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The Basics (Part 3) - Lighting & Other Equipment

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6. The Basics

Part 3

Lighting and other equipment:


< Last: 5. The Basics (Part 2) Sumps & Pumps | [Index] | Next: 7. Shopping & Buying >



Just as with powerheads, there is a wide variety of light possibilities. There are old technology and cheap Power Compact fluorescents (PC), Very High Output fluorescents (VHO) which are almost gone from the hobby, new high output t5 fluorescents (t5), Metal Halide lights (MH) and finally, the newest and most expensive lighting, Light Emitting Diode (LED). PC and VHO lights are OK for fish only, FOWLR and basic corals. T5 fluorescents can grow most any coral, run fairly cool and although bulbs aren’t as expensive as MH bulbs, they need to be replaced at least 2-3 times more often (about every 6-12 months). MH lights will grow every kind of coral, penetrate deeper tanks and bulbs last 18-30 months. MH systems also come in different powers, commonly from 70watts to 400watts. But the bulbs cost 2-3 times what t5 bulbs cost and they produce a lot of heat… really a lot of heat. And remember the issues we talked about with pumps and powerheads putting heat into the water, well MH lights can be the biggest offender of all. But hard to grow Small Polyp Stony corals (SPS) grow well and deeper in the tank under MH than under t5 lights. So many reefers use MH lights and then work like crazy to keep any additional heat from getting into the water. LEDs have been around a while now, but they are still very much an evolving product line. At this point (2012) the better, more expensive systems work about as well as MH to grow corals, but there are still some detractors. The good side of LEDs is they run much cooler than MH and bulbs, use less energy and are supposed to last 10+ years. The down side is that good LED systems have a big up front cost of 2 to 4 times a comparable MH system.


And all the popular systems, t5, MH and LEDs come in various colors. What? You think you want just white light? Add a touch of blue and see how much better things look to your eye. And some extra colors help some corals and plants grow better than just white light. And the 3 systems all use slightly different units to explain the various colors. T5s have actinics, 50/50, sunlight and more. MH come in colors defined by ‘color temperature’ which has little to do with how hot they are. There’s 6500 Kelvin which is purple/blue, 10,000 Kelvin (or 10K) which is white, 14,000 Kelvin (14K) which is bluish white, 20,000 Kelvin (20K) which is quite blue/white and there are others. LEDs started as all white, then they started adding some blue leds, then a different shade of blue led, then some other colors like red and green leds and even leds that create ultra violet light that you can’t see, but maybe the corals use. And with the better LED systems you get a controller so you can adjust how much of each color you get and when you get it. Heck, they can even simulate lightning in a thunderstorm (if only they could add in some good sound effects too).


And with lighting, there is almost no limit to what you can do in terms of mixing and matching parts. As an example, my 180g DT has 4MH lights, all 250watts with the end lights being 14K and the center 2 being 10K. Down either side on the MH bulbs are t5 fluorescents that are actinics. Along the front of the canopy are 36 LEDs that are 3w blue bulbs. The blue leds and t5 actinics make some of the corals fluoresce. So they look a bit neon, or glow like white does under a black light. They also make for a sunrise and sunset effect. The leds come on at 6am, the t5 actinics are a little brighter and come on at 6:30am, the 14K MH are quite a bit brighter but still a bit blue and come on a 7am, and finally the MH 10K’s come on at 7:30am adding a lot of white light. And starting at 4pm the whole process runs in reverse and at 5:30pm I’m down to some ambient light in the room and some 1w blue leds that run all night as moonlight. I don’t think the fish or the corals really give a hoot about how cool the sunrise and sunset is. For them it’s more of a lights on and lights off thing. And believe me, the tank goes thru some substantial changes between night and day.


Other Equipment:

There is a lot of other equipment you can buy, and a few you probably should buy sooner rather than later. We’ll get back to them later, but for now, here’s a short list. In the sooner category are a skimmer (it removes protein and some organics from the water), an RO/DI (cleans tap water to the point of being almost like distilled water), TDS meter (Total Dissolved Solids for checking RO/DI water quality) and test kits for checking the water parameters in the aquarium system. The test kits you’ll want at the start are for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, a hydrometer or refractometer for checking salinity and a thermometer for checking water temperature. Of course you’ll need food for the fish, inverts and corals along with salt to mix with the RO/DI water nd maybe even some calcium and alkalinity boosters (more on these later). On the sooner or later list are a carbon/GFO reactor, dosing pumps, chiller (to keep the water temperature below about 82F), heater (to keep water temperatures above 72F) timers (for lights and maybe some pumps), aquarium controller (a computer for your marine aquarium system), calcium reactor, de-nitrator, quarantine tank, test kits to test for levels of alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, copper, iodine, strontium and more.



< Last: 5. The Basics (Part 2) Sumps & Pumps | [Index] | Next: 7. Shopping & Buying >

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