Our endeavor into LED
Aquarium lighting started as a need to find a replacement for the many 250w Metal Halide pendants hung over the display tanks in out showroom. After they turned on in the morning the air conditioning unit would start up not far behind and run virtually non stop till the lights shut off. The temperature swings in the tanks were not healthy ether. As the temperature rose outside it became harder to keep the showroom and tank temperatures under control. The final straw was going to be investing in chillers to keep the tanks under control. There had to be a better way.
We looked at our options for replacing the Metal Halides and LED
's were the obvious choice. Dramatically longer bulb life, Less power consumption, Cooler running. Many units already on the market were considered. We ordered several for evaluation and testing. None of them lived up to what we expected or were used to with the metal halide. Most replicated a hyper white or super blue look. Made colors pop but not much growth from the corals. We wanted something that matched a 10k spectrum from a metal halide. No one seemed to make anything close. We had to build it ourselves.
A XM Lighting 250w 10k metal halide bulb was chosen as a reference point. We had seen a lot of growth with this bulb and were happy with it's output.
Compared to most 20k bulbs this has obvious red peaks in it. This is what most LED
units are missing. They replicate the blue spectrum output well but they fall off at the other end. Work was started on a unit with red leds in it to match the spectrum of the 10k metal halide. The first test unit was too red and spotty. The reds were balanced with some warm white LEDs to smooth out the curve and blend the colors together better.
The Coral Maxx Ultra 2 is born
When we had an array we were happy with production began. The first units were installed in our showroom to replace many of the metal halides. Replacing the two 250w over a 70g frag tank eliminated the need for a cooling fan. The temperature went from 8 degree swings to less that 1 degree during the day. After replacing all but two metal halides in the showroom(kept for reference) the AC
stopped running all day. All of the lights run off one circuit. Instead of one for each tank. Using a kill-a-watt on the LEDs and the metal halide showed why. The 250w MH
was using 270w of power at the plug. The 180w Coral Maxx Ultra 2 was only using 135w. The LED
units were cool to the touch while the metal halides radiated heat from all sides of the pendant.
On one of our display tanks a 55g. Two 250w metal halides had been installed. One was replaced with a Coral Maxx Ultra 2. A Apogee Quantum MQ-200 Meter was purchased to compare the output of the two units.
Type of lighting: Metal Halide (250w)
- light to surface (15"): peak-400 avg-350
- just under surface of water: peak-91 avg-80
- 12" under water: peak-87 avg-80
- bottom of 55 gallon tank (19"): peak-47 avg-40
Type of lighting: LED
(Coral Maxx Ultra 2, 180w)
- light to surface (15"): peak-700 avg-600
- just under surface of water: peak-380 avg-375
- 12" under water: peak-250 avg-200
- bottom of 55 gallon tank (19"): peak-175 avg-165
The unit easily out performs the Metal Halide. Even testing against other metal halides were still double the output of them.
Two much light?
On our deeper tanks the corals took to the new lights readily. The frag tank took a month to show growth. The unstable conditions under the metal halides made the coral less than happy. The shallow depth made the intensity change more apparent. There was no bleaching but, also no growth. The frags slowly acclimated to their new conditions then took off. The SPS
frags that used to be slow growers doubled the length of their growth rings and tips. Our Arco's and Monti's could not be happier. The only downside is that we had to increase the dosing into the tank to keep up with the increased calcium and carbonate consumption.
8 timer, 16 event controller
One of the problems we had was the amount of timers we had to run with the metal halides. Each one needed it's own timer due to their high wattage consumption. Each one took up 3 spaces on a power strip. Any time there was a power outage they would have to all be adjusted. Keeping them synced all the time was also a pain. Switching them all to digital timers was an expensive proposition with all the lights we were running.
For the Coral Maxx 2 Ultra we integrated a timer/controller into the power supply of the unit. It has 3 channels, one for the Whites, one for the Blues and one for our growth LEDs(UV
, Warm White and Red). This allows the use of a single power cord to supply power for the whole unit. No more running 2 or 3 timers on a power strip with multiple cords. There are 8 discrete timers with independent on and off events. Allowing for 16 total events. This allows you to turn on any combination(1+2+3) (1+3) (1+2) (2+3) of channels then turn off another combination on the same timer. You can even set different times for weekdays, weekends, every other day. The unit has a battery backup so you don't have to worry about loosing your settings due to a power outage.
For example: Timer 1 On: Blues on, Timer 1 Off: ALL; Timer 2 On: ALL, Timer 2 Off: White and UV
Whole day using only 2 of the 8 timers.
Lets say you like to sleep in on the weekends and want the blues to stay on longer in the morning. You can set one timer to weekdays for the other 2 timers and then another for the weekends.
Some people like the hyper white/super blue look of just the whites and blues on. But, they want the growth of the 3rd channel. With the controller it's easy to have the blues come on then the whites. Then when you leave for work the 3rd channel comes on and then turns off before you get home.
References from Wikipedia:
The reef aquarium
field is where aquarium lighting varies the greatest. Some reef aquarium keepers use VHO
(Very High Output) fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lighting, and metal halide lighting since they provide much brighter light than average fluorescent bulbs and come in a variety of spectrums. Reef keepers often opt for light of varying spectrum. Since many corals require a deep blue or actinic spectrum of light to thrive many aquarists must supplement traditional white light with light of this color. Also popular with reef keepers is T5 High Output fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs are thinner than traditional T8 bulbs and provide a much brighter, more powerful light.
Another light source in reef aquariums today is metal halide lighting. These high output lights closely recreate the shimmering effect of bright tropical sun over a patch of coral reef. Metal halide bulbs come in a variety of spectra from 5000k on up to "20,000"k
and allow for a variety of light hungry corals to survive under them. Many aquarists will use metal halide bulbs in conjunction with either power compact fluorescents or T5 fluorescents since halide lighting does not have the overall balanced effect of other light types. While very useful to reef aquarium keepers, halide lighting also uses a lot of electricity (150-400 watts being common)and produces copious amounts of heat. Most reef keepers mount halide bulbs at least one foot above their tank and some, due to the lights' heat output have had to add chillers to keep aquarium water cool.
Many light fixtures come as all-in-one units with light for both daylight hours and nighttime viewing. LED lamps
of 3/4 to 2 watts can be implemented to come on at night, simulating the glow of the moon over the tank. All in one fixtures require large fans to cool the bulbs and achieve maximum light efficiency. LED
lighting is also becoming more common for not only lunar lighting but also to simulate daylight conditions, LEDs have a higher initial cost than other lighting sources but utilize much less energy. They are also dimmable. LEDs produce a very narrow color spectrum that is limited to a narrow band of wavelengths. For this reason an array of different colored LEDs is required to be used in combination to simulate spectral coverage that is suitable for coral growth. Early adopters of pure LED
based systems have reported that the limited color spectrum provided by LEDs may not produce optimal coral growth.
Check out our website for more pictures and information on the Coral Maxx Ultra 2