LED Lighting On The Marine Reef Aquarium

There is a new LED lighting system which is said to equal the power of some metal halides. If that is the case then that lighting is going to be very interesting to marine reef aquarists. Presumably the spectrum will be suitable.

Now I’ve led everyone up the garden path – I’m not writing about high power LED lighting, but just the opposite, very low power lighting. The lighting is designed to come on just before the main lights turn out.

When the main lights are out, the LED lights give a flickering moonlight effect to the reef tank. It is very decorative, and decorative is really all it is. I suppose advanced marine aquarists could experiment with moonlight effects on corals to see if they could be induced to spawn. For most however, they just look good.

The LED’s I have on my reef tank were given to me by my son Peter. When I was given them, I thought it was a very nice thing for him to do, but I wasn’t over enthusiastic about getting them fitted I must admit. My reef has been running for 5 years without them, so they’re not a necessity by any means.

Nevertheless, I obtained a timer and proceeded to fit the light. It is a very simple affair, being a very small (about 1″ diameter) tube, with 4 blue LED’s in it behind a glass screen. It is attached above water level to the top of the side glass by a sucker. I directed it over a surface water return as I thought this would enhance the flicker (it did).

Connecting to the power supply didn’t work – the cable was too short. Isn’t it always something like that? Anyway, the cable was extended, a plug fitted, and the timer fitted. The timer was set to come on just before the main actinic lights switched off.

I arrived at the aquarium before the LED’s came on. When they did switch on, without looking at the LED’s I couldn’t tell as the light output was overpowered by the actinics. The actinics switched off, and the effect of the LED’s was lovely. Beams of weak light slant down through the water, rippling on the corals and rock formations. Very attractive. As said, the light is very weak and doesn’t disturb the fish or corals.

These LED lights are quite common now and easily obtainable. They use very little power, as low as a watt or two, so the electricity cost is negligible. They haven’t any practical use on the reef tank apart from maybe as suggested above. What they do achieve is an extension of the visible attractiveness of the reef. They also mean a longer light ‘step-down’, that is, my white lights go off first, followed by the actinics, then the LED’s switch off.

So perhaps as well as being attractive they have a practical use after all.

  1. I must say I am very pleased to hear what people have to say or what view they have on using LED to on reef tanks. I did lots of research into this subject and we must be aware that LED are not always very safe to use if wrong one are used. Many people think that white LED are reasonable to use but one must know that some RGB or white LED’s give brown to red shade which is not visible to naked eye. This shade of light can be deadly for various types of soft and hard corals and could simply bleach out the reef colony. So when choosing the LEDs you must make sure with the supplier that white LED does not under any condition emit any other shade than daylight white.
    Well, I have made my own LED lighting by purchasing strips of 5 meter each. These LED have sticky back and one meter holds 60 very bright daylight LEDs. I have cut them at every one meter and made 5 rows. All rows are connected to each other. I have also placed 6 feet long two blue LED strips on either side of white strips. Both strips are controlled independently with dimmer switches so I can increase and decrease lights at my command. I have incorporated all the controls into hand held remote control which also works with timer. I therefore never need to worry about my tank been left in the dark while I am out on business. I can leave my remote to do all the controls with pre-programmed commands. I have used waterproof 5050dmc bulbs and housed them within a clear glass box which is 5 feet long and 2 feet wide and three inches in depth. It is mounted about one foot above the reef tank just like metal halide hanging system. The results are spectacular and have really brought life back into the tank. My corals are growing at the fastest rate ever and what it has cost me to setup this lighting is only $220.50. There is no loss of water as there virtually no heat coming out of the LEDs and my energy bill has dropped my 80%. So make your own lights if you can and save money and environment. All the best

  2. Hi.

    Thankyou for your very interesting comment.

    It certainly makes me think when you say your running costs have gone down by 80%. No heat into the aquarium either.

    The amount of money it cost you is very reasonable. Commercial arrays cost about $1500 give or take for a medium one.

    The lights used on reef arrays are white (and blue), but for anyone considering DIY your comments are very useful. I really like the controls you have on the system.

    Very glad that your reef is such a success!

  3. Hi Tahir,

    Excellent comment and very much appreciated.

    I wonder if you would be willing to write a short article on this detailing what you did – with pictures if possible so that our readers can benefit.



  4. Dear Peter,
    Thanks for lovely comments which I considered greatly. The LED lighting which I had designed and developed was given to friend of mine who has taken it to the USA and I can’t get hold of him after several attempts. I am currently using metal halide for my reef tank and waiting for LEDs to be delivered from China so I can develop a new lighting system. Once I have received all relevant parts which require a lot of research (lowest prices) and best quality, then lighting system hopefully be completed and running by the end August 2008. I will be more than happy to help readers and how to setup their own LED lighting system step by step. I will also enclose all the technical information and all relevant pictures. I am setting up a company which will be developing this lighting system in the UK. Once all the design and legal obligations are completed, I will be offering complete finished product to reef hobbyist. Meantime if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Tahir Iqbal

  5. Hi.

    All the best in your endeavours. We hope everything goes to plan and turns out well.

    Once you are all sorted out, if you wish to complete an article as Peter suggested, then just contact Peter or me and we’ll get it organised.

    An article on the design, step by step building and use of LED’s would be great!

  6. hi, Tahir Iqbal i need help with led light could you help

  7. How can I help?

  8. send me e-mail to my yahoo account and I will be able to answer to some of your questions.

    Kind Regrads

  9. how do i get to your e mail?

  10. i still havent got a respond?

  11. Did you receive Tahirs email I forwarded on to yourself or have you not received a response from Tahir?

  12. not received a response

  13. Hi Mr jones ,

    really sorry been very busy with work hence didnt had a chance to reply to your mail. I will send you a link in China and they be more than happy to assist you on your requirements. They are producing LED pannels for reef setups and are very cheap. I will send you the link first thing in the morning.

  14. Dear Members,

    Please do accept my sincere apology for not being able to write up and give you any clear idea about the knowhow of my home designed LED lighting system which will eliminate the need of Metal Halide lighting system. Personally I have been caught up various business travels and busy schedule hence gave me very little chance to check the forum. I have all the relevant parts ready to be assembled in my garage and hopefully I should finish building the lighting system by the end of October (I wish). I have seen some LED panels on the internet which are very similar to my lighting system but I am not too sure if these panels work with dimmer control or not. I would strongly suggest that you should ask question from the seller about this product and I sense that they should do. You can also can also ask them for the dimmer controls, if not then you can try Ebay for LED dimmer controls. You must bear in mind that dimmer control should not for RGB lights but for those panels. Alternatively you can also try this contact for LED panels as this gentleman can make you any type of LED lighting system to your requirements. I believe all his panels comes in 1 square foot diameter and in one standard panel there are around 256 LED bulbs but he can also fit you around 900 LEDs in same space but you have to pay the price for it. I think the cost for256 LED panel is around 35 British Pound Sterling and for the 900 LEDs per square foot is around £80. He can also put in arrays of moonlight blue leds in the same panel but you have to ask him about that. I think he is the cheapest in the market and local too and this helps a lot if you need to ask any technical question. I hope this help is good enough and if you still need to see my lighting system then you may have to give me little more time. All the best and if you have any suggestions then I be more than glad to take them onboard for my future projects.

    Tahir Iqbal.


    Business Seller Information

    X-Pressive Design Ltd.
    Jonah Williams
    Suite M – Sovereign House
    5 Poppins Court
    London, London
    United Kingdom
    Phone: 0208|1444487
    Email: [email protected]

  15. Yes, I have what you need! Totally variable and adjustable LED arrays for reef tank lighting.. Exact moon cycle times and intensities and so much more. Check them out!


  16. Hi Greg, What brand or wattage of Each LEDs are you using in your lighting fixture? Is there any PAR reading available or any customer comments?? Also, if connected to GHL then how does it work? Does it take commands from GHL computer and disable its own dimming hardware?
    Would love to test your system but cost is pretty steep……lol
    Any feedback would be highly appreciated..

  17. Cree demonstrated 208 Lumens per watt recently and I hear an announcement is due soon re 230 Lumens per watt. A facility is being constructed for Fall delivery of 200 Lumen per watt devices.
    You might be getting a replacement for halide at 1/4 the electric bill very soon.

  18. Surely time has moved ON and opened new avenues for all of us. Cree’s XP-G (R5 BIN) for the white and Cree’s XR-E for the royal blue are the best option available on the market amongst others. My newly designed single PCB board running 12 x Cree XP-G and 12 x Cree XR-E with touch screen controller can be seen on RC very shortly. You could also see some of my work on NANO-reef.com, thread is under the title (Mother of all LED projects). I think we never stop getting better and better LEDs so as the LED DIY projects…. I would be very doubtful if these 200 lumen per watt LED be widely available to the regular consumer very shortly and if it does, price would be sky high.

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