LED and T2 Aquarium Lights; Including Reef and Planted
LED and T2 Aquarium Lights for Freshwater and Marine Reef Tanks
The LED and T2 as of this post, are probably the best two aquarium lights in terms of output of useful light energy per watts used
Reference: Aquarium Lighting; Fact & Information
These two lights have lagged behind many other light types such as T5 or CFL in popularity. However of late both have become more popular with the LED really taking off, albeit often with low quality models such as the Finnex (the Finnex only has a 180 day warranty and a VERY poor PUR output).
The T2 has also taken off, but not as much as the LED, and primarily only with planted aquarium enthusiasts looking for a compact, high output per wattage light, and then mostly for aquariums under 75 gallons.
There is still a lot of misunderstanding about both of these lights (along with the other excellent light that is popular in greenhouses, but is still sadly not well known in the aquarium hobby/industry; the SHO light).
In the case of the LED, many still cannot get past the watts per gallon rule of thumb that is badly outdated and cannot be even applied between different brands such as the Finnex versus the GroBeam LED.
As well, the other aspect that slows the popularity is cost of the better LED fixtures (which is certainly more understandable).
However, when one considers the 50,000 hour lifespan, 5 year warranty, and the operating costs that are generally 1/3 or less of many popular CFLs, this is not truly the barrier it is often made out to be. Although up front costs to acquire many of the better/best LED Systems such as the “Top of the Line” TMC Aqua Ray LED Aquarium Lights certainly can still be a hurdle for those on a budget.
It is also noteworthy that most brands of LED only have a 180 day warranty (such as the before mentioned Finnex) to a 1 year warranty (such as the EcoTech). So this too can be a barrier for those attempting to amortize out the cost over the life of the product
This is where the newest generation T2 light systems shine.
Although the output per energy used of the newer lights is not at the same level of an LED, it is an improvement over the still excellent but lower output per watts used T5 lights.
As well, the T2 is a considerable improvement over many CFLs and even more so over standard T8 and T12 lights.
The advantage of the T2 is cost of many of the fixtures priced around $30 usd., as compared to the $130 usd plus for the better LED systems.
The tank picture to the left is of a 20 gallon aquarium and has ONE GroBeam 600 and ONE 13 Watt T2 (model #302) light.
This tank has no added CO2 other than weekly Flourish Excel, as well as Flourish Root tabs and 1/2 doses of Wonder Shells for minerals
The tank below displays 3 10 gallon aquarium that are well lit with JUST ONE 13 Watt 6500K T2 light fixture.
While this would not be enough light for a "high light" planted aquarium (but is ample light for a fish only or lower light planted aquarium), this picture demonstrates just how much light these unique but unfortunately under rated fixtures produce for so little input energy!!
Recommended Product Resources:
*T2 Aquarium Light Fixtures, for Marine, Freshwater Tanks
*TMC Aquaray, GroBeam High PUR Aquarium LED Lighting
*SeaChem Flourish Excel
*Wonder Shells from American Aquarium
*SHO Planted Aquarium, Hydroponics Lighting
What sets these Lights Apart from others?
First, I would suggest that readers reference this excellent, well-researched article (as this Fish as Pets post is but an abbreviated summary):
Aquarium Lighting; Information, Facts
Below is a "Top View" of a 150 gallon reef aquarium (which includes Acropora corals) lighted with AquaRay NP 1500 and NP 2000 LED tiles, you can make out these tiles in the reflection (click to enlarge).
Here are some important points to consider rather than just the old watts per gallon “rule” only:
• Lumens per watt, PAR (often easiest determined by Kelvin output),
• Lumen focus
• PAR; this parameter reflects the "quanitiy" of light photons
• PUR/ Useful Light Energy; this parameter reflects the "Quality" of light photons as per the photosynthetic application.
• Output in relation to bulb length (this is where T2 and Power Compacts excel).
• Watts per gallon; the reader might note that the watts per gallon, is still viable when comparing apples to apples.
Even with LED Lights, most of those on the market are cheap Chinese knock offs (such as the Marineland Single and Double Bright, as well as the Finnex, Fluval, Evergrow, etc.).
The best of these LED fixtures still use standard emitter bins such as those by Cree that are intended for general use, whether for kitchen lighting or aquarium lighting. But since your kitchen does not require PUR, this can be a problem with these emitter bins that are NOT specifically designed for aquariums, which the VAST MAJORITY ARE NOT!
Even the pricey models such as the Aqua Iluminations and EcoTech draw from the generic bins (which include cool & warm white), albeit generally the newest emitters such as the Cree XT-E.
As well the circuitry of these and many less than optimum LEDs utilize "Current Reduction", instead of the vastly more efficient "PWM" to control their emitters, resulting in spectral changes that lower PUR. These LED fixtures also in the end require fans to expel the excess heat these types of LEDs produce.
Simple grade school science tells one that energy expelled as heat is energy LOST and this will not be used as light energy!!!
Thus, an apples to apples comparison via watts per gallon CANNOT be made between most brands of LEDs.
For instance, the Marineland Double Bright 1 watt emitters do not put out the same useful light energy per watt as an AquaRay or Orphek.
*As an example; when “high PUR” TMC AquaRay LEDs are considered, only .6 watt per gallon for high light planted freshwater and .8 to 1.5 watt per gallon for most reef tanks is needed (only acropora require as high as 1.5 WPG from the TMC AquaRay).
*With new generation 6500K T2 Lights, this watts per gallon for a high light planted aquarium would be about 1.5 (which would mean that two 13 Watt daylight T2 Lights would work for a 15 gallon “high light” planted aquarium)
The first five points are the most important. As well, it is noteworthy that although watts per gallon is still a consideration, it is at best ¼ of what determines a proper aquarium light for a given aquarium.
With this under consideration, one modern LED such as the TMC Aqua Ray LED 12 Watt Aquarium Light Fixtures can produce more useful light energy necessary for live freshwater plants or marine reefs than one older generation T8 or T12 Trichromatic Fluorescent of 20 watts by 4-5 times.
Even modern CFLs require about three times the wattage to produce the same amount of useful light energy.
When it comes to T2 Aquarium Lights, although they still fall short of an LED, these lights still have one of the highest lumens per watt outputs and still produce less yellow/green spectrum light energy than many others (often resulting in less algae growth than even CFL as per controlled tests in freshwater aquaria).
As well, the purchase price is low, they generally last about 10,000 compared to the 8,000 hours of most other fluorescent lights and are available in the most important Kelvin temperature for optimum Planted aquarium PAR; 6400K.
The only short coming of T2s is for larger aquariums, it make take too many of the T2 Fixtures.
With larger aquariums, a SHO, HO LED, or T5 lights may be more practical.
Still, the T2 is quite adaptable and multiple fixtures can be linked together so they require only one outlet. Even for larger aquariums such as a fish only freshwater aquarium, two 13 watt T2 fixtures can easily provide enough light for a 60, 75 and even a 5 foot 100 gallon aquarium for a n excellent savings of energy over standard aquarium lights.
See the comparisons of different lights to pictorially explain these lights:
Please click on Pictures to enlarge
This picture shows the visible light of a 13 Watt T2 with two 15 Watt CFLs (both are 6400K):
This picture demonstrates one of the strengths of an new technology LED Light (Aqua Ray) using a special camera lens;
On the left is one daylight LED (12 Watts).
On the right is two daylight CFL (totaling 30 watts)
Besides the noticeable higher light output with lower watts, the filter on this camera shows the increase of yellow/green light which is useless to most green plants and zooanthellic algae.
Sadly I read many aquarium forums (such as Reef Central) that still do not understand what determines a good LED light; often missing such basic grade school level facts that energy lost as heat is energy that is not going to lighting an aquarium.
Or not understanding the most basics of how a business will charge extra and provide exclusive rights for patents such as in pharmaceuticals, as well as LED emitters. The FACTS are a Cree XT-E cool white or even worse, warm white emitter, is NOT going to produce the same NECESSARY PUR energy as a patented version that is 10,000K!! The extra green and yellow light produces more cyanobacteria growth and results in lower PUR that in turn requires a higher PAR and higher wattage of energy used to produce the same results!!!
As well, many have not even heard of T2 lights (or even SHO Lights), even though the rest of the industrial lighting world has!!
Further Reading from this website:
PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
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Labels: Acropora LED lighting, AquaRay over Acropora, Aquarium Lighting, LED Aquarium Light, LED Aquarium Lighting, LED reef lights, Planted Aquarium Light, Reef Aquarium Light, T2 Aquarium Light, T2 Aquarium Lighting