Discussion in 'TL Reefs' started by TL Reefs, Sep 16, 2017.

The significance of reef tank lighting; a semi-scientific documentary.

With the constant debates about different lights and which is better, I figured I'd share a recent experience. Many people believe lighting is...
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  1. TL Reefs

    TL Reefs Active Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    With the constant debates about different lights and which is better, I figured I'd share a recent experience. Many people believe lighting is everything, and expensive lights will keep expensive corals. Many other people believe that water parameters and husbandry play the biggest role. And the majority of people probably fall somewhere in the middle and agree that you can't value one over the other; they are all important and need to be given equal attention.

    As for us, we have a pretty vast collection of corals in our store and focus more on stable water parameters. We invested in Hydras and ATI T5 lights for our coral tanks and the risks associated with experimenting on our tanks are not very appealing to me. Our set-up works well, and I'm happy to keep it that way for now. Any customer tanks we set up, we usually just build them similar to the store set-up, because we know it works. But we have one reef tank that we service and we initially set it up a little different due to the style of tank. It's a corner tank with a cover, and no room for a sump. But the customer wanted a reef tank, so we did the best we could and put a Reef Octopus HOB skimmer and chose some lights that fit perfectly on the cover.

    Those lights happened to be 2 x 18" Orbit Marine Pros. They are nice lights, with a good passive heatsink, and have independent programmable white and blue channels with sunrise/sunset features. They are bright, and will actually bleach the corals if I turn them up all the way. Corals under them look ok... They don't have that nice pop like other lights with a big peak in the 450nm range. But the corals grew under them and the tank was ok.




    Every week I'd go there to clean the tank, and look at it and think to myself how it looks ok. For the past year or so, ever since installing the tank, I've done this. But I'm not satisfied with ok, and it really bothered me. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and experiment!

    A few weeks ago, I brought a Hydra 26 with me when I went to do the weekly service. I swapped out the lights and... well, I wasn't blown away. It looked ok... The corals looked nicer; there was more pop, but it wasn't worth writing home to Mom about. I wanted to return it to the way it was, because I was worried about what could happen during the week until I came back to clean it again. It's completely automated; the client does not touch the tank, they don't even feed the fish. I was afraid the new lights would shock the corals and I'd come back next week to a bleached white tank that crashed over the weekend. But I took the risk and left the tank for a week. Came back the following Monday, and now I was feeling the breeze. In fact if I hadn't been hanging on, I might have been blown away. This tank had looked meh for so long, I forgot what the corals were supposed to look like. With no changes other than the light, it looked like this after just one week.





    Pretty good! A little algae on the glass, but man look at how puffy everything is! The acan and BTA were almost impossible to see in the first pic, now they are jumping out at you. The elegance is looking quite elegant. And the sinularia is standing up rigid instead of hanging over, limp and wilted. I did my thing, and left it for another week, anxious to see the progress.

    We are now at week three, and there is a bit of an algae bloom. But the corals are darkening up and still getting puffier. I really can't believe the difference.






    I believe this can be used as a fairly reliable case study regarding the effect of different lighting. The tank has been set up and stable for nearly a year. I'm the only person that touches it. It's in a temperature controlled environment. Everything is automated, so no chance of overfeeding or doing something different. Every week I do the same exact thing: vacuum the gravel, scrape the glass, clean the skimmer, and change 15 gallons of water.

    Gotta say, I've convinced myself, maybe sometimes it's a good idea to experiment!
     
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  2. Bouncingsoul39

    Bouncingsoul39 Well-Known Member

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    There is nothing here that's even remotely scientific nor anything that could be considered a case study based on the definitions of those terms. You went from 42 watts of light with simple dome optics to 95 watts of light with high-end optics. Based on the coral placement and depth of the tank, the noticed improvement primarily came from the better light penetration. You could probably replicate the same results with the Orbit LEDs on a shallower tank.
    You don't even mention spectrum or intensity here so someone reading it won't even know what to do to replicate your results. The only thing proven here is that this specific change you made to this specific tank in regards to the lighting was beneficial. I don't think there's anything wrong with the post, it just irks me when things like science and case study are thrown around when hobbyists like Tim Wijgerde, Ph.D. are out there actually doing true scientific studies for the hobby and reporting the results in well thought out and presented articles with real world applicable advice included.
     
  3. jduong916

    jduong916 Active Member

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    A bit harsh, no? I enjoyed the thread. Nice to see what an increase in wattage will do.
     
  4. TL Reefs

    TL Reefs Active Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    Haha, it's all good (and thank you). I think my objective in writing this was just misunderstood by bouncingsoul.

    The title states the intent, and it addresses a question I get every day in the store. People want to buy a simple Marineland strip light for $60 and put a full blown reef under it. There are people on this forum with the same experience level as those asking me about strip lights, and it is mainly that experience level this is intended for. People that haven't done this for years, maybe they're just starting up their tank and want to do it without having to buy equipment 2 or 5 times before they find something that works. But I do believe most of us can enjoy seeing the results, regardless of your experience level.

    It never was my intent to provide a thesis paper or seek a published article that can be compared to something on the level that a person with a Ph.D. would provide. I am not a scientist or doctor. I am a guy who grows lots of corals, and installs and maintains fish tanks. I'll try to elaborate a little on the data, but I don't intend to repeat information that can be found on the manufacturers websites. Or get into such detail as to start discussing particular wavelengths for photosynthesis, PAR vs PUR, etc.

    This is clearly not the same as a BRS study, where they are completely scientific and publish a plethora of numbers, have thousands of dollars in budget, and spend months creating a series of 20-30 minute videos. But it was intended to be a step up from a Mythbusters experiment, where they develop a scenario with a ton of uncontrollable variables while Adam Savage yells "SCIENCE!".

    But it is semi-scientific because the lights were not chosen at random. The specs were compared on the manufacturers websites. I originally chose the Orbit Marine Pro because 2 x 18" fixtures had comparable specs to a hydra, but fit on the tank better, and I thought it would provide better coverage since either light would be placed on the tank cover, and only two inches over the water. I knew the Hydra was rated to put out more power, had 26 high power diodes vs 84 1-3W diodes, and more color channels. But I also knew I wouldn't run it at full power and when comparing the PAR data, it looked pretty close, again making me think the two brands would perform similarly . Published color spectrums are also quite similar, but obviously not the same since the Orbit has fewer color channels.

    Ok, fast forward to the swap. It is 42 watts vs 95 watts only if both fixtures were run at 100%. The orbits were run at 100% blues and 60% whites. My experience had been if I turned the whites up any higher, the corals bleached. And no, I didn't go from 60% to 100% instantly, and expect the tank to adapt. I increased whites by 10% and a week later, they were bleached. Left them there for a few weeks, and they didn't recover, so I turned them back down. The tank had been stable for months with no changes to light schedule when I decided to try the Hydra. It was programmed to peak at 70%, so it is true the light is putting out more power (but not twice as much). And for some reason they aren't bleaching under the Hydras, even though I did no acclimation period when swapping out the lights.

    In my case, I changed one type of light for a similar cost light, and achieved greatly improved results. Neither light is or ever was maxed out, but they are being run at the max that the corals seem to be able to handle. People may read my experience and still choose to go with a strip light. They may have a beautiful reef with a strip light. But they will be the exception, not the majority. The majority will be disappointed. This opinion is evidenced by the above pictures, and by the pile of used strip lights that I have in the back room of my store (right next to the pile of wet-dry sumps and bioballs).
     
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  5. landlocked303

    landlocked303 Member

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    Love seeing the progression over time. It definitely makes a difference! What salt are you using? What settings are you using for the LEDs? How bigs the tank?
     
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  6. Salty1962

    Salty1962 Wrasse and SPS Lover R2R Supporter Reef Squad R2R Excellence Award Build Thread Contributor

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    Good feedback for folks who are unsure of their lighting and what a difference a good light can make unscientific or not. Thx for sharing, someone will find it useful!
     
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  7. ciscomania

    ciscomania Active Member

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    why so hostile? I don't see the need to be so rude. I'm sure it will help some newbies even though it's only a forum post.
     
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  8. AndysReef

    AndysReef Professional Coral Bleacher R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor NJRC Member

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    I am glad I have the right light! The Ai Hydra 26 HD makes my montis pop and my jedi mindrick is growing like weeds! :D
     
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  9. siggy

    siggy Gone Fishing Again R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor

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    Thanks for sharing, nice to see the stark difference in any improvement. The dark knight mentioned wattage output as the reason for the dramatic coral response , my first thought was spectrum from a quality fixture
    If the MORE POWER Philosophy was the magic ticket nobody would be turning down their fixtures or pursuing multi array/channel fixtures.
     
  10. jduong916

    jduong916 Active Member

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    That's assuming you have enough wattage to begin with. Even if you had the perfect spectrum you wouldn't go anywhere without enough gas in the tank. I agree that after you have enough power supplied to the LEDs then things like spectrum, mounting height and controllability will have a much greater effect than an increase of wattage.
     
  11. siggy

    siggy Gone Fishing Again R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor

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    The shop owner was using 2 orbit pro"s that is enough Horse Power , as he stated "will bleach corals" if maxed out. I bought a beamswork chinese box with 2 channels, the whites bleached the rock and melted the Yumas, and the blues alone starved the corals, A cheap light is a cheap light or a Chaito light :p
     
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  12. jduong916

    jduong916 Active Member

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    Now that you mention it. I have no clue why this is, but i have never burnt coral with led lights. I’ve increased my percentages more than 25% at time and never had a coral bleach from it. I always hear time and time again that its easy to bleach sps with leds; even after ramping up only 10%. I know this has to be true but ive never had it happen. Guess im lucky. I had a photon 48 v1 and recently upgraded to mitras lx7. Still not a problem ramping up on either fixture.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  13. Bouncingsoul39

    Bouncingsoul39 Well-Known Member

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    Ya know, people on this site needed to grow a thicker skin and learn to accept real facts and truth when it's spoken. I speak plainly and if your going to say something and call it a semi scientific case study and call it an article you can expect to have your post scrutinized.
    I don't agree that my post was rude or harsh. It was critical. I told it how it is. I also don't agree this will help newbies at all because there are so many things left out in the post for them to draw any important conclusions from. Whatever.
     
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  14. sghera64

    sghera64 Well-Known Member

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    +1


    Case Study: A case study is a "published report about a person, group, or situation that has been studied over time." [Check]

    Science:
    NOUN
    1. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. [Check]

    Science does not have to be fancy. And the author clearly cited his experimental, controlled and independent variables (to the best of his ability). Their hypothesis is actually the classic null hypothesis which I rarely see my my profession: "There will be no difference. Alternative hypothesis, there will be a difference". He posted his raw data in digital image form. He formulated a conclusion based on results (even if not quantified or correct).

    Just because the experiment lacked numerical measurements (beyond time / duration) and there was not statistical analysis, I would agree that it is a bit disrespectful to point to this and tell others aspiring to share their work and studies not to share because its not scientific enough.
     
  15. lickyricky

    lickyricky Red Sea Max E-170 R2R Supporter

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    Can you please tell us what your settings look on the Hydras? I have them as well and its almost impossible to find a good preset.
     
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  16. A. grandis

    A. grandis Valuable Member

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    I'm sorry, but I'm going to open my heart the best way I can here...
    I promise I'm going to be polite!

    I was also shocked while reading the post! Not an article, I agree with Bouncingsoul39.
    I'm not sure if it should be addressed as a "semi-scientific" in any way. LOL!
    I've been thinking a lot lately how the hobby has gone backwards and every day I see things bringing that confirmation in front of my eyes. The whole hype people get from "cartoon names" and LED lighting... The actual behavior people have when meeting others in conferences. The conferences' talks are mostly without any boast in aquarium knowledge at all!! There is more stupid jokes and pictures than anything else!! People are cold and they kinda think they know everything...specially if they have money!! There is no base of truth anymore too. Weird!!!!
    I appreciate people taking the time to write articles by I actually want to learn something with them.
    The writing was poor and nothing more than what a newbie would post anywhere IMHO.
    Im sorry, with all the respect.

    I hope this post can be taken as constructive for future articles here and elsewhere.

    Grandis.
     
  17. mdbannister

    mdbannister Ahh...the Reef Life Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    Guys, if you want to start a separate thread about science and what should or shouldn't be considered science or the "problems in the hobby" etc, feel free. Let's keep this thread on the topic of discussion--the user's experience with the lighting swap. Thanks.
     
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  18. Jennie

    Jennie Active Member

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    I have these lights as well but can't seem to get a good spectrum to have my corals grow, any feedback would be fantastic. Settings?
     
  19. sghera64

    sghera64 Well-Known Member

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    Stability is all the fashion these days: stable alkalinity, stable temperature, and now stable lighting. Have a read of this article to see what BattleCorals is saying:

    https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/psa-on-the-lamentation-of-the-ocd-leder.357/

    Bottom line: if you are providing enough PAR to feed your corals but they are just not looking great, tune your lighting to what you like aesthetically and then leave the settings alone. You can have dawn/dusk cycles, but simply set them and leave them. I think one exception to all of this is acclimation when first adding a new coral.

    I'm using SBReeflights (a black box and only 60% max on the blues) and I'm doing just what the author wrote. With that, the SPS and LPS' are adjusting to the lighting just fine. Even my coraline algae is coming in stronger month by month (not that I enjoy the new task of having to scrape clean my back glass panel 1x month).

    You should be just fine with your AI Hydra's assuming you are providing enough PAR.
     
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  20. Jennie

    Jennie Active Member

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    Thank you, I will check out that link. Also, I don't know what my par is
     
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