Lighting is very important to the marine aquarium. Fish need light as they respond to ‘daylight’ as they would in the wild, coming out to search for food. Most corals need light to remain healthy, the light ‘feeds’ the zooanthellae. Not only is light needed for corals, it needs to be the correct spectrum and intensity too.
In the list of very important things that effect the success of an aquarium, the number one is the water. It must be the correct density, the correct temperature and clean. If the seawater is poor, then the success of the aquarium will be poor. Fish are not generally bothered by the light spectrum, they just react to it, coming out of their overnight hiding places. Many corals are bothered and must have the correct lighting, both spectrum and intensity.
Up until recently my aquarium has been lit by T8 fluorescent tubes, both white and blue. The blue was used to simulate dawn and dusk, coming on and going off thirty minutes or so before and after the whites. The blues stayed on all the time between ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’. The corals were clearly happy, growing well, including those that needed to be cut (‘fragged’) which after a reasonable period slowly expanded and looked normal. So changing the lighting caused some deep thinking. Will the aquarium be as healthy and attractive?
Normally the fluorescent tubes would be changed at 6 to 9 months to ensure their output did not fall excessively. Not long ago I checked my aquarium notebook and the lights were close to one year old. How did I miss the change! One of the blue lights was certainly starting to fail, it was very pale and subdued.
LED lighting was under consideration and had been for a while. The reliability of the technology had been demonstrated by our house lights being changed to LED to reduce costs. What worried me, as with any aquarist really, was the effect on my aquarium. Also the cost of the house LED bulbs was quite high (they’ve since reduced), would the aquarium LED’s cost a small fortune?
So the next move was research. There are a lot of different makes available, which should I have? Some have the power supply unit provided with them, some not. Some have more bulbs fitted than others. There are tubes, small and large ‘plate’ units, some tubes that hang on the ends of the aquarium with adjustable brackets and some that look a little like desk lamps, clipping to the side of the aquarium and held up by a bendy tube. Then I found some that were described as a direct replacement for fluorescent tubes, both T5 and T8. I’d been very pleased with my Arcadia fluorescent tubes, or at least the effect on my aquarium. These I checked further.
I confirmed that T8 replacement LED tubes were available in the length I required. The tubes were described as ‘marine blue’ and ‘marine white’. Very difficult to choose then! I discovered that the tubes would last up to 50,000 hours. What! No more regular changing then.
The tubes arrived and I fitted them, very easy. The blue tubes and white tubes run through separate timers from separate power units. When the switch was flicked the whites came on straightaway, but the blues didn’t. There has to be something, I thought, but I couldn’t trace a fault. I tried the power unit with one of the removed fluorescent tubes, it didn’t work. So I obtained a new power unit and all was well. Why that power unit failed I don’t know!
The tubes have been on the aquarium for a good while now and they operate as expected. The tubes have lights down one side only (completely understandable!) and need to be positioned with the lights pointing down. I found that it was possible for them to move slightly out of position when I moved the support to which they are attached in order to complete maintenance. To make life a little bit easier I put a small white paint blob on the very top of the tube end fittings so a quick check would confirm the tube positions. Really advanced technicality that.
I had vaguely hoped that front glass algae, which has never been a major problem, would be reduced with the new lights, especially as I had pointed the line of lights on the front tube slightly away from the glass. No, the glass needs cleaning as normal. Not a big deal.
The LED lights are a bit brighter than the previous fluorescents and make the aquarium look very good, outline definition seems a little sharper. The fish look as lovely as ever and the corals are expanded and clearly happy. I’m happy too as the aquarium is good, and as said the tubes last up to 50,000 hours and the electric running costs are lower. Thumbs up!
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