Selecting the ideal lighting system has come a long way from times fluorescent tubes and hanging metal halide lighting were the only options. There wasn’t much to consider except probably cool white or warm white – basic requirements available round the corner.
On the contrary today there is greater variety and efficiency thanks to advanced LED technology used in these aquatic lighting systems. LED widely used in TV manufacture is better known and the deciding factor often is the number of bulbs – contributing to picture quality.
Underwater lighting systems bring a whole new dimension into perspective. For instance, imagine shopping for lighting system for a mid-sized aquarium – about 36 inches. Latest LED Products in stores today have the capacity to produce powerful and even coverage using lens like covering on each micro bulbs – efficient light distribution.
That is just one factor and is probably the one that is standard across all the current models. So, here is a review, highlighting few more that should in a few minutes transform you into the informed shopper.
Quality of Light (PUR, RQE, PAS)
Even outside an aquarium light performs a variety of functions – illumination, to spur growth in green houses, or to detect anomalies in the case of X-rays. Given the variety of conditions aquatic ecosystems determine quality of light based on a number of factors including; ability to illuminate adequately, ability to support photosynthesis,
In relation to aquarium you require lighting with adequate PAR (photosynthetic light), PUR (adequate illumination), and PAS (rating where photosynthesis enzymes are most active). All of which will highlight one key aspects for optimal performance within your aquarium.
Kelvin rating is an often used standard measure of temperature built around the concept of an absolute zero. Water provides one good example of absolute zero at freezing point - when all kinetic energy ceases to exist and atoms are completely at rest forming ice – 273.16 Kelvin or 0 Celsius.
For lighting purposes Kelvin describes light temperature with rating above 5500K considered as high or “cool” emitting green and blue; and below 3000K considered low and warm - yellow and green colors. The Kelvin temperature rating for light is derived in relation to the temperature as it radiates off a black body. In which case it would require a lot more power to produce vivid colors and the black body at 0 or freezing when it emits no color.
Assuming (see image) this black body is reflecting the light at 5500K emission is higher producing brighter colors; while at 3000K emissions have a lower effect producing warmer colors.
Though Kelvin rating is a good measure it is not always ideal for your aquarium given voltage input will still affect the radiance. Based on this incandescent light dimmed to 10% may not necessarily be redder than the same filament at 100% - when voltage input varies significantly. When shopping, ask about the input voltage and Kelvin ratings for an accurate picture of your ideal lighting system.
Why is the Kelvin rating useful?
Aquarium lighting use Kelvin rating to determine the best conditions for plant photosynthesis – LED rated 6400K is adequate for fresh water plants and coral.
Note that even when the Kelvin rating is accurate the lamps may still not be bright enough. This is why some lighting systems combine a number of bulbs with variations in wattage to arrive at an approximate 6400K value.
For instance you could use 11 fluorescent lamps rated at 3000K together with a single blue light emitter rated 50,000K. This would translate to 11x3000 = 33,000+50,000 = 83,000 / 12 (number of lights) = 6916K – or an optimum Kelvin rating and ideal brightness.
Nanometer Range (Spectrum)
Nanometers are devices used to measure the wavelength of light waves. Light waves have varying lengths that have been known to determine how the wave affects its surrounding. X-rays with short wavelengths can penetrate solid objects while longer wavelengths cannot pass through solid material. This is the reason highly intense ultra violet X-rays can destroy DNA while visible light waves cannot do the same.
Nanometers are useful in engineering underwater lighting given they determine how far each color of light will penetrate – what kind of bulbs to combine to achieve the aquariums objective. Red light travels a very short distance and gets filtered out quite close to the source. As the wave penetrates deeper orange and yellow are lost next. Blue light travels the farthest from the source.
Why is this important ? Many plants require plenty of blue and two red spikes from the selected lighting for optimal photosynthesis. With that in mind the Kelvin rating will determine the optimal combination and how much power will effectively reach all corners of the tank – larger aquariums thus require more powerful lamps.
One of many useful standards that differentiate/identify aquarium lighting systems – measuring intensity of light. One LUX is equivalent to one lumen per square meter. LUX reading ONLY describes light intensity visible to the human eye – green light. This measure that considers only light visible to the human eye is useful given that low LUX is unsuitable for optimal oxygen production in zooxanthellae (the inside of coral). Based on this you want to be sure each corner of the aquarium receives light intensity above 3,000 LUX – maximum LUX in the region of 100,000-120,000.
PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation)
Photosynthetically Active Radiation is a term that describes the spectrum used by plants for photosynthesis (400-700nm). Within the aquatic optimal PAR rating will produce phototropic response – tendency to grow in the direction of the light source; and photosynthetic response, optimal conditions for enzyme release required for photosynthesis.
PAR meters or Quantum meters are used to obtain the most accurate estimate of PAR within an aquarium. Corals require light with PAR rating of at least 50 mmol for [photosynthesis though specific corals such as Acropora and Nemezophyllia could require higher PAR rating.
This describes the loss in photosynthetic capacity of a plant. There is not enough knowledge on the subject to identify what causes this condition though it is known to affect both underwater and land plant organisms.
In relation to lighting it has been found that blue light causes more of this reaction. Red light also is responsible for the reaction to a lesser extent. The best lighting systems are designed with this in mind to ensure this trend affects your plants to less maintaining better health.
This is the international measure that defines Quantity of Light – based on total amount of visible light emitted (green light). The higher the Lumens the brighter it will be to the human eye. Lumens per watt are calculated by dividing lumens on the lamp listing by wattage on fixtures list.
Though it is useful for measuring the correct household lighting it can be unsuitable for aquarium lighting. This is because in an aquatic ecosystem the use of Lumens to determine optimal conditions often results in lighting WHILE delivering inadequate PUR –lighting that does not adequately penetrate all regions of your aquarium.
Watts define the amount of energy the light fixtures consume and NOT the output. As such it will help determining efficiency of the lamp. It can be useful when comparing performance between two brands – to identify the more efficient. You may want to note that this will not affect pricing – often newer technology is more efficient and costlier.
CRI is a measure to determine the color shift of light. Though it has its uses it is not considered among the most suitable options to select your preferred aquarium lighting. While some brands of lighting systems tout high CRI to improve sales many of these models will tend to the useful colors you aquarium requires but still fall short of the optimal Kelvin rating 6400K. In which case the light will appear to produce what you need but probably not at the right intensity.
The 5 Best led Aquarium lighting Systems
1.Finnex Planted 24/7 LED Aquarium Controller
The Finnex Planted 24/7 is an advanced LED lighting system that both experienced and beginner fish keepers can use to introduce marvelous light into these ecosystems. It is designed to meet the needs of fish keepers with small to mid-sized aquariums including 20”, 24”, 30”, 36 and 48”.
Like many household gadgets today it comes with a remote to keep your hands free. This enables you to create or use presets channels that include intense colorful noon, fire red sunrise and starry nights – it will transform your aquarium into an underwater paradise. Not forgetting the thunderstorm feature meant to stimulate stimulating breeding.
2.Current USA Orbit Marine LED Light
Orbit Marine is one of the premier aquarium lighting systems in stores today. It is designed to work on various aquariums including 18 to 24”, 24 to 36”, 36 to 48” and 48 to 60”.
Once installed the Orbit LED lighting system operates continuously using preset channels to produce delightful scenes. It is built using Dual Daylight and Dual Actinic producing broad and high quality spectrum for plants and fish. The smooth transitioning controls shift almost naturally from sunrise, to noon and sunset – designed for marine water ecosystems.
Smooth transitions – natural between day and night scenes
Latest technology lamps that deliver bright, high quality and useful light.
Ideal spectrum for coral, plant and fish
120 degree lens for an even spread across the aquarium
- Water resistant and safe operation 12VDC
Poor after sales service.
3.Finnex Stingray Aquarium LED Light
It can be hard looking for an ideal aquarium lighting system on a budget. Stingray is an ideal mid-priced choice. It can be used with many small – mid-sixed tanks including 10”, 12”, 16”, 20”, 24”, 30”, and 36” to 48”.
It is exceptionally efficient (11 Watts) using advanced technology 660NM lamps suitable for optimum photosynthesis. Under these condition you can enjoy watching ferns, anubias and moss grow and maintain good health – includes mounting gear for canopy style use.
4.Finnex FugeRay LED Aquarium Light
For beginners and experienced fish keepers aquariums are the most beautiful addition to their interior décor. You too can share the passion using the elegant and reasonably priced Finnex FugeRay lighting. The ultra modern design produces realistic and enticing themes within your aquarium. FugeRay is designed to meet a wide range of aquatic lighting needs from: 12”, 16”, 20”, 24”, 30”, 36” and 48”.
The unit is fitted with the latest tech high output lamps to produce a consistent 660nm output – perfect for optimal photosynthesis. The FugeRay unit is very efficient – delivering in excess of 40,000 hours from 17.8 Watt input.
FugeRay is designed for freshwater and saltwater aquariums; uses powerful LED bulbs for evenly spread lighting across the aquarium; and natural themes including moonlight setting for night time use.
5.Marineland Double Bright
Marineland Double Bright is among the best mid-priced LED lighting systems for 10 to 24”, 24 to 36”, 36 to 48” and 48 to 60” aquariums. Designed using latest HD LED technology powered 60,000K 1 watt bulbs for the best illumination, spread and photosynthetic conditions.
The design is energy efficient and can with or without the sturdy adjustable mounting legs for positioning non top of various aquariums. You will get to enjoy operating in 3 modes that will increase depth and dimension of lighting through your aquarium.
Additional tips and tricks
1. Other Led Considerations/Rumors: When shopping for LED lighting fixtures cheap is always expensive. Drivers and circuitry play a very central role to the overall performance. Do not spend money on anything with poor drivers and circuitry – even with good lamps optimal performance in such conditions is unlikely.
2. Lightning Storms: many of the high end models incorporate this feature that can stimulate breeding and looks surreal. You can live quite comfortably and breed normally without this – if you can afford it go ahead...
3. Warranties: You would not buy a refrigerator without a warranty – would you? Same applies to aquatic lightning especially when you are paying in excess of $75 for the product. This is simple protection in the event of damage which can happen given this device is often left unattended and prone to spills and splashes where aggressive fish species are concerned or power surges.
Buying decent aquarium lighting was easy before advanced Led systems were designed.
Today there are many very high performing LED lighting systems designed for specific conditions and aquarium sizes. This is brief review of some of the main points you should keep in mind before swiping your card at any store.
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