EcoTech Radion Versus TMC Aqua Ray HO LED Aquarium Lights
See the animated video at the end of this article too
The Aquarium Light market has come a long way since the first LED lights designed to support Reef or planted aquariums came out.
Many of the better ones, such as the Kessil, Aqua Illuminations, EcoTech, and AquaRay are all Reef Capable for most corals and other photosynthetic reef life.
These include these (often promoted for planted freshwater aquariums):
- The Finnex with its inferior Chinese Epistar emitters;
- The “Freshwater Bright LED by Beamworks” with .2 watt per LED (as well as too much algae growing blue for a freshwater aquarium);
- And the "Fluval LED” with 312 emitters providing only 25 watts (with drivers INCAPABLE of regulating voltage over this many emitters, which is essential for spectral output)
Reference: LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting; How they work
The above article has a picture of an office running multiple reef aquariums with multiple AquaRay Reef LED Lights
The AquaRay GroBeam is the vastly superior planted freshwater aquarium light to the three mentioned above! Product Reference: TMC AquaRay LED Aquarium Lights; Including the GroBeam 400, 600, & 1500
See this video for a comparison of the latest generation EcoTech LED Light:
YouTube Video: EcoTech Radion Gen 4 vs. AquaRay LED Review
Comparison of EcoTech XR30w Pro to the AquaRay Reef White 2000 NP Ultima or Ocean Blue NP 1500
- Emitters Used;
The Ecotech uses these emitters:
- White: 8 Cree XT-E Cool White (5w each)
- Red: 4 Osram Oslon SSL Hyper Red, 660nm (3w each)
- Yellow: 2 Osram Oslon SSL Yellow, 590nm (3w each)
- Green: 4 Cree XP-E Green, 520nm (3w each)
- Blue: 8 Cree XP-E Blue, 468nm (3w each)
- Royal Blue: 8 Cree XT-E Royal Blue, 442nm (5w each)
- Indigo: 4 SemiLEDs UV, 415nm (2.5w each)
- Ultraviolet: 4 SemiLEDs UV, 405nm (2.5w each)
While the TMC Ocean Blue 1500 & Reef White 2000 use these emitters:
- 4 Licensed Ocean White XT-E LED (3w each)
- 2 "Fiji Blue" XT-E LEDS (deep blue/indigo) (3w each)
- 4 x Patented NP full spectrum Blue (3w each)
What does this mean?
First while the EcoTech is using generally excellent emitters, the AquaRay is using patented & specifically licensed emitters, including the only emitter designed SPECIFICALLY for marine reef use to obtain the essential full spectrum of required PUR (not just PAR); the Osram Olson NP Blue.
Readers should note that it is PUR that determines light quality for photosynthetic life over just PAR which of course is still an important measurement of light photons. However the many cool eye catching graphs published all around the Internet showing LED lighting PAR readings at various points under said light can be and are often very misleading since a PAR reading of 120 (as an example) could actually provide more PUR than a reading of 150 at the same depth!! Please read on as well as the references for more about the WHYS of PUR vs PAR.
Reference this article including a full reef spectrogram of the Osram Olson NP Blue:
PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED); Spectrographs
As well the EcoTech utilizes green emitters, which certainly make for a pleasing color enhancing light to highlight your prize specimens, these are as much as 80% less efficient for the essential PUR that they need for photosynthetic zooanthalgae (when compared to blue emitters).
Reference this article section, including a graph displaying the considerable difference in emitter PUR output of the cool white emitter used by the EcoTech LED:
Aquarium Lighting; PUR (Useful Light Energy)
Below is a Top View of a reef aquarium with Acropora corals that is lighted with high PUR per wattage used AquaRay NP 1500 and NP 2000 LED tiles. LED light tiles can be seen in the reflection (click to enlarge).
Here is a new "Fish as Pets" article that deals with aquarium myths, including the myth of PAR as a definitive measurement of LED Light quality:
Aquarium Myths; The Myth of PAR as a definitive measurement of Aquarium LED Light energy
- PWM versus Current Reduction:
The EcoTech utilizes inferior current reduction (AKA reduction of current) to control current/voltage in their emitters.
The result is lower spectral quality and actual light energy output, especially when output of lights are lowered for dimming.
As well heat output is increased greatly, which part of the reason for cooling fans. This heat represent input energy that is NOT going to lighting your aquarium; this is a basic scientific FACT!
Aquarium Lighting; PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)
- Price for raw wattage used;
With the EcoTech @ $750 you get the equivalent wattage of four of the AquaRay 1500 models, at a price equal to three.
HOWEVER the actual useful energy output (PUR) is questionable since the EcoTech uses inferior emitters and method of controlling voltage to emitters.
*Exhibit ONE that measures a 150 PAR reading at 12 inches
*Exhibit TWO that measures a 120 PAR reading at 12 inches
However Exhibit ONE produces 50% of its energy in the less efficient green yellow spectrum and the other 50% in the spectrums of photon frequencies that have been proven in studies to be most efficient, while Exhibit TWO uses 100% of energy in the most efficient photon spectrums.
So with the math, this brings down exhibit ONE to essentially 113 useful light energy PAR based using applying a 50% efficiency to the green/yellow spectrums (the actual efficiency is from 20% to 70%, so we are splitting the numbers, meaning the light fixture could be more or even less efficient). Meanwhile exhibit TWO is at 120 useful light energy PAR.
Obviously what appeared to be the inferior light is actually the superior light and likely is more energy efficient besides with less heat loss and no need for a cooling fan due to how the light is driven in its circuitry!!
PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED); Spectrographs
Looking at it another way, the AquaRay NP 2000 produces 380 µMol•m²•sec at 15" of air, while the EcoTech Radion PRO produces 1100 at only 6" of air.
The wattage required for the AquaRay is 30w while the EcoTech is 155w, so the AquaRay is 1/5th of the input wattage.
So if you were to purchase 5 AquaRay NP 2000s, you would have 1900 µMol•m²•sec. This is nearly double at more than twice the air depth.
This means that the EcoTech requires at least TWICE the input wattage to achieve the same PAR!!
So much for efficiency!
In the end, you are spending more on your electrical bill with the EcoTech Radion than with the AquaRay 1500 & 2000 to achieve similar results due to energy wasted to heat and yellow and red light spectrums
This is a simple but telling aspect of quality, as usually a company with a more durable product will have the better product and warranty to back it up.
In this case, the EcoTech only has a 1 year warranty versus 5 years for the AquaRay!!
While this does not prove quality, it is noteworthy that with the AquaRay, if it malfunctions at say 3 years, you will get a new fixture, while with the EcoTech, you will be at best paying for repairs or worse buying a new LED fixture.
It is also noteworthy that their IS a reason for a shorter warranty and that is the FACT the cooling fans required by the EcoTech do break down (I have heard reports of fires, but this is not confirmed), while since the AquaRay does not need a cooling fan due in part to PWM technology, this is NEVER an issue!!
It is also noteworthy that along with the vast majority of aquarium LED lights, the EcoTech does not have the IP67 water resistance rating that the TMC carries.
While the EcoTech is still light years ahead of many Chinese knock-offs sold via Amazon, eBay and others, as well as the lower quality Finnex, Current and others; water issues over time are still a potential problem for all LEDs (TMC included).
However at least having this rating and long warranty that is handled by an experienced retailer in the product protects the buyers investment. For me this alone is a reason to purchase a LED with a 5 year warranty and this rating.
Here is an excellent guide to Aquarium LED warranties and some associated problems:
Aquarium LED Warranties & Problems; Reef or Planted
- Aesthetic Quality of light output
This is more a matter of opinion, but the edge here does go to the EcoTech Radion due to its Ultraviolet, green and red emitters. But this is clearly for us humans, NOT for the corals based on the known science of light energy. The EcoTech Radion PROs may look "cool" (or "pop" as some would say) with their Near UV emitters mixed with green and yellow emitters to balance them out, but everyone of these noted emitters is for human consumption, not corals.
As noted, this makes little difference to most corals, and in fact NONE of these emitters just mentioned add ANYTHING to the ESSENTIAL PUR required by photosynthetic life.
As well the Ultraviolet emitters used do not even register on a PAR emitter, while the green and yellow do, but give a false impression of useful light energy, which is part of the fallacy of relying heavily on PAR meters/readings as a determination of LED fixture quality (which PAR measurements can be VERY misleading when comparing one fixture to another).
Reference: PUR versus PUR in Aquarium Lighting
As the reader can see, it is not rocket science as per the differences between the two.
This again is not to say the EcoTech Radion is not a Reef capable light, far from this; as there are LEDs vastly inferior to the EcoTech Radions that if enough lights are added, will also keep photosynthetic marine life alive too.
However based on the scientific facts and cost of ownership, AND leaving AquaRay out of the comparison, there are clearly better LEDs than EcoTech too (such as the Kessil), as based on both observation and the science provided here.
In my opinion and based on my 35 years in the professional aquarium keeping/design industry (45 in the hobby), the EcoTech has simply done a top notch job of marketing their product so as to convince many forums that anything else other than an EcoTech (or maybe an Aqua Illuminations) are simply junk! I can back this up with many making personal straw man attacks on me in forums sponsored by EcoTech and simply dismissing AquaRays as "Junk".
Simply put, while certainly an excellent reef capable LED, the EcoTech is simply NOT the best as per the known science of photosynthetic reef lighting as I have been taught to interpret science.
If science is important to you, clearly the AquaRay LED is the light for your aquarium. However if if bells & whistles, along with the hype of large reef keeping forums bought and paid for by EcoTech Sponsorships is what you want to believe, by all means join the many other lemmings and purchase an EcoTech LED.
In the end, remember at least one important point, SCIENCE IS NOT A POPULARITY VOTE!
Although the fact that science is not a vote or popularity contest can be difficult to grasp in a world where Social Media is king and where the news media leads by omission.
This Video, while taking a humorous animated approach, also makes a key point about LEDs such as the EcoTech that require a fan since they utilize the inferior Current Reduction drivers.
Please watch it to the end!!
NOW let me explain the main reason for writing this article/post in "Fish as Pets".
As is the mission of this website, in part as defined by a friend, that is to provide aquarium/pond keeping news and to call out inaccuracies often stated in LFS, forums, etc.
In this case I see many forums & local fish stores recommending vastly inferior Fluval, Finnex, and Beamworks LEDs.
As well, even among the many better LEDs, many will believe hype and not the science that the EcoTech is the best LED when the science says otherwise. Also many have attacked my "Aquarium Lighting article directly or in forums as not believable because I sell some of the products noted within the article.
Reference: Aquarium Lighting; In Depth Information
HERE are my answers to the "ad hominem" attacks on my Lighting article as a way to discredit the products recommended there in.
- I have been involved professionally in the aquarium industry since 1978, this includes lighting at its most basic such as using multiple T12 lights over an aquarium in an attempt to get the necessary light energy for the aquarium kept. I found that if you use enough low output lights, you still can get at least some useful light energy
I have experimented and researched over the years, long before LEDs were even invented, with many lighting types and variations within.
- In the original draft of the Lighting article, which was a culmination of this previous work, as well as continually ongoing research, LEDs we mentioned, but not favorably.
WHY? Because they did not meet the criteria laid out in my research, including PUR.
As well cost versus results such as with the Solaris LED were simply not acceptable
- Even with the first versions of the TMC AquaRay, I still was "not sold"
- As my research progressed, as well as from many years of experience, and consultation with others I found that it is PUR, not PAR that was most important.
As well I researched the importance of PWM over Current Reduction for controlling power to each emitter. I also found that many LEDs used off the shelf emitters, such as Warm White or Cool White that were not even intended to be for aquarium reef or planted aquarium life.
- In the end, this led me to the AquaRay line, not because there are not other excellent reef or planted aquarium capable lights, rather that the science behind these as well as my experience told me that these were simply the best per wattage used without all the gimmicks that drive the sales of many.
So to make such a statement that because after 35+ years in the industry, including copious amounts of research that I am not credible because in the end I decided the AquaRay line was the best to sell and use in my sister aquarium maintenance business is TOTALLY LUDICROUS!!
This is analogous to a computer expert who has used PC computers such as the Acer along with Apple laptops in his business, who after much research decided to open an Apple Store, and then is criticized as not a reliable source of information as to the positive attributes to the Apple because he now sells the product.
Similar is said here just as the Acer PC generally gets the job done, it is not of the quality of parts of the Apple. Ditto the EcoTech Radion versus the TMC AquaRay
Further Reading from this website:
PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
For my business bio (with links to my personal bio too):
Carl S. Business Bio
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Premium, second to NONE Aquarium Bio Filters, that with Oolitic Sand also maintain essential marine aquarium calcium levels, alkalinity, & electrolytes that are important to ALL Marine life, Goldfish, African Cichlids, Livebearers & more
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Copyright; Steven Wright & Carl Strohmeyer
Labels: AquaRay, Aquarium LED Lighting, EcoTech Radion, EcoTech XR30w Pro, Finnex LED, Fluval LED, Freshwater Bright LED by Beamworks, Ocean Blue NP 1500 Ultima, Reef LED Light Review, Reef White 2000 NP Ultima