Easiest/hardest tank sizes to light?

mjw011689

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Hello everyone, been out of the hobby for quite a while but looking at getting back in now that I own a house. I’m trying to plan everything out ahead of time so I don’t purchase a tank that’s impossible to light.

which tank sizes should I aim for or avoid as far as being able to light them adequately?

I’m wanting at least a 125g tank, larger would always be better, space isn’t really an issue. I’m probably not looking to do a ton of sps, I’ve always been more into lps and softies, But I’m more concerned with which size tanks I’m going to have trouble lighting. A standard 125 is 5ft if I remember correctly. What would be a solid lighting option for this size? I’m outdated on my knowledge of the newer LED lighting, that was all pretty new when I last had a reef tank.

Also, is LED genuinely better than MH or t5HO? I’ve had both of those and have had outstanding growth with both when using the good setups. I understand LED is much cooler (not too concerned with that) and obviously takes less power, but is the growth from a good LED in a larger reef as good as I’d get from a good MH, and is it cost effective to achive
 
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Bpb

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First and foremost. People will almost always swear by what they have settled on. MH folks will swear MH is king and there will be zero convincing otherwise. You will almost never convince an LED user that their present choice isn’t the most ideal as well. So take those types of recommendations with a grain of salt. T5 is a bit of a chameleon and can go well with either or alone on its own merit.

A standard 125 will be 72”x18”. A touch on the narrow side relative to its length.

There are so many wonderful lighting options now there is no single most difficult dimension to illuminate because there’s a great solution for basically anything.

A long and narrow tank like a 125 would be most efficiently lit by strips of leds or t5 lights. Ati, aquatic life, giesemann, reef brite, and Orphek are all good options thst come to mind. Led panels or metal halide pendants can work, but bear in mind those are designed to illuminate as wide as they are long. More of a spherical or cuboidal shaped light footprint so you will be running into shadows between pendants which is undesirable to me
 

BradB

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If you are "not looking to do a ton of sps" and "always been more into lps and softies", I really don't think MH is worth considering. I have DIY LEDs over SPS, so I've made up my mind, but heard plenty of debate from SPS keeping MH users. I can't remember any LPS/softy keeper debating MH is better.

Some people swear MH either grows Acropora faster or gives better coloration. Without getting into that debate, I seriously doubt any soft coral or LPS is going to look much different - obviously 20k blues will look different than 7k daylights, but 20k LEDs will look like 20k halides and daylight LEDs will look like daylight halides. Almost every soft coral will grow faster than you want, and many LPS will hardly grow at all and probably not faster/slower depending on light.

The trade offs are replacement bulb/fixture costs - which I'd argue favors LEDs but some might argue the other way. Electricity will be less with LEDs and so will the amount of heat in the water. LEDs are 'set and forget' while MH are a bulb change twice a year.

Tank shape is a factor for MH - wider is easier. But really a non-factor for LEDs.
 

nereefpat

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Hello everyone, been out of the hobby for quite a while but looking at getting back in now that I own a house. I’m trying to plan everything out ahead of time so I don’t purchase a tank that’s impossible to light.

which tank sizes should I aim for or avoid as far as being able to light them adequately?

I’m wanting at least a 125g tank, larger would always be better, space isn’t really an issue. I’m probably not looking to do a ton of sps, I’ve always been more into lps and softies, But I’m more concerned with which size tanks I’m going to have trouble lighting. A standard 125 is 5ft if I remember correctly.
I think it's pretty smart of you for thinking about how to light a tank before you decide on tank size. Most people pick the tank dimensions they want, and then have to figure out how to light it properly...sometimes that's a challenge.

I wouldn't ever pick a tank more than about 30" wide (back to front), for example. Especially if using LEDs, now you're looking at 2 rows of lights. Tanks longer than 4-5 foot can scale, but that takes some planning as well. The longest T5 fixtures are 5', so a 6' tank is max length there unless you want multiple fixtures. 6' tank also are harder to get adequate flow, unless you put powerheads on the back wall...Lots to think about.

I think the easiest tank to light in that 125 gallon range might be the standard 120, at 4x2x2. That could be accomplished a number of ways. 2 halide pendants, 6 bulb T5 fixture, or there are LED options too.
Also, is LED genuinely better than MH or t5HO? I’ve had both of those and have had outstanding growth with both when using the good setups. I understand LED is much cooler (not too concerned with that) and obviously takes less power, but is the growth from a good LED in a larger reef as good as I’d get from a good MH, and is it cost effective to achive
No, LED isn't genuinely better. Lots of people go that way, and there are situations that it makes sense for various reasons. Retailers will certainly push you that way. There are lots of people that like T5 or Halide better than LEDs.

You can achieve good growth and little shading on large tanks with LEDs, but it takes planning. Mostly, it just takes a lot of fixtures. As far as cost effectiveness: when I pencil it out, as tanks get larger the more it makes sense to not go LED...Although 'black boxes' can be cheap and powerful.

Are you leaning towards a certain light?
 
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mjw011689

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Thanks for all the replies everyone.


Are you leaning towards a certain light?

I’m personally kind of in favor of the MH, but that’s probably because I saw the best growth in all my tanks with corals under a good 20k mh. That being said, my soft corals in particular did amazing under a 4x39 t5 ho in a 40 breeder that I had years ago. That light had great color and everything, but not quite that natural shimmer you get from mh either. So I’m torn.

I don’t mind doing something new either though. So for sake of argument, if I did a standard 125, how would you light it with led? How would you light it with MH? The t5 is easier since they’d go the whole length more or less and basically as many bulbs as possible from front to back.
 
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Another major consideration is how you mount the lights. When I started, most tanks had huge elaborate canopies. DIY LED lets me have a tiny thin canopy, which I like a lot. But hanging pendants with no canopy is the most popular right now.

For a 125, assuming I had 2 braces going across, I'd be tempted to use 3 fixtures (assuming I wasn't going DIY). Radion XR30 G5 PRO LEDs would be the top end for LED or 3 halide fixtures (probably 250 watts). For halides, the bulb matters more than the fixture, and you can change your mind later since they only last 9 months. But for LEDs, you can programmatically adjust the spectrum to do almost the same thing.

To cut costs for LED, I'd consider Viparspectra, MarsAqua or any of any number of generic LED fixtures. These work just fine, but won't look quite as nice and considering longevity or efficiency the cost difference is not as bad.

To cut costs for MH, I'd consider 2 fixtures, especially if my bracing wasn't set up to 3. A 125 might be the worst tank for low budget halides, as replacing 175 watt bulbs is just as expensive as 400 watt bulbs.
 

nereefpat

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I don’t mind doing something new either though. So for sake of argument, if I did a standard 125, how would you light it with led? How would you light it with MH? The t5 is easier since they’d go the whole length more or less and basically as many bulbs as possible from front to back.
If I had to use LEDs on a 125...I would probably get 4-6 black boxes or 4-6 Noopsyche K7s. I'm probably not the best person for LED advice, as I have run T5 only for the last 10 years or so on my 6' 125.

MH, I would just get 3 150-250 watt pendants. I would either choose the Phoenix 14K or 20K hamiltons. The radiums are a little spendy. A 5' 6 bulb T5 would be 'easy button' too, but not everyone likes the flat look.

If I were going to start over with my 6' 125, I'm not sure. If I didn't already have my T5 fixture, those are expensive to purchase, so again...not sure. I'd be torn between 3 halides or a 5' T5 or a bunch of Noopsyche I think.
 
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mjw011689

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Thanks again. Now let’s say I do a 120 instead (the 48”), how would you change to that. Would a single 250w be enough or would I have some dead space on the sides? And same with LED, what would that look like on a standard 120?
 

BradB

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A standard 120 was my first real tank - it has a plastic brace right across the middle. A single 250w halide right over top melts the plastic and cracks the glass. This is why I asked about bracing. If I were back 20 years ago with the same tank I would do either 2x250 or 2x400 halides.

Personally, I don't mind "dead space", I think it looks natural like light shining through a gap in the reef above. 1 fixture (either MH or most LEDs) over 4 feet will give you noticeable "dead space" and even 2 won't give you perfectly even lighting.

A 48" T5 fixture works really well if you want perfectly even lighting. As "nereefpat" said, not everyone likes the "flat" look.
 

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Halides and T5 as a hybrid are the absolute gold standard. The all time best looking tanks are and have been grown under them. The entire goal of LED design is to perform as well as that combination. Some do some don't perform to that end. I don't think there are many that will argue LED is better for growth and real colors compared to the old stuff. Now pros/cons on costs, heat, customization, efficiency, ability to manipulate flourescence, well we have an entire forum for that argument.
 
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nereefpat

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Thanks again. Now let’s say I do a 120 instead (the 48”), how would you change to that. Would a single 250w be enough or would I have some dead space on the sides? And same with LED, what would that look like on a standard 120?
2 halide pendants
or 4' T5
or LEDs: I would probably start with 2 black boxes or 4 Noopsyche K7s, but there's lots of different opinions on that. You might try to decide if you want LEDs, and then narrow down your options from there if that's the way you want to go.
 
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mjw011689

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I think I’m definitely leaning towards some MH pendants. I may even toss around the mh t5 combo. What are the name brands to look for these days for mh ballasts and pendants? And same with t5. I vaguely remember my old t5 retro kit from an online dealer but can’t remember where. I know it was a popular one and can’t think of the name! But for that matter, how about bulbs? I’m thinking I remember the Phoenix 14k bulb being a good one that most people thought was more like a 20k blue look to it? Or is that wrong?
 

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I think I’m definitely leaning towards some MH pendants. I may even toss around the mh t5 combo. What are the name brands to look for these days for mh ballasts and pendants? And same with t5. I vaguely remember my old t5 retro kit from an online dealer but can’t remember where. I know it was a popular one and can’t think of the name! But for that matter, how about bulbs? I’m thinking I remember the Phoenix 14k bulb being a good one that most people thought was more like a 20k blue look to it? Or is that wrong?

Reef brite, Hamilton, and giesemann are pretty much the last existing options unless you search the used horticulture market locally
 

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I will say that with current lights, mounting them onto a eurobraced tank is a serious pain these days without a canopy or hanging from the ceiling.

Non-eurobraced tanks are stupid-easy to mount lights. Everybody has simple pendant mounting system that just clamps on without any fuss.
 
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