Aquarium Lighting FAQ


 

Marine

Do you make aquarium lights?

Yes... we make planted tank and tropical aquarium lights, for a fraction of the price of commercial fixtures.  

 

What lights and spectrums are available?

The aquarium lights we offer are our Make Light series of 3W LED grow lights, with a modified spectrum.  We offer a default freshwater spectrum, and reef/marine spectrum.  If your philosophy differs from ours, we can tweak the spectrum by substituting LEDs.

 

Freshwater

The default spectrum offered is mostly Cool White (6500K), with a sprinkling of blues (i.e. a mixture of four blue LEDs to cover 430-470nm). This approximates a spectrum slightly bluer than 6500K.  Perhaps 8000K. 

2 x Cool White (6500K)
1 x Blue (430-470nm)

 

Reef/Marine

The default spectrum offered is also a ratio of blues and whites.  A spectrum of about 10000K is achieved.

5 x Sky Blue (10000-15000K white)
2 x Royal Blue (450-460nm)
2 x Royal Blue (460-470nm)
1 x Cool White (6500K white)
1 x Warm White (3000K white)

(UV LEDs are optional, for coral tanks)

 

 

Do your lights come with a dimming function?

No... our "Make Light" lights are just on/off switch, wall-plug, so no dimming.  But there are still options.

Mean Well DIY option

We do stock various Mean Well ELG drivers suitable for 3W LEDs.

If you want to use a Mean Well ELG driver instead of the standard drivers, they will allow dimming to about 50% of the total wattage. They are all at least 90%+ efficient, but might cost more, and might not be in stock (like Jojo tanks).

Mean Well 'A' type drivers allow dimming with a screwdriver, and 'B' type drivers allow dimming with either a 100K potentiometer, or a 0-10V signal.  (This allows DIY control from an Arduino, for example, though you would need to boost the 5V line signal up to 10V with an op-amp or transistor.)

PWM 12V/24V controller... ?

If you're using a 12V/24V controller, for dimming control of our LEDs, you would be limited to smaller fixtures, in a DIY capacity.  

Controller

 

If you're using 12V strip light,  these kinds of PWM controllers should work great.  This controller uses PWM, which is like an electronic metronome, switching on and off the circuit.

Would it be possible to just use strips of LED for my aquarium?  Like white and blue colour strips?

Yes, it is an option, but it has limitations.

Strip light LEDs are not very efficient compared to focused 3W LED lights.  For a small tank, you can get away with using Blue and Cool White strips, with the advantage that it works well with 12V PWM controllers.

But if you have a large tank, don't bother with strip light.  The intensity of the light is not suitable for deeper tanks.  

  

 

Can I use 3W LEDs with my controller, instead? 

Yes, 

But you need the total voltage of the LEDs to add up to 24V, (for a 24V power supply), that means either 8 cool whites (for small tank / fresh water), or 2 whites (3000K / 6500K / 10000 K) and 5 blues (for a larger, or marine tank). That should add up close enough to 24V, that it will very likely work just fine. 

Choosing other ratios might work too, but it's statistically less likely.

(If you're wondering why not run 3W LEDs in parallel - you shouldn't run 3W LEDs in parallel, unless there's no possibility of 'thermal runaway'.  Remember an LED is a diode, not a resistor.  It behaves a bit differently).

If you're happy with one of the suggested spectrum ratios, it will probably work out to just about 24V, in practice.

So the easy design is like this, one per 24V channel.  This PCB here is 28cm long, and will probably work just fine, on aluminium extrusion - (and will work better, with a fan, or bigger heatsink)

 

Can I use more than 8 x "3W LED"s with 24V? (Or more than 4, on 12V?)

Using more than 8 x "3W LED"s per 24V channel will require a "step-up/boost converter" to boost voltage to the minimum required by the LEDs, to turn on.

The Mean Well LDD series DC/DC converter allows up to 52V of LEDs in series, or the simpler LM2577 option allows up to 38V of LEDs in series. 

 

Do you make custom aquarium lights?

We can use different heatsinks, and we can tweak the spectrum, but the lights are essentially 20W / 35W / 60W, because those are the standard driver capacities. The cost remains roughly the same, because the larger, 400mm or 500mm (x 100mm) heatsinks are thinner than the standard ones.

We can use a Mean Well driver too, which allows 75W / 100W / 150W / 240W capacities, but that will increase the price of the light substantially.  You also very likely don't need this much light.  

Our LEDs are pretty good.  The whites use the latest Bridgelux dies, achieving 130lm/W.   Approximately 30% more efficient than consumer grade Phillips and Osram LED lights from the supermarket.  That, plus the intensifying power of lenses, makes for a very powerful light. 

Choose the angle lens that best fits the tank.

The customer with the 800x500mm tank in the picture at the top, ordered a custom 75W light, and had to take off the lenses and dim it down to 35W, in the end, because they underestimated the brightness.

 

Are LEDs waterproof?

LEDs, even without secondary lenses, will generally tolerate a splash of fresh water. 

LED drivers, unless marked IP65 or above, will not.  (IP65 means light splash or spray is ok. IP67 means water tight)  So we tend to separate the non-waterproof drivers from the light with at least a 1.5 metre cable, so you can keep it out of the way.  

Salt water is conductive, so it can short LEDs.  Our standard lenses prevent water damage, from splashing, but they shouldn't be immersed.  They shouldn't really be splashed, either, if you can help it, as it can build up salt over time. 

 

What 3W LEDs are available?

Bridgelux (2.8-3V)
10000-15000K sky blue
6500K pure white
3500K warm white
Epileds (3.4-3.8V)
380-390nm UV
Epileds (3.0-3.6V)
430-440nm blue
440-450nm blue
450-460nm royal blue
460-470nm royal blue
Epileds (2.0-2.6V)
620-630nm red
638-642nm red
655-660nm deep red
665-670nm deep red
Epileds (2.0-2.4V)
730-740nm far red

 

Do you have COBs for aquariums?

COB

 

We tested some imported COBs designed specifically for aquariums, like the one above, and they sucked.  Our 3W LEDs measured about double the PAR, over a wider area, compared to it.  Chinese Aquarium COBs are a gimmick.

That said, we do have our flip-chip 6500K COBs, which have a similar efficiency to the 3W LEDs.  If you're willing to do DIY, it's a great, cheap option.

 

What motivates the choices of your default spectrums?

According to various sources, 6500-8500 Kevin lamps produce the best freshwater plant growth.

The light from the noon-day Sun is supposedly pretty close to a 5700K spectrum.  Most fresh water spectrums sold commercially are just cool white lights (6000-6500K).  It's reasonable to assume that freshwater fish will be happy with a Sun-like spectrum. With sufficient intensity, the plants will be happy with it too.  We typically add in a smidge of blue, to ensure the cool white LEDs, which emit a range of 6000-6500K are biased towards providing a >6500K spectrum.

Reef / Marine spectrums more typically approximate 12000K spectrums.  The difference between 6500K and 12000K is mostly the blue component. The energy of light decreases as it passes through water, and because salt water is more dense than fresh water, 6500K is not a good option for salt water tanks deeper than about 30cm.  You need a bluer spectrum, because blue photons have more energy, and can reach the plants at the bottom.