Tag Archives: Fluval LED

LED Aquarium Light Review- AquaRay, EcoTech, Aqua Illuminations, Finnex & More

Further Revised- 1/26/20

Reviews Include:


Ray 2 DS/DB/BB
FugeRay Original, Planted +, Marine
Planted + 24/7

Fresh & Plant 2.0
Marine & Reef Performance LED
Eco Bright
Desktop (Nano) Series
Ultra Bright LED

Zetlight Qmaven- Maxspect & illumenAir

Maxspect Mazarra

TMC AquaBeam/AquaGro
2000 Reef White, 1500 Ocean Blue, 1500 GroBeam/Colour Plus Tiles
600 Ultima Strips, Mini 400 & 500

TMC Aqua Red & Blue Flexi-LED, Truelumen

Aqua Illumination
SOL, Sol Blue
Vega (AI Vega Color, Blue)
Hydra FiftyTwo & TwentySix [New updated HD models]

Current Satellite
Satellite Freshwater + LED
Satellite Freshwater + Pro


Marineland Reef Capable & Double Bright

Blue Moon Aquatic & TaoTronics LED

Evergrow, Ocean Revive, & SB Reef Lights LED

EcoTech Radion & PRO

Kessil Freshwater & Saltwater, including AP700

E.Shine, Stark LED

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

Summary & References


As written in the forward in my other LED Lights Article. Likely, over time my biases will change, since LED lighting is a fast developing and changing aspect of aquarium keeping. Especially among those keeping reef and high tech planted aquariums.

From brand patents/exclusive license agreements, drivers, dimming, input/output energy, and more, the science speaks for itself!! The repeated experiences back up the science! Lighting and aquariums ARE science, albeit with art and personal preferences mixed in!

I try and mix simplified science for easy reading along with a lot of practical experience in this article. I cite many other related articles to back up the science and hopeful to make it easier for a overall easy learn of a very complex topic of aquatics. This information is backed up by experienced individuals, which I know well.

If we can understand the overall aquarium LED fixture, we can make an informed decision on our aquarium LED purchases.

Please read ALL my cited references and consider reading my other articles about Aquarium Lighting. They provides some foundation to the hows and whys of this article.
This includes consulting with professionals, which also includes consulting for lights I have not used as well as the use of pictures to fairly display all lights reviewed. These pictures show that pretty much all the lights reviewed will get the job done in some form or another.
I often make comparisons using one light in particular as a standard, but this does not mean the other lights do not work, far from it. But to not make provable comparisons using one light as a standard such as input wattage to output PUR would simply not make for an honest review. In the end, it is quite common in review to set up one product as a standard, such as using a Mercedes as a standard to compare other cars to. This does not mean a Mercedes is the car for everyone and that other cars do not work [of course this analogy may be poor in that I actually do not know what car might be the best one to set as a standard, but I am sure readers get the point!].

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 a newer article:
Choosing Your Aquarium LED Lights

Whenever choosing an LED, make sure it’s known as to what is trying to be achieved, such as Reef, Freshwater Planted, Nano Reef, Deep Freshwater Planted, etc.

Here’s how each of these reviews will be laid out:
* Review-
This Review will often include comparisons where they can be factually established as to input energy to PAR output for the simple reason that when LED aquarium lights first became a viable alternative for advanced planted and reef aquarims, the main reason to utilize LED was for their high efficiency compared to other lighting types.
Unfortunately of late, while most all popular aquarium LED lights can keep Reef or Planted tanks as advertised, many come at vastly lower efficiencies, some even rivalling Metal Halides in energy usage, which in this authors opinion defeats the purpose of utilizng LEDs in the first place.

* Specifications-
* Input/Output Energy
–Watts: where known for specific models used as examples
–PAR: where known for specific models used as examples
* Circuity/Dimming-
* Spread-
* Waterproof-
* Features-
* Mounting-
* Warranty-
* Resources-
* Coloration-

*FugeRay Original, Planted +, Marine

* Review, including overall review of ALL Finnex Lights-

This line of the Finnex is very similar to the Ray 2 models, but it does space out the emitters differently, which Finnex claims is idea for “refugium purposes as well as low-medium light needy aquariums”. This model does come with a moonlight switch. It also has a moisture resistant PC Splash Guard to protect against water mishaps.
The Planted 24/7 version offers “true” 660nm red LEDs, unlike others using just “red” LEDs.
Studies have found to be one of the most efficient wavelengths for plant photosynthesis. This also gives a warmer look to an aquarium.

Using the 20 inch model as an example; it has these emitters:
(72) 7000k, (40) 660nm RED, (8) Blue Moonlights

With this many emitters and a cost price point, these are clearly daisy chained together, which is OK for Christmas lights, but not high end LED fixtures. The result is loss of spectral quality (this is an undisputable fact too).

Reference: Aquarium Lighting Facts & Information; LED Lights

Again using the 20 inch model, at 15 watts input energy its output in “useful light energy” is poor compared to better built, non daisy chained LED lights such as the AquaRay.
With this 20″, 15 watt model Finnex, the PAR at 400mm of air tests at 40 µMol•m²•sec. This is .37 watt of input energy per mm of PAR.
Again compare to the 12 watt GroBeam #600 @ 61 µMol•m²•sec for the same distance with a much higher PUR as well. This is .19 watt of input energy per mm of PAR.
Similar comparisons could be made with other “high end” LEDs such as the BML, AI Hydra that do not daisy chain emitters and use better emitters to start with over the low cost, low output no name emitters used by Finnex.

Taking this comparison a step further, since the “raw” PAR data suggests 1/3 lower PAR for the same size 20″ inch Finnex compared to the 20″ 12 watt GroBeam #600, we also need to add in the loss of spectral quality via daisy chaining and low efficiency low cost emitters compared to the licensed CREE emitters, and this 1/3 lower output easily becomes 50% or more.
This means using a 24″ 20 gallon aquarium, you would need at least two 20″ 15 Watt Finnex lights to do the same job as one 20″ 12 watt AAP AquaRay GroBeam. So any up front savings really are not there for objective aquarium keepers

Based on the very poor warranty (180 days), lack of a good water resistance rating, and energy output efficiency, I can only recommend these lights for those seeking to save $20-$30 short term, this is assuming your planted aquarium could get by with less light from the Finnex and does not need two Finnex where one better LED would work).

Long term savings will quickly evaporate on these Finnex lights based on lifespan and energy usage for results achieved since it can easily be assumed from known PAR & PUR data that it it would take twice the input wattage of Finnex to equal the PAR/PUR output of the AAP/TMC AquaRay GroBeam.

Further Reading: PUR, PAS, PAR in Aquarium Reef/Planted Lighting

* Specifications-




* Spread-
120 degree

* Features-

* Mounting-
Rim Mount Included

* Power Usage-
9 to 36 watts depending upon size of fixture

* PAR-
40 µMol•m²•sec in air at 400mm for the 15 watt 20 inch models tested for this article

* Warranty-
180 Day, very limited

* Resources-

* Coloration-
Finnex FugeRay LED Review

Finnex Planted 24/7 Review

*Planted + 24/7

Finnex Planted 24/7 review

* Review-
For the full review of all Finnex LED lights in general, based on gathered data, see the review under the Finnex FugeRay

The thing that sets this fixture apart from the rest of the Finnex line is the season cycle, along with coloration control. The fixture focuses on use visual and feature appeal. The features have good reviews. Growth is moderate. Since the fixture has these features, which require dimming, they must be using 0-10v dimming.

* Specifications-
Finnex Planted 24 7 Reveiw

–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: 7,000K

* Circuity/Dimming-
0-10v Standard Dimming

* Features-
Fully Automated, hand free daylight and night cycle
Clouds, thunder, sun, and moon settings
4 different memory modes
4 Channels

* Mounting-
Rim Mount Included

* Power Usage-
15 to 36 watts depending upon size of fixture

* PAR-
40 µMol•m²•sec in air at 400mm for the 15 watt 20 inch models tested for this article

* Warranty-
180 day, very limited

* Resources-

* Coloration-
Planted + 24 7 LED Review

*Finnex Ray 2 DS/DB/BB

FinnexRay LED Review

* Review-
For the full review of all Finnex LED lights in general, based on gathered data, see the review under the Finnex FugeRay

This version of the Finnex comes in three different versions. There’s a daylight 7,000K, 10,000K, and 460nm marine actinic blue. These fixtures pride them self on a quality aluminum design, which helps heat escape from the emitter, through the fixture and out. One fixture, they compare to (3) T5 lamps. With a water slash guard type of len over all emitters. The lens can be removed for easy cleaning. The emitters are ceramic and not plastic.

These fixtures are not designed to dim, without any option to do so. There are no features listed for the unit.

* Specifications-

Ray 2 DS
Model Dimensions LED #LEDs Type Wattage
RAY2 16DS 16″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 88 3014 9w
RAY2 18DS 18″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 96 3014 15w
RAY2 24DS 24″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 144 3014 20w
RAY2 30DS 30″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 144 3014 20w
RAY2 36DS 36″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 192 3014 29w
RAY2 48DS 48″x3.75×1(h) 7000k 288 3014 39w

Ray 2 DB
Model Dimensions LED #LEDs Type Wattage
RAY2 16DB 16″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 88 3014 9w
RAY2 18DB 18″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 96 3014 15w
RAY2 24DB 24″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 144 3014 20w
RAY2 30DB 30″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 144 3014 20w
RAY2 36DB 36″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 192 3014 29w
RAY2 48DB 48″x3.75×1(h) 10000k / Actinic 288 3014 39w

Ray 2 DB
Model Dimensions LED #LEDs Type Wattage
RAY2 24BB 24″x3.75×1(h) Actinic 144 3014 20w
RAY2 30BB 30″x3.75×1(h) Actinic 144 3014 20w
RAY2 36BB 36″x3.75×1(h) Actinic 192 3014 29w
RAY2 48BB 48″x3.75×1(h) Actinic 288 3014 39w

* Features-

* Mounting-
Rim Mount included

* Warranty-
180 day, very limited.

* Resources-

* Coloration-

Finnex Ray 2 DS DD DB Review

*Fluval Fresh, Marine, Eco Bright, Aquasky, Desktop, Ultra Bright

* Review, including overall review of ALL Fluval Lights

The Fluval LEDs is a economy build that has evolved into a very nicely aesthetically designed line of LED aquarium lights.
Fluval also claims German engineered (but then so are Tetra brand fish foods)
Fluval has added IP67 waterproofing, which few LEDs other than AquaRay have had. As well the warranty at 3 years is one of the better warranties, with only the AquaRay line beating this with 5 years.

However, the Fluval still use multiple no-name low cost emitters that are daisy chained together, instead of fewer HO quality emitters run with appropriate drivers/circuitry such as the AI, AquaRay, and other premium LEDs.
It is well known that it is not cost efficient to drive high numbers of emitters with proper voltage, so daisy chaining is used for LEDs such as the fluval, Satellite, & Finnex. This results in lower spectral quality (PUR) and lower efficiency which shows in the low PAR and PUR output per input wattage. As well dimming is analog, which also lowers spectral quality.
Reference: Aquarium Lighting Facts & Information; LED Lights

An example would be the Fluval Fresh & Plant 2.0 A3990 which uses 32 watts of input energy with a PAR output about 70 µMol•m²•sec at 400mm. This is .45 watt of input energy per mm of PAR.
However the 30 Watt AquaRay GroBeam 1500 produces a PAR of about 150 µMol•m²•sec at 400mm using 30 watts input energy. This is .20 watt of input energy per mm of PAR!!
This does not even take into consideration the higher sprectral quality of tuned specific licensed Cree emitters controlled by PWM versus analog dimming.

Another way to think about it. The 32 watt Planted Fluval 2.0 rates about 70 µMol•m²•sec at 400mm for $135, where the AquaRay GroBeam 12 watt rates about 61 µMol•m²•sec at 400mm for $123. So, watt per dollar, you get a better value with the AquaRay, with less watts about the same PAR, all with the other perks of a patented solid build and a 5 year warranty. This doesn’t even take in account PUR and the amount of emitters used in each fixture, which if is taken into account, the AquaRay GroBeam would have more useful energy and cost less, with a more secure build.

Fluval also claims “high CRI” however we already know that this is not a parameter to consider for aquarium lighting and is a marketing strategy often employed by lights with less than adequate PUR since CRI is easy to achieve.
Reference: Aquarium Lighting Facts & Information; CRI

So it is easy to see that while a nice sleek fixture, the Fluval is still at heart a basic economy LED masquerading as a quality HO LED!

Fresh & Plant 2.0


* Specifications-
Fluval planted-2-0

* Input/Output Energy-
–Watts: 32w-59w
–PAR: [See Specifications]
–Spectrum: Full Spectrum

–Kelvin: 7500K

* Circuity/Dimming-
0-10v Standard Analog Dimming

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-
Waterproof IP67

* Features-
ultra-slim 1” profile
dimmable .touch switch
Can be mounted lower for less light loss
All lights on or only blue lights

* Mounting-
On frame
With a cabinet

* Warranty-
3 Year Parts and Repair

* Resources-
Fluval Fresh & Plant 2.0

* Coloration-

Marine & Reef Performance LED


* Specifications-
[See Resource]

* Input/Output Energy-
–Watts: 25w-46w
–PAR: Not Specified
–Spectrum: Full Spectrum


* Analog Circuity/Dimming-
Day & Night Mode

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-

* Features-
6 unique LED Band Waves for maximum growth and colour

* Mounting-
With a cabinet
On frame

* Warranty-

* Resources-
Fluval Marine & Reef

* Coloration-

Eco Bright


* Specifications-
[See Resource]

* Input/Output Energy-
–Watts: 7w-18w
–PAR: Not Specified
–Spectrum: Not Specified
–Kelvin: 7500K

* Analog Circuity/Dimming-
0-10V Dimmer in 25% increments

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-

* Features-
German Engineered
Natural Shimmering Effect
energy-efficient LED system
intelligent infrared remote control with presets
customize blue and white LED intensity
ultra-slim 1” platform
Daytime and Nighttime

* Mounting-

* Warranty-
1 Year Parts and Repair

* Resources-
Fluval Eco Bright

* Coloration-



* Specifications-
[See Resource]

* Input/Output Energy-
–Watts: 18w-35w
–Spectrum: N/A
–Kelvin: 3000-25000K

* Analog Circuity/Dimming-
0-10V Dimming

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-
Waterproof IP67

* Features-
German Engineered
endless color blends & multiple sky effects
Daytime & Nighttime
SKYpad infrared remote
Super bright 6500K white LEDs with tri-colored RGB (Red, Green, Blue) LEDs
Mount lower for no light loss
Ultra Slim Design

* Mounting-

* Warranty-
3 Year Parts and Repair

* Resources-
Fluval Aquasky

* Coloration-


Desktop (Nano) Series- Aura, Halo, Nano


* Specifications-

* Input/Output Energy-
–Watts: 12w-22w
–PAR: 32-762


* Circuity/Dimming-
0-10V Dimming- Halo and Aura models only
White/blue Control

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-
Waterproof IP67

* Features-
German Engineered
C.O.B. (chip-on-board) technology
Mount lower for less light lose

* Mounting-
Adjustable Positioning Arm

* Warranty-
3 Year Parts and Repair

* Resources-
Fluval Desktop Series

* Coloration-
[See Spectrum}

Ultra Bright LED


* Specifications-
[See Resource]

* Input/Output Energy-

–Watts: 9w-32w
–Spectrum: Full Spectrum


* Circuity/Dimming-

* Spread-
120 Degree

* Waterproof-

* Features-
A shimmering effect is created
Can be used with deeper tanks
Solid aluminum housing
Compact and lightweight
Daytime and Nighttime

* Mounting-

* Warranty-

* Resources-
Fluval Ultra Bright

* Coloration-

*Zetlight Qmaven/Maxspect R420R/TMC V2 iLumenAir

Maxspect Razor 420R, Zetlight, iLumenAir, aquarium LED

* Review- Maxspect, iLumenAir, Zetlight
Maxspect Razor, TMC V2 iLumenAir, are all based on the same general basic build as the Zetlight Qmaven.

Made in Honk Kong. Zetlight reserves some of its technology ONLY for their name brand line and iLumenAir such as the smart fan and better emitters.

Zetlight also has other LED models, not reviewed in this article at this time. (Mini Aquarium Series, Nano Aquarium Series, Aqua Aquarium Series, Pro Aquarium Series, Project Aquarium Series, IOZEAN Aquarium Series, Lancia Aquarium Series, and Shieldo Aquarium Series).

The use of cooling fans implies that the Zetlight Qmaven, Maxspect R420R, & TMC V2 iLumenAir all use 0-10V “Current Reduction” versus the superior PWM to control the emitters.
See: Aquarium LED Lighting- PWM

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.

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.

The Maxspect has the least amount of features compaired to the others.

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/PAS fixture is not 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.

Zetlight Qmaven ZT6500

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Bridgelux & Cree

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)

* Input/Output Energy
90 Watt, 1 fan

PSU Input: 100-240V

PSU Output: N/A

–PAR: 200-300 @ 8 inch of water [See Spread]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V
No more info on Circuity

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Designed to be primarily cooled passively, the body is entirely in aluminum, serving as a large heat sink. With the aerodynamic design, cool air is brought through the bottom of the fixture and heat will be dissipated through the aluminum chassis. With a built-in temperature controlled system, with active cooling.
Simulate dawn, sunrise, sunset & nighttime
Toughen transparent len cover. Holds back humidity
Water Resistant Connector Plug
Digital Screen Display
Infra Red Controller

* Mounting-
Slide out mount, with lock

* Warranty- 1 year

* Resources-

Apex option:
Maxspect Razor 420R, Zetlight, iLumenAir, aquarium LED

* Coloration-
Zetlight LED Review color

Maxspect R420R

LED Review Maxspect Reef

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Cree & Epliles

M10000 (10,000K)
12 x Cree XT-E Cool White 8000 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)

M16000 (16,000K)
6 x Cree XT-E Cool White 8000 Daylight emitters
12 x Cree XT-E Royal Blue (450-465nm)
6 x Cree XT-E Warm White 3000 Daylight emitters
9 x Cree XP-E Blue (465-485nm)
6 x Eplileds Dual Core Violet (410-420nm)

A8000 (8000K)
6 x Cree XT-E Cool White 8000 Daylight emitters
4 x Cree XT-E Warm White 3000 Daylight emitters
3 x Cree XP-E Blue (465-485nm)

* Input/Output Energy
Meanwell NES-75-15 (60w)
Meanwell NES-150-24 (120w)
Meanwell NES-200-36 (160w) (actual output 117 watt)

PSU Input:
1.5A/115VAC – 0.9A/230VAC (60w)
4.5A/115VAC – 2.5A/230VAC (160w/120w)

PSU Output:
15V 5A (60w)
24V 6.3A (120w)
36V 5.9A (160w)

–PAR: 100-300, 24 inch water [See Spread]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: N/A

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V
No more info on Circuity

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Smart Fan
Simulate dawn, sunrise, sunset & nighttime

* Mounting- Slide out mount

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-

* Coloration-
Maxspect Color Review
264g reef tank with 4 LED Maxspect Razor R420R 120W 16,000K

TMC V2 iLumenAir

TMC iLumenAir LED Review Specification

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Bridgelux

V2 iLumen Air 600
1 x 35W (6500K) diode
12 x 3W Royal Blue (465nm)
8 x 3W Red (620-630NM)

V2 iLumen Air 900
2 x 35W (6500K) diodes
24 x 3W Royal Blue (465nm)
3 x 3W Red (640nm)
3 x 3W Green (530nm)
2 x 3W Amber(605nm)

V2 iLumen Air 1200
2 x 45w (12000k) diodes
30 x 3w Royal Blue (465nm)
6x 2w Red (640nm)
6 x 3w Green (530nm)
2 x 3w Amber (605 mn)

* Input/Output Energy
Air 600- 80 Watt, 1 fan
Air 900- 170 Watt, 2 fan
Air 1200- 215 Watt, 2 fan

PSU Input: N/A
PSU Output: N/A

–PAR: 100-400, 17 inch water [See Spread]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: N/A

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V
No more info on Circuity

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Designed to be primarily cooled passively, the body is entirely in aluminum, serving as a large heat sink. With the aerodynamic design, cool air is brought through the bottom of the fixture and heat will be dissipated through the aluminum chassis. With a built-in temperature controlled system, with active cooling.
Waterproof cable connections
Infra Red Controller
90 degree lens optics
Simulate dawn, sunrise, sunset & nighttime
Thermal cut out to protect the LED’s should overheating occur
Controllable blue LED trim to enhance
Power read out indicates electricity use

* Mounting-
Adjustable tank mounted (fittings included) or suspended (kit sold separately)
Maxspect Razor R420R, TMC V2 iLumenAir 900, & Zetlight ZT6600 LED fixture features

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources (To purchase)-
V2 iLumenAir (ZetLight)

* Coloration-
Zetlet IlumenAir
BC Aquaria Maxspect

*Maxspect Mazarra

Mazarra LED Review Specification

* Review-
The use of cooling fans implies that the Maxspect Mazarra use 0-10V “Current Reduction” versus the superior PWM to control the emitters.
See: Aquarium LED Lighting- PWM

The Maxspect Mazarra lighting system is one the first LED systems on the market to utilize the 410/420nm Super Actinic LED chips (violet). Maxspect claims 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.

Other fixtures do have this color of emitter as well.

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Cree, Philips, Epileds

Mazarra- P Series
4 x Cree XM-L Cool White 7000-8000
4 x Philips Luxeon Rebel 460-490 Blue
4 x Philips Luxeon Rebel 440-460 Royal Blue
1 x Epileds Dual-Core 400-410 Super Actinic
1 x Epileds Dual-Core 410-420 Super Actinic
2 x Cree XP-G 3000K Warm White

(XM-L Cool White bin is actually 5500K!! Based on Crees own data)

Mazarra- X Series
4 x Cree XB-D Cool White 7500
2 x Epileds Dual-Core 410-420 Super Actinic
2 x Cree XB-D Warm White 4000
4 x Cree XP-E 465-485 Blue
4 x Cree XP-E 450-465 Blue

* Input/Output Energy
P Series:
PSU Input- 4.5A/115VAC – 2.5A/230VAC
PSU Output- 14A

X Series:
PSU Input- 4.5A/115VAC – 2.5A/230VAC
PSU Output- 36V 5.9A

Watts: 110w

P Series: [See Resource per lens]
X Series: [See Resource per lens]

Maxspect Mazarra Aquarium LED Fixture & SpectrogramThe spectrogram is missing some important points of PUR and full spectrum PAR. Not to say this is not a good spectrogram, only that it could be better.
[See Resource]

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


P-Series: N/A
X-Series: N/A

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V
No more info on Circuity

* Spread- [See Resources]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
The Mazarra-X Lighting system can be connected to PC through USB, allowing users to update firmware easily through the USB connection. Upcoming Maxspect Computer Control program will also allow users to program photo-period profile directly from the PC and upload the profile onto the master module.

Wireless Controller
Modularized Units
Weather Mode. Dawn/Dusk Mode
Master/slave mode, which can control up to 16 units
6 Photo-Period Time Point
Aerodynamic design
Versatile Mounting System
Selection of 40°, 70° and 100° optics

* Mounting-
Maxspect Mazarra Aquarium LED Mounting
Nice adjustable mount design

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-
Maxspect Mazarra P-Series
Maxspect Mazarra X-Series

* Coloration-
Maxspect Mazarra review
Maxspect Mazarra par Aquarioom


*AAP AquaRay AquaBeam/AquaGro- 2000 Reef White, 1500 Ocean Blue, 1500 GroBeam & Colour Plus Tiles

TMC AquaRay LED Review Specfication

The AAP/TMC AquaRay is one of the leaders in both Reef and Planted freshwater aquarium LED lighting [especially in Europe], with 11 different module fixtures to mix and match depending on species being kept and aquarium specification. Their PAR/PUR efficiency and warranty is unrivaled which is why in part, I use the AquaRay as the standard to measure all other aquarium LED lights by, despite the mass marketing of many others that has allowed many others to become more household names.
Emitters are fully licensed or patented, meaning no other fixtures have these emitters.
They also have an exceptional 5 year warranty to back them up, which is far longer than most all other aquarium LEDs.

Another aspect I like about the TMC AquaRay line of LED lights is their patented mounting system that is like not other LED with vastly more mounting options than any other aquarium LED light, advanced or economy.

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

  • The licensed Cree and patented innovative Osram Oslon emitters, which no other fixtures have for the highest PUR output at the lowest watts.

Instead of warm white or cool white emitters, the AAP AquaBeam/AquaGro LEDs use more reef or planted freshwater friendly kelvin temperature emitters.
These emitters are also aquarium specific meaning they are meant to be used in a more wet environment and can handle larger voltage swings, due to long term exposure to moisture. In fact, the AquaRay LEDs have a water resistant design of IP67. This is the highest level of protection, no other Aquarium LED has this rating.

  • TMC uses precise drivers/circuitry to power each emitter, so as to maintain spectral quality. Unlike other LEDs, which daisy chain their emitters together. Almost like chaining Christmas lights together. Other good/excellent “High End” LEDs such as Aqua Illuminations, EcoTech, V2 iLumenAir/Maxspect, and Kessil do not daisy chain their emitters either.
  • The AquaRay line of LEDs ARE THE MOST EFFICIENT aquarium LED as per input energy to PAR using 400m as a measurement. This is worthy of note that even leaving out the longevity, warranty, and highest PUR, the simple measurement of PAR shows that where two or more of one fixture might be needed, only one Aquaray might be needed.
    The watt per micro-mol of PAR ranges from .08 watt to .20 watt per mm of PAR for Aquaray LED fixtures.
    Other LEDs such as the Beamworks are as high as 2.7 watts per mm of PAR!

The ONLY Professional Full Service Online Product Resource in North America:
AquaRay Lighting
Beware of posers selling this product with names that imply official and experience, as neither is true.
The above link is the ONLY North American online seller with a decade of experience selling this product and decades of professional lighting experience behind it.
In fact in investigating further, I found that a certain parasite garage retailer now has two deceptive web sites shadowing each other selling the Aquaray and unfortunately Google Search rewards this “black hat” SEO with top billing!
Do not make the mistake of purchasing from a garage seller!

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Cree & Osram Oslon

30 watt AquaBeam Reef White 2000
4 x 10,000K extremely high output NEW patented Cree XT-E -Focused Lens
2 x “Fiji Blue” Cree XT-E (deep blue) -Focused Lens
4 x NP (Nature Perfect) Osram Oslon full spectrum Blue -Focused Lens. (18,000k) with a correlated color temperature of 20,000K.

30 watt AquaBeam Ocean Blue 1500
4 x 10,000K extremely high output NEW patented Cree XT-E
2 x “Fiji Blue” Cree XT-E (deep blue)
4 x NP (Nature Perfect) Osram Oslon full spectrum Blue. (18,000k) with a correlated color temperature of 20,000K.

30 watt AquaBeam Coral Colour Plus 1500
2 x 10,000K extremely high output NEW patented Cree XT-E
2 x “Fiji Blue” Cree XT-E (deep blue)
2 x NP (Nature Perfect) Osram Oslon full spectrum Blue. (18,000k) with a correlated color temperature of 20,000K.
2 x Semi NUV emitters
1 x Cree Red Emitter

AquaRay Lighting
ABOVE: Reef Aquarium with New Coral Colour Plus added to Maxspect, within two weeks, Montipora & other sps growth was noticeably improved

30 watt AquaGro GroBeam 1500
10 x Cree XB-D 6500K

AquaRay Lighting, Aquascape with AquaGro Grobeam 1500 Daylight
ABOVE: Aquascape with AquaGro Grobeam 1500 Daylight

30 watt AquaGro Colour (Color) Plus
4 x Cree XP-G 6500K daylight white
2 x Cree XP-E green
2 x Cree XP-E red
2 x Cree XP-E blue

* Input/Output Energy [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Pulse with Modulation, separate controller

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- IP67 Proof

* Features-
-Controller for Features (separate)
Multi channel
Ramp/dim, Sunrise, Sunset, moonlight
Wifi Compatible/PC Control Panel
Storm/30 day lunar cycle
Temperature probe
Slave Mode

* Mounting-
In-hood (provided), Modular, Suspended

* Warranty- 5 Year Registered

* Further Resources/Information-

Reef White 2000
AAP Reef White 2000 Specifications

Ocean Blue/Coral Colour Plus 1500
AAP Ocean Blue 1500 Specifications

GroBeam 1500/Color Plus
AAP GroBeam 1500 Color Plus Specifications

Purchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know

AAP/TMC AquaBeam/AquaGro

75 Gallon Planted Aquarium with GroBeam, LED Reviews
A 75 gallon planted with two GroBeam earlier generation LED tiles is pictured to the left.

Below is snip of a large reef aquarium utilizing AquaBeam Reef White 2000s & Ocean Blue 1500s.

AquaRay LED Review

AAP/TMC AquaBeam/AquaGro- 600 Ultima Strips, Mini 400 & 500:

* Specifications-
Emitter Type: Cree

12 watt Marine White 600
6 x 9K Cree ML-E Daylight
2 x Cree ML-E Reef Blue
AquaRay Lighting, Marine White 600

12 watt Reef White 600
4 x 9K Cree ML-E Daylight
4 x Cree ML-E Reef Blue
AquaRay Lighting, Reef White 600

12 watt Marine Blue 600
2 x 9K Cree ML-E Daylight
6 x ML-E Reef Blue
AquaRay Lighting, Marine Blue 600

12 watt Reef Blue 600
8 x Cree ML-E Reef Blue

12 watt Fiji Blue 600
5 x Cree XT-E Blue

12 watt GroBeam 600
5 x 6500K Daylight XB-D

12 watt MiniLED 500
4 x Cree licensed XP-E 10,000K- focused lensed
1 x Cree XP-E 465nm Blue
NOTE: designed for small Nano Reef Tanks under 15 gallons, although multiples work quite well for larger aquariums where the “square” light spread might be desirable over multiple strips (the picture displays this light with a “MountaRay” bracket for easy attachment to small tanks).

TMC Mini 400, Aquarium LED Review12 watt AquaHabitats Mini 400

4 x Osram Oslon SSL High Power 6500K
The Mini 400 uses four new high output OSRAM OSLON SSL High Power 6500K LED Emitters.

12 watt AquaBeam NUV
5 x Cree Near Ultra violet
AquaRay Lighting, NUV

* Input/Output Energy [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Pulse with Modulation (PWM), separate controller

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- IP67 Proof

* Features-
-Controller for Features (separate)
Multi channel
Ramp/dim, Sunrise, Sunset, moonlight
Wifi Compatible/PC Control Panel
Storm/30 day lunar cycle
Temperature probe
Salve Mode

* Mounting-
In-hood (provided), Modular, Suspended

* Warranty- 5 Year Registered

* Resources-
TMC Marine Reef White Blue Specifications

TMC Fiji Reef Blue Spectrum

TMC AquaBeam/AquaGro



  • The AquaRay LEDs apply latest technology to controllers, which dim and brighten an LED fixture. As a controller best maintains the spectral output via pulse width modulation (PWM).
    The importance of PWM is this technology is effectively turning the LEDs on and off very quickly (faster than the eye can see) so there’s no change to the spectral output as opposed to using 0-10v dimmer used by many brands of LED fixtures and LED Controllers.

    This is what really sets the TMC AquaRay apart from others, since there’s little heat loss with PWM compared to other methods. This is also for long-term security of the emitters, as over time with a moist environment, spectrums and emitters can start to degrade.

    The AAP AquaRays do not have fans, which is a large plus considering the life of the fan will never last as long as the emitters are rated for.
    With less heat, these means more energy is being used as light and less watts of energy are being used. This also helps makes the fixture completely IP67 waterproof.

    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. AquaRay chooses to keep their dimmer separate, as not everyone needs it and the fixtures can simply be raised and lowered or a good grounded timer can also be used [which is what most persons used until LEDs became practical].

    A higher pitch sound also has been reported with PWM dimming, but is something not noticeable unless someone is specifically listening for it and can’t hear it over other sounds of the aquarium. It is also worthy of note that other Aquarium LEDs use fans, which make their own noise and often breakdown prematurely, so this is a draw here.

    Other complaints are that the TMC controllers are not as user friendly, although their new Smart Controller 8 with new features certainly voids this issue, at least in part. Now the new controller has more user features not even found with other common fixtures. Either way the use of PWM and lower heat loss resulting in more light overrides these issues in my experience/opinion as well as with interviews with aquarium keeping professionals.

    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/yellow/orange emitters [with the exception of the Colour Plus], these TMC AquaBeam & AquaGro GroBeam have the highest PUR output for the lowest wattage input, often by a very wide margin.

Further Specific TMC AquaBeam/GroBeam Information

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.

Pictured below is a Reef White 2000 NP Ultima and 600 Ultima NUV LEDs 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 combines the exclusive and licensed 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 patented innovative NP Blue Osram Oslon emitter which is specifically designed for photosynthetic reef life, providing a blue light, which still is full spectrum.

It provides the growing power of 20K, while having a 16K appearance. This is a higher level tech emitter, not available in any other aquarium fixture.

The picture below shows the spectrum of the Osram Olson ‘Natural Blue’ or ‘Nature Prefect’ (NP) emitter:
Light spectrum of the Osram Olson NP Blue emitter

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.


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.
  • 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, 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).

Below is a video with a reef aquarium using AquaRay Ocean Blue NP 1500 LEDs

Reef Aquarium with Ultima NP LEDs Video

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 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

TMC also now utilizes the newest licensed 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.

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

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:

It is noteworthy, 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 non licensed Cree cool white binned emitters used by most other LED manufacturers produce a more yellow, lower quality PUR light..

Here is an excellent newer website documenting the LED research at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland by Dr. Walter Hatch, THIS IS A MUST READ!

St Mary's Marine Biology Experiments with LED Lighting
St Mary’s Marine Biology Experiments

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

AquaRay Flexi LED Review

* Review-
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.
That said, TMC is not marketing this product for anything other than minor supplemental or decorative lighting.

As an example, the 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

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).

* Input/Output Energy
PSU Input:100-240V 50/60HZ
PSU Output: 12 C DC 0.8 max

3 Watts

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Waterproof- N/A

* Mounting-
Stick on back

* Warranty- 2 Year

* Resources-
TMC Flex Red/Blue Adhesive LED Aquarium Lighting

* Coloration-
TMC Flexi-Red LED on Aquarium, Review





*TMC AquaBar LED:

* Review-
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.

Update: The AquaBar has been taken off the aquarium LED market.

*Aqua Illumination SOL:

Aqua Illumination SOL Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting

* Review-
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 license “rights” to the latest 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.

These LED fixtures are marketed more on features, rather the 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.

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, which are good for aquarium applications under 20 inches. Not for deeper tanks as many unaware reef keeper have used these LED fixtures for.

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’s little reason to pay more, use more electricity, and get less.

Known facts about the emitters used in the AI Sol, this is still a good choice for reef tanks under 20 inches of depth.

This fixture has been discounted by the manufacture.

* Specifications-

Here is a break down of the popular AI Sol Super Blue:
Quantity: 8
Cree: XPG, 6500K
Quantity: 8
Cree: XPE, 470nm
Royal Blue:
Quantity: 8

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




*Aqua Illumination Vega:

AL Vega LED Review

* Review-
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”

One of the most innovative controllers that is chock full of features, including the future “Director”!

The obvious negatives is that while this is an LED light fixture, which is feature rich with lots of bells & whistles, it still lacks where it counts in Useful Light Energy!

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, which can be shown to have more wasted light energy in the middle spectrum as well as the use of less efficient green emitters.

This equals as much as 30% of wattage input goes as light energy OUTSIDE of optimum PUR!!!

* Specifications-

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

Aqua Illuminations Vega Color Spectrograph, Aquarium LED Reviews

This fixture has be discounted from the manufacture.

*Aqua Illumination Hydra FiftyTwo/TwentySix HD (Hyper Drive):

Aquarium LED Review Aquaillumination

* Review-
This is one of Aqua Illuminations newer offerings.
A nicely made and excellent “high end” LED fixture that steps up from previous offerings with this 90 & 135 Watt LED Fixture.

This Hydra Fifty-Two and TwentySix new HD has a very eye pleasing color balance, which along their sleek design and balanced 80 degree optics with 90% optical efficiency are their main selling points.
This includes the Osram Oslon Deep Red emitters which do a nice job balancing the many blue emitters.

Nice FULL feature light color control, quoting Aqua Illuminations: “With traditional LED lighting, there is a fixed total amount of power per color you can utilize to power your LEDs. With the Hydra HD Series from AI we’re unleashing your LEDs’ full potential by giving back control of the power to you”.

The Hydra HDs have built-in WiFi control with AiFi Technology with no separate controller needed. Your Smart Phone iOS, Android, or computer browser control functions – Each press will change the intensity by 20%.
This feature is both a positive and negative depending upon your point of view, as this is definitely not a plug and play LED, as you need to sync your wireless computer or Smart phone before you can even run the light at all, however many might find this feature very practical [I personally prefer a separate controller such as with the iLumenAir/ZetLight or one that can ALSO be synced with your computer/Smart Phone such as the TMC AquaRay].

These new HD Hydras can be run up to 90 watts for the Twenty-Six (135 watts for the Fifty-Two). With the HD Hydras, you can turn down one color and hydper drive another at more than 100% up to the maximum wattage. As a comparison, the iLumenAir/ZetLight/Maxspect when turned down on a certain color, these cannot be brought up in another color over 100%.
As an example, some of the blues can be turned down and then run more of the red colors for a planted freshwater aquarium at more than 100%.

Below is a screen shot of how the controller feature appears on a PC computer:
AI Hydra HD LED screen shot of computer, smart phone controller features

The compact size is also very nice at only 7.28 in. by 5.375 in. for the Twenty-Six HD.
This can allow for placing of many of the Twenty-Six HDs [my preference over the Fifty-Two] in a small space which is a major plus for those who like to over drive their planted or reef aquarium.

A few minor negatives:

  • The wireless controlling features are also nice, although lacking of more efficient heat loss reducing PWM, hence the need for a fan.
  • These LED fixtures still use “binned” Cree XP-G2 Cool White LED emitters, which is inferior aquarium lighting PUR/PAS, as it has lower kelvin color temperature rating than is considered best for marine reef lighting.
  • The LED uses green emitters, which while these are nice for color, these also considerably lower the important PUR & PAS output.
  • I 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 (No evidence that this will occur with these LED lights). There is little evidence these 400nm emitters provide much if any useful PAS to corals.
  • The new unique “Hyper Drive” feature that uses software to over drive emitters with left over voltage from emitters “turned down” is something that over time will damage emitters as per the known aspects of voltage tolerances within emitters; hence the one year warranty.
    So while a very cool/desirable feature, this feature also has its definite down side.
  • The Hydra HD are not really “Plug & Play” from the aspect that no real mounting hardware is included. So you either have to DIY in mounting or buy extra parts [actually DIY mounting is not that difficult for this fixture if reasonably handy].

When all is considered, including price, the AI Hydra HDs definitely rank among the best of the high-end aquarium LED fixtures and for those who might want to over-drive their planted or reef aquarium, this would probably be my first choice of any current LED fixture.

However for most high end users desiring more “normal” reef or planted aquariums, but desiring what I would still consider more gimmicky feature of driving specific colored emitters at different levels, the iLumenAir/ZetLight would be my choice [the iLumenAir/ZetLight is also is much more of a plug and play fixture and includes very practical mounting hardware].
For those who want a simple proven, pre-tuned LED, with high PUR and output light for input energy, PWM, the longest warranty including more specific pre-tuned light choices; whether it be for their fish, high light planted or reef aquarium that includes some basic mounting hardware, my choice is the AAP AquaRay Lighting line.

* Specifications-

AI Hydra FiftyTwo:
12 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
12 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
12 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
4 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
4 – Cree XP-E2 Green
4 – SemiLED 415nm
4 – SemiLED 400nm

The Aqua Illuminations TwentySix is similar to the FiftySix except with half of the same emitters.

AI Hydra TwentySix:
6 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
6 – Cree XT-E Royal Blue
6 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
2 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
2 – Cree XP-E2 Green
2 – SemiLED 415nm
2 – SemiLED 400nm

* Input/Output Energy

PSU Input- 100 to 240VAC / 50-60Hz
PSU Output-

135 Watt

PSU Input- 100 to 240VAC / 50-60Hz
PSU Output-

90 Watt

–PAR: peak PAR of 304 µMol [See Resource]

Here’s the excellent, but not optimal in my opinion spectrogram for both AI LED Fixtures run at 100% on all emitters:
Aqua Illuminations Fiftytwo and Twentsix Aquarium LED Spectrogram

–Kelvin: [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Greater PAR
Multi Channel
Built-in Wi-Fi, wireless controller. Smart phone or computer

* Mounting- None, extra purchase but still DIY mounting not too difficult

* Warranty-
1 Year (with certain sellers in the UK providing a 2 year warranty at their expense) w/ Register

* Resources-
AI Hydra Series LED

* Coloration-


Reef Builder-AI Review

Below is a video reviewing the AI HD

AI HD Review

To purchase:
Aqua Illuminations Hydra Twenty Six HD

*0-10V Current Reduction Versus Pulse Width Modulation
*PUR versus PAR in Aquarium Lighting

*Aqua Illumination Prime:

Prime Reef Aquarium LED

* Review-
Newest in the AI line up. A “one fixture to rule them all”. Coming in at 50 watts, with some nice user features like the newest wi-fi controller. Color control for appearance of one’s choosing.

The wireless controller does imply 0-10v dimming along will more color emitters added up to make the overall spectrum.

* Specifications-

4 – Cree XP-G2 Cool White (> 70 CRI)
1 – OSRAM OSLON Deep Red
1 – Cree XP-E2 Green
3 – Cree XP-E2 Blue
2 – OSRAM SQUARE Deep Blue
1 – SemiLED 415nm Violet
1 – SemiLED 405nm UV

* Input/Output Energy

PSU Input- 100 to 240VAC / 50-60Hz
PSU Output-

50 Watts

–PAR: 260 uMol at 12 inch [See Resource]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Built-in Wi-Fi
Slave mode

* Mounting-
Rim or rimless ball valve adjustable mount

* Warranty- 1 Year w/ Register

* Resources-
AI Prime

* Coloration-
aqua illumination prime LED review
My Salty Reef AI Prime

*Current Satellite Freshwater + LED:

Current Satellite Freshwater LED, review

* 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, which it is full of features that appeal to those with little knowledge of aquarium 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 relied upon.

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.

Into the science of lighting, we see that this light achieves its 6500 Kelvin with no-name emitters. Not even known quality off the shelf Bridgelux or similar, which 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. This is in part why the energy output in PAR is so low per wattage input, as compared to non discount LEDs.

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.

Green emitters are used for coloration, but are less useful as per photosynthetic life. The un-balanaced blue emitters can also lead to increased algae growth, in particular black beard algae if there’s an off balance of co2. 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 less useful 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, which 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.

My point is this is a well marketed LED that unfortunately is promoted in aquarium keeping forums that should know better, which should be avoided if quality and long life of the fixture are at all important to you.
These only have an IP65 water resistance rating, which is terrible for an electronic device that is to be laced over water.
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!
But even up front costs are actually higher when comparing apples to apples, as you would need more than one #4007 25 Watt Satellite that produces 25 PAR to achieve the same results as a AAP GroBeam 12 watt that produces 61 PAR at a similar depth, so in the end the Satellite is not even a good up front value for planted aquarium keepers!!

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

* Specifications-
#4007 Model number based on length
72 White/36 RGB
25 Watts

* Input/Output Energy
PSU Output- 12 V DC

–PAR: 36 PAR at 12 inch with a VERY POOR PAR efficiency of .69 watt input energy per 1 PAR output [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- IP65 Proof

* Features-
Color picking
Color changing effect

* Mounting-
Sliding docking legs

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-
Current Satellite LED Specs

* Coloration-
Current USA Satellite LED Review
Current Satellite YouTube

*Current Satellite + Pro:

Current Sat Pro LED Review Specification

* Review-

* Specifications-
#4012 (model based on length)

30-6500K/14-RGBW, 44 LEDs total
45 Watts

* Input/Output Energy
12 volts DC

–PAR: 100+ @12 with a below average PAR efficiency of .45 watt per 1 PAR output[See Resource]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- N/A

* Waterproof- IP65 Proof

* Features-
Fully Adjustable RGB+W spectrum
24 hr. timer control for sunrise, sunset, & Moonlight
Automatic 15 min gradual ramp and dim
Six dynamic effects and presets including cloud cover, fading lunar, storm and lightning
Four freshwater optimized preset colors
Wireless programming
Two custom color memory
aluminum housing

* Mounting-
Sliding docking legs

* Warranty-

* Resources-
Current Satellite Pro Webpage
Current Satellite Pro Sale Sheet
Current Satellite Compare Sheet

* Coloration-
Satellite Pro LED Review

*Ecoxotic Stunner/Panorama:

Ecoxotic Stunner LED Review

* Review-
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 other tech.

As well the PAR output generally is below the necessary PAR required for photosynthesis. Now a days, with new higher PUR tech, something like 20 mmol of PAR is all that is required for photosynthesis. This is with more useful energy in the PAR spectrum (PUR), not just any mmol throughout the whole PAR.

Ecoxotic Panorama Strips have 12 older technology 1 watt emitters (vs. the 2.4 watt high PUR emitters used in other fixtures). More emitters are required due the lack of precision (useful energy output, etc).

That said, while the Ecoxotic Panorama Strips are not top level technology, 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, 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’s a reason that the better LEDs are priced as they are. It’s licensing.
(See Orbital Technologies Corporation Statement; Patent Infringement)

* Specifications-
9 Different Colors

(24) x 453nm Blue
(18) x 8K White & 6 x 453nm Blue
(24) x 8K White
(24) x 403nm Ultraviolet
(24) x Magenta Purple/Pink
(16) x Magenta & 8 x 12K White
(24) x 445nm Royal Blue
(16) x 445nm Royal Blue & 8 x 12K White
(16) x 445nm Royal Blue & 8 x Magenta
* Input/Output Energy
6 Watt

PSU 100-120V
50/60 Hz

* Waterproof-
Water resistant

* Mounting-
Adhesive Tape, Clips, or Screws

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-
Ecoxotic Stunner LED

* Coloration-
Ecoxotic LED Review
Marine Aquarium SA- Ecoxotic LED

*Marineland Reef Capable, Single & Double Bright:

Marineland Double Bright Aquarium LED Light

* Review-
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, which utilize the best emitters, the best drivers, and PWM technology.

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’s useful light energy (PUR), which 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 LEDs. In fact, using 30 watts of input energy of high output emitters will well out produce the largest Marineland Reef Capable with its 54 one watt low PUR emitters.

See the picture/graph below, while the spectrum of the light is decent for what we know of PUR, the clear way the LED is driven with low watts emitters does not allow for the extra punch in growth, with the extra intensity of higher driven emitters.

There’s not much information published of the LED, but most likely has about a 12K rating. No information on emitters or drivers used.

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.

* Specifications-

Size,1 Watt White LEDs,1 Watt Blue LEDs,Lumens
18″-24″, 51,3,300
24″-36″, 68,4,400
36″-48″, 102,6,600
48″-60″, 135,9,800

* Mounting-
Slide out Mount Arms

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-

* Coloration-
Marine Land LED Review

Marineland Reef LED Review

*Blue Moon Aquatic 90-watt LED:

Blue Moon Aquatic 90 Watt LED Panel

* Review-
This is another Asian import along with the TaoTronics (same manufacturer in China), which 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 6500K 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 better technology.
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

* Specifications-
120 watt, 1 fan

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Features-
Color control

* Mounting-
Suspension Kit

* Warranty- 2 Years

* Coloration-

*Evergrow & Ocean Revive LED Aquarium Light- Including the OR-D120
As well as the newer Upgraded Black Box SB Reef Lights LED:

* Review-
Ocean Revive LED Aquarium Light, OR-D120A similar Chinese LED to the Blue Moon and Taotronics, these are another economy LED fixture all made in the same Chinese factory. These are all reef/planted aquarium capable via a higher energy shotgun approach to LED emitters & daisy chained drivers.

All three of these LED fixtures are made in China by Chinse company that specializes in branding. Meaning a seller can customize and then re-brand the fixture to fit their marketing niche.
However the guts and concepts are all the same; these are all still lower end low cost LED fixtures that will grow plants & coral well, but are also as much as 1/4 the efficiency of better LED fixtures that better utilize PUR, emitters, drivers and more.
The end result is a most definitely capable LED fixture in the basic as well as customized versions, often with very nice coloration, but also one that when one employs common sense logic, the savings are not what one would think when it requires a 120 watt fixture to do the same job a high end LED could achieve at only 30 watts. Then throw in the lack of water proofing, use of a fan, & other issues that likely will occur once out of warranty and the savings go out the door.

SB Reef Light LED Fixture, review

I will start with the newest and very well marketed offering, the SB Reef Light LED.
What the SB Reef offers over the basic Black Box LED is more powerful binned Cree emitters, a larger heat sink and UVA.
However, even on their own website, the USA distributor of this Chinese light is very vague as to real specifications. In reality their web site is all about marketing what “corals crave”, but little real information is provided.

The picture above does clearly show that yellow/amber are used, which are VERY inefficient for photosynthetic light as per the current science of aquarium lighting.
This makes their wave length graph highly suspect, since it shows no yellow light, yet they clearly utilize yellow/amber and cool white emitters!!! Basically this is nothing more than marketing, not science [as the efficiency numbers bear out].
What is also noteworthy is that while many LED lights are coming out with UVA emitters, these are for making our corals, etc. pop with color which is great, but there is little PUR energy with these, meaning wasted energy.

More over, the larger heat sink is required due to the inefficiencies of this fixture both emitter and drivers (typical of the builder), as heat simply equals wasted energy.
As well this black box LED fixture still depends heavily upon fans for cooling and it is not a matter of “if” a fan will fail, but “when” and the end result is over heating and total fixture failure (which has already been reported as per friends in the business and “Bulk Reef Supply”).

Since these lights are overbuilt as per energy used and produced, these often well over produce heat that then needs to be dissipated, even when dimmed since these lights do not utilize PWM.
The terrible efficiency of this over hyped LED shows up when we simply measure the wattage of input energy to product just one micro-mol of PAR. The SB Reef Light, while producing a spectacular PAR that is not even needed for most applications, requires .41 watt of input energy per mm of PAR generated. Even the economy Finnex is lower!!
When dimmed, as most applications require, the lack of PWM means these lights use the same energy input for even less PAR!

These are also not built to IP67 water resistance standards.

While the price is good along with coloration, by the time one figures in that these are only about 1/4 the efficiency of better LED fixtures, any up front savings are out the window. Then, once build quality is factored in, including water resistance, these are NOT a good long term investment.

The SB Reef Light is currently sold and serviced directly from China, but they are setting up a distribution point in the USA with a 2 year warranty.


The Ocean Revive OR-D120 uses 120 watts to achieve the questionably similar PUR output to a high out 30 watts unit, which defeats the purpose of LED energy savings.

As well these are another LED, which utilizes heat producing, energy wasting 0-10V current reduction technology rather than PWM technology, which is much more energy efficient.
Reference: Aquarium LED Lighting; PWM

While one could argue the green emitters add nice colors, these are less useful 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, which 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

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.

Some people will claim the addition of these color emitters are for coloration of the corals and prefer color over optimum growth of the specimen.

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

* Specifications-

Arctic-T247-B 120W LED Aquarium Light (shipped from China)
2 fan
LED Quantity 48pcs
(2) Red 660nm
(2) Green 520nm
(8) Blue 470nm
(16) Royal Blue 450nm
(6) Violet 420nm
(8) Cool White 12000K
(6) Cool White 10000K

OR-IT2081 240W LED Aquarium Light
3 Fan
LED Quantity 99pcs
(4) Red 660nm
(4) Green 520nm
(32) Blue 470nm
(19) Royal Blue 450nm
(4) Violet 420nm
(24) Cool White 12000K
(12) Neutral White 7500K

Arctic-S026 120W LED Aquarium Light
2 fan
LED Quantity 48pcs
(2) Red 660nm
(2) Green 520nm
(8) Blue 470nm
(16) Royal Blue 450nm
(6) Violet 420nm
(6) Cool White 12000K
(6) Cool White 10000K

OR-IT2040 120W LED Aquarium Light
2 fan
LED Quantity 55pcs
(2) Red 660nm
(2) Green 520nm
(4) Violet 420nm
(6) Neutral White 7500K
(8) Blue 470nm
(21) Royal Blue 450nm
(12) Cool White 12000K

* Input/Output Energy

–PAR: 90-300 umols [See Resource]
–Spectrum: N/A
–Kelvin: N/A

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V
Upgraded Drivers

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof-N/A

* Features-
Coloration control
Touch Screen/LCD
Manual Intensity Control
B/W Control
Built in plug-in

* Mounting-
Bracket or Hanging Kit

* Warranty- 1 Year for Evergrow & Ocean Revive and 2 years for the SB Reef Lights LED

* Resources-
OceanRevive LED
Arctic-T247 120W
OR-IT2081 240W
Arctic-S026 120W
OR-IT2040 120W

* Coloration-
Ocean Revive LED Review
Reef Central Ocean Revive Arctic T247

*EcoTech Radion:

EcoTech Marine Radion Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting

* Review-
This 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.

A video promoting this, which missed a key point in my experience/opinion, where 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’s still using somewhat of the “shotgun approach” instead of a direct approach of specific LED emitters and use of PWM technology, which in the end requires about twice the wattage input for the same PUR results.

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

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 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’s 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. As well the placement of the fan tends to draw moisture into the fixture which is a complaint of many reef keeping professionals. One reason for the 1 year warranty offered by EcoTech in my opinion!.
Further Reference: Radion XR30w Gen 2 Fan Failure.
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 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).

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!!

Finally as per a 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

TMC had a quality control failure in 2012 where-by these same cool white Cree emitters from EcoTech 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.

* Specifications-

Radion XR15 Freshwater Water
60 watt, 1 fan

LED Quantity 15
(5) Neutral White
(2) Deep Blue
(2) Blue
(2) Green
(2) Hyper Red
(1) Indigo
(1) UV

Radion XR15w Pro
75 watt, 1 fan

LED Quantity 15
(4) Cool White: Cree XP-G2 (20W)
(4) Deep Blue: Osram Oslon Square (20W)
(4) Blue: Cree XP-E (12W)
(2) Green: Cree XP-E Green (7W)
(2) Hyper Red: Osram Oslon SSL (6W)
(2) Yellow: Osram Oslon SSL (3W)
(1) Indigo: SemiLEDs (5W)
(2) UV: SemiLEDs (5W)

Radion XR30w
150 watt, 1 fan

LED Quantity 38
(8) Cool White: Cree XT-E (40W)
(6) Deep Blue: Osram Oslon Square (24W)
(8) Blue: Cree XP-E (24W)
(4) Green: Cree XP-E Green (14W)
(4) Hyper Red: Osram Oslon SSL (12W)
(4) Indigo: SemiLEDs (10W)
(4) UV: SemiLEDs (10W)

Radion XR30w Pro
170 watt, 1 fan

LED Quantity 42
(8) Cool White: Cree XP-G2 (40W)
(8) Deep Blue: Osram Oslon Square (40W )
(8) Blue: Cree XP-E (24W)
(4) Green: Cree XP-E (14W)
(4) Hyper Red: Osram Oslon SSL (12W)
(2) Yellow: Osram Oslon SSL (6W)
(4) Indigo: SemiLEDs (10W)
(4) UV: SemiLEDs (10W)

* Input/Output Energy

115VAC, 3.5A; 240VAC, 1.8A; 50/60 Hz

–PAR: [See Resource]
–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: Custom

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- IP rated fan

* Features-
Full Spectrum + UV
Preconfigured outputs matching popular Kelvin ratings
24-hour customizable program schedule
Multi Channel
Independent day and night periods with lunar calendar
Acclimation mode for ease of integration with aquarium
Weather condition simulation; sunrise, sunset, clouds and lightning
Wireless Control Capable
EcoSmart Live
IP Rated Fan (Certain Model)
TIR Lenses

* Mounting-
adjustable base bracket

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-

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

* Coloration-
Ecotech Radion Pro Review
I Love Reefing- EcoTech Radion

*Kessil Freshwater & Saltwater

Kessil A360WE Dimmable Special Blend LED

* Review-
The Kessil Reef & Planted Aquarium Capable LED light is popular among many deeper reef aquarium keepers.
However marketing has driven many, including prominent YouTubers, to think these are better lights than they actually are.

This is a very sleek and compact LED light, one of the better ones in my opinion. The Kessil LEDs also use patented emitters.

Kessil’s emitters are patented Dense Matrix LED™ technology which concentrates multiple LED chips into an array.

The Kessil A360W (the ‘W’ is for wide angle) is their flagship as of the most recent revision of this article.

Multiple Kessil A360Ws can be controlled with a single Apex Controller—two channels are required for each Kessil controlled. Future versions of the Apex Controller software will add functionality to the Kessil A360W. An example of this added functionality is a more gradual dimming and color shift.

The A360W still has the two knobs, just like the A350W. But instead of one knob controlling the blue LEDs and the second knob controlling the white LEDs, one knob is used to control overall intensity and the other knob the blue/white LED spectrum mix. You can tune a preferred color within the spectral range thousands of research and testing hours determined to be the optimal spectral points.

The A360W is a wide angle model has a beam spread of 70 degrees vertically (140 degrees edge-to-edge) and is recommended for larger tanks that are relatively shallow while the Kessil A160WE Coverage Area is up to 24″ surface diameter for fish-only/soft corals and up to 18″ surface diameter for mixed reef with LPS or SPS corals.

The Kessil A360W is 90 Watts with an effective light greater than a 250 watt metal halide while the Kessil A160WE is 40 Watts.

Now some of the the negatives, based on the known science of lighting:

  • The adjustable feature that is cool to most aquarium keepers is also degrading to effective PUR, as while it is nice to have these features from our perspective, the simple fact is what you or I might like is not often what is the optimum PUR.
    As well, as with the AI and many other “tunable” LEDs, when adjusting your light spectrum, your LEDs full potential is wasted. This results (as an example) in a 90 watt LED becoming 60 watt LED or less, so PAR output is also considerably degraded.

    In the end you are much better off with a proven fixed PUR spectrum set from the factory rather than a blend of “tunable” emitter colors.

    Reference: PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED); Fresh & Saltwater (Reef)

  • The amount of energy wasted as heat is still high due in part to its features such as use of tuning without PWM, hence the need for a cooling fan. This is also why the Kessil A360W only replaces a 250 watt MH when higher PUR per watt, Other LEDs can accomplish this with half the wattage.

  • Kessil refuses to publish any PAR readings which while PUR is certainly a a consideration, PAR is still the standard measurement to start with. As well, since we already know their spectral quality is suspect, it is difficult for Kessil to hang their hat on PUR to make up for poor PAR readings, especially outside the direct central of their lights.

    This answer from Kessil is rather alarming:
    “At this time we do not have any published information about light output. PAR is not an accurate measurement for measuring light using LEDs because it only includes visible light, and does not distinguish between usable and non-usable wavelengths. ”
    ACTUALLY PAR measure mostly inside the usable spectrum, it simply falls off toward the blue & red ends, meaning a PAR reading of a LED that is mostly blue that has everything else the same [including input wattage] is going to be lower.

    When we measure the Kessil A150 (90 Watt) which I have firm PAR readings directly under at 15 inches of air [not water which can throw some variables] we get 325 µMol•m²•sec.
    While this is certainly a good number as per raw PAR, but when we factor in that this is only directly under the light and this is at a full 90 watts of input energy, this is actually a very inefficient LED light as this is .28 watt of input energy per mm of PAR.
    By comparison the AAP/TMC Reef White 2000 has a PAR of 380 uEinsteins/sec/m2 @15 inches of air using ONE THIRD THE INPUT ENERGY [30 watts]. This is .08 watt of input energy per mm of PAR, TRIPLE THE PAR OUTPUT PER WATT!
    This does not even factor in the better spectral quality, making the Kessil a very suspect aquarium LED for the price paid IMHO!

    In my opinion, it is unfortunate that so many planted and reef keeping gurus hang their hats on these good, but far from the best LEDs. The only logic I can see outside of brilliant marketing is the sleek looks.

* Specifications-
* Input/Output Energy
PSU Input 100-240V AC
PSU Output 24V DC

A150WE Amazon Sun
6700K non descript emitters
34 watt, 1 fan

A160WE Tuna Sun
6,000-9,000K Tunable non descript emitters
40 watt, 1 fan

A360WE Tuna Sun
6,000-9,000K Tunable non descript emitters
90 watt, 1 fan

A150W Tuna Blue
34 watt, 1 fan

A160WE Tuna Blue
40 watt, 1 fan

A350/A350W Tuna Blue
90 watt, 1 fan

A360N/A360W Tuna Blue
90 watt, 1 fan
New LED Design

185 watt, 1 fan
Power Converter

–Spectrum: [See Resource]
–Kelvin: [See Resource]

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Spread- [See Resource]

* Waterproof- N/A

* Features-
Manufacture LEDs in-house
Double Peak Spectrum (PAS)
Color Mix
Intensity Control
Daisy-chain multiple
UV Spectrum
Master Salve (A360)
WiFi (AP700)

* Mounting-
Mounting Brackets

* Warranty- 1 Year

* Resources-
Kessil LED Lights

Kessil Failures
QUOTE: “I figure there are a lot of Kessil users here on R2R. Am curious, with regard to the A360WE, what folks experiences have been with longevity. I have a bunch of them on my system and have not been particularly happy with them from a reliability perspective. Kessil is very good about the warranty (and I had two fail under warranty), but I’ve now had my first fail outside of the warranty and am trying to decide how to proceed. 2-3 years from a $400 (now $350) light just seem quite poor to me, but perhaps I am just unlucky. I clean them out regularly. Anyhow, would be interested to hear how long folks have been running these lights and whether you have had failures.”

* Coloration-
Kessil LED Review
Kessil Led’s – Meet The Family

*E.Shine, Stark LED:

Stark, EShine older Generation LED knock off aquarium light

* Review-
E.Shine is a large producer of LED Fixtures, which 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). 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.

* Circuity/Dimming-
Dimming capable. 0-10 V

* Waterproof- N/A

* Warranty- 1-3 Years

* Coloration-
eshine LED review
E Shine LED Systems

*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 other tech, 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, 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


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 licensed/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/PAS vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting; Including Spectrographs

*ReefTank123; Aquarium Lighting

*Purchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know

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

Recommended Reading:
Fish Diseases, How to Treat Sick Fish
Fish Diseases | How to Treat Sick Fish

Further Product Recommendations:
PREMIUM Aquarium Sponge Filters

Copyright 2020, By Steve Allen


LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting; How they work, DIY

Further Revised 1/6/19

Sections Include:

*LED [light-emitting diode] Overview:

This aquarium light type uses semiconductor technology as its light source. A light emitting electrical diode. This is a different technology then fluorescent lighting, and how it’s sciences are used are different. Since this lighting type is different in the sense it can pinpoint intensity of light, down to the specific nanometer of energy, this tech has been used to really help understand the photosynthetic process and how certain light (energy) is used by the plant & coral.

For aquarium use, the development of LEDs since 2007 for both reef and freshwater planted, was trying to get a high amount of energy (carried by Photons) into correct wave lengths of spectrum used in aquarium photosynthesis and ultimately being the most usable light of a emitter [PUR = Photosynthetically Usable Radiation] for whatever photosynthetic organism was being grown.

While nothing about photosynthesis is required to know in order to grow plants, it does help us understand how effectively we are growing and does give an idea of the type of color and energy we can expect from our light source.

For the LED fixture as a whole, essentially, the best LED fixtures are NOT aquarium lights in the traditional sense, even the emitters are not a “bulb” as many people think. They are a computer chip emitting frequencies of waves, which happen to end up being visual light we see.

High end LED fixtures use complex circuitry to precisely spread electoral voltage over drivers, which control each emitter. LED lights properly driven will give precise energy quality and not lose or shift energy (spectrum) unlike ALL fluorescent lights.

For other LED fixtures, this statement cannot be made, because emitters are daisy chained together in a shotgun approach to provide output light. These light sources are now commonly dimmed, which we will find out if not done properly, it will not be the best for long term use.
So beware of any low cost LED with multiple low output emitters that are daisy chained together, using analog (current reduction) dimming, no-name warm white emitters (& similar), and less than IP67 water proof ratings. These LEDs may be a bargain up front, but the useful PAR output for energy used often even makes apples to apples up front costs higher. Long term costs are even higher due to electrical usage and eventual break downs.
Some examples to avoid include the Beamsworks, Finnex, MicMol, even the Fluval [please read the entire article & references to understand why].

For those who are unsure as to what a LED light can do for their reef aquarium or think these are still untested even as of 2016, here’s an excellent newer website documenting the LED Light research at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland by Dr. Walter Hatch, showing better growth, spawning, and more with highly tuned LEDs.

Sustainable Reef- Optimal Growth at Low Energy Consumption
St Mary's Marine Biology Experiments with LED Lighting
St Mary’s Marine Biology Experiments with LED Lighting

The picture above is of an office with many reef aquariums (which includes stony corals, SPS and LPS) set up with low input energy/high output Industry leading AquaRay LED lighting systems, please click to enlarge

Please reference this forum post for more about this picture:

Product Resource: Industry Leading AquaRay LED Lights, since 2007
Other top notch LED lights include Kessil, EcoTech, Aqua Illumination (such as Hydra), & Zetlight (sold under the names Maxspect & iLumenAir)

Please read ALL my cited references and consider reading my other articles about Aquarium Lighting. Together, they provide some foundation to the hows and whys of this article.

At the end of this article/review, we should be able to understand these light measures of LED and which ones are best used for optimal light produced by our LED fixtures based on what we need and can afford. I will will start with the most useful measure with today’s science, and work backwards.


In my conversations with aquarium professionals, as with ANY lighting or change of lighting; results should be seen WITHIN 6 weeks, whether positive or negative!
Regardless of the lighting type, if the corals or freshwater plants take a turn for the worse in say 3 months after a lighting change, likely there are other lighting parameter issues at play [assuming chemistry is constant]!

Both corals or plants will need time to adjust to their new lighting. Depending if the adjustment is to higher or lower light, both will “melt” back and regrow to the new lighting. It’s recommended to start slowly and work up.

Emitter History:
Based on research and interviews, beginning in 2007 [and continuing to improve as of 2016], high end LED aquarium lighting started to become a viable replacement for metal halide in reef tanks under 30 inches and surpass most T5 aquarium lighting as soft and hard corals, as well as planted freshwater aquariums, are able to thrive under the newer exacting high output LED’s.

This is not only due to the photon energy (light) output, but also due to the amount (quantity output) of specific energy frequency of light (photons) LEDs are able to provide for input energy used without the light energy restrike ALL fluorescent lights have to deal with.

LEDs have both quality and quantity of light for specific applications we want to use them for.

Emitters output different frequencies (some visual to the eye) by utilizing certain compounds, which convert input energy into photons (light), which are delivered to the plant.

Some frequencies are more efficiently used by the plant for photosynthesis over others. Photons are the carriers of these frequencies and these frequencies can be more intense than others with more energize movement. Certain frequencies specifically (and combined, working together synenergetically) are used to provide essential light energy required for certain applications.

For example, how emitter diodes are created can be complex and precision equipment has to be used to compile the light diode. A substrate material is used and layered with other materials, which takes input energy and converts it into light photons, and delivers the output energy through a len.
Infrared emitters use Gallium arsenide (GaAs) and/or Aluminium gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) for its semiconductor material, while Blue (460 nm visually) uses Zinc selenide (ZnSe), Indium gallium nitride (InGaN), Silicon carbide (SiC), and/or Silicon (Si).
Brief overview of aquarium LEDs construction: How LEDs work.

plant growth with three different light sources, driven at lower and higher PAR values
The picture to the right makes a real world application point as to the real outcome of light wave lengths.
This picture displays plant growth with three different light sources in a controlled closed environment, driven at lower and higher PAR values.
It is clear from the graph that the green is 50% less efficient than the red and a whopping 80% less efficient than the blue.

It is worthy of note that in an open environment, meaning nature, green light is used very little by plants and coral. This has been well documented over the years, including recently. Point being, given a choice, plants will only use green when necessary, and it is NOT an efficient light wave length, despite a small circle of aquascapers saying otherwise.

PUR, PAS, PAR in Aquarium Reef/Planted Lighting; LED Wavelengths

Having certain frequencies dialed in intensity [quality and quantity] are important.

One way to think of the high end LED fixtures, not other LEDs, which have more in common with an LED flashlight (Finnex, Fluval, Taotronics…), these are computers, which emit frequency wavelength needed for tank inhabitants.

[See Proper LED Ventilation later in this article].

Above/left is a hard coral growing out under “quality” LED Lighting

There are different emitter qualities (mix of frequencies) put into lighting fixtures, which we will address. They’re name brand emitters, which are known by many people, because their name is backed up. Phillips, Cree, Osram, Bridgelux are the most common names. It’s typical for larger name companies to have more funding behind their lighting research as well.

Cheaper fixtures will use “no-name” or “binned” emitters. This can be important to know for a couple reasons.
One, there many ways to create a frequency with a LED [via emitter bins]. Different emitters can have the same rating in numbers/specifications, but not have the same quality and quantity of frequency wavelength to create the overall visual/non visual spectrum.
Take a 6500K from Cree and it not going be the same frequencies or appear visually as the same as a 6500K from Phillips or Bridgelux. There’s differences in straight 6500K emitters and differences in the overall combination of frequencies/color to make an overall specific color rating. As well, many if not most LED fixture use a combination of binned emitters to reach a certain Kelvin rating such as 6500K or 20000K, often using warm white or cool white emitters with lower PUR in the mix along with blues, reds, & greens.

This comes down to cost/budget-supply/demand (marketing & research), of how fixtures are put together. No named emitters are a flag for how quality a fixture will be and what you should expect to pay for it. Different emitter companies will have standards (some patented/specific application agreements or licensing) of how they design their frequencies and also will have different color selections.

A very highly recommended emitter bin to consider is the TMC AquaRay Patented emitters, both Marine and Freshwater. High Output with less input energy. Highest grade LEDs for the cost.

AquaRay Lighting From the ONLY TRUE full service professional online seller in North America; AAP

LED Light Comparisons/Tests from 2008

A controlled test using terrestrial plants had some interesting results for which we can draw some conclusions for planted freshwater and reef aquarium LED light use.

For this test, full spectrum LED Grow Lights similar, but with a lower output to the newest version of the TMC GroBeam 6500K Daylight or 6500K TMC Mini 400 were used.

In this test, the LED Lights were PROVEN to substantially surpass Metal Halide Lights in growth. While this test is now somewhat dated, it is this test, which convinced the industry, that LEDs have “now finally arrived” as a useful light for planted freshwater and reef saltwater aquariums.

The raw data based on this study with plants that a 12 Watt LED can at least replace a 100 watt MH of equal Kelvin ratings in aquarium applications. High output 30 Watt LED should easily replace one 175-250 Watt Metal Halide of similar rating for marine applications up to 24-30 inches in water depth.
By this time, many planted freshwater applications were already having success with lamps, such as the 6500K PAR 38 lamps. This needs to not be confused with the low output 3000K PAR 30 sold at places like Home Depot as this simple example makes a valuable point.
See: 6500K PAR 38 Planted Aquarium Lights

Useful Light Make Up (PUR):

Photosynthetically Useful Radiation– (PUR)

While not readily measurable in a numbers sort of way, this is an aspect of aquarium lighting that many misunderstand, over complicate, or simply and erroneously trash despite strong evidences of its importance.

Here is a quote from another article dealing with this term:
“Another description could be: “Quality of light per application” compared to PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) being the “quantity of light energy” used by photosynthetic life.
I think many in the hobby get “hung up” on this term, as it is a “fuzzy term (which I would partly agree since each plant, coral, etc, can be unique), but there are many aspects of science such as we have moved through the discovery of subatomic particles that are based on subatomic behavior, but not as easily measurable such as PAR is.
As well, we also know based on aquarium lighting history that we simply cannot dismiss the evidence supporting PUR as a fact either.”

PUR/PAS vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting

What is important to grasp is that while many will only concern themselves with PAR and state that say an AI Hydra HD Twenty-Six [at 90 watts] has more energy for ones plants or corals than say an AquaRay NP 2000 Reef White or GroBeam 1500 [at 30 watts each], this is correct, but misses the point that the later is more efficient watt per watt due to higher PUR values because of the emitters or combinations there of used!!

I know of many examples based on professionals consulted for this article that bear this out, not just hear-say from forums, YouTube comments or other social media.
Using the AI Hydra, which is an excellent high power LED that is frankly second to none when it comes to light output per square inch of light fixture, however when plant and coral growth is noted watt per watt of input energy, these same aquarium design professionals have noted that the AquaRay exceeds the AI Hydra.

Does this mean your AI Hydra is inferior? This is simply one aspect of where PUR might come into play.
No, lets just compare apples to apples. If you want a very high powered LED that really concentrates light over your reef tank [or planted] the AI Hydra Twenty-six or Fifty-two HD might be for you, however for the majority of applications such as those installed by an aquarium professional in his aquarium design & maintenance business, he has found that this much power is not generally needed and efficiency along with the 5 year versus 1 year warranty is what is most important.

Resources for both of these excellent LED Lights:
TMC Premium HO PUR AquaRay- Salt & Freshwater
Aqua Illuminations Hydra Twenty Six HD (Hyper Drive)- Salt & Freshwater

Photosynthetic Action Spectrum– (PAS) An action spectrum is the rate of a physiological activity plotted against wavelength of light, It shows which wavelength of light is most effectively used in a specific chemical reaction (Plant & Zooxanthellae photosynthesis).

Some reactants are able to use specific wavelengths of light more effectively to complete their reactions. For example, chlorophyll is much more efficient at using the red and blue spectrums of light to carry out photosynthesis. Therefore, the action spectrum graph would show spikes above the wavelengths representing the colors red and blue.
Wiki-Action Spectrum

What is also noteworthy is that certain algae such as Black Beard algae have Phycobilisomes which are light harvesting antennae of photosystem II [Chlorophyll synthesis in the Photosynthic Action Spectrum-PAS]

Here is an quote from this article Aquarium Answers; Black Beard Algae:

“This is noteworthy as each phycobiliprotein has a specific absorption and fluorescence emission maximum in the visible range of light. Consequently, their presence and the particular arrangement within the phycobilisomes allow absorption and unidirectional transfer of light energy to chlorophyll a of the photosystem II.
In this way, the cells take advantage of the available wavelengths of light in the 500-650 nm range, which are inaccessible to chlorophyll, and utilize their energy for photosynthesis.
This is particularly advantageous deeper in the water column, where light with longer wavelengths is less transmitted and therefore less available directly to chlorophyll.”

This is just one more reason for optimal light spectrums in our LED Lights instead of the popular shotgun mixing of colors method!!

Photosynthetically Active Radiation– (PAR) designates the spectral range (wave band) of solar radiation from 400 to 700 nanometers that photosynthetic organisms are able to use in the process of photosynthesis. This spectral region corresponds more or less with the range of light visible to the human eye. New science is exploring more out of this range.
Wiki- Photosynthetically Active Radiation

Blue light– Generally where we see having the proper (and most intense) frequency of energy delivered by Photons for the photosynthetic process (more intense also is better for penetration, also proper for corals evolved to blue light.

plant growth with three different light sources including blue

Typical PAR action spectrum, shown beside absorption spectra for chlorophyll-A, chlorophyll-B, and carotenoids

Here’s a fantastic video describing the Nobel Price Prize idea of how we get the most output light energy from a LED input source.

This section will accompany the video to quickly understand how we use useful light for an aquarium application.
Blue LEDs and Nobel Prize – Sixty Symbols

RQE– All energies used by a plant & Zooxanthellae in the full photosynthesis process (when all energies are provided from a full spectrum, such as the Sun) (RQE Mcree 1972)

Energy used by Zooxanthellae’s in the full photosynthesis process.

Full Spectrum of the Sun.

Frequency of different energies carried by Photons

Light Coloration
Amounts of Red, Blue, and Green (all colors from the Visual Spectrum, RBG are primary colors) mixed together create a white appearance to our eye (explained in Kelivn/CRI), just like if you were to mix all plaint colors and get black. These colors mixed can make a quality of energy.

EcoTech Radion
There’s no such thing as a “white” LED.

Colors are combined for a visual appeal, but they’re also combined to create a white, which is the most useful (energy wise & considering visual too). This aspect of light is highly researched right now, with about 1 billion dollars going to the research (as of 2015).

Think of the LED RGB and RQE graphs above

We have some idea of the energies used most efficient in the role of photosynthesis.

What all this research is going to, is if we can figure out what combinations of energies are most efficient in photosynthesis, we can create a more effective white light.

Using specific energies by them self have been proved to be most useful for when an intense amount of energy is needed (blue). Research still has shown there are draw backs (on growth and visually), when using these colors exclusively. This is why a full body spectrum (full body white) is important, along with understanding more intense energy (which we will go into even more).

Measuring Output Energy (High-Lower Usefulness)

Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR)-“Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF)” & “Relative quantum efficiency (RQE)/Yield Photon Flux (YPF)” Quantum Meters:

By today’s science, we measure energy (light) on spectrum frequency call Electromagnetic Radation (how we get most charts used in this review). With more intense energy waves from the Ultraviolet side and less intense on Infrared side.

Electromagnetic Spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The “electromagnetic spectrum” of an object has a different meaning, and is instead the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object.
Electromagnetic Spectrum- Wiki

The best matrix for measuring useable light energy is Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR). While this is one of the best matrix for a standard aquarium keeper, it’s still a method, which miss a couple important aspects for plant photosynthesis when considering artificial energy usefulness. This is how we have two understandings of PAR and one can be considered useful.

[Mcree 1972 graph above]

Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF)- (µE m-2 s-1 above)
“The most common method of measuring PAR gives equal value to all photons with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm and is referred to as the photosynthetic photon flux (PPF)…”(ideal quantum response line).

However, photosynthesis is driven by photons with wavelengths below 400 nm and above 700 nm, and photons of different wavelengths induce unequal amounts of photosynthesis…

*Graph showing both PPF and YPF PAR readings

Yield Photon Flux (YPF)-
“Photosynthesis is fundamentally driven by photon flux rather than energy flux, but not all absorbed photons yield equal amounts of photosynthesis. Thus, two measures of photosynthetically active radiation have emerged: photosynthetic photon flux (PPF), which values all photons from 400 to 700 nm equally, and yield photon flux (YPF), which weights photons in the range from 360 to 760 nm according to plant photosynthetic response…” (Li-COR Senor Line).

“For these reasons, an accurate measurement of PAR should follow the relative quantum efficiency (RQE) curve originally developed by McCree (1972), which weights the photosynthetic value of all photons with wavelengths from 360 to 760 nm. A sensor that responds according to this curve measures yield photon flux (YPF)…”

“The Stark-Einstein Law states that one absorbed photon excites one electron regardless of the photon’s energy between 400 and 700 nm; this law is the basis for weighting photons equally. However, although >90% of blue photons are absorbed, 20% of these photons are absorbed by inactive pigments; their energy is not transferred to energy-collecting pigments (reaction centers) and is lost as heat and fluorescence. This loss means that the quantum yield of absorbed blue photons is typically 20% less than the quantum yield of absorbed red photons. Species differ in their proportion of inactive pigments…”

“genetic and environmental influences on quantum yield…”

“In spite of these genetic and environmental influences on quantum yield, McCree (1972) found that the spectral quantum yield of healthy, green leaves of 22 crop plant species differed by less than ±5%, so he defined an average RQE curve. Inada (1976) obtained a second set of comprehensive quantum yield data (from 33 species) and confirmed McCree’s (1972a) measurements.”

“Quantum sensors designed to measure YPF or PPF are commercially available. Both types use multiple-spectral filters in front of a broad-spectrum radiation detector…but neither type matches its desired curve ”
Accuracy of Quantum Sensors Measuring Yield Photon Flux and Photosynthetic Photon Flux

PAR Quantum Meters (Apogee) available to most hobbyist (budget based) and measure Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF), which values all photons from 400 to 700 nm equally, which is the first mismeasure of weighted photons in the range from 360 to 760 nm according to plant photosynthetic response Yield Photon Flux (YPF). PAR Li-COR Quantum Meters are available to hobbyist, but more industrially uses to measure YPF. These meters are more expensive.


Spectrum of a 6500K AquaRay GroBeam, using ALL Cree 6500K XB-D emitters

All spectrums found on a fixture box will be a rough estimate of the overall energy spectral make-up of all combined emitters. Some fixtures use all the same emitter, so this spectrum is the energy emitted from the one emitter.

Recommended for best emitter make-ups:
TMC Premium HO PUR AquaRay- Salt & Freshwater

MORE useful information would to understand each emitter in the fixture and each output spectral frequencies it produces. If considering each emitter, wattage of each emitter can be used for total output of the fixture.

-The example above is of a 6500K aquarium plant fixture, which happens to use all the same 6500K emitters. So, the spectrum of the emitter will be the same as the overall output of the fixture.

See how their different and what could be considered as useful. We know all energy is useable, so we want to provide it to our plants and corals. Allow them to chose what it wants to use. With a limit input energy, we have to consider our maximum useful output, by using what we know about energy frequencies.

So what do we do with limit (watt/photon) inputs, we focus more (photon) in more efficent energies (remember the Nobel Prize, blue energy talk?), which is really what has allowed us to take huge steps in technology to get the most efficent lighting (T12-T2, now to LED). WHILE trying to provide all energy, which plants and coral find useful in someway.

So, we add our higher energy blue/purple.

AND, we try to get our FULL BODY spectrum, similar to what we know the Sun provides.

Now, this can be done in a million different ways, including, just using one frequency emitter only, OR using separate frequency emitters and adding them all together to get the overall output frequency energy.

Different emitters will have more energy focused in different spectrum frequencies, either blue, more maybe in the middle of PAR.

By taking a look at the spectrum of each emitter, we can get a estimate of how much input energy is going to different output frequencies desired.

Remember the Action Spectrum of Photosynthesis.

Typical PAR action spectrum, shown beside absorption spectra for chlorophyll-A, chlorophyll-B, and carotenoids

This too is important to understand where the output spectrum of a fixture (really each emitter), is going to feeding the important processes of photosynthesis. While all frequencies are used (PAR), these frequencies have shown to trigger different growth rates.

By adding the blue, we get more intense output energy to the plant or coral Zooxanthellae, while also providing the useful frequency energy needed in the MAJOR process of photosynthesis.

Why not just provide the same spectrum as the Sun?
When considering a limit energy supply like an artificial light, we cannot just provide the same spectrum as the Sun, as we would actually get less efficant growth, considering what we know about frequencies and PAS/PAR. By using what we know (ultimately adding more blue energy to our spectrum), we are able to use less input energy and get more useful output energy. If we used the Sun spectrum as the only frequencies we provide, we would get growth, even with more input energy, considering we have a limit energy supply.

Kelvin/Color Temperature:

Lights will have Kelvin rating, which is a unit of measure for temperature and is commonly used to describe the type of light one can expect to see from a light fixture and is loosely connected to the light energy in Nanometers.

Aquarium Kelvin

Simply put Kelvin Temperature is basically a measure of color hue and different hues “colors” have been shown to grow plants best for mass or fruit production…etc generically speaking.

Kelvin is the color a black body radiator (such as the Sun), is when it heats up. The Sun highest in the sky, plus blue sky equal 6500 Kelivn. The Sun lower in the sky and later in the seasons, will be warmer at say 3000K. Stars which are hotter or fire, will have a blue appearance, which we might rate at a 12,000K blue Kelivn.
Kelivn- Wiki

Color Temperature
The color temperature (what we see) of a light source is the temperature (Kelvin) of an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of comparable hue to that of the light source. Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light.

The CIE 1931 x,y chromaticity space, also showing the chromaticities of black-body light sources of various temperatures, and lines of constant correlated color temperature.
Color Temperature- Wiki

6500K white has been shown to have the highest growing power for terrestrial plants. There’s something about this combinations of light, which will gain the most mass in natural outdoor photosynthesis (plants grow more mass in Summer months where the Sun is intense). 6500K is when the Sun is most intense, providing the highest combination of frequencies of usable growing radiation.

*This is a blanket statement for plants in general. What’s best for a plant can vary considerably considering environment and makeup of the plant and what it needs at a given time. Think of seasons and how plants know when to create fruit.

Color Combination Example:
Think of how 1+9=10 as well as 5+5=10, as there are many ways to reach a Kelvin Temperature (like mixing paint) and not all are going to be equal.

You can have a straight 6500K white, but taking say a warm white of 3500K plus a 50K, which is close to 6500K. These two color combinations cannot be the same, even though they both have a 6500K rating.

Again, I can have a 6500K primary made of blue 10,000K and some color from the red end of the spectrum and this will be much different than mostly warm white colors and a high K rated combination to make 6500K. These Kelvin ratings are the same, but the quantity and the quality can be considerably different. This will even be different than the common warm/cool white combination, which also has a 6500K rating.

In this case, the 6500K with more blue will have more usable/quality energy for photosynthesis, based on what we know about the PAR/Action/Absorbent Spectrum and the LED study above.

We’re also finding with along with just blue, it’s a combination of color, which will produce the most mass on a plant. We could say, lets just grow our plants under blue light, but this has shown negative impacts on plants, which is why full spectrum are recommended, at least for plant growth.
Green light: Is it important for plant growth?

How much of these combinations is the billion dollar question. This is the term I would like to coin as Synergy. The Synergy of output frequencies we get from a fixture, is what can become more useful in different applications.

Similar can be explained for photon demanding reef marine aquariums, which require energy to deliver photons in the near ultraviolet light range.

Using this same example and assuming 1 and 9 are nanometer wave lengths, which are desirable, and 5 is not, the light using the 5’s are poor even though they achieve the same Kelvin rating!

The latest technology LED lights are very fine tuned in exacting wavelengths/nanometer energy outputs found within the best Kelvin Color temperatures.

Achieving the correct wavelengths in the correct amounts has been the challenge and is why a simple LED flashlight has about as much in common to an advanced aquarium LED as paper glider to a Boeing 777 airplane. Try hanging several LED flashlights to grow your delicate coral or plants, it will not work the best!.

The best reef tank emitters:
AquaBeam/AquaGro Patented LEDs

Another popular trend is LED fixtures, which allow the user to control color temperatures. These RGB and Capacitive Touch features are popular “bells and whistles” that unfortunately many without a full understanding of lighting PUR fall for.
Controlling your RGB (Red, Green, Blue) of your light has little bearing on obtaining the exacting nanometer spikes necessary for photosynthetic life.

In fact the best emitters are designed to run at a specific color whether it is a XT-E cool white or XT-E 10,000K, and attempting to alter the color simply degrades the PUR.

Other RGB features utilize green, red, yellow, and other color emitters, but again, by attempting to dial in say a 6500K or 18000K Kelvin temperature, all that’s being done is wasting copious amounts of energy in light spectrums, which provide little PUR for photosynthetic life!

These features, while nice for us are stressful to plants and coral, plus can encourage algae growth. If maintenance of an aquarium is off, the colors from these RGB, will be the first aspect to cause algae in an aquarium.

Watts Per Gallon?

This is basically an “out of date” equation when used to cross compare lighting types, however we still can use it when comparing same lighting types.

In other words, the newest generation LED emitters such as the patented CREE emitters would only require about .6 watt per gallon for high light planted aquariums and .8 watt per gallon for most reef tanks. About .2 watt per gallon can be added to either (FW or Reef) for even more light or more depth over 24 inches.

However this does not apply to the many lower end LEDs now flooding the market such as the “New Fluval LED Lights” which provide little specifications other than CRI, which is not a parameter, which should be used to rate any aquarium lights. These would be more like 1.5-2 watts.
Citation: Aquarium Lighting; CRI

O-10v vs. Pulse Width Modulation:

What is missed by many “lesser” knock off LEDs, is the drivers/circuitry used to power each emitter. Like daisy chaining Christmas lights together; one simply daisy chains an LED emitter without changing voltage to each emitter in the chain. It’s this circuitry, which separates 80% of LED fixtures from the 20%, which have the proper circuitry and thus are more expensive drivers to maintain exacting voltages between each emitter.

Emitters are meant to be ran at a certain voltage to maintain their spectral quality.

Without the proper divers, if dimmed the emitters will have an increase of current applied to them, which is stress on the emitter. Over time, especially when moisture is involved, this stress can lead to degradation of the emitter and it will burn out. With even one emitter burnt out, this can cause shifting of the lighting spectrum. This is how it’s explained by a electric engineer.

The shift of a LED lighting spectrum can be seen by using an incandescent bulb as an example.

This applies to both LEDs intended for Reef and Planted aquariums and by theory, can be different depending on how many emitters are chained together. Say 10 versus 300.

Here is a helpful video visually demonstrating color shifts in dimming:
Incandesccent DimmingIncandescent dimming- cooler blue to warmer yellow color.

This concept applies to controllers, which dim and brighten an LED. A controller best maintains the voltage output via pulse width modulation [PWM]. This applies to fixtures, which have a dimmable driver in the unit and allows it to use this controllers using PWM. Only a few brands offer this technology and can also be incorporate in DIY set-ups easily and at a decent price.

Fixtures with PWM divers, cannot be dimmed with standard 0-10v dimmers, such as Apex.

PWM is important as it’s effectively turning the LEDs on and off very quickly (faster than the eye can see) so there’s no change to the voltage/current output as opposed to using 0-10v linear or analog reduction (aka current reduction)/manual intensity controls used by many brands of LEDs.

This technology also will lower the watts to be used in LED fixtures proportionate to the voltage used, which will in the end save in operation costs. 10V dimming will always used 10 volts, where PWM is proportionate, so dimming at 5 volts will use 5 volts of energy.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse-width_modulation
“The main advantage of PWM is that power loss in the switching devices is very low. When a switch is off there is practically no current, and when it is on, there is almost no voltage drop across the switch. Power loss, being the product of voltage and current, is thus in both cases close to zero. PWM also works well with digital controls, which, because of their on/off nature, can easily set the needed duty cycle.”

See also this video explaining PWM, which I can almost guarantee if your LED fixture uses a cooling fan is NOT USING PWM!!

YouTube Video Circuit Skills: PWM [Pulse Width Modulation]


HOWEVER this technology is not cheap! Up front. Compared to the lesser brands on the market, the cost might be $100-$200 more. But, the idea is to save more power for savings down the road. Also to preserve the life of the LEDs, which is also applied to savings of not having the replacement emitters/fixtures.

It been noted, PWM makes a pitch noise while dimming. Looking for some information from the manufacturer about this claim, TMC does note that the sound is present, but they also state that in many test with many users, the sound can hardly be noticed. 90% claimed there was no issue with the sound. The sound is proportionate to the ramp, so at less %, the sound is lighter and 99% would be the loudest. Even still at 99%, the sound is hard to hear and is something that easily blends into the natural sounds of the aquarium. At 0 and 100% there’s no sound heard.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of LED fixtures utilize 0-10v current reduction (manual controlled rheostat), which can alter the light spectrum and also produces much more excess heat due to how “current reduction” (Voltage/Current relationship) works. As well, while some Chinese LEDs are now being supplied with PWM, these utilize a basic form similar to how an electronic DC to AC Inverter can use square wave, modified sine wave, or pure since wave; with pure sine wave being best and most efficient and square wave being poor and inefficient.

This is also why so many high wattage output LED fixtures require a fan. As the heat created by the amount of emitters (including excessive heat from dimming) on the heat sink is more than the sink can handle. This includes both low end LEDs or even many of the “better” more popular brands.

What’s also worthy to note is this wasted heat then requires a cooling fan, which represents more wasted energy, which could have gone into lighting output your aquarium. Wasted energy converts to heat… This is why ANY aquarium LED utilizing “linear or analog reduction”, which is the vast majority, requires a higher wattage and more emitters to provide the same useful amount of light energy/PUR so as to provide the same results as an aquarium LED that utilizes PWM and drivers!!! Lesser fixtures can waste up to 50% of it’s energy used in a combination of extra parts (fans) requiring energy, wasted heat, and poor spectral quality/quantity.

So the long term energy costs with any LED, which uses extra parts, poor circuitry/current reduction (MOST), is going to be considerably higher, often paying for the PWM tech. in most cases under a year!!

Sum it up:
While Current Reduction and PWM both have their own pros and cons, from the aspect of a quality LED fixture, the lack of PWM, along with daisy chaining of circuitry is just one MAJOR reason NOT to consider ANY LED, which uses dozens of emitters to provide the amount of desired light.

In fact, even an emitter from a “newer” bin such as Cree XTE, which is simply daisy chained together, will lose emitter spectral quality too if they are just used in current reduction or manually dimmed. Versus the same Cree emitter, which has the correct constant current drivers to tie each and every emitter together.

Examples of these current reduction fixtures include the Blue Moon, TaoTronics, SkyLED, Marine Skkye, Fluval, Ocean Revive, Build My LED among MANY others.

  • Emitter Combinations Vs. Specimen Placement

Specimen placement is a major determining factor for which emitters to use, in fact this is more important than the actual tank depth if for example all the high light requiring specimens are placed at 12 inches or higher in a 30 inch deep tank.

As a generalization, the use of more blue and/or higher Kelvin daylight is necessary for specimens, which are deeper in the water column (such as 14000K daylight for depths past 12 inches). Another consideration is whether the emitter is wide angle or more focused, as this can determine which emitter combination is best based on specimen placement.

Maxima ClamFor instance a Maxima Clam that is placed on the bottom of a 24 inch deep tank will likely do best with more Reef Blue emitters (50,000K @ 465-485nm) in the emitter mix, or even supplemental 20,000K Metal Halide.

Or better, I would suggest placing the Maxima Clams on shelves higher up on your “live rock” reef. (To keep your Clam off the bottom away from bristle worms, etc. as well as provide better lighting to your clams) Depending upon how far under the surface you place these and other photosynthetically sensitive inhabitants will allow for more wide angle LEDs such as the 1500 Ultima Ocean Blue.

Coral such as an Acropora coral placed on your tank “reef” at 6 inches under the surface may do well with lower daylight emitters, which still have a high output and light spread.

With freshwater plants, this also holds true, so if a tank is well terraced, standard 6500 daylight emitters should be fine for most plants up to 20 inches, however adding higher Kelvin daylight, such as the Marine White 14000K might be suggested for tanks deeper than 24 inches.

Fixture Construction

Another key to quality is the build of the fixture. With cheaper cost, comes cheaper fixtures, fans easily damaged by moisture, emitters, etc.
What’s typically not thought about is that these LED sit over a body of water. Basically, a computer is being put over water. These are high humidity environments and whether it’s two months or two years, most all fixtures will be effected by the humidity. Moisture will build up in the unit and will effect how the voltage is transmitted to each emitter.

Best suggestion it to get an LED, which is designed to be put over water. Most all are not. They will light the aquarium well with great color, but it’s not designed to sit in a moist environment long term. It’s recommended to use fixtures, which have the highest water resistances rating possible for aquarium. Water proof is best. TMC AquaRay has a IP67 rating, which is the highest rating of LEDs designed for aquarium use.

Fans are can be a clue into build as well. Fans are having to get wasted energy away from the fixture often due to design of circuitry that produces more heat, including the failure to use PWM for controlling the fixture.
If the fixture gets wet anyway, which happens more than people think, the unit is done. The fan will also be one of the first pieces of the fixture to break and the fixture cannot operate without a fan.

The other issue with a fan, is this requires input energy that is not going to lighting and also an indicator of higher energy being produced as heat and again not light, thus requiring a fan.
This is often missed by persons in their apples to oranges comparisons such as the example I used before of the AI Hydra HD LEDs and the AquaRay. Both are excellent and I know of good results by pros with both. However the fact remains that while the AI Hydra may produce more light per square centimeter than the AquaRay, the AquaRay is also much more efficient, not requiring a cooling fan and along with the slightly better PUR, is a vastly more efficient LED per watt of input energy than the Hydra (or ANY other LED for that matter).

See the SUMMARY for more!

Waterproof LEDs:
IP67 Waterproof LEDs


The warranties of fixtures will be the clearest picture of the quality of build for all parts used in a fixture. Most will have very limited six month limited warranties. It might be stretched to a year, where the fixture still has to sent back for a repair.
It’s recommended to get the longest warranty, as just having to replace one fixture outside of a warranty will end up costing much more than just purchasing a fixture what would have had a longer guarantee.

TMC AquaRay has the longest warranty on the market of 5 years. The next closest is 2 years. Plus they do full replacements of fixtures, even to new generations, no mater what the defect is. So will have a decent warranty, but a certain precent of emitters have to be out. If one emitter goes out, the spectrum of the whole fixture can be thrown off, without the user know.

See these links:
Aquarium Opinions; LED Warranties

AAP/TMC Premium Aquarium LED Lights; Longest warranty, best build

Here is an excellent video that shows the prospective aquarium LED light owner what they get as per waterproofing with the better LED fixtures over the common Finnex, Ocean Revive, etc. and others:

The Great LED Test- How to know the best

Further LED Fixture Emitter Information, Myths:

  • Correct Wave Lengths:

As earlier noted, it is important to understand that not all emitters are equal, even the Cree or other binned emitters sold commonly for other applications are only as good as their correct wavelength output.

This is where there’s much misunderstanding as to emitter abilities based on emails friends and I in the aquarium hobby/industry have received.

Many think that high end patented emitters are equal to emitters sold for DIY projects or the many LED fixtures readily available in stores or the Internet which is simply 100% incorrect!

In another example, the nanometer range in the licensed-patented “emitter bins” used in the CRee XR-E for their blue are very specific, utilizing the maximum PAR range of 465-485nm found in the blue spectrum (400-500nm), unlike other lights and even other LEDs which either have multiple spikes.
Others such as the CRee XT-E peak at 420nm.

By peaking at these important spikes, maximum PAR needed by zooxanthellae photopigments in many corals is achieved.
Reference: Useful Light Energy for Photosynthetic Life

For instance, Cree Emitters used by Tropic Marine Center AquaRay/AquaBeam should not be confused with “off the shelf” Cree emitters sold for other lighting applications, as these do not produce the optimum PAS [Photosynthetic Action Spectrum] or PUR of Light required for delicate marine reef and freshwater inhabitants and plants. There are emitters that are designed specially for plant and reef use.

Assuming a Cree emitter is used, as noted elsewhere even within specific bins, many are sold under exclusive license such a specific binned emitter that is normally a cool white but is altered under license to be a daylight 6500K.
You also have the patented Osram Oslon NP Blue emitter that is ONLY sold under exclusive contract!

TMC AquaBeam Ultra 1000 Reef White over marine aquarium
Those who use the logic as I read on a forum post about wattage such as this: maybe a nice fixture, but its way to small and you would need 12 of them” [30 watt TMC Reef White] to light my 120g” totally misses the PAS/PUR high output concept of a modern LED fixture and is still using the logic that is similar to placing twelve 40 watt cool or warm white T12 fluorescent tubes over a his/her aquarium!!

(The Marine Aquarium to the above/left is pictured with 2012 TMC Reef White 1000 tiles & 500 Strips)

Also be careful of over hyped LEDs, with high PAR values, which are not required, which will require a dimmer, or there will be serious issues to the plants to corals.

The EcoTech Radion & Aqua Illumination are awesome LEDs with high light output per square centimeter that are nicely made and presented, notwithstanding these are also good examples where lighting facts are covered by “flash” and good marketing in my opinion.

While their proprietary 40 and 70 degree lenses and feature rich controllers may be useful, this does not change the fact these use a mixture of binned emitters that in the end are less efficient [lower PUR] along with wasted energy as heat!

Again, this is NOT to say the EcoTech and Aqua Illuminations are not Reef capable, as use by many reef keepers proves these are capable and in fact sometimes the better choice for certain lighting applications, only that these LED Lights require a higher wattage input to product the same amount of useful light energy as those using proprietary/patented emitters [along with other lower efficiencies].

Please reference this article for further information:
PAS-PUR vs PAR, Wave Lengths in Aquarium Lighting

  • DIY LED Fixtures:

This may well be a worth while endeavor (if only for the enjoyment of building your own equipment).

Many have had reasonable success with over the counter CRee emitters as well as Bridgelux emitters.
Even the over the counter CRee emitters are still more capable than the Bridgelux, however with a shotgun approach of Bridgelux emitters many have still successfully kept reef aquariums with these DIY Bridgelux LED emitters [resulting though in much more electrical usage, which defeats the purpose of using LEDs].
Citation: http://www.marsh-reef.org/do-yourself/32703-bridgelux-vs-cree-led.html.

Please note all that has been stated here as per emitters and realize that to achieve good results you will need good drivers/ballasts to power the emitters (many prefer magnetic even though they run hotter and use more energy), and as per the emitters themselves you need to follow more of a shotgun approach, since the best emitters are not sold over the counter.

Think of it this way– if you as a automotive ignition system seller have developed (at considerable cost) a new automotive ignition system that increases fuel mileage by 50%, you would want to sell this at the highest possible price with the most up front money to recover development costs.

The bottom line is a successful DIY LED reef light is a reasonable goal, but you WILL use vastly more energy for the same results when you compare DIY Bridgelux LED fixture to a patented emitter LED fixture.

You’ll also need a strong understanding in wire, lighting, and maintenance. Of course, there will be a lack of a manufactures warranty as well, so repairs are done by the fixture owner.

I also highly suggest adding PWM dimmable drivers for DIY, which is actually a decent price for DIY for the benefits it has. These drivers will run under $10 per channel. It’s recommended to be able to dim these LEDs, starting slow and working up to their tanks lighting needs.

Basic Mounting Suggestion

Each LED generally come with at least one form of mounting. Slide out rails, suspension kits, and in hood mounts are most common.

DIY options are east and work for most fixtures.

In fact a DIY rack such as the one featured in this picture does not take much DIY ability at all and easily supports most LED Fixtures.

Depending on how much PAR is being used and even lens used on the fixture, will determine how high the LED need to be mounted.


See this related Aquarium Article Digest Post for further installation options/ideas:
Aquarium LED Light Installation Options

As well I strongly suggest reading this section: Important LED Ventilation

T5 to LED Comparison

This example uses the more efficient AquaRay line, some of the super high output per square centimeter lights such as the Aqua Illumination Hydra HD LEDs are going to cost more to operate, but are still often less expensive per input wattage of energy.

*(2) 18 Watt T-5 Dual Fixture = $60
*(2) 18 Watt T-5 Bulb = $30
(it takes two T5 to equal one AquaBeam 600 12 watt in actual useful light energy)

*Startup cost for Fixture and bulb = $90

*Average yearly electrical cost = $15.77
*Yearly Bulb replacement cost = $30

Total T5 cost for 5 years = $318.85

* TMC Led Fixture = $150

*Startup cost for LED = $150

*Average yearly electrical cost = $5.26

*Total TMC AquaRay LED cost for 5 years = $176.28

Proper High End Electronic LED Venting, Moisture Prevention

Important LED Ventilation

Please read the above article section about the importance proper care and mountain of your LED Fixture Investment

*LED Bias:

I try and keep this article as factual as possible, including many references, which includes some from those I have deep respect for their expertise and history in the hobby/industry. As my readers will note that I cannot help but have biases based on this research and mentoring from others.
Likely, over time my biases will change as they have in the past, since LED lighting is a fast developing and changing aspect of aquarium keeping [I know my mentor has changed his recommendations for lighting many times over his decades in the industry]. Especially among those keeping reef or high tech planted aquariums.

From brand patents/exclusive license agreements, PWM drivers, input/output energy, and more, the science speaks for itself!! The repeated experiences back up the science! Lighting and aquariums ARE science, albeit with art and personal preferences mixed in!
Unfortunately many of the newest offerings [as of 2016] are going after the price point producing planted or reef capable lights, but much lower efficiency using a shotgun approach and less natural light, as well builds that are not going to last long in our aquatic environments [example Finnex].
The other popular approach of late for higher end LEDs is instead of pursuing the best known science, these lights are loaded with bells & whistles and still often hove poor water proof rating ratings [& warranties to match].

I try and mix simplified science for easy reading along with a lot of practical experience in this article. I cite many other related articles to back up the science and these include articles, which are trusted. Also backed by experienced individuals, which I know as well.

Very limited research in this areas of lighting is being done in regards to aquarium applications. Much of this work is referring to other horticulture as a reference.
So if we can figure how to get more usefulness of a light source, we can learn how much is minimally needed, which will allow us to be more efficiently.

*LED Summary;

Any flaws of LED aquarium lights are quickly disappearing and based on the energy savings in electricity in wattage of the lights [as compared to MH] as well as electricity use for air conditioning or the cost of a chiller often necessitated by larger Metal Halides.
I should also note that LED light technology is growing by “leaps and bounds”, even the low end lights such as the Finnex are still much better than previous entry models [although warranties & fixture longevity are still poor for these entry models].

LED Lights such as the The AquaRay LEDs in particular along with the Orpek, Aqua Illuminations, Zetlight/iLumenAir and a small handful of other LEDs are constantly improving.
In come cases, I think we might be hitting the wall of how much more we can improve an LED without causing other side issues such as too much heat and consuming energy in large volumes as was the case with Metal Halide lights.

So just make sure you get your LED comparisons correct let me sum it up:

  1. If you want a cheap fixture as per up-front costs, often with multiple color combinations, the Finnex, Fluval, Current USA Satellite, Ocean Revive, TaoTronics and others might be your LED. However do not expect a long life and certainly do not expect a LED that is efficient as far as how much wattage of input energy is needed for a given useful energy of light.
    If cost is your primary concern, why pay for all the bells & whistles and rather just simply purchase a functional clip on LED for community or planted aquariums such as the AAP Clip on LED [which starts at only $29.99].
  2. If high intensity power per square centimeter (along with some great bells & whistles which include the ability to change color spectrums), the AI Hydra HDs are your LED (IMO more so than the similar EcoTech or the Kessil IMO based on their HD feature).
  3. If easy to use bells & whistles including ability to change color spectrums, easy mounting (iLumenAir), along with strong light energy per square centimeter, then maybe the ZetLight/iLumenAir or possibly the Ocean Revive/Evergrow LED is for you.
  4. If a state of the art, high efficiency, high PUR with the most natural color spectrums available in an aquarium LED, and a well constructed LED with a warranty 2.5 to 10 times that of other LEDs is what you desire, the AquaRay is the clear choice!!

Product Resources:
#High Efficiency/Best Build AquaRay LED Lights, since 2007
#Aqua Illumination Hydra HD Highest Output LED
#AAP Clip On LED; Starting at $29.99

Further Reading:
Aquarium Opinions; LED Warranties

The bottom line is, when you compare an LED aquarium light to the many popular fluorescents & CFLs in terms of lumens per watt, focused lumens, lower wasted light energy, low heat output, energy consumption and long life for those with the IP67 water proof ratings [50,000 hours vs. 8000 hours], the modern premium LED is generally a better light.

In long term cost since [as an example] a 12 Watt Aqua Ray GroBeam [natural Daylight] can easily replace a 55 Watt power compact, such as a Helio, when you compare ALL aspects of lighting as presented in this article [approximately 20-25% of high efficiency LED wattage is required when compared to a typical HO G11 CFL].

In terms of efficiency, when compared to even older T8/T12 aquarium lights, a third generation high efficiency TMC Aqua Ray requires only 17% (or less) of the wattage for the required light energy of a planted or reef aquarium.


TMC GroBeam and Colour Plus 1500 over high tech planted aquariumLED Light systems are easily complimented with T5 fixtures or SHO lamps/lights (the SHO are a bit more DIY in applications, but if handy, they are often worth the extra time, especially for heavily planted freshwater aquariums).

See these links:
AquaRay GroBeam/Colour Plus Premium LED Fixtures
SHO self-ballasted high output CFL

The picture to the above/right is a very high tech planted aquarium using the EI method of dosing and also employing two Premium GroBeam 1500 and one Colour Plus 1500 LED fixtures for phenomenal growth (click to enlarge)

Another less known example are the small tiles useful for larger tank supplementation or Nano reef or planted aquariums.
The TMC Mini 500 & 400 LED are both designed for small Nano Reef Tanks under 15-20 gallons or supplementation of larger tiles or fixtures..

The picture to the left displays this light with a “MountaRay” bracket for easy attachment to small tanks.

This Mini 500 LED includes four lensed CRee patented-licensed XP-E 10,000K and one unlensed Blue CRee XP-E (the White LEDs can be switched off for “moonlight” mode).
Similar is the TMC Mini-400 for nano freshwater planted or refugium tanks.

See this review of the 400 (from Aquarist Magazine):
TMC Aquaray Mini LED 400 Aquarium Light Tile Review

See this Product Source for the Mini 400 & 500:
AquaRay LED Lights; Mini 400 & 500

For additional information, please see this full Aquarium Lighting Article from which this Digest article has been allowed to quote some information from:

Aquarium Lighting; Facts & Information

Video Version of the first section:
Aquarium Lighting
Aquarium Lighting 2018 | Kelvin, PAR, Watts and More

Also see this newer article for LED Installation Ideas:
Aquarium LED Light Installation Options

LED NEWS OF NOTE (Development Questions answered):

*XLamp XT-E White:
From Cree
“Cree XLamp XT-E White LEDs are the highest-performance white LEDs available. The XT-E LED delivers twice the lumens-per-dollar of previously available LEDs in the popular XP footprint. By leveraging the popular XP footprint, customers can easily incorporate the XT-E LED into existing XP LED designs to shorten design cycle and improve time to market.”

*XLamp XB-D White:
From Cree
“Smallest lighting-class LED enables dramatically lower system cost

Designed to enable lower system costs for lighting manufacturers, the XLamp XB-D LED doubles the lumens per dollar of previously available LEDs. Built on Cree’s SC³ Technology™ Platform, the XB-D White LED delivers up to 139 lumens and 136 lumens per watt in cool white (6000 K) or up to 107 lumens and 105 lumens per watt in warm white (3000 K), both at 350 mA and 85°C.

Cree XLamp XB-D color LEDs extend the double lumens-per-dollar performance of the XB package to color LEDs, delivering up to 40% higher maximum light output than XP-E color LEDs. The combination of performance and small size of XB-D color LEDs enable better color mixing and lower system cost.”


*Aquarium Lighting Facts & Information

*PUR/PAS vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting; Including Spectrographs

Such as this quote with further verification of our comments about the EXCLUSIVE Cree/TMC emitter rights:
“TMC, in tandem with Cree, tailored the newest Cree XR-E diode Kelvin temperature so as not too waste energy in the unneeded spectrum range. And, the TMC tiles do not use cooling fans”

*St Mary’s Marine Biology Experiments
A few Articles within this website I recommend
   *A Push for Excellence
   *The man behind the study
   *And, so it Begins. How to Mount?
   *Experiment Update 1
   *Sustainable Science Thesis & Abstract Update
   *TMC AquaRay Vs. Build My LED

*Visible and Ultraviolet Spectroscopy

*Economic Analysis of Greenhouse Lighting: Light Emitting Diodes vs. High Intensity Discharge Fixtures
[A good read, albeit aimed more at growing terrestrial plants than practical LED application in planted and especially reef aquariums. The comparison between HPS & LEDs misses what corals and even plants that live in water need as per PAS. Practical experience long before LEDs were even available for reef use shows their comparison to be false as noted by another source I cite that also cites this otherwise useful resource].

*Advanced Aquarist; The Best Lamp Is
[I do not totally agree with the methodology and conclusions [rather flawed in that much is left out], but still an educational read]

*Input from several aquarium professionals including: Aquarium Design, and Quality Marine USA (the largest importer of marine fish in North America)

*Red Slime Algae; Cyanobacteria in Aquariums
I should note that if you also have a UV Sterilizer, changing the UV Bulbs every six months can help with Red Slime control along with the more important aspect of good lighting with little of the yellow light bands.

So as to keep this already long article readable; NO Further Comments will be allowed; Thanks for understanding


Excellent professional and experienced information about Reverse Osmosis (RO/DI) systems (A MUST READ!):
Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums

Another excellent professional and experienced article about Reef (or Marine Fish) Aquarium Maintenance (ALSO A MUST READ!):
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

Recommended Replacement UVC Lamps:
High Output UV Replacement Bulbs-Lamps
Such as: 8 Watt UV Bulb; 2 pin T5
& 9 Watt UV Bulb

Recommended source for UV Sterilizers:
Aquarium-Pond UV Sterilizers

Aquarium Silicone
Unique fish safe silcone that cures at the proper rate for aquariums. Worth the extra $ over hardware store silicone

Aquarium Medications; How They Work

Aquarium Wonder Shells from AAP
The ONLY authorized online seller of this product, which includes medicated version. BEWARE of clearance product online that is not fresh!

Aquarium Sponge Filter
THE only full lineauthorized online seller of the best sponge filter hands down. Up to 5 times the capacity of similar sized sponge filters sold by discounters!!

Copyright 2019, By Steve Allen