Further Revised; 4/8/14
- TMC 2000 Reef White, 1500 Ocean Blue LED Tile; Fiji Blue Strips, Mini 400 & 500
- Zetlight LED Builds; Maxspect & illumenAir Aquarium LED; Razor & Mazarra
- Marineland Reef Capable & Double Bright Aquarium LED Light
- TMC AquaRed Flexi-LED, Truelumen
- Blue Moon Aquatic & TaoTronics LED
- Evergrow & Ocean Revive OR-D120 LED Aquarium Light
- Aqua Illumination SOL, Sol Blue
- Aqua Illumination Vega (AI Vega Color, Blue)
- Aqua Illumination Hydra FiftyTwo
- EcoTech Radion & PRO
- E.Shine (Stark LED)
- Other LEDs (Orphek, Boost LED, More)
- Summary & References
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, 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 are based on the above, not because I work for TMC (which I do not) or any other company!!
It is not that these other LEDs I rate with less favor do not work, they DO.
However they use more wattage to achieve the same results as those I recommend based actual use, newer patented emitter bins, and currently known scientific technology (such as PWM) & research!
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
This post is meant to dispel the many myths circulating about what many LED lights can and cannot do for your aquarium.
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 article.
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.
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
The 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
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.
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 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.
ZetLight ZT6600 Reef Aquarium LED Light
Maxspect/Zetlight Warranty = 1 Year
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 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 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.
The 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.
While 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.
*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 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 a 5 year warranty to back them up.
What sets their LED Light fixtures apart is the licensed/patented Cree and innovative Osram Olsom emitters, that no other fixtures have.
As well, TMC uses precise drivers/circuitry to power each emitter so as to maintain spectral quality, unlike many LEDs that daisy chain their emitters together.
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
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:
Pictured below is a Reef White 2000 NP Ultima and 600 Ultima over a 60 Gallon Reef Aquarium
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.
This is a much more advanced light than the Aqua Illumination SOL Vega Blue which uses older 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.
The 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 is a COMPLETE LED for reef aquariums under 22″ of water with a PAR reading at 15 inches of 400 µEinsteins/sec/m2 PAR 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 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.
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, but these PAR meters are still useful for ball park measurements!
Please also reference: PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting
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 24″ in depth including deeper hexagon or similar reef aquariums.
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
*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.”
TMC also now utilizes the newest patented XT-E Blue 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 (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
The 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.
TMC had a failure of their quality control for the Ocean White 1500 in that CRee sent cool white emitters (those used by EcoExotic) 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:
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 Warranty = 5 Years
*TMC AquaRed Flexi-LED & Truelumen (by Current);
While TMC is an awesome company, this product is primarily decorative and is 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.
That 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 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)
*Blue Moon Aquatic 90-watt LED;
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 Warranty = 2 Years
*Evergrow & Ocean Revive LED Aquarium Light; Including the OR-D120;
A 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.
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;
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:
Cree: XPG, 6500K
These LED fixtures are marketed more on features 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. However even the controllers fall short in that they do not have a UPS feature in that if your power even “burps”, all your programming can be lost and this is not a “good thing” if you are at work or worse out of town and now your lights no longer come on as programmed even when power is restored.
The Aqua Illuminations LEDs are reasonably capable LED lights for many light reef applications with many reporting reasonable results in part due to the higher electrical wattage used to overcome the slightly inferior older generation LED emitters and lower kelvin daylight (I would not advice these for advanced reef applications).
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??
Sadly this does not have the correct 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 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 over facts, 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 basic reef aquariums, at the price charged for an inferior LED light fixture, there is little reason to pay more, use more electricity, and get less in my opinion.
As well, 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, Marine Blue, and Reef Blue 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 sadly lacks where it counts; 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:
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
4 – Cree XM-L Cool White
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 offereings, 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 Illumination Hydra FiftyTwo;
Here is a break down of the AI Hydra FiftyTwo:
16 – Cree XT-E Cool White
This is Aqua Illuminations latest offering.
A nicely made 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, as well this LED uses green emitters that while these are nice for color, these also considerably lower the important PUR output.
This is likely the reason AI publishes the peak PAR of 304 µMol, but ignores the PUR as a light can be excllent with PAR but still lacking in the more important PUR
Combine this with the fact the “Hydra FiftyTwo” still utilizes the inferior “Current Reduction” driver controlling technology that AI utilizes for their other LEDs and anyone looking at this LED from a purely scientific point of few, not “bells & whistles”, would have to say STRIKE THREE!
Aqua Iluminations Warranty = 1 Year (with certain sellers in the UK providing a 2 year warranty at their expense)
I watched a video promoting this that missed a key point 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 maintain corals, but it is using the “shotgun approach” versus a direct approach of better 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 of poor quality T8 bulbs to obtain the necessary light energy for photosynthetic life
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 benefit from the RGB feature and in fact 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 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 proof is the requirement of a cooling fan, which also have been known to break down from the heat produced (one reason for the poor 1 year warranty offered by EcoTech in my opinion).
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.
Another proof is the fact 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, just in PAR, you only get half the output per wattage of energy used for the EcoTech when compared to the superior 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 requires 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 poorly informed aquarium stores assume this is the best LED available when although good, it is not 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”
REALLY? Would these same forums also recommend you place multiple cool white t5 or t8 lamps over your delicate reef life; I think not!!
So beware of the marketing to forums by EcoTech whereby they buy off via sponsorship of some major forums. READ THE SCIENCE BASED RESEARCH instead!
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!!
The bottom line is while this LED fixture is certainly able to maintain corals; this is done with poor shotgun approach when vastly better PUR fixed patented, non cool white emitters are available in better LED fixtures using PWM.
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
TMC had a quality control failure 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.
*E.Shine, Stark LED
E.Shine is a large producer of LED Fixtures that are probably the nicer design and generally better quality LEDs coming out of China.
E.Shine 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 (as of late 2011), they remain behind the industry leaders as E.Shine still uses older generation Cree Emitters (not having patent rights the latest emitters sold by Cree). 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 (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.
It is also noteworthy that the E.Shine 60 Watt LED requires a fan, which a proper driver does not require a fan due to better control of voltage between the emitters (spikes in voltage which decay PUR show up as excess heat!!)
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 newer generation LEDs, even if the profit margins are lower.
Since it does not require a rocket scientist to understand what determines what makes one LED better than another, in particular PUR, simply reading E.Shines own website can tell an open minded and informed potential LED buyer that this is not the best LED Fixture:
Also please read this article:
PUR vs PAR in Reef, Planted Aquariums Lights
Stark/e-Shine Warranty = 1 Year
*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 other aquarium professionals 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, 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?
For 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 (which is fine for a deeper tank, but too high for tanks under 24 inches IMO). 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 (there is no scientific basis that this aids corals), I also do not agree 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.
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 is still not 100% accurate, especially when one compares the best emitter bins to many of the older emitter bins used by the cheaper Chinese or similar LED lights. 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”
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