As is the case with automobile and home lighting systems, LED lighting systems for saltwater aquariums have become very popular among aquarists over the last few years. These systems have some very good points to them, especially if you invest in a quality light strip. But there are also some issues to be aware of when using LED lighting in your aquarium.
The Benefits of LED Lighting for Aquariums
LED lighting systems are more cost effective in two ways. First, an LED bulb provides seven to eight times more wattage per bulb than other types of aquarium lighting, such as halide and T5HO bulbs. What this means is that you get the same amount of light from a 30 watt LED bulb as you will see from a 250 watt halide bulb. This can create a significant savings on your monthly electric bill. Second, LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours. Although you pay more initially for the LED bulb, you may not have to replace it for seven years, as compared with the yearly cost of replacement of a T5HO or halide bulb. The LED aquarium lighting system packs all these savings into a small space, because LED systems are more compact than other aquarium lighting.
The quality of the LED lighting is also a great reason to invest in this system. LED aquarium lighting can deliver up to 10,000K of lighting, which is enough to stimulate growth in corals and aquarium plants. Also, you have a wide variety of choices in colors with an LED system. When this is combined with computer programming, it can create an aquarium that either shimmers like it is located in the ocean, or the lighting accentuates the colors of the fish and corals for an extraordinary show.
What to Look for in an LED Aquarium Light
One aspect of a good LED aquarium lighting system to look for is whether or not it has a way to cool itself off in order to extend the life of the LED bulbs. This cooling can either be passive or active. The Maxspect Razor R420R uses an aerodynamic design to naturally draw cooler air from beneath the system and through the slim body of the fixture to passively cool the lights. In the case of the Ecotech Marine XR30w Pro Gen3 model, a fan is built into the center of the light strip to provide necessary cooling for the LEDs.
Another item to look for when choosing an LED light fixture is the spectrum range of the lights. You want your system to provide the entire light spectrum your plants, animals, and corals need in order to thrive as if they were in their natural habitat. In the case of the AquaIllumination AI Hydra FiftyTwo LED System, your aquarium organisms can receive a full spectrum of light that is greater than visible light. If you feel that might be a bit much for your setup, AquaIllumination also makes an AI Hydra TwentySix LED system, which has half the bulbs of the FiftyTwo model, but still uses 80 degree lenses to spread the light to best advantage, as well as providing 90 percent LED optical efficiency.
Things to Avoid When Using LED Aquarium Lights
There are a few things you need to be aware of before setting up your own LED lighting in your aquarium. Heat is one item. Although LED lights do not release nearly as much heat into an aquarium system as metal halides or T5HO bulbs do, they are susceptible to reduced lifespan in the presence of heat. Therefore, LEDs should not be used next to halides, fluorescent, or T5HO bulbs, because of the exposure to heat.
Do not get your LED system wet. Although aquarium LED systems are water resistant, they can’t take being dropped into the aquarium. The result will be corrosion and shorting of the circuit board. You also need to control the mineral deposits that can develop on LED light systems for the same reason. Marine aquarium salts can corrode your light system, unless the salts are cleaned off regularly.
Finally, you need to introduce LED lights slowly to coral reef aquariums. These lights can be intensely bright. If bright LEDs are introduced too quickly, corals can sometimes react to the change by expelling their zooxanthellae, leaving behind a bleached coral with no sign of life.