 2000, but for deeper, the Kessil 360 looks like the better choice based on current data.
    Notwithstanding, I am still awaiting more data such as emitters used, etc. before I can make a good analysis
    Here is a link to their website:

    http://www.kessil.com/aquarium/A360.php

    • Schmidt, Frederick F Jr CIV (US)

      Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE

      Why have you never commented on Aqua Vim lighting which is based in NYC?

      Fred

      • This is an LED that has never been mentioned by any of my contacts and honestly I have never heard of until now.
        I can say that I get forwarded emails from Chinese vendors every day where many of the so called new LEDs are simple one of these generic LEDs with a new name slapped on. An example is E-Shine markets this way producing many generic LEDs that local distributors can add their name to, implying that they are the maker when in reality they are not.
        Another good example is the Ocean Revive which is marketed in the Pacific Northwest, but in reality is an Evergrow with a new name slapped on

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