Choosing aquarium lighting primarily depends upon what you hope to keep in your aquarium. If you are keeping a fish only aquarium then you can provide effective lighting using fluorescent tubes. If you are hoping to keep a reef tank then the corals you hope to keep as well as the depth of the aquarium will determine what lighting requirements you will need.
The majority of soft corals do very well under fluorescent lighting (T5, T8 etc), however if you are serious about keeping a tank full of hard corals then probably metal halide is the best for you. LED lighting is another alternative however for this post will not be covered.
No matter what type of lighting you choose to use there is one thing which you must be using.
So as the title says are all reflectors the same?
Well yes and no.
Yes in the sense that they all reflect light.
No in the sense that they reflect light in different manners.
Aquarium lighting can be quite expensive to run yet it is a necessity in the aquarium. What you are looking for in a reflector is efficiency.
Basically light is emitted from the tube/bulb which is then bounced around inside the reflector and down into the aquarium for your corals etc to utilise as energy.
If you choose a reflector which is poor in design then it will probably reflect the loght over a large surface area, quite often larger than the surface area of the aquarium itself which results in over spill of light into the room where the aquarium is located. This is wasted energy and is definately wasted electricity which is pouring out into the room.
A reflector which is well designed will allow the light to bounce around inside it and then direct it downwards directly into the aquarium in an evenly distributed manner. This type of design will allow for minimal wastage and an evenly spread of light in the aquarium. This type of reflector is also designed so that the light is reflected around the bulb on its way down into the aquarium rather thank through it.
There are various designs which are used – for metal halides the most common of which are the ‘gull wing’ and the ‘diamond’ design. The ‘gull wing’ design is also quite often used on T5 fluorescents. Both of these types of reflectors allow for good reflection of light around the bulb and down into the aquarium in an even spread.
So the answer to the question is that no not all reflectors are the same. After water quality I believe that lighting is the second most important thing. Why waste it by using a reflector which is wasting a lot of the lighting.
At the end of the day it is expensive and required – get it right and get it down into the aquarium.