Things to Consider When Choosing a Lighting System

Discussion in 'Aquarium Lighting By Dana Riddle' started by Dana Riddle, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Dana Riddle

    Dana Riddle Well-Known Member Staff Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Expert Contributor Article Contributor

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    My Thoughts on Reef Aquarium Lighting

    Generally, I avoid answering questions such as ‘Which light is best?’ or ‘Need advice on lighting.’ Let me explain why and provide some thoughts.

    Will ‘T5’ lamps adequately light a reef aquarium. Yes (T12s too, for that matter.) Metal halides? Of course! LEDs? You bet. As I stated in my book ‘The Captive Reef’ (published 20 years ago), almost any light source will provide adequate radiation to support photosynthesis in corals, Tridacna clams, and marine algae. But no light is perfect (even sunlight can create a hostile environment in which some animals cannot thrive.)

    Requests sometimes ask if ‘Brand X’ is suitable. Although I have tested lights for years, I have not tested every light currently on the market. These sorts of requests are best answered by those with experience with that particular brand.

    To properly address the proper application of any light source, we must consider many things, including:

    · Will the aquarium house only fish, or fish and corals and other photosynthetic invertebrates?

    · If maintaining corals and other invertebrates, which ones? Some animals (such as some false corals) thrive in low light, while at least some Tridacna clams can use as much light as is generally possible in an aquarium.

    · Can you check and monitor light intensity? Best done with a PAR (quantum) meter, although a lux meter is better than not checking at all.

    · Aquarium size (LxWxD)

    · What sort of lighting do you plan to use (LED, metal halide, fluorescent (T5, HO, VHO, regular output, mix of any of these.)

    · How many lamps, especially fluorescent and metal halide lamps.

    · What wattage?

    · Length of fluorescent lamps.

    · If metal halide, is it single-ended (mogul screw-in base) or double-ended?

    · Is your metal halide lamp rated for its burn position? Some metal halide lamps’ ID

    includes a ‘U’ for universal burn position – it can be placed in a horizontal or pendent fixture. Others are designed to operate in a given position (‘BU’ for base up’ or ‘BD’ – I’ve never seen one of those in an aquarium application!)

    · What spectrum? If LEDs, are they Royal Blue, Warm White, Red, etc. If metal halide, what Kelvin? If fluorescent lamps, what is the brand and trade name of the lamp (Brand X Super Actinic, Brand X Sunlight Plus, etc.)

    · If using LEDs, are they dimmable?

    · What sort of luminaire (fixture) will you use? This is especially important with metal halide lamps – pendent fixtures (with the lamp mounted base up) usually focuses light in a tight circular pattern resulting in higher light levels.

    · What sort of ballast will you use? Standard? Electronic? Some ballasts overdrive lamps thus creating more light (and possibly reducing the life of the lamp.)

    · How high will the luminaire be off the water surface?

    · What is the geometry of the luminaire. This is important! Narrow fixtures focus light and wide ones diffuse it.

    · What is the reflector material? Is it painted white? Brushed aluminum? Polished aluminum? Dimpled aluminum? Stainless steel?

    · Does the luminaire have a ‘splash guard’? What is it made of? Glass? Acrylic?

    · How old is the splash guard? If plastic, has it yellowed due to exposure to UV radiation or warped due to excessive heat?

    · Is the splash guard easily cleaned? Salt spray can cake upon a splash guard and reduce light transmission.

    · How is heat dissipated from the luminaire? Fluorescent tubes are designed to operate maximally at a given temperature. Temperature affects internal pressure, which, in turn, affects the quantity of light produced.

    · Is the luminaire simply vented, or is a fan used for cooling?

    · If a fan is used, can you easily monitor it for proper operation? Heat is the enemy of light production by fluorescent lamps and LEDs.

    · Is the luminaire housed within a hood?

    · If using lamps that produce a lot of heat (such as metal halides and, to a lesser degree, fluorescent lamps), how will you deal with possible heat transfer to the aquarium water (room air conditioner, chiller, etc.)

    · What sort of water moving devices will you use? Water surface agitation causes waves that can focus light in what most hobbyists call ‘glitter lines.’ Water motion can also affect the rate of photosynthesis.

    · Do you plan to monitor alkalinity? This parameter can influence the rate of photosynthesis.

    · Will you feed the corals? Feeding (heterotrophy) can lessen the coral’s reliance on ‘food’ provided by photosynthesis (phototrophy.)

    · What color will the corals be? Darkly colored corals (brown) absorb more heat than lightly colored ones. This can happen in an aquarium using lights that produce a lot of heat.

    · Are you willing to perform water changes (or use and maintain activated carbon) in order to minimize ‘yellowing’ of the water? Yellow water absorbs blue light thus reducing the amount of PAR available to the animals/plants.

    · If using fluorescent lamps, do you plan to turn them on and off several times a day (in an attempt to mimic daily natural light intensity patterns? Each on/off cycle damages the tube’s anode/cathode (called ‘sputtering’) and coats its internal surface with metal particles. This is most apparent as a black ring at the ends of the tube in old lamps.) Can you bear the expense of changing the lamps more often than generally recommended?
     
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  2. Flippers4pups

    Flippers4pups Fins up since 1993 R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor

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    Awesome info, Dana!
     
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  3. Dana Riddle

    Dana Riddle Well-Known Member Staff Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Expert Contributor Article Contributor

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    Thank you!
     
  4. reefwiser

    reefwiser LMAS R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Great Info Dana.:) Looking forward to Tullio's talk at MACNA this year.:)
     
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  5. Angel125

    Angel125 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah man good info there. Thanks!
     
  6. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Thank you Dana!
     
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  7. Salty1962

    Salty1962 Wrasse and SPS Lover R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Thank you Dana. I have a question, Have you found the luminescence of corals to be effected when corals are fed verses their reliance on phototrophy?
    Thx
     
  8. Mark Gray

    Mark Gray Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2018

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    Good info good questions thanks
     
  9. Fin

    Fin Let the Fin Begin! R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Louisiana Reef Club

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    Great info! Thanks for sharing.
     
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  10. Atif

    Atif Well-Known Member

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    It's really good info
     
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  11. mdbannister

    mdbannister Ahh...the Reef Life Staff Member Team R2R R2R Excellence Award SCMAS Member Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Bumping this because it's really good info!
     
  12. Dana Riddle

    Dana Riddle Well-Known Member Staff Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Expert Contributor Article Contributor

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    Sorry for the late reply... Zoox concentrations, as seen under a microscope, are concentrated around the polyps of SPS corals (naturally enough, it is where the nutrients from digested foods are.) I've done some work with coral feeding and found that coloration remained even when the zoox populations increased (again, mainly around the polyps.) Not an exhaustive study by any means, but it is a start. I plan to work on effects of nutrients and hope to have that info ready for a presentation at MACNA in Las Vegas.
     
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  13. Salty1962

    Salty1962 Wrasse and SPS Lover R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Thank you Sir!
     
  14. Jeff Shaw

    Jeff Shaw Member

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    As a new guy to lighting and reading this...all I see is an info dump and no real answers, just a bunch of questions. Even if I went down and answered every question on this list...I still don't end up with an answer to what light to use...or even a general idea of what's better in my scenario.

    With that criticism, I'll make a suggestion. If there is interest in helping to get people started, how about a basics of lighting 101 that has general descriptions with pros and cons of lighting types and maybe some example scenarios with appropriate lighting?

    Just a thought. Thanks.
     
  15. Reef4Rose

    Reef4Rose Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Some of your list is helpful and other parts are general information with no stated pro or con to its application. I appreciate you sharing knowledge. I respect your position on not recommending a brand. Most helpful certainly to me and Mr. Shaw and I am sure others as well would be what characteristics to look for in lighting equipment specifically for the best overall impact on our tanks. There are so many variables and equipment available. Cheap, expensive and every type and lamp in between. So if all light will provide basic needs for corals I'll just go get half a dozen LED aquarium flood bulbs for 20 each. Seriously though I am at that point of choosing a good light to start with. Will start out with fish only and gradually introduce corals. So with the questions some answers or impact of various characteristics would be great.
     
  16. sghera64

    sghera64 Well-Known Member

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    If you two would kindly post your aquarium system requirements & specifications, and please post what you would like to experience from keeping a system with the type of clarity that you sought in Dana's article, I'm almost certain the reef-community here will do its best to offer suggestions. What also helps us help you is to know of any limitations or aversions you might have (cost, turn-offs, available time for learning curve - or patience).

    I think you'll find that here on R2R, we typically have more answers than questions (i.e. healthy debate). For that reason, I really appreciate the critical thinking @Dana Riddle promotes with his questions. However, I can understand how those eager to get started really appreciate answers to their specific questions.

    Welcome to the hobby!
     
  17. Grey Guy

    Grey Guy Well-Known Member

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    O.K. I just watched a speaker at Macna that scientifically proves that Porites (SPS) grow fastest at about 100 PAR. What is going on?
     
  18. Reef4Rose

    Reef4Rose Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Frankly I don't know my system requirements yet. I am researching and gathering knowledge and information. Tank specifications are 250 gallons 78.75Lx31.5Dx23.5 H.

    I have not selected the corals I would like to start with. Corals are beautiful and will surely put them in the tank. Lighting pricing seems rediculously expensive. As a Photographer I get the technology that goes into lighting. There is such a varied opinion of how much is too much or too little as far as PAR goes. What I do know is fish will come first with corals coming into the system once I feel comfortable.

    I don't want to get something in the meantime that will make do for now and rebuy later for corals. So in a nutshell I am looking for a good all purpose light. Kessil seems interesting as I can add pendents as I grow and introduce specimens. There are good quality bulbs out there but not much information on them. So like many I am looking for most bang for the buck. LED or LED T5 combo maybe.

    Dana's article is great on one hand but it raises a lot of points with no voncludion or benefit or harm from various characteristics.

    Any advice opinions or recommendations would be appreciated.
     
  19. crabs_mcjones

    crabs_mcjones I was a drab little crab once R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor

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    Good read and good info. Thanks!
     
  20. chipmunkofdoom2

    chipmunkofdoom2 Well-Known Member

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    That was Dana Riddle, for sure (video can be found here for those interested).

    I wouldn't go as far as to say that Dana's findings "scientifically prove" that Porites corals only need 100 PAR to grow. I don't think Dana's message was that the perfect PAR for all Porites is 100 (Dana, please correct me if I'm incorrect. I don't want to put words in your mouth). Dana's research simply observed that for those particular animals in those particular tide pools in that region of the world (Hawaii, if I recall correctly), 100 PAR was the saturation point in terms of photosynthesis. There could potentially be porites species in other areas of the world that reach saturation at higher PAR levels. Additionally, porites corals you purchase in the hobby, especially if they're aquacultured or have been living in captivity a long time, may have become acclimated to higher intensity light sources: their saturation point is likely much different than the animals Dana was describing.

    I think the usable insight we can gain from Dana's work is that more PAR is not always better. In fact, when the light intensity gets too high, photosynthesis can shut down. In addition to intensity, photoperiod, spectrum and water quality are all very important to the growth and health of the corals.
     
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