Give Me The Moonlight

Our marine aquariums for the most part, whether reef or fish only, are very natural, far more so than they were even just 10 years ago. Technology has advanced a great deal as well.

The lighting is designed to help the corals and also look reasonably natural, the filtration is varied but many, if not most, aquarists use live rock. Live rock is probably the best filtration available and there isn’t any more natural. With efficient – or perhaps a better word is imaginative – aquascaping, the aquarium now really can appear to be a ‘slice of the ocean.’

Most aquarists including myself sit and gaze at their aquarium and marvel at how lovely it is, and at the same time marvel at how livestock from a home such as the reef – connected to the huge volume of the seas and oceans – can possibly survive let alone thrive in a tiny aquarium. But they do.

There is a continuing search for better ways of using nature to improve things. One of these is the deep sand bed (DSB), another very natural way of filtering. The use of macro algae such as Caulerpa is another. There are more examples.

Trouble is, most aquarists have restraints, perhaps financial, or space available or both. I fall into the space category, though finances are not exactly without bounds.

There is one thing I have done to advance my system though. It isn’t unique, a lot of other aquarists have done the same. It doesn’t take up much space and certainly doesn’t cost a fortune, far from it. That last bit is perhaps a little unusual for this hobby!

I’ve given my reef moonlight. It’s very simple to do. This involves the use of LED’s (light emitting diodes). LED’s have been in the news recently as the technology slowly moves forward to challenge metal halides in the power lighting of a captive reef. In this case, that is moonlight, the LED’s have low output.

What I’ve done is obtain a set of four blue LED’s in a very small unit. This has been placed on the top bracing strut – out of the water – at one end of the aquarium. The lights are angled down to shine diagonally through the water. The power comes from the mains supply.

An extra electric timer has been placed in the cabinet below the aquarium. The moonlights do not come on in the ’dawn’ sequence, only at ’dusk.’ The sequence is marine whites off first, 15 minutes later the actinics turn off. 10 minutes before the actinics turn off, the moonlights come on, and stay on for one hour. Of course, the moonlights can be on for as long as the aquarist wants.

Unless an aquarist is experimenting with moonlight and corals, I am not aware of any real advantage to the livestock. The fish and shrimps seem to become accustomed to the main white and main blue lights going off in sequence, and ‘take to their beds’ just before the blues disappear (or mine do). The presence of the moonlights must make the sequence a little less abrupt however.

It is marvellous looking at the reef under full lighting and also just the main blue lighting, as they are both attractive. Under actinics some corals fluoresce and this looks terrific, and the blue colour picks out some coralline and similar.

In addition to the above main lights, if moonlights are used this extends the viewing period and offers a really quite magical scene. LED’s create a ripple effect, and flickering shafts of light shine diagonally through the water, picking up corals and other reef shapes.

So the advantage of moonlights is to the aquarist, offering more viewing pleasure. The icing on the cake is that the cost of these lights is low, the running cost very low, and the life expectancy of the LED’s very long. It cannot get better than that. So go on, indulge.


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