T5 has long been a popular choice for reef tank lighting. Great results combined with the ability to customize color with different bulb combinations are what led high output T5 fluorescent lighting to reach the forefront of reef aquarium lighting options. However, having to replace bulbs every 9 months and the heat produced by these lights can be difficult and expensive to deal with.
Enter LED lighting which has come a long way in recent years. The gorgeous shimmer they produce combined with energy efficiency and advanced controllability is really hard to beat. However, dialing in the right spectrum and proper intensity for corals can be difficult and shadowing can be an issue in densely packed reef tanks.
As of late, more and more hobbyists are finding that it is possible to have the best of both worlds with a hybrid LED and T5 Fluorescent combination.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to retrofit both LED and T5 fluorescent lighting into a canopy, hood, or custom light rack.
This is exactly what one of our reef obsessed members on staff, Joseph, did over his home aquarium.
With a fully stocked 150-gallon mixed reef tank, a 10 bulb T5 fixture would be required to sufficiently light up his aquarium. 540W of lighting running 10 hours per day can translate to a lot of heat and an expensive electricity bill.
By utilizing two EcoTech Marine Radion fixtures that never run above 60% output along with four T5 bulbs running just 4 hours a day, his average power consumption is only around 220 Watts over the same 10-hour period.
A wooden hood was constructed to hold the Radion LED lights down the center and the pre-wired AquaticLife T5 Retrofit Kit was used and easily attached to the wooden frame to hold his T5 fluorescent tubes. The result is a beautiful light spectrum that illuminates every corner of his tank and achieves excellent color all while using far less electricity.
Some manufacturers already offer hybrid T5 and LED fixtures, but their high costs are quite prohibitive and have not quite gotten the attention we suspect and we definitely anticipate more and more companies to offer hybrid fixtures in the upcoming years.
Because more components are needed, a hybrid system does cost more than a LED or T5 fixture alone. However, the long-term benefits and cost savings can really make sense for a lot of hobbyists. What’s better than having your cake and eating it too!
Cutting costs yet still achieving brilliant shimmer, amazing color, and full coverage in your tank without shadows or darkspots is why this hybrid type lighting is becoming so popular.
If you would like help creating your perfect hybrid lighting system, our trained team of aquarium experts is here to help. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.