The ABCs of LEDs, Part 2 By Robert Farnsworth, MarineDepot.com Reef Squad

After reading through the comments on our May 2012 article, The ABCs of LEDs, we decided it would be a good idea to post a short follow-up to answer some of your questions and provide additional information about LED aquarium lights.

One thing we noticed is that many hobbyists are having a difficult time choosing the right LED light for their tank or are unsure if LED light will be sufficient for their system. A lot of the uncertainty and skepticism about LEDs stems from their relative newness in the aquarium industry. Just a few years back, aquarium keepers only used LED lights for moon/lunar applications. LEDs as a primary light source are still a relatively new phenomenon.

Let’s first talk about diodes. It is important to understand that not all LED diodes are created equal. For example, a 1-watt Cree LED diode can produce dramatically different light compared to a 1-watt generic/bulk LED diode. This is one of the reasons why it is impossible to provide hobbyists with a general rule of thumb when every manufacturer is building their fixtures using different diodes.

When we post a new aquarium light on our website, we list every bit of information the manufacturer provides us with at that time in the product description. Even so, manufacturers often release additional information later on, like photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) measurements, light spread and tank size recommendations (generally due to customer demand). We therefore recommend visiting the manufacturer’s website if you are looking for information presently unavailable in our store (should you find more information, please let us know so we can update the description to help fellow hobbyists!). If the manufacturer is unwilling to release the information you are searching for, that may be cause for concern. Since you are going to place your prized coral collection under the lights you choose, asking a question about the build integrity, like which LED diodes are used, is a legitimate question to pose.

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It is important to know the PAR range a LED light produces before making a purchase because this measurement will tell you whether the light is suitable to promote photosynthesis within corals. Keep in mind lighting is not the sole contributor to successful coral growth. Proper water chemistry and flow are essential.

We created a simple chart below based upon hobbyist feedback, published articles and our own experiences caring for corals. We have included links to more detailed information at the conclusion of this article that we highly recommend exploring.

Required PAR Ranges for Reef Aquarium Corals
Small Polyp Stony (SPS) Corals 200 – 500+
Large Polyp Stony (LPS) Corals 150 – 250
Soft Corals 50+

We suggest purchasing a LED light manufactured by a company that is building lights exclusively for aquarium use. A quick Google search will reveal a lot of affordable LED lights, but you don’t want something the designer engineered to illuminate a sign at an amusement park or the inside of a limousine. The safer bet is to buy a light from a company that tested their equipment over aquarium environments and backs up their builds with a warranty and/or quality customer service.

Although you can always contact us any time you have a question about aquarium lights, manufacturer websites are also a great place to visit to learn more about LEDs. Click the brand logos below to visit the sites of the most popular and reputable LED manufacturers in the industry today.

The current prices of LED lights are enough to make some people choke. Being a hobbyist and a father, I can certainly understand why this would dismay and deter some people from adopting LED technology. Look at a LED light purchase as an investment: while being more expensive up front, the long-term savings from lower electric bills and no annual (or semiannual) bulb replacements certainly justify the higher cost.

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We put together a chart comparing some of our best-selling LED light fixtures to help you select the right unit for your aquarium. Remember, we’re always available if you have additional questions. Also keep in mind that we have plenty of other LEDs available on our website that are not represented in this table.

LED Light Fixture Price Dimmable Timer Moon Lights Customer Rating
Ecotech Marine Radion XR30w $$$ Yes Yes Yes 4.5 Stars
Ecoxotic Panorama Pro $$ Yes No No  Stars
Orphek Nilus $$$ Yes Yes Yes 4 Stars
Kessil A350 Special Blend $$ Yes No No 4.5 Stars
JBJ Unibody $$ Yes No No 4.5 Stars
Innovative Marine 92 Watt Skkye Light $$ No No Yes 5 Stars
Maxspect Mazarra P-Series MZ-P01 $$$ Yes Yes Yes 4 Stars
Innovative Marine Skkye Light Dimmable Dual Strip $$ Yes No Yes n/a
Maxspect Razor R420R $$ Yes Yes Yes n/a
Kessil A150W Special Blend $$ No No No 4.5 Stars
Marineland Reef Capable with Integrated Timer $$ Yes Yes Yes n/a
AquaticLife 1.0 Watt Expandable $$ No No No 3.5 Stars

Price Legend: $ = Less than $200; $$ = $200-$600; $$$ = $500+

There will be many more product reviews, message board testimonials and manufacturer data available as time goes on. In the meantime, we’ve listed a few helpful links below to help expand your knowledge of LED lighting. We encourage you to leave us your feedback in the comment section below and to write a product review on our website should you decide to take the plunge and purchase a LED light. Thanks for reading!

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