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EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w LED Review + Q&A By Keith MacNeil, MarineDepot.com Reef Squad

I purchased my EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w LED Light Fixtures about a year ago after seeing them in action in the MarineDepot.com booth at the 2011 Reef-a-Palooza show in Southern California. Having tried almost every other type of lighting available, I figured it was time to make the leap into the LED craze. There are plenty of LED fixtures out there, but having used EcoTech Marine’s VorTech pumps over the years and knowing the quality of their products and outstanding customer service I decided to go with their fixtures over my tank.

Overview

The fixture can be run in their Basic Mode out of the box which has 7 preset selections. These selections can be adjusted in light intensity if desired. The Radion has three touch buttons located on the top of the fixture that allows you to change the settings within Basic Mode. This mode is great for use with external light timers or controllers (to turn the fixture on and off at the same time each day).

To get the most out of the Radion, you need to connect it to a computer. EcoTech’s EcoSmart Config Utility software can be download directly from their website (see link below), which only takes a few minutes if you have a decent Internet connection. Once you’ve got the software downloaded and installed, you’ll have 2 more modes to choose from: Artificial and Natural. Within these modes, you have near limitless control options. You can adjust the color, intensity and duration of the lights, set day and moonlight cycles, program the likelihood of storms occurring and even cloud coverage. Programming these options is simple and straightforward, even if you’re not terribly computer savvy. EcoTech produced some helpful videos (embedded below) to help guide you, but you’re welcome to contact us should you have any questions.

Artificial Mode (Screenshot)

Natural Mode (Screenshot)

My Experience with the Radion

I replaced an 8-bulb T5 fixture—which had previously replaced a dual 250-watt metal halide/T5 combo fixture—with 2 Radions over my 120-gallon mixed reef aquarium. When I first placed the new lights over my tank, I was very impressed with the slim size of the fixtures and the coverage they provided the tank, especially the front-to-back coverage over a 2′ wide aquarium. They didn’t “appear” as bright compared to my previous fixtures, but my corals held their colors exceptionally well for the changeover. In fact, it did not appear to affect them at all. I started the fixtures at 50% intensity to acclimate my livestock to the light and slowly increased the intensity over the next month.

My tank was progressing nicely at the time and I was very happy with my purchases. I played with the different programs, making lots of different lighting scenarios I could choose from. I wirelessly configured the 2 Radions so their lighting cycles were the same, synced them with my 2 VorTech MP40Wes powerheads (the pumps go into Night Mode when the lights shutdown) and enjoyed the occasional thunderstorm that would suddenly appear over my tank. The first time it happened, it scared me—I thought the lights were on the fritz!

My wife decided to reorganize the room my tank is in a few months after my lighting upgrade. She wanted to move the aquarium to a different spot, but the 120-gallon was too large to accommodate her vision for the room. I was game for tackling a new build, so I purchased a 93-gallon cube to free up some space in the room. With the tank’s 30″ x 30″ footprint, I could have opted for a single Radion, but I decided to go with two. Using both fixtures allows me to place them closer to the water’s surface for better light penetration into the 30″ deep tank yet still have full coverage from front-to-back and side-to-side.

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I had about a month of downtime between the teardown of the 120 and the setup of the 93, so I decided to start the new tank with new rock, fish and coral. At the time of this writing (9/14/12), I’ve had the Radions running over the 93-gallon for just over 5 months. My coral collection currently consists of a couple of SPS, a Favia war coral, a nice-sized Sinularia and a branching Hammer coral. They are growing steadily and their coloration is incredible, although the photos I’m including with this article really don’t do them justice.

EcoTech released some inexpensive lens upgrades last month I am planning to install in each of my fixtures. According to EcoTech, “by redirecting more of each LED cluster’s output in a usable direction (in your tank), TIR lenses are able to boost peak PAR levels by up to 45% and total (average) PAR levels by up to 23% beneath the fixture without sacrificing spread or consuming additional power.” That’s a pretty attractive claim—I can’t wait to see the difference they make. Reviews I’ve read online from early adopters have been favorable.

My next upgrade though, when my budget permits it, is to pickup one or two of the battery backups to run my lights in the event of a power outage. I already own two battery backups for my VorTech pumps, but I would love to have the ability to run my lights as well if there is a longer power outage.

Frequesntly Asked Questions

People have a lot of questions about the Radion. It’s one of the more expensive led aquarium light fixtures on the market, so it’s certainly understandable folks want to know everything they can before the make such a costly upgrade. The following questions are the most common I hear from hobbyists:

How did you mount your Radions? Are they side-by-side, end-to-end or diagonal?

I run mine end-to-end, as you can see in the small photo to your right. You can see what they look like side-by-side in another photo earlier in this article. With a 30″ tank, I could have gone with a single unit. However, since the tank is also 30″ deep, I wanted the ability to eventually lower the lights over the tank for greater light penetration.

Do you use the EcoTech Marine Rail Kits?

Nope. They weren’t available when I mounted the lights over my 93-gallon cube. I have my Radions hanging from a stand similar to this one from AquaticLife. I like it because it mounts to the back of the tank’s stand so I can hang the Radions over my aquarium without having to suspend them from the ceiling. Will I try them down the road? Quite possibly, although I’m pretty happy with my current setup.

How many inches above the water’s surface are your Radions?

I have my Radions hanging about 9″ above the water’s surface. Eventually I am going to drop them to 7-8″. The reason I’m keeping them a little higher for now is because I find myself reaching into the tank more than usual since it’s still a relatively new setup. Once the tank is more established and I’m through moving corals around, I’m going to lower the lights a bit.

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Does the Radion make any noise?

Good question. The answer was unknown when I purchased the lights since I basically bought them when they were first released. I am pleased to report that Radions are near silent. The fan in the unit does produce a little sound, but I only hear it if I’m standing right next to the tank. Otherwise I don’t hear anything except my return pump humming away.

Does salt creep or dust get sucked inside that fan area?

I am actually quite surprised at how little salt creep and dust I have had to clean from my Radions. Of course, I don’t really have any water splashing, so that tends to help with the salt creep aspect. When I do notice dust collecting, which is like once a month, I will clean it off. No biggie!

How long did it take to get the Radion up and running from out of the box?

The lights took me about 20-30 minutes each to get up and running in Basic Mode. Once I downloaded the EcoSmart Config Utility from EcoTech’s website and began playing with the different modes, syncing up the 2 lights, experimenting with the programming, etc., that took longer. I can’t really say I kept track of the time, although an important point to make here is that the software is extremely user-friendly and not hair-pullingly stressful or complex.

How do you connect the battery backup? Do you need a separate battery backup for the light and the pumps?

EcoTech makes this as easy as can be. The battery backups include two cords that run from the battery to the power supply (on the Radion) or controller (on the VorTech pump). One cord is needed for each unit that you are hooking up to the battery. You can run one pump and one Radion off a single battery backup.

Are the red and green LEDs helping coral growth?

I’ll be honest: I have no idea. Hopefully they will have a positive, long-term impact on my corals. Everything is going great so far.

Did you connect the Radion to an aquarium controller?

While running the Radion in Basic Mode, I had my AquaController turning the lights on and off. Once I downloaded the EcoSmart Config Utility software and programmed the lights, I no longer had a reason to connect them to the controller.

What have your energy savings been like, if any?

Looking over the past year’s electric bills, our household usage was down every month for 2012 compared to 2011, so I certainly would attribute some of that to the new lights.

How much heat is coming off the fixture?

Very minimal heat comes off the Radions. I was actually quite surprised at this as I have heard from some other LED users that their fixtures do still run a little hot. I’m fairly certain more heat is put into the room from the water in the tank than from these fixtures.

How would you rank it among other LED fixtures currently on the market?

I may be biased since I own them, but I’ve seen other LED light fixtures on a few friends’ aquariums as well as in some LFS and I believe the Radions are more intense with better spread. Truthfully, though, I haven’t had the opportunity to try out all of the various LED fixtures available these days, so my experience is pretty subjective.

How are the moonlights on the Radion?

I am not running the moonlights right now, but the programming allows you to set the intensity of the lights for it (I have the light set to 0% during nighttime). It should be noted that when the light intensity is set below 10%, the LEDs might not turn on. According to EcoTech: “When in night mode and running the LEDs below 10% it’s very difficult to control the current through the LEDs accurately, so due to different tolerances in the back voltage of the LEDs on different clusters, and the fact that the royal blue LEDs are on two different LED driver channels (one channel per cluster for royal blue), you may see one cluster turn on before the other at the lowest of intensities. Also due to the same tolerances, you might see some LEDs that might not turn on at the lowest intensities, which is why we demo the color while in the color selection window so that you can see what intensity works for your tank.”

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Is the software easy to use? How do you access it? Is it like any other program on your computer with an icon or is it something web-based?

The software is very easy to use. EcoTech has videos (embedded below) that walk you through the processes of setting up, creating and saving light programs. Initially you’ll have to visit their website to download the software to your computer. Once you’ve installed the program, you can save an icon to your desktop so your settings are just a click away. The EcoSmart Config Utility is currently only available to PC users, although EcoTech Marine is currently beta testing EcoSmart Live, a web-based version of the software “open to all platforms and operating systems which makes us Mac users very happy,” according to Reefbuilders (September 11, 2012).

How far away are the EcoSmart Drivers from the Radion?

My VorTech MP40Wes controllers are about 3-4′ from the Radions. They all communicate wirelessly with each other, so there is no need to connect any cords between them.

Videos

EcoTech Marine VorTech and Radion

With their award-winning VorTech pump line, Radion LED lighting, battery backup and accessories, EcoTech Marine is changing the way people think about aquarium technology.

Upgrading the Radion XR30w to the TIR Lens

Installation of the TIR Lenses on the EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w.

SPECIFICATIONS*

Dimensions

  • Length: 11.8 inches (30 cm)
  • Width: 7 inches (18 cm)
  • Thickness: 1.5 inches (3.9 cm)

LED

  • 8x Cree XP-G Cool White LEDs run at 5W each
  • 8x Cree XP-E Blue LEDs run at 3W each
  • 10x Cree XP-E Royal Blue LEDs run at 3W each
  • 4x Cree XP-E Green LEDs run at 3W each
  • 4x Osram Oslon SSL Hyper Red LEDs run at 3W each

Weight

  • Radion: 3.2 pounds (1.5 kg)
  • Power Supply: 3.6 pounds (1.7 kg)

Wattage

  • Max Wattage of Radion Fixture: 130-140 Watts
  • Max Wattage of LED Channels: 120 Watts

*Specifications subject to change

Features

  • 34 energy-efficient LEDs
  • Fully adjustable for growth and appeal
  • Output optimized for PAR
  • Wide light spread
  • Minimal color banding
  • Fully upgradeable
  • Modular LED cluster, lens and driver assemblies
  • Capacitive touch exterior controls
  • Revolutionary heat sink design
  • Switching power supply
  • Evolving software and firmware
  • Smart multi-light wireless functionality
  • Easy import and export of saved modes
  • Real-time clock
  • Multiple light period programmable
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