Home | Aquarium Equipment | The Use of Light Rails and Moving Aquarium Lighting in Reef Aquariums

The Use of Light Rails and Moving Aquarium Lighting in Reef Aquariums

The use of light rails, or mechanical light moving devices, has been used for many years in the horticultural industry. Now this technology is available for the aquarium hobby. By moving your light source, you can maximize the potential of an individual light fixture, by covering far more area with maximum light output vs. a stationary light source. Light energy, commonly measured in lumens, dissipates with distance from the light source. The only way to increase coverage area of a fixed light source is to move it farther away from its target area. This may cover a greater area, but will reduce the light energy that reaches the target. The other solution is to use more light fixtures, with more cost, more heat, and increased operating expense. Another problem with stationary light sources are the shadows that are created in the illuminated area, which can create unnatural growth patterns. In nature, as we all know, the sun is not in a fixed position in the sky. Areas that are shaded during parts of the day, may receive light during other times. Using a light rail mimics this natural occurrence, by changing the angle at which the light reaches its target. Areas that may not get any light with a fixed position bulb, will get light when using a moving light source.
Aquariums that require high output lighting, typically metal halide lighting, pose some problems for aquarists. These lights are very expensive to purchase, create a great deal of heat, and are expensive to operate, and replace. Using a moving light source on your reef or live plant aquarium can help solve some of these problems, you can keep your light closer to the water surface, and maximize the light energy that reaches into the aquarium. Another benefit to using a moving light system is the number of light fixtures needed to cover a given area. A six foot long aquarium can be sufficiently covered by two moving metal halide light fixtures, where it would require at least three were they stationary. Less light fixtures means less heat, less operating cost, and fewer bulbs to replace annually and more natural growth patterns.
Using light rails are not going to be practical for all applications. Smaller tanks are not practical to use these systems on, and you need to have the space to install the equipment. Applications such as “in wall” aquariums that have all the equipment hidden from view, and especially large aquariums or coral propagation systems will be able to take better advantage of what the use of light rails has to offer.
Beyond the cost and functional benefits of a light rail system, they are just plain cool to watch. The moving light source over an aquarium creates an ever changing mix of shadows and colors in your aquarium as the angles of light change on the livestock and objects in the aquarium. A moving light system is definitely a gadget geeks kind of device.
Until next blog,
Dave

2 comments

  1. avatar

    It does seem cool.I’d love to know the experiences of a person that actually tried it

  2. avatar

    Light rails work great, I’ve been using them for more than 20 years. They keep hot spots from forming a to some extent they imitate the motion of the sun over a reef, eliminating permanent shadows. They also work great with pendant lights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About Dave Acland

Read other posts by


avatar
After graduating from Coastal Carolina University with a BS in Marine Science in 1996, I started my professional career in 1997 as an aquarist at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was an amazing experience, in which I gained invaluable hands on training in exhibit design and construction, as well as husbandry skills for a wide range of animals. In 2000 I started working at That Fish Place as one of the staff Marine Biologists, with the responsibility of maintaining one of the largest retail fish holding systems in the world. I presently hold the position of Director of Aquatic Science, where I oversee the operation of our 35,000 gallon retail aquarium systems, and provide technical support for our mail-order and retail store customer service staff. As an aquatic product specialist, I also provide support for our purchasing and marketing departments, as well as contribute web content and analysis. As a Hobbyist I acquired my love of aquariums from my father who was keeping a large aquarium in early 70’s, and set up my first aquarium when I was 12 years old. I have now been keeping aquariums for over 35 years, and through this time have kept more aquariums and types of fish than I can remember. I set up my first Saltwater aquarium in 1992, which led me down the path I still follow today.