Over the last couple years, I’ve heard much debate over the use of LED lighting for reef aquariums. Has the technology really advanced to the point where LED is a viable option for lighting a reef aquarium, or is it just a fad that has no real substance? Most of the opinions on the subject are heavily influenced dependent on which side you are looking at the technology from. I have been told many times that LED cannot sustain photosynthetic corals. Some believe the light production is not of adequate quality to keep a reef tank long term. Not surprisingly, this has mainly come from manufacturers of traditional lighting sources (T5, PC, Metal Halide), and some have been highly critical of the LED technology. On the other hand, the manufacturers that have invested in LED technology are adamant about the quality and validity of LED lighting. Those on each side of the fence are understandably trying to defend their own interests in the debate between traditional vs. LED lights for use on reef aquaria.
While I find the LED lights to be exciting and visually impressive, I also have a number of friends in the industry that swear by them. I have been waiting to see results before deciding whether or not I fully endorse LED lighting as a viable lighting option for a reef aquarium. I needed to see what it could do with my own eyes, and that is something that would take time. With this goal in mind, and the help of our friend Ike Eigenbrode at Ecoxotic, we set up our first LED aquarium.
In January 2010, I set up our first 100% LED reef aquarium here at TFP. You can see that now, just over a year later, the tank is thriving and looks great. The tank itself is a 67 gallon Current Solana aquarium (48” x 18” x 18”), equipped with two Ecotech Vortech wave pumps for circulation. This is a mixed reef tank, with LPS, Soft Corals, Zoanthids, Bubble Anemones and a few colonies of Montipora (see the difference in the bubbletips from 2010 to 2011).
The lighting uses two 24” Ecoxotic Panorama fixtures, mounted with Ecoxotic’s slick mounting hardware. Each unit uses only 72 watts. We also added an additional 12 watt 453nm actinic Panorama module to each fixture, for a bit more blue color. After more than a year of operation, the system has worked flawlessly. Growth and color for the entire tank has been excellent, and as you can see in the pictures, a few of the corals have grown remarkably. Some have even needed to be trimmed back to stop them from taking over the tank. For those of you who have had the chance to see the tank in the store, I think you would agree that it really is a very pretty display.
Based on our real life experience with LED lighting, I would say so far, so good! The Ecoxotic reef is a success, and with a year under its belt, I feel it is safe to say that LED lights are definitely a viable option for reef tanks. Sorry skeptics!
See more display photos (this tank and others) in our Facebook galleries.
Thanks, I look forward to comments and questions,